Begin With a Sponsored Vision
Enterprise transformation requires clear executive sponsorship. If top-level support for the initiative is not made clear at every level of the organization, then only localized or tactical improvements are likely to be made.
Make no mistake about it–enterprise Agile adoption is a strategic issue. It requires organization-wide deep and persistent change. The support for this change must be driven by senior management. It has to be sufficiently strong to overcome organizational gravity, or the tendency of people to revert to traditional ways of working. Agile transformation is hard. It means learning new ways of working and new ways of thinking, and unlearning old cultural norms that masquerade as common sense.
Senior management has three key responsibilities to fulfill in this regards:
Craft a vision for Agile transformation and share it with the whole organization. The expectation must be set that Agile change requires the participation of each and every person who contributes in some way to the delivery of value. Note that potential trigger words such as “Agile” and “innovation” do not necessarily have to be used when describing or referring to the vision. Avoiding specific terms can reduce prejudice against the change initiative and inappropriate early solutioning, and help to keep implementation options open.
Create and empower a rollout team to implement the vision. This team must include suitably qualified Agile coaches who can guide and mentor stakeholders through the process of transformation. The team must also include a clear Agile sponsor who can represent senior management and the stake it has in enterprise Agile adoption. The sponsor must be able to articulate the need for wide and deep change to existing organizational practices and navigate the political landscape on behalf of coaches so change is facilitated. The coaches themselves cannot be expected to deal with organizational politics and reactionary elements. A key responsibility of the Agile sponsor is therefore to eliminate any doubt concerning the rollout team's remit and the authority of its members as organizational change agents.
Become change participants. Enterprise Agile transformation requires change on the part of senior managers, too. There are important lessons to learn about the flow of value in the organization, quality assurance, the management of batch sizes, and servant leadership.
Now, we must be clear on the following important point: although executive sponsorship is a critical success factor in enterprise transformation, Agile change is not something that can be imposed. The duty of sponsors is to encourage the adoption of good practices by responsible and self-organizing teams. Also, enterprise Agile transformation should not be regarded as a separate initiative, but rather as a means of adding value to the organization and its ongoing business.