These days you can often hear managers or CXOs sharing buzzwords like “We must change and become an agile organization”. When it comes to actually preparing your company for the agile approach many uncertainties arise. How do we implement the practice? What steps should be taken to be successful? What challenges can we expect? Does it really work outside of software development industry? Those are just a few of the things new Agile company hopefuls ask and are looking answers for.
There are certain steps to create an Agile company. We try to make it simple and easy, therefore specify 6 questions to answer and 5 steps to take. Just like all Agile approach is about dividing large challenges into well planned stages, and delivering measurable results after each one.
The Agile Approach
The term Agile has been around for some time now. It was first defined in the Agile Manifesto (2001) and described a certain way of business thinking that would focus on creating the most value instead of predefined goals. Since then, various frameworks helping to implement the 4 values and 12 principles have been introduced. And today we have both small teams and large companies applying Agile methods with Scrum, Kanban approach, scaled agile SAFe, and many other approaches.
Agile was first created for software development teams that wanted a more lenient process that would make it easy to react to changes. However, since then it proved to be useful in various other departments and business fields. According to the 14th state of Agile report 30% of current Agile applications are happening outside of software development and IT departments.
Agile moved long past the software development field and is in fact now taking over entire organizations. According to a recent McKinsey Global Survey 4% of respondents said their organization is Agile. However, 37% of respondents reported that company-wide Agile transformations are in progress. Which means more and more organizations will aim to take on Agile in the future.
Deciding to become an Agile company You expect to deliver more value, optimize processes and reduce burnout. However, one important thing to know before you set out is – simply applying Scrum ceremonies and assigning new roles does not make you Agile.
To have an Agile company you will need to cultivate an Agile mindset first. It is up to your managers and teams to act in the most Agile way and thus this is where your Agile transformation will happen. They need to start prioritizing value over tools, plans and processes. By teaching them about Agile and fostering a new mindset, you will start operating in an Agile way and thus reach organizational Agility.
Questions to ask before you begin
Surely, you are ready to get going. But just before starting, let’s make sure you are ready for introducing an agile company.
Agile helped many teams and companies achieve better results, however it should not be just another KPI on your list. It requires real work, that your organization will have to do itself. Thus, you should ask yourself these questions before you begin.
1 – Is the executive level on board?
Agile may seem like a small thing on the surface, but it is a mindset change. If you think that just performing ceremonies will be enough to call your company Agile, you are deeply mistaken. To transform your organization, you will need to change the whole reasoning behind everything that is done. And for that you will need the whole company, including the executive level on board and ready to make changes.
2 – Are you willing to restructure?
Being a global change within a company, Agile will ask you to not just implement new daily practices but to challenge often common hierarchical or matrix organization structure. Teams will be taken apart and put back together, roles will be changed.. This is a big challenge, especially for a large company. It will require time, money and might have to be redone a few times before you get it right.
3 – Are you ready to invest?
To have an agile company, you will need both – tools and knowledge. In most cases this does not come cheap and you must be willing to spend money to get to your goal. To implement Agile practices, you will most likely need new project management tools. Something that can visualize your processes and support Agile like Teamhood. You will also have to train your teams and for that an outside coaching as well as long-term support will be necessary. You will most likely have to take on one or few people as full time Agile experts, training and then maintaining the new practices.
4 – Can you manage feedback?
Agile is all about short iterations and quick customer or stakeholder feedback. It works because you can react to changes and test your ideas within a few weeks. However, you must be ready to admit, that you do not know everything about the product. Accepting stakeholder feedback is the key to improvement within the Agile framework. As it allows to deliver the maximum value to the end user with fewer features. You have to be ready to work based on this feedback.
5 – Can your partners keep up?
If your process includes third party vendors or you are part of a manufacturing chain, it is important to consider how will implementing Agile affect the other parties. It is important to make sure that once you start delivering in short iterations all the associated third parties can keep up and this will not create new conflicts.
6 – Are you prepared for resistance and turnover?
With any big transformation there are bound to be people that will make it their mission to resist. Agile is no exception and you must be ready to communicate and defend the changes to your team. You will also most likely encounter some people that will not be able to work in the more transparent process. While this is not a desirable outcome from Agile adoption, you must be ready for it.
5 Steps to Prepare For Agile
If you have considered previous questions and are ready to move forward with Agile, it is important to know that just jumping right in might not be the best idea. Instead, you should take certain steps and make sure your company is ready for this big change.
Since Agile was first created for software development purposes, other departments may have to work just a little bit harder to get it right. However, if you take time to prepare your company for Agile, you will have the best chance of success no matter the department or industry.
To reach Agility you need two things: Culture of Agility, Ambassadors of Agility. Both of which can be achieved with these 5 steps:
1 – Find and empower Agile champions among your management team
Once you decide to turn your company Agile, you will need to make sure it is supported by the ones in charge. You must clearly communicate the need for change and the benefits Agile will bring. Only this way, you can ensure support from the executive level and thus the organizational change can take place.
According to a Forbes Insights and Scrum Alliance survey, 81% of executives consider agility to be the most important characteristic of a successful organization. Thus, convincing the executive level to adopt Agile may not be as difficult as it was a couple of years prior. However, one big hurdle that lies ahead is making sure the right Agile adoption takes place. Agile company is not just about implementing one of the frameworks. Instead, it is a cultural change that will involve everything that the company does from now on. Communicating this before the initial adoption is also crucial.
To help you get through, identify the executives that are the most excited for the change. And then use them to communicate and drive the right Agile application forth.
2 – Pilot Agile practices and culture before going all in
Before you set out on a full-on Agile implementation, it is wise to pick a team and test out how an Agile framework works in your company. Choose a team that is knowledgeable in Agile or is the most adaptive to changes. Set a particular duration and run a pilot Agile project to evaluate results.
Such an approach will allow you to see how ready your company is for Agile and what you can expect going forward. By dedicating just one project and one team, you will run on minimal risk. And will be able to see just how likely a full Agile company is.
3 – Come up with an Agile transformation plan
Another important thing to do to prepare your organization is reviewing the whole structure, process and devising a plan.
What you will want to do is review how your company operates and group teams in certain clusters that you will use to implement Agile. Few organizations will be able to roll out the changes all at once. Instead, you will use gradual Agile adoption, starting with the most flexible teams and moving through the entire company. By reviewing your structure, you will come up with a plan that makes the most sense.
Another thing, you might want to get ahead start on is optimizing your process. Agile will bring in many changes into how the business is run. If the company is already used to changing and improving, this shift will come easier.
4 – Organize and educate your Teams
While the need for changes may be clear to you and the executives, when it comes to teams and individuals the story can be a little different. It is these groups that will have to do the most work for your company to reach Agility and thus they must be ready for it.
Two things to consider are communicating the need for change and agile coaching. First, you will need to make sure everyone understands and is on board with the new approach. Do his by communication and change therapy to make sure Agile is accepted and not rejected right off the bat. Second, hire Agile coaches or organize Agile training to make sure everyone knows what an Agile company stands for. Even further, identify evangelists that will help move the change forward within the teams.
5 – Inform and align all Stakeholders
Lastly, you should not forget about your stakeholders. The change will happen within your company, but it will certainly affect your clients, partners and other third parties. Thus, they should be informed of the new Agility goal and how it will affect them.
Make sure the iterative delivery method works for your suppliers and vendors. Also inform the clients, you will be focusing on delivering the most value, which sometimes means forgoing some of the additional features.
To make this 5 steps plan happen you will need to assign tasks to people, collaborate with teams, visualize plans and report status to stakeholders. In many cases You will have to do it remotely. Therefore it is a right time to choose and lay your plans on an agile management platform like Teamhood. While introducing agile practices step by step, so your teams will start using a new tool. It takes time to adopt any new business software. Even though Teamhood is made to be easy for users, it is best start with smaller teams of power users, simple assignments, basic project plans. Then you will have time to look for the best way to structure your plans and vizualize performance metrics to your stakeholders.