If your organization is just starting out on the Agile journey, alignment to Agile business initiatives is the first stage in the Path to Agility®. Leaders should to look across the breadth of their organization and ask, “Do I have the right people and the right expertise in place to make the transition to becoming Agile?” This question helps leaders identify their organization’s readiness to undertake the Agile transformation. It also creates an initial roadmap to begin the transformation by identifying the three main areas of the organization that will be impacted: key Agile roles, shifts in leadership, and new approaches to management.
Successfully navigating change across these three core areas are the cornerstones of implementing the Agile approach.
3 Things to Consider When Transitioning
It’s not enough to have ready and willing employees–they must also be able. Companies considering moving to Agile need to know beforehand exactly what is involved in the transformation to ensure they have the right people in place to make a successful transition. Inside the Agile transformation, there will be new roles for both key employees and leaders, and there will be many new duties for most people within the organization.
Prior to undertaking an Agile transformation, leaders should understand three key elements of how the change will impact their organization:
- New Agile Roles. Leaders will have to identify fundamental roles that might not exist in the organization, and where these roles will come from. Oftentimes, these roles require employees to learn a new set of skills.
- Leadership. Leaders and the entire executive team must be at the forefront of spearheading change.
- Adaptation. Leadership must be willing to adapt to changing management styles, as well as develop new skills that fit within the Agile framework.
Undertaking the Agile Transformation: New Agile Roles
There are two key Agile roles within a transformation that often are challenging to fill because they typically don’t exist prior to an Agile implementation:
- Product Owner
Let’s take a closer look at both roles.
The primary function of the Product Owner is prioritizing a team’s backlog of work. This critical step allows teams to consistently deliver on its highest-value items. The Product Owner role is essential to success–without it, teams lack clear focus and won’t be successful.
Where does this role come from? For companies in the software development space, this role typically aligns to product management roles. Existing product managers may assume additional Product Owner duties. However, organizational leaders need to be aware of how adding extra work to those people’s plates impacts their current duties. Ensure they have enough bandwidth to take on the Product Owner role or be prepared to hire new team members to handle this extra layer of interaction.
Companies in the IT enterprise sector typically lack strong Product Owner functions, so it may be a completely new role for those organizations. There is some debate about whether the Product Owner role should come from the business side or the technology side of an organization. We believe it can come from either, so long as Product Owners have these three things:
- Domain knowledge
- Time to work closely with a team on a daily basis
Talented ScrumMasters are leaders, facilitators, and motivators rather than drivers and taskmasters. The primary responsibility of the ScrumMaster is to facilitate the exchange of information, help teams decide what they can achieve in a given time frame, and ensure obstacles and barriers are eliminated that impede success.
More than 80 percent of all organizations that implement an Agile transformation adopt the Scrum methodology. Each team within your organization needs a ScrumMaster, and organizational leaders need to know that Scrum duties can consume up to 50 percent of an employee’s time. If companies have dedicated full-time ScrumMasters, those people typically work with multiple teams.
Now that we’ve identified the key Agile roles needed to implement Agile, let’s delve deeper into the two other primary aspects of an Agile transformation.
Undertaking the Agile Transformation: Organizational Change
Agile is much more than a process change at the team level. It’s a sweeping organizational change that impacts a company’s entire culture, leadership style, and behavior. These comprehensive transformations may require organizational changes throughout the ranks of management.
Leaders need to ask, “Do I have anyone in my organization with expertise in managing organizational change?” Typically, most executives lack organizational change management skills. Leaders might have to consider bringing in someone to help plan and manage the organizational changes who also can help develop organizational change expertise skills in key employees.
The key elements of organizational change include:
- Effectively communicating change
- Managing incremental rollouts of change
- Keeping positive momentum going for change
These things are difficult to implement and handle successfully. Agile Velocity’s transformation roadmap outlines an organization’s Path to Agility®.
Undertaking the Agile Transformation: Change Management
The Agile transformation works best when there’s 100-percent buy-in from the top. Since an Agile transformation completely flips the switch and turns the organizational chart upside down, this can be a difficult path for companies to navigate.
Leaders often are required to adjust from a traditional top-down hierarchy style of management, in which they primarily control and delegate, to working with independent, self-organizing, and fully Agile teams. Leadership shifts to the teams closest to the problems, which may require some organizational restructuring and remodeling. These changes can create some identity crisis for certain leaders, especially front-line managers who might lose the teams with which they are directly linked. Leaders may need to consider making some management shifts in order to ensure change is embraced rather than impeded.
A big element of being Agile is understanding the necessary shifts at all levels of the organization and creating safety for leaders whose roles and duties will change. They often have to give up their teams or their “turf” and are given something new that might be out of their element. Leaders must ensure they manage these changes in an effective way and create safety for leaders, teams, and others within the organization.
This is how Agile transformation creates a different way of working and impacts the entire culture of an organization. Agile Velocity’s team of experts specializes in helping companies implement and successfully navigate this organizational change. You can learn more about our approach on our Transformation Services page.