Business Agility transformations are becoming increasingly popular among companies in a wide range of industries (e.g. Legal Firms, Hotels & Resorts, Educational Institutions, Transportation Industry, Medical facilities, First Responders, etc.). Agile methods have been shown to create faster and more efficient workflows, allowing teams to produce higher quality services and products. However, many organizations struggle with Agile adoption and fail to achieve the desired results. In this article, we’ll discuss a few reasons why Agile transformations often fail and how you can increase the probability of a successful Agile transformation. This is by no means an exhaustive commentary. However, it will no doubt set your organization on the right trajectory for success.
While Agile is a powerful tool, it can be difficult to adopt and implement effectively. To ensure success, organizations need to have a clear understanding of Agile methodology, effective planning and execution strategies, and the support of leadership.
The Agile framework was created in the 1990s as a way to quickly address changing customer needs and produce higher quality products. Agile focuses on iterative, short cycles of planning, developing, testing and delivering a product or service. Agile supports cross-functional teams that are self-organizing and often work together in an open environment. Agile focuses on fast delivery while allowing for high levels of collaboration between team members.
When looking at Agile transformation, it is important to understand why some transformations fail. One common mistake many organizations make is that they do not take the time to plan out the transition or create an effective roadmap for implementation. Without proper analysis, organizations run into issues such as communication breakdowns or lack of alignment between team members’ roles and responsibilities. It is also essential that decision makers truly understand Agile principles before implementing them in order to get the most out of Agile practices.
What Is Needed
In addition to proper planning, successful Agile transformations require strong leadership from top management who must be willing to support Agile methods throughout the organization. Management must lead by example and help develop an understanding among team members about Agile practices so that everyone is on board with the transition process. Too, keep in mind that agility impacts the entire organization (i.e. legal, HR, finance; sales; marketing; vendor management; etc.), not just technology. Although companies typically start with technology teams, agility must eventually be a practice of all (or at least the majority) of departments. That said, a true business agility transformation will encompasses:
Product and Service design, development & delivery
- A customer centric approach & design thinking
- Cadence based deployment of products & services
- Sustainability, viability & feasibility
- Lead with genuine agile behavior and object lessons
- Promote and practice a growth mindset
- Provide psychological safety
Organizational & Team Commitment
- Strive for cross-functional & high performance
- Collective ‘skin in the game’ ownership of products & services
- Documented working agreement [e.g. acceptable behavior; communication style; etc.]
- Continuous learning
- Relentless improvement
- Obsessive innovation
Enterprise level solution
- Multiple Horizon Planning Strategy [ i.e. Exploration; Emerging; Investing; Extracting; Sunset/Retiring]
- Quality Management & Compliance
- Continuous flow of work [ From concept to production & beyond]
- Strategy & Funding [Lean budgeting]
- Business Operations
- Performance Measurements
When it comes to executing a successful Agile transformations, there are several techniques companies should keep in mind to ensure success:
- Start small – Organization should begin by focusing on one simple project first before attempting more complex ones so they can gain experience with how Agile operates
- Utilize cross-functional teams – Cross-functional teams offer varied perspectives which could identify problems faster than traditional teams
- Embrace change – Organizations should be willing to adjust their strategy as needed during implementation when necessary
- Commitment from all stakeholders – All teams involved must be willing to embrace change in order for successful adoption
- Open Communication – Establishing open communication will help teams stay aligned on objectives and goals
- Measure results – Regularly measure progress against objectives to ensure successful outcomes. Doing so without weaponizing the metrics is important (we’ll discuss this in more detail in a future article)
- Continuous improvement – The organization must strive for continuous/relentless improvement by regularly assessing current processes & progress versus desired outcomes and making adjustments accordingly
- Leverage technology – The use of technology can help streamline processes such as tracking tasks, budgeting resources, automating reports etc. However, overuse of tools can lead down the rabbit hole of ‘inefficient communication and a lack of personal interaction.’ so, beware and balance their use.
With these tips in mind, companies can set themselves up for success when it comes to adopting an agile system within their organization. However, even with all these steps taken into consideration no two agile implementations will look exactly alike because every company has its own unique culture (Agile culture is another future topic we will address). But following these guidelines will lead you towards a truly successful and transformational agile journey!