Must haves…. Before getting started with adopting Agile Ways of Working – Part 1

The boss says we are going Agile…. It’s my job to … make us go Agile. Transform like?

How do we get started? ….with adopting agile ways of working?

The words … We are undertaking a transformation (Agile or Digital) often results in initial feelings of fear and worry as to “What does that mean for me….  doing a transformation???”.

It is, though, the first step in making a commitment and then the changes required to transform and evolve  into something new. From a caterpillar to a butterfly or from an unfit person to a marathon finisher.

So let’s start with a couple of MUST HAVE’s that need to be in place before we can start changing and genuinely transforming the way we work. 

Adopting Agile Ways of Working
image credits : Freepik

Step 1:

“..Doing Agile for the sake of apparently doing it – is absolutely not enough..”

There needs to be a vision for WHY we are making any change in a business. 

Changing anything in a working organisation (system) typically requires some additional effort, energy and expenditure, and this should never be entered into without sufficient consideration of the benefits and challenges. Few of us personally like the idea of change unless we know Why, or it’s really clear what the benefits are first.

So what..

…is your Vision for making the change… what is the “burning platform” for change?

Typically I focus on what’s not working and needs to change from a business perspective that will enable the business to be more successful*. (footnote below)

It is far easier for the people you wish to take on the change journey to see a WIIFM when the success and therefore the vision of the company is defined in terms that are more relatable, than just profit.

So back to what isn’t working…

  • The way we try to progress work is full of bureaucracy, we focus on the wrong things and our Standard Operating Processes (SOP) take too much time, it’s now costing the business money? The business is inefficient and no longer competitive.
  • There is a decrease in customer sales, revenue is down. The products or services do not seem to appeal as much as they used to.
  • The business isn’t working well together and we keep losing knowledge as people are frustrated and leave. It’s impacting our customers and our ability to innovate too.

Do any of these challenges sound familiar to you?

Before doing anything – understand the burning platform for instigating any change and imagine how it might look and be in 12 months – be absolutely clear on why we need to change things around here first. Obtain data and evidence to provide proof.

Also imagine what it might be like in 6 months and 12 months… if things don’t change – where will you and the business be then? Can you and the business tolerate that option? If the answer is yes, then this change is not the burning platform.

Agile ways of working are the enabler of the vision, but they should never be the vision.

The outcome of step 1. Is a vision for change, the why, the benefits and the impact if we don’t. Without this, there will be no butterfly or fit person to complete a first marathon, and no reason for starting to make any form of change.

THEN

Step 2:

Be clear who is the leader and owner of this change – they are the ultimate Vision owner and they will need to lead in evolutionary ways they perhaps haven’t before.

There are a couple of characteristics that this leader will require, to be successful in leading the change and in adoption of Agile ways of working

  1. Leaders of change need to care about People first and if the change is to impact the customer, they need what I call the “customer gene” where they can easily walk in their shoes.  
  2. They lead by seeing the opportunities in change, rather than challenges, the best ones, learn from the things the business does well already and acknowledge this, as they start talking about the change / transformation.
  3. They lead with trust, by invitation, and have a desire to evolve themselves to develop the capabilities required to change the business. 
  4. Their leadership style is Coaching, rather than Directing – giving their people responsibility to do what they know best.
  5. Strong interpersonal, listening and verbal communication skills.

Once the vision for the transformation is clear and an evolutionary leader is engaged… we can get back to how we are going to get started with adopting Agile Ways of Working as an enabler of the vision, not the vision. 

Agile ways of working are best learnt and used, when there is volatility in the business environment, and high levels of uncertainty,  complexity and ambiguity in the work to be done. 
In part 2 of this blog, I will share our steps to getting started with learning and adopting Agile Ways of Working that work best for your business.

* I use the word successful – rather than ..to be more profitable.. because being successful is something that can be defined much more tangibly for all than just profitable as an outcome for shareholders.  For example success could be defined as…Our business is going to become a more sustainable business, a more ethical company… increase quality of products and services, increased happiness of the employees and teams, …more innovative to wow the customer..

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