3) Align culture
Some bad news first; it doesn’t matter how excited you are about Agile, or how many benefits it could bring the organisation…if Agile doesn’t fit with the culture it simply will not work. If your WHY is very strong it might be worth trying to change the culture but beware that this is a huge undertaking and will require significant effort and coordination across the organisation.
The Agile Manifesto
Some good news though. The Agile Manifesto set out quite clearly what the culture should be like to support Agile:
In addition, Scrum (the most common framework for how to manage projects with Agile) defines three values that underpin all Scrum practices.
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 is critical but so are people! If you do not bring people along on the journey of change, the change will fail. People are creatures of habit and geared towards preferring the old and the known. Any change introduces something new and uncertain, people don’t like that so will often resist the change effort. A big part of the transformation effort must therefore be focused on the people and their needs.
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
Based on your stakeholder identification and the impact analysis you have done, now you must take steps to make your people ready for change. This involves identifying what they need to know and what they need to be able to do, both through the change and in the future state after the change. Don’t forget that people tend to resist changes when they do not understand or buy into why the change is happening. Use the WHY you have clarified as a focal point to your communications and engagements!
Without a doubt, preparing people for change will involve some form of training. It is worth taking some time to understand the theory of learning so that you invest in the right training and also build the right type of support around it.
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!
The leadership will help or hinder your transformation simply by talking the (right) talk and walking the (right) walk. Ensure they understand and buy into the WHY and that they understand their role and what they must do differently. You may need to address the leadership in many different ways to cater for personality, preference and availability. It can be time-consuming but it will be worth it!
Prepare the organisation and technology too
An Agile transformation can have ripple effects throughout the organisation. For example, a change in how and when project estimating is done might impact both accounting and procurement. Understanding those ripple effects might highlight areas where Agile methods have to be tailored to suit the needs of the organisation or vice versa.
Consider what technology and tools are available. Do you have tools to help teams work in Agile ways or do you need to invest? Use your knowledge of Agile and think about what tools are needed. Consider Kanban boards, burn charts etc.
Make sure the team understand how to use them and that they can use them well – this might require additional training.
6) Manage expectations
Agile takes time and will require cycles of trying, failing and adapting. This can be incredibly frustrating for the teams themselves and for other stakeholders who might have expected an overnight success. Managing expectations around the patience, tenacity and discipline that is required will therefore be key to success.
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