As we embark on a new year, Adaptavist’s experts weigh in on what to watch out for in 2022. This final blog of the series is all about agile transformation—feel free to check out our previous predictions on DevOps and ITSM.
It’s hard to make predictions when for many organisations the future will look a lot like what has come before. Most businesses begin their agile transformation with the best of intentions, and some will certainly succeed. But often those in leadership positions step back, relying on others in the organisation to take the agile reins, only for old ways of working to creep back in and the office urban legend of ‘agile isn’t for us’ takes root.
There’s an outdated expectation that agile transformation is just for development teams; a misconception that if everyone just does a bit more training, change will happen; and a steadfast commitment to existing deadlines, meaning agile has to fight for air time. With this approach, small wins might happen, but there’ll be an overriding feeling of ‘Why bother if others aren’t going to change too?’ What’s more, failure to identify upfront what an agile approach could change, and agree upon a way - or ways - to measure the success of the goals is really setting yourself up for failure.
For the organisations that do decide to stand back, to really take a look at what is needed and what is going on, there is much progress to be made. So it’s those businesses we’re making these predictions for, and we hope you’re among them.
It’s time to embrace your people’s needs, genuinely
One of the 12 principles of the Agile Manifesto is: ‘Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.’ This doesn’t mean leadership sharing a powerpoint on how they care about agile practices, it’s about genuinely changing your mindset to ensure your organisation is putting people first. This year, we’ll see this principle come to the fore, as your employees’ changing needs should become central to your agile transformation.
We’re calling this, the People’s Manifesto, and it might be wise to draft and declare something similar for your organisation. You could open your manifesto with something like:
‘We the leaders of this agile mindset organisation, in order to form a more perfect company culture and product life cycle, establish clear organisational strategy, ensure transparency at all levels, provide coaching and training, promote empathy and feedback, and secure the psychological safety of our people and our posterity, do ordain and establish this agreement.’
Some of the key considerations to include, based on the needs we’re noticing employees demanding are:
- To see agile in play, not just hear about it
- To have a say in how their organisation implements agile, not have it be mandated
- To receive proper training to do their job effectively
- To work in an environment where they feel safe to fail and learn
- To have access to effective tools that reduce switching time
- To see strategic guardrails put in place and chaos kept to a minimum
- To have more transparency from leadership
Metrics will matter more than ever before
"Just because you can measure everything, doesn’t mean you should."
Looking ahead, organisations need to ensure they’re measuring the right things in the right way. For example, individual metrics, such as scrum attendance or stories completed, can be harmful. They’re almost exclusively focused on the ‘what?’ and fail to take the ‘why?’ into consideration. And if you’re using metrics as incentives, you might be influencing the work people do to the detriment of the business’s real goals.
Remember, metrics are the start of a conversation, not the end. Whether we’re talking about planned vs actual, story point velocity, or page views, these metrics will only tell you so much. These should act as a springboard for other conversations and further analysis.
So what are good or healthy metrics? They’re metrics that:
- Are easy to accurately measure
- Drive better and faster decision-making
- Are actionable
- Align with a compelling goal
- Are hard to manipulate
- Are owned by the right people
Keep these markers in mind when you’re planning what to measure in 2022. And don’t forget the importance of more general metrics, such as employee engagement and retention. The more agile your organisation, the more likely you’ll see positive movement in the areas, meaning it’s a good indication of how your transformation is doing and how much further you have to go.
It’s all about enterprise-wide thinking
If agile adoption has gone well – in other words, you’ve got buy-in and practice of agile principles at a team level – then you’re already on your way to agile transformation. That doesn’t mean you won’t face blockers along the way. You’re going to need buy-in from everybody, particularly teams like HR that might be more resistant or apathetic towards organisational change.
If you’ve already implemented some form of SAFe’s Dual Operating System, you’ll know it balances two key things:
- A dynamic network of people focus on changing the business – developing, evolving, and maintaining new and innovative business solutions.
- A stable, functional hierarchy focused on operating and growing a successful, sustainable business that legally and profitably delivers these solutions to market.
Don’t rely on outdated frameworks and infrastructure to manage agile transformation. For example, don’t just send your HR team an article about business agility and expect everything to work out. They need to know what agility means for their work, how it will impact them, and how they are part of the value stream. Helping them understand the WHY empowers them to genuinely support the organisation as their teams transition from a project based to a product based approach.
Leadership will (hopefully) embrace an agile mindset
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, if the leaders of an organisation aren't 100% on board, the transformation will never be fully realised. As more C-suiters get comfortable with what agile means, some rare organisations will become enlightened enough to realise that transformation might be too much of an ask. ‘Instead, they’ll start to tackle the people and culture issues head on,’ said Adaptavist agile consultant Jon Kern.
"That starts by leaders admitting to themselves that they need to change if they want the company to change."
Those leaders will invite others along on the journey, making it clear there will be stumbling blocks and failures – but that building a culture of learning is what’s necessary. This thinking will trickle down to other parts of the organisation where people are looking for new, better ways of work, coalescing around the question ‘What does “value” look like?’
‘Eventually,’ said Kern, ‘with the goal of learning how to do joyous and meaningful work, they wake up 12 months later in a completely different company where people love coming to work and the clients are thrilled.’ If you want to get a few more of Jon Kern’s predictions for agile transformation in 2022, be sure to check out his thoughts here in DevOps Digest.
No matter what stage you're on in your agile transformation journey, our experts are here to help: