Three Thieves of Agile Adoption

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Businesses have always defended themselves against thieves. Long ago, before my mother was even born, my entrepreneurial grandmother had to protect her business in rural, Northern Wisconsin. She and my grandfather owned a tavern and service station. During difficult times, my grandfather earned extra money working as a logger, leaving my grandmother solely responsible for their business.
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One night, two thieves tried to steal gas by siphoning it from the glass cylinder of their visible gas pump. My grandmother heard them. Seconds later, the thieves were staring down the barrel of her shotgun.

In her best tough-lady voice, “Get out of here before I blast you.”
“She’s got a gun! Let’s get out of here!”
Though my grandmother had never used a gun before, she would have, to defend her dream, her livelihood. They took off, and never came back.

Today, businesses are hit by thieves from all angles. If you are adopting Agile, you have a new front: thieves stealing from your transformation. Every organization is different, but there are three well-known thieves to Agile adoption.

Managing the Change Instead of Leading it
Believing that you can control your Agile transformation is a mistake. You can manage your approach (is it bottom up or top down?) and the organizational change plan, for that is the science of change. They are important to your cause, and they need to get checked off the list. But you cannot manage the transformation, the mindset shift required for Agile adoption. This is the art of change, the art of leadership.

And, it takes time. No two people are alike, and neither are their Agile transformation journeys. Leading change means giving people time to work through their thoughts and perspectives. How can you expect your leaders and teams to run the ball down the field if they are not sure where they’re going?

Give them what they are most hungry for: your vision, and a constant conversation about the Agile mindset shift. People will come on board, and then they will be your champions to help others. By actively leading your transformation and getting feedback, you will know when you have adoption momentum to push further.

Believing it’s Okay to Skip the Coaching
Even the smartest, high functioning IT organizations need Agile coaching to make their Agile transformation stick. It’s not about not knowing how to do it. It’s about how you can’t do this type of change to yourself, and have it stick. Coaches won’t tell leaders yes when the answer is no. They help teams and leaders sift through the haze of adopting Agile to reveal what is most important.

Your leaders desperately need coaching if they are to weather the transformation. Position it as Agile adoption coaching, not performance management. Agile coaching is not a sign of weakness or poor performance. Quite the opposite. It’s a true sign of strong change leaders, and commitment.

Believing What got you Here will get you There
I’m just going to say it: Your best leaders in a waterfall-dominant organization may not be your best leaders in an Agile organization.

Leading an Agile transformation, it’s important for organizations to admit that not everyone will survive it. The best change strategies can’t hold a candle to someone who simply cannot or will not change. Maybe it’s not full on resistance to change, but a leader or practitioner who thrive better in a more controlled environment.

Be open to new leader and team possibilities. What wasn’t right before might be absolutely perfect now.
Agile transformation is a rough road. If you don’t have my grandmother to protect you, at least weave these three strategies into your plans, and sleep well.


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