There are four practical steps that each company looking to embed Agile within their organisation should follow.
Scaling and embedding Agile can be challenging, especially when it is a new form of working for your business. On average organisations take around two years to embed Agile, it is undeniably a journey and not something easily picked up at speed.
Do not expect to be able to instigate a company-wide shift in practice overnight. Agile adoption often originates in IT, in more pioneering development teams, then gradually radiates out to envelop neighbouring departments such as product and PMO, often using members of the IT team as Agile coaches after they have been the first department to change.
To ensure the best chances for widespread adoption of Agile working practices within your organisation start small – apply Agile working methodologies on modest sized, non-critical projects or within a single department first.
Make sure that progress of the Agile projects is easily visible for key stakeholders. Then, after the Agile approach has been proven to work, it will have a welcome uptake on a larger scale as employees have seen the results of an Agile project.
Ensure Leaders are Subscribed
The commitment and behaviour of the leadership team is another key component of successfully embedding Agile into a company. Switching to Agile working across a business requires leaders who are on board and buy into why the changes need to take place.
Business leaders are often required to sort out bottlenecks and blockers and are unlikely to do so without this motivation and a clear understanding of what needs to change within their organisation.
To help aid widespread adoption, ensure that key business leaders are on board from the start and encourage them to identify and promote best working practices within the business.
Avoid the Word ‘Agile’
Agile is often misunderstood. In previous roles, I have known colleagues to confuse Agile with ‘Digital’. While Agile problem solving is often done digitally, the approach should not be limited to the digital realm. Neither should the term ‘Agile’ be abused, by being used as an excuse not to document progress or methods.
One way to sidestep abuse of the term is to avoid using it entirely. Instead of mentioning Agile or Digital, talk about your desired outcomes and the principles upon which your projects should work. Focus on the principles of Agile working will see that adoption is not diluted when it is pushed company wide as often happens.
Foster Agile Mindfulness
Agile is a set of practices. The most well-known Agile practices include: iterative delivery; Dev/Ops; TDD; stand ups; and retrospectives. Research by Gartner shows that the more Agile practices in use, the more likely an Agile initiative is to be successful.
It is hard to implement all aspect of agile at once. When we talk about ‘Agile Mindfulness’ we mean consciously deciding which practices to deploy and importantly which you are not doing right now and why.
This means teams need to think about Agile techniques broadly and be aware that they are on a journey, before choosing what to work on first. Perfection isn’t achieved on day one.
Where techniques are chosen, they need to be implemented well. Whether it is running effective stand ups or measuring the maturity of stories before a sprint, those practices that are going to be used should be well implemented.
Teams often implement a set of practices superficially and will fail to achieve any real business benefit by not focusing on value creation. To avoid this companies must be conscious in deploying each Agile practice well. By doing this a foundation will be set upon which new Agile practices can be layered on top.
Embedding Agile in organisations is a difficult task but you can make the process easier by following my tips.
Start small to guarantee early, quantifiable successes that are visible to key stakeholders. Ensure that your business leaders are invested in adopting Agile so that the rest follow.
Avoid using the term ‘Agile’ and focus instead on desired outcomes to stay on track and avoid abuse of the word.
Foster ‘Agile Mindfulness’ and consider carefully which Agile practices to employ from day one and, crucially, those to embed once a solid foundation has been set.
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