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Factors that contribute to the success of an agile transformation

by Srinivas Saripalli

In life, change is the only thing that remains constant. It’s true, but it’s also incredibly difficult. This is especially true when trying to implement an agile transformation, which is a cultural shift across an organisation.There are a few critical success factors that, in my experience, can make or break an organization’s attempts to implement agile. Cultural, structural, and process are the three categories I’ll use to categorise them.

  • Success Factors in Cultural TransformationThe most important success factor is that an organisation has a thorough understanding of agile methodologies. Scrum, Kanban, and SAFe are all acronyms for different approaches to project management. Adaptability, engagement, and acceptance of (and leveraging of) uncertainty are all part of the agile value set. It’s not uncommon for this to represent a sea change in how an organisation does business.
  • We need buy-in and commitment from all parts of the organisation, with their different perspectives, because this is a cultural change. So I’m talking about all levels of the organisation – not just the top ones (those in charge of the actual work) (from IT to Finance to HR).
  • An organisation can begin to transform the supporting processes with buy-in from across the organisation. This distinguishes between small-town responsiveness and large-scale business responsiveness.
  • Understanding the purpose of agile is also a part of a cultural transformation. It’s not a race to see who can accomplish more in less time or by working harder. For their competitive advantage (as well as that of their customers), organisations must accept, embrace, and use uncertainty and unpredictability.
  • There must be a shift in how organisations think about agile practises, and they must go beyond the practises that are most intuitive given their current processes.
  • The most successful transformations are achieved by organisations that fail quickly and use that failure as a learning opportunity.
  • Organizations that align their KPIs with agile’s values and principles are more likely to succeed.
  • Finally, organisations must begin the transformation process for the correct reasons before moving forward. This means that trying to make the switch to agile won’t work if there are teams that are dysfunctional, have high attrition, or have low morale. Organizations must first focus on resolving these issues and, while some aspects of agile may be helpful, they must not assume that agile is the solution.
Agility in Leadership in Agile Transformation
Leadership Agility in Agile Trasnformation

Crucial Success Factors for Structural Change

  • Creating a culture of collaboration will only be possible if organisations invest in making it possible. Organizations require an environment where people can interact while still having quiet focus time. One of the biggest blunders I see in distributed teams is when organisations fail to provide the necessary technology and instead assume that collaboration can occur via email.
  • Ensure that all team members are aware of and understand the transformation, including the activities being undertaken and the reasons for them. Begin by asking yourself “why,” in the words of TED speaker Simon Sinek.
  • Too many organisations focus on training (because it’s cheaper) and believe that a 2-day course will turn their teams into agile “masters.” 3. Training and coaching are also necessary. To be honest, mastering anything takes a lot longer than that. 10,000 hours appears to be the most commonly accepted time frame. Teams can benefit greatly from on-going assistance such as coaching. Soft skills training, such as communication, is also beneficial to teams.
  • Structural agility, in the end, must be prioritised. Even if an organisation doesn’t want to go all the way to Holocracy or Teal Organizations, it can start by creating cross-functional teams that are empowered. Organizations that focus on results rather than outputs.

Success Factors in Process Transformation

  • As a starting point, most companies have shoddy portfolio management processes. Agile transformations are successful when they bring agility to portfolio planning while also limiting the number of projects that can be delivered at the same time. Work should be concentrated on finishing a small number of projects (the most important ones) before teams move on to the next one. Project portfolios may start to give way to product portfolios as an organisation matures.
  • When it comes to Agile, there is no such thing as a “one size fits all.” It will be necessary to use a variety of agile frameworks and practises as more departments and teams become involved in the transformation. This choice should ideally be made by the groups themselves.
  • In agile, the Product Owner is a critical role to be played by anyone involved in the project. Teams must make certain that they have the appropriate POs in place who have the necessary training, authority, and availability to carry out their responsibilities. They must. End customers (or users) and their requirements should be represented accurately by a PO as well….
  • Rather than delegating the actions they believe need to be done, leaders must put their faith in their teams to make the right decisions. When a leader is agile, they empower and put their team in charge of determining the best course of action to achieve the desired result.
  • Investing in both technical and business agile practises is necessary for organisations of all sizes. Even though I spend a lot of time talking about business agility, technical agility is just as important. A critical success criterion is missing if all you think of when someone mentions agile is Scrum rather than XP, TDD or Pair Programming.
  • The retrospective must be the starting point for organisations and teams, to sum up. Investing in continuous improvement is essential, if for no other reason. Consequently, the actions derived from the retrospective are owned and implemented by someone, as well.

