Planning For Your Agile Transformation

If only it could be that easy.

But, like an actual rocket firing off into space, there is far more preparation to a successful agile launch than anyone watching from the outside will ever see.

If you’re a technology executive or project management leader looking to transform your organization with agile, I salute you. You’re on the right path. But now you need to pave that path with the proper planning.

What exactly is that proper planning? In this post, I’ll answer some of the most common questions that come up when companies undergo an agile transformation.

First… Who can help me?!?!

A major shift such as an agile transformation is not something you should take on alone. A few missteps in the wrong places could delay – or even negate – the benefits of going agile. If you’re stumbling around, or trying to “figure it out as you go,” your teams and their surrounding support structures are going to lose faith. If all they see is chaos and confusion, they’ll assume it’s because of agile – and at that point, you’ve lost them.

The best option is to hire an agile coaching service that will work with your team to train them, help you put everything in place around them, and then get the party started on the right track. An outside team is best because it’s not influenced by all the past histories and internal relationships that can bog down an in-house team. Think of it like coaching your own kid – employees are more likely to accept the authority of an outside team of experts. Plus, outside teams are there for one reason and one reason only… they can afford to be sticklers when it comes to implementing the process.

The bottom line is that it’s easier for someone outside your company to be the disciplinarian. And that really is the key success factor when you’re implementing agile: discipline.

What do I need to know right now?

Agile Alliance defines agile as: “The ability to create and respond to change in order to succeed in an uncertain and turbulent environment.” This concept is at the heart of the Agile Manifesto for Software Development.

While the Agile Manifesto establishes core principles and processes, there is a lot of “open ground” to cover, too. What, exactly, will agile look like in your company? To answer that, you’ll need to address questions like these first:

  • Which agile process (i.e Scrum) and philosophies (i.e. MVP) will be used?
  • Which new tools, technologies or techniques will be needed to support the agile process?
  • What composition of internal and external resources will you rely on?
  • What’s new, what’s different, and who’s in charge of your new agile teams?
  • How will you communicate what’s coming to the people who need to know?

All of these require serious thought and consideration. Determining those answers needs to be at the forefront of your agile transformation plan.

What roadblocks and challenges should I expect?

Resistance up and down the organizational chart can be the most challenging aspect of an agile transition. You’ll need to deal with this through solid communication and training, as well as soliciting and answering feedback.

Another challenge is not having the right skillsets. This includes more than just learned skills and experience. It’s also about people not fitting comfortably into the roles you’re expecting of them, or perhaps they require a lot more training than you anticipated.

Finally, there’s the familiar tendency to “do it our way,” which can derail your implementation before it even starts. If you see your organization modifying agile to suit itself rather than modifying its activities to suit agile, you’ll want to address that right away.

Who sets the team’s priorities?

Business leaders are always wary of conceding control to a more or less autonomous development team. You’ll want to make it clear from the beginning that setting priorities is one of the most important parts of agile – as is the way your business can change those priorities easily over time.

With an agile process such as Scrum, your business leaders will identify and set their top priorities. The Product Owner, who is both a direct liaison with the business and a member of the Scrum team, then carries those priorities through to the team by arranging the team’s to-do list, called the product backlog. In this way, your new agile teams will actually be more responsive to the priorities of your business than ever before.

When should I get my team involved in the transition process?

Right now, of course. The more open and transparent you are with your communication, the more acceptance you’ll receive every step of the way. Even developers entrenched in long-term projects should be made aware of what’s happening elsewhere in the organization – and how it might affect them in the future.

You’ll also want to start finding your executive level support and individual contributorchampions as soon as possible so they can help your team build positive perceptions around your efforts.

Start Your Agile Transformation Right with Proper Planning

Thoroughly planning your agile transformation is the best thing you can do to ensure a successful deployment. Start by finding the help you need and asking the questions you need answered. From there, you can treat it as just another project… albeit a very high priority one.

If you have more questions, or you’re not sure where to start, our agile coaching services might be just what you’re looking for. Contact us today to discover how we can help you achieve a successful agile transformation.

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