Part 2 of 5
Previously I wrote an article titled “Five Common Pitfall When Scaling Agile”. These pitfalls are:
- Not Having a Clear WHY
- Not Seeing This as Organizational Change
- Not Being Principles Based
- Not Keeping All Levels of the Organization Aligned
- Not Measuring What is Important to the Organization
This article is part two of five and will provide remedies to overcome the second common pitfall, “Not Seeing This as Organizational Change”. The subsequent articles will provide remedies for each of the remaining pitfalls.
NOT SEEING THIS AS ORGANIZATION CHANGE
The Pitfall (from Five Common Pitfalls)
Without trained, experienced resources in agile transformations, there are missteps, restarts, and assessments that suggest frameworks and methods do not work. Many transformations start as a grassroots initiative only to stall without having education and knowledge to support management and leadership to transform an organization. One would hear comments like “they don’t understand”, “we can’t get what we need”, or “they don’t know agile”. It is typical when you are just learning a skill to focus on the rules or mechanics and not the purpose and value. As you gain experience, this focus shifts. Learning a sport is a great analogy. When you first throw a football, you focus on how to hold it and treat it like an ordinary ball. As a professional quarterback, not only can they throw the ball, but you know how to pass it so the moving receiver can catch it where they want.
The key remedy for this pitfall is treat this as organizational change. In my prior article I mentioned that leadership is the key to establish a clear WHY. That remedy is about driving purpose. As the name denotes, scaling agile means expanding, deepening, and broadening the effort. The comments I list above reflects the confusion that exists as you scale. Organizational Change Management provides the structure to enable change and improve adoption. So, let’s look at the signs and how these can be remedied?
The first is lack of transparency. One team is unaware of a dependency to, or from, another team to support a deployment. Product management is unaware of what the teams are working on and when they will be done. Teams are unaware of what product management has for priorities of work they want done. Releases fail because pieces are missing. Line of sight is missing.
The second is misalignment. An example would be teams go to the work versus work going to the teams. Potentially a misalignment on how work is funded or how many teams are needed to support a product line. This results in not achieving shorter times to market as work is backlogged. Programs that are strategically aligned with growth fall short of release dates due to lack of communication when the marketing campaign was set to begin. Misalignment is about structure and driving value in a coordinated way.
The third sign is what I see as the most critical, confusion. People do not know why changes occurred and what other changes are going to happen. This confusion inhibits owning the change and creates a stall. You hear the comments “beats me why that was done” or “I don’t know what I am supposed to do”. This is the most critical because it is the people whose actions / behaviors that need to change as you scale. New roles are created, old roles eliminated, and current roles have different responsibilities. This is about owning the change.
How to Overcome
Engage resources that are organization change specialist. Seek these skills in your personnel department. If not there procure this talent either as permanent or contract labor. Then listen to them.
By combining the CLEAR WHY with organizational change management (OCM) these specialists can provide answers based upon their due diligence of understanding the organization to avoid the pitfalls mentioned here. Improving transparency and alignment of what has happened and what is to come. Gaining understanding led by impartial discovery through surveys and interviews as to how leadership, management, and staff envision the scaling to happen and what it means to them is the seed to establish the plan. This discovery can be blended into the scaling plan to provide insights as to how to coordinate across the enterprise and synchronize the change to help maximize the benefits of scaling while minimizing confusion and lack of ownership. People will understand what it will mean to them and be agents of change.
By recognizing scaling agile as an organizational change and having change management specialist engaged an organization will gain insights as to how to restructure, train, and coach all levels of the enterprise. OCM will recognize the uniqueness within the organization. Where it is today and where it wants to be. It enables change that is not “applying a framework or model” but rather taking these insights and applying them to an organization with coordination to avoid lack of transparency, misalignment, confusion, and lack of ownership. This remedy is a simple one but has great benefits. With a CLEAR WHY (purpose) and organization change management (coordinated change enablement) these two pitfalls can be avoided. Stable change is the goal. Agile principles are the vehicle to provide that stability which is the subject of my next article in this series.