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Top Three Reasons Agile Transformations Struggle

Your company is in the midst of an Agile transformation, and you are responsible for its success, yet things are not going according to plan. Teams are not moving any faster than before the transformation began and may even be moving slower. People are not buying into the process changes, so there is conflict in various company areas. Thus far, the company has spent lots of money on this transformation but has little to show for it. What is going wrong? While there may be many reasons your company is struggling to implement an Agile transformation successfully, there are some common reasons that can relatively easily be avoided or corrected.

This article explores three of the top reasons Agile transformations struggle and how to overcome them.

 

Reason 1: Agile transformation is a journey, not a destination.

“If you find you are stuck thinking about your company’s Agile transformation as a project to be completed and measured in these terms, you will become frustrated. An Agile transformation is a journey that creates something… and then takes another step forward, each time discovering new areas for improvement.”


Many people mistakenly approach an Agile transformation like any other project, as if there are clear start points and endpoints. However, an agile transformation is a journey of many changes; It involves changing mindsets in how you do and view work in new ways. It requires the company to adjust processes and procedures, sometimes even department structures, to support these new ways of reaching your goals. People need to discover how to break their work into small, incremental, valuable pieces.

Agile is a way of being. Agile includes a set of principles and values that guide thoughts and actions. As described in the Agile Manifesto, Agile involves learning as you go, pausing at regular intervals to reflect and adjust to make continued improvements. The goal of Agile is to use these transformative values and principles to improve how your teams/department/company operates, always striving to be a little better than the day before.

If you find you are stuck thinking about your company’s Agile transformation as a project to be completed and measured in these terms, you will become frustrated. An Agile transformation is a journey that creates something… and then takes another step forward, each time discovering new areas for improvement. When this happens, stop and review the Agile Manifesto. Ask yourself, in what ways is my department/team/company putting these new Agile values and principles into practice? What benefits have we begun to realize as a result of how we approach and perform our work in this new environment? Compare these observations to how your company operated before you started your Agile transformation journey and recognize the positive improvements that have occurred along the way. Only then can you look ahead with confidence and begin to see the real progress you are making with each step along your transformation journey.

Reason 2: Agile transformation requires a clear vision and a compelling sense of urgency.

“Whatever the reason for your transformation, there needs to be a clear articulation of why it is imperative to begin immediately. That sense of urgency keeps people focused and moving forward when the transformation gets difficult.”


The second reason Agile transformations struggle is a lack of clear vision and compelling urgency. Most people are comfortable staying with the norm. Few people thrive on the unknowns and challenges that come with change. To motivate and bring people together, they need a clear, compelling vision explaining the change’s proposed benefits. The same is true when leading an Agile transformation. People need to know why this transformation matters to the company and themselves. Employees must understand how the company will benefit and how they will personally benefit. A clearly defined vision for the transformation will make them listen.

Once they are listening, stakeholders and team members will take hold of the idea and work to make the Agile transformation a reality. They must be enthused. The only way to do this is to ensure your vision is compelling. It must connect to people’s heads and their hearts. The combination of information and emotion will draw people into supporting your transformation efforts.

Finally, to ensure Agile transformation is accepted wholeheartedly, it is imperative to explain the urgency of implementing the transformation in terms of its bottom line. Ask these questions to determine the urgency; Does your company need to improve your product delivery speed to stay ahead of your competition? Do you need a way for your product delivery to keep up with the expanding company growth? Are you struggling to create products that excite your customers, so you want a better way to get early feedback from them? Whatever the reason for your transformation, there needs to be a clear articulation of why it is imperative to begin immediately. That sense of urgency keeps people focused and moving forward when the transformation gets difficult. If people in your company involved in the transformation cannot answer, “Why does this transformation need to happen right now?” then chances are your Agile transformation will struggle.

Reason 3: Agile transformation requires the right team in place.

“A guiding coalition is more than a group of managers given “just another thing to add to their plate.” This group is comprised of the change agents who believe in the need for an Agile transformation.”


A third common reason Agile transformations struggle is because they don’t have the right team in place leading the Agile transformation. An Agile transformation is too big and complicated for one person to lead on their own. While there may be one key sponsor of the transformation, that person cannot make all the decisions in a vacuum and expect the transformation to go well. Successful Agile transformation requires a dedicated team leading the effort. This team is often called the guiding coalition.

 

The guiding coalition has specific characteristics:

The guiding coalition is small

The guiding coalition is small, with no more than 7-8 people, allowing for quick decision-making while representing multiple perspectives in discussions.

The guiding coalition is autonomous

This team must have the authority to make decisions without seeking approval from someone else in the company. If you cannot trust this team to make key decisions involved in leading the Agile transformation, you need different people.

The guiding coalition needs a team of individuals representing the company's key areas impacted by the transformation.

The guiding coalition needs a team of individuals representing the company’s key areas impacted by the transformation. These are representatives beyond typical management roles that can speak on behalf of the department concerning the impact the transformation will have on its day-to-day operations. For instance, a tech lead can represent the software development teams, or someone from Human Resources can represent the impact the transformation is having on employee engagement. The guiding coalition team must be comprised of change agents who desire to lead from their current role.

A guiding coalition is more than a group of managers given “just another thing to add to their plate.” This group is comprised of the change agents who believe in the need for an Agile transformation. Without a guiding coalition with these characteristics in place to lead your Agile transformation, your company will likely struggle.

Conclusion

While this article has focused on what to avoid when leading an Agile Transformation, there are many other activities that increase the chances for success. Look for our upcoming articles on Setting Up Successful Software Delivery Teams, Key Traits of Successful Agile Leaders, and Tips for a Successful Agile Transformation.
If you are looking for guidance to lead a successful Agile Transformation, reach out to us. We have seasoned coaches and software development consultants that have helped numerous companies transform. From start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, Intertech has experience helping companies from nearly every industry transform how they work.

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Director of MomentumWorks™

Stevie Borne

Stevie has over 20 years of software development experience, with most of that being on Agile teams. From her first Agile project, she was hooked on the collaborative, customer-focused approach that enabled her teams to delight customers with incremental, valuable deliverables. After moving on from a developer role, she has held numerous roles, including Product Owner, Scrum Master, Project Manager, Coach, and Development Manager.

 

“I have had the opportunity to coach hundreds of Agile teams and leaders, from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies worldwide. During these engagements, I’ve guided leaders and team members alike to discover a practical approach to apply Agile values and principles successfully. Mentoring is one of my true passions. ”

 

Why Did You Choose This Field?

I don’t have a good answer for this….I fell into software development and along the way discovered I enjoy helping clients solve their problems with creative technical solutions while equipping their teams to do their best work.

Sideline

Stevie is an international speaker, trainer, and professional life coach. She holds numerous Scrum, Agile, and coaching certifications. When not working with her software teams and leaders, you can find Stevie outside hiking, biking, and rock climbing.

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Struggling with an Agile Transformation, or considering one? Take advantage of this limited-time offer available to a select few, based on resource availability. Ask Anything About Agile you like!