Agile Transformation Explained: The Agile Transformation Process
In the decades since the Agile Manifesto was written as a set of values promoting trust, collaboration, and respect, project management has dramatically evolved. The Agile Manifesto values are not limited to software development or project management. They can also be applied to various industries as “Agile Transformation” is part of their organizational development. Agile Transformation is the agility that allows an organization to adapt to changes consistently and quickly.
On this page:
- What is Agile Transformation?
- The Agile Transformation Process
- The Agile Transformation Strategy
- The Benefits of Agile Transformation
- The Challenges of Agile Transformation
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What is Agile Transformation?
Agile transformation is a long-term business journey to gain “…the ability to quickly reconfigure strategy, structure, processes, people, and technology toward value-creating and value-protecting opportunities.” Successful agile transformation allows an organization to react in concert with market changes and shifts quickly.
A definition of an agile transformation is a sustainable, ongoing, and flexible approach to organizational change throughout all business levels and processes.
Agile transformation can be identified using the Agile Manifesto values of prioritized teamwork, efficiency, and customer input.
Every agile transformation journey is unique, as seen at Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. Each example of successful agile transformation demonstrates the importance of using an agile transformation roadmap with clear steps and an agile transformation strategy to guide the journey.
The Agile Transformation Process
A transformation will systematically examine processes, technology, team mindset, and metrics for opportunities to improve. The process of organizational transformation is not fast, nor is it easy. With hard work and commitment to the process, there can be far-reaching and impressive results. For example, a financial division leader would look at the process of vendor invoice payments, the technology for logging vendor invoices, the mindset of the finance team doing the invoice work, and the metrics for the team’s productivity. An Agile transformation analysis identifies what changes will make the work process less cumbersome and more efficient while fostering a team mindset of collaboration with the contract team for faster response times. The once static finance team is now embracing the Agile mindset in their daily work with each other and other teams across the business. Invoices are processed faster, leading to higher team morale and productivity, more accurate financial reporting, and stronger vendor relationships.
Achieving Agile transformation, depending on the maturity and size of the organization, can take years. The culture change is the foundation and the most challenging part of the transformation process. After all, people often resist change. Across the journey, there will be dramatic strides forward and slides backward. The team, department, division, and enterprise leaders must fully invest in the process for the needed culture change to emerge and stick.
The Agile Transformation Strategy
To support the lengthy process of changing how work is done and shifting the mindset towards the work, use an Agile Transformation Strategy.
Step 1: Understand the Reason “Why” You Need Agile
Values and culture change are the foundation of Agile transformation. That means everyone in the organization needs to understand why the changes are occurring. The motivation for the transformation should be business driven and justified by the financial investment in the changes.
- Being able to change services or products in time to meet customer needs.
- Reducing infrastructure or administrative costs associated with layers of bureaucracy.
- Acting upon innovation and change to keep or gain a competitive edge.
If the “why” for the change is merely so you can say, “now we are doing Agile,” the organization is not ready. Communicate the “why” to everyone frequently and consistently, so it is known and understood. Understanding the reason for implementing Agile will build trust in the process.
Step 2: Develop an Agile Transformation Roadmap
Change is not always easy. A roadmap with clear targets helps the team stay focused on the milestones and enjoy seeing the progress made on the journey. The Agile Transformation Roadmap should include:
- time frames
- process change milestones
- metric change milestones
- mindset and culture milestones
The size and complexity of the organization will dictate the number and scope of roadmaps needed for the full agile transformation. Project Management Institute (PMI)®‘s Disciplined Agile (DA)® provides a tool kit and best practices to ensure a Road Map meets an organization’s specific needs.
Step 3: Embrace Agile Methods and Assess the Team
The values of the Agile Manifesto should be promoted across the organization during transformation and embedded in every Agile process implemented. Agile transformation is not limited to a specific Agile methodology, such as Kanban or Scrum, because the values are the same for each. Organizations should embrace the values of Agile in all things and select the methodology that best suits the work.
To strengthen the execution of Agile within the transformation efforts, assess the team for culture fit and alignment to Agile Manifesto values. Couple the assessment process with other teambuilding initiatives, such as empowering teams to self-organize, encouraging cross-team collaboration, and recognizing those that model Agile Manifesto values.
Step 4: Training & Coaching for Your Transition to Agile
Training and coaching should happen in conjunction with assessments to address skill gaps and support the growth mindset needed for sustainable and effective transformation.
Agile coaching for leaders is a powerful tool in the transformation journey. A leader who embodies Agile values and champions the business reasons for the transformation can be an influential transformation partner within a team and across the organization.
Team training can level-set skills and ensure a common understanding of processes within an Agile framework. It also serves as a team-building experience that can carry over into stronger collaboration back on the job.
Step 5: Establish Agile Performance Metrics
Metrics are to be identified early in the transformation process and monitored throughout. Progress and delays can be tracked so appropriate action is taken. Example Agile transformation metrics are:
- Speed to market
- Customer satisfaction scores
- Quality measures
- Employee culture scores
There will also be times that the metrics may need to change to better align with the progress of change or fit with the maturity of the transformation effort. In this way, metrics are both a means to track progress and to apply agile thinking at an enterprise level.
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The Benefits of Agile Transformation
An Agile transformation benefits the business with increased productivity, more process efficiencies, and strong team morale when implemented with a strong roadmap and committed leaders. Agility in the face of challenges has become the norm across the business. An Agile transformation culture has self-organizing and empowered employees driven by shared values. Trust and respect, values of the Agile Manifesto, are embedded in teamwork, resulting in more opportunities to adapt to change and activate innovative ideas.
The Challenges of Agile Transformation
In the Harvard Business Review article “For an Agile Transformation, Choose the Right People,” researchers share that in a survey of 112 companies, “…nearly 90% reported that they had struggled with rolling out organization-wide agile transformations, even after succeeding with initial small-scale projects.” Teams using Agile tools do not equate to Agile organizations.
Many Agile transformations never get far due to a lack of planning, a toxic culture, and a failure to know their business’s reasons for starting the journey. Missed deadlines, staff burnout, dissatisfied customers, and costly training can be associated with Agile transformations.
Agile transformation is a bigger and more ambitious goal than having a few teams use Agile methods. It is best achieved when everyone across an organization brings agility to their approach to work and fosters a culture built on Agile values.
While the process is unique to every business, there are known strategies that increase the probability of a successful Agile transformation. Using Project Management Institute (PMI)‘s resources, like the Disciplined Agile (DA)®Agile Transformation Roadmap, in conjunction with targeted Agile training and coaching, better positions your company for an effective and successful transformation journey.
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