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Laying the Groundwork for a Successful Agile Transformation

By: Pat Doherty


No two organizations’ Agile transformations are identical, but there are several best practices that every organization should keep in mind when mapping out its approach.

Once associated exclusively with the world of software development, Agile practices have emerged as a valuable set of approaches for any organization looking to flourish in an increasingly complex and turbulent marketplace.

Agile isn’t just a methodology or a checklist of tools; it’s a reimagining of how companies communicate, act, innovate, and grow. The larger and older a company, the more difficult it is to orchestrate a full-scale Agile transformation — but the more vital it is, too. Among other things, Agile practices enable organizations to accelerate innovation, offering customers greater value while helping employees maximize the quality and efficiency of their output.

However, many organizations that believe they are agile are actually far from it. Realizing Agile’s full potential often requires making a radical shift in culture, mindset, and operations. Here are several foundational steps for organizations to keep in mind as they start to think about what their Agile transformations might look like:

1. Determine Where Agile Makes Sense

Agile can increase employee satisfaction and engagement while minimizing wasted time and effort, but it isn’t a cure-all. Not every team or initiative is well-suited to an Agile approach, and understanding where and when Agile is appropriate — and where and when it is not — is key to properly utilizing the framework.

Agile is perfect for teams dealing with situations in which problems are complex, solutions are unknown, rapid feedback and collaboration is desirable, and requirements are likely to change. Software development, marketing, supply chain management, and product development all tend to fit these criteria. By strategically determining where Agile will be worth the initial investment of training/rollout time and resources, organizations can ensure that they are able to secure buy-in from a diversity of stakeholders down the line.

2. Start Small and Scale Up Successes

With an organizational change as sprawling as a full Agile transformation, many companies are tempted to launch an all-hands-on-deck effort right off the bat. However, true to the framework’s iterative nature, successful Agile transformations tend to start small.

By initially introducing Agile practices to only a couple of teams, an organization can observe what goes right and what goes wrong in a small setting. Then, after inspecting, improving, and optimizing its approach to Agile with these teams, the organization can begin to include other teams in the transformation initiative.

What’s more, these early adopters can act as an organization’s resident experts, helping train their peers and leading the charge toward continuous improvement. Consider these teams a proof-of-concept; if they drive early results, others are likely to follow.

3. Encourage Teams to Continuously Adapt to Their Needs

As teams begin to take part in a broader organization’s Agile transformation, they’ll benefit from utilizing the approaches that have already delivered success elsewhere in the organization. That said, as they master the core principles of Agile, they should be afforded the freedom to experiment with various tools and practices that best fit their specific needs and microculture.

This flexibility encourages Agile adoption and adherence by allowing each team to exercise its independence and discover processes that work best for them. Additionally, when each team has the freedom to make continuous improvements, they’ll typically be able to deliver better results, faster.

A Partner in Agile Transformation

Ultimately, a successful Agile transformation hinges on a nuanced, comprehensive understanding of an organization’s structure, teams, culture, and needs — the kind of understanding that can only be developed by working on the ground with an organization’s employees.

SEI’s local model ensures our consultants get to know your organization like it’s our own, enabling us to craft customized Agile solutions that deliver lasting value. To learn more about how SEI can help transform your organization, reach out to us today.

Pat Doherty


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