“Change is difficult”, but “Change is inevitable”. And more importantly No Change is easy. Change is always a painful exercise. Agile Transformation touches the life of people. It makes them come out of their comfort zones. Agile Transformation therefore is pervasive – people hate it.
I have seen many companies struggling with agile transformation for years. In this article, I am going to explore some of the areas why this specific change is painful. In other words, we are going to see the challenges we typically see in an agile transformation.
No Templates are available for Agile Transformation
Agile looks different for each organisation. As a result, agile transformation is unique in nature for each organization since the inherent problems itself that each organization faces are different. There is no “a proven path”. It is not really possible to plan your agile transformation as per a formula or a set of checklist items. The plan is fluid and evolves as teams become agile. This creates a problem for organisations who are used to following the “Organizational Change Management” (OCM) way of gap analysis followed by road map creation and then the road map execution.
People hate changes
Literally speaking, Agile philosophy and scrum implementation is pervasive – people hate it. It impacts complete organisation structures, way of life, more importantly it touches people’s personal life as well. For example let us talk about the change to a developer’s life. For a developer, the way you code, the way you test changes, the way you integrate changes, the way you present your problems daily to your own team-mates etc. This means people have to change the behaviour in terms of coding, testing and integrating. The accountability on the team members becomes very important. Its like saying you put someone with a spot-light on him/her all the time and expecting him/her to behave/work in the same way. No, the life is going to change drastically. One has to start behaving differently and one has to start taking accountability differently. This touches people’s day-to-day life.
Agile transformation is an ongoing exercise – it never ends
Agile Transformation is a journey and not a destination. So, the Agile transformation never really ends. It makes measuring your success difficult. Also, the team is likely to lose their moral when they realize they will never be done.
Mindset Change over Operational Change
Agile means paradigm shift to our way of working. Over the years we believed that principles like specialization, ironclad role segregation as well as meticulous plan based execution were the cornerstones of successful project delivery. “Process over people” was our mantra. Stringent processes and defined control points were put in to compensate for human inefficiencies and imperfections. Agile on other hand, puts the responsibility back on people who are executing the project. It expects the teams to step up. It needs management to trust the teams and have a mind set of supporting and not controlling. These changed mindset expectations are often the most difficult to implement.
Everyone’s Buy-in is required for Agile Transformation – Top down and bottom up
Many organisations are inherently top down or bottom up .In some organizations things get done when boss says so. On the other end of the spectrum some organisations change only when the teams want to. For Agile to succeed, neither approach is enough by itself. It will need a combination of bottom up and top down change approach for Agile to succeed.