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Agile Transformation in Practice: Part III

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Agile Transformation in Practice: Part III

Any Transformation Rollout Team will have three clear roles within it: an Agile Sponsor, a Transformation Backlog Owner, and at least one Agile Coach.

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Assemble a Transformation Rollout Team

Agile transformation only makes sense if the current ways of working are unsatisfactory and innovation is not well managed. For example, an organization’s operating model may no longer be fit for the market, or opportunities may be missed unless such a transition happens. However, the successful adoption of Agile practices across the enterprise has two other essential prerequisites beyond a pain-point. Firstly, there must be organizational willpower for change, including clear executive sponsorship for an Agile transformation program. Secondly, there must be a critical mass of skilled people who are able to implement this strategy, all of whom must be proficient in the core competencies of actually rolling out Agile change and understand the importance of building largely self-adapting and self-directing teams.

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Both of these prerequisites are met by the Transformation Rollout Team (synonyms include Transformation Team and Change Team; a Scrum of Scrums, although a more generalized concept, can also be implemented for transformational purposes). This is the guiding body for enterprise Agile transformation, the one that takes the first and reinforcing steps and coaches, trains, mentors, and leads the rest of the enterprise in Agile adoption. This team decides which changes need to happen and when, the patterns that will be involved, and how those changes should be ordered. It determines where change should be targeted at any given time and what success criteria will apply. A strategic team with an enterprise-wide remit may identify and empower other teams within the organization as change agents.

A successful change program is determined by the following relationship (Cunningham, M. Agile Ottawa presentation, May 2012):

D x V x F > R


D is the dissatisfaction with the status quo;

V is a clear, compelling, believable vision;

F is the first and reinforcing steps;

R is resistance to the change.

Any Transformation Rollout Team, regardless of the level and context in which it operates, will have three clear roles within it: an Agile Sponsor, a Transformation Backlog Owner, and at least one Agile Coach.

Agile Sponsor

The Agile Sponsor represents the executive authority for Agile adoption. It is the Agile Sponsor's responsibility to ensure that enterprise-wide support for the transformation program is forthcoming. The Agile Sponsor makes executive authority clear and challenges any perceived or claimed exceptions. He or she removes any doubt among stakeholders that deep and pervasive change has the full support of the organizational executive. The Agile Sponsor must have the authority to fulfill these duties and the social and political skills to ensure that they are evenly applied.

As the representative of executive authority, the Agile Sponsor is ultimately responsible for the success of the transformation program.

Transformation Backlog Owner

Someone must have the final say over the content of the Transformation Backlog and its ordering. The owner of that backlog needs to have a clear understanding of the appetite for change amongst organizational stakeholders, including which of them are most likely, at any given time, to benefit from new Agile working patterns and practices. The owner does not need to be an expert in Agile transformation or in the patterns and best practices that are behind each change on the backlog. The Transformation Backlog Owner will be informed and advised by Agile Coaches of such matters and will work with them to ensure that an appropriate Transformation Backlog is crafted and implemented.

The Transformation Backlog Owner may, in fact, be the same person as the Agile Sponsor. There is no need to identify separate people to fulfill these two roles. The vesting of these authorities in one person can be advantageous, although it is not always practical.

Agile Coach

An Agile Coach is an expert in the application of Agile methods, including the associated patterns and best practices. He or she understands the business of facilitating organizational change and will help stakeholders at an operational level to adopt agile ways of working. An Agile Coach demonstrates servant leadership. He or she will lead by example if needed, and will make increasingly Agile teams less dependent upon their assistance. The Agile Coach may be a Scrum Master for one or more of the teams being coached.

A Transformation Rollout Team can have multiple Agile Coaches in order to facilitate change. When actioning an item from the Transformation Backlog, the Team will self-organize to decide which coach or coaches should apply each change to each target for change.

As a servant leader, an Agile Coach will remove impediments to agile adoption. A coach must be able to rely on the support of the Agile Sponsor, and the collaboration of the Transformation Backlog Owner, for coaching the change expected.

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