The Starting Problem Series – Realistic Agile Transformation Expectations

Expectations are everything. If you set a goal, communicate it and then meet it, your team is thrilled and so are your stakeholders.

Organizations quite often operate with their collective head in the sand and have self-proclaimed "optimized" internal processes and are therefore not looking for critical feedback to make improvements. Over a period of time, they become dysfunctional. However, since this decay in processes and capabilities is gradual, no one internally feels the pain or the need to change. It's almost like the frog that is put in cold water and then the pot is set to boil. Alas, it's too late for the frog to find out how close it is to its end. It usually takes a new leader or a costly error that causes organizations to change their product delivery processes and adopt agile methodologies. Usually, these errors force a change in leadership and the new leadership drives change in the organization.

When an organization gets into the groove of transformation, leadership demands root cause analysis and inevitably, a lot of questioning of current processes and procedures happens. A common problem during this phase is that some people utilize this opportunity to look for “organizational scapegoats” who are believed to be the root causes for these problems, with little or no appreciation for why the process had been put in place. It usually takes a long time for processes to be embedded in an organization and the transformation period leads to some unreasonable expectations for effective process changes to be realized in a very short period of time. All the while, expectations of in-flight projects are to move as fast if not faster than before as soon as the transformation starts.

Agility and transformation can bring out the best or worst of your organization. If your transformation is guided correctly and the focus is on answering the 5 Why's, you will arrive at the core processes that need to be re-engineered. Surely, there will also be a few laggards in the organization who may not be on board with transformation, and hence may have to depart from the organization. This should not be surprising as not every one in every organization can be assimilated into an agile organization. Agile also amplifies the needs of your organization’s demands - especially from "traditional cost centers" - development, QA, and infrastructure. Suddenly there is need of investment for the right resources and to invest in new tools and infrastructure to promote your organization’s agility. It is key for leaders focus on lean and then automation - focus on getting to short-term results with a long-term success strategy.

As you start your transformation ask a few critical questions for investments:

1) Do you have the right team members - who can BE agile, not only DO agile?

2) Have you committed sufficient budget to invest in building key DevOps capabilities that can help in accelerating your organization?

3) Is your leadership committed to aligning resources and processes to ensure that flow can breakout?

4) Are your teams willing to be empowered and be held accountable? Is your leadership willing to de-centralize decision-making?

5) Does your leadership team recognize the value of a transformed organization and are they willing to dedicate top talent for a few months to drive organizational change?

The responses to these questions will give you an indication of what expectations need to be set with your team, leadership and stakeholders whom are all eagerly anticipating your transformation yield results.

As you start your agile transformation journey, ask the difficult questions, be honest about your organizational capabilities and those it lacks. Plan the transformation and communicate the transformation roadmap so that all stakeholders involved can a have realistic expectation of your agile journey. Otherwise, you may find yourself in jumping out from one boiling pot to different, “agile pot” and, again, not realize the heat is turning up. 



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