First Build Your Foundations for Agile
Before jumping into pilot programs, ensure that you have these foundational Agile essentials up and running for a successful transition.
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How many people build a concept house without any foundation, to make sure the real home would be a success? I would venture to say very few. What happens when a builder constructs a house without establishing a proper foundation? Will it crumble on the first day? No, but it will not stand the test of time.
Many companies approach an Agile Implementation the same way. They are so excited to get something small started with a pilot that they forget the lay the foundation to support the transformation over the long haul. Are pilots in themselves dangerous? Absolutely not. Pilots without the proper foundation to help them are the issue. The context of this article is about what the necessary foundation is that needs to be laid to support most change initiatives like Agile.
Figure 1 - Modified from Kotter (2018)
Change initiatives typically fail because the first five steps in Kotter’s 8-step change model are ignored.
Sense of Urgency
It is every leader’s responsibility, from the CEO down to the supervisors, to create a real sense of urgency around implementing change. This responsibility cannot be delegated. It is not sufficient for a leader to say, “You have my full support” and then walk away. Each leader must display how important this initiative is by being intimately involved and show up to meetings with a sense of purpose and urgency. Leaders must communicate the importance of not delaying and acting immediately.
A strong coalition must be in place to help drive this initiative. This coalition should be made up of people that are early adopters of technology and can make decisions or influence the people that have the power to enact change. An Agile Center of Practice (ACOP) will need to be formed to help with the strategy, roadmap, communication plan, and setting the overall Agile governance to be followed uniformly across the company.
Strategy and Roadmap
With any massive undertaking, it is imperative that the company knows the plan for implementation and a roadmap for success. It will also need to understand how progress is going to be measured through Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and metrics. Part of that strategy is the build the foundation for all Agile projects to be successful. Agile projects will amplify the problems in your organization, not fix them. One of the central tenets of Agile is to identify bottlenecks and remove waste. To make the process more efficient, ensure Continuous Integration and Delivery (CI/CD) is in place before taking on your first pilot. This will ensure that the teams can deliver consistently on cadence and not be delayed by finding defects late in a sprint.
How is the ACOP going to report out on the successes towards the roadmap? It is imperative that the transformation has a communication plan and a mechanism for reporting out to the masses on the status of the project. The communication plan is a tool to help the ACOP maintain and grow that sense of urgency. I can't emphasize enough how important this element is. People will be lining up outside your door to be next in line to use Agile.
Empower a Large Group of People
Empowering your people to make decisions as though the CEO of the company was standing right behind them is a great way to remove roadblocks that slow down your projects. Does this mean they get a blank check? No, they get to make decisions that directly affect them or their group. If the decision affects others, then he or she must take this choice to the next level, where that person has the authority to decide about the things that concern him or her. For example, empower your product owners to make decisions for the company about everything within the respective product. Empower development team leads to make decisions about how to implement a design as long as it falls within the architectural guidelines of the company.
In summary, make sure you have built your foundations strong before trying to implement Agile. Without a good foundation, what you created could deteriorate and fall apart over time.
The 8-Step Process for Leading Change - Kotter. (2018). Retrieved 12 September 2018, from https://www.kotterinc.com/8-steps-process-for-leading-change/
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