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Agile transformation is an exploratory work. It’s a change that takes place step by step to constantly improve products, architecture, organization and ways of working. In addition, all parameters are interconnected and affect each other.

The most important success factor in establishing agile on a larger scale, outside a team or a release train, is C-level support to influence the entire system. By the system is meant the total system in the form of organization, technology and people. Even if agile transformation is a gradual change, it will sooner or later impact the whole company, and the executives need to be prepared to make appropriate decisions. Exploratory change can also create confusion and uncertainty among employees, which makes it extra important that decision-makers are confident and supportive. 

A C-level executive (CEO, CIO, CPO, CHRO, CFO, CMO etc) is a decision-maker, inspirer and leader of the system in its entirety, and regarded as the “real” change leader. This means that agile coaches, scrum masters, product owners and change leaders should be viewed as catalysts and enablers for change. They are the messengers and doers, based on the direction set by the executives. Managers, other decision makers and teams make decisions in line with this direction. 

Success factors for agile transformation, based on what the C-level executives should focus on

  • Create a common vision and direction
  • Communicate the change
  • Lead through others
  • Create passion and psychological safety
  • Make the necessary decisions

Create a common vision and direction

The C-level executive needs to set a vision and direction for change. What to achieve and why. This should preferably be measurable and produced in co-creation, but the C-level executive needs to own the change. 

If it’s a change that affects several organizations, then it’s the managerial level above that sets the objectives, ultimately the CEO if it affects the whole company. Alternatively, the heads of the organizations need to agree on common objectives and avoid conflicting goals. Otherwise there will be conflicts on operational level, with fights about resources, and the development teams being stuck between priorities. .

Tools & methods: Company Bets, Objectives and Key Results (OKR), vision story, message analysis, time machine, storytelling, metaphors

Examples of areas to improve: time-to-market, value flow, number of releases per year, technical modernization (to achieve increased flow, reduced costs, higher quality, security etc)

Communicate the change

Communicate “What” and “Why”

The C-level executive needs to convey the message of “what” to achieve and “why” at conferences, in newsletters and communicate in daily conversations with the same message. They also need to communicate progress and that the change is important. 

Executives should have a monthly schedule for the agile transformation. The monthly schedule can include: general meetings, release train meetings, product meetings, strategy days, team visits, visits to scrum meetings, etc. – all to show their support.

Tools & methods : Ask Me Anything (AMA), Big Room Planning (BRP), Management by Walking Around (MBWA), conversations one person at a time, what & why presentation, video, newsletter

Communicate agile values

At the core of an agile transformation are the agile values. The C-level executive needs to constantly refer to the importance of following the values. For example: Asking questions about what we can do today, to improve a little for tomorrow. The importance of delegating and that decisions should be made where the expertise is. The C-level executive should specify which agile values are most important for this particular change. 

Celebrate success

When the change is moving towards the objectives of the change, it’s important to celebrate. This is something that executives needs to encourage and sometimes invite to larger celebrations for the organization.

Create passion and psychological safety

Passion for change.

Change, at its best, leads to commitment and passion. Employees who have been waiting for the change, finally see that something is happening. Agile coaches help to create a safe and inspiring environment with the desire to experiment, where it’s okay to make mistakes.

Executives need to support this and pep, inspire and be a transformative leader who is transparent with his or her own change. It’s a great advantage if the personal change is in line with the organization’s. It can be, for example, to become a more servant leader, to delegate more, to ask more compared to giving orders. “Be the change you want to see in the world”.

Tools & methods: Positive psychology, storytelling

Psychological safety

Change can also lead to turbulence and resistance. Agile coaches need to know that there is support for the change, to be able to deal with the storm when it comes. Managers need to be prepared to have challenging conversations and guide employees. Executives need to coach and guide managers, especially those who are reluctant to change. If there are strong opponents to the change, there may be a need for staff changes. 

Tools & methods: Active listening, Non-violent Communication (NVC), coaching

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Inspelningen är från DIs HR-dag den 30 september 2020 på Grand Hotel i Stockholm och online.

Här delar Mia Kolmodin på 15 minuter med sig hur Agila metoder kan användas av HR för stötta organisationer att transformera sitt eget arbetssätt, samt stötta organisationen i en Agil transformation för att att leverera rätt värde vid rätt tidpunkt. Mia rör också ämnen som Agilt Ledarskap, Agila Team och Agila tankesätt och ger dig 5 nycklar till en lyckad Agil Evolution.

Läs mer om hur Dandy People kan hjälpa er att nå era mål med Agila arbetssätt och mindset: https://agile.dandypeople.com/dihr/

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The same rookie mistake I made on my transformation journey into marathoning is one that I see a lot of organizations make on their Agile journey: not taking the time to find the right shoes. Let me explain.

Me with some of the tools that set my foundation to become a marathoner.

“Doing” agile is not enough

I thought I had a solid start on my transformation from couch potato to marathoner by focusing first on the routines and habits of runners. I felt like I was a runner because I was DOING the things runners do, like running 5-days a week, eating healthier, and strength training. Many organizations fall into the same trap. They think they’re agile because they’re going through the same motions and copying best practices. But then my mother saw me running out in the neighborhood and pointed out something that changed everything. She gave me the same perspective that I’ve given clients looking to become agile, and it blew my mind. 

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The need for adaptability and innovation have probably never been bigger, and we need to use the force from our employees. We need to connect the people in our organization using new formats, perhaps being forced into some of them. Also, the distancing has affected all of us, some are suffering more than others. The need for us as human beings to maintain and build trustworthy relationships is being put to test now that we have replaced the small talk by the coffee machine with Zoom meetings. 

We are perhaps seeing the world through new eyes, and maybe even reevaluate our business as well? Can we continue as we did before and still survive? Or, are there ways to move us forward and actually help us be better? And, can the use of a Buddy System be the help we need to help us do this?

Adapt and Excel – it´s All About the People 

To be able to survive in today’s business climate our focus needs to be on our ability to adapt – and to act fast. But that is not enough. Our organizations have to continue to grow and excel to stay alive, and not standstill.

A prerequisite for us to adapt and move fast is to secure that people are responsible for workflows, decisions, actions, and have the authority to make the rapid changes needed.  The type of organization that meets these demands best is a learning organization where it is possible to create endurance and the speed needed in a complex (VUCA) world.

Learning Organization. For many, the traditional top-down management organization has reached its maximum capacity and is unable to obtain, plan, develop, implement and follow up its operations at the pace needed in a world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.

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