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Navigating Wobbles in Implementing Agile Transformation
Paul Gray
Head: Development Technology Solutions, DVT

Navigating Wobbles in Implementing Agile Transformation

Monday, 10 February 2020 11:34
Paul Gray,
Head: Development Technology Solutions at DVT

In every Agile transformation, whether it is at a team or organisational level, there comes a critical juncture when agile project management progress may seem to stall. This is a precarious phase and requires vigilant attention to avoid potential setbacks in your agile approach to project management.

Much like any new endeavour, whether it's pursuing a hobby, nurturing a relationship, or embarking on agile transformation, there's typically a honeymoon period. Everything feels novel and exhilarating, our minds revel in the sensory overload of acquiring new knowledge and experiences. We're riding the dopamine wave. But inevitably, that initial enthusiasm may wane. We might not feel as engaged, excited, or inspired as we did at the start. This can be a make-or-break moment for some relationships, hobbies, or agile implementations. However, there are proactive steps we can take to navigate this phase successfully and ensure the continued momentum of our agile transformation journey.

Identify Issues in Agile Implementation

To navigate agile transformation successfully, the first step is recognizing when individuals, teams, or organizations approach their Change Threshold (CT). Each entity possesses its unique CT, influenced by various factors. The Change Threshold represents the elastic capacity of participants to accommodate additional change, akin to the limitations of stretching a rubber band. Attempting to exceed this threshold may lead to setbacks or an inability to absorb more pressure.

In the context of agile project management and agile implementation within teams and organizations, understanding and managing this Change Threshold is vital to avoid negative consequences.

Symptoms of the CT being reached

Symptoms of the CT being reached can be as follows;

  • Lack of positive engagement with the process.
  • Irritability and negative reactions to further change.
  • Disengaging from the process and returning to old (comfortable) ways of work.
  • Excessive questioning of changes.
  • A generally lack lustre team or organisational performance.

Regrettably, in many organizations, the command and control mindset often responds to these symptoms by intensifying efforts for agile transformation, or in some cases, returning to previous practices. It's essential to recognize that neither of these reactions effectively addresses the issue and can potentially lead to detrimental consequences for agile project management and the overall success of agile implementation.

The Fix

An astute Agile coach, scrum master, trainer or mentor will be on the lookout for the invariable symptoms and have a plan for how to deal with them.

The key is to avoid introducing additional changes that might disrupt the current processes, allowing them to become ingrained like muscle memory. Just as we embrace agile principles and the agile approach to project management, when we learn a new skill, our brains initially work hard until it becomes second nature—akin to muscle memory. Once a task becomes effortless, it creates room for us to implement agile transformation and absorb further changes, enhancing the agile transformation process.

As these learned skills become the norm, we can gradually introduce new improvements and agile development, which are essential and often arise naturally in the retrospective cycle.

Summary

Just as every individual is unique, so is every team and organization. Some teams may exhibit a very high Change Threshold (CT), allowing for rapid progress in embracing the agile approach to project management. Conversely, other teams may have a lower CT, necessitating more cautious handling during agile transformation.

There's no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to agile implementation, and as Agile practitioners, it's crucial to recognize the distinct circumstances of each situation. Moreover, genuine agile transformation, with its numerous benefits of agile, is a gradual process. Take, for instance, the Microsoft transformation into an Agile organization, which spanned ten years to reach its current state. Rushing change can be counterproductive, as it may exceed the CT, making the process more challenging and slowing overall progress in agile transformation companies.

Editor's Note: This post was originally published on 10 February 2020, and was updated on 5 December 2023

Published in Agile
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