The Agile Tribe

The business, the coach and the Agile transformation

on June 18, 2010

The idea for this blog started after reading an article: Organizations Going Agile: Tread with Caution blog on InfoQ, talks about the role a Coach has to take on as someone bringing together the larger organisational group in an Agile transformation rather than just focussing on a pilot team only. This role is critical.

Where to start?
Change and particularly the adoption of Agile cannot just be sustained through pilot projects but requires organisation wide change, especially at the leadership level. The coach needs to be involved in this end to end process as early as possible, but also as high up in the organisation’s management levels as possible to enable the cultural change needed.

Quick returns
Unless management/decision makers can see Return on Investment (ROI) in time and money very quickly of Agile in action (read that as build trust between Agile, the coach and the Executive teams), they will not engage or support a move to Agile. This is why coaches often start the journey at the team level as suggested in the original article. ROI is not the only thing that drives success. Prior to starting the Agile transition process other factors like – the current organisational culture, team culture, team experience, business engagement also need to be considered. Also don’t forget, the Agile Product Teams that live on after and also BAU handovers if product teams aren’t being used.

Size doesn’t matter
Even if a company is small, it will require a lot of coaches/change agents and hefty budgets with few short term returns to leverage immediately. So this means that improved project delivery has to be the short term goal to justify the spend required to drive the transformation initiative. Reviewing the whole organisation and looking for weak areas to improve is a grand idea. However, unless some real return can be demonstrated in a two/three year time frame, no publicly held organisation could justify the funding. This is why large scale Business Process Modelling (BPM) projects crash.

Transformation is a long term initiative
The success or failure of a cultural transformation to Agile is also about courage, education and pace across the whole company: This includes IT, Business, HR and especially Finance because every aspect of how project delivery works will change, so everybody needs to be onboard the bus, with the proviso though that every business area does not have to be involved all at the once. Transformation is a long term initiative and you pick teams that are welcoming of this change. This way a coach can assist in selectively improving areas that can benefit most from a more adaptive/Agile delivery approach first. Then use these results as evidence of success within the organisation to catalyse further transformation.

Question. So what is the best stage of the project process for Agile coaches to get involved?

Answer. Right from the very beginning and right at the top!

Coach Utilisation Chart


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