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What consultants don’t tell you before you begin an agile transition – Part 1: Impact on the organization

If you have been reading about Agile for a while and are interested in a transition or if you have already initiated a transformation, you have previously heard all the benefits that Agile can bring to your organization but …

Are you aware of the impacts such a transition will have on your organization? On your team? And on yourself? Would you know how to deal with these impacts?

If you believe that implementing Agile within a company simply means reducing documentation, standing up during daily meetings, using whiteboards and post-it notes, and getting rid of the project manager, you will certainly be shocked to see how profound the changes can be.

In a series of 4 short articles written in collaboration with my colleagues Stéphane Lécuyer, Jean-René Rousseau, Sylvie Trudel, Joël Grenon, and Eric Laramée, we aim to highlight some of the most common (and rarely described) impacts an Agile transition can have on an organization. The articles will be published weekly and will cover the following 4 impacts.

Adopting Agile practices is not a trivial change; it requires support and time to become effective. The use of external coaches, training materials, and internal support groups can greatly increase the speed and success of adoption. – Forrester Reports “Agile Development: Mainstream Adoption Has Changed Agility”.

Many organizations rely on external consultants to help them successfully transition to Agile. Others initiate a small transition after having researched the best practices. Having gained experience from the implementation of Agile within organizations over the last 8 years, we can attest that the impacts related to the establishment of an Agile development approach affect many areas in the organization. Through our experience, we have prepared a high level description of potential impacts you may want to anticipate before getting deep into your transition.

Impact Description
Organizational structure Most large organizations have a traditional hierarchical structure. When launching a new project, project managers must draft team members from various functional departments.

The Agile approach highly recommends restructuring project teams around a dedicated multidisciplinary team.

Decision making and governance The Agile approach seeks to create autonomous and self-organized teams. It invites people managers to apply a different style of leadership to their teams and pushes the decision-making authority to the level closest to the activity being performed.

Under such model, managers provide guidelines to support the decisions rather than act as the ultimate decision makers.

Compensation mechanisms To support the team concept advocated by Agile, compensation mechanisms should avoid individual rewards and foster a compensation model that takes into account the results of the entire team.

The compensation model must be aligned with the business objectives and the commitment to deliver value.

Relationship with customers At the heart of the Agile approach, is the concept of working closely with the customer (Product Owner). The relationship with the business customers will be strongly affected by the Agile transition.

The traditional form of contract and the expected availability of customers must be revised in order to ensure an effective transition.

Development processes The standard development process used within the organizations must be revised and typically “trimmed-down” to match Agile values, principles and practices.

The revision process should include the initial phases of implementation, deployment and operation.

Tools and technology The acquisition of new tools to support Agile project management and software engineering practices is inevitable.

Although the addition of new tools is not in the heart of an Agile transition, it is nevertheless important to maximize the effectiveness in implementing the new process.

Work space organization To foster collaboration within teams, organizations may need to rearrange the workspace in “war room” or remove office partitions to consolidate all the team members.

This in an attempt to improve communications and collaboration between stakeholders and develop a team spirit and strong collaboration.

In addition, easy access to certain items such as whiteboards, removable flip charts, Post-it notes is often recommended.

Behaviors In addition to practical project management and engineering approaches Agile also has a system of values and principles. In addition to ‘Do’ Agile development, individuals are asked to ‘Be Agile’, that is to say, to be collaborative and transparent, be committed and responsible and also to seek excellence.

As Agile approaches are based on greater accountability of individuals and the self-organization of teams, the leadership style of managers and the need to clearly define a shared vision change every day’s actions.

Roles and responsibilities All roles are affected by the arrival of an Agile approach. As will be presented in Part 2: Impact on some of the traditional roles, while some people might gain power, others will feel they are losing.

New skills will be acquired as motivation and engagement of stakeholders will also be affected.

Next week’s post will address more specifically to impact on the role of the project manager, the architect, the business analyst, and the QA analyst.

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