Sustainable agile transformations: leadership and followership are both important

When you kickstart an agile transformation, energy is high and people are enthusiastic and driven. But agile transformations take time and it becomes hard to maintain that energy level. The support for the transformation starts to dwindle, the people challenge it and other programmes are prioritised. This slows down, and could even halt, the transformation. The organisation falls back into old behaviours and it doesn’t reap the benefits of agile working.

To overcome this drop in energy over time and sustain your agile transformation, we have three key activities that will boost the sustainability of your programme.

1. Define the business case for agile

A positive business case helps maintain leadership support through challenging moments. Ensure you highlight the first successes you´ll see after you start the transformation. Register the effects of the transformation from the very beginning, including intangible and tangible benefits, and direct and indirect savings. Determine these metrics together with, and for, teams and leadership, and measure them continuously thereafter. Make sure the metrics are in line with the organisational goals, such as time to market, employee happiness and customer satisfaction.

2. Create agile advocates

Have well-connected people and drivers of energy act as change agents for the transformation to ensure the whole organisation keeps believing the shift is possible. This should be a broad network of people openly advocating agility. The role of the change agent is to listen, inform leadership and organise events to drive the new mindset and behaviour. Being the face of the transformation gives the change agents the feeling of being responsible for the success.

It also helps to have management and leadership describe agile goals in their personal objectives. While challenging, this is very effective. The agile advocates could coach and guide leaders to decide the aims that support the new way of working.

3. Develop your own agile coaches and scrum masters

Invest in an internal coach and scrum master pool to reduce final programme costs. Identify people with the right mindset and match them with an experienced coach or scrum master to build their skills. Do this right from the start of the transformation. It might slow things down at first, but it will increase the speed of transforming teams exponentially when you’ve fully trained the internal scrum masters and coaches.

These are just three of many activities you could run to make your agile transformation sustainable, but in our experience of delivering some of the biggest agile transformations, they’re key. By ensuring leadership support through a robust business case, getting the whole organisation on board with agile advocates and optimising agile teams with your own scrum masters and coaches, you’ll sustain the effort needed to complete your transformation.

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