Agile needs no introduction in today’s world. The term gets used more than “computers” today in terms of business context.

Today’s rapidly changing, digitally infused markets and the very intensifying fights for customers certainly demands that organizations execute at an unprecedented speed and flexibility.

To embrace this reality, many enterprises are looking for an edge – the agile approach.

The essence of agile completely focuses on transitioning and adapting from the traditional, overly regimented and slow software/product development practices to a more iterative, flexible approach that enables businesses and enterprises to quickly overcome and adapt to the ever-growing, changing business requirements and new emerging technologies.

Agile methods such as Scrum, Extreme Programming (XP), Kanban & Learn Programming, etc., emphasize completely on continuous requirements definition, close team collaboration, testing early and sometimes too often, and the successful delivery of software, in short, rapid iterations.

However, for many organizations, the idea of transitioning from a traditional software development approach to agile and continuous integration, continuous delivery (CICD) has proven elusive.

When a large enterprise initially starts down the agile path, it begins by hiring a consulting partner with quite experienced agile coaches and scrum masters. So, at first things seem to go well; the new co-location, prioritization, collaboration, retrospective, and other agile-based practices begin to show its initial results.

However, after several fruitful pilot sprints, progress hits a brick wall, as the organizational culture pushes back.

Allow me to address some of the challenges faced whilst agile adoption.

Why agile isn’t always agile…

The Need for Structural Changes

Most companies are highly organized when it comes to functional roles and disciplines. They have an assigned team of developers and a team of QA Analysts. Agile doesn’t essentially necessitate assigning new managers to the team, but it surely does require the need to manage them. Given that teams are created that stay together over time, the need to change the organization where the project/ product is the strong side of the matrix. Meaning allegiance is less to the manager and more to the team members. Without the structural changes to support this new organization, managers often find themselves with less to do.

Cultural Shift

Words cannot emphasize the cultural implications of agile transformation. Ignoring the cultural and change-management implications of agile is possibly one of the biggest mistakes large organizations make. Successful transformations not only require a bottom-up change when working at the team level, but also a change in the way executive-level operates, as this fairly has an unbalanced effect on the culture of the organization. Conversely, an agile transformation can drive cultural changes as and when required by focusing on customer centricity, learning, collaborations and much more. When implementing an agile culture, you often must give up the preexisting ways of working. The question is “How much are you willing to give up?”

Not investing in the talents of your people

One of the things that has made Silicon Valley start-ups successful has been their emphasis on finding and hiring the best talent. That talent is fuel to power an agile machine. For many organizations, talent strategy is an afterthought of an agile transformation. In the process, some very important questions, such as the following remain unreciprocated.

  • What are the crucial intrinsic skills required to be successful in the agile transformation?
  • Where will talented individuals with these skills be sourced from?
  • How will these employees be supported as they transition to an agile way-of-working?
  • What about the individuals who might not be required in the new agile organization?
  • How will career-paths change to a more expertise-based model?

There is more to “going agile” than adopting an agile methodology for a project. An organization should consider carefully the need to be agile, and what kind of projects need to be agile. Only after answering these questions, it is advisable to start discussion and planning to decide the right agile methodology. If adopting an agile methodology is not right for all projects or the organization, then individual agile practices should be adopted in projects to reach a desirable level of agility. Else, day-to-day operational problems will occur. Having team members with management buy-in and experience can help the management mitigate the negative impact of any issues, problems, or challenges whilst adopting an agile culture.

It’s not an all-or-nothing equation. An agile transformation in any enterprise takes some time and grit to execute perfectly. Organizations that are ready to embrace these changes with open arms are those who are taking steps to learn, unlearn and re-learn new processes and agile way-of-working

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