Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Ultimate Goal of Agile Transformation

The overall goal of adopting a more "Agile" approach is "resilience," in essence.

Many forward-thinking organizations are scaling their Agile practices from doing Agile to being Agile, what’s the business value in being agile though? And what are the well-defined goals of Agile transformation? From doing Agile to being agile, what are the principles, practices, and crucial steps in managing such transformation? And what is the goal of an Agile transformation?

It's to change what the organization currently values in regards to process: Look at transformation goal as more an enterprise strategic decision for the organization to achieve goals related to financial, market etc. And common understanding is an essential input towards this transformation. But both of these are just dreams to achieve without the mindset change. As organizations go through this process they need to understand the currency for change that exists in their organization. If you do all of this successfully then you have a shot of adding true innovation into your culture. Just like any agile delivery, the transformation to agile is about "Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software." The purpose of agile is to provide value to the business by delivering a product that is beneficial to end users, either internal or external customers. The risks in any effort are, that the effort does not produce any end user benefit, that the effort is actually detrimental to the end user, and that the effort incurs more cost than the value returned to the business.

If you want to transform the organization to radical digital, you need to change the mindset and the culture: Mindset held by one or more people is a set of assumptions, experiences, and etc that is used as reasons to do things. Often it’s important to adjust the mindset in order to show the benefits of having a common understanding. If there is not a common understanding then there is more than one mindset to change. Even where people disagree, they really ought to understand why and what they are disagreeing with. Then you can value different opinions and take advantage of them. The construct of the question indicates exclusivity between the two. In fact, they are connected. Many organizations are struggling because they have no common understanding across the board, regardless of methodology, due to their overall culture or mindset. Common understanding can be at many levels. From surface interesting facts understanding to deeper cause-effect reasoning. It's the deeper ones that change the mindset. And it has to be explained from many perspectives thereby, it will create a better model in someone's mind, and explain agility from the user, market, economic, techniques, work-life-balance, culture/social and so forth. The mindset change has to do with understanding that doing things differently will bring about that goal more effectively.

The overall goal of adopting a more "Agile" approach is "resilience," in essence: The twin goals of an Agile transformation are to increase value received and decrease risk. An organization at any scale that can retain an overall sense of vision and purpose, can communicate effectively, continuously improve, reflect on its own limitations honestly and respond to change dynamically. It is simply more likely to thrive and survive. Overly rigid organizational structures - fixed plans, processes, and purposes -cause an organization to resist (external) change up to a point, but eventually the stresses become too large and failure is inevitable. There are many corporate examples of this - where organizations are unable to adapt to major disruptive change because of their rigid inflexibility and lack of agility. You need to understand the difference between adoption and transformation. Getting teams to adopt Scrum and start doing that well is one small part of what a transformation requires.Think of it this way, Scrum teams are like lots of small cogs spinning together, as they mature that start spinning faster and in and of themselves they spin smoothly with no outside friction. However, once you engage a larger cog in the form of a larger component then you have friction. Teams are moving fast than organizations tend to which causes breaks in one or more of the cogs.

"Transformation is one thing. The state 'to be' is quite another. By definition if it's transforming from a state to another, it means that one is acquiring a whole set of other things quite different from what they currently have. The driver for transformation would differ from organization to organization based on what the specific problem they're trying to solve is. It is that desired state to be that determines what the mode of the ecosystem of delivery would be. The agile way of working happens to be one of those states. If the transformation is to the agile way of working, then the learning of, shift to and conscious use of empiricism to drive development, surgical and critical focus on value delivery, the practice of collaboration, reflection, constant learning and retrospection away from and in most cases diametrically opposed to disconnected, impersonal practices. Sometimes, efficiency can be overrated. If the objective is to out-innovate the competition, and inefficiency and internal chaos creates the dynamic for creativity and innovation you might win the competition. Being competitive can have an innovation component, a new capability that unlocks a new market/revenue stream, or a cost saving component (fewer people needed to generate the revenue or reduced cost of expansion; prioritizing between these with a wider user base can be challenging.

The goals of an agile transformation lie with the client/organization. They chose agile for some very specific reasons, it is a set of outcomes that may be achieved by an agile adoption. The WHY is the organizational impetus, the WHAT is typically agile, and the outcomes are the things stated, or at least it seems that way from the framing of the question. The WHAT goals might be things like market competition, speed to market, drive innovation etc. Some companies may not want to change the culture, speed to market etc, but merely want a vehicle to start to drive innovation. If we start with the understanding of what we are trying to solve with changing our organization, understand the currency for change and learning then we are starting off on the right foot. Agile in itself does not deliver transformation and there are many examples of successful transformations without any mention of Scrum, Kanban, Lean, Agile, points, etc. Although agile methods can increase efficiency, it is the continuous transformative culture that is key.

The goal of Agile Transformation is in many similar to the goal of living a healthy lifestyle. mindset is the key. Like the goal of living a healthy lifestyle is to have better health, the goal of Agile Transformation has to keep being Agile, Resilient, Responsive, Innovating, Continuously Improving. One can view risk as the likelihood that value will not be received. Agile needs to be the philosophy to perceive multidimensional business values. Making the effort at the leadership and portfolio level to qualify and quantify value in terms of both strategic value and tactical value; direct revenue and indirect (mission/vision/values) terms is the first step to crafting high-level strategic intents. Changing the mindset is the most important thing. The practices can't possibly work without that change. And at the tactical level, follow Agile principles to deliver customer value is the core in Agile management and methodology.


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