The risks of an agile transformation

There are many reasons why an agile transformation could lead to a total organisational disorder and eventually to a fatal failure wasting money, time, opportunities and of course the trust towards the decision making process. Experimenting is at the same time good and bad and we need to mitigate the risks of the experimentation that we are about to do. Otherwise is like we are moving towards a chaotic environment that the cause and effects will be unknown increasing the grey areas of the organisational destination.

If we take a look through the agile window of history, we will see a lot of cases of agile transformation of small, medium and big organisations that either failed or succeeded. Each and every case is unique and does not apply to any other entity. Think your organisation as a country on the world business map. Taking for granted that each country in the world has its own culture, the same applies to businesses. Each and every company or organisation has its own culture and we need to accept that and build on it, rather than just trying to copy any other organisation's culture and pretend that we are doing agile. Because that is all gonna happen, you will be doing agile and not be agile.

The key to a successful agile transformation is to accept the reality and start with what you know taking small steps that will have great impact. By saying small steps, does not necessarily mean that you are driving this effort slow, but take it as you are creating quick wins that eventually will lead you to the big win, which is the vision you have set for your organisation's agile transformation. Without a vision, you are not going anywhere, you just have a lot candidate directions that each and every member of the big organisation team takes and this will eventually lead you to an environment of conflicts and confusion. It is very easy to deviate from the target, therefore you need every single person in the team to point to the same direction as your vision does.

Start with an assessment, see where you stand, invest on the values that you will have by transforming to an agile environment and make sure everyone sees those values and understands the why we are doing this. Do not just focus on the ceremonies and the artefacts, invest on the mindset and the culture. Make sure that everyone understands that no-one is loosing any power they used to have, but focus on giving the message that the meaning of power is different.

As soon as you have your vision in place, your assessment done, make sure you have set a prioritised plan how to implement the transformation. You could easily run it in Sprints and based on a backlog you implement it step by step. Retrospect every iteration and see what you are doing wrong and how to improve it. Set up your agile architecture and build on it by presenting at the end of each iteration your quick wins that you have achieved. Present also the failures and explain why it happened, what you could have done to avoid it and show the action item you have taken in order to avoid such failures in the future. Having metrics is always useful. Visualising the metrics are even more important as you sense and see what is going on.

Experimenting without any experience the whole agile transformation of your organisation could lead to two results. Either you will fail the effort and end up saying "Agile is not for us" or you will call for help externally to fix the situation. Nowadays, many organisations use external help on things that they do not have the expertise. Do not risk the future of your organisation with assumptions like "we know what is agile. Agile is a standup every day, planning, review and retrospective" Agile is more than that. Agile is more than a certification and is not the case of going by the book will make us work better. Is not an out of the box solution. Agile is culture and way of living professionally.

Konstantinos Kareklas - Agile Coach