Pitfall #4: Without Leadership Alignment, There Can Be No Agile Transformation

By: Agile Velocity | Oct 20, 2015 |  Agile Transformation,  Article

Line of Seagulls - need leadership alignmentPart 4 in our 10 Agile Transformation Pitfalls and How to Address Them

To the change agents spearheading Agile transformations in their organizations, the benefits seem obvious. Why wouldn’t everyone want their team, or organization, to be Agile? But assuming everyone is on board can create a serious void of communication, leading to misaligned leadership, and ultimately, an organization that struggles to be truly Agile. This blog discusses pitfall #4 in our blog series, 10 Agile Transformation Pitfalls and How to Address Them. Read about the previous pitfalls in our series:

Pitfall #4: Leadership Out of Alignment

IT professionals adopt Agile for many reasons based on a diverse set of business goals, including improving time to market, reducing risk, producing better quality products, and boosting culture and morale. While numerous case studies and analyst reports prove Agile can meet these needs, because the business goals are different in every organization, so are reasons for an Agile adoption.

Organizations cannot afford to assume that everyone understands or supports a transition. The assumption that everyone understands or supports implementing Agile can be catastrophic. Let’s look at an example of the chaos lack of alignment can cause.


Open communication and over-communication is vital.

If the project manager of a traffic bridge does not communicate with the builders, the bridge might never get finished. If the builders don’t communicate to the project manager, the bridge will likely not turn out to be what it was meant to be.  Likewise, a transformation or Agile adoption requires buy-in from the bottom, middle,  and the top of technology organizations, regardless of where the case for change is originating. You can ensure that your organization is aligned by following a few of the guidelines below. These guidelines have been developed over years in the field working with teams who are implementing Agile.

Avoid and fill communication vacuums

The first step to filling a potential or current communication vacuum is knowing what to say. The discontentment bred by a lack of communication is often due to not understanding the “Why?” behind the change.

Be sure to clearly communicate the reasons for the Agile transformation and tie the change initiative to significant company goals. Narrow it down to 2 – 5 items you’d like to improve or achieve the transformation. It is also important to communicate the message to everyone, not just a select group. This will keep team members from guessing and filling the communication void with resistance. Everyone needs to understand and have buy-in to achieve alignment. If you’re in leadership, be sure the rest of your colleagues hear the story as well as your tech team, who will put in a significant portion of the work to become Agile. If you’re a developer, be sure that your team and leadership understands and supports the transformation.

A key piece of communication is training. This is a great tool and experience to foster alignment. Train everyone, from the Scrum Team to leadership, at the same time. That way the team and leaders can ask questions, struggle, discover and achieve together.

Establish a transformation team

The most successful transformations we see have an internal cross-functional transformation team behind them.

Key members of a transformation team include:

  • An executive sponsor
  • A development representative
  • A QA representative
  • A business or customer representative

The team’s function is to own their organization’s change process, as well as contribute to driving the change across the broader organization. We recommend transformation teams approach change like a Scrum team, adopting the same cadences and ceremonies and practices as any other Scrum team. create and manage a transformation backlog, prioritize and accomplish tasks in 2 – 4 week periods.

Follow the entire series:

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

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