The road to a successful agile transformation is not an easy one. As the number of enterprises deciding to embark on an agile journey increases, how many of them are successful? VersionOne’s 13th Annual State of Agile Report states that 97 percent of respondents surveyed practice agile to some degree within their organization. However, only practicing the methodology to some degree, is one of the most detrimental mistakes enterprises make; hindering the chances of a genuinely successful transformation. The number of obstacles that stand in the way of enterprises achieving desired results is exponentially higher than those faced by start-ups. Some challenges, like size, are beyond their control; however, there are common challenges that enterprises can avoid if they know what to look for.
This post will look at six agile transformation challenges that slow down organizational change, including failing to create buy-in around a goal and forgetting the importance of culture.
Agile transformation changes the fundamental DNA of a company. It impacts all aspects of an organization, its operating model, and culture. Because of this, it is critical that before embarking on this journey, organizations ensure leaders and executives have an aligned understanding of not only the values of agile transformation but the goals they wish to achieve as well. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for many organizations. Instead, they find themselves with leaders hand-picking different approaches to implementing agile or resisting the change altogether.
Successful transformations are a result of leadership teams that are committed to organizational change and promoting innovation and collaboration as new styles of working. Leaders need to be prepared to address any issues or backlash that might arise during periods of change by providing constant support to ensure that the organization stays focused on an agile mindset.
In an attempt to go agile, many organizations will begin by applying agile practices to only one vertical within the organization where there are fewer leaders and smaller teams. While this pilot project to test out the methodology is often successful, its impact is greatly restricted. The restrictive nature of this frequently prevents the executive team from realizing the far-reaching impact and strategic value a broader agile transformation can have.
Real agile transformation requires an organization to approach it holistically and adopt agile practices throughout the entire organization. While it’s ok to begin the agile transformation process within one particular vertical of an organization, it is essential to treat it as one stage in your agile transformation strategy and not just stop there. Many organizations fail to show the actual value of agile to executives my restricting the nature of the methodology to only sub-sections of an organization. Without executive buy-in, agile teams are more susceptible to losing funding when other organizational opportunities arise and can face difficulties in bringing agile to scale.
Agile transformation is all about accepting change. One of the biggest mistakes large enterprises make when attempting to transform is to ignore the need for organizational cultural change. Enterprises need to be prepared to leave behind pre-existing ways of working. While enterprises can be heavily invested in a transformation, even hiring several agile coaches and mentors, if executives continue to work within the processes ingrained in the old culture, little progress will be made.
Successful transformations require change not only from the bottom up, at the working team level, but also a change in the way executives operate and think as this has an incredible influence on the culture of the organization.
A real challenge for enterprises implementing agile practices is how to scale the methodology properly. Often, organizations lack the proper planning, knowledge, and support systems to scale and end up rushing the process of transformation. Organizations need to take the time to think about whether the organization is ready to make this change if there are resource constraints or even lack of leadership. A proper transformation should include a five to ten-year plan that overtime transforms an organization’s mindset, invokes cultural change, and involves the implementation of dedicated resources across the board. Furthermore, Organizations need to adjust their plans for transformation as they begin to collect insights as different aspects of the process gradually get implemented.
As an organization, it is vital to provide the necessary support that will enable teams to operate using agile practices, which include changes to core management processes, supporting tools, and coaching. Many organizations, however, fail to invest in the necessary support initiatives which lead to insufficient guidance and a lack of understanding of what agile is. Without these support initiatives, teams may find it hard to execute rapidly and stick to the agile mindset, which will hinder innovation, and increase time to market.
It is important to remember that agile favors interactions over processes. Too often, organizations are overly focused on implementing an agile framework into their operations that they forget to focus on what agile is about; minimizing processes and changing mindsets and behaviors to enable innovation. Organizations become rigid in how they implement these frameworks and emphasize the formal process of making the change. Instead, organizations need to identify how these frameworks can be adapted to suit the needs of their organization specifically. Organizations in this position should refresh their memory on the values of agile, to ensure the mindset and its principles are being applied correctly.
While there are numerous mistakes an organization can make throughout their agile transformation journey, these six are the most prevalent. These six mistakes also address some of the significant challenges enterprises will face throughout this journey. Often, falling into one of these preventable errors results in an organization deciding to abandon the idea of agile transformation altogether. However, educating the organization on how to drive an agile transformation, learning from the mistakes of enterprises who have previously attempted to transform, and respecting the complexity of this transformation, are the first steps to setting your organization up for success.