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What Is the Energy Source for Your Agile Transition?
By David Gijsbers

When looking at the energy and drive for an Agile transformation, there are a couple of common scenarios we have noticed when working with clients at the start of an Agile transformation.

One place where the push for change emerges is from the team members. Typically team members are frustrated at being put in a losing position using traditional project management techniques. An ‘Agile Champion’ might emerge from the team and be empowered enough to bring some training and coaching to implement some Agile tactics and bring their teams to a new level of productivity using these techniques.

Another scenario that we see is a top-down Agile implementation. In this scenario a senior executive has made the decision that if one Agile team is ten times more productive than they were before they went Agile, then one hundred teams doing Agile will be one thousand times more productive.

In the first scenario, the challenge is often the amount of liberty that the team has to operate in a new way can be limited. It might be limited by the type of tools available to them, it might be limited by the governance structure that the team finds itself in, or by the traditional broken relationship between business and technology. An individual team might have some localized success, but sooner or later, unless they recruit a “senior executive” to support the transition to Agile, the local success that they have discovered will be limited by the companies’ traditional structure and the energy will dissipate. In the final stage of this scenario the newly invigorated team members will leave the organization convinced that the grass is greener at a company that is less hostile to change.

In the second scenario, what we see is that while the management team is excited about the possibilities for the benefits that Agile will bring to their organizations, unless they have recruited the team members to join them on this transition, there will be resistance from the people whose day-to-day activities are going to be most impacted by this change. Often, the typical questions from team members in our training revolve around the myriad ways in which this type of change will not work in their particular circumstance. Because of the pressure to deliver, team members will usually devolve back to their traditional way of delivering that has allowed them to survive in this organization and that change will not occur.

In both scenarios the challenge to overcome is recognizing the transition to Agility really will have a top-to-bottom impact on your organization. Unless all stakeholders understand how the change is going to benefit them, and are comfortable that a transition is going to be a challenging journey that will require professional and personal growth, a transition is going to be difficult.

No matter where your Agile Champions sit in an organization when launching a transformation, it’s worth the investment of time and effort to communicate how this change is going to impact the various stakeholders.

Talk about what the benefits will be as a result of the change, so that everyone in your organization will buy in to the direction in which it is headed.

David Gijsbers is the Agile Engagement Manager at Eliassen Group.

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