Thursday, August 31, 2023

Importance of Agile Readiness for a Transformation

To be a successful farmer, one must first know the nature of the soil.  —Xenophon, Oeconomicus 

Have you ever been in a daily stand-up where everyone was reporting status to the one person they thought was the leader or where most didn’t know why they were doing a stand-up every day or ever? This highlights a lack of readying the mind for what a daily stand-up is and why we are doing it.  A lack of readiness can stall or halt an Agile transformation because people aren’t in the right frame of mind for transitioning to Agile.

Readiness starts the moment when the question, “Is Agile right for me?” is asked. Readiness activities can help you better determine if Agile is right for you. Agile readiness is akin to conditioning and fertilizing the soil before growing the seeds. It is good to take a realistic look at the conditions of the fields, equipment, and people. Conditioning the mind with an understanding of Agile principles improves the ability to adopt Agile in a way that leads to truly being Agile. Strengthening the soil helps improve the physical qualities of the soil, especially in its ability to provide nutrition for plants. They can make poor soil more usable and rebuild soil that has been damaged by improper management.

This is exactly what readiness activities can do. Examine the condition of the environment where Agile is being considered. Understand and educate people on the Agile values and principles and the business benefits that can be gained. Gauge the buy-in from leaders and the willingness and capability of teams. Determine if openness or command-and-control behaviors are being exhibited (explicitly or implicitly). Understanding this context provides valuable insight into ways to adapt and move forward.  What we learn, can help shape the agile implementation according to the condition and context of an organization.

You do not need to complete all readiness activities to begin implementing, but I have learned that if you begin implementing Agile, you quickly realize that you will need to address these areas, so it is better to be proactive. With this in mind, an iterative approach may be used. Here are high-level readiness activities that you may consider. As always, feel free to adapt this list of activities if it benefits you.

  • Establish a common understanding of Agile.
  • Construct and share the drivers for an Agile organizational change.
  • Provide Agile mindset education based on Agile values and principles. Then determine subsequent educational needs.
  • Add “Customers and Employees Matter” to the company vision and share this with employees.
  • Gauge levels of executive and stakeholder buy-in.
  • Establish an overall strategy and backlog for the agile transformation.
  • Determine team willingness and capability.
  • Identify allies, champions, and subject matter experts (SMEs) and resources.
  • Identify and establish agile roles and organization.
  • Establish agile frameworks and practices that may be used. (This should not be a prescriptive model but a flexible framework, because each team is different.)
  • Establish done criteria, user story framework, and sizing techniques.
  • Craft measures of success and general metrics.

A benefit of readiness activities is that you can adapt the transformation approach based on what you learn. Another advantage is that if you find that there are challenges in an area, you can address and improve the situation. For example, you may find that there is not a clear driver for moving to Agile. This can initiate discussions on the business benefits of Agile, motivational factors behind the move, and what it takes to be Agile.

Consider Agile readiness activities as the first increment in your transformation. The outcome of Agile readiness and what you’ve learned can help you better plan the next iteration. Finally, I recommend that once you embark on these activities, you initiate periodic check-ins to gauge progress, mitigate roadblocks (such as risks and issues), and adapt along the way.