Monday, July 13, 2015

Digital Master Tuning #102: Three Aspects of “Being Agile”

Being Agile does request to really change the fundamental character of business culture and processes.

Many organizations have adopted Agile methodology to run their SW projects, however, very few of them have transformed from “doing Agile” to “being agile.”

The agile shift is part of the digital transformation. What are the obstacles they need to overcome, and what are the crucial factors to manage a successful digital paradigm shift in order for organizations to become a digital master?

Agile philosophy: The problem is that the whole organization and all of its departments, including sales, need to embrace the agile philosophy. There is a lot of information on how you get your department to adopt, but the question should be "How do you get the other department to adopt?" Companies that do not understand intrinsic requirements to implement Agile successfully in a good way to replace any existing one, and decide in a rush to go with, would see themselves in a very embarrassing situation shortly when rushing into it. It's not as simple as just reading from the Agile manifesto, with a bunch of buzzwords. As matter of fact, it requires a lot to make it really great, but not sounding good only, team composition, tool renovation, human resources with proper skill level and mindset, organizational reporting system adjustment, to name a few. The most difficult aspect is to engage business and stakeholders into the process, which takes daily commitment and effort for proactively responding and decision making.

"Agile Adoption" is not the same as "Agile Transformation": Transformation is required to get the benefits that Agile promises. If a company has issues that are proving more painful and expensive than organizational change and is willing to admit it to itself, then the true Agile transformation is well worth pursuing. It is no surprise that many companies are not ready due to the years of operating in functional silos and inflexibly hierarchical structure. There need to be sufficient levels of pain or dissatisfaction with the current state for individuals to change. And generally, you would need a successful vision to change to. The concept of agile with its less management, more empowerment of the workers, greater flexibility, and so forth, does not translate well for those managers who are running the successful organization and faced with the loss of their positions or their power base.

So any Change Management effort needs to be empathetic and help people to figure out “WIFM” - What’s In It For Me.  If not, then there will be internal resistance that will inhibit a true conversion. The result will generally be a pain without very much gain. If an organization does not have sufficient problems to justify a real conversion, it still can benefit by judiciously adopting Agile practices where it is not painful; or the limited pain is worth the limited gain. The organization has simply made some improvements at the margin while not really changing the basic character of its culture and processes. In such circumstances, they are only doing Agile, not being Agile yet.

Being Agile does request to really change the fundamental character of business culture and processes. Culture change is what it's all about, not process per se; they go hand-in-hand and must start at the top for success. How do the agile forces argue with self-preservation? Companies are transforming at every level. There are a lot of C-level, senior management executives who are evangelizing and participating in the agile transformation.

The ease with which agility is adopted to some degree depends on the "people culture." Agile is no silver bullet. Done right in the right contexts, it seems to have a better success rate than Waterfall planning and executing. And a broad organization might have new paradigms occurring in several different areas. There are three choices facing the agile shift listed below, but for the third way, obviously organizations have culture inertia to adapt to the new paradigm, and their cultures are eating their strategy all the way.
1) Be an early adopter; pick up the new paradigms as soon as reasonably possible. This works well for small organizations and for the most flexible only of large organizations.
2) Stick with the mainstream. But you still have to change paradigms eventually, and in effect this means that you will always have multiple paradigms co-existing... if you were good enough at change to avoid this, you'd be an early adopter.
3) Be a laggard. Don't change. If you're a really big organization, you might even survive for quite a while, but there is no way for you to thrive for the long term. Either change or fade away.

Doing Agile is only an engineering practice, but being agile is an organizational level, multidisciplinary challenge from top-down and bottom-up. Being agile also means to become a truly holistic organization with a culture of improvement. Organizational agility is only achieved when the organization changes, and its most valuable asset - people adopting the agile mindset and proactively create value via iterative communication & collaboration and continuous improvement.

Digitalization is like a flywheel, and Digital Masters are the one riding above it. Surf more Information about Digital Master:


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