Agile has become the go-to methodology for organizations looking to stay on the leading edge and quickly adapt to the rapidly changing market reality. Due to the incredible value it delivers to teams, agile has now spread from IT to many other sectors such as architecture, financial services, or even the construction industry.
That's why many organizations carry out agile transformations. A transformation like that spans across project management methodologies and technological solutions and the mindset of employees and company culture.
When adopting the agile methodology and scaling it to the entire organization, many factors influence your journey. In this article, we zoom in on the concept of agile transformation to discuss its objectives and present a roadmap to success.
- What is an agile transformation?
- What is the goal of an agile transformation?
- How to build a strategy for an agile transformation?
- 3 agile transformation OKRs that set you on the path to success
- Roadmap for agile transformation
What is an agile transformation?
Agile transformation refers to the process where a company that uses different methodologies decides to implement agile across the entire organization's functions. It also agrees to operate in accordance with the agile values and principles.
An agile transformation is a project that needs to be treated just like any other project that aims to introduce change across the organization.
Check our out list of questions to ask before going agile >
What is the goal of an agile transformation?
The outcome of an agile transformation is a change in the behavior, beliefs, and culture inside the organization. The idea is to introduce changes in aspects ranging from team-building and product backlogs refinement to developing products by increments and testing software in an agile way.
In its essence, the agile methodology aims to create a network of loosely coupled teams capable of managing themselves (through self-organization) and coordinating dependencies, all with the idea to bring the product to market faster.
That's why agile also focuses on continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD). It removes any obstacles that come in the way of employees when they realize individual and team goals.
How to build a strategy for an agile transformation?
A well-designed agile transformation project starts with a clear-cut strategy. When formulating your strategy, you need to first understand where your organization is today and where it wants to be in the future. Clarifying the objective of your agile transformation is critical at this point.
Answer these questions to make sure that you're considering all the key aspects of your strategy:
- How much change are your employees willing to accept inside the organization?
- What kind of trade-offs are you looking at in terms of predictability?
- How much unpredictability can you handle?
If your predictability increases, it's natural you will have fewer opportunities for change. So, if you design your company to be more adaptable, it will also become less predictable.
Are you only interested in meeting your requirements, or do you truly want to create something your customer wants when transforming into an agile organization?
By answering these questions, you will build a strong foundation for planning your agile transformation and implementing agile practices successfully.
3 agile transformation OKRs that set you on the path to success
OKR stands for objectives and key results, a popular framework for defining, setting, and tracking goals and their outcomes. If you're going to use it in your agile transformation, here are three OKRs that will help you measure whether you're going in the right direction.
OKR 1: Leadership engagement and participation
A recent report revealed that one of the greatest challenges experienced by organizations while scaling agile is not enough leadership participation. That's why leadership engagement is such an important OKS to measure. It's an area characterized by high risk here.
Example OKR: Your leadership is ready and willing to lead an agile organization.
You can measure this OKR by checking whether:
- the business outcomes are clear and well-understood by all the stakeholders,
- the purpose of your transformation is known throughout the entire organization,
- you have an agile leadership team in place,
- your agile transformation roadmap is visible to everyone,
- and all the leaders have supported in building the new agile leadership capabilities.
OKR 2: Agile team capabilities
The idea behind agile is enabling teams to adapt to disruption and keep functioning on a high level, possibly with a degree of self-organization. That's why team capabilities are another critical OKR you should be measuring.
When transforming into an agile organization, keep an eye on you your team's capabilities growth and ask these questions:
- Is your team's work transparent?
- Are team members collaborating better?
- How are they learning and improving?
- Do they hold each other accountable?
Establishing will help you to implement agile practices faster.
Example OKR: A team that is ready, willing, and improving its agility by embracing new capabilities.
You can measure by tracking:
- collaboration and self-organization,
- degree of ownership teams take over their work,
- how teamwork is made visible,
- and whether team members look for ways to help each other in completing high-value items.
OKR 3: Relationship between IT and business
One of the most important hurdles an organization needs to overcome to see agile blossom is making business and technology teams work better together. When these two teams partner up and build trust, prepare for success. Teams that feel that they're contributing to and building value feel more motivated.
Example OKR: Sustained partnership and trust between the IT and business teams.
You can measure it by:
- checking whether teams are cross-functional with business involvement,
- learning whether business partners are trained to support agile transformation,
- measuring the length feedback loops between customers and stakeholders,
- improved predictability.
Roadmap for agile transformation
To build a roadmap for your agile transformation, you need to understand what business value will be delivered at each of its steps.
Ultimately, your objective is to implement a new way of working at your company.
The truth is that every agile transformation is different, and its flow depends on the organization in question. However, by taking the steps, you will increase your chances of a successful transformation that brings you the results you seek.
Step 1: Create a strong leadership
Before beginning your transformation project, make sure that every member of your organization is on board with the idea.
Each part of your business will require strong support from the top. So even if your teams are motivated to switch to agile, the same needs to be true about your leadership. And if your employees don't understand agile processes and think that they're too complicated, you need to make sure that an agile coach explains everything and they're on board.
The idea is to create an environment ready for agile implementation.
Step 2: Define your objectives
A project needs to have a well-defined goal, and an agile transformation isn't an exception. You need an idea about where you want to be once the agile transformation is over, even if you realize that the transformation itself is a process, not an objective.
Be prepared for your goals to change as well. What works today might work one year from now.
However, you need to start somewhere because it's that vision that will drive you in planning tasks and developing a working hypothesis of the governance, structure, and metrics for your company.
Naturally, you don't need to plan all the tasks in detail because you will understand them better during the transformation itself. But you need an overall structure of how you're going to get there and what you expect your teams to contribute.
Step 3: Formalize your agile transformation roadmap
A roadmap is a plan that details how the company is going to organize the process of project development using agile methodology. You need to decide which teams or capabilities need to go first, second, and third in your agile transformation.
It's good to have a clear idea about:
- what you expect from the agile transformation,
- how long it will take,
- and what benefits you will reap once it's done.
But that's not everything. An agile transformation roadmap also helps to communicate your vision and outlines all the steps your organization wants to take in order to transform. It's not as detailed as your agile transformation project plan – but it's essential for successful implementation.
Since you're going to apply changes to how work is carried out at your company, you might find resistance from employees or leadership – and this could easily lead to the failure of your transformation. A roadmap helps to minimize this resistance and serves as a framework for scaling agile at your company.
Step 4: Develop a rolling 90-day plan
The team responsible for the agile transformation needs to plan and assess its progress on a regular basis. The best idea here is to have a rolling 90-day plan with a detailed outline of the changes that are going to take place during that time.
The 90-day plan works like a product increment or an agile release plan. It describes all the things that the organization will go through during the next 90 days and gives the team a clear view of the changes to expect. This also helps to build trust and reduces resistance.
Step 5: Create 30-day checkpoints
You need to regularly check the progress of your transformation, and 30 days is a perfect time because it's so similar to a sprint cycle. When assessing the progress, your team can review what's been done and even carry out a retrospective meeting about that.
The idea here is to pinpoint areas for improvement and make sure that the efficiency of your transformation only grows. The team's new understanding of the transformation might open the doors to changing your goals and vision to adapt to new circumstances.
As more companies realize the benefits of the agile methodology, we're going to see an increased interest in it and agile transformations happening across various industries.
When scaling agile, you can choose various methodologies and identify ones that bring the most value to your business. After all, agile is all about experimentation and learning. That's why it pays to keep a close eye on the feedback from your employees and customers. This is how you can understand whether you're making the most of agile for delivering the best possible products and building a strong competitive advantage.