People and not policies, processes, practices or platforms are required to achieve successful projects.
This is why the following principle from the Agile Manifesto needs to be careful considered whenever an agile transformation is underway:
Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
The required shift is significant but subtle.
It’s a project manager changing how they phrase a simple action from “assigning work items to team members” to “team members committing or selecting which work items they will complete”. It’s a sponsor being mindful of how she expresses her concerns when observing a daily standup. It’s a team member volunteering to help peers without fear that someone will say “focus on your work, that’s NOT your job”.
Training at all levels is a good first step in the journey, but as with any type of soft skills learning, there is no substitute for hands-on experience.
Coaching will help to create behavioral muscle memory, but good coaches don’t come cheap, and limited availability of effective coaching support could act as a throttle on the pace of your agile transformation.
Leaders who walk the talk are essential but it is insufficient to have only executive leadership aligning with the desired “to be” set of behaviors if functional managers or other important influencers continue to follow traditional playbooks. This is one reason why coaching services could add value beyond just delivery teams by reinforcing leadership learning.
Behavior changes need be embedded across all aspects of culture.
One way to support this could be by taking the Manifesto’s value statements and principles and incorporating them in a personal, meaningful way into the company’s core values. These will provide a baseline for verifying individual alignment during performance appraisals and could also serve as a litmus test for evaluating how well potential candidates might fit.
It’s relatively easy to change organization policies or to introduce updated procedures or tools, but (to mashup Lao Tzu and Gladwell) changing human behavior requires a journey of ten thousand steps.