• Bruno Collet

Scope the Agile transformation consistently

When initiating the Agile transformation, it's critical to understand which departments, divisions, teams, projects, and so on, will be part of the effort. You might say that it is true of any change. The difference is that an Agile transformation typically impacts several behaviors across many roles and organizational units. It does not abide by the traditional functional or process boundaries. It is the combination of several individual changes that makes Agility emerge at organizational level. In other words, it is holistic.

"It is the combination of several individual changes that makes Agility emerge at organizational level. In other words, it is holistic."

If you follow Agility topics and trends, you might have noticed a fragmentation of Agile into several flavors such as strategic agility, business agility, project agility, managerial agility, leadership agility, and probably a few more. Indeed as Agile transformations become more common we discover that these multiple facets of Agility must be integrated to achieve true Agility, sometimes coined organizational Agility.

The scope of an Agile transformation is often underestimated because in the past Agile usually started as a local change of practices at IT team or project level. It is a common pitfall to develop Agile locally, disconnected from the rest of the organization, and then try to expand it reactively as obstacles arise. Although the organizational scope can be adjusted during transformation, it has to be consistent from the start with the behaviors that need to be changed.

How can we achieve this concretely?

When initiating the Agile transformation:

  1. Determine the types of behaviors to change based on current situation and the Agile transformation's business objectives.

  2. Determiner the roles impacted based on behaviors identified. Who typically has to exhibit these behaviors?

  3. Determine the org. units, processes, projects… to be involved in order to cover these roles

  4. Include the managers/executives and relevant subject matter experts in the transformation participants

  5. Ensure you have sponsorship at the right level to gain sufficient influence on the part of the organization that will have to change

For example let's say that the objective is to shorten the cycle from idea to realization of initiatives in order to deliver better products faster and more frequently to customers and thus improve customer intimacy and profit. Ideas start at line of business. They are collected and evaluated by strategic planning experts, investment committee, and portfolio management people. The ones selected are executed by the project management office and project teams. The products are delivered by sales people and technical and business experts, as well as account managers. We notice that developing these Agile capabilities involves people from practically everywhere in the company, from project managers to line of business managers to executives to finance controllers to marketing and many more.

While some roles might have more impact than others on the transformation, remember that because the change needed is inherently holistic and transversal in a complex system, the resulting effectiveness will be severely affected by the effectiveness of its least effective part. In other words, in a complex system local improvements have little business impact. Picture that as a machine made of interconnected cogs.

That being said, we can't identify all roles and behaviors from the start, nor can we gain influence on all stakeholders from the start. Nonetheless, the high-level organizational scope of the Agile transformation should be drafted and issues, such as lack of influence on a part of the organization that must change, must be taken into account from the start with a plan to address the issue. If not, we have to be consistent and reduce the transformation's expectations. It's hard enough to change when the right people are on board. Change will not happen if they're not.

Conceptually, the adoption cycle of Agile behaviors follows the cycle of diffusion of innovations. However, the passage from one category to the next is not accidental; it has to be managed both with direction and emergence. When starting the Agile transformation, we have to ask ourselves who are the innovators and early adopters and focus on them, while keeping in mind who else - early majority, late majority - we'll involve next. All these people are in the transformation scope. I have found it useful to categorize stakeholders directly in the stakeholders list, in complement to traditional power/interest mapping.

As an Agile transformation leader it's important to have the courage to deal with scope issues right away and with full transparency. I have frequently been in a situation where a disconnect between behaviors to change and scope had to be escalated in order to decide if we either can access the right people or downgrade the transformation. Wishful thinking is not a strategy.

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