Agile has gone mainstream in large and small organizations. Organizations have started implementing agile not only in IT, but also in business divisions such as finance, marketing, HR, and more. There are many organizations trying to gain the promised benefit of Agile and every organization has chosen their journey of Agile transformation differently which has delivered mixed results.

While Agile is really a simple concept to grasp, organizations often underestimate the hurdles to successful implementation. Many organizations expect a smooth Agile transformation journey as below.

  • Get development manager or project manager certified as scrum master
  • Form agile teams
  • Create backlog
  • Schedule and run scrum events
  • Team will start delivering and will become highly productive
  • Senior management and customer will be happy
  • Organization will be agile ?

In reality – the path is a little more circuitous. Here is an example of a potential real Agile transformation journey:

  • Initiate discussion about Agile transformation
  • It can take months to determine what the next steps are, where to begin and whom to train to spearhead the transformation
  • Finally send a few folks for training (typically Scrum Master training)
  • After training try to form Agile teams
  • Often important ongoing projects take priority over the new initiative, creating additional delays in the transformation
  • Thinking resource optimization, the team is formed by speciality of work instead of a cross functional team or just converting existing project teams to Agile teams
  • Team becomes highly dependent on each other almost like a waterfall – Data layer to middle layer and then to UI layer.
  • Agile team keeps changing members based on project
  • Manager take on the role of Product Owner and start writing stories but mostly as tasks
  • Project manager takes on a role of Scrum Master and schedules scrum events.
  • Project Manager(Scrum Master) actually assigns tasks to team and tells them how much they can do during sprint planning
  • They have a lot of dependency on each other and the blame game starts to emerge
  • All the parties involved are confused with new roles and no clarity
  • People get frustrated and say why are we even doing agile
  • Team does the work exactly the same way they used to do
  • Leadership shows same command and control behavior
  • Senior management question why Agile is not increasing productivity and reducing time to market
  • Stakeholders get impatient
  • They think agile is not working and either they go back to waterfall or they think this is agile and check off as Agile transformation being done

The above scenario may be a bit extreme but not far from the truth. Agile transformation isn’t just about adopting new processes. It’s about transforming the way your team thinks and operates. A successful Agile transformation demands a holistic approach that takes into account all aspects of your organization’s structure, leadership, culture, and practices.

We should look at following key aspects for a successful agile transformation.

Organizational Structure & Design: Do we have an organizational structure that encourages cross functional teams and fewer hierarchical layers. Does the team structure enables the smooth flow of work? Are appropriate Agile roles fulfilled?

Agile Mindset & Culture: Are employees trained on the Agile mindset and are they embracing the agile mindset of early feedback, continuous improvement, experimentation etc.?

Agile Practice & Tools: Is the correct practice framework selected and does everyone have the required training to be effective? Does the team have all the right Agile systems and tools that enables automation of their work?

Leadership & Employee Engagement: Do the highest levels of leadership support and promote Agile transformation throughout the entire organization? Are they embracing servant leadership and fostering an experiment safe environment for the team?

Since the organization’s structure, process, tools and culture are impacted, the scope of change is large for Agile transformation in an organization. Hence, attention to organizational change management aspects are key to the success of an Agile transformation. At the same time you want to facilitate change in an Agile way(iteratively and incrementally), instead of too much upfront planning and introduction of large change which creates resistance among employees.

Some of the key aspects of facilitating changes are

  • Creating an Agile transformation guiding team that includes Senior Management, Agile champions and coaches
  • Building and communicating the vision for transformation
  • Most importantly introduce small changes and experiment iteratively as below
  • Build insights involving people that are impacted
  • Create awareness, sense of urgency or desire for Agile transformation
  • Build Agile knowledge and skills
  • Experiment with the change iteratively
  • Look for quick wins and communicate the success

Transformation is always challenging, but by paying attention to the four pillars of organization and introducing the change incrementally with an experiment mindset greatly increases the success rate. Good luck to you in your Agile transformation Journey.

As with anything else, the road to successful transformation can be navigated more easily with support and guidance from an experienced coach. While your Agile journey will be unique to your organization, Agile coaches can bring in their experience & expertise and apply their skills to make the process run more smoothly. At the same time coaches can help you develop your internal agile champions so that you get self sustained after reasonable time period. And Scrum Masters are key players of the success at the team level, especially in the absence of an Agile coach. At the very least, explore mentoring for Scrum Masters from an experienced Agile coach to get the best results.

With a focus on more successful transformations, we work with organizations to unlock their true potential by transforming in a way that delivers results for customers, their employees and their shareholders. If you’re ready to see what an Agile transformation can do for your company, and how to execute a successful transformation, let’s get on a call. You can schedule call with us at Schedule call with us or email me at coaches@theagilemove.com.

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