agile transformation

Has your organization started an Agile Transformation just to have it stall? Or perhaps you’ve seen another organization talk about all the incredible benefits they are experiencing as a result of their Agile transformation. Yet, their half-year results aren’t demonstrating any tangible impact from their decision?

Here are five reasons why an Agile transition might not be giving you the outcomes you were expecting.

1. There’s No Executive Sponsorship

Doing anything differently takes a brave leader and a committed executive team. Your Agile transition will struggle if those people aren’t in place. Organizational leaders need to truly understand what they are signing up for. It isn’t enough to want the benefits of a flexible, customer-led business without supporting the process of achieving that.

An Agile transition should be supported from the top from Day 1, with the total and unequivocal backing of the people in power. They not only set the tone for the business change, but they have the ability to allocate funding to support the individuals in the trenches. Transitioning to Agile does require an investment. If your senior leadership team thinks they can simply give permission for Agile to be used without investing in the supporting infrastructure and processes, then they won’t see the benefits they were hoping for.

2. There’s No Education or Training

Skilled change agents are essential for an Agile transition. It would be best if you had experts in Agile at all levels of the business. Yes, you can hire some in, but it is also useful to grow your capability in-house by developing people you already have.

Additionally, some people will be providing input to projects or supporting products once they launch. These people need to understand what the shift to Agile means for them.

An education and training campaign will support your Agile transition. In particular, it can highlight the benefits and what the leadership team is planning on getting from the process. Point out the fact that the service teams will be closer to the customer. Explain how the development process works. Use case studies or share stories of those organizations that have completed their Agile transition and are now seeing the benefits.

Without committed, informed, and enthusiastic staff across the business, your transition to Agile will struggle and possibly fail.

3. There’s No Culture Change

Training staff members in Agile techniques is one thing, but a successful Agile transition comes from more than just having a row of certificates on the wall.

Agile organizations have a very different approach to work. Some of the language of Agile feels very alien to non-Agile organizations. Even things that you may think couldn’t be done any other way are substantially different. For example, testing methods are different, and Agile testing benefits from having specialist software and test automation beyond that of most Waterfall development teams.

If your Senior Managers aren’t prepared to buy into the culture shift as well, they’ll struggle to see the benefits they were hoping to achieve.

4. Employees Work in Silos

When you are used to work being organized by department, the idea of self-organizing, cross-functional teams can feel very uncomfortable. The benefits seem clear: trust and loyalty within the team, efficient and effective working practices, no loss of knowledge in handoffs to other teams. But in practice, many organizations are structured in silos, and breaking out from that is hard.

An Agile transformation requires every department to get involved. Cross-functional teams may put people together who haven’t traditionally worked side-by-side before, even if they were involved on the same projects in the past.

And those teams are likely to need new software, tools, and platforms to work with so there’s a learning curve there as well.

When managers hold on to their team members and their knowledge in their silo and are not prepared to share or work together for the good of organizational goals, then your Agile transition won’t work. Managers need to acknowledge the need for a complete mind shift and be prepared to put their own personal agendas aside for a better product.

5. You Gave Up Too Soon

Moving to Agile ways of working isn’t an overnight fix. You don’t walk into the office one Monday morning, and suddenly, there’s the output from a retrospective pinned in the meeting room, and the wall is covered with sticky notes.

Agile transitions are called transitions for a reason – it takes time for new ways of working to embed and become common practice. It takes time for people on the team to internalize the Agile Manifesto and live it.

The key takeaway from these five points is simply this: if the Enterprise doesn’t support the process, they can’t expect the benefits. However, if you get that commitment, you can transform the way your organization does business.

With the support of senior leadership, your transition to Agile can be completed successfully and without taking too much time. However, that gets you to your first iteration. Agile teams are always on the lookout for how they can improve: they’ll be tweaking a process here or updating software there to get the best out of the tools and approaches. Continuous improvement and a desire to be better will mean once your Agile transition starts to fly, it will never really stop.


Check out 3 great resources on Agile Transformations and how to improve your chances for success

  1. The Journey to an Agile Organization
  2. The 12 Stages Of The Agile Transformation Journey
  3. Agile Transformation Approach


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