Gaining Support for Agile

Team and Leader at opposite sides of see-saw.

renjith krishnan – FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Trying to move to an Agile organization is an interesting endeavor. On one hand trying to be Agile without management or executive buy-in almost always fizzles before it reaches critical mass. On the other hand trying to force Agile down from above tends to result in teams going through the motions until management abandons the attempt and returns to status quo while awaiting the next trend. To succeed in an Agile transformation everyone needs to be on board and willing to change.

If you are trying to push Agile up in your organization there are right and wrong ways to do it. Starting out an Agile transformation by telling your manager that the team needs to be self-managed will likely give a negative initial opinion to them. You basically told them you want to cut them from the team. Instead think of what supports the organization. Sell Agile as a way to provide better value faster. Notice I didn’t say more value. It needs to be clear that generally the team will deliver the same “amount” of stuff. The difference is that an Agile team will generally deliver more relevant stuff than a non-Agile team. Over time this might have the feel of more stuff. It might even, in a high-performing Agile team setting, be more stuff. It will likely not be significantly more though, so leave that out of the sales pitch.

Likewise dictating Agile to teams is not always an easy proposition. Think of how it is sold. Most organizations that decide they are going Agile today will send their PM’s to Scrum training, institute a bunch of meetings, and expect “better” results. One problem occurring is that they aren’t really open to change. Management wants the team to change their processes, but will not let the team drive that change to what works best for them. The team is expected to do all the changing in this transaction. The failure points should be clear when management steps back. Agile pushes teams to self manage; let them figure out the right process. Give them the goal, sell them the vision, and let them deliver. In return, be open to feedback from the process. Support the team in their attempts to deliver, even if it means change. That doesn’t mean bend to their will, but have open discussions and show willingness to change when it makes sense.

Most Agile methodologies and frameworks will expose problems with the current way of working. Some problems will be at the team level, some will be at the management level. Both parties need to be willing to acknowledge the problems and work through them for the Agile transformation to succeed. Agile transformations are going to be hard. Any change is generally hard, and truly embracing Agile will likely drive significant change. Bringing the entire organization on board will ease the transition, leaving half of it off will stifle it.

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