Top 3 challenges in Agile transformations

Three Challenges to Agile Transformations

Agile may look like a simple concept, but it can be a difficult mindset to adopt.

Agile product development is essentially an iterative and incremental approach that enables faster course correction based on early feedback from customers, market, and stakeholders. It may seem straightforward; however, this simple concept can take organizations years to implement successfully.

1) Lack of leadership buy-in

An organization’s managers, executives, and other leaders are responsible for the adoption and success of Lean-Agile practices. Only they have the power to drive and sustain organizational change and operational excellence by empowering individuals and teams to reach their highest potential.

Leaders, therefore, need to be bought into the Agile product development mindset. They need to exemplify behaviors that will influence and motivate the organization to pursue a better way of working. They can set an example by coaching and engaging individuals and teams to reach their highest potential through Lean and Agile values and practices. Organizations lacking leadership buy-in won’t be able to go too far on their Agile journey.

2) Lack of investment in Agile coaches

A significant change like an Agile transformation will need dedicated change agents to help implement and sustain change. Some of these changes include: 

  • Structuring teams cross-functionally instead of organizing people in silos
  • Enabling a team environment that fosters collaboration within and outside of the team
  • Empowering teams to take collective responsibility for the quality of the product
  • Encouraging stakeholder involvement every step of the way to enable faster learning and adjustments
  • Embedding specialized roles and services like compliance, DevOps, and infrastructure within the product development process

For a successful Agile transformation, Lean-Agile change agents or Agile coaches are crucial to coach all forms of leaders and teams throughout the organization and get everyone involved. An Agile transformation will simply fail to deliver results without effective Agile coaches at all levels.

3) Not prioritizing process improvement

Another major challenge that organizations face with their Agile adoption is limited or no capacity allocated to process improvement ideas that are identified during retrospectives. Retrospectives seek to uncover what is working well, what is not working well, and what the team can do better in their next iterative planning cycle. These process improvement ideas require time, money, and expertise, which may be in short supply, or product initiatives may simply take precedence.

With the right coaching and leadership buy-in, organizations can start supporting process improvement. The key to investing in process improvement is to think of the Lean practice of Kaizen: improvement through small changes. By prioritizing 2-3 process-related improvement items each planning cycle, teams will be able to incrementally improve how they operate to deliver value and truly become high-performing.

Agile practices can truly change the culture of an organization, allowing it to compete in this digital age and deliver value faster. By overcoming these challenges, securing leadership buy-in, investing in change agents, and prioritizing process improvement, organizations will be able to successfully reap those benefits.

This is an Agile Alliance community blog post. Opinions represented are personal and belong solely to the author. They may not represent the opinion or policy of Agile Alliance.

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Amy Tayal

Amy Tayal

Amy Tayal, a globally experienced Lean-Agile Coach and Consultant, has led 10+ full lifecycle Scaled Agile transformations focused in the Finance, Education, Healthcare and Government sectors. She is the founder of Unleashed Agile Consulting and a partner at Skillbook Academy , companies that have helped multiple enterprises, from the likes of USAA and Amazon to government organizations, achieve significant results.

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