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Agile Transformation

10 March 2016

Julia Bulatova, CSM, CSPO
Transparent Consulting

There is a common fear associated with any shift away from current processes, and that fear is change. The fear of the unfamiliar can cause resistance, creating unnecessary struggles and delays along the transformational path to Agile. Although each organization may tailor the transformation by creating a unique approach toward becoming Agile, a baseline should be used as a starting point.

It is crucial to create energy across all teams by encouraging and empowering collaboration among them. Everyone involved should have a common goal and a clear understanding of tasks and strategies, thereby creating a safe environment for feedback. Encourage early failure so that you can create a cycle of constant revision and adaptation.

Below are some strategies to overcome the struggles experienced during the transformation.

Articulate change and impact

It is the executive team that will most likely initiate the change to Agile. The challenge is to gain the team's support during the first few steps. Agile encourages transparency, accountability, and a shared understanding of tasks. Those initiating the shift are in charge of conveying the benefits to be gained with taking on an Agile approach, as well as the overall basics of how Agile will replace current solutions and processes already in place. Present to the team a time line and the reasoning behind adopting Agile. The team should have a common place to refer to for this time line, which should be easily accessible to everyone impacted. When delivering this communication, keep a few crucial points in mind: Who is going to be impacted, and what the benefits are for each team member.

Govern and encourage

Encourage each person to ask questions and provide quick feedback, and offer them assistance. This will help steer people away from the task-oriented method toward a new and more motivated attitude. Selectively administer individuals and their respective undertakings associated with the transformation. These key players will collaboratively move the process further and will be held accountable for extending the Agile practices to others.

Identify people with previous experience and familiarity with Agile. They should also be involved in current projects, understand legacy methods, and support the current shift toward Agile. To ensure flexibility and openness along the way, analyze any blockers associated with this implementation prior to the implementation team moving forward. Once this initial plan is established, have trust in your implementation team, remove any structural roadblocks, and refrain from frequent interventions.

Influence through open dialogue

For an Agile transformation to be successful, the executive team needs to motivate everyone within the organization. I already mentioned the importance of communication and clarity as among of the first steps toward this change. Another aspect of a successful transformation is promoting and encouraging engagement whereby teams are able to submit feedback and volunteer their ideas. Outdated organizational structures/concepts do not permit for an open dialogue between management, executive sponsors, and technical team members. There is a lack of empowerment and an overabundance of autocracy.

Agile welcomes and encourages contributions from technical teams and key players, thus eliminating uncertainty. The ultimate goal, which should be articulated to everyone, is to leverage the capabilities of each team member, thus maximizing everyone's talent. The task is to create a safe space at the beginning of the transformation for teams to collectively provide and receive feedback. Share the message across teams that Agile emphasizes a focus on individuals rather than processes and tools.

Coach rather than instruct

Abandoning established processes and structures for the way projects are currently managed can make you doubt your project manager's ability to maintain full control. Consider how the Agile approach will be structured and adopted at all levels, especially if you depend heavily on processes. Coach rather than instruct through each step, thereby creating suitable conditions based on your team's culture and dynamics. This will allow everyone to focus on the tasks at hand and remove any ambiguity.

Empower and encourage

When everyone has a clear understanding of Agile, continue to improve the communication system. By adopting an efficient communication structure, teams will continue delivering proper in-time feedback and, most importantly, it will keep everyone engaged and motivated. All teams should be well aware of ongoing tasks within their projects, which will strengthen Agile's value regarding clarity.

Agile is about aligning with strategic objectives of each project while collaborating with both internal teams and client stakeholders. Continue investing in your team. Your team will be convinced by their results after unevenness and overburdening are eliminated. Project tasks will feel easier and will boost overall productivity.

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

Article Rating

Current rating: 3.3 (8 ratings)


Tony Joanes, CSM, 3/16/2016 8:00:49 AM
Its ironic that the fear of change is actually where the V shaped waterfall methodology falls apart as it can't handle the inevitable changes that will come up, "Change Request" nightmare and contract negotiation.

Great article, thank you.

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