In the fast-paced and ever-evolving business landscape, achieving success hinges on the ability to adapt swiftly. Agile transformation has emerged as a pivotal strategy for businesses seeking to embrace agility and drive sustainable growth. Navigating this transformative journey can be both challenging and rewarding.

In this blog post, we will uncover the crucial keys to success that pave the way for a triumphant agile transformation. These essential insights empower businesses to seize opportunities, conquer complexities, and ascend to new heights of innovation and competitiveness. Discover how to unlock the true potential of agility and drive your organisation toward a thriving future!

1) Know your WHY

Agile transformations vary greatly, and the success of such a change hinges on having a clear and compelling WHY driving the process. The WHY ensures that Agile is the right fit provides measurable objectives for success, and enables effective communication with stakeholders. It is essential to distinguish between adopting Agile as a comprehensive methodology or simply adopting Agile practices for increased nimbleness without major changes.

The WHY will drive your success in several ways;

  • It will verify and confirm that an Agile transformation really is the right thing for you to do
  • It will give you meaningful factors to measure during and after the transformation to ensure you can prove your success
  • It enables effective communication with stakeholders. Change management best practices teach that people are more likely to resist change (transformations) when they do not understand or buy into why it is happening. If you cannot articulate your WHY how can you expect your stakeholders to understand or buy into it?!

Determining the true requirement for Agile, whether as a comprehensive methodology with new processes, tools, approaches, and mindsets (Agile with a capital A) or as a means to become more nimble and responsive, is crucial. It’s possible to infuse agility into our existing ways of working without necessarily overhauling the entire methodology.

Becoming More Agile - Changing the PMO Minsdset eBook

Download the free white paper: Becoming More Agile

2) Know Agile

Is an agile approach suitable for your organisation and aligned with your WHY? If so, it’s time to delve deeper into understanding what agile entails and how it can be implemented within your team or organization.

The term “agile” encompasses various frameworks and methods, with Scrum being the most popular for managing agile projects. For the purposes of this article, we will primarily focus on Agile with Scrum. However, it’s essential to critically assess which agile approach is the best fit for your specific needs and organizational context.

Moreover, gaining a clear understanding of the aspects of your current work processes that require adjustments is crucial. The extent and nature of these changes will be unique to your team or organization and will be driven by your underlying WHY.

The PMI outlines the elements of Agile as Tools & Processes, Practices, Principles, Values and Mindset. Typically these are the aspects or elements, that will need to change to some degree in an Agile transformation.

Agile Elements
Agile Practice Guide (2017)
Project Management Institute

3) Align culture

Before we proceed, it’s essential to acknowledge a critical factor: for Agile to succeed, it must align with your organisation’s culture. Even with a strong motivation driving your Agile adoption, attempting to change the culture is a significant and complex endeavor that requires extensive effort and coordination across the entire organisation.

The Agile Manifesto

Some good news though. The Agile Manifesto set out quite clearly what the culture should be like to support Agile:

The Agile Manifesto

Scrum

In addition, Scrum (the most common framework for how to manage projects with Agile) defines three values that underpin all Scrum practices.

  • Transparency
  • Inspection
  • Adaptation

If you are to apply Scrum successfully the Scrum values must run like a silver thread through everything you do. If you have not already familiarised yourself with the values and how they work now is a good time to do so and identify how your team or organisation needs to change. You can learn more about Scrum guides here.

4) Know your people

Culture and people play vital roles in successful change efforts. To ensure a smooth transformation, it’s crucial to address the needs of the individuals involved.

Start by identifying who the people (stakeholders) are and how they will be impacted.

  • Does their role change?
  • Their relationship to their team?
  • Do the expectations on them change or will their expectations need to change?

5) Prepare for change

Prepare people

After identifying stakeholders and analysing the impact, the next step is to prepare your people for the change. This involves understanding what they need to know and do during and after the change. Make sure to emphasize the WHY behind the change in your communications and engagements to reduce resistance. Training will likely be necessary, so invest time in understanding learning theory and provide appropriate support.

A common model for explaining how learning work is the 70/20/10 model. It teaches us that;

  • 10% of our learning comes from what we hear in the classroom
  • 20% comes from other people
  • 70% comes from experiences, learning by doing

This is very important to bear in mind when we prepare our teams to go Agile. It is not enough to send them to a training course for a couple of days and then expect them to come back and be “ready to go”. You must also give them the opportunity to try new practices, fail and adapt. AND, along the way, they should be supported by relevant coaches.

Pay extra attention to the senior leadership!

Give special attention to senior leadership during the transformation process. Their actions and communication can either support or hinder the change. Ensure they understand and align with the WHY behind the transformation and comprehend their new roles. Tailor your approach to address their individual preferences, personalities, and availability.

Prepare the organisation and technology too

Additionally, prepare the organization and technology for Agile transformation. Recognize potential ripple effects and areas where Agile methods might need customization to suit organisational needs. Assess available technology and tools, ensuring teams are proficient in their use, which may require additional training. Consider tools like Kanban boards and burn charts to facilitate Agile ways of working.

6) Manage expectations

Implementing Agile is a gradual process that involves trying, failing, and adapting over time. Such iterative cycles can be frustrating for teams and stakeholders expecting quick results. Managing expectations by emphasizing the need for patience, tenacity, and discipline is crucial for achieving success in the Agile transformation.

7) Choose the right approach

There are many different ways to do a change. We can take a “big bang” approach where the change is rolled out “overnight” to the whole organisation or we can take a more gradual or iterative approach, start small and build from there.

Different organisations and circumstances will benefit from different approaches. But in general – why not be Agile to get Agile? Start small. Identify one project or one team to start with. Let them try it out, learn from their experience to scale up.

8) Support, but do not intervene

Development team, Scrum Master and Product Owner

Scrum’s success hinges on clearly defined roles that foster self-organisation within the team. Supporting the team without undermining their autonomy is crucial. External parties must strike a balance between offering assistance and avoiding unnecessary intervention, ensuring the team retains responsibility for decisions to prevent Agile transformation failure.

9) Know yourself

Although you might not be an Agile expert at the moment, there are abundant resources to help you gain knowledge and make informed decisions. If certain aspects of the transformation require practical experience, consider hiring an Agile Coach or Scrum Master who can provide valuable hands-on support to the team.

Scrutinise yourself: do you have both theoretical understanding and practical experience enough to help the team? If not; find someone that does!

If you are hiring an Agile Coach, or for that matter a Scrum Master – scrutinise their experience. Make sure they don’t just talk the talk but also walk the walk.

10) Reinforce the transformation

People are at the heart of change and people are creatures of habit. If change is not reinforced people tend to fall back into their old ways of working.

Things we can do to reinforce the transformation;

  • Keep reinforcing the WHY.
  • Ensure there is coaching for people practicing Agile to support them and also help them course-correct if/when need be
  • Recognise and reward the right behaviours. Not just from the team but from the wider organisation as well. That senior leader that got on board first – call them out!
  • Celebrate successes. Got that first jump in customer satisfaction scores? Yay – broadcast it far and wide!
  • Remove alternative ways of working. As soon as the new ways are established make sure there is no option to revert to the old ways.

11) Learn your lessons

Agile transformations are unique to each organization, resulting in different outcomes that require continuous adaptation. Utilise your learned experiences to replicate successes and avoid mistakes, integrating these lessons into future change initiatives as you scale Agile across the organization.

On This Page

Monthly Newsletter

By: Karin Maule

Karin Maule

Published: 25 July 2023

Book onto an Event