We are creatures of habit; we learn how to do things and what works best for us which then becomes our behaviour. Trying then to unlearn any habits is hard to do as it becomes a natural instinct to do what we do and the way we do it.
Consequently, sustainability of adapting to a new learning becomes challenging over a period of time. Similar is in the case of business transformations. As individuals, while we start displaying the intended behaviour in Agile teams, the challenges that we face is the inability to sustain that behaviour. And from a business perspective, the enterprise needs to ensure that the intended changes are ingrained from the offset. The reason why most of the transformation journey fails is because of a lack of appropriate surroundings that display similar behaviour that in-turn frustrates individuals as they are unable to maximize the benefits of the change they brought in themselves.
Any large scale transformation is bound to fail if it does not holistically look at an organization and it’s DNA. The transformation change cannot happen if we focus only on individual team behaviour. Instead, we should take an overall systemic view. A rapid organization-wide change initiative to enable scalability is very important and necessary to incubate the desired Agility in the system to deliver the planned outcome. And the ability to achieve this means overcoming the challenges across People, Processes, Technologies and Infrastructure.
There has been enough content written on how Agile adoption requires a huge shift in the mind-set and culture of an organization and its people. At an Organization level, while internal staff and associates would be the critical target audience as part of transformation, the complexity would be multi-fold with the given outsourcing strategies across multiple vendors and suppliers. While we scale up Agile adoption across the organization, it requires focused effort from a centralized group (the Transformation Office) sponsored by a senior executive in the CXO organization to drive this initiative. In fact from an IT service engineer to a software development team or the Business, HR, Finance and Procurement team - everyone needs to move away from their living methodology that has been institutionalized and ingrained in the organization over a period of time.
On this journey, it is imperative to on-board everyone towards a common goal and that is where the challenge lies, due to the conflict of interest across individuals and groups. There needs to be a focused effort to enable employees from their role perspective and cadre building from a technology and behavioural stand-point (Decentralized ownership of decision making & Accountability). From an outsourcing perspective, while the internal employees are enabled for these changes, it is necessary to inculcate grooming across vendor partners and suppliers to get a sense of working as a team with a common objective.
The employees need to be “Scrum Teamed” and integrated together for a common objective. For the technology disruption witnessed, there are several Technical Epics identified for exploration with the objective to validate the new architecture / tools / infrastructure / modernization with a vague Acceptance Criteria to start with. They are important from a strategic initiative of adopting cutting edge technology and it needs “Intrinsic Motivation” amongst individuals and teams to deal with such uncertain Epics/Stories, convert them into a more meaningful outcome which can be a base for generating business benefits for future stories in the upcoming releases.
Such motivation comes with the conducive environment created to enable cross leveraging capabilities across teams with complete transparency, trust and most importantly the infrastructure to enable empirical delivery. The trust and transparency with vendor partners and suppliers is a huge effort from both the sides as it is about sharing the Risk and Total Cost of Ownership.
When we speak about the need to increase the overall Agility in the system, the idea is to achieve a nimble and simplified process that enables the organization to respond and adopt faster to changes. It is about speeding up the procurement process for environment / infrastructure needs, enabling the talent fulfillment to incubate flexibility of building Scrum teams with the capability to scale up to the emerging technology demands, aligning the HR policies and procedures around the G&O with given execution mechanism, and being flexible in teams and adopt roles that best suits the business needs.
Cultivating this behaviour at the organization level to make the overall processes nimble, requires a System Thinking approach. This involves a continuous feedback mechanism to tune the various processes and aligning them over a period of time to maintain the throttle. This allows the organization to operate at an optimum Agility with the given need.
However, organizations should avoid being rigid and applying a baseline process in the name of Agility as this would hinder the continuous improvement process. For example: while we devise an Agile structure for various Agile programs to enable transparency and doing away with hierarchical structure, it is used as a guiding framework and at no point enforced to fit into the prescribed structure. Also the motivation of individuals and the team is a key aspect for scaling the high performing Scrum teams. Keeping aside the financial benefits there has to be key process updates in the “procurement” and “HR process for recognition of talent”. This builds an environment of opportunity for the teams to up skill across cutting edge technologies and inculcate the behaviours for high performing and self-sustaining highly motivated Scrum teams.
Typically in any transformation, until recently, engineering and technology aspects have been the most ignored “Must Have”. The focus has been on the typically perceived low hanging fruit i.e. Process. However, realization soon creeps in that Engineering and Technology are the key enablers for the Process that we are trying to adopt. This is critical with the given industry trends which demands continuous adaption to rapid business change. Also the technology disruption along with Agile adoption for the given product based focus makes this critical in the overall roadmap towards Agility.
This has brought in a huge mind shift amongst the Enterprise / Application Architects towards the need to emphasise the experiential architectural model, validate the given design models and evolve adoptively keeping in mind the long-term architectural strategy and blue print for the Enterprise. As an example it has helped organizations trying to adopt cloud platform or moving to open source, thereby validating the overall approach, realizing the benefits of adoption without impacting the BAU activities. It binds the teams and creates a feedback mechanism of technology and tools adoption across teams, programs and portfolios. This approach also helps aligning/restructuring the teams i.e. Operations, Platform teams in the overall construct. While some of the prevalent Agile Scaling frameworks have very well prescribed this, the individual organization would align to it as per their need.
Enterprise Agile Adoption is a continuous improvement and evolving journey, while there can be milestones to quantitatively measure the progress and business benefits achieved, it cannot be initiated with an end state in mind. However it is critical to bring the organization to a self-sustainable state from which Agility is ingrained in the system and works in an automated model towards excellence.
Through this white paper we have tried sharing our perspective based on the journey we have traversed since 2012. While the journey has been purely based on inspect and adopt with learning throughout the journey, we would appreciate your feedback on the same and help us improve on it.