"It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change!" - Charles Darwin

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

12 secrets of a successful Agile transformation – Part1

Last week I was discussing with my brother, who works as chemical engineer and is now preparing to pass his exam for a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Certification.
He’s studying mainly about Lean production and I was explaining him how Agile has its roots in the Lean principles and disciplines and how essential is Lean thinking and Lean management approach to support an Agile SW development.

My brother is a clever guy: so he understood very well that embracing Lean means much more than the mere application of a number of practices. So is for Agile SW development.
He’s maybe a little too clever to ask me something like: “You say that you’re an experienced Agile and Lean coach: so what do you think it is needed for an organization to really leverage on Agile and Lean to deliver quality products in an effective way? What do you think are the key ingredients to have a successful enterprise transformation?”
Cheeky enough, isn’t it?
But somehow he forced me to step back, reflect, gather my thoughts and summarize my experience and learning from the last 3 years.

Here comes then a list of 12 tips as outcome of that exercise, which I intend to share with you in a series of posts. I will start with the first three today:

  1. Why?
Before exploring how to implement an enterprise transformation to an Agile organization, the first step is about asking yourself “Why?” What is the need behind? What is the goal you intend to achieve? There must be a clear need for any improvement change: imagine how crucial it is to start off such a dramatic change. The “Why?” must be clearly understood and the vision for the change communicated and shared to align the whole organization. Otherwise you’re doomed to fail even before starting (more about Why Agile? here)

  1. The approach
Due to what we said above, it is easy to understand that any successful Agile transformation implies a top-down approach, in terms of Company values, Management culture, Vision, Business goals and above all senior management support: you cannot do anything otherwise. However, changing an organization (irrespective whether big or small) into being Agile is not like the nth Change Program to be deployed with targets to comply with and a well-defined plan to stick to. There are aspects that need to emerge bottom-up, like practices to be selected by empowered and self-organized teams. So an Agile transformation is a sandwich transformation: you need 2 equally big slices of bread and both are essential.

  1. Training managers
Given the importance of the top-down part in the enterprise change, the very first step is training managers, for them to understand the why, be able to share and communicate the Vision, embrace Agile values and be ready to support people with a new leadership style. Many times this critical step is down prioritize, if not even neglected. It is too easy to fall into temptation that becoming an Agile organization means making Scrum teams work and that managers, well, they are clever enough that can handle themselves or can get it with a short summary from a developer attending a Scrum course: being a manager in an Agile organization is a totally different job and requires new tools which must be learnt and cannot be improvised.

How do you see yourself and your story compared to these three items?

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