Implementing Agile: More Loyal to Your Discipline or To Products and Users?

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Implementing Agile: More Loyal to Your Discipline or To Products and Users?

You can't move on in your Agile transformation if you're still focused on the process instead of the product.

· Agile Zone ·
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Agile adoption depends on cross-functional cooperation and a laser focus on user needs. Many companies underestimate the organizational challenge Agile poses. Old-fashioned organizational models, divided into functional silos, may defeat your Agile transformation before it begins. The reason: team members often have a greater loyalty to their function or discipline, than they have to product/customers.

Functional tribalism tends to erode the collaboration Agile requires. Internal squabbles between functional groups over resource allocation, or inconsistent directives from senior management, can distract the organization from a more important priority: creating value for customers that feeds growth.

For Agile to succeed, the culture must change, but too many companies expect instant perfection from teams that are simply following the established culture, characterized by functional silos and related loyalties. We believe in the model of crawl-walk-run – that means start with the simplest steps and then gradually move to capabilities that require greater coordination.

The key to changing behavior is measurement – but it is necessary to measure the right things. Too many organizations measure outcomes that do not reliably predict a result. To foster organizational change, use predictive metrics that demonstrate how teams behave and that influence their behavior.

For example, Agile favors User Stories over the traditional Marketing Requirements Documents (MRD). These documents focus on users in contrast to the functional focus on “Marketing.” A good predictive metric of a company’s adoption of Agile, in the early phases of its Agile transformation, could be a simple count of the User Stories teams created. If none of the teams are creating them, then Agile transformation is at a stand-still. If most teams are writing User Stories, but select teams are still using the old MRDs, it is likely that these latter teams are mired in functional loyalties and other remnants of the pre-Agile past.

Agile entails organizational change and that’s a long road. Start small and build capability, using predictive metrics to influence behavior. Measure behavior rather than static outcomes. Don’t expect perfection at first, but exert a consistent influence in the direction of Agile, focusing on customers and products rather than the functions. Don't underestimate the cultural and organizational challenges of Agile.    

Agile, agile adoption, innovation management, metrics monitoring, organizational change management, user centered design principles

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