Switching to Agile is (and should be) a tough decision for any organisation. Even if you immediately relate it to a delivery methodology, its adoption has repercussion across the whole company and should not be treated as a new process for the delivery team only.
Adopting Agile means embracing an entirely new mentality in the way every project is even conceived, and ultimately how the client becomes part of it. There is a complete shift in roles and values and that is why it will not succeed if the whole organisation does not decide the be “agile” at all levels.
There are seven important steps that anyone willing to enforce this methodology across the company should bear in mind.
1. Know what your are buying
Reading some of the “evangelists” that actively writes on internet you may have had the feeling that Agile is sort of a remedy for all evils, and that it will fix your delivery flow at the very least.
That is perhaps the primary misconception. Agile was designed as a problem-finding rather than a problem-solving framework, and you are requested to adapt and improve continuously your process. No magic wand will do it for you.
2. Train the whole organisation
Even if it is not based on a long list of norms and rules, Agile still does require a high level of familiarity with its principles. A training plan should be at the top of your list to have a smooth transition, starting from a basic training for everyone in the organisation.
If you decided to rely on one particular framework, such as Scrum, you might want to proceed with a more specific training by role.
The advanced training will work much better if you introduce a coach withing the organisation, to help with the ramp-up.
3. Sell Agile projects
This is possibly the hardest part since it does not entirely depend on you and your organisation. Everyone seems to want Agile, but only a few are ready to accept the new challenge represented by its philosophy. It will not be possible to take advantage of the benefits of working Agile if the contract does not enable the team to work Agile.
Many consider Waterfall a failure because the supplier was taking most of the risk, and clients felt limited by their initial choices. Agile is about sharing the risk and focussing on creating a fruitful partnership instead of fighting over a contract.
4. Build Agile teams
Building Agile teams means allowing the delivery of multiple projects in parallel workstreams. You should validate your current pool of human resources against the typical Agile team your designed framework mandates, in the industry you operate within. You may or may not need cross-functional teams, scrum masters, perhaps even product owners. You will be surprised of how many people will enthusiastically switch to a new role.
Note: I used in the previous paragraph the terms “human resources”. Many people abhor the mere notion of employees being called resources, and I fundamentally disagree with their disagreement. I firmly believe in the power of the language and I find hard to give any negative meaning to a word that comes from the Latin resurgere, “to rise up”. In my opinion, the proverb “malice is in the eyes of the beholder” clearly applies.
5. Mind the governance
Although Agile does not explicitly recommend any particular methodology for the governance, you will likely need to fit your projects into a portfolio. Adopting Agile does not mean neglecting financial reconciliation, steering or board meetings, reports, yet you might need to audit your current process and create the conditions to embed an Agile delivery.
The need to create a bridge between the Agile process and the external world is the main reason for keeping some more traditional profiles, such as a project manager and a business analyst on top of the Agile team.
6. Manage the change
Abandoning old processes to embrace Agile is a huge change, one that many people – at all levels – will not be ready to accept. Stick to your change management strategy to properly introduce the new methodology, and if you do not have a change management strategy, maybe you should fix that before even thinking of switching to Agile.
7. Compromise mindfully
You will be tempted many times to renounce to some of the Agile principles. At the end of the day, Agile is a tool, and it has to serve a purpose within your organisation.
However, you must be well aware that many non-negotiable rules, once broken, will determine the failure of this migration process. Failing to introduce Agile will result in a general sense of mistrust towards the methodology
Remember that Agile does not work, if you are not working Agile.