Six Agile Transformation Pitfalls & Strategies to Succeed

Today’s market demands more than a superficial adoption of Agile principles in pockets of your enterprise. Done successfully, transforming to adopt Agile across your organization will deliver better products more quickly. Plus, it enables you to exhibit agile attributes that promote flexibility and adaptability so you can respond quickly to market, consumer, and strategic shifts.

Why Do Agile Transformations Fail?

Why Agile Transformations Fail

While some research indicates that effective Agile strategies can help an organization achieve a 30% increase in financial performance and a 50% increase in operational performance, almost half of all organizations attempting Agile transformation fall short.

Here are six areas where Agile transformations need focused attention to ensure short- and long-term adoption and realize the full benefits.

What is Agile Transformation?

Before we dive in, let’s explore what we mean by Agile.

Agility should be viewed as an organizational structure and way of functioning, thinking, as well as a set of tools and processes to enable the organizational culture, mindset, and vision.

At SDLC Partners, our Agile experts draw upon their years of experience with common SDLC practices along with their expertise in models and frameworks such as SAFe, Lean, Six Sigma, Scrum, Kanban, and 5s.

Our practitioners blend those approaches with expertise and leadership in Enterprise Architecture, Culture, Design Thinking, Systems Thinking, and others, to create an approach that focuses on providing business value, high-quality output, and a transformative culture.

When combined with our Organizational Change Management expertise, we support an organization’s ability to adopt Agile in a way that is effective and lasting. Our approach enables more clear definitions of future-state objectives and accelerates a pathway to achieve them while finding opportunities to embed continuous improvement into the organization ethos.

Six Success or Failure Points for Agile Transformation

Agile is for the Enterprise

The values and principles of Agile were founded in and for software development, but two intersecting changes have pushed the boundaries of Agile to every part of the enterprise. The first of the intersecting points is the way that business continues to change. The pace of competition and the need to use technology as a differentiator is demanding that software delivers more value, more quickly, and that those teams are capable of flexibility with the market. Software and technology — the nebulous cloud, data as currency, and many other changes — have increased the availability of technology to more competitors of any size or shape.

Agile is not just for IT anymore. It’s a set of values and principles that need to be applied at an enterprise scale to be effective.

Alignment Between Be & Do

Misalignment between Agile practices and organizational culture has been shown to be one of the top three barriers to successful adoption and scaling.

As outlined in General McChrystal’s book, Team of Teams, traditional organizational models,  built on efficiency and optimizing predictable systems, can’t meet the current environment of greater complexity. The key is to become adaptable and resilient.

An Agile transformation focuses on rapid, unpredictable changes and complex inter-dependencies. Teams learn how to navigate the unexpected (even expect it) rather than seek to predict or control outcomes.

Successful Agile transformation gives a team, as well as an organization, the ability to rapidly reconfigure and respond to new threats or opportunities.

“Born” Agile vs. Agile Transformation

Some organizations launch with a foundation of Agile systems and beliefs like self-organizing teams, people over process, adaptation vs. “the way we’ve always done it,” performance in short iterations, etc. However, evolving into an Agile organization is very different because of the depth and scale at which deep change must take place.

The concept of ‘cultural debt’ highlights the effort needed to shift deeply-rooted beliefs and perceptions towards a new way of thinking and acting.


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Lead by Behavior

Leaders at all levels must demonstrate change and shifts in mindset and approach before others will follow and trust the change. Support through Agile coaching, training, shadowing, and mentoring support leaders in their evolution, demonstrating integrity and commitment as new learning and behavior is adopted throughout the organization.

Leaders who demonstrate agility foster agile organizations.

Reinforce & Acknowledge Change & Challenges

Anchoring growth and challenges are key to everyone learning and growing as a team versus a collection of individuals; a key Agile concept. Debriefing at milestones, calling out critical achievements, and highlighting moments for growth help reinforce desired change and solidify connections along the journey.

Feedback from within and outside the organization (i.e. customers) encourages continuous awareness and improvement.

Shared Values Connected to Outcomes

Hallmarks of an Agile organization includes behavior that demonstrates shares values are present, including inclusivity, transparency, collaboration, commitment, curiosity, and courage.

Bringing process, systems, and people back to shared values gives Agile transformation sticking power for the longer-term, but only when it’s reflected from leadership and fortified with visible decisions and behavior.

Adopt, Adapt and Become More Agile

Adopting an Agile approach to how you work, behave, and think can radically change how organizations, and your customers, experience the value of products and services. Key to transformational success, however, is ensuring that mindset, behavior, and output reflect alignment and consistency over time.

John Vorchak
John Vorchak
Director of Information Technology

John Vorchak, Director of Information Technology, joined SDLC Partners in July 2015. John is responsible for the technologies and infrastructure used to enable the organization.

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