Agile: How to make your strategy succeed

Agile implementation is a group effort. Here's how to overcome some common stumbling blocks and make your agile transformation work
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Employees working on agile on a laptop

Agile transformation is a complex organizational change, and successful implementation requires strong leadership and buy-in from everyone in the organization. If your organization is struggling to adopt Agile, it may not be clear what is hindering the transition.

Let’s look at some common pitfalls, along with some tips to overcome them.

Lack of team buy-in. Adopting Agile at the team level is critical. Remember, your teams are the ones responsible for making it all happen and delivering tangible results to customers.

Decisions involve only C-level. Top leadership may be responsible for managing most of your organization’s operations, but if you want your team to respond, be proactive and support change, you must empower them to share their ideas and concerns. Agile transformation is possible only if you get everyone on the same page and excited for change.

The team is pushed to adopt and obey. Leaders can sometimes be too eager in their desire to change how things are done. Don’t forget that your team needs to change their whole way of thinking. If they feel pressured to do so without a clear reason, you may face resistance.

Lack of context. Your team may find it hard to follow new practices if they don’t understand the meaning behind them. If you fail to provide context for Agile principles, team members won’t necessarily see why they should do things one way over another.

Lack of training. Agile has become popular over the last decade, but that doesn’t mean that all your team members know what it’s about. It’s not enough to skim the Scrum guide and call it a day. Agile practices carry a certain mindset, and you may need an Agile coach to guide the team through the process and help them understand what is required.

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Don't forget your agile stakeholders

Stakeholders – even if they’re external to the team – can make or break the success of an Agile transformation. They should be involved in the decision-making process and understand the importance of the changes that are being implemented.

Consider some of these reasons you may be lacking buy-in from these stakeholders:

Lack of involvement from higher management. You might start implementing Agile on a smaller scale, as an experiment to see if it fits the company. But adopting it across the organization will require top management involvement. Agile transformation requires everyone to be on board.

Stakeholders see agile as a team game only. Agile is big on communication and collaboration within teams, but this includes stakeholders as well. If stakeholders don’t see their place in the Agile process, it will likely be difficult to convince them that the transition is necessary.

Teams continue working the old way. If stakeholders don’t embrace Agile, they may find it harder to communicate efficiently with your team. The more the team settles in the new way of working, the more work it will take to catch up.

Leaders take a top-down approach. When leaders force Agile adoption on teams without first securing their support and understanding, they are likely to face opposition from team members who see little value in this change.

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Tips for agile success

Let’s look at some quick tips to ease your Agile transformation:

Provide training. Make sure everyone on your team is properly trained. Have a certified Agile coach introduce Agile and support your team in the first few weeks while they are still learning the ropes.

Engage everyone. Remember that you are a team – every member matters. Agile is all about personal responsibility and taking individual action for the sake of the greater good.

Celebrate early wins and success stories. A major benefit of Agile is that it enables quick results – sometimes as soon as two to four weeks. This is a great indicator that Agile works and it encourages the team to carry on.

Provide leadership. Agile transformation starts with each individual, and that includes leadership. It can go only so far if leadership is lagging.

Spread across the organization. You may start implementing Agile in pockets to test the waters. As more teams and departments get involved in the agile transformation, you will see drastic improvements overall.

The bottom line

Agile transformation is a group effort – a continuous process that requires a comprehensive approach, involving everyone from top to bottom. Done right, Agile can become a turning point for your organization.

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Andrew Romanukha
Andrew Romanukha, Agile Coach, Scrum Master at Symphony Solutions, Certified SAFe Scrum Master and SAFe Agilist. Loves sharing knowledge and experience as an Agile evangelist, energetic business trainer and Agile Coach.