9 easy mistakes to avoid during your Agile Transformation journey

Digital Transformation it’s been 2016’s corporate buzzword. Every organisation wants to respond faster, better and cheaper to customers. If done right, it leads to more sales, efficiency and overall happiness. If done wrong, it is a painful, humongous pile of mud that you will never be able to solve.

An Agile Transformation seems to be the perfect companion for the Digital Transformation. Why? Kill me if I know, because this is the first one of the 10 easy mistakes to avoid on your Transformation journey: Going Agile just because this is what everyone else is doing.

Think Agile, not Agility

The main goal is adopting Agility, not having a tag (Agile) to use on presentations for the board room. Being Agile is just a consequence of adopting Agility.

Agile is a set of practices, while Agility is a new mindset. That mindset is your goal, not the practices around it.

Prepare a detailed plan with dates and milestones

Are you a proud mother of father of a toddler? Try to prepare a plan that includes headlines for him like: “..by that date she’ll be able to walk..”, “..he’ll meet his first friend with two years old..”, “…by that year he’ll graduate from Uni..”. Know what? That’ll never work.

Adopting Agility is a very organic process. The same as you don’t decide on your baby’s life upfront, you can’t set certain dates to change a system because the system will play you and rebel.

Choose a Framework

It does not matter which framework you chose, it’ll fail miserably. Because Agility being a organic process that requires time, patience and a lot of culture shaping, the framework won’t help.  Choosing a Framework like Nexus, LeSS or SAFe upfront is just a recipe for failure and disappointment.

What you need is creating a context for the organisation to be Agile. A playground for Agility that will unfold new needs as it grows.

Know better

Let me tell you a secret. A secret known by great leaders and successful CEOs all around the world. No matter what you think you know about other people’s work, you know nothing. Thus, making decisions for them is the worst mistake that can be made.

Just create a playground and let them take responsibility within, let them learn and share with you their learnings. Telling people what to do is exactly the opposite of being Agile.

What can be done is creating a context where people embrace failure as part of learning, one where you can reach you easily to communicate and get strategic direction.

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Think that you can avoid mistakes by learning best practices

Best practices work in a very defined scenarios. They work in simple scenarios, like a screwdriver factory, where you make the same thing again and again and again. When comes to software, you are always moving in a hostile territory, where more is unknown that is known. Best practices just don’t apply, because no-one has been there before.

What you can do is throw away all your presentations, reports and books and being. Choose a project that is not strategic enough to draw a lot of attention and not meaningless enough to evoke indifference and start to work. That learning about the Agility of your organisation is priceless.

Hiring the wrong professionals

During an Agile Transformation, you’ll need different types of professionals at different stages. Don’t go for a one-in-all solution, but to professionals who know the right questions to ask, not the answers to give. Yet, it is easy to go with someone who says: “Oh… this is how we did in this bank…” or “Yes, this is the right way to go because we did that at that Telco..”.

Even if your organisation belongs to the same business area, ask yourself: “How am I different from my competitors?” and you’ll come with a lot of different answers. Well, that is the reason what works for them won’t work for you.

Hire people who know how to ask questions and be a companion on your journey. Experienced people will never give a straight answer but a lot of different options for you to explore. They will know better than become part of the machinery and will know when to join and when to leave. If you feel someone is arrogant enough to let you know that, you may have found your perfect fit.

Not letting people go

This is the elephant in the room of transformations. You’ll lose, no matter what you do, between 10% and 20% of your workforce. These will be categorised in three ways: (a) Those who will not adapt and will fly, (b) Those who will not adapt and fight and © Those who fall in the first two categories but will slip through the cracks of your organisation, either fighting guerrilla warfare or not doing anything helpful and just wait for the next pay check.

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Create a program to let people know that there is a exit, if they want one. At one of my clients we offered a 8 months program to existing Project Managers to Recycle in different roles, with the choice of changing again if they needed an additional time. Don’t corner people letting them know what you want them to be.

Match people to new roles

Think about it. You have been working in the same position for months, probably years. Then you receive a 2-days training that will change everything about how you work and you return to your desk on Monday. What do you do? The same you did last week. Because going from the abstraction to the practice takes a long time.

A company undergoing an Agile Transformation needs training, that is for sure. And adapting the people to new roles. But it also needs fresh professionals that know the work to mix within. Make sure that you hire professionals with an Agile mindset. These guys often are rule and trouble makers. Get used to them. They want your company to succeed.

Think that reading on the Internet will help you

As sad as it sounds, this post won’t make you avoid any of these mistakes, or any others. You’ll make new ones and learn lessons no one has learnt before. Most of my clients think that a transformation can be done within the first year. It takes them 3 to 5 to realise how wrong they were and come back to the basics. These ten mistakes. Because they are part of a learning journey, just prepare to embrace them and don’t make commitments you can’t fulfil.

If this post may help, it’ll be on creating some self-consciousness, I hope. Be prepared for a frustrating, fulfilling, learning, painful and awesome experience. At then end, it will be worth it.

Good luck in your transformation. Comments are be very much appreciated.

Avatar for Jerónimo Palacios Vela

Posted by Jerónimo Palacios Vela

Mi misión es ayudar a mejorar la profesión del desarrollo de software. Soy Professional Scrum Trainer de Scrum.org, Accredited Kanban Trainer de Lean Kanban y facilitador de LEGO® Serious Play. Vivo entre Berlín y Granada. Me encantan la vela y el Rugby

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