Organisations around the world are striving to adopt a more agile mind-set. The benefits of smaller teams, a start-up culture and being more responsive to change are clear. But we often see teams attempting to deliver this significant change using traditional, waterfall approaches.
While reaching for the Prince 2 handbook is understandable for organisations who have used it to deliver change over many years, taking this approach slows the transformation of the values, culture and mind-set that are the foundation of successful organisational agility and fails to role model the new way of working.
In my experience of making organisations more agile, there are four key ways you can apply agile principles to the delivery of your agile transformation:
People often start by engaging leaders, and taking a top-down and horizontal approach. But it’s much more effective to deliver incrementally, do peer-to-peer engagement, and empower and support areas of the organisation to adopt the same approach.
At a large financial services client, I started with light-touch awareness sessions to make sure everyone understood the complexities and benefits of business agility, then waited to be pulled by the early adopters. This approach worked repeatedly. It made it easy to see where the first success story would come from, and therefore where to deploy agile experts first.
Can old dogs learn ingenious new tricks?
A key Agile principle is to value tangible progress, rather than rely on paperwork. And the only way to really know when a change in mind-set happens is to go and observe your people.
Reserve some time each day for this activity and you’ll know how your Agile adoption is progressing, as well as which metrics are driving good behaviour and which aren’t. Also, it doesn’t hurt to be seen walking the floor.
Be the first to experiment and learn
Transforming a single small team goes beyond the work they deliver, it also helps change agents understand the current culture and how to influence it to become more agile.
I usually suggest the team leading the adoption of Agile methods should be the first to create a virtuous cycle of fast learning from fast experimentation. This team will learn first-hand what it means to be agile by using Agile methods to drive the change. This builds a mind-set that acknowledges we can’t know all the challenges we’ll face in advance, so plans will have to adapt based on what we learn on the field.
The adoption of a new mind-set will affect your people more deeply than a process change. Make sure concerns are heard early on and you employ a supporting, rather than an enforcing, style.
In my experience, the term “ivory tower” is often used to describe the typical central team enforcing a transformation. This is a clear sign of a disconnect. Make sure everyone realises they’re master of their own change, and offer them support and a clear vision.
Lead by example
Applying traditional methods when managing a transformation to a new mind-set, as Agile is, creates an obvious dissonance that impacts your ability to succeed.
If you want to change to a new mind-set, apply that mind-set to the change.