An Agile transformation begins with the proper spirit and understand, and although Agile focuses on teams, that starts from the top.
“We want to be Agile to fulfil the rapidly changing requirements from customers through self-empowered and motivated employees” as opposed to, “We want our team to do Agile since everyone is doing it” is the true spirit of business agility transformation.
The journey begins with leadership
While agility sounds like a bottom-up philosophy where individuals in the team are self-disciplined and self-empowered in achieving the common objectives, the journey starts with leadership through trust and leading by example. Leadership needs to understand the dynamics of the team and provide guidance since one size doesn’t fit all. Being transparent about the mission and vision is important to gain the shared commitment.
Optimization at all level
It’s a myth that agility is just for product development and support organization. Every individual in the ecosystem plays a vital role in transformation as we can’t expedite the delivery by optimizing silos. Visualizing and eliminating the waste in the value stream that translates an idea to implementation inclusive of process and people are essence for transformation.
Both qualitative and quantitative measurements are important to understanding the health of business agility. While the organization can choose metrics that work for them, it is vital to measure throughput and cycle time of business outcomes.
Kaizen(Continuous improvement) and Kaikaku (Radical change)
Measure, refine and repeat — continuous and relentless improvements are important aspects to get better on our journey. The entire value stream requires retrospection in a reasonable timeframe to be able to adjust and move forward.
During the journey of transformation, there are a couple of myths to be considered:
Agile is not ad-hoc
In fact, there is a lot of planning and course correction when we adopt Agile but they are incremental and of short intervals. Since wait time is one of the key wastes, everything requires planning but not in detail just to ensure “roughly right.”
One size doesn’t fit all
In the name of Agile, we shouldn’t force fit the methodologies to a team. While Agile is all about incremental and iterative development, every methodology has its own merits and demerits based on the nature of work. For example, Kanban may work better than Scrum in an environment where scope of work changes daily.
Agile requires more discipline than we think
If a team feels there are too many meetings and ceremonies, it’s time to check the fundamentals. Every ceremony requires the purpose, pre-requisites and expected outcome clearly articulated to the participants. Time-boxing plays a critical role in Agile. Agile empowers everyone with a collaborative approach and taking consensus through working agreements, at the same time it expects every team member to adhere to what they committed to. Being proactive in raising the impediments, limiting the unfinished work through teamwork and self-organized are some foundation blocks for agility.
Beyond traditional leadership
The role of leadership becomes more of an enabler in unblocking impediments as well as bringing alignment within and across teams. The leader becomes frontrunner in transformation journey and guides team through continuous learning and mentorship. The leaders in Agile transformation don’t just show the way, they also travel along with the team, remove the hurdles, and enable teams to be successful.
To summarise, before the team embarks on an Agile transformation the leaders need to ensure the vision is communicated effectively for better collaboration and continuous support is provided through relentless improvement. We can be Agile without even following the ceremonies; what matters is how we convert the concept to cash for the customers in minimal predictable cycle time.
Ramesh Manickavel, Director, Agile Program Management, CA Technologies