The 12 Stages of Agile Transformation

More and more organisations are moving to adopt Agile Transformation not just in standard project methodologies but transforming all resource management. The goal is to better align organisation strategic priorities with scarce resource utilisation ensuring that company is always working on what is highest priority.

This article was adapted from an original article published by Forbes in 2018.

1. Today’s Organisation

In a recent study by McKinsey 90% of executives identified agility and collaboration as critical to the organisations success. McKinsey also went on explain that in their findings organisations that adopt agile processes do financially better than those that don’t.

Agile management seeks to renew itself, adapt, change quickly and succeed in rapidly changing, ambiguous, turbulent environment. As well as the ability to quickly reconfigure strategy, structure, processes, people and technology toward value creation and value protecting opportunities.

If you need more proof that agile management works this is the way that largest and fastest growing companies in the world operate (Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft).

Agile Transformation
Image Credit: Pexels

2. Call to Action

Successful implementation requires the Senior Leadership Team to become actively involved in the planned transformation and become champions for its success.

The leaders champions will need to become strong advocates for the three laws of agile.

  • The Law of the Small Team – The key principle is that work is done by small autonomous cross functional teams that work in short cycles on relatively small tasks, getting continuous feedback from the customer or ultimate end user.
  • The Law of the Customer – In truly agile organisations, everyone is passionately obsessed with delivering value for the customer. This focus is continuous and ruthlessly eliminates any activity that does not contribute to value for the customer.
  • The Law of the Network – Breaking down silo’s between business and moving resourcing control away from the manager who is directing the work. Agile teams ultimately take initiative on their own and interact with other teams to solve common problems, becoming a network of high performing teams.

3. Organisational Readiness

Organisational change needs to build a culture that still feels right for that company even though it is changing all its systems, processes and hierarchy. To be successful it requires the senior leadership team to accept the change and to become advocates of the new model.

This will require all parts of the organisation to become flexible in how they change including traditional corporate support functions like HR, Finance and Legal.

4. Mentors

Leaders are going to need support as they adopt the new language, learn new processes, different and regular cadence for celebrations and getting much closer to the work.

This support can come from coaches or experienced agile practitioners in the business but it is critical that a consistent approach is applied.

5. Transformation Teams

Establishing a team to pioneer the transformation is the first tangible step. This group are the agile champions who drive the need for change and fight passionately to ensure that it happens.

“the courage to tell the truth to power, along with the smarts to do so at the right time and the right place and in the right way”

Steven Denning on Agile Champions

6. Proving the Concept

Creating organic growth where several small teams successfully implement Agile Management and then the enthusiasm and energy from those teams is applied to motivating and driving new teams to make the transition.

When the successful teams start talking to and inspiring other people it creates a snowball effect where groups of people imagine and create a new future, in turn becoming champions to encourage others.

7. Maintaining Momentum

Everyone hits challenges and set backs in the process and it is important to continue to learn from the problems, to iterate, improve and continue on. That is the agile process, learn from failure and learn from opportunity.

8. Evolve and Change

Many senior executives who transition in agile organisations state that they had to unlearn what they thought it meant to be a leader. Changing from the role of commander to a empowering others.

“I began to view effective leadership in the new environment as more akin to gardening than chess.”

General Stanley McChrystal (Team of Teams) 2015

The idea of Agile Management will continue to change and evolve so organisations have to continually adapt to changing circumstances and with it adapt the story of change so that every individual in the organisation can ultimately own that message.

9. Fight ‘Fake Agile’

The ‘Agile Manifesto’ was launched in 2001 and now nearly 20 years on organisations around the world have recognised the opportunity in becoming agile and achieving better collaboration.

The challenge is to make sure that organisation don’t stop with a dumbed down set of efficiency tools that aim to reduce headcount.

If you are intersted in understanding more about why Agile can fail its worth visiting Why Agile Transformations Fail, and what you can do to prevent it (Jez Smith).

10. Normalise

Once Agile teams are established as the normal way work gets done, the next effort needs to be to ensure all corporate functions are also transformed in line with Agile Management.

By moving back office functions to Agile it breaks the bureaucracy which slows the organisations evolution.

11. Agile Fluency

Mastery of agile comes from it becoming the natural way of doing work for the whole organisation.

 Martin Fowler has applied the martial arts concept of Shu-ha-ri to Agile to explain the three phases of maturity a person goes through as they gain agile knowledge

  • Shu: In this beginning stage the student follows the teachings of one master precisely.
  • Ha: With the basic practices working he now starts to learn the underlying principles and theory behind the technique and explores alternatives.
  • Ri: Now the student is learning from his own practice and adapting what he’s learned to his own particular circumstances.

12. Strategic Agility

The greatest opportunities that are derived from Agile are that the organisation becomes much more attuned to achieving strategic agility. Strategic Agility is to create market creating innovations (creating new markets that did not exist before).

Key Takeaways

  • Transforming your organisation to Agile Management takes commitment from the CEO down. All of the senior leadership team need to become deeply engaged.
  • You can’t just call in a consulting firm to make the change, this is changing your organisational culture, processes, systems and hierarchy it takes passion and commitment.
Synopsis of an article from Forbes
The 12 Stages Of The Agile Transformation Journey
by Steven Denning
Published: 4th November 2018

Also from Forbes
Explaining Agile
by Steven Denning

and Why Agile Transformations Fail
by Gez Smith

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