Plenty of organizations nowadays, big or small, are transforming to agile. It could be because more and more people are now recognizing its effectiveness and numerous benefits. Agile transformations however, don’t come easy therefore requiring external assistance to succeed. It’s not impossible to try to do it all on your own but there are businesses who have slipped into a lot of mistakes such as: thinking that it only affects the technology group, failing to recognize the challenges that come with it and worst, not realizing whether agile suits them best or not.
What is perhaps the most common mistake that organizations make when transforming to agile is the misconception that such a move will only affect the technology team. This is understandable since agile is a software development methodology, and you are changing the way the operations are managed. However a large part of the change includes shifting roles, reorganizations and altering the work culture. Taking reorganizations as an example, the HR department would be affected by such a change as this could mean changes to an employee’s responsibilities, line manager, performance appraisal parameters, compensation, etc. The business side of the organization should also be party to, and support of, the transition because they represent the stakeholders or are stakeholders themselves. Understanding of agile principles by the business will inform future strategic decision making at this level.
Many high impact risks are inherent in transformations that make such large-scale changes to the way an organization operates. Most companies prefer to start small when implementing an agile transformation. They usually start with a small team, training a few people, then slowly allowing them to build internal expertise until they are fit to guide the other teams. This is a less expensive and less risky approach as the mistakes you might in the early stages will only impact a small area (in fact, the iterative nature of this method is agile in itself!). To train people to adopt a new methodology, you’ll need someone with broad expertise and extensive experience. There are two basic paths an organization can take, to hire internally (internal coach) or to outsource (consulting coach). Either way will ensure that team members are trained the right way, allowing the pilot teams to focus on their primary responsibility – which is to code, test or support clients. Agile coaches are also experts on how to help people break free from old habits and be comfortable with the new reality. This is a challenge that affects organizations that opt to start small, especially those that rely on the limited experience of the pilot teams. Some organizations are braver and take the bolder move of going all-in to take less time and avoid having teams working with other teams ran by a different methodology. Salesforce.com, for example, adopted this approach. Going all-in is riskier as the slightest mistake can be magnified, not everyone may be able to adapt as expected, and eventually lead to failure. It’s also more expensive as you need more coaches and consultants to train consistently across a large group.
Lastly, (and maybe the best reason why you need someone to help you in your agile transformation), is to really identify if agile suits your organization. Agile is becoming a popular methodology, and it is effective on its own, but if you are already able to deliver well, will you really be making such a huge change just to keep up with the Joneses? As mentioned earlier, agile transformations involve shifting roles and altering work culture, which involves training your people to embrace changes in their everyday work scenario. There will be people who will not be able to commit and in time, this will affect their engagement to work. Furthermore, agile transformations are disruptive in nature and will definitely have an impact on performance in the short term – this is not always viable for teams that are already pressed on delivery. Such an assessment is best ascertained by someone who has advised various teams on agile transformations and with deep knowledge of the methodology.
Agile transformation is a complicated and complex process. Again, it’s not impossible to do the transformation on your own but it is very difficult and extremely risky. Whether you want to adopt agile because of its effectiveness or “just because”, it is best to engage someone to assist you in doing it. Not only will agile coaches be able to give you sound advice, they can help an organization survive in the long run. Have you been running your business for years now? Do you think your organization can adopt a new methodology without outside help? Or do you know one who already did so? Let us know about it! Drop us a comment and let’s talk!