Posts Tagged With: transformational projects

What are the tipping points for your agile transformation?

I’ve frequently said that agile transformations are marathons and not sprints. But when someone runs a marathon there are mile markers to understand how far they’ve come and to help them get their second (or third or fourth) wind.

While there is no single model for how a company will progress through its agile transformation, it is a good idea for transformation teams to proactively identify tipping points where previously unique outcomes or behaviors have become commonplace. While such milestones won’t help them forecast how much longer it might take to reach their ultimate goals, it can provide a leadership team with proof that things are continuing to move in the right direction. Such evidence is critical if there is to be sustained commitment and investment in the transformation.

This list is not exhaustive nor is it in chronological order. Depending on what the starting point is for the organization and where the transformation team chooses to focus their efforts, there may be additional milestones and the sequence of when those are accomplished will vary.

  • Team social pressure encourages appropriate agile behaviors without the need for sustained external coaching
  • Delivery frequency matches stakeholders’ change appetite
  • Zero defects
  • Empowered Product Owners with sufficient capacity, capability, knowledge and influence
  • Team allocation shifts from maximizing utilization to maximizing value delivered
  • You don’t hear team members say “the business” anymore (we are all “the business”!)
  • Pivots in product or solution direction are praised, not punished
  • Teams provide accurate and current updates to information radiators and stakeholders effectively pull information from those radiators
  • There is NO one size fits all for ceremonies, practices or tool
  • Overtime and weekend work is the exception not the rule
  • Hiring practices and performance measurement systems emphasize the “how” as much as the “what”

What would you add to this list?












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Because “It’s there” is not a good reason to pursue agility!

I’m seeing increased similarities between online hype surrounding agile and the marketing of weight loss products. Losing weight or being agile are being promoted as the main objective when both of these are just a means to an end.

We don’t invest significant effort and cost just to lose weight. We want to feel better about ourselves, look slimmer for others or gain health benefits.

Similarly, agility should never be a goal until itself – we need to define what we are hoping to realize by achieving a higher level of agility.

This is an important distinction.

If our focus is purely on becoming more agile, it can cause leadership teams to define overly ambitious time frames for achieving certain objectives or demanding unrealistic levels of capability given their industry, culture or other context. This is similar to someone who doesn’t attempt to connect their weight loss desires to specific achievable outcomes. Over time, this can cause the individual to engage in obsessive dieting behavior which might leave them worse off than before.

A traditional, multi-product large company undergoing an agile transformation should always aspire to reaching a higher level of capability, but it is doubtful that they will ever be as agile as a new, small startup. I enjoy playing golf and try to set achievable goals for myself each playing season but comparing myself to a PGA tour professional will demoralize me and eventually cause me to give up the game.

When managing projects, it is wise to understand what the relative priority of the constraints on a given project are. If a sponsor indicates that delivering on time is most important, then cost, scope, quality and other constraints could be subordinated to schedule.

With an agile transformation it may be advisable for the supporting leadership team to prioritize their objectives before getting started. Are they primarily focused on increasing customer value, is it about improving quality, cost containment or increasing the engagement and happiness of their team members? It can be very educational to have each senior executive rank a predefined list of such outcomes individually and then have the leadership team compare the differences in perception. This exercise might help to avoid misalignment issues at a later stage of the transformation.

If we don’t know where we are going and why we want to get there, no road will take us there.


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Does your PMO hinder or help your agile transformation?

An agile project management office might sound to some like an oxymoron, right?

This might be a reasonable assertion as many PMOs were first formed to provide oversight over a portfolio of projects and enforcing standards sounds like the antithesis to agility. But many successful PMOs have evolved beyond governance and control to helping their company reach higher levels of organizational project management maturity, and increasing agility should be complementary and not contradictory to this pursuit.

There are many ways in which PMOs can hamper progress towards greater agility including:

  • Enforcing standards over principles
  • Continuing to apply traditional funding models and prerequisites to agile investments
  • Obsessing over vanity metrics such as velocity or time to market rather than business value delivered or shipped features utilized
  • Evangelizing agile from the ivory tower instead of actively engaging with and supporting teams
  • Failing to inspect and adapt

So what can a PMO do to actively support an agile transformation?

  • Collecting chronic impediments from agile teams, curating and prioritizing them, and championing their elimination by the appropriate senior leaders
  • Having the courage to say “NO!” when a given context is not suitable for using an adaptive approach
  • Advocating for funding to incent early adopters to try new delivery approaches
  • Encouraging staff who possess the right expertise, behaviors and attitude to train and take on Agile Lead/Scrum Master or Product Owner roles with coaching support
  • Examining their own operational processes and leaning them out as much as possible
  • Shifting portfolio reporting from being a manual, onerous process to the automated consumption of information radiators
  • Migrating from an artifact-centric delivery approach to an information-centric model
  • Transforming heavy, gate-based governance to a metