With an increasing consumer demand for regular and rapid deployment of releases, development teams are increasingly moving away from Waterfall and towards Agile.
However, this can be a daunting process, particularly for larger organisations that are now faced with the need to foster sizeable shifts in the culture and attitudes.
Agile seems simple to understand but it can be a very challenging methodology to implement and manage. Indeed, many organisations opt for a part-Agile approach, adopting some components of Agile, but not all.
And therein lays the danger. Not fully understanding the implications of a lacklustre Agile transformation can be disastrous for your project and organisation.
This article looks at five key points you’ll want to note.
1. Embrace the cultural and mindset shift
Over and above everything else, you need to embrace the cultural and mindset shift required to switch your whole company to Agile.
Much like Agile itself, cultural change is an ongoing process, one that needs to be constantly fostered and measured.
There are no ‘waterfall-esque’ set of steps to achieving a cultural shift – it needs to be strived for, with a regular reassessment of progress and goals to ensure that the right direction is being taken.
That can only be accomplished by the organisation as a whole, and not particular individuals within it.
2. Ensure the transition is a joint process
When we talk about organisational transformation, it’s easy to envisage a collective move to a common goal.
However, in reality, individuals and teams within an organisation will be more willing and more able to embrace change more swiftly than others. This has the potential to create a cultural and operational divide with the organisation, as teams try to juggle different approaches, sometimes in a conflicting and contradictory manner.
Clearly, this can result in an operational overhead as cross-team projects can become more laborious than they need to be.
Worse still, this situation runs the risk of early adopters within the organisational becoming disenfranchised with the change and the late majority becoming less motivated to embrace the change when they see problems occurring elsewhere.
This ‘operational cognitive dissonance’ can effectively put an end to your transformation efforts before your organisation has had a chance to reap the rewards.
To use a hill-walking analogy, a group of mixed-skill walkers could end up being split up if the stronger of the group power ahead and leave the others behind. Those at the rear, with no sight of the end of the route (and less experience to temper their stress), may lose heart and turn around to head home. Similarly, those at the front of the group may grow increasingly frustrated or even resentful of those at the rear of the group as they feel held back.
The solution here is for the group to find its collective pace, usually set by the slower walkers of the group. This ensures that everyone reaches their destination together. Setting out with this clear approach also helps manage the expectations of everyone involved from the outset.
Similarly, as part of any transformation process, ensuring that the plan for change is set at a realistic, manageable and achievable pace for everyone involved means that the organisation progresses towards its goal as a collective unit.
3. Acknowledge the changes in responsibilities and roles throughout your organisation
Agile transformation will have repercussions for various roles within your organisation, as you move away from a top-down structure to a much flatter and more collaborative environment.
Your leaders are no longer Commanders – they are facilitators that are tasked with removing impediments, ensuring everything is properly aligned during the completion of projects, and providing encouragement to various teams within your organisation.
You must empower your facilitators and allow them to empower their teams, creating an environment that will allow your organisation to thrive in a new culture of self-organisation and self-reliance.
4. Encourage open exchange and transparency between your teams
It's important for your teams to communicate with each other and maintain complete transparency.
When you suffer failures, remain open about them and collaborate to find solutions. The aim is to craft a sense of team unity that will grow and develop, enabling you to produce higher-quality products, while avoiding isolating smaller teams or individual team members.
Team members who aren’t prepared to speak up about mistakes can often be symptomatic of wider cultural issues faced by an organisation. Learning how to offer (and receive) critical feedback is an essential skill for Agile team members and it’s essential that your organisation helps foster an environment where transparency is commonplace and critical information flows as easily as possible.
5. Stop looking at it from a linear perspective
One of the more difficult cultural shifts to manage is the change in the mindset of your team, who will be used to delivering in different ways and on a different schedule.
Waterfall projects unfold sequentially, from requirements to design to testing to implementation, and finally maintenance.
Agile contrasts with this quite dramatically, as software is developed, produced and delivered in bite size chunks.
This ensures you are meeting the actual needs of the market, enabling the software to be constantly adjusted in accordance with feedback and any requirements that may have changed. It requires testers, developers and the business to work closely together and remain closely connected so that they might continually evaluate the situation and pin down the best steps to take.