5 Ways Executive Leadership Can Affect the Success of an Agile Adoption

By: Mike Lepine | Apr 17, 2015 |  Agile Transformation,  Article,  Leadership

According to the 2015 State of Agile Survey, the top three benefits of an agile adoption are:

  1. The ability to manage changing priorities
  2. Improved team productivity
  3. Greater project visibility

We’ve found that executive leadership plays an integral role in the success of an agile adoption. Here are the top 5 things executive leadership can do to realize these benefits.

1. Executive Leadership Support

As mentioned, one of the keys to a successful agile adoption is the support of executive leadership, which is more than simply approval. It is an understanding of the leadership role in the journey. The Agile executive enables, empowers and engages rather than controls.

2. Increased Engagement and Attention to Outcome (over Output)

“Traditional management’s primary purpose is outputs and efficiency from a staff of ‘human resources’ that can be manipulated and communicated to by directives.” – Stephen Denning, “Radical Management”. Under this type of management, it’s understandable that only 1 in 5 workers are truly engaged.* You’ve hired intelligent people. Give them the independence, ownership and purpose that Agile prescribes. Listen to your clients and work with your teams to identify the right functionality (outcomes) to make your clients happy.

Dilbert comic strip

 Dilbert provides a humorous example of focusing on output only.

3. Agile Values and Principles Align with Company Culture

Companies can’t just do agile, they need to be agile. The top two reasons agile adoptions fail are: 1) Company culture conflicts with core agile values and, 2) Company lacks support for cultural transition. Being agile is a journey. It is most successful when executives lead the way and embrace the transition.

4. Establishing a Continuous Improvement Culture

The best companies focus on improving at a faster rate than their competitors. The status quo is no longer acceptable for companies wanting to stay in business and thrive. Improvement requires identification of inefficiencies, creativity to identify potential solutions, and a commitment to experiment with them – build, measure, learn. Paving the way for this culture should be a primary focus of executive leadership.

5. Access to Agile Coaches & Training

Factors that increase the success of agile adoptions include access to agile coaches or trainers as well as the ability to participate in external training and workshops. It can be difficult to shift from a waterfall, requirements first mentality to an agile mindset. Giving your organization access to agile experts to answer questions and help identify the right path smooths and expedites the transition. Leveraging proven, agile trainers to accelerate learning, helps your teams speak the same language and share a common understanding of agile fundamentals. Executive leaders leverage resources that enable their teams to be successful. Agile coaches and trainers provide the resources and knowledge for success.


For more on our approach to building lasting business agility, you can check out our Transformation Services page.

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