At the heart of every business is people, and they are the key to driving change.
With a good foundation, teams of people can drive transformation throughout the entire business. Sometimes, however, companies cannot get past the surface level when trying to carry out change. In order to enact true change, people need to embrace a different mindset and make a concerted effort to adopt a culture shift. There are three main obstacles that teams face when undertaking an agile transformation, and this article will describe them, as well as identify solutions to those obstacles.
CHALLENGE #1: Trading milestones for measurable goals.
Agility should increase a team’s flexibility and speed in reaching their business goals. However, while a team may be working faster, it is not necessarily working smarter. While a new workflow may be adopted, the team may still be pursuing the wrong goals. Even worse, they may have scrapped goals altogether in favor of shifting the organization.
The most enticing thing about agile thinking is how it can adapt. If business goals are akin to mapping to a location on your phone, then in order to arrive at your destination, you need to have an idea of where you’re going, so you’ll know if you’ve arrived. Once the route is set, there might be roadblocks along the way, forcing you to take a detour. However, the destination is always the same. Agile thinking works the same way. The key is to set measurable goals for teams, and be flexible with the means to achieve them.
How do you know if you’ve succeeded? There are a few indicators of success. First, business results should be achieved more quickly and efficiently. Second, team members should always be aware of how their work is contributing to the success. No work should be done without a measurable goal. Additionally, work should be prioritized based on the results. And finally, performance results should be frequently measured.
CHALLENGE #2: Embracing agile retrospectives.
The power of agility lies in the ability to make small, continuous shifts according to learning in real-time. Working in agile sprints allows people to reflect and adjust, and sometimes the retrospectives need to actually be implemented in order to make an impact. Organizations frequently reflect on work, but not nearly as many actually implement what they have learned so that they can improve. Retrospectives allow a company to apply real-time data to improve a process. If a company regularly takes a step back and looks at both the positives and negatives, inefficiencies can be spotted, and changes can be made. By embracing the idea of continuous improvement, the team can embrace the essential idea of agility.
Keep in mind, retrospectives take time. There needs to be time for teams to trust that leadership will make improvements, and remember that the path to success will have curves on it. Learning something new is always more challenging than doing what was always done, so teams should have the space to not only explore, but also to fail. With enough time and practice, change will become second nature and continuous improvement will drive the success of a company’s transformation.
Indicators for success include an improvement of work in the team’s backlogs, along with better velocity and quality metrics. Employees will be more confident when attempting new tasks, and feedback will be given openly and honestly. All of the lessons that have been learned will be logged, and there will be a list of improved processes.
CHALLENGE #3: The role of a leader in supporting change.
Many times, when people think of agility, misconceptions arise that shifting to self-organized teams will mean less involvement from leadership. However, leaders are integral in supporting these changes. Being able to pursue measurable goals and implement retrospectives requires leaders to try just as hard as those below them. Leading a team through successful transformation takes courage as well as realizing that leaders themselves will have to learn a new way of working.
There needs to be a change in mindset and behavior from the leadership in order to achieve the company’s goals. In order for the teams to know what those goals are, leaders need to frame them through the perspective of agility. Some helpful ideas include defining what success looks like in the company’s specific department and asking for feedback from trusted team members.
Keep in mind, implementing retrospectives requires people to embrace change constantly, and this can be difficult for people, especially when the goal isn’t achieved right away. Any new skill takes time to learn, and this is no exception. The leader has to bridge the gap between learning and succeeding, and to direct the team in the right direction. Of course, this means that the leader must accept the possibility of short-term frustration. But knowing this will lead to long-term improvement should be kept in mind. While this will require courage, by showing faith in the team and believing in the process of the transformation, leaders will become a guide for teams to follow so that they can succeed. There are a couple of ideas that leaders can implement, to assist with the navigation. One idea is to field suggestions by allowing individuals to write down inefficiencies they see and suggestions on how to improve. Another is for leaders to speak to their experiences, since having a positive reference from the past can inspire their teams to push through the inevitable learning curve.
As the transformation is being carried out, leaders should always remember the human component. People need space for trial and error, and leaders who succeed in transforming their teams will use failure as a learning opportunity to improve their processes. Therefore, it is critical to choose the right team. Ideally, a multi-disciplinary team should be used since they will have all the elements needed to create value. Leaders should pick team members from different departments, such as business development, operations, sales and marketing, and IT development, operations, and security. They should make sure that the team has enough freedom to experiment, but still accurately represent how the change will affect the organization as a whole. In the end, by following the ideas presented here, leaders can help their people navigate change in a way that will transform how everyone works.
About the Author
Aykut Cakir is the Managing Director, Partner and Head of Turkey, and has a demonstrated history in Negotiations, Business Planning, Business Development and as a Finance Director for gases & energy, pharmaceuticals, retail, FMCG, and automotive industries.