It all started a few years back when a group of CIOs was convinced that the Agile mindset and Scrum were the wave of the future. They believed that introducing a new mindset and framework for developing software projects was the best way for improving our organization, and they were right!
Our preparations consisted of teaming up top-of-the-line external coaches with passionate internal Agilists. We also did an analysis of the current state of the organization, predicted the end state, and thought of a metaphor of how to get there, which was a train.
A train is a very descriptive metaphor that illustrates a transition of taking a passenger from A to B. A passenger, here a team, was given a ticket to board the train when an Agile coach was available to lead the transition. Riding the train was estimated to take 12 weeks, from boarding the train till getting to the destination. This was a very strong planning tool and made sure that teams, management, business, and Agile coaches were available at the right times. At its peaks, we were 10 full-time Agile coaches, which meant that we could take on 15–20 teams at a time, approximately transforming 800–900 individuals per year.
Each team went through the following steps:
- Agile readiness workshop. Defined the current state for the specific team and agreed on the end state of the transformation
- Management start-up. Assured that both business and management were able and willing to accept the changes following the transformation
- Training and start-up. Basic Scrum training and tool training for future ScrumMaster, product owner, and development team
- Warm-up. Team kickoff workshop in which Definition of Done, team agreement, and other collaboration items were identified and agreed upon
- Ongoing support. Scrum support from Agile coaches to set the scene for adopting the Agile mindset and the mechanics from the Scrum framework
- Evaluation. Evaluation from the Scrum team and management as to whether the end state for the transformation was reached and how to follow up on continuous improvement
A few years after the end of transformation, we made a short halt to evaluate what we had achieved. What we saw was that some teams had actually been traveling without moving. Yes, they did employ Scrum and yes, they had the roles defined in their team. However, they were doing Scrum mechanically and had not harvested the full benefits of becoming Agile. Some teams felt that they were left at the train station, waiting for the next train to depart. Since then we have set up a team of internal Agile coaches who assist, support, and coach the teams to make sure they improve continuously.
What should be different in future transformations? For starters, I would suggest using a different metaphor of the transformation: a race car.
Just imagine a race car: It's fast, it responds rapidly to changes, and it only wins the race if the whole team collaborates and communicates. Each round can empirically be measured to verify the effects of improvements. It requires vast amounts of discipline, and, finally, it's not driven solely by a coach.
To really anchor the transition, we need to have a local driver who knows the road ahead, trusts his team, and relies on sparring and instructions from a coach. The driver could be the ScrumMaster leading and coaching the organization in its Scrum adoption. This could ensure that teams will travel while moving.