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Agile’s Easy – Transformation Isn’t

This blog discusses the statement: 'Employing Agile transformation experts causes much less disruption to the business, is significantly cheaper and also enables delivery of much higher value IT products faster and more effectively.

Or to put it another way, Agile’s easy – transformation isn’t.

The Problem

 

Most of the people I work with see the high level Agile concepts as pretty straightforward and easy, which they are; any framework is just learned good practice after all. However people regularly miss that although Agile practices look easy, transforming to an Agile way of working isn’t.

Why isn’t Agile transformation easy? Because human beings are involved.

If you think that transforming an IT system from one technical platform to another is challenging, try doing a technical transformation where the platforms have a mind of their own and may not want to change, or even have the ability to change!

However most organisations that want to significantly improve their delivery capability fail to recognise this, thinking they can train someone for a few days and then that person will instantly become an expert who is able to transform the fundamental delivery capability of the organisation. This is highly unlikely. Would you pull someone off the street with no coding experience, give them a few days training and then expect them to be able to re-platform a complex IT system?

For some reason too many organisations are happy to invest huge amounts of money to build inefficient, costly, late and defect ridden IT systems, largely caused by using an inappropriate ‘waterfall’ delivery paradigm. However they find it difficult to invest in empowering their own people to transform and enable the inherent innovation and power of their own people to build excellent systems quickly, cheaply and at the right level of quality via the utilisation of Agile development frameworks.

Organisations who try and transform to Agile without understanding how to do that transformation typically have one of two results :-

They fail to transform to an Agile way of working and then blame the Agile frameworks and practices for being ineffective and useless.

They partially succeed at transforming to Agile after an incredibly difficult, painful and costly transformation period.

Many organisations who have ‘transformed to Agile’…haven’t.

Many so called ‘Agile’ organisations implement ‘WAgile’ or ‘FRAgile’; or are sold ‘SNAgile’.

What is WAgile – Waterfall that is masquerading as Agile. They just rename the current roles to Agile names, rename current processes to Agile names, don’t transform capability in any way at all, and then pretend they are Agile. Many old world large IT consultancies fit into this category because they have cottoned on that to sell their services they must say that they are Agile. This means nothing changes and to use a well known quote , ‘if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got’.

What is FRAgile – Hacking that is masquerading as Agile; this is where technical teams produce ‘stuff’ that may be technically brilliant, but doesn’t actually deliver any benefit to the business. Or the team just hack code that is not supported by appropriate documentation. This may mean delivering some value but at the risk of producing non value add products very quickly that then cost a fortune to support and maintain

What is ‘SNAgile’ – what the Snake Oil consultancies try to sell you. They are the consultancies who have fabricated their own slant on ‘Agile’ that just happens to suit their own consultancy business model rather than implementing recognised Agile market best practice and certifications (best practice like Lean, Scrum, AgilePM and Kanban). This means the client is getting meaningless ‘certifications’ and are then also tied into the consultancy that can then squeeze as much money out of them as possible

What is ‘Agile’ – Look at www.agilemanifesto.org, and try honestly assessing your organisation against these statements and principles. How does your organisation, programme or project stack up? If it does stack up then you will experience at least the benefits described below. BTW – if you don’t believe me, contact me and I’ll prove it to you (peter.measey@radtac.co.uk).

Why Transform to Agile – RADTAC’s Vision

Radtac's vision is:

‘We believe in challenging the status quo and we believe in the innate ability of people to rise to the challenges of their organisation’.

Looking at the analysis in the diagram below, the value to be gained from implementing agile is huge. It fundamentally and positively transforms the delivery capability of companies to enable continuous delivery of valuable software.

Using a very simple measure, if the cost of IT in an organisation is £10M, looking at the figures below shows that over £6M is saved from implementing Agile!

With those sorts of figures at stake, would you risk the success of the transformation to enable that value to someone who is inexperienced at transformation and who could just as easily seriously compromise the delivery capability of the business?

Effective Agile Transformation – Radtac’s Values

Radtac has been helping organisations transform to Agile since 1998, and these are our organisational values that we have evolved throughout that period. We live these values day to day and they help us ensure that the organisations we work with transform effectively and safely. The values are described in a way that describes what we value ‘over’ what we value less.

Evolution over revolution – ask yourself why all effective systems in the natural world follow an evolutionary path. Sometimes revolution is required; a meteorite strikes the earth or a business model is fundamentally broken by a new business paradigm; however the need for revolution is rare. Evolutionary change is far safer than revolutionary change and it also enables the organisation to continuously evolve and stay aligned to the changing business world.

Collaborative partnerships over supplier relationships – collaborate across the internal and external organisation structures. Build collaborative partnerships across the value chain rather than creating barriers in the value chain via supplier driven relationships. Focus people and teams on delivering valued added outcomes to their customers rather than inward looking delivery within smokestacks. Reduce cost of delay by focussing on continuous delivery of excellent product.

Pragmatic transformation over fundamentalist dogma – there is no single magic ‘answer’ for Information technology delivery provided by any one framework or method (Agile or not). There will need to be a pragmatic mix of different frameworks to meet the need of an Information technology department. There is no ‘cookie cutter’ approach to transformation……..teams, projects and programmes are all different; the real skill of transformation is to enable people to visualise the problems that a transformed delivery approach will deal with. Beware the method fundamentalist, they are the enemy of effective delivery.

Transformational leadership over transactional management – day to day managers manage the current delivery process (if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got); transformational leaders enable the organisation to evolve and to continue to evolve. Today’s dynamic globalised IT business world is fundamentally different to how it was 20, 15 or even 10 years ago; this level of change will only increase. The companies that survive are the companies who have the ability to transform to meet the challenges of the continuously evolving IT delivery world. The management team in the organisation need help to transform themselves from being managers to become transformational leaders. ‘Managers’ will fight against and block transformational change.

Realising innate potential over hiring new staff – Your company has got where it is due to the people within it. Your people work for your company because they have (or had) a belief that your company demonstrated a vision that they could align to. This is especially true in the IT world where most people could pick up another role relatively easily. RADTAC’s vision is ‘We believe in challenging the status quo and we believe in the innate ability of people to rise to the challenges of their organisation’. You have great people in your organisation, in Information Technology your people are your organisation. Enable them to realise their potential to enable the organisation to realise it’s potential.

Simplicity over complexity – I wrote a previous blog on ‘Yes we’re Agile – by the way what’s vertical slicing’. There is a significant risk that as organisations grow roles in the organisation become polarised and smokestacked. What then happens is that each smokestack implements lots of processes and signoffs (or ‘waste’ as Lean would call it) to ensure that their back is covered if/when delivery fails. The key statement in any transformed organisation is that the delivery and management frameworks are as simple as they can possible be and that the organisation relies on it’s people to rise to the challenges of the organisation within standards and guidelines that are as simple as they can be.

Effective Agile Transformation – The fundamental lesson we’ve learned

The fundamental lesson we have learned over the last 15 years of helping organisations to transform is that organisations need help to deliver effective transformation. Transformation is complex and difficult, especially if behavioural transformation is involved.

Agile is not about ‘doing’ Agile it’s about ‘being’ Agile, it’s a mindset.

The diagram above shows our experience of what happens in organisations, and the rationale for getting help from Agile transformation experts is that it causes much less disruption to the business, is significantly cheaper and also enables delivery of the agile benefits significantly faster.

Would you try and write a software system without employing expert software developers ? So why would you think that something much harder (such as transforming an organisation of human beings) can be done by people who don’t understand transformation?

Author

Peter Measey

Peter Measey

"What I enjoy most about radtac? Our team ethic. And working with the best people on the market." Peter’s managed and contributed to the implementation of some of the largest Agile project and delivery management transformations in the UK and worldwide: think British Airways, BT, Fidelity Investments, HMCE, NHS, Nokia and Rolls Royce. Peter’s a DSDM Board Director, Certified DSDM Trainer, Certified Scrum Master, Practitioner and Trainer, PMI Agile Certified Practitioner and Prince2 Practitioner. And in between consultation and implementation duties, Peter trains and coaches teams in the UK, USA, India, China and across Europe. Read more