Workplace Agility Is Increasingly Important.

The implementation of new procedures and safety regulations, layoffs, changes in organisational structures, and the use of new technologies and working environments are just a few examples. Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic is posing numerous challenges for employers around the world.

Organizations had to change the way they manage human capital and operations due to these unprecedented circumstances. To combat COVID-19, companies must learn how to manage change agilely, as detailed in a great whitepaper by Deloitte.

The same Deloitte study asks these five crucial questions during and after these times in order to test whether companies are ready to adapt to new circumstances and successfully go through change management and agile transformation.

  • Managing expectations and prioritising the health and well-being of the workforce are two key responsibilities of leadership.
  • Why is it important to use tools to keep employees informed and engaged so that they are more resilient and agile?
  • Which communication strategy should be implemented to ensure that all stakeholders are kept informed and their concerns are addressed?
  • In what ways can managers support their employees in adopting new working practises?
  • Are there new ways to engage and upskill employees by focusing on online learning strategies?

Now let’s look at some workplace agile transformation best practises.


Agile Transformation Leadership Best Practices

In another Deloitte survey, less than ten percent of senior executives believe that their current organisation is “highly agile” at the moment.

1. Structures and processes that are more responsive to change should be considered

Organizations must first define their new, more agile structures and processes before embarking on an agile transformation plan. An important pre-requisite for agility and speed is the definition of agile structures and processes. Organizations with rigid hierarchies and linear, bureaucratic structures struggle to become more agile because their decisions are often ineffective.

Because of a lack of information, transparency, and a strong employee communications plan, these organisations operate in silos and have redundancies.

Agility transformation requires organisations to adopt flatter hierarchies, employee empowerment, new decision-making processes, and the formation of cross-functional teams in order to be successful.

2. Corporate cultures need to be re-examined by organisations.

Agile workplace transformation requires a complete shift in employees’ mindset and behaviour, which organisations must first understand the role they play in the process.

Executives as well as their employees must be willing to work in cross-functional teams, with a focus on employee collaboration, self-management, and knowledge sharing as a key component.

The most significant barrier to transformation is changing internal culture, which accounts for the top three obstacles to implementing and scaling agile.

Investing in culture is critical on the road to agility, and this cannot be overstated. Organizations with executives and employees who adopt an agile mindset are much more likely to be successful in their agile transformation, as evidenced by previous studies.

However, cultural transformation in the workplace is a long-term process that necessitates strong internal communications.

3. An important strategic role for internal communications should be played by communication

It’s critical to have open and honest communication with employees at all times, but it becomes even more critical during periods of change and transformation. As a result, employers must recognise the critical role IC departments play in successfully implementing agile transformation.

In this article, you will learn that corporate and business communications are crucial for promoting the agile strategy of the organisation, fostering trust in the workplace, and facilitating open channels of communication among employees and executives.

Your company’s purpose, goals, and objectives will be understood by employees only if they receive clear, effective, and transparent communication from management.

4. Strategic goals of the company must be aligned with those of the employees.

As previously stated, lowering the barriers to successful agile transformation is dependent on employees being aligned with the company’s strategic goals.

To be sure, according to The State of Scrum, 29% of employees said the biggest obstacle to agile transformation was lack of alignment.

5. There should be clear and frequent communication about the advantages and consequences of agile transformations.

Employees must understand the advantages of becoming more agile for their own success and the success of the organisation as a whole in order to achieve organisational alignment. To reap the benefits of true organisational agility, the entire organisation must understand the value of agile transformation.

Employees want to know why agility is worth investing in, how it will be achieved, and how it will affect their jobs and careers before and during the agile transformation.

Thus, in order to develop a comprehensive communication plan for change management, change management teams, leaders, and managers must collaborate closely with internal communications teams.

Consider the current situation, for instance. In these uncertain times, the Deloitte white paper on workplace communication provided a great example of how it should look.

6. Create and distribute motivating internal content by communicators

Creating a collection of invigorating, innovative, and motivating internal content is a critical part of an agile transformation communication strategy.

While IC departments should spearhead this effort, other groups should participate in developing the IC editorial calendar as well.

To be effective today, internal communicators must be skilled storytellers as well. Storytelling can make or break your company’s success when used to explain the importance and advantages of an agile transformation strategy.

Your employees will only pay attention and buy in if they can relate to your messages and if you communicate them in a genuine and personal manner.

7. Managers and leaders should serve as role models for those around them.

Leaders and managers must understand that agile transformation is not just a project or a new initiative, but rather an ongoing journey that necessitates a different way of thinking than the traditional top-down hierarchical approach in order to successfully drive change.

Leadership buy-in, on the other hand, is insufficient. Leaders and managers should set an example for the rest of the workforce by modelling good behaviour all the time. Employers want to see certain behaviours in their employees, and employees should act and behave accordingly.

Managers and leaders must share their enthusiasm, inspire, and provide guidance for the implementation. An important role is played in this by authentic leadership communication in the form of leadership storytelling.

8. Collaboration between groups and departments should be simple.

“Agility and collaboration” are cited as critical to 94% of organisations by Deloitte. However, very few people today claim to be agile.

Because collaboration is required across different departments during agile transformation, organisations must adopt a networked, team-based collaborative structure.

Cross-functional collaboration has a significant impact on your agile transformation efforts because different teams from different departments are frequently involved.

According to Deloitte, many organisations are establishing a central response office (CRO) to combat the effects of the current pandemic and to foster a collaborative, open, and inclusive virtual workplace.

These teams are typically made up of IC, HR, IT, and legal experts, as well as senior management. Deloitte cites the following as some of their clients’ common responsibilities:

  • The one and only source of truth for all employees is to ensure consistency in messaging across the organisation.
  • Handle confidential feedback and reporting channels across multiple communication channels.
  • Inform organisational leaders about the latest public advisories from local, state, and national political leaders and health officials so that they can align on scenarios and actions needed to address them.
  • All remedial actions in all work streams based on scenarios and triggers should revolve around you. Plan ahead of time with the various departments and move quickly when necessary.
  • Enable cross-functional collaboration by establishing strong governance.
  • Evaluate and communicate any changes in working methods due to the Business Continuity Planning (BCP) scenarios.
  • Provide managers with clear guidelines to ensure the safety of their employees and to keep them engaged.

9. Communications methods that are adaptable should be specified

According to the same Deloitte study, only 14% of companies believe their internal processes for collaboration and decision-making are working well, and 77% believe email is no longer a viable tool for effective communication and collaboration.

As a result, businesses must improve internal communication and implement new solutions to help employees from various departments communicate and collaborate more efficiently.

Emails and out-of-date intranets are no longer sufficient. Communication systems that are simple and easy to use should be considered instead.

Organizations must take into account the preferences of Millennials and Gen Z, as well as how they communicate with one another.. They must do everything in their power to create technology that is as simple and enjoyable to use as the apps they are accustomed to in their personal lives.

10. Overwhelming the mind should be avoided at all costs.

In accordance with other findings, cognitive overload may be a major factor in the failure of an agile transformation.

Work practises must be simplified, and new tools must be introduced. Agile transformation necessitates networked and collaborative structures, as we discussed earlier.

Although these changes can increase the need for coordination between teams, they can also lead to overcrowding of meetings, emails and communication channels. Overwhelming the brain can have a significant impact on productivity, as well as lead to information overload.

Agile transformation is only possible if the challenge of employees spending hours looking for relevant information required to do their jobs successfully is completely eliminated.

11. Celebrating and recognising success is essential.

In order to further embrace change, organisations must show appreciation for new employee actions and behaviours even after implementing agile transformation.

To encourage your employees to live up to your new company values, implement a recognition programme that rewards them for doing so. Recognize and reward employees when they act in accordance with these values. This is a great way to encourage similar behaviours in other workers as well.

12. To encourage and support employee-driven communication, employers should do the following:

Employee-driven communication is one sign of positive change in the workplace, rather than communication initiated solely by leaders, managers or internal communicators.

At any time, employees should be able to start and lead a visible company-wide conversation.

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