Agile Transformation is a test for executives courage

Agile Transformation is a test for the executives capacity to drive organizational change and business competitiveness. Agile Transformation affects all management levels and areas in the organization: since Tools, Processes, Structures and Resources individually. It’s really tough for managers to impose so many changes at once and keep the business running competitive and innovative. A huge challenge I would say.

I believe some executives really consider and reconsider if they took the right decision going into an Agile Transformation, once they are exposed to very strong pressure and organizational blockers, specially if this pressure is coming from their direct subordinates.

Are executives ready to demand from their direct colleagues if they are the right persons to implement a new way of work? We can’t forget, since years, they shared decisions and projects, lunched together, build a trust and often personal relationship.

Are the values of the majority compatible with the Agile principles? When we are in a time where change is so quick, competitive advantages are defined by innovation and fast go to market, big corporations are aware that they must change.

High educate workers, young and technologically knowledge updated were raised in education systems where they were exposed to s practice and reward based on innovation, they were stimulated by technology, they are the first generation of Internet natives arriving to the job market. They expect from corporate world the same standards and values like in the university: work in small groups, with flat hierarchies, self organized teams, keep technologically up to dated.

For them roles are defined, not by the title in the contract, but by the proved skills during the daily performance to deliver value.

They are driven by sustainability values, they prefer to share than to own, they are reach in experiences and not in possessions.

This is the innovation incubator requirements to retain talents: let them create free. Are our industries ready to create faster this environment to get good resources? They have the market pressure to become more competitive and VUCA (1) pressure.

(1) VUCA – volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of general conditions and situations occurring worldwide in different contexts: political, economical, natural.

Internal skills to start an Agile Transformation: to have or not to have? Here lies the executives challenge.

Executive layers decide for Agile Transformation based on several reasons, often spoken in this Blog: Innovation, product quality, adaptability, predictability, agility to deliver product value, etc. But often, is underestimated the difficulty to adapt resources skills and values:

  • Capacity to guide a self organized team, with a flat hierarchy;
  • Design and product conceptual skills to define since the product strategy until the product features to shape the strategic goals;
  • Technical and operational skills to coordinate the DevOps technical challenges with the product delivery cycles;

Agile demands and appreciates technical expertise and servant leadership skills. When this demand starts, the resistance and the tension are evident between top and middle management.

Questions about resources enlarging the executives concerns

  • Have I the right skills for the new roles?
  • Have I the right resource to implement the values and new way of working?

This type of questions generate uncertainty around each individual role.

If we would be hiring a brand new team this would be easy. But if we are dealing with an organization where team members are there sometimes since decades… this is a big task. Specially in a big corporation where the specialization and interdependence between teams and departments is so big, where the value of the network is bigger than the value of the individual effective contribution.

Are the executives ready to make an interview with their immediate layers below and check if they really want to pursue the new strategy? If they have the skills, the values they want to bring to inside the organization?

Or are the executives simply saying: go to your teams, give them some training about Agile, the new tools, create backlogs and Agile teams as you want, but start working in “some kind of Agile”. If this happen we will have the same people working with a different tool chain, having different titles but acting as before. The Agile Transformation will fail.

Conclusion

Any executive, before communicate an Agile Transformation process should think about:

  • Why he wants to do it?
  • What this will bring to the business in 3-5 years, and here define tangible and mensurable goals (cost reduction in specific areas, profitable increment in specific areas, customer satisfaction, customer retention, new markets, etc);
  • Is him strong enough to unblock cultural impediments? Even if for that some personal relations can be affected?
  • if he selected the best consultant company to partner with him in this challenge?
  • if he has the right internal resources to support the Agile Transformation consultants to implement the plan?




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