There are various reasons behind moving to Agile. Some are proactive and some are reactive. Proactive motivations tend to be accompanied by a greater understanding of the business benefits of Agile and the culture change it implies. However, this is not always the case. The reasons behind the motivation can determine your chances to achieve a real transformation. Let’s take at a notional proactive-reactive model that looks at some motivations for moving to Agile and what you can do to enhance your chances of gaining the business benefits of doing so.
- "It’s the trendy thing to do." Agile is popular, so we should do it. This is reactive and not a strong motivator for change. When another trend comes along, Agile may be abandoned. Agile may be seen as a hollow initiative and some may wait it out to see if it will go away. It will be important to investigate the benefits of Agile to see if it is right for you. Then determine if real commitment can be gained.
- "The competition is doing it." Others are doing it, so we better do it. This is reactive. Although it may provide a driver for change, it does not provide clarity on why Agile was chosen. Some will question why what a competitor does is good for us. What happens when they do something else? It will be important to investigate the benefits of Agile to see if it is right for you.
- "We need to reduce costs." This is a reactive and insufficient reason whereby Agile is seen as a tool to cut costs and maybe the workforce. This will not lead to the business benefits of moving to Agile. Although it may be an outcome, other benefits of Agile may be gained if you are willing to adapt the culture.
- "What we have isn’t working." We’ve been using another process to deliver software and it isn’t effective. This is a reactive reason with little understanding of Agile, but it may provide an initial motivation for change. However, moving to Agile without understanding what it takes may lead to a failed deployment. It is best to understand the root cause for the failures in the past, because this can affect your change to Agile.
- "We hope to increase employee morale." This is a proactive reason based on an understanding of the importance of employee engagement and empowerment to improve morale. Validate that there is real commitment to empowering employees and self-organizing teams.
- "We hope to improve productivity." This is a proactive reason when the goal is to empower employees and help them improve productivity. The danger is that management may believe that Agile is something someone else must do to increase productivity or the real intent is to make employees work harder. The other challenge is that productivity may come at the expense of sacrificing quality. It will be important to investigate all of the benefits of Agile, not just productivity.
- “We aim to decrease time to market.” This is a proactive reason in which Agile is seen as a way to shorten release cycles. If there is an understanding that this implies a change across the organization to get from market idea to release and it is meant to satisfy the customer, then this is a good starting point. It is still important to discuss the benefits of Agile to see if it is right for you.
- “We want to deliver customer value.” This is a proactive and genuine reason if Agile is seen as a way to engage the customer and understand value. Validate whether there is a real commitment to delivering value and an understanding of the need to change organizational behaviors and processes to get there .
- “We believe in the Agile values and principles.” This is a proactive and genuine reason where Agile may be seen as a positive change in company vision and behavior. Validate a drive toward continuous customer engagement and employee engagement that can help gain the business benefits that Agile can bring.
In all of these cases, you need to validate commitment to the values and principles and the culture and business change it entails. Once the initial motivation is understood, we can work to adapt it with the goal of better gaining the business benefits of going Agile.