Project management & leadership | April 14, 2023

The Journey to Agile Transformation: A 101 Starter Guide for Creating an Agile Organization

Whether it’s greater customer satisfaction, reduced business risk, or boosted team autonomy, most leaders agree that business agility is key to business success. Because of this, many organizations are embarking on their own agile transformation journey to revolutionize their ways of working.

Agile

But, like any successful transformation, the journey to becoming agile isn’t always a smooth one. In a 2021 survey by Harvard Business Review, 90% of companies said they were struggling with their agile transformation roadmap – and things have only got harder post-COVID. After all, spreading an agile mindset across an entire organization is a big task – but the good news is, it’s not impossible as long as you have the right support. 

By the end of this article, you’ll be ready to start your own agile transformation. Once we’ve defined exactly what an agile transformation is, debunked some of the buzzwords, and explored the benefits, we’ll take you through 5 things to consider to help you start your agile journey. 

What is an Agile Transformation? 

Put simply, an agile transformation is a change management programme where an entire organization creates business agility by adopting agile ways of working.

While this starts by fostering a high-level agile mindset, over time, it evolves to revolutionize management practices, such as company culture, principles, processes, and methodologies. This is usually done with the support of a specially designed agile team.

The key mistake businesses make is to limit their agile transformation to just product development or technology teams. If, instead, you want to maximize the benefits across the organization, the entire company must adopt an agile mindset, starting with the leadership team. They set an example that promotes agility, iterative thinking, and a growth mindset in everything the company does.

Buzzword Bingo – Agile Organization, Agile Methodology, and Agile Project Management and More Explained

If you’re new to Agile, the terms, buzzwords, and acronyms can be confusing. To help you speak the language, let’s answer some common agile transformation questions. 

What Do We Mean by an Agile Organization? 

When an organization has ‘Business Agility‘, it’s seen as people-centered, dynamic, and adaptable, able to deliver value even in times of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. Agile businesses collaborate, make decisions, and manage risk creatively, allowing them to stay ahead of their competition and respond to customer feedback.

Agile adoption starts with leaders and managers transitioning to an agile mindset, often with the support of agile coaches. It then spreads downward in the organizational structure through specially designed methodologies, practices, and processes.

What is the Agile Methodology or Agile Practices? 

If you want to implement agile successfully, it needs to be embedded into the day-to-day work of every employee. This is where an agile approach comes into play in the form of agile methodologies, agile practices, and agile processes. 

Whether it’s a development team, a sales function, or a customer support service, anyone can work in an agile way, so long as their working practices reflect the following characteristics: 

  • Collaboration
  • Autonomy
  • Customer focus
  • Flexibility
  • Adaptability
  • High-quality
  • Learning from mistakes
  • Transparency
  • Honesty

How Does Agile Project Management Fit Into This?

Like any other team’s methodology or process, project management teams often use an agile approach to deliver customer outcomes. This is most commonly seen in software development projects, where specific delivery frameworks, such as Scrum, are used to create an iterative development process that focuses on reacting to customer feedback, improving value-driven metrics, and driving digital transformation. 

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The Benefits of Agile Transformation

So, now that you know what agility is and how it looks in different businesses and teams, it’s time to look at what’s in it for you. If you’re planning a new agile journey, here are some benefits you can expect to see in your organization. 

  • Continuously improving teams that strive to learn and grow.
  • Closer alignment with your customer, helping deliver greater value.
  • Enhanced operational performance visibility thanks to simple data and metrics.
  • Faster communication, rapid decision making, less silo team working.
  • Improved collaboration and coordination from team member to team member.
  • Greater resiliency and the ability to respond to external factors.
  • Less business risk thanks to the ability to plan, execute, and improve at pace.

Building Your Own Successful Agile Transformation Roadmap – 5 Things to Consider to Get Started

If you’ve got this far, it’s time to start thinking about how you’ll execute your own agile transformation strategy. While the journey to become truly agile can take several years, here are 5 things to think about to get you started. 

1 – Consider How You’ll Create An Agile Mindset From The Top

The first thing to remember is that your agile transformation isn’t going to happen overnight. To go agile, it all starts from the top by setting a clear vision of where you want to go and how you want to get there.

Your leadership team is key here, as they need to define, sponsor, and embrace the core agile principles, values, characteristics, and behaviors that everyone should follow in a new agile world. Successful agile journeys have strong leadership from those at the top, so make sure you lock this in before even attempting to move forward.

2 – Don’t Suffer Alone, Utilize Agile Coaching

The chances are you won’t be able to build an agile transformation strategy without the help of experts who have been there and done it before.

Once your senior leaders are on board with your agile transformation, agile coaching will help managers at all levels embrace an agile mindset and begin to build a blueprint for agile operating. 

Agile coaching isn’t a fire-and-forget support mechanism, though. The most successful transformations utilize coaching throughout the transformation to keep the momentum, expertise, and support high from start to finish. 

3 – Plan to Build Team-by-Team Agile Practices

Once your managers have embraced the agile transformation, it’s time to translate it into your day-to-day practices and processes. To do this, you’ll need to create a blueprint for agile operating across your key departments, such as operations, sales, customer support, and technology.

These will look different from business to business and must flex to what each team needs. For example, a software development team may embody the agile approach by adopting Scrum as its delivery framework. This would mean implementing different agile development ceremonies, such as stand-ups and retrospectives, to display characteristics such as collaboration, customer focus, and autonomy.

Building a team-by-team agile blueprint is one of the most complex and challenging elements of an agile transformation, so give it time, resources, and the expertise of agile coaches to make it a success.

4 – Plan The Key Metrics & KPIs That Will Evidence Your Progress

Like any transformation process, it’s essential to define and track what good looks like. To do this, you’ll want to agree on a critical group of data points and KPIs to show your agile efforts are delivering value for your company. 

Again, these will look different for each business and each team, but common examples include the following:

  • Customer satisfaction
  • Delivery speed
  • Employee satisfaction
  • Product/service quality
  • Cost reduction/efficiencies

Remember that agile teams also make mistakes and often need improvement. Don’t expect that by going agile, you’ll automatically solve every problem your business faces – agile isn’t a silver bullet!

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5 – Remember to Learn & Adapt As You Go

Undergoing an agile transformation is, in itself, an iterative process. In the spirit of agile working, plan regular reviews of your progress, make time to celebrate successes, and create the space to make changes if things aren’t going well. 

To do this, many organizations start by running an agile pilot, rolling out agile department-by-department. This way, the pilot allows them to measure their success before launching more agile teams in other business areas. Depending on how well each launch goes, transformation leaders speed up or slow down the pace of the transformation to meet the needs of the business and the customer.

Remember, there’s no right or wrong when it comes to your transformation needs, so do what works for you and your business.

To Wrap Up…

Organizations across the globe are launching an agile transformation to revolutionize how they deliver value to their customers.

Despite their many benefits, it’s worth remembering that agile transformations are challenging, long-term endeavors that can go wrong if you don’t have the right expertise.

That’s why at Inetum, we’re here to help you define your transformation plans’ strategic target, direction, timing, and speed. We provide operational support to implement solutions adapted to your core businesses, size, and processes with a laser focus on helping you achieve exceptional business value. 

If you like the sound of that, you can find out more about our Transformation & Disruption services here.

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