Agile Transformation

Agile Transformation Management

Agile Transformation Management

By Joel Oosthuizen

In the Transition Management section (which is part two) of my series on Critical Success Factors for Agile Transformation we are looking at Transformation Vision, Objectives, Benefits Plan, Transition Team, Measures, Stakeholders and Culture.

Agile Transformation Management: Vision

As with any successful endeavor, project, product or service offering, a clear Transformation Vision is required so that a common vision exists in the organization regarding where we are heading with our transformation. Google’s definition of a vision is “the ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom”, which sums up precisely what we are trying to achieve by stating the foreseen end state.  A vision also gives us a starting point to measure our progress against throughout the transformation efforts.

The Five Focus Areas of Agile Transformation

Focus 5 – Business Focus (The ultimate focus to reach in Agile transformation. Once here, the organization is a learning organization).

Focus 4 – Program and Portfolio Focus

Focus 3 – Project/ Product Focus

Focus 2 – Teams and People

Focus 1 – Measurement, Tools and Techniques

In Focus areas 5 to 4 we focus on delivering the right product, whereas in Focus areas 1 to 3 we focus on delivering the Product right. Focus 5 is on a strategic mindset level, so the Agile mindset would lead to the right choices being made. As we move from Focus 4 to focus 1, it becomes more tactical. On Focus 1 level, Measurements on teams, business units etc., Tools being used to channel process flow, and Techniques of working, like Scrum in certain areas with Kanban in other areas.

Focus area 5 is of cardinal importance in any Agile transformation endeavour, in fact, before it even starts the leadership team in this domain of the business, the executive, needs to be tested first to ascertain whether they really want transformation. In his paper “An Organisational Transformation Checklist“, Michael Sahota notes the following checklist:

  • The leadership’s ability to identify and confront red flags/ impediments. Activities to expose such areas for optimization include Retrospectives, Gemba walks, interviews and examining the culture
  • Visionary – Does the leadership have a clear vision of that high performing state of greatness that they want for the organization? Activities to support this are workshops around vision and identity, socializing opportunities by examining other breakthrough organizations and leadership retreats
  • Willingness to act – “Red pill” vs. “Blue pill” syndrome. Red Pill is a term derived from the movie the Matrix that signifies the willingness to explore disconnects in our belief system to understand the true and perhaps discomforting reality. Blue Pill takes you back to your everyday comforting reality and erases all thoughts of trouble and concern. Do leaders have the ability and willingness to act based on their new reality?

Transformation Objectives

Setting transformational objectives is usually the easiest thing because they are things that are kind of common sense. An example of Agile Transformation Objectives include:

  • Deploy into production once a month as opposed to twice a year
  • Have severity one defects that escaped our SDLC as opposed to the current 100
  • Customer satisfaction increase of 30% based on Net Promoter score

As you can see these ‘acceptance criteria’ or objectives are all testable and measurable.

Stakeholder Analysis and Engagement

Agile Transformation Stakeholder Grid
Stakeholder Engagement Grid

During stakeholder engagement, we are continuously reinforcing the mindset, values and principles, almost selling the concepts to them. Stakeholders are mapped on the Interest/Power grid as in the figure above, just as with any project. People that are classified into Keep Satisfied and Manage Closely are the stakeholders that you should collaborate with closely as they have the highest level of influence to the their “power ranking”. I think I prefer the term influence more. We also think of stakeholders as either productive (having part in execution of the change initiative) or value adding (SME’s for example). Having this clear context of where your stakeholders fit into the transformation effort, will greatly increase the success rate of your transformation.

Stakeholder Engagement Strategies

Agile stakeholder engagement strategies
Agile stakeholder engagement strategies

In the above graph, you can see that the allies in Agile transformation is approximately in the middle of the graph and we should use that alliance to influence other hotspots in the organization. A natural collaboration that takes place is between allies and waverers, as the latter is mostly undecided, they just want to get on with work. Stakeholders that fall into the passive classification is also easy to persuade, naturally. Some of your antagonists and opponents may buy into the transformed way of work when they see the magnitude of positive change that comes along with such initiative. Showcasing these positive results or outputs in the Transformation Sprint Retrospective is incredibly important. Here you will draw on historical or baseline data and compare it continuously with the current metrics.  The rest is self explanatory regarding the engagement strategies.

Organizational Culture

Organizational Cultural Iceberg
Organizational Cultural Iceberg

As depicted in the image above, roughly 10% of an organization’s culture is visible and the remainder of the 90% that drives the behaviour seen in the visible 10% is hidden under the surface. On the surface our technology and associated practices and values are seen by our people, by the macro environment (consumers, competitors etc.). The tools and techniques we use is also visible to the same audience, and same for the processes we follow, and their efficacy.

During an Agile transformation, the entire base below the surface needs change and rewiring in order for the transformational efforts to endure the test of time. During such a transition, the piece above the surface naturally detaches itself from the part hidden under the surface due to new processes, new tools, techniques, roles and hopefully ultimately because of a change in mindset. If the supporting base does not reprogram itself to host the new ice cap, then the ice cap will simply melt into the sea of old behaviour. Included in this re-wiring of the mind is changing the command-and-control instinct to one of continuous learning and adaption based on the empirical evidence before it as a result of the transparency of Agile. Underlying culture relating to customs, behaviour, language, beliefs, stereotypes and taboos need to be addressed and transformed too to ensure a healthy Agile trajectory into the future.

Effective Change Management

Effective change management limits the amount and exposure to the Resistance and Exploration quadrants of change management. It takes organizations from a state of Denial where they are bombarded with new information and have to filter through information with preconceived notions. Then the change initiative takes the enterprise into a state of Resistance where support to the individuals in the teams and in the organizations is crucial. The change initiative then ventures into the Exploration quadrant where constant direction is required to remain on the right path towards commitment and acceptance. The organization then requires continued support and encouragement to sustain their velocity.

Realizing the Benefits – Balanced Agile Scorecard

The Agile Balanced Scorecard takes the best of all scorecards, (namely Leading and Lagging indicators, Effectiveness vs. Efficiency and the The Balanced Scorecard as defined by Robert Kaplan and David Norton in 1992) to form a unified measurement system at the project and program level. This is done by modifying its traditional four categories to better align with the way we typically think about projects. Our categories are:
  • Product: Are we building high-value products that are in demand by our customers?
  • Financial: Are we achieving planned-for financial results?
  • Team:Are we working well together as a team and addressing the needs of the various stakeholders?
  • Schedule:Are we on track to deliver within the schedule commitments?
You could stick with the original four categories of the scorecard, use these modified categories, or define your own when setting up your own scorecard.
Here is another example:
Agile balanced scorecard
Agile balanced scorecard

This concludes part 2 of this series. Next time we will take a closer look at Training and Education during an Agile Transformation.

What’s Next?

  • If you need assistance with an Agile Transformation in any way, form or shape please contact us here.
  • If you need Agile training from team to portfolio level, check out our training menu on top.
  • If you need coaching or consulting help, please contact us here.
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