Book presentation: Agile Transformation - A Practical Guide to Change Beyond the Happy Path
Agility has accompanied me for almost my entire professional life. During my time as an engineer, I implemented safety-critical telecommunications systems, among other things, and quickly discovered my love for project management. At least as quickly, I realised: the classic product development processes do not fit the rapidly changing requirements of the market. So in 2013, we started an agile self-experiment in a subarea at my former employer and achieved some - albeit not the very big - successes. Almost 10 years later, we are no longer just talking about agile project teams, but about holistic agile organisations! I have been working in one of these for 8 years.
At borisgloger consulting, we not only act according to agile principles ourselves, but also advise our clients on agile transformation processes. We have noticed that none of these transformations - without exception - goes according to plan and without mishaps. This is particularly interesting because the literature is full of successful examples and reports of experiences. Obstacles and challenges? These are often absent! Our aim was therefore to outline a typical transformation process with all its ups and downs. The result is a book that describes the path away from the "happy path".
How do project managers come in touch with agility?
Project managers who have already been allowed to lead an agile team in a project organisation are certainly familiar with this situation: The teams start working in iterations, become faster and more productive and suddenly communicate their obstacles in all clarity and distinctness. The main problem is usually that many of these obstacles are due to the structures and current processes in the company as a whole, and they are either difficult to solve or, in the worst case, impossible to solve at all. Frustration quickly arises and the initial agile enthusiasm wanes - the passion threatens to disappear. Over a multitude of projects, departments, divisions and entire organisations that I have been allowed to accompany, I am now convinced that agile ways of working can only achieve success if the framework conditions in the entire organisation change. This means that the issue is also of immense importance for project managers: their projects will only benefit from agility in the long term if the entire organisation changes.
Agile transformation is a journey, not a set formula
Our book "Agile Transformation - A Practical Guide to Change Beyond the Happy Path"
describes what companies and their stakeholders can do to get closer to a customer-oriented and agile organisation, beyond a predefined scheme. In many companies, the first agile initiatives have already been launched. Yet sooner or later one realises: we need "something bigger" to really leverage the benefits of agility. Thus, an agile transformation ideally starts with the commitment of top management to embark on the journey towards a more agile organisation. It is important to be clear about what the goal is and why and how agile principles can support this. In addition, we like to work with the six building blocks of a successful agile organisation (architecture, infrastructure, skills & expertise, customer orientation, management frameworks and culture & leadership), which we describe in detail in the book. These building blocks help management think about the transformation and the dimensions that need to be considered.
Now the motivation is high to finally get started. After the kick-off, we usually observe two different ways of approaching the transformation. One of them tends to end up on the wrong path: classic change management tools are used to "roll out" and "implement" the agile transformation - linear, less integrative paths that are guided top-down. Since our understanding of transformations is different and, above all, more modern, we recommend an approach that forces change in iterations with the help of a cross-functional team. The team lives the agile principles and acts as a role model for the whole company.
However, even the most successful transformation team - that's what we call these cross-functional teams - usually strays from its path at least once along the way to the summit. In that case, a factual situation analysis and planning for realignment helps - ideally together with the clients. This way, all those involved can take off with renewed vigour and master the next intermediate stage.
Finally, in one chapter we give tips on how to proceed once the first goal towards a more agile organisation has been achieved. Is the company now completely transformed and can it rest on its laurels? Probably not, hence the look at what comes next.
We consider the book to be a roadmap for the journey to an agile organisation. No matter where your company is at the moment: you can start right there in the book and hopefully get valuable hints for your further steps.
Author: Christoph Schmiedinger has over 10 years of experience in the agile development of products and systems. Christoph Schmiedinger had his first encounter with Scrum as a project manager for a manufacturer of safety-critical communication solutions when his team was to become agile. In parallel to his then new agile role as Product Owner, Christoph Schmiedinger supported the Scrum Master, his team, and the management significantly to make the transition successful. For more than 8 years now, Christoph has been working for a consulting company with a focus on agile methods and their application in product development and entire organisations. His focus is on business agility, agile transformations and scaled projects, especially in the financial, telecommunication and automotive sectors.
Key words: Project management, Agile Project management, book presentation