How to Navigate an Agile Transformation

How to Navigate an Agile Transformation

Most teams can perfect “doing” Agile in about 6 months. But “being” Agile could take up to 2 years. And to transform a global organization might take 5 years or more!

So you’re just getting started on a long journey. And to be successful on your journey to Agile, like any journey, you’re going to need two things: 1) a reliable roadmap and; 2) a good risk mitigation plan.

First, you’ll need a reliable roadmap or, today, most of us prefer a GPS. At all times you need to be clear about three things.

The G in GPS is for Goals. Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up somewhere else.” So you must begin with clarity about the outcomes. Not Agile outcomes but business outcomes, specifically what I call the 3 Ps of Success: Performance goals, Process goals, and People goals.

The P in GPS is for Plans to get from where you are today to where you want to be tomorrow. And here’s the most important thing you need to know about plans: whoever creates them owns them. Good leaders set goals and priorities and then empower their team and get out of the way—more to come on empowering self-direction in my next post.

The S in GPS is for Status. You need to know where you’re at in your transformation journey in terms of, again, the 3 Ps of Success: Performance metrics, Process metrics, and People metrics. Because it’s these metrics that let you know when your current plans need recalculating. Listen, learn, iterate, and course correct as you go.

So, first, to be successful you’re going to need a reliable roadmap, or GPS.

Second, you’re going to need a good risk mitigation plan. And the most significant risk you’ll face is natural resistance to change. Remember Newton’s Third Law of Motion? “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

Force Field Analysis tells us this applies to organizations too. Steady state stabilization, which keeps the lights on today, is fine-tuned to resist change and disruptive innovation, which will keep the lights on tomorrow. One of your most significant transformation challenges will be driving disruptive innovation without disrupting your core business.

Specifically, you should expect resistance from three kinds of people: Survivors, Thrivers, and Arrivers.

Survivors are people already overwhelmed or struggling a bit. Thrivers, and you may find this surprising, are high performers, often managers, who are winning the game and don’t understand why we’re changing the rules. Arrivers are new hires who haven’t been down this road with you, so it’s vital that you get them up to speed in your onboarding and orientation process.

To mitigate these risks, put yourself in the shoes of each person—a personal cost-benefit analysis. What does each one stand to gain or lose? And be sure they’re not so busy sawing that they don’t have time to sharpen the saw.

Situational Leadership teaches us that both skill and will are important for success. So revisit the change resistance models, and brush up on employee motivation.

Finally, the most important thing you as a leader can do is communicate. And the most important thing to communicate? Not what or even how but why.

With a reliable transformation roadmap and a good risk mitigation plan, your Agile journey is off to a good start. Bon Voyage!

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