I’ve been involved with Agile for almost 15 years in all manner of roles and organizations. Some of the Agile efforts I’ve been involved with could be counted as success, some not so much.
The organizations that I’ve been involved with, which had successful transformations, had a few key behaviors they exhibited, which included:
1. A willingness to be vulnerable regarding what wasn’t right about how the organization. These organizations weren't afraid to discuss what wasn't working and make decisions about what needed to be done at the Leadership level.
2. Active engagement from the organizations leadership and a willingness to experiment and fail along the way towards mature and effective agile processes.
3. An ability to provide people and teams the space to become self-organizing and empowered to define how best to work within in the context of being Agile.
As I've moved through the Agile experience I've identified a way to approach an 'Agile Transformation' from a different perspective. Too often our focus in only on the frameworks that have grown up to support the implementation of Agile, such as Scrum, Kanban, SAFe, xP and a myriad of others. These frameworks focus on how teams operate and are concerned mostly about flow of work to teams. This is only part of the equation.
Based upon my experiences I've created a framework that is holistically focused on changing the entire organization not just the software development capability.
I call the approach TAP2 Change
TAP2 Change focuses on developing three key pillars necessary for a successful Agile transformation:
Transparency – This pillar is about defining many of the missing pieces of most Agile Transformations, most importantly identifying why the organization wants to move too Agile.
Agile shines a light on all of your organizations inefficiencies and asks one simple question – What you are going to do about it?
Something we don’t tell organizations trying to be Agile is that Agile doesn’t fix anything, it’s not a framework, or a process, so it can't 'deliver' anything for you. What it is, is a mindset which asks you to challenge your current belief structures held within your organization and then start the process of re-envisioning your organization.
Transparency starts at the top where we challenge Leadership to:
1. Define a clear vision and strategy conveying to the organization why you want to do this and what you expect to have as an outcome as you transition too Agile. Tell people the important part of change - ‘What’s In It For Me’
2. Reassess how they view their value streams or develop them if they don’t exist. This will challenge long held beliefs about what is valuable to the organization and will result in a brand new way of thinking about your business.
3. Redefine your products and capabilities within the context of your value streams. This again will challenge long held beliefs about where your organizational value resides.
4. Engage people from all levels of the organization as you build out your Agile Transformation strategy, ivory tower approaches need not apply. Agile is a ground game which needs input from everyone in the organization so it doesn’t appear that this is being something done to them but with them.
5. Completely change the way you look at how you finance your software development projects, moving from Project to Team based funding.
Your Transparency Pillar will be the most difficult and will take the most time because if you can’t be transparent about what outcomes you are seeking and the ways that your organization must change to get them, then you will not realize the full value of going Agile.
Instead you’ll be like the myriad of organizations who reach the state of Doing Agile and never move past this state or worse regress when leadership declares they are Agile and stops supporting it.
Accountability is an important element in any Agile Transformation however much of our efforts in rolling out Agile to the organization avoids organizational and team accountability.
When we talk about Accountability we are talking about several elements:
1. Organizational Accountability – Leadership is accountable for defining an Agile Transformation strategy and roadmap and ensuring that they both communicate and regularly update the organization on how they are doing. Leadership is also accountable for ensuring that they support the change and don’t simply fund the initiative and forget about their part in this significant culture change that they must lead.
2. Team Accountability – As Product Development teams begin operating in whatever framework that they will be using, they are accountable to the organization to engage positively and seek to continually grow in the maturity and capability of that framework. Too often Leadership views Agile as a way for software development teams to not be accountable for their work and showing progress in delivering on important features and functionality. This is not the case, but how we view accountability is not about hitting fixed dates and scope but rather being accountable with respect to our Transparency so that Leadership is informed with facts about how we are progressing and can then more clearly understand the issues with attempting to create features in a highly complex environment.
Leadership is accountable to teams to be engaged in assessing what value we they are delivering and making fact based decisions on what is needed not what was wanted.
Predictability is ultimately what Leaders are looking for, they have to make commitments to customers and shareholders with respect to value that they expect to deliver. Not all organizations have the luxury to continually develop and deliver new features and enhancements such as Amazon or Google can, the reasons are many but they are real.
This pillar however, just as with the Accountability Pillar, is not about a team marching towards a fixed date/fixed scope effort. Rather Predictability is about understanding the capacity of individual teams and the entire organization and identifying the minimal amount of work that will deliver the most value in the shortest time.
We view Predictability not within the context of scope but with cadence, be it story points, # of stories or whatever metric you use to identify how much work can be completed within a specified amount of time.
To ignore our need to show progress, even if the progress shows that we are hitting challenges, provides important fast feedback to Leadership so that the can make informed decisions and manage expectations of customers earlier than waterfall would ever allow.
You can build out one or more of the Pillars, but it is the strength of all three that will provide you with a strong foundation for building a successful Agile Transformation.
Also - Coming Soon - Look for my book - TAP2 Change Building an Agile Organization via the Pillars of Transparency, Accountability and Predictability.