We recently caught up with Christopher Dircks from PA Consulting Group on the topic of strategic agile planning for enterprise. Here’s what he has to say:
At a recent Agile event, our team had a larger than usual presence, leading to a larger than usual amount of attention, which actually is just what a good consulting team needs.
I appreciate the times when we get pressed for answers and (valuable) insight, all within the 30 seconds it took to pass by our booth. From FinTech to Aerospace (yes, Agile Adoption is rocket science), the PA team learned volumes about real-world successes, experiences and need. And in turn, the Agile community (or at least those passionate attendees) now knows who we are.
While I spoke to many fantastic professionals on a wide variety of Agile topics, there was one conversation that was so prevalent, I found the need to focus many Agile discussions since then on this one point.
But first, let’s listen in on the conversation (which may sound very familiar to many of you):
Chris: Hello, are you having a good conference?
Agilist: Yes I am, thanks.
Chris: So how is the Agile adoption going with your organization?
Agilist: We have a couple of teams doing well, but we can’t seem to get traction at the enterprise level. (said with a tone of frustration)
Chris: Sorry to hear. One quick question: Do you have an agreed upon Strategic Plan for Agile adoption that clearly communicates to the rest of your organization “why” your organization is moving to Agile?
Agilist: Um, no … but we did team training.
Chris: Ouch, let’s talk.
Continuing the conversations we heard stories of:
- “trying for 6 years”
- “small silos of adoption”
- “we lost the only C-suite member that got it”
- “supporting services teams don’t know how to transform along with us”.
It was tough to watch and listen to very committed, passionate folks who were at their wit’s end, knowing the benefits of Agile, but not knowing how to take it farther, more broadly, or jump-start a lagging rollout, essentially make that jump from team level Agile to Enterprise level Agile.
Their frustration set the path for the rest of those conversations, and to help get to the heart of the matter, I asked a couple more related questions:
- Can you clearly articulate to the C-suite the value of Agile and how it supports the goals of the Enterprise?
- Have you defined success and can you measure your progress?
The vast majority of responses was “no” on all counts.
Deeper discussion identified the overwhelming challenges Agile champions are up against (and very often do not have the time, skills or support to address them):
- Do you have committed executive sponsorship that understands the positive financial impact of a move to Agile?
- Does your procurement department have processes and contract templates that support the delivery of services into your newly Agile environment?
- Does your HR team understand how job descriptions and performance reviews will transform to align with the more to Agile?
- How do you manage those in fear of losing responsibility, authority (and their jobs) in the world of flatter, self-directing teams and decentralized decision making?
As you can see, all of these have nothing directly to do with sprints, backlogs, velocity, etc., but will kill an Enterprise-wide Agile transformation all the same.
All of these do, however, get addressed in a well-executed and well-developed strategic plan for Agile transformation, providing your organization a documented understanding of the value to the organization.
This also becomes an empowering tool that the Agile evangelist can wield when engaging different parts and levels of their organization.
Quick associated point…
“Training” is a point in time event that starts and stops, just as your momentum and support will.
When planning to expand Agile out to the Enterprise, take the time to understand and communicate and gain consensus for why your organization is embracing Agile and what it will take to get there.
So you have decided to step back and start looking at this strategically, what does that actually look like?
To get started, your organization needs to discuss and agree (as a team) on the critical components for a successful Agile adoption:
Why are we Adopting Agile?
- Mission and guiding principles
- The top level objectives of your organization
- Measurable key result of meeting each objective
What will it look like when we are done?
- As-is Current State
– People, process and technology
- Desired future state (required to meet above mentioned objectives)
– People, process and technology
- The gaps between as-is and future
What work will it take to get there? Who will do it? When will it be done?
- Workstreams required to address above mentioned gaps
How will we execute?
- Clearly documented governance structure
Most importantly, how these critical items all tie together to support the overall business case for the agile transformation.
You now have a strategic plan in hand, but unbeknownst to your teams, you have an unseen benefit of developing the strategy through required discussions that support increased transparency, increased understand, and a shared sense of ownership. All intangible contributors to success in any initiative, technology or otherwise, team level or Enterprise level.
Simply put, just as Agile always stresses the delivery of value, and increased visibility and understanding, your Agile adoption needs to incorporate those same values.