January 14, 2013 | Author: PM Hut | Filed under: Agile Project Management
Should Your Organization Become Agile? Part 2: Readiness
By Bruno Collet
We can argue that Agile transformation is always possible, but we can’t ignore that some organizations are much more likely to succeed than others. What are the enablers for Agile transformation?
The readiness criteria actually reflect the strengths and weaknesses parts of a SWOT analysis.
Three characteristics of the organizational structure enable Agile.
Delivering value is one of the Agile paradigm. Because the concept of value delivery is seen from the perspective of a solution delivered to a customer, it is best to structure the work to be done as projects. For example, business units should be established around types of solution or customer segments, and not around functional specialization such as it is in a silo structure.
Red flag: organizations structured around functional silos such as by technology or skill specialization have trouble becoming agile because many relatively independent units have to collaborate in order to produce value.
Agile works better when there’s a strong team culture. It means there is clear team leadership, people are explicitly member of one team, the work environment allows for building a climate of trust among team members and therefore team ownership, and finally performance and reward is not only based on individual but also on team results.
You might think that being project-oriented implies having strong teams, but it’s not always the case. In matrix structure for example, projects can be clearly defined but the role of project management focuses on administrative reporting, the people management part being performed by functional managers. Ideally, one project is delivered by one team and one team works on one project at a time, but it’s seldom the case.
Red flag: loose teams, consisting of changing members, contributing part-time, located in different offices, without clearly stated common purpose or leadership.
Agile works better in organizations where taking initiatives is encouraged. Team accountability is based on the team’s freedom to choose the best way toward the solution, in other words, autonomy. We should let the experts do their job.
Autonomous teams rely on a management enabler: coaching. Indeed managers have to understand that teams need freedom and therefore become more coaches and less bosses.
Red flag: micro-management of daily/hourly tasks of every team member.
Agile transformation doesn’t have to be a revolution. On the contrary, one of the readiness factors is the ability to integrate Agile practices into existing processes. Just like organizational structure enablers, it’s easier to achieve if processes are value-centric, customer-oriented, or project-based. It’s also easier if processes are described at the right level of detail, leaving the nuts and bolts (the “how”) to accomplish activities for the teams to decide.
Also, organizations that have adopted Lean values will be much better prepared for Agile transformation.
Caution has to be applied when dealing with conformity requirements. Indeed some processes have been designed to satisfy regulations or standards and the Agile transformation must preserve these controls.
Red flag: detailed procedures for everything, presuming that a procedure or process description can replace people’s intelligence.
This is a much softer and touchy enabler. Culture is intangible yet critical in order to succeed in Agile transformation.
- People’s mindset regarding the concepts of value and customer satisfaction, and willingness to improve themselves and the organization.
Team capabilities, as discussed earlier.
Management ability and willingness to take on a coaching and supporting role.
Red flag: people’s deeply ingrained habit of following official procedures without questioning whether it’s the best way to deliver value or to make the customer happy.
Awareness of the Need to Change
There has to be a sense of urgency, which is the first step of Kotter’s Change Model. People, including executive management, have to perceive that status quo is not an option.
Red flag: Agile transformation is seen as “nice-to-have”.
Power to Achieve the Transformation
There has to be a coalition powerful enough not only to start but also to complete the Agile transformation. This corresponds to the second step of Kotter’s Change Model.
- Get influencers on board
Gain their emotional commitment
Build an “Agile transformation team” with a good mix of people
Red flag: Agile transformation will be performed essentially by “Agile experts” and/or by people who do not have time/resources officially allocated to the initiative.
Three Important Thoughts
- Some organizations, particularly large ones, are heterogeneous. Some parts should and can become Agile while others should remain as they are. The scope of an Agile transformation doesn’t necessarily cover the entire organization.
Agile maturity models (AMM) are emerging. They try to formalize the readiness factors and the way to assess an organization’s readiness for Agile.
Obviously, very few organizations will satisfy all readiness criteria. If the gap between the organization and these enablers is too wide, then the organization should consider either to abandon the plan of transforming to Agile, or to resolve critical shortcomings before going further. If the organization decides that transforming to Agile is still desirable and feasible after evaluating the readiness, then it’s time to assess risks.
Bruno Collet combines business acumen with technology know-how. His successful track record comprises Daimler-Chrysler, Siemens, and Loto-Quebec, with roles such as management consultant, project manager, SAP consultant, and software architect. Bruno Collet’s skills are firmly grounded in academic excellence by achieving an MBA at John Molson School of Business and a Master of Computer Science. He maintains a professional website:brunocollet.com.