Feb 17, 2020   Culture

Being agile outside of I.T.

Being agile outside of I.T.

When most organisations talk about ‘being agile’ they really mean ‘making I.T. agile’… few make changes to the way they structure, run and measure progress across the whole company.

The result is that while they undoubtedly get productivity gains in software delivery, the organisation is essentially divided in two pieces, one is using agile to deliver the highest priorities as rapidly as possible but the other part of the organisation is running in the traditional way and completely disconnected from agile – how can the first part of the organisation be sure they are working on the highest priorities if the second part of the organisation is not even involved in the conversation?

Truly agile organisations understand that they need to make changes throughout the organisation, not just in the I.T. department in order to see the speed and quality benefits which ultimately bring faster market growth and/or significant gains on competitors.

The following tips will help you transition the entire organisation to an agile mindset:

  • Communicate and educate. The whole company must understand what agile is, why it is important and what it will mean to them personally. Direction and intent must be set, endorsed and measured from the top with an all encompassing training programme included for all staff.
  • Each member of the senior management team MUST individually believe in the agile method. The senior team itself must operate in an agile way and you must be certain that each member is running their own department using agile principles and methods.
  • If the senior team are not hands on they won’t understand what genuinely works and what doesn’t. If you’re seeing resistance in that team, ask yourself why… most likely, that particular leader doesn’t see the value in agile or is too scared/lazy to learn it and if that’s the case then how can they possibly lead in the transformation of your organisation? It’s a mindset, they must be willing to try, learn and continuously improve. No more easy days, hiding behind the status quo – agile transformation is difficult.
  • Are you restructuring to bring those that are closest to the customer, nearer to those building your product and those deciding strategically how to take the company forward. If you’re still in sales/marketing/ business/software delivery/support silo’s then you’re encouraging the use of agile techniques only within those silos, again you will see some benefit but it’s unlikely to change the results of your organisation.
  • If you do restructure then it’s likely that your leaders will need to take different roles, their empire will be impacted and their area of responsibility and decision making power may change. This will generate added resistance. Imagine being the Head of Support and being told that 2nd and 3rd line support is being largely transitioned into the delivery teams, that’s going to be quite a threatening situation, creating a degree of insecurity and instability.
  • Your Governance will need to change, decision making power must be pushed down the organisation within a common framework (to protect against process fragmentation). Processes that have built up over decades should be revisited, thinned out and made as efficient as possible. Will your management structure be able to cope with this change?
  • On a connected point, do you understand how your commercial relationships and financial arrangements with suppliers will change? If you’re working as an agile organisation then they will need to fit into that structure too so make sure your supplier base is informed and ready to transform.
  • Go in with your eyes wide open and understand the disadvantages of agile. No method is perfect so make sure you know what can go wrong and that measures and checks are put in place to highlight an issue before it turns into a major problem.

NEIL BUTLER

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