How to build a compelling case for change

People don’t like uncertainty. The case for an agile transformation must therefore instil real belief in the destination and articulate why the journey is worth every step.

And it is a journey. How can your workforce remain committed to a new vision when it might take years for the long-term benefits to be realised? Building a case requires the leadership of your change champions, who must highlight both the dangers of continuing with the status-quo and the value of adopting new agile ways of working.

Agile demands embracing a new mindset; arguably the change leaders’ greatest challenge. So, to galvanise a workforce from the start of their journey, here are three areas of focus managers should consider:

Think responsively

Inspiring teams to step outside their comfort zones and trusting them to deliver is key to the success of any agile transformation. In traditional frameworks, the deep-rooted fear of failure means programmes are signed off up-front with long-term, detailed plans and distant deliverables. When targets are missed, the response is not what can be learnt but who can be blamed.

With agile, short delivery cycles mean the ability to speed up time to value. Where output from an iteration is met with user disapproval, teams quickly adapt to centre on the customer, minimise the impact and refine their future approach. This inspires teams to volunteer for initiatives and opportunities once considered too risky.

For example, we helped a financial services IT solutions partner design an agile target operating model that delivered a myriad of benefits: a third reduction in waste, defects and rework; faster value realisation from software deployment; improved customer satisfaction; and a significant uplift in employee motivation.

Goals that resonate

A strong vision alone isn’t enough to keep your transformation on course. To ensure success, the vision narrative must be underpinned with specific goals linked to real business value. Regular refreshes of these goals and the vision can avoid the risk of products being quickly devalued and help organisations keep pace with end users’ changing expectations.

Further, ever evolving internal and external forces means keeping these goals static is likely to see products quickly de-valued. Refreshing both goals and vision therefore as regularly as each quarter will be critical to keep pace with the ever-changing expectations of end users.

Together with your change champions, it’s the leadership team’s job to demystify how practical delivery will be impacted positively by frequent recalibration of goals. Demonstrating the logic of the strategy is crucial to help individuals make the personal investment needed to overcome the challenges ahead.

We took this approach at a central UK Government department under pressure to transform its online services, using agile to develop the approach, governance and controls – smoothly providing a transition to a new single application system for all services.

Start with your people

Any case for change can only ever be compelling if you enable and empower those within your organisation to define the objectives. In agile, fast feedback from the customer shapes effective products and services, and the same principles apply when seeking to define how your new operating model will best serve the business that provide these.

During any transformation, shared sentiments on the potential of new working practices will naturally evolve, having a major influence on their success. Capturing candid feedback at regular intervals from the people that’ll need to perform under the new structure will build in much needed resilience. Far from telling individuals what will work best, showing compassion will make all the difference.

We were tasked by a major UK bank to bring the organisation closer to its customers, improve time to market and increase delivery consistency. We created a community of 100 transformation engineers that executed over 200 transformative actions for improvement using agile. This group grew the agile message far beyond one-off projects and drove cultural change in a tangible way that eviscerated stagnation and organisational lethargy.

Establishing a robust case for transformation cannot be seen as a one-off management exercise. By applying these three areas of focus, you should not only create an atmosphere of excitement for adopting agile, but also a call for immediate action.

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