Change company DNA

When a company identifies that the agility is the differentiator for their success they need to start changing their mindset and their culture – in essence their DNA. According to Ken Schwaber in his recent research for Scrum adoption in Enterprise companies, 40% of the companies say that agility is essential for their success in the market, but 48% of the companies say that “agility is (merely) nice to have”. As you can see not everyone agree that agility is needed. In these series I’ll be concentrating on the first 40%.

It is not a simple process to make companies agile in any stretch of imagination. It takes a lot of effort to introduce the change in to the organization. Usually such efforts are faced with a very heavy organizational inertia. Education, mind sets and skill sets are the main contributing factors for inertia and push back.

In many cases external consulting companies are brought in. They do a lot of analysis, reports, interviews. Provide some improvement bullet points and leave. Sometimes they even provide initial seminars, team building exercises and motivational speeches. People love to hear the motivational success stories. It gets them excited. But it takes a lot of effort and “know how” to channel this excitement into the action. This is where most of the organizations fail. They “order” the organizational change, sit back and … miserably fail.

It is impossible to change the organization sitting in the back seat. You can do it ONLY by being very much hands on. And I’m not talking about micromanagement here. This is very tedious process that most times moves with glacier speeds. There are many ways you can speed it up and the good news here are that when the improvements become visible and obvious – it’s feeds people motivation. It becomes the fuel for the progress and the process accelerates exponentially.

So here are a couple of tips on how you can start the process:

  • Provide the vision, direction and the guidance
  • Identify small, incremental changes and execute
  • Stay laser focused
  • Measure and adjust the process (retrospectives)
  • Celebrate the success and make it as much visible as possible

As you may’ve figured out it’s a lengthy process which should be tackled gradually. And, no surprise here too: in order to succeed you need to treat it as an iterative process itself.

We know that Agile techniques are very well suited to handle long processes with fuzzy goals, when end result are not nessesarlily well-defined or are on-going and ever-evolving.

So how do we start onboarding companies onto the agile mindset?

Let’s not be dogmatic here and not argue what Agile methodology works best, but try to understand the problem as a whole. All the Agile methodologies agree that in order to tackle a large problem you should first agree on your final goals. Then you measure where you are at in regards to the goal. This helps you to identify the small incremental changes you need to take in order to start moving towards your goal. This is what makes your backlog.

Per any Agile methodology having a prioritized backlog is the must. Start with building one. Visualize it and make it public. Identify your stakeholders and get their agreement and a buy in.

Nothing unifies people more than the agreement on the final goals and understanding the steps on how to get there. This lifts the fog of uncertainty and shows the “yellow brick” road ahead.

[Credit for picture: sorry, lost the link to the original one]