6 Insights for an Effective Agile Transformation
- Digital Transformation
Agile transformation must be planned and executed by professionals in the business, development and operations areas. In a cross-functional team, they have the mission of optimizing the value chain in order to fulfill the wishes and needs of customers in effective solutions.
The Kanban from the Inside, DevOps Handbook and Fit for Purpose books converge with regard to the need to adequately address ideas and demands at the source, so that the design of the solution is collaborative, the implementation of the software iterative and incremental and the delivery of personalized service to delight and retain each customer.
We are tempted to carry out the agile transformation focused only on software development, which can bring some productivity gain. However, product management and delivery service need the same transformational load so that we can actually experience the advantages of working in full collaboration and synergy with the agility strategy.
Next, I ask for your attention to analyze six insights that I believe are very important in the search for effectiveness in agile transformation.
1. Organizational Ambidexterity
Organizational ambidexterity, in research carried out at Objective Solutions, shows the importance of approaching efficacy and efficiency with balance. Efficacy is achieved when we transform ideas into products and services that bring more value, faster to customers and with better economic returns for the business.
One must be able to do the right thing. This way, we avoid that the efficiency of the processes ends up being limited to the implementation and delivery of uninteresting products and services. Therefore, we concluded that we must focus on achieving efficacy, but always seeking a balance with efficiency.
2. Inverted Pyramid
Undoubtedly, one of the biggest obstacles in the effective adoption of agile is found in the organizational structure, which is still primarily focused on optimizing resources to achieve cost reduction.
In conservative functional structures, experts are often grouped into silos that do not communicate with each other, nor do they collaborate effectively.
Among the harms of inflexible structures are the loss of visibility of the whole, the misalignment of strategic objectives among those involved in the value chain, in addition to the unwanted variability (Mura), which sometimes generates waste (Muda), sometimes overload (Muri) – concepts from Lean.
The inverted organizational pyramid is a proposal that converges with the agile transformation. Peter Block cites in his book Stewardship the experiences of creating a people-centered environment with power transfer to those doing the work or dealing with customers.
Instead of empowering bosses who command employees and control their results, we need to create environments where all are servant leaders who practice regency by encouraging autonomy and collaboration between all people and their ways of organizing.
In the inverted pyramid proposal, the direction serves the management with the strategy, the management serves the operation with mentoring and coaching, and the three levels interact with the clients in short cycles of learning, construction and measurement.
3. Continuous Improvement and Learning
How to transform a traditional organization without proposing that it suddenly reinvents itself? The answer lies in Lean Startup, VSM (Value Stream Mapping) and Improvement Kata. Instead of a radical and miraculous metamorphosis, we propose that experimentation, continuous improvement and the dissemination of knowledge be widely sponsored and promoted throughout the organization.
However, sponsorship needs to be comprehensive, from the CEO to the operational facilitators. Besides, it is essential that there is a commitment to allocate agents of change provided by the areas involved in the value chain in agile transformation.
Why would so many companies be interested in carrying out their agile transformation? In fact, most of the time, they are most reluctant to this type of organizational change. That’s because transforming messes with the status quo and bothers those who think more about power struggles than productivity and innovation.
According to Peter Drucker, “Culture eats breakfast strategy”. In other words, the solution for the agile conversion to be complete must consider adjustments in the organizational culture with the purpose of promoting continuous improvement, supported by monitoring metrics and predictability mechanisms.
4. Overcoming Disruptions
When most of us notice a market disruption, it’s because it’s already at an advanced stage. Procrastinating agile change in favor of the status quo is commonly observed in organizations that are still not very skilled at generating effective solutions.
Many companies still get lost in the excess of hierarchy and bureaucracy by being permissive with the game of power, or even by ignoring their growing technological debt, represented by outdated software architecture and monolithic systems that are difficult to maintain.
By the way, it is worth mentioning two market disruptions taking place in the 2010s – telephone operators losing significant market share to messaging and teleconferencing applications, such as WhatsApp, Skype and Zoom. As for Pay TV, it has lost millions of customers to streaming content services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.
If disruption is inevitable, then are all organizations unable to evolve and innovate at high speed doomed to extinction? The answer depends on the appetite of the competition and the degree of technology involved in generating value.
Disruption of products and services can take decades as in the case of replacing fossil fuels with super batteries, but it can also take a few years and come devastatingly for slow and inflexible corporations. That said, we are convinced that it is better to start our agile transformation as soon as possible, in a gradual and sustainable way.
It is not enough just to have competence in processes, it is first necessary to be effective in the management of innovative products. Most of the time, a spectacular product does not appear overnight, but is the result of market research, experimentation, learning and frequent adaptations.
Bearing in mind the valuable publications related to the generation of disruptive products and services, it is worth mentioning the importance of Design Thinking and UX (user experience) in the construction of solutions promoted by strong collaboration with customers, through short cycles of experimentation and evolution.
5. Agile Change Agents
Agillists are change agents who believe in and follow the values and principles of the Agile Manifesto. They are able to leverage agile transition cycles by striving to reduce waste, fostering a collaborative environment for ideation and prototyping, as well as generating competence in product implementation and delivery.
Change agents must be protected from the traditional modus operandi in practice in the changing entity. They pursue excellence in the relationship with customers and strengthen this partnership by making them allies in the construction of charming solutions desired by all.
Set up a reserved and properly equipped environment that supports the implementation of automated processes and tests in the areas of business, development and operations. Provide a startup climate where guiltlessness prevails and that is balanced, creative and productive.
The multidisciplinary transformation team will be responsible for fighting to significantly reduce waiting lines. Always looking to reduce lead time, which is the total time between the conception of the idea and the availability of the solution to the customer.
6. Assessment & Telemetry
An effective set of transformational measures starts with an assessment of the current landscape. An assessment will survey and evaluate the current value chain, product and project management, as well as how solutions are built and made available to customers.
After all, are we effective and efficient in attracting and retaining our customers with the people, processes and tools available? What are the current indicators and where do we want to go? What is the agile maturity level of our employees and outsourced workers? Do we commonly generate value or waste?
The answer that best addresses these questions starts with organizational self-knowledge, proceeds by providing value stream mapping, and then by creating a roadmap of agile actions, where the initiatives with the highest priority and the best economic return will be tried first.
Finally, how do we make sure that the agile transformation is generating positive results? How do we measure the results regarding the effectiveness of the implemented solutions? Are we effective in defining our goals and promoting the engagement necessary to achieve them?
It is worth remembering that telemetry is one of the mechanisms that we must use to adapt more quickly and accurately. Otherwise, imagine driving a car without any sensors, or even navigating without GPS. Therefore, it is necessary to obtain faster responses from our customers to fully satisfy them.
In the agile transition, change agents are guided by specialized consulting in order to accelerate learning through knowledge transfer, support in the automation of processes and tests, and enrichment of skills and human relationships.
Numerous benefits have been provided by employing agile methods, especially XP (extreme programming), Kanban (pull system) and Scrum. Moreover, since 2001, we have strengthened our theoretical basis through the values and principles proposed by the Agile Manifesto.
We seek greater effectiveness in agile transformation by relying on mentoring and coaching provided by agile consultants. Such a fruitful partnership with consultants will guide and drive the evolution of the organizational culture and structure, which will transmute into broad collaboration and value stream dynamism.
Effective agile transformation makes us more resilient to eventual disruption. Therefore, we will soon be able to adjust the strategy, the vision and everything else that is necessary to adapt before the next disruptions. Better yet, we will be the protagonists of new market trends.