Sustaining Agile Transformation – Our Experience

Introduction

Most of the organizations today are moving towards Agile to achieve faster delivery, higher business value, and better quality. In our experience, the average time for organizations to achieve Enterprise Agility is around 2-3 years. Most of the organizations plan only for the transformation and think less about the sustenance. One of the twelve Agile principles emphasizes the importance of sustainable development and the need to maintain a constant pace throughout the cycle.

The same principle applies to the organization-level transformation context as well as any change without stability and consistency may not be long-lived. A sustainable agile transformation is one that creates a self-sustaining, continuously learning organization focused on delivering improved business results. It is important for organizations to build a transformation sustenance strategy so that they do not fall back to old ways of working.

In this article, we are making an effort to share our experience and learnings on where organizations could fail and proactive steps that can be taken to sustain the transformation.

The below visual clearly shows the future of Agile adoption and transformation. Source: KPMG Global Agile Survey 2019.

Source: KPMG Global Agile Survey 2019

Sustainability in Detail

Sustainability is a state that meets the current needs and of the future without any compromises on delivering Business Goals. Agility is all about mindset change from command and control to collaborative working to achieve the Business goals. The industry has proven that humans are knowledge workers with maximum productivity in a free environment to experiment and explore. Certain things like tools and technology, engineering practices, etc. will keep evolving and changing, however, the collaborative mindset and fundamental principles and practices will never change.

When provided with a free environment to experiment and innovate people bring out the best solutions to their problems which in turn help them in generating high productivity, better outcomes, best quality, and high levels of customer satisfaction.

Three pillars of corporate sustainability such as economic, environmental, and social in an Agile context would mean

  1. To optimize the development methodologies with minimum waste in terms of effort and cost.
  2. Minimize the carbon footprint by optimizing the usage of renewable resources.
  3. A bigger vision touching the lives of maximum people.

Sustainability is also about continuing to do what’s working well in the present and refining and improving in the future. With no focus on improving things will cease to exist or fail to deliver the highest business value. In the quest to become sustainable and achieve sustainability we need to ensure the organizational foundations are stable, well balanced, and long-lived. The organization needs to transition from the advisory model to CoE assisted model. Mindset and accompanying set of practices-maintain optimal dev pace indefinitely.

Organizational Behaviors Which May Lead To Challenges in Sustainability

Organizational behavior chart.

People Role in Sustenance

Often people fail to understand that Agility is everybody’s responsibility and not just of the change agents. Every person in the organization needs to embrace the change and its impacts on the successful transformation and its sustainability.

The organization needs to rethink and create a career roadmap for the Agile roles like Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Developers. The organization must build and enhance the self-paced learning experience, embed learning experience, develop role-based training, develop new learning areas, etc. For certain key roles, the organizations can focus on establishing academics such as Scrum Master Academy. This will ensure there is continuous learning and flow of trained Scrum Masters as and when needed. Coaching skills should be taught and embedded in Agile leaders and change agents. Ensure Leaders are trained and embrace foundational values ​​and principles.

Establishing and retaining a Central team such as a lean CoE will be very beneficial to oversee the transformation and support when needed. The organization can deliberate on the establishment of the CoE at divisional or organization levels. Collaborative forums like the CoPs, Guilds, Chapters, etc. should be established and run successfully. These forums help to learn from each other, build competence, and share success stories. Coach office hours or on-demand consulting can also be provided as a pull service when needed.

Organizations should support and build a culture of creativity, experimentation, and innovation. People should be given free hand to experiment and explore so that they come up with their own solutions for their own problems. Motivate people by encouraging and regular team-building activities to improve the bonding and develop an empathetic work culture for people in the organization. Conduct regular happiness or people satisfaction surveys to feel the pulse.

Tools and Techniques for Sustenance

Tooling and automation play a vital role in standardizing some of the Agile practices and consistency. Some organizations initially struggle to create the right tooling infrastructure and to ensure that there is the right communication and adoption of the same.

The intent is to be as lean as possible in the overall implementation and serve as an enabler rather than a process overhead.

Below, listed are some of the important tools and techniques.

Important tools and techniques chart.

Continuous Improvement

A larger vision needs to be set to envisage sustainability. One of the best examples which have helped the company sustain itself for decades is of Microsoft which states, “A computer on every desk and in every home.” A multinational technology corporation that produces computer software, consumer electronics, personal computers, and related service to almost every home. This vision has created a social anchor for the people working for Microsoft. Goals for measuring sustainability like work-life balance reduced waste etc. can be derived out of a bigger vision for short-term monitoring and route correction.

Agility should be treated as a journey and not a destination. The solutions of today can become obsolete for tomorrow hence continuous improvement is needed. Foundation for Continuous improvement like Measurement programs needs to be established. Appropriate tools and automation need to be put in place to ensure there is no human intervention and effort involved to generate metrics reports. People should regularly analyze the metrics data and identify improvements. Retrospectives should go beyond the squad level to identify improvements and challenges at the program and organization levels.

Transformation partners need to be strategically and gradually disengaged, rather than creating a sudden disruption in the transformation. The CoE and change agents take some of the responsibilities of the transformation partners before they exit. Different forums can be established to share success stories and learn from each other across the organization. Hackathons and Innovation days can be scheduled in the organization to provide a platform for the people to showcase and implement their creative ideas for problem-solving.

Conclusion

We would like to conclude by stating that while it is important to make a strategy for the transformation, it is also important to think through a strategy for the sustenance of the transformation. Involve the organization to build and execute the sustenance strategy and don’t let just the change agents or leadership focus on the sustenance. Let the new mindset and culture become the foundation of the transformed organization.

Finally, change is of the people, by the people, and for the people.

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