I've been meaning to write about agile transformation and transformational change in general but haven't yet found the time. This short list is predominantly from a current large technology operating model transformation I helped inspire and currently helping lead.
1. Cultural change is hard - really hard..!
We all know the culture change is hard, that cultural change comes last, not first, but no amount of preparation can prepare an a transformation team for the difficulties of fallout of cultural change. We knew going into the programme that the culture
Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. Its not". Dr Sesuss.
- Lead by doing, not by telling. People respond to their environment and will follow actions of their leaders, rather than words they say.
- Be prepared to push views forward and hold lines, but be willing to evolve your views.
- Be evangelical yet willing to listen and respond.
- PDCA - Plan, Do, Check, Adjust. Introduce new behaviors, communication styles, try them, get open/honest feedback at appropriate moments and evolve and learn from
2. Embody and lead the change
This one may seem obvious but practicing what your preach and including mid and senior management along is critical. We have chosen to run the implementation as a SAFe agile release trains (ART) for this reason to allow management to live through the agile principles and roles in the same way in which we are asking the organisation to behave.
"Culture does not change because we desire to change it. Culture changes when the organization is transformed; the culture reflects the realities of people working together every day." Frances Hesselbein
Seeing leaders embrace and embody the change is an incredibly powerful motivator as it shows a level of commitment and understanding.
3. Move quickly and learn
There is a tendency to spend too long 'designing' the right start for a transformation with each option having various pros/cons.
Start small with a manageable number of teams, learn from the approach, learn from the teams themselves and continue evolving. With SAFe, I'd suggest working with teams first and then launching an agile release trains (ART) rather than jumping straight into an ART as this provides an opportunity to learn and level the organisations understanding of agile and currently levels of agile practices
4. Principles not processes
There is good reason the agile manifesto is described using principles and when applying Scrum and SAFe we need to remember that same mindset - principles over processes. It is easy to fall into the trap that framework 'x' says and blindly holding onto it without thought to the impact it may have.
Understand and evangelise the Lean/Agile principles and reflect regularly to ensure they are fit for purpose and aren't negatively burdening the team or organisation.
Everyone will have an opinion, some strong, some passive, but providing an appropriate platform for people to have their voice heard is another powerful tool required for a successful transformation. We have achieved this with a combination of enterprise social networking (ESN), networks of change champions, regular lunch & learns and a wide-ranging training / coaching network.
"One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say." Bryant H. McGill
Having multiple platforms is important as different personalities will have different preferred communication mediums, from the traditional email, public questions during demos through to tricky questions during training - all should be heard and actioned.
This may not be a groundbreaking set of lessons put forward here but if not new, let me add my voice of importance to them and make sure they are given sufficient energy!