Two Dimensions of Agile Transformation

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Earlier this week we talked about the idea that agile adoption and agile transformation are not the same thing. Agile adoption is about introducing practices, the doing side of the equation. Agile transformation has to do with change, the being side of the equation.

As I’ve thought about this over the past few days, it seems we can break transformation up a bit as well. We can talk separately about the changes that have to be made to the structure of the organization, and differentiate that from the changes that have to happen within the individual.

The two dimensions of an Agile Transformation:

1. Organizational transformation – Restructuring the organization in a way that aligns teams and technology with the value creating capabilities of the business.

2. Personal transformation – Realigning your personal value system to reflect a more agile world view, including things like servant leadership, responsibility, empowerment, emergence, uncertainty, and respect for people.

I think it’s important to isolate these variables when we talk about bringing agile into an organization. Think about these scenarios:

1. Adopting agile practices in a functionally siloed waterfall organization, with people that don’t embrace the agile ethic.

2. Coming back from a two-day CSM course, totally pumped to be agile, but faced with the same siloed waterfall organization and developers that won’t develop incrementally.

3. Reorganizing around teams, but still delivering in a waterfall manner, with heavyweight command and control leadership.

Remember that our goal is greater business agility. To make a difference, we need to address each of the three dimensions independently… with a specific plan to deal with each… but also together, introducing change incrementally and continuously, addressing all three aspects simultaneously as we as we go.

I think all of this is just a long way of saying that focusing on any one of these variables in isolation isn’t enough.

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