A typical situation: A medium-sized or even large company is looking for a way out of product development that takes years – but the market demands shorter development cycles, more frequent product releases.
The business model, which was still profitable and innovative ten years ago, seems to be more market-driven and has unattractive return targets. A change is needed. It seems as if the company is heading straight for its end, unless a quick and comprehensive restructuring is undertaken. Here promises agility, which is as hype in a lot of companies, recovery and rescue. So a project is set up, it should be started small because it is still seen as an experiment. One to two teams are identified who are trying out the new method for the entire company. In a lot of cases we call this pilots (old project thinking !!!)
The teams selected have as few interfaces to other areas as possible to make this experiment possible. It can almost not fail. It is promising, but you have to do a lot for these teams differently. Due to the self-organization, a Product Owner and a Scrum Master as communicators are enough for the company. The team, all volunteers, rushes into the work with enthusiasm and can “produce” undisturbed.
After about a quarter of a year, first results are visible and will be presented in the review. Long PowerPoint presentations? Not even close. An MVP is presented, is testable. Instead of a meaningless project status report, the progress “live” on the board can be traced. Product Owners and Scrum Masters do everything they can to get the right product and keep the team productive. So far so good.
The successful project should now be rolled out to the company with these experiences. Before I go into the reasons for doing so cautiously and with a view to a healthy degree, here are a few more points on agility.
How much agility is necessary?
The headline for this post is a Chinese proverb. That’s why I like it so much, because it describes what happens when you unreasonably dictate agility.
The principles and values of the Agile Manifesto do not speak of simply throwing everything overboard. It’s about finding the right mix that transforms the business.
In my view, it is even important to consider how far you want to go with it, because there will always be areas that do not need to be forced to be agile. Just as you will not necessarily use Six Sigma in the boardroom of the CEO, Scrum does not make sense when it comes to clear process flows in the supply operations.
In the case of a reorientation or restructuring, the company also examines which resources and skills are available, which one wishes to build up and which financial scope for investment exists. What speaks against doing that when introducing agile methods?
What should be left of the old?
Even if the goal is to create a “new” company, it is more sustainable and more effective to check the existing for reusability. The transition from a classic company to an agile one is associated with enormous changes. You not only have to invest in faster pc’s or other tools. In most cases the effort is to adjust the way employees need to change as they are used to work for a long time in a different way.
As tempting as the idea is that employees lead themselves, they are more motivated and more productive: they are people. Nevertheless, or even in times of major changes, such as the introduction of self-organized teams, you need a lot of guidance and guidance on how to do that. (Agile coaches and Transformation coaches are being introduced to help)
Of course you also need to check what equipment the company brings with it, and investments in 3D printers for prototyping are still the most concrete. Here, too, the best way to make the change is to take people on this journey and equip them with further skills. Sometimes it’s simply about supplementing existing knowledge. You will rarely be able to use a designer or a buyer as a software developer. For example in mob programming teams, they can help deliver faster, better quality products. Their requirements and expertise go directly into the product and vice versa they take knowledge about the origin of the product.
Pillars of identity preserved
As in a house that you are renovating, you should look for and keep the load-bearing elements. So long, until the new carries and has replaced the old. These can be people with whom the employees identify themselves, these can be rituals such as a company day, during which employees can get to know each other “privately”. They can be old-fashioned buildings that exude an atmosphere of intimacy.
The transition to agile is emotional. That’s because people will have to change their mindset. For example, the Product Owner can’t give instructions to the Scrum team on how they are going to build a solution. Only What, Why and Who can be explained by the Product Owner. The Product Owner needs to empower the teams to come with solutions and trust the team that they do.In design thinking, brainstorming is about killing your darlings to regain plurality and ideas that best meet customer needs. The change affects all of the values we bring and the experiences we have had in life until then.
Use support specifically
For this reason, external support to help with the Agile transformation can be real valuable. You should get the view from the outside and the knowledge of the possibilities offered by agile methods on board. A good pilot will tell you what you should focus on and where the runway is to land safe. To say it with different: “For those who do not know the runway, no wind is the right one for them.” Depending on where you are on the journey, practical, operational support can be provided, for example, in method training or as Scrum Master consist. Strategic consulting by Agile coaches in a transition team helps with the implementation on a larger scale.
Agility is interesting for any company, as long as the change happens with a sense of proportion and respect. It is not a formula or business case that can be calculated and returns at time X. But it is a promising path (journey) in a world that is turning to be faster and faster. Properly used, agility offers the opportunity to combine the best of old and new to act in a fast changing world. Time to Market, being on time is key.