How to make an Agile Transformation work for Business, not for Coaches only?

Author: Denis Sunny

Introduction

Agile Transformation may turn out into a complete waste of money without any improvement in the company’s capability to achieve its strategic business goals. If this is something you can not quite agree with, then you might not find this article valuable. Neither will it make any difference to an organization that goes for an Agile Transformation solely to keep Agile Coaches busy.

1. Performance

In this model, the Performance shows how good the self-organizing units are at achieving Strategic Business Goals. Ultimately, higher achievements in that should become the rationale behind decisions to go for the Agile Transformation.

Author: Denis Sunny

2. Processes, Knowledge, and Skills

Performance depends on how well Processes work (including working agreements, communications, coordination, relationships, etc…) and how good are Knowledge / Skills inside the self-organizing units.

3. Culture

Processes in self-organizing units are expected to be a result of their own decisions. These decisions are made within their internal Cultural environment. Process efficiency and effectiveness depend on this environment.

Author: Denis Sunny

4. Motivation

Culture can change only when there’s a respective Motivation. Important to note, that Motivation is always in respect to something and this “something” is crucial to determine — not only the level of motivation. Sometimes, we may ask “is this person motivated enough?” and receive an honest answer “yes”. However, if we asked “Is the person motivated enough to become a good team player and put team goals over own interests?”, the answer could be different.

5. Structure

Culture follows Structure only in case this Structure creates respective Motivation which drives employees to change their Culture.

Author: Denis Sunny

Example

Imagine a People Manager who does Individual Performance Evaluation solely to satisfy the formal process, though this is done in a way that prevents any influence on the motivation of the employee. In this case, the element of Structure “Individual Performance Evaluation” does not impact Culture anyhow.

Another Example

Imagine another People Manager who does not evaluate the performance of individuals on the self-organizing team. Instead, this manager just lets all team members give feedback to each other with respect to how close their behavior is to the behavior of a great team player, who is fully focused on achieving common goals.

Agile Framework

Up to this point, we covered all the main aspects which are usually touched in Agile Frameworks, when their adoption is taken as a basis for the Agile Transformation.

Author: Denis Sunny

Are we sure about the Optimizing Goals of our company, and are they consistent with the Optimizing Goals of this Agile Framework?

Each Agile framework is tailored to optimize the organization in some specific way, which can be represented by its Optimizing Goals. These goals should be identified and justified based on the whole concept of the framework. The article “Scrum: Optimizing Goals” will shed more light on the Optimizing Goals on the example of the ones of Scrum.

6. Culture of Top Management

Organizational Structure is a product of Top Management’s activity. The way how exactly this activity changes Structure depends on the Culture and mental models of Top Management.

Author: Denis Sunny

7. Experience of Top Management

Culture and mental models of Top Management can change when they gain a new experience.

8. Organizational Coaching and Results of Experiments

Sometimes, a new experience of Top Management comes from experiments that Top Management decides to do themselves with respect to structural changes — painful and expensive experiments in many cases turning out into a complete fiasco.

Organizational Coaching should be done by those, who possess both the genuine Agile culture and relevant experience in structural changes fostering a respective cultural shift.

If the company adopts Scrum, then ideally, these should be Scrum Masters with relevant expertise who work within product groups of this company and go through all the pain caused by existing Structure. If such Scrum Masters are absent in the organization, it will be worth hiring a few.

Author: Denis Sunny

Conclusion

  1. The cultural shift is impossible without the full engagement of Top Management to drive necessary changes in the organizational structure.
  2. Top Management should start with a clear understanding of what the optimizing goals are, and which achievement will create the necessary capability of the company to achieve its strategic business goals.
  3. Top Management should identify an Agile framework(s) which Optimizing Goals are consistent with the Optimizing Goals of the company.
  4. Top Management has to have an Agile culture and expertise in respective structural changes. Here the structure that might need changes is usually wider than just the structure required according to the chosen Agile framework.
  5. When the latter is not the case, Top Management should involve those who have this culture and expertise in respective structural changes. If the company goes for Scrum, ideally, these experts should be hands-on, acting Scrum Masters with relevant expertise.
Author: Denis Sunny

100% Scrum Master, PSM III, PSPO I, CLP, Candidate LeSS Trainer