Frustrated by your ‘Agile’ transformation? 

Moving to Agile delivery can be hard, a few simple changes can help  

‘Agile’ delivery means different things to different people which can create confusion and complexity. There are so many different agile frameworks, methodologies, good practiced associated with ‘Agile’. However, they all share a unifying concept: a delivery approach designed to deal efficiently and effectively with volatility, ambiguity and change in context, requirements and scope.   

In some respects, Agile delivery approaches are not a significant change from traditional Waterfall-based approaches: excellent documentation, sound change management, engineering quality into the process, adequate oversight and governance, standardised and aligned delivery structures are important for both Agile and Waterfall.   


However, there are a few fundamental differences that can make the Waterfall to Agile transition a challenge: self-managing autonomous teams, continuous discovery and delivery, planning to fail fast, assuming fixed capacity/quality and flexible scope/time, and high levels of process compliance. These core Agile practices are not easy to achieve or maintain because, at their core, they are about how people in delivery teams, and the functions that govern and enable them, think, feel and behave. Moreover, failure or regression in these areas can create dysfunction across the delivery model. In this respect, Agile delivery models are more fragile, less forgiving, than Waterfall based models.   



5 steps to successful agile delivery 


The key to Agile success is people: mindset, motivation, values, skills and knowledge are the foundation upon which Agile transitions are built. With that in mind, there are a few simple things that can make a real difference.   


  • Clarify what you mean by ‘Agile’  


Ambiguity around precisely what ‘Agile’ means is a major derailer. Individuals and teams often use the term ‘Agile’ in different ways, reflecting their specific circumstances, which creates confusion and complexity. Aligning people around a detailed definition of what we (as an organisation) mean by ‘Agile’ is a means to simplify and galvanise action. This maybe a low-level blueprint of to-be operating or delivery model, statement of ways of working, role descriptions, workflow or team charter.   


  • Check progress using the right data  


How do you know if your Agile transformation is succeeding? Quantitative analysis and performance against Key Performance Indicators (KPI) and Objectives and Key Results (OKR) are important in evaluating progress. What to measure will depend on the nature of your Agile transformation. In general, quantitative measures of the Agile maturity of delivery teams are a good place to start. These are likely to include: frequency of delivery/deployment, lead time to value, team velocity, team utilisation and team compliance metrics.     


  • Get regular feedback from your delivery teams  


Qualitative insight from delivery teams is vital. There are two main themes. Firstly, how are people thinking and feeling about the shift to Agile? If the move to Agile delivery is a big change, people need to be supported through the change curve. Getting regular temperature checks helps orchestrate the right interventions to help them. Secondly, are teams working in the right way? Moving to Agile delivery is about delivering business outcomes, but it is achieved by changing how people work and collaborate. Understanding where teams are in their adoption of Agile ways of working is important and asking them in the right way is an effective means of achieving that.   


  • Learn from successes and failures  


Celebrating and spotlighting success helps people through the change curve. But publicly understanding and learning from failure is also important. Failing fast and learning to improve the next increment are critical Agile practices delivery teams will have to adopt as part of an Agile transformation. Role-modelling this can be a powerful way of accelerating the transition.   


  • Check-in with your senior leadership on ways of working  


Agile delivery models rely on high levels of process compliance to operate at pace, deliver value frequently, pivot as priorities change and balance continuous discovery and delivery. Minor deviations in ways of working can create ripples across the delivery model that can be highly disruptive. Senior leaders often play a critical role in supporting the transition to standard Agile ways of working in their domains. Senior leadership can accelerate the Agile transition by role-modelling and reinforcing the importance of standard ways of working.   



Do you need change expertise?  


Project One has helped some of the UK biggest brands transition to Agile. Supporting leadership teams shape their Agile operating model, govern their Agile transformation and deliver their Agile programme. Want to make Agile easier? We can help.   

Are you looking for critical business transformation?

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