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Okay... Just What are we Transforming?

I'm constantly reminded that context is king... that words have meaning... and that the meaning of our words is almost entirely dependent on our context.

Last night I had coffee with an agile coach here in the Atlanta area. We got to talking about the idea of 'agile transformation'. It became pretty clear, pretty quickly we were using the phrase in two very different ways.

His perspective was that 'agile transformation' involved taking a project team, teaching them agile values and agile practices, and helping them deliver better products to market faster, and with higher quality.

Worthy goals... no doubt.

My perspective on agile transformation looks a little different. To me, agile transformation involves influencing the structures and culture around the team. Only by influencing the systems around the team, can we achieve true end-to-end business agility.

Meaningful, long-lasting agile transformation starts by establishing a clear vision for the organization, and how we want it to operate when we get there. It involves creating a change management strategy that will get us from here to there as safely as possible.

Without transforming the organization around the team, the transformation within the team won't be sustainable. The forces that act on the team are often too great for the changes to stick. It's too easy to go back to the old way of doing things.

It helps to understand just what we are trying to accomplish with our agile transformation. If we just want to get a project team really humming... team transformation might be enough to meet our goals.

If we want ongoing, sustainable business benefit from our investment in agile, we are going to need to think beyond the team. We are going to need to think about the rest of the business and how we collectively deliver value.

No right or wrong here... you just gotta be realistic about what you are trying to accomplish.

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