5 Enablers of Your Agile Transformation Journey

by January 18, 2018 0 comments

Why are organizations moving towards Agile? “Simple, To make more money!” As your company evolves into a mindset of ‘Doing the Right Things, Right @ Speed’, you will deliver awesome products to your customers which they really need & care for thereby driving your top-line, bringing operational efficiencies and help increase shareholder’s wealth. Agile Transformation are complex, long endeavors with change across a mesh of “system of systems” which requires an organization to go through three stages of metamorphosis – from ‘Knowing Agile to Doing Agile to Being Agile’. Are there any levers which when pulled effectively will make your agile transformation a success?

Based on my consulting experience at several customer sites, here is my take on the 5 enablers which a CTO can use to an organization’s advantage.

‘Committed & Involved’ Leadership

Agile transformation programs at $69bn Target & $9 bn eBay are respectively led by Mike McNamara & Steve Fischer (CTOs). “It has to be driven from the top”, period. Active participation & involvement from senior executives is the most common success factor. It’s not just tacit endorsement of “whatever works,” but rather, proactive advocacy of agile to enable business agility and to be an agile role model for the organization. Agile is very simple to understand yet equally difficult to implement. It helps to engage with an external company which has specialization & experience to evolve your transformation strategy and approach, conduct assessments, facilitate trainings and drive embedded coaching with your teams. An Agile COE with internal champions should be formed to help drive transformation effort. An equally important aspect is to come with KPIs to measure success & do inspect-adapt at regular intervals.

‘An Agile Mindset’ Culture

Organization in its entirety need to adapt to an agile mindset driven by Modern Agile values, “Make People Awesome, Deliver Value Continuously, Experiment & Learn Rapidly & Make Safety a Prerequisite”. Your established set of attitudes and habits about how to succeed at getting work done needs to move away from command & control culture with big upfront plans to a more collaborative, hypothesis-experimentation mode with short plan-do-check-act cycles. Managers & Leaders need to be transformed to Servant Leaders helping their teams succeed – providing them vision & goals and letting them decide on how and when aspects of their deliverables. As Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz puts it,” I along with my management team work to ensure Barista has everything they need to make our customers happy”. Agile Workspaces promoting collaboration with a more open, activity based seating are ubiquitous.

‘Whole Team’ Structure

Conway’s Law puts it succinctly, “Organization which design systems are constrained to produce designs which are copies of their communication structure”. In essence it means that if the parts of an organization do not closely reflect the essential parts of the product, then the product architecture will be in trouble. Well aligned cross functional and cross platform self-organized feature based teams which are stable, persistent and can deliver end to end work is the order of the day. Typically, small team size which can deliver e2e work, collocated as much as possible and with a persistent product owner and an agile leader. Team members need to be trained for T-skilled with (specialist-generalists) full stack developer roles. Boundary between DEV-QA-OPS needs to be blurred. Guidelines remain the same when you put them across geographically distributed multi-site organization spread across different time zones.

‘The Just Right Light Weight’ Process

Understanding and evaluation of the right process framework & accompanying set of practices is dependent on your value stream of work. You can look to choose from a combination of Scrum, Kanban, Extreme Programming or Scrumban along with enterprise scaling frameworks which works for your organization’s success. Adoption of agile project management tools are a must. Adaptive 5 step agile planning welcoming changing business priorities should be adopted instead of fixed scope, fixed time plans. Providing consistent team training & leadership training across the enterprise to establish a common ubiquitous language along with testing waters with few pilots really helps steer the effort in the right direction. W. Edward Demings said, “If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it”. Focus should be on moving the needle of your business metrics along the journey.

Engineering Craftsmanship with DevOps ‘Ingenuity’

Software engineering should pave way for Software craftsmanship and is one of the most critical success factor. Test driven development– writing tests before writing implementation with continuous refactoring is a corner stone towards writing beautiful code. Automation testing effort should be focused based on testing quadrants and testing pyramids. Set-up of continuous integration, continuous delivery & continuous deployment pipeline enable you to develop on cadence and deliver on demand. Cloud strategy, IaaS, PaaS, along with containerization & IaaC tools leads to app agility, developer self service, removes vendor lock-in and reduces op-ex and cap-ex costs.

Remember that agile transformation isn’t just about team, project, program, or even portfolio agility; it’s about the agility of your business!

Author Deepak Sharma is Director & Chief Agility Officer at AppWorks, Principal Consultant with Organiq Consulting and Lean Startup Coach at India Accelerator

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