5 Types of Agile Transformations. Which One Do You Take Part In?

Door Patrick Verheij

When I am wandering around in companies, I see different kinds of change going on. I classified them as Types A through E. I am looking forward to read your thoughts on these from your experience.\r\n\r\n

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\r\n\r\nType A – Creating an Agile Organisation\r\n\r\nPeople in these kind of organizations are all aligned on one thing: establishing an organisation which will be adaptive enough to survive on the market. This undoubtedly means striving for an awesome customer experience, reliable products and services, adaptivity of products, people and processes, on-time delivery, innovation power, and the lot.\r\n\r\n”Survive” can mean anything from staying anywhere on the broad market delivering any kind of service or product through being number one all the time in everything your organization does. Different types of organizations (public, health care, commercial, etc) will have different purposes and thus different visions on their life span, client base, and worth.\r\n\r\nWithin such comapnies though, all change is aligned towards the goal of becoming an agile (or adaptive) organization. Even though upfront it might not be quite clear what that exactly means. People all know about the goal and explore towards achieving it. They also know that it involves their entire organization, including HR, Finance, Procurement, Legal, etc.\r\n\r\nEventually they find out that it’s an ever lasting adventure. And then they win…or retreat in disappointment :-)\r\n\r\nType B – Achieving clear organizational goals through alignment\r\n\r\nThe leadership within such organizations has set clear goals as to where the company is heading. All change initiatives throughout the company are aligned towards these goals, including any agile transformation initiatives. The goals can be anything except “becoming an agile organization” because then this organization would be of Type A instantly.\r\n\r\nAll people in such organizations know about these goals and are working towards them, constantly aligning their thoughts, work, results and lessons learned. They are constantly reminded of the organizational goals and metrics and measurements are being used to track progress. Eventually the goals will be met or they will have changed because of changed insight in the organization’s market position or something.\r\n\r\nType C – Achieving specific organizational goals\r\n\r\nOrganizational leadership has set goals specifically for the Agile Transformation. Some companies refer to such a change initiative as “Implementing Agile”. The initiative (or Program) may or may not be aligned to other change programs. If there would be complete alignment with all other change initiatives, then this organization would be of type B.\r\n\r\nMany people in such organizations are aware of the agility goals, although not everyone may be due to change priorities elsewhere. However, for those people that take part in the agile change the goals are clear. Progress is being tracked and measured through experimentation. When it seems that the agile change touches or conflicts with some other change initiatives, alignment starts.\r\n\r\nEventually this type of transformation meets its goals, grows into a Type B change, ends up in a huge political conflict, or dies because of priorities which are higher than agile change.\r\n\r\nType D – Achieving organizational goals without much tracking\r\n\r\nEven though organizational leadership has set goals for the Agile Transformation and everything happens as it would happen with a Type C change, progress towards these goals is not being tracked…much…or at all.\r\n\r\nA lot of people are busy doing all kinds of things which may or may not lead to achieving the goals. There may or may not be alignment between people and initiatives with respect to the agile change. Some people will be convinced they are on track while others dwell in the halls being totally confused, crying in despair, or being frustrated to the bone.\r\n\r\nSuch initiatives may suddenly get shaken (not stirred) by an angry senior manager who deploys his fist on a marble table while demanding for reports and explanations on why “not much is happening”. Usually this is followed by a series of lay-offs, the appointing of a new program manager, other “measures of the managerial kind”, or even the end of the agile change initiative. Quite as often, the agile change is just smothered by turning people’s eyes towards decoy priorities.\r\n\r\nPossibly, maybe, perhaps, when the Heavens are with us and the Sun shines brightly, an untracked agile change may turn into a tracked one. Just think of it as an option :-)\r\n\r\nType E – Creating awesome agile IT power!\r\n\r\nFinally we arrive at this Type! Agile is “just an IT thingy” anyway, isn’t it? It’s the Agile Manifesto for SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT, so it has nothing to do with doing business, eh?\r\n\r\nYour answer to that must be a terrific “yeah!” because otherwise your Agile Transformation would be of Type A, B, C or D.\r\n\r\nAnyway, Agile Transformations of Type E are completely entrusted to the IT department of an organization. The “supply guys”, so to say. IT delivery is way too slow, way too expensive and overall quality is just bad. So get your agile act together and deliver us more, better and also cheaper, you nerds! Signed: your business. Or…signed: your CIO who believes this is the best option for the company without understanding much what agile is all about.\r\n\r\nOkay, my tone gets more dark here. That must say something about how I feel about it, doesn’t it? Please bear in mind that I don’t think this Type E road is a wrong one. On the contrary! I am completely aware that any organization must start somewhere. And anyone deserves their own adventure and accompanying lessons, albeit it may turn out to be expensive ones.\r\n\r\nPoint is that even when an IT department succeeds in becoming an awesomely fast, high-quality, low-cost productivity monster…THEN the real agile game begins and the agile change moves outside the IT department.\r\n\r\nReality show that this is a huge fallacy because an IT department will never achieve such a state of awesomeness. The business will unleash such a heavy demand on the IT department that there will never ever be time, focus, trust, or anything needed for lasting agile change. So better avoid Type E change IF that demand is indeed so high!\r\n\r\nClosing thoughts\r\n\r\nYou probably recognize your own situation if you are currently part of an Agile Transformation. Perhaps you could take the time to explain what it is that you experience. Is it a variation on any of the 5 types I described or a completely new Type?\r\n\r\nAlso, none of the Types should be classified as “good” or “bad”. At least not without knowing something about the organization it is applied to. Awareness and understanding is what counts. From there, you can choose where to go next. That might be difficult, especially in large companies. But hey, better to have a challenge then to be ignorant :-)\r\n\r\nBefore writing this article, I thought of the different types as some kind of a maturity model. Type A would be the most mature. But then…is that really the case? I am not sure yet. I wouldn’t want to force an organization in that direction. It’s my job to create some awareness and to show people options. And I know there may be false awareness and wrong options.\r\n\r\nAgile Transformations are a journey. Pick yours and remember at least that we are discovering news ways…by doing it and helping others do it.\r\n\r\nHappy changing.\r\n\r\n

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Patrick Verheij

06 59 443 447

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