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Agile Transformation Part 2 - Execution

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Mindera - Global Software Engineering Company

2024 Jan 24 - 1min. Read


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Agile Business Transformation - Execution.

Welcome Back to AgileBeyondTech

In this third article in our AgileBeyondTech series, we resume and conclude on the topic of agile business transformation. In our previous article, we talked about setting the stage for transformation, or ‘agile transition’, as we prefer to say, and now we pick up from where this left off to talk about executing change. Let’s begin with a bit of creative license…

Pilots to the Final Destination

Final Destination is a noughties horror film franchise that burst onto the silver screen in 2000 with the release of its eponymous first film. It begins with a group of high school students set to board a plane. Before stepping aboard, Alex Browning, one of the students, has a premonition of the plane exploding. The pilots were powerless to prevent the explosion, and everyone dies. However, Browning is able to stop some of the passengers from boarding and so commences the film’s premise of these survivors being chased by Death.

an aeroplane in the sky above some mountains with the sunset on the left.

Credit: PxHere

So, what’s the relevance of this to agile transformation? Well, we use pilots as a mechanism for making step-by-step transitions to more agile ways of working. In stark contrast to Final Destination, pilot teams and projects are about making the future less terrifying.

We all know that change is difficult, particularly when it involves people. When changing ways of working, to become more agile, we must take people with us. We focus on identifying the required ‘shifts’ that are needed, then look for candidate projects or teams where improvements can be tried, tested, and embedded. It could be shifting to a more participatory management style, to a product mindset, to adaptive planning techniques or more technical changes such as deploying a more modular architecture (allowing for more significant decoupling and autonomy) or an improved CICD pipeline. Where we see results, we double down to amplify these successes to encourage broader adoption. It’s tantamount to finding quick wins, which quickly builds trust and confidence and gets the flywheel of change turning.

Be Intentional

We refer to the candidate projects or teams as pilots, which is an intentional term to permit a degree of latitude and forgiveness from management to be able to experiment with introducing improvements, accepting that we might not get things exactly right the first time. We talk about ‘shifts’ because it’s rarely a binary change that’s at stake; improving agile ways of working is much more about forming better habits than adherence to doctrine.

Selecting Pilots

Having formed a baseline diagnosis of an organisation with our agile maturity assessment framework, we work with our partners to create an agile enablement plan. The plan is structured in the form of recommended shifts to move away from current practices and capabilities to new ones that will help unlock greater agility. There may be prioritisation and dependencies between the transitions which we cater for and advise on.

Let’s say we diagnose six key shifts required for a company on its agile journey. A pilot could be a new project, a particular initiative (an epic) on a team’s backlog, or a department or process within the organisation where we apply concerted effort to affect change. We pick one, start there, and use it as an incubator — a pilot. We apply some guiding rules that help us to identify suitable pilots, including such things as:

  • Willingness of the people involved — an open mindset and, ideally, some previous agile experience is preferable
  • Inherent risk of the project or the work the team conducts — low risk is preferable, certainly for the first few pilots
  • Inherent complexity of the planned shift — something that takes a few months rather than years is preferable, so we can quickly demonstrate results or fail-fast and try something else.

The aim of each pilot is to eat the elephant one bite at a time. We use pilots to target some areas of improvement rather than trying to fix everything all at once.

In all but the simplest organisations, It’s doubtful we’ll achieve all the required shifts in a single pilot - but the discipline of being focussed, picking candidates with a good chance of success, allows us to evidence results and then expand. Through careful publicity of positive results, enabled by a comms plan and support from an internal comms team and the agile transformation sponsors, it creates buy-in and a ‘pull’ from other teams, from the organisation at large, to want to get in on the act; a virtuous circle is formed.

Organisational Change Support

Equipping the organisation with the skills required to foster agility is a necessary factor in these journeys. It is crucial to train and coach people alongside the growing adoption of new ways of working, which are activities that run alongside the pilots. Typically, this involves internal training, which Mindera often manages. We have developed a suite of agile training courses that are more immersive and experiential than the textbook courses you can find elsewhere, and we often tailor these depending on client circumstances. Training needs to begin at the start of the change journey and then gradually expand, immersing more and more people from the organisation as pilots ramp up. We focus on helping organisations become self-sufficient, which can also see us helping with the interview process for scrum masters and agile coaches.

We see our role as a guiding hand enacted through the centre of enablement (CoE), as described in the previous article. The CoE is there to:

  • Identify the pilots
  • Facilitate and support each pilot (bootstrapping)
  • Coordinate the journey
  • Coordinate comms
  • Resolve organisational impediments
  • Track and report progress to the sponsors

The CoE is a small team of experienced agile practitioners and meets on a regular basis. Of course, the team eats its own dog food by running a backlog, operating sprints with sprint goals, showcasing results, reflecting (agile retrospectives) on what worked well and what didn’t, and then adapting.

Agile Champions

We’ll always find that there are a few people in the organisation who are natural champions for agile ways of working. There are likely to be pockets of knowledge and experience, or at least optimism and a willingness to invest time and energy to improve things. Identifying and promoting these people, as agile champions is another tactic that aids good results. These people often have all the right ideas but may have lacked agency to effect change. So the presence of external expertise from a company like Mindera is often the necessary unlock. Some of these people may well be members of the agile CoE, and very often, they’ll be intrinsic to the pilots in guiding change and helping to evangelise.

Measuring Progress

Again, back in the previous article, we talked about the importance of aligning on the ‘why change’, and it’s at this time that we define some key metrics. The role of the CoE is then to track whether those metrics are improving. For the most part, this is collectively evidenced from the pilots, for example:

  • How quickly is change (value) released?
  • Is change more predictable?
  • Has quality improved?
  • Are team members happier?

Agile transition through pilots is a very practical approach of patiently iterating and gradually seeding change into an organisation from the ground up. In our experience, it’s the best way to succeed with Enterprise agility.

Is there a Final destination?

In this concluding article about agile transformation, we’ve played on the reference to the movie franchise Final Destination and how pilots are an effective implementation mechanism. Well, we have something of a confession to make: final destination isn’t really the best term. Why? Because you can never be done improving. It’s the commitment towards continual learning and improvement that’s most important.

If you want your business to improve agile ways of working, starting at the very start or helping reinvigorate or accelerate an existing journey, then please get in touch. We’d love to guide you through it.

Mindera’s Approach to Agile Transformation

Diagram of Mindera’s Approach to Agile Transformation

Check out the rest of AgileBeyondTech

This edition is part 3 of our AgileBeyondTech series. Check out its predecessors here:


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