Disciplined Agile

Transformation Strategies

There are several proven strategies that will increase the chance your transformation will succeed. These strategies are:

  • Recognize that transformations are journeys. Transformations really should be considered continuous improvement initiatives, not projects that have a fixed end date. You will never truly be “done”, but instead become a learning organization that continuously improves.
  • Accept that transformations require hard work. You cannot buy Agile, DevOps, or “digital” from a vendor. You need to do the hard work of transforming yourself.
  • Have a roadmap. It is important to have an overall roadmap that is fit-for-purpose for your transformation initiative. This roadmap should be communicated to, and well understood by, all levels of the organization.
  • Have genuine and visible leadership support. Your leadership team should be engaged throughout the entire transformation initiative, from beginning to end. Leadership must be patient as this is a long-term journey rather than a short-term project, and be willing to invest in everyone’s learning.
  • Create a safe and nurturing environment. Work to encourage innovation, experimentation, and acceptance of failure as learning opportunities. Teams will be reluctant to embrace self-organization and try new things on their own initiative if they fear reprisal for mistakes made in good faith.
  • Motivate people to change, don’t force them. Yes, sometimes you need to force the issue, particularly when your face an existential crisis, and force/push change on people. However, change is significantly stickier when people accept the need to change, are actively involved with identifying the change, and then willingly pull potential changes into their team to experiment with them and see how to make them work in practice.
  • Hire or grow qualified coaches. It is very important to invest in coaches that have done this many times before whether you are looking for an enterprise or team coach. You cannot afford to fail, and you don’t want coaches failing and learning on your dime.
  • Recognize the need for a fit-for-purpose WoW. Adopting a method or framework can be a good start in your overall agile transformation journey, but it’s not your end destination. Scrum is not ideal for all situations, nor is SAFe, LeSS, or another of the other frameworks. They are all extremely appropriate in certain situations but not in all. Leverage the Disciplined Agile tool kit to tailor and evolve your WoW and thereby become a truly Agile enterprise.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate. Fear and uncertainty related to change can quickly sink your transformation. Use techniques such as town hall meetings, newsletters, lean coffees, wikis, and post information radiators where everyone can see them.
  • Celebrate successes. With good coaching you will likely be able to demonstrate success very quickly. Make sure that you celebrate these successes and provide recognition that is visible to everyone. We recommend a preference towards team over individual awards because individual awards can encourage competition within the team and discourage good team dynamics.
  • Celebrate failures. Sometimes a learning experiment fails, it happens. Just as you celebrate successes, similarly celebrate failures. The team took a risk and tried something new, they tried to learn about a new way of working (WoW) or apply a new way of thinking (WoT), and they discovered that it didn’t work for them right now in their situation. Taking risks like this is exactly the kind of behavior you want to promote if you want to build a learning organization.
  • Transform to transform, not to cut costs. We have unfortunately seen transformations used as an excuse to let large numbers of people go in the name of agile. We have heard statements made like “agile doesn’t need project managers, business analysts, or middle managers” without knowledge or understanding of how to fill the void left behind when they go.