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Is Your Leadership Ready for Agile?

01/16/2014 by Deema Dajani

Executive leadership often advocates going Agile, but do they really understand what it means? Sure, Agile increases collaboration, transparency, and responsiveness to change. What's not to love? What your C-level needs to understand is that Agile can be transformative, with change impacts reaching beyond just the Scrum teams. So listen up, this is what Agile means to your organization:

Chief Information Officer

The traditional resource model is impacted. Scrum teams require resource dedication, for building a high-performing dynamic and reliable pace (velocity). To sustain them, you need to ensure a steady pipeline of valuable work. This requires true collaboration with the business.

Infrastructure needs to support continuous integration and frequent releases. If you are considering dev ops, you are well on your way.

The Agile journey could take a few years, so the biggest challenge to Scrum teams in the interim will be Waterfall interfaces. Scrum teams are fast moving and deliver with a greater degree of uncertainty in requirements, which means unfamiliar territory for Waterfall groups. A good deal of interface coordination needs to happen.

Human Resources

New roles and career paths will need to be defined: ScrumMasters, product owners, coaches, and Agile adoption enablers.

The performance review process is impacted as well, to reward team success instead of individual achievement.

Some organizations opt to trigger the cultural shift to agility by reorganizing or thinning the middle management layer, to enable team empowerment. HR needs to be very much a part of the Agile transformation.

Chief Financial Officer

When setting up teams for Agile, funding shifts from project to team funding. Budgeting in this case is simplified. What finance leadership needs to get used to is a level of scope uncertainty. This requires trust that the team and the product owner will make the right trade-off decisions.

Organizations start to experience a shift toward business value and away from cost savings. You don't hear Google bragging about how much money they saved on people; you hear about their innovations and superior talent pool.

Next, don't forget to budget for Agile overhead: training, coaches, tools, and employee dedication.

Last thought to the finance leader: You need to have some leeway for R&D or innovation lab-type work, where the team acquires seed funding to test out an idea. This is perhaps not appropriate for every team, but certainly for your emerging products. Finance's agility will help drive Agile adoption.

Chief Operating Officer/Chief Marketing Officer/Chief Executive Officer

Business engagement level is significantly higher with Agile. Not only will the product owner need to dedicate enough time, they also need to be knowledgeable and empowered to make on-the-spot product decisions. In other words, the business role shifts from a project manager profile to true product ownership. The enterprise needs to support the product owner with a clear vision and a push to innovate. Our most successful product owners do two things really well: alignment and trade-offs. Assigning the "right" product owner will make the difference to your project success.

Your project management office or central compliance groups will experience a cultural shift to team empowerment, impacting audit processes. Metrics tracked for Agile are different, focused on value rather than on productivity or cost. New standards and organizations structures will emerge, such as Scrum of Scrums. The PMO will typically feel the impact after you start to scale.

Your facilities will also be hit with demand for team co-location space. If you don't solve it by configuring sufficient collaboration spaces, the Scrum teams will commandeer your conference rooms!

You see, it goes beyond launching a few Agile teams. Executives who have gone through a successful Agile journey will tell you: Agile is about a true transformation in the way you operate.