16 Factors to Spur Agile Transformation Organizational Change
Several polls show that organizations really struggle getting good results and getting a good foothold in Agility, for various reasons. Maybe they’ve hit a plateau or tried Agility in the past or tried some Agile practices, and it didn't feel like it worked out. Or maybe this is a brand-new initiative for the organization.
How does a company bridge the Agility gap? How do they break down all the things that stand between them, their business partners and the people asking for work?
Here are 16 key factors to consider when attempting an Agile Transformation, courtesy of MATRIX Agile Coaches and customers. Watch the webinar recording of this topic here.
Often people think that “change” is a line item in a project plan or something equally simple. It’s much more. It’s something deeper you want to embed in the organization as much as possible in a deliberate way. The way you go about doing that is really understanding who your stakeholders are, understanding the business they're in and how they're doing it, before you can even talk about an Agile transformation.
Find a business product owner, typically a VP or higher, who's willing to invest in understanding and effectuating the changes they're going to have to make from top to bottom, including the tradeoffs.
Having a top business leader or leaders on board in the beginning of the process to really identify how this can work or how it will work for their business, is critical It is also important for any transformations that your leaders are “walking the walk” as well as “ talking the talk.” If not, you're going to run into some challenges.
Before you decide to roll this out across the organization, there are educational steps that you can take with your senior leadership. We’re telling leaders to create a working agreement. Let's define it and show how you're going to enable, empower, and support the teams. Letting people know how they can expect to be led will help overcome objections.
Have representatives from all levels of the organization discuss how this can work in different areas of the company, and the tradeoffs. Keep the size of the guiding coalition from getting too large and unmanageable, or break them down into smaller pods to take on very specific challenges.
Understand that transformation is going to take different shapes and sizes. Not all teams are created equal, and some teams are going to be in the "learning" or “doing” stage of maturity; others are going to be in the more advanced “being” stage of maturity.
Having a vertically aligned team, from the executive all the way down to the software engineer, is extremely important.
It must happen at all layers of the organization. it can't just be bottom up. It’s got to be middle out. It’s got to be top down. In other words, a full slice across the organization.
INNER AND OUTER BLOCKERS
Be inquisitive and don’t necessarily be that person to sell or tell everything about Agile. Understand what could be the inner blockers and outer blockers that could get in the way of this implementation at the business level.
SCOPE AND PIVOT
Make sure once you have an understanding of scope that you have your dimensions by which you are going to prioritize work for those teams. Often what the first teams are going to do will be very different than the last three teams you train and coach. Learn to pivot and re-invent and go back to those teams with new information as they continue to mature.
MINIMUM VIABLE PRODUCT
Don't let perfection get in the way of good enough. Understand that you’re going to iterate versus being perfect. Bring that guard down and let people know it's going to be scrappy with some bruises, and that's okay. You’re going to learn from it and you're going to get better at it. The key is to deliver value sooner and in smaller pieces.
Self-organization can be frightening to some, whether it's at the line of business level or at the team level, because it involves trade-offs, uncertainty, and iteration. There is no such thing with Agile as “just hand me the project plan and it will work perfectly.”
Be willing to empower, but also be willing to be empowered. It's hard for people to let go of control and it's equally hard for people who aren't used to it to take up that control that's decentralized to them. And those are things that organizations must plan for and must know that everybody's going to grow at a different rate.
When we talk about self-managed teams, which essentially is giving a team the autonomy to make decisions, we must trust them to make their own decisions without interfering. Having that trust in them will give them the courage to try new things or new technologies, or experience with failures to learn from.
Have the courage to say those things and challenge the notion of “we've always done it this way” or “we can't do it because this one's too big” or “we're going to pick and choose where this will work”.
Thinking about this as a transformation, training is great, but coaching is what really seeds this initiative. Have a coaching plan in place. Have a sustainability plan, so once you get it in, and once you've invented Agile, have a plan for how you're going to sustain the change.
It's not going to happen overnight. An Agile Transformation is a multi-year process and it's never really over. Expect that and know that it's okay that things are going to be bumpy and you're going to learn along the way. That's one of the primary points of Agility; continuous feedback and constant improvement.
Excerpted from a MATRIX webinar “Leading Transformation - Organizational Alignment”. You can watch the full recording here.
Amado Cruz, Vice President, Global Technology at Assurant
Danyelle Jinks, AVP, Global Change Management at Assurant
Michelle Workman, Senior Director, Integrated Business & Technology at Cox Enterprises
Joshua Jack, Vice President of Professional Services at MATRIX
Tony Shawver, Director of National Agile Practice at MATRIX