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Agile Transformation and Executive Engagement

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Original post written by Steve Colasinski for LeadingAgile.

Must Be Present to Win

Most people are familiar with drawings or raffles and some of these events require that you must be present to win. A highly successful Agile Transformation happens when there is executive engagement throughout the path to agility.

The first step for an executive that is adopting Agile is establishing an organizational structure that will allow Agile to succeed. This consists of establishing collocated teams and providing collaboration tools to facilitate communication between remote teams. Collaboration is compromised where you have resources spread across teams in geographically different areas, like people offshore, people onshore, and putting them on the same team.

Agile Transformation Self Survey for Executives

When an organization decides to embark on an Agile Transformation, executives need to be asking the proper questions to establish a successful structure to facilitate the transformation.

  • Are we making sure that people are dedicated to teams versus just having to be available part-time for this project?
  • Are we providing management tools for the team?
  • Does our team have the tools to which they could manage their sprint and collaborate together?
  • If we need somebody off-site remotely for something, do we have the collaboration tools for communication?
  • Is there a ratio of no more than 3 Software Engineers to 1 Quality Assurance Engineer?

As an executive, you’re typically associated with providing a facility for your organization. Your engagement may be necessary to insure the following are implemented:

  • Are we providing the space for the teams to be able to engage?
  • Are the team members being located in close proximity within your facility?
  • Are we providing space for the team meetings, where teams can cluster together and discuss?
  • Is there a space to conduct product demo?

You might have remote stakeholders that you’re going to go demo with.

  • Do you have the necessary equipment available for the teams to execute the demo for the external stakeholders?

Provide remote collaboration tools when necessary. The use of mobile video or any sort of video conferencing capability is essential if you’re going to do anything regarding work with remote stakeholders and remote teams.

As an executive, you want to remain committed to the execution of your Agile Transformation.

  • Are you following the teams and their execution?
  • Are you reviewing the team Burndown Charts at the end of the sprint?
  • Are you investigating velocity anomalies that might exist or at least questioning, why are there anomalies? (don’t assume that it’s all going to happen on all it’s own)
  • Are you engaged with assuring that organizational obstacles are removed for all the teams?
  • Whether it’s shared resources or other impediments are you helping to remove them?

Many times teams will have issues with servers or other equipment not being available.

  • Are you providing the right priority in getting your IT people to get it done, so the teams can become functional again?
  • Are you expediting the purchase of facilitation and collaboration tools to provide the infrastructure to facilitate a fast Agile transformation?

There can be differences within the organization of the understanding of the Agile concept and principles. You need to ensure that everybody in the organization has a shared understanding of what a team is in an Agile environment and how a team delivers.

  • Are you also getting all disciplines to support and understand the team concept associated with Agile (business and engineering)?

Executives should leverage feedback and always mind it’s importance.

  • Are you providing feedback in the organization on your Agile transformation?
  • Are you engaged with understanding the outcomes of teams retrospectives?
  • Are you holding a transformation retrospective as you’re going through your transformation?

Always make sure that you’re getting feedback from the teams. This way you will have the knowledge of what is working in the organization and what’s not. It is critical to understand the outcomes and goals of your Agile Transformation.

  • Obviously you’re trying to utilize Agile to improve the value to the business, but does your organization have goals in place that encourage Agile practices and principles for individuals and teams?
  • Once you get to being predictable and having good quality. Are you done, or are you going to continue to look for ways to improve and maximize the value of Agile methodologies within the organization?

One of the most common factors with any executive is trying to lower cost of operation. Typically retrospectives can help sharpen execution, provide better value, and lowered cost of operation.  Executives should ensure a sound environment that is nurturing and encouraging for teams to hold retrospectives.

  • Is your organization making sure teams are having retrospectives after every sprint?
  • Are you rewarding them when they can show you demonstrated savings from their retrospective?
  • Is your organization tracking that the teams are implementing the changes identified in the retrospective as well, or are the teams just using the retrospective as time to get together and discuss?

Continuous improvement is essential.

  • Are you and your organization providing an environment of encouragement and reward for continuous improvement activity?
  • Again, do you have a plan with continual evolution of Agile in your organization?
  • Are you establishing a Continuous Improvement Roadmap?
  • Are you considering Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery on the Continuous Improvement Roadmap?

Make Your Presence Known (in a good way)

Some of the pitfalls of doing an Agile transformation are just providing an initiative for your managers and then stepping back and returning four months later saying, “How is it going?”

The transition to a new methodology is a huge investment. Making sure you’re committed and being actively involved shows leadership and it also gives people that strong backbone to insist on implementing Agile principles. A team knowing that they have executive engagement is huge. Teams will take bold steps for change when they have executive support.

Successful Agile transformations will build organizational capabilities, provide predictable business outcomes, and improved quality will lower your organization’s cost of operation. With all of these positive outcomes at stake, make sure you are leading the change with being personally involved and engaged with the Agile transformation activities that are leading your organization to success.  As an Executive you will gain much respect from your organization and your peers from leading and engaging in an Agile transformation that will bring about better business results and improve the performance and pride of your organization

For more information regarding Executives and Agile please read; What Problems are Executives Trying to Solve with Agile

Or to learn more about Agile Transformation take a look at; Fundamentals of Agile Transformation.

Original post written by Steve Colasinski for LeadingAgile.

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Published at DZone with permission of Mike Cottmeyer, DZone MVB. See the original article here.

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