Pitfall #2: Knowledge and Alignment Driving Agile Transformations

By: Agile Velocity | Oct 07, 2015 |  Agile Transformation,  Article

Part 2 in our 10 Agile Transformation Pitfalls and How to Address Them

In part 1 of our 10 part blog series, I discussed a pitfall that is commonly seen in Agile transformations: Thinking Agile is Simply a Process Change.

Before moving on to our next pitfall, I would like to explore the Satir Change Model, developed by Virginia Satir, which illustrates the impact a well-assimilated change has on group performance over time. A successful Agile transformation resembles the Satir model of change, which shows four stages: status quo; resistance and chaos; integration and practice; and new status quo. True to the model (and adage), things tend to get worse before they get better, as a team adopts a new way of thinking and doing.

An agile change starts with Knowledge and Alignment - the satir model of change


The big challenge is ensuring your team perseveres to find a new better status quo while limiting the time spent in the resistance and integration phases. So how do you do that? With guidance, phases two and three can be as quick and painless as possible.

Pitfall #2: No Guidance

It Starts with Knowledge
Often Agile transitions are led by one person, and that one person is typically a thought leader or leader within his/her organization, and not an Agile expert. Even if that person has been trained, that person has no way of knowing what gaps there were in his/her training. Plainly stated, they don’t know what they don’t know.

Common side-effects of having a non-Agile expert lead an Agile transformation include:

  • Customizing too early, which can cause extra chaos, unnecessary steps and confusion in the team
  • Never recovering from the initial chaos of the transition
  • Implementing Agile practices piecemeal, ignoring the philosophy behind the methodology

It Depends on Team Alignment

While knowledge is critical, a successful Agile transformation also depends on team alignment. It typically takes three to six sprints for teams to fully get on-board and adopt Agile. The time leading up to this point can be chaotic, and is characterized by a dip in productivity.

Only when knowledge rolls downhill and everyone shares a mutual understanding of Agile—its framework, practices, processes, etc.—can the team be in alignment. Without mutual knowledge, there is uncertainty and misperception, which often surfaces as resistance.

The fence painting scene in Karate Kid is a great picture of a team coming out of the resistance phase and into alignment for integration, practice and eventually new status quo. Daniel doesn’t understand why he’s painting the fence, and is resistant, but finds the practice rewarding later. It’s also a great picture of an Agile coach in trying times. Mr. Miyagi is a constant reminder that the odd things he asks of Daniel will make him better in the long run.

The Ideal Scenario of Knowledge and Alignment

Sometimes teams have one or the other: knowledge or alignment. Often, they’re missing both pieces. Rarely are they the ideal scenario, where everyone on the bus understands where they’re going and why, and wants to go there. Yet much of Agile depends on the team to self-organize and build their own process, which requires the ideal scenario of knowledge and alignment.

So how do you overcome the potential gaps and gain the ideal scenario?  Bring in an Agile expert, either on staff full-time or outsourced, to help you set realistic expectations, quicken the necessary resistance and chaos phase and align the team by providing best practices, tips and tools and on-going trainings. Agile is like a new company ecosystem. It takes an experienced Agile expert to navigate the transformation well.

Looking for an expert to guide your team? Give us a call. We would love to connect with you and hear about your Agile Transformation. Check out the third most common Agile transformation pitfalls in our next blog, Pitfall #3: Not Providing Slack to Learn.

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

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