Introducing any kind of change into humans’ lives doesn’t come easy. Introducing agile into corporation is even harder.
There are at least two reasons for this, first inertia. People like to use patterns in their jobs and in their lives. Patterns minimize stress and make people feel secure. Introducing any change, on the other hand, involves insecurity and requires at least some level of engagement.
Second reason why introducing agile is hard is that it’s not immanent to corporation behavior. Traditional corporations are used to work in an environment with low level of uncertainty (market is familiar, products are familiar, processes are familiar). In such an environment they are more oriented towards efficiency increase and resource utilization, than to innovation and agility. Imposing agile way of work to such organization certainly comes with a lot of resistance, reluctance and disbelief.
In order to help you who are considering going this way, here are six steps that I have found usefull into planting the seed of agility into corporation I’ve worked for.
1. Educate the organization
2. Speaking their language
3. Consider risks
4. Be clear on the budget
5. Stress benefits for the company
6. Communicate expected delivery
1 Educate the organization
Education has to start from the basics, as most probably majority of mid and senior management are not acquainted with digital topics, software development nor details of online universe.
Therefore education goes into three directions:
- You need to explain what are your online products. Typically these include company website, web shop, app… However obvious, this should be said explicitly in order to manage expectations with respect to what will be the domain of agile approach. In other words, here you say – this is what the agile will reflect on. The reason to be explicit here is that management might assume that introducing agile will help processes throughout the organization which is not the case. Not at the beginning, anyway.
- Explain specificity of online world. Although this might come as obvious to you, remember that neither software development nor product design in online environment is something that management in typical corporation has been in touch with.Here is few points that show the essence of how digital approach is specific.
- Finally, explain the agile approach. Obviously, in order for the management to understand what this is all about, they have to understand what agile is and how it works. Apart from understanding the concept it is necessary to clearly stress what are the benefits from the perspective of the company. Little is the value of any changes if they are not contributing to the company overall. And a picture helping with the structure:
2 Speak their language
As agile is not immanent to corporations, introducing it to corporations means introducing a change. And when introducing a change, a step-by-step approach causes less friction than exposing the organization to variety of changes simultaneously on different levels and topics.
With agile, not only that you will introduce a new way of doing things (that is significantly different, even completely opposite to how it is traditionally done), but you are also introducing a new vocabulary, roles, people and technical capabilities.
When selling the idea to the management it is wise to limit number of new things that you are introducing at one moment. This means that you should focus to what is most important. Hence, if you are introducing agile way of work into typically waterfall organization, you should be focused on the essence, and even let some traditional elements slip through in order for management to swallow the change more easily.
To be concrete, when you are introducing agile way of work for the first time, you might consider wrapping it up in a coat of pilot project. This way management has a form that is known for them (pilot project), and they can put their attention to benefits of the way of work your are proposing. Otherwise, if you try to introduce new way of work, insisting on permanent setup instead of project organization, introducing product owner role and insisting on excessiveness of project steering bodies in agile – you are on the shortest road to ruin, called – We don’t understand it – we don’t approve it.
Here is an example of the proposal of agile as a pilot project, with open possibility to continue with agile after the pilot.
To management, this form gives sense of control. It gives them reassurance that if this doesn’t work it impacts limited resources, plus they can easily pull the plug and call it off.