I coach for a living. I coach companies through the journey of their agile transformation. I love what I do, and I love seeing the joy people experience when their transformation journey yields meaningful results. However, people’s joy can be lost when their expectations, e.g. I thought it would happen easily or more quickly, don’t align with reality. Often the “WHY?” for the transformation is lost, or is never really understood in the first place.
Agile transformations can feel very uneasy; there are incremental and fundamental, daily changes that must take place, and occasional frustration and discomfort are expected and felt along the journey toward a meaningful, sustainable success. Change is hard and it’s just not reasonable to implement and address processes and skill gaps, into a short time span. Realistic expectations, a shared understanding of and remembering the “WHY?” you want to “Go Agile”, is necessary to keep going when moving forward gets hard.
We create great products because we have a desire to solve real problems, and all that one believes will be gained by solving those problems. Similarly, we should set out on an agile transformation journey with the willingness to change, and the clear understanding of how that Journey will enable and support our company’s core beliefs. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed that companies that haven’t clearly aligned the “ WHY?” of the agile transformation with the Why they exist as a company, have the most trouble with succeeding at, and sustaining, their transformation.
In those cases, the types of responses I typically hear when I survey people around a company about why the agile transformation is taking place a) Because our competitors/everyone is doing it, b) Management decided or c) If we don’t do it our business will fail, and my favorite d) I don’t know man, I just do what I’m told. While those may be “valid” reasons for transformation, they are not very compelling because they don’t give us a good foundation and understanding to look to when things get challenging.
Why then would a company not spend the time discovering and articulating “WHY?” they’ve decided to make this drastic, difficult change, and start with a shared common understanding across the organization, to set the stage for a successful adoption?
True to the traditional form of management planning and execution, many hope that by just discovering the “perfect” path forward everything will just work out, or that once the transformation fails they’ll be able to just go back to doing what they did before. That’s too simplistic a view for something that is very expensive and disruptive.
Your journey into an Agile Transformation begins with changing how you approach your decision to make that transformation. Agile is about collaboration, transparency and response to change, and relies heavily on people trusting people and working together. It requires selflessness in how our jobs change, and how we support others taking on new responsibilities. It requires honest communication from the top on down, and requires the company to really understand “Why” an agile strategy makes sense, while making use of agile principles, before they engage on the path to transform.
I believe “Why is this transformation important to you” should yield an answer closer to: Because we believe in giving our customer the best experience possible, and because of that, we want to adopt a new process that will allow us to respond to their needs, enable our employees to enjoy their work and grow, and help us strengthen our core beliefs that have made us successful for so many years. To do that, we believe and understand that the agile principles closely align with our core beliefs, that the change will be difficult, but we have a clear understanding of those challenges, and are going to go through that journey and learn together as one company.
Why are you adopting agile as a company? Perhaps you should find out.