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5 Things Needed to Be Agile Ready

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5 Things Needed to Be Agile Ready

July 11, 2016
Hands at a laptop keyboard with notepad nearby

Is your organization thinking about implementing Agile? Agile can provide numerous benefits to any organization, but the implementation process is not always smooth. This post is for change leaders or executives who are thinking about implementing Agile in their organization, but are not sure if the organization is ready yet. Before investing in training or resources, make sure these five things are in place; otherwise, it may not be worth investing resources in training teams yet.

In most cases we have seen, someone from IT brings Agile to the organization’s attention. This person should check to see whether the organization has these five things, and if not, he or she needs to work on these five things before starting the process of Agile transformation. Agile coaches may be able to provide guidance to help the organization overcome these challenges and get the Agile transformation rolling.

 

1. Executive-level support.

Major change in an organization, such as an Agile transformation, needs buy-in at the executive level in order to be sustainable. Executives can provide time, money, resources, and most importantly, their voices to drive the transformation.

The more executive-level support is behind Agile, the better; however, executives should be fully on-board that Agile is going to solve a specific business problem before lending their support. Agile can do many things for an organization, such as shrinking time to market, increasing customer satisfaction, increasing teams’ ability to respond to change, and removing silos in an organization. Moving to Agile to solve one of these specific problems is more likely to be successful than moving as a response to trends.

2. A change leader with Agile leadership skills.

Change leaders are a critical part of successful Agile transformation because they exhibit the skills and leadership to build the foundation for an organizational culture that supports Agile.

Who can be a change leader? First, change leaders should come from within the organization. Agile coaches can help organizations identify their change leader, but unless that person leads from within, change is not likely to stick. Change leaders need to be able to display the Agile mindset, especially the tenets of servant leadership such as serving the team’s interest, removing barriers, and empowering the team. They need the knowledge and experience of Agile principles and practices to lead the organization to implement Agile successfully and display the Agile mindset. They should have enough power to overcome objections to Agile or bottlenecks in successfully implementing Agile. Finally, change leaders should ideally have at least one Agile certification in order to further benefit the organization’s Agile transformation through increased credibility.

3. Organizational culture, especially mid-level, that supports Agile.

Agile readiness depends on a strong organizational culture. While executive support is important, that support also needs to be present among mid-level management. In many cases, mid-level management blocks Agile teams by continuing to wield control that they are used to having. Mid-level managers who adhere to a rigid command-and-control structure can become bottlenecks to teams being empowered and self-managing, both of which are important aspects of being an Agile team. In order for Agile to work, teams need to be empowered and self-managing.

Processes that are too bureaucratic can also result in bottlenecks. For example, if a QA department requires three months of testing before a release can go live, then implementing Agile would be difficult. The reason is that frequent iterative deliveries would be impossible, and frequent iterative deliveries are one of the key aspects and advantages of Agile. In order to Agile to succeed within the organization, processes that serve as bottlenecks need to be revisited.

4. A clear project vision where details can evolve.

Whereas traditional, or Waterfall, projects fix scope and determine time and cost, Agile fixes time and cost but determines scope. Projects that are a good fit for Agile are ones where the vision is clear for the product or service the organization is trying to achieve, but details are allowed to evolve. Projects will be ideal for Agile if project scope is not known in its entirety and project requirements evolve over time. In such an environment, changes are more likely, which is fine in Agile since changes are welcome, even late in the project. While the greater level of uncertainty might threaten a waterfall project, an Agile project can benefit from it as long as the overall project vision is clear.

5. Customers or users who are willing to work closely with teams.

Another of the key aspects of Agile is customer satisfaction through increased interaction with the team and involvement in creation of the project’s product. Surprisingly, many customers on Agile projects do not see this value and are not willing to invest the time required. Customers who see the value in collaborating with development will find that their time is worth the investment. Customers who fit this profile are often eager to consume low-hanging fruits rather than waiting for the entire product to be available. They will actively provide input and spend time verifying that the requirements are met. By doing so, they spend more time and effort but reap greater benefits.

Conclusion

If you’re not sure whether your organization is ready to go Agile, take a look at these five things and make sure they are in place before investing in training and resources. Taking these steps now will help ensure a more solid and sustainable Agile transformation in the long run. Because Agile transformation can be a long journey with a lot of uncertain twists and turns, you should do your best to prepare your organization by looking for these five things.

If you want to assess your Agile readiness, we are available to help. We have helped many organizations in Agile transformation and can offer you our perspective on becoming a successful Agile organization.

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