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Aren't We Already Agile Enough?

February 1, 2019

In many organizations, Agile is alive and well within many layers of the company. Change has become something to be expected and even embraced knowing that the way things are working right now might work for now but could change if teams and the organization find a more effective way to operate. With this becoming a state of flux and adaptation that occurs, what happens when this attitude of continuous improvement does not exist within an organization?

 

There are many different levels at which change is adopted when an organization is trying to be agile in their efforts. Here are some simple classifications:

 

  • Team Level Change

  • Product Ownership Level Change

  • Management Level Change

  • Executive Level Change

 

Each level of change has benefits that can be attained and successes that are felt within the organization. Let’s dive into each of them and see what that change looks like for a company.

 

Team Level Change

Most organizations start here because they want to see higher level of quality, get items to market sooner and lots of other similar takeaways. The greatest benefit that comes here is that teams start to establish a regular cadence of delivery. They start to address key issues that are stopping them from being efficient and increase their effectiveness towards delivery. Some organizations even go beyond a single team trying to be agile and do this across their entire development division. They have people who act as liaisons between development and the business as proxies for the Product Owner. They get ScrumMasters in place that help teams reach a level of success they haven’t experienced before. However, whether they are truly getting the right products done or not isn’t always apparent.

 

 

Product Ownership Level Change

When the person from the business is seeing benefits from a team that is becoming high performing, they typically want to be more involved with that team. When the Product Owner draws closer to where the work is being done and are truly interacting on a daily basis with the team doing the implementation of the desired solution, that’s when they are able to more quickly determine whether they are getting the right things done early. They want to be involved in short feedback cycles and prefer to hear from the team about obstacles they are experiencing because they can invest in solutions that help the company be more effective as a whole. When Product sees the value in the daily interaction, change has started to be more deeply rooted in the fabric of the organization.

 

Management Level Change

When the increased level of transparency is happening between implementation and the product team, there is significant progress being made. However, it can be stifled without long-lasting change being made at the management level. And by this, we are talking about middle and upper-level management. When it is still viewed as a team level benefit and not a pattern that can followed by management to enable and sustain change, the organization

will stagnate after refining everything they can at the team and product levels. Management is no different than the rest of an organization. The only difference is that there are usually too many of them that are getting paid for running reports and telling people what to do. Instead, they should be enabling change through their own management backlog which is populated by the teams and product owners. This helps them resolve the larger issues in the organization that require coordination, funding and difficult decisions on allocation of time and people to make sure they can support what the product team truly wants to focus on for the benefit of the company. I have heard too many times from managers that they don’t have work to do in the same fashion as teams. If your managers are being paid for going from meeting to meeting, you need to ask yourself as a company whether those perpetual meeting goers are providing value to the organization or building their own fiefdom to continue to command and control. The value of management staff comes in how they are able to remove impediments for the teams they support in ways that the team is unable to do themselves.

 

Executive Level Change

The final layer of change many people believe is a top down effort. It is actually top down in that the executives see the need for the change to happen. But, it is also bottom up in that the executives are a part of the solution and are practicing the same principles and values that teams, product owners and managers are doing to have a long-lasting change within the organization. Executives have a significant impact on the culture and organizational understanding of Agile within a company. Knowing that it is a long-term transition but that they are willing to also eat the dog food and learn together with everyone else helps to make the change more transformative. Without executive level buy-in, agile has a hard time taking roots within an organization. Without executive commitment to change, agile does not truly change the nature of a company to truly be Agile.

 

Take a look at what level you might be at. Many companies suffer from the “being agile enough” bug and don’t want to take things to the next level. Getting beyond the Product Ownership Level requires difficult decisions and something that goes beyond your basic implementation of Agile. It requires difficult decisions and time to determine what works best within your company right now and what then needs to be done later. Don’t stop the progress of the agile movement within your company. Adopt change as a way of life, a way of improving and a way of achieving the greatness that so few companies truly attain. Be Agile!

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