Sunday, July 12, 2015

How to Keep things Rolling in Organizational Agile Transformation?

Agile has been defined as a mindset, defined by values, guided by principles and manifested through many different practices.
Lots have been said about transition and transformation to agile. Most firms are already using agile of some form or shape. However, the business level agile transformation is a continuous journey. You build up momentum, changes have been made, you have realized expectations on the part of stakeholders and now your job is done. Or is it? Is there more to do? Do you go back to the trenches after you have transformed the organization? How do you keep the morale up and positive gains being made? Do you set new goals and mount a new initiative? So the question is what do you have to do to keep things rolling and continue the transition by leveling agile use across the organization and enterprise?

Agile is a mindset: Agile has been defined as a mindset, defined by values, guided by principles and manifested through many different practices. The idea is that in an Agile world, we can not be rigid in that sense. The "hyper productive teams" can be easily embedded in there. The transformation should be based on a "culture-led" transformation, and not process-led or organization-led. So the practices should reflect continuous improvement efforts in an Agile direction throughout the organization. Considering "cultural" cohesiveness should be part of this effort putting an umbrella on all the practices that include the Agile practices and values. A fuller automation of test processes is also heading to the right direction. Until a culture of continuous improvement is firmly established, there’s no such things as: "It's done." Agile transformations are primarily about mental models changing and the philosophy being embraced organization-wide; to the point where the "special" change agents are no longer needed. They finish and move into other stages - You need to be ready for the changes. That's why development ops for agile is so important. Without the structure, agile can never be firmly on the ground. With it, you can go the next step.

There are five levels of Agility: 1) Collaborative 2). Evolutionary 3). Integrated 4). Adaptive 5). Encompassing. Different teams of different background and maturity on different products with different technology stacks etc need to find their own way - self-organization. However, you need a common minimal language across the organization. The metrics are used to determine how well it is working. Teams need to get on the journey of continuous self-improvement. At least you need to have an indicator for that. You also need a metric on business value delivery. One needs to watch out with constraining teams at the iteration level. Don't turn iterations into big bang waterfall evaluations. Use a series of iteration for both delivery and capability increase.

It is important to come up with standard ways of measuring culture. Realize that value is constrained by initial product selection and the collective mindsets -culture. How to have a "sustainable" transformation/meta model towards an Agile mindset. And, the way to do it is to bring about the right environment. Culture is the main key to this. For example, collaboration and communication is an Agile value that can come about if the culture is right. And, there can be processes put in place to promote the culture. But, the point is that it is not process-led. In an empirical world, the knowledge worker needs to think in an environment where the culture promotes learning, and to put up their "failed" experiments. Because failure leads to quick learning if the culture is right (short iterative development). Similarly, the biggest barrier to a successful sustainable transformation is also culture. Culture can be measured. In fact, many of these frameworks put up measurement indicators in each stage of a continuous transformation with culture as the umbrella and the main "category" of the transformation. These transformation/meta-models are not process-led, rather based on a culture-led framework. Some good practices to measurement include standardizing the agile process and metrics used to determine how well it is working. Another is to come up with standard ways of measuring value. A third is to work the development ops and support (configuration management, etc.) issues as both development and operations needs to be addressed.

Agile needs to be the philosophy to perceive multidimensional business values. Make the effort at the leadership and portfolio level to qualify and quantify value in terms of both strategic value and tactical value; so you have to keep things rolling, to make agile not just a methodology to manage projects, but a principle instilled into a healthy culture to run business more effectively.


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