Two Dimensions of Agile Transformation

WRITTEN BY Mike Cottmeyer

Earlier this week we talked about the idea that agile adoption and agile transformation are not the same thing. Agile adoption is about introducing practices, the doing side of the equation. Agile transformation has to do with change, the being side of the equation.

As I’ve thought about this over the past few days, it seems we can break transformation up a bit as well. We can talk separately about the changes that have to be made to the structure of the organization, and differentiate that from the changes that have to happen within the individual.

The two dimensions of an Agile Transformation:

1. Organizational transformation – Restructuring the organization in a way that aligns teams and technology with the value creating capabilities of the business.

2. Personal transformation – Realigning your personal value system to reflect a more agile world view, including things like servant leadership, responsibility, empowerment, emergence, uncertainty, and respect for people.

I think it’s important to isolate these variables when we talk about bringing agile into an organization. Think about these scenarios:

1. Adopting agile practices in a functionally siloed waterfall organization, with people that don’t embrace the agile ethic.

2. Coming back from a two-day CSM course, totally pumped to be agile, but faced with the same siloed waterfall organization and developers that won’t develop incrementally.

3. Reorganizing around teams, but still delivering in a waterfall manner, with heavyweight command and control leadership.

Remember that our goal is greater business agility. To make a difference, we need to address each of the three dimensions independently… with a specific plan to deal with each… but also together, introducing change incrementally and continuously, addressing all three aspects simultaneously as we as we go.

I think all of this is just a long way of saying that focusing on any one of these variables in isolation isn’t enough.

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6 comments on “Two Dimensions of Agile Transformation”

  1. Thomas Juli

    You are right when you are writing “we need to address each of the three dimensions independently… with a specific plan to deal with each… but also together, introducing change incrementally and continuously, addressing all three aspects simultaneously as we as we go.”
    Most important is that we keep an open mind, seek to understand our environment and playing fields. At the end of the day we should follow a path which works best for the given environment and helps achieve “customer delight”. This may be Scrum, XP, etc. or it may be a hybrid solution of a bunch of approaches. Every environment is different, demands a customized approach which adds value to the organization, its people and, last but not least, to its customers.

    Reply
    • Mike Cottmeyer

      The trick is to mix and match and blend for the right reasons. One of the things that Scrum focuses on is ‘don’t change the process to hide disfunction’. That’s important! Thanks for your reply!

      Reply
  2. Bob Marshall

    “We can talk separately about the changes that have to be made to the structure of the organization, and differentiate that from the changes that have to happen within the individual.” Very true (caveat: where you say “structure” I believe it’s very much more “mindset”).

    Consider:
    Scenario 1: Personal transformation precedes Organisational transformation => Risk that Individuals go in different directions, and it too far then some are seen as now alien and to be shunned.

    Scenario 2: Organisational transformation precedes Personal transformation => Increase in individuals’ cognitive dissonance, with a risk to their productivity, or in extremis, even their basic functioning, work-wise.

    So, better to see these two aspects proceed hand-in-glove?

    – Bob @FlowchainSensei

    Reply