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Five reasons Agile transformations fail

There's a problem in the Agile transformation business. Over the last three years, we've observed a consistent pattern: companies get stuck with "superficial" agility and rarely get predictable agility or operate with fast agility. This means they rarely gain the benefits of agility they need. That led us to ask, "Why do Agile transformations fail?"

  • Implementing practices over outcomes

    The number one reason we see transformations fail is that enterprises are focused on the wrong thing, implementing “all the things” to be agile.

    The goal of an Agile transformation isn’t to be “agile” or to implement Agile. The goal should be focused on outcomes and business results: happier customers, delivering faster, more responsiveness, more predictability.

  • Lack of business engagement

    We see many companies that go through an Agile transformation forget to invite the customer along, therefore it’s a local optimization and not an optimization of the whole.

    If we are not involving the customer we’re not helping them learn a different way of working. Often business partners are not brought along and so they don't know how to contribute to the transformation.

  • Focusing only on team level

    For most organizations who hire us, this is not their first Agile transformation. Most often, their first Agile transformation consisted of only implementing Agile practices at the team level and didn’t permeate through the entire organization. A transformation has to involve the whole company, at the leadership levels and System level to motivate dynamic behavioral shifts.

  • Training without coaching

    We also see a trap where many organizations think, “If we train everybody, then we will be good.” Learning starts with training but ends outside the classroom. You learn the terminology and rules during training but have to actually practice them to make it stick. That’s the hard part. Which is why you need an external or internal coach to guide you through that learning curve.

  • Not optimizing across entire value stream

    Optimizing the entire value stream means not just asking, “Are we doing our development in two-week sprints?” But rather focusing on how long our entire planning process is. What is our investment and budgeting process? How long does it take to get software (or other kinds of value) out to production? Are we optimizing all of those pieces? Because it’s not just about optimizing one segment of a multifaceted value flow, you have to consider the entire value stream.

Six keys to Agile transformation success

Looking back on our decades of experience, we studied our Agile transformations where companies gained the agility and business outcomes they needed.
So we asked, "What keys unlock Agile transformation success?"

  • Tying to business outcomes

    The goal isn’t to be agile, it is something credible and compelling from a business perspective.

  • Leaders lead the change

    Start at the leadership level and help them lead and support the teams through change.

  • Product/value driven mindset (vs. project driven)

    Historically, everything has been budget and project focused but what’s needed now is a value-driven mindset (often called product-driven).

  • Manage the change journey

    Agile is not a process change, it is an organizational change that requires organizational change management tactics that make sense to the whole company.

  • Not just technology

    Customers can’t see all of your departments or understand how you're organized. Today delivering value extends beyond a technology department and having organization-wide business agility is an advantage.

  • Build internal coaching capability

    Our job is to work ourselves out of one. Who are going to be the people that will continue leading this change mission when Agile Velocity departs?

The path to Agile transformation success

By understanding the reasons for failures and the keys to success we were able to create the Path to Agility®, a leading transformation framework used by coaches and organizations across the globe.

The Path to Agility gives companies guidance that’s geared towards their business outcomes. Starting with outcomes, the transformation engages leaders and business partners who focus on results over practices or processes.

It’s a capability-based framework identifying crucial new and enhanced capabilities encompassing agility mindset, versatile skill development, and new ways of working organization-wide.

Path to Agility makes it easy to definitively answer your two most vexing transformation questions:

  • Where are we?
  • Where are we going?

Guidance For Your Agile Transformation
Set the stage by aligning the organization on the reason for the transition: achieving measurable business outcomes.

An Outcome-Based Assessment
Taking an outcome-based approach, rather than practice-driven, focuses activity on results rather than just “doing” Agile.

The Ability To Measure Progress
Emphasize and enable shorter feedback loops and transparency to measure what matters.

Tangible Transformation Next Steps
Map the strategy and tactics that provide direction and an actionable path forward. With each stage of change, there are core capabilities that enable the continued progress toward achieving Business Outcomes.

There’s more than one way to adopt agility

Whether you need organization-wide transformation coaching, a 2-day workshop or something in between, we have a solution for you.

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