Agile transformations are one of the most substantial investments modern organizations are making. Leaders can increase the odds of a successful digital transformation with eight strategic steps:
Championing Agile Transformation: Start With These 8 Steps – the SMART approach
SCOPING (Steps 1 and 2)
- Evaluate gaps and define new horizons. Before embarking on an agile transformation, leaders should identify the most salient agile gaps in their company.
Internally, they should address shortcomings and opportunities to execute the organization’s agile strategy. Externally, benchmarking existing capabilities against competitors and industry standards will provide leaders with a perspective on what’s next.
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Build a measurable case. After evaluating the existing gaps, leaders need to shortlist the most critical opportunities to agilize their business model and select one or two initiatives to focus on.
Aiming for multiple initiatives at once generates confusion and rarely yields any positive outcomes. The most agile-ready organizations have a committed C-suite that converts abstract opportunities into a few specific and measurable business cases with concrete timelines, meaningful KPIs and sufficient resources.
MODELING (Steps 3 to 4)
- Sponsor the vision. Agile transformations often start strong at the top but lose momentum as they cascade to the frontline. Leaders need to convert business cases into an inspirational vision that resonates with the entire organization – and role model it. Most leaders struggle to inspire; in fact, only 29% of employees worldwide strongly agree that their leaders make them enthusiastic about the future. If leaders fail to spark excitement, new agile initiatives will sputter as people resist change. Without employee advocacy, the agile battle is lost up front.
- Frame a change management approach. Digital transformations often affect multiple areas in an organization or even the whole company. In the absence of a strong change management framework, inertia from the top will only confuse or misalign the departments it is meant to help.
Leaders need to bear in mind that change management is key when deploying any agile transformation initiative, starting by articulating a strong vision and being strategic about who to involve and when.
ACTIVATING (Steps 5 and 6)
- Use an agile approach for the transformation itself. To rapidly deploy an agile transformation initiative, using agile methods for the transformation itself offer a substantial advantage. First, they are collaborative in nature and can ensure different areas of the company – and points of view – are taken into consideration. Second, shorter sprints help identify impediments early on and allow for quick shifts in strategy. Thirdly, you should of course “drink your own champagne”.
- Pilot use cases. Before committing more resources and implementing at scale, agile teams need to run short pilots to identify common success barriers, organizational strengths to lean on, and capabilities to build over time. Employees with a proven track record at leading new initiatives should have an early stake in ensuring the initiative can be scaled to the rest of the organization.
REVIEWING (Step 7)
- Monitor impact and alignment. During and after the rollout of pilots, leaders need to closely monitor the impact of the new agile approach on the business case and compare it with the external benchmarks and internal projections. The pilot’s outcome should be coherent and consistent with the ultimate vision it is meant to bring to life. If it is not, leaders need to propose an alternate strategy to pilot before investing more resources to scale the initiative.
TWEAKING (and SCALING) (Step 8)
- Chart a scaling road map. If leaders obtain enough insights to validate their most salient hypotheses and reduce risks to an acceptable level, they should proceed to scale the initiative. Implementing agile – regardless of its purpose – at scale may represent an investment ranging from millions to billions of dollars. Such an investment requires a well-planned rollout strategy.
Building Agile capabilities is one of the top priorities in executives’ agendas – and for good reason. It’s not just resources at stake, but a company’s ability to stay ahead and remain profitable in an increasingly competitive business world. Yet according to ScrumInc., 47 % of agile transformation initiatives fall short of their objectives. Often, their failure is a direct consequence of poor change management.
Embracing an agile transformation is never easy, particularly in an era when technology continually reshapes the boundaries of what is possible. It’s more difficult when most employees don’t see the point or don’t feel ready for it. And even more so when the investment fails. Leaders with a systematic approach to taking advantage of new opportunities will win the battle of the future – and see the investment pay off.
This article was written by Carl Danneels. G. Taboada and J. Robison contributed to it.