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Okay… Just What are we Transforming?

Mike Cottmeyer Chief Executive Officer
Reading: Okay… Just What are we Transforming?

I’m constantly reminded that context is king… that words have meaning… and that the meaning of our words is almost entirely dependent on our context.

Last night I had coffee with an agile coach here in the Atlanta area. We got to talking about the idea of ‘agile transformation’. It became pretty clear, pretty quickly we were using the phrase in two very different ways.

His perspective was that ‘agile transformation’ involved taking a project team, teaching them agile values and agile practices, and helping them deliver better products to market faster, and with higher quality.

Worthy goals… no doubt.

My perspective on agile transformation looks a little different. To me, agile transformation involves influencing the structures and culture around the team. Only by influencing the systems around the team, can we achieve true end-to-end business agility.

Meaningful, long-lasting agile transformation starts by establishing a clear vision for the organization, and how we want it to operate when we get there. It involves creating a change management strategy that will get us from here to there as safely as possible.

Without transforming the organization around the team, the transformation within the team won’t be sustainable. The forces that act on the team are often too great for the changes to stick. It’s too easy to go back to the old way of doing things.

It helps to understand just what we are trying to accomplish with our agile transformation. If we just want to get a project team really humming… team transformation might be enough to meet our goals.

If we want ongoing, sustainable business benefit from our investment in agile, we are going to need to think beyond the team. We are going to need to think about the rest of the business and how we collectively deliver value.

No right or wrong here… you just gotta be realistic about what you are trying to accomplish.

Next Interesting Post... 7/4/2010 through 7/11/2010

Comments (5)

  1. Bob Williams

    This may be a new ball game Mike. The driving force behind Agile (as I understand it) is the ability to influence and change the way we produce work, most often with software product. Influencing other parts of the business gets you out of comparisons with Waterfall and PMBOK and into elements of financial analysis and strategy. I don't think that's where you want Agile to be.

    The thought of playing to your strengths comes to mind here. I'd be careful in stretching Agile too far as you might get into areas where it's not strong or was never designed to live.

  2. Mike Cottmeyer

    Bob… yes, this is a new ballgame.

    Change has to happen on many levels… the project team, the IT organization (politics and silos), as well as the business. What good does it do for the team to deliver every two weeks if the business approves projects on 18 months cycles?

  3. Cow consulting

    I agree with Mike – simply changing at the software development level in isolation does not harness the real business or personal gains to be made using an Agile approach..early value if you like

    I have seen successful scrum teams who understand and live by the agile principles and use the practices well, however I tend to come across more teams that are regimented, driven by process, not empowered and not delivering value let alone early.

    Imho Scrum alone does not solve business problems, The best performing and most satisfied teams seem to be those who feel they are an important part of the larger organisation.

    Servant leadership must emanate from all areas of an organisation in order to ensure everyone is empowered and working to a single overall vision of change

  4. Raja Bavani

    Mike, This is an interesting post! The progression and success of this transformation depends on the mindset of stakeholders in the organization. In most of the cases, mindset transformation is required to ensure the success of agile transformation.


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