People tend to ask me the general question of how long it will take to complete an Agile transformation. Unless I’m responding to my son, in which the answer would be “5 more minutes”, my answer would be “it depends”. It’s just the reality, based on so many variables. At LeadingAgile, we describe the journey of a transformation as successfully getting a pilot group (expedition) from basecamp to basecamp. We then follow with other groups, when the path is clear and well maintained.
Let’s say you’re planning a long hike on the Appalachian Trail or climbing Mount Everest (transformation analogy). To calculate the time to complete the journey, the first thing I would look at on the trail map is the distance (to my final destination goal), then the elevation changes to my basecamps or resupply points, then I would look at the weather conditions.
Look at the graphic at the bottom of our compass page to visualize what I’m saying. If you know where you are and know where you want to be, with mountaineering you are fortunate to look at the map, see your latitude, longitude, and elevation, and know if you’ve made it to your destination. With Agile transformations, the coordinates on a map are actually your adoption levels in four of the five competency areas defined in our assessments: Defining the product, planning and coordinating, delivering solutions, and continuous improvement. We’ll talk about the fifth competency area, organizational enablement, in a little bit.
If you were climbing Mount Everest, there are two basecamps, one on each side of the mountain. They are basic encampments for providing supplies, shelter, and communications for persons engaged in the trek. Supplies are carried to the basecamp by sherpas or porters (in our case it will be one or more of our guides). The criteria to reach each basecamp is different, depending on the destination. Using our compass, we know where you are, know where you are going, and know what gear you are going to need. Though I know you want to reach your final destination, focus on reaching the next basecamp safely is critical. Your transformation will fail, if you can’t get your team safely to a basecamp.
I see going from basecamp to basecamp as a change of location and elevation or a change in behaviour and outcomes within your organization. The expedition will have to get used to operating at different elevations. But weather conditions are much more unpredictable. If the weather conditions were unfavorable, and I have a long trek ahead to the next basecamp or summit, it could make an expedition harder than it need be or downright impossible. How do I know the current weather conditions? In our assessment, I use Organizational Enablement.
In order for teams to improve in the other competency areas (reach basecamps), they should also improve in areas of organizational enablement. If an organization refuses to form teams, provide a supportive organizational context, or ignore a series of other elements, it would be like walking into a blizzard in summer. It’s going to slow you down to a crawl or stop you dead in your tracks.
In order for change to occur in your organization, you must enable it to happen. Want to know how long it will take to complete an Agile Transformation? I think you need to listen to your guide but you also need to control the weather.