4 Ways to Overcome Agile Transformation Obstacles

Content By Devops .com

If an organization desires a successful Agile transformation, the first step is to shift its thinking from ‘doing Agile’ to ‘being agile.’ Unfortunately, a commonly shared belief that Agile is just a software development methodology keeps too many companies stuck in the ‘doing Agile’ mindset.

This belief ties back to the principles of Agile thinking from frameworks like Scrum or Lean. Most of these methodologies were focused on teams of developers. Naturally, the vocabulary and tools derived from these methods are unique to software development. While development has evolved away from waterfall approaches, the rest of the organization tends to run into cultural challenges downstream because the vocabulary and ways of working are foreign.

When an organization begins to lose progress downstream, it is too focused ‘doing Agile’ rather than ‘being agile.’ In order to shift the mindset toward ‘being agile,’ a new mindset must be adopted across the organization. These four insights offer ways to overcome obstacles along the way:

Instill Agile Thinking Across the Organization

The first step toward instilling agile thinking is to establish common vocabulary and define what it means to be agile. A common vocabulary and understanding of agility helps teams across the organization understand and see that agility is more than doing sprints.

As an organizational strategy, agility equates to flexibility – the ability to adapt to changing business requirements. It also means being collaborative and making complex processes more lightweight. Instilling this type of agile thinking into everyone at the organization leads to success. DevOps, for example, successfully instills this type of thinking through value stream management.

Essentially, this hurdle boils down to setting common goals and creating a common understanding of what ‘agile’ means across the organization.

Achieve Autonomy Through Self-Organization

Agile frameworks encourage self-organization. When teams self-organize they are given a task to do. However, no one tells them how they’re going to accomplish it. A self-organizing team gains a certain amount of autonomy, which leads to empowerment.

With self-organization also comes risk. The organization must learn how to embrace risk, how to look at failure as an opportunity to improve and how to empower teams in a more self-regulating way. When teams self-regulate and self-organize, it’s a team win when they are successful. This develops a sense of communal pride.

When breaches or too many failures do happen in a self-regulating system, the policies and consequences naturally occur. However, the key differentiator is that these environments are not driven by the policies. Rather, the objectives drive the behavior. When objectives are being met, empowerment stands.

Agile software development, DevOps and site reliability engineering (SRE) are intended to be self-regulating systems, but all first require leadership to create psychologically safe environments, blameless postmortems and more. There is no room for a blame culture in a self-regulating system, and the organization must be agile enough to meet the demands of the system.

Leverage Intelligent Lightweight Process

Agility does not equate to a complete absence of process. It means there is enough process in place to ensure consistency, improve flow between people and teams and that automation replicates the process simply and effectively.

IT organizations must understand that it is possible to move away from complex and authority-based processes and continue to leverage an element of process.

Intelligent Process Means Intelligent Automation

Although humans are the driving force behind agility, automation helps them go faster with more consistency. However, there is no such thing as ‘being agile’ with automation alone. Agile cannot be bought, and it’s important to get teams thinking that way. Automation should complement Agile, but not define it.

When investing in automation, a cost/benefit analysis is critical. When considering automation, think in terms of two key metrics: time and quality. With two equally important metrics, the organization cannot become dependent on one aspect or another.

For example, you can’t go faster with a manual process. You also can’t go faster with only automation, because the automation alone doesn’t replicate your intelligent lightweight process. And, you can’t go faster just by having a process, because the process can become very bureaucratic.

Process is just a means of getting there, but it needs people and automation to make the processes come alive. People, process and automation all play an essential role in creating an intelligent process.

Successful Agile transformation is more a way of thinking and behaving than simply following a framework. From a human perspective, an organization that experiences true agility, as we’ve defined it today, allows humans to exercise their competencies, grow skills, collaboratively celebrate success and learn from failures.

If you’d like to learn more about Agile Transformation, especially in regards to Agile Testing, you can register for the next SKILup Day on April 22. Please register for SKILup Day: Agile Test Management for the Enterprise here.

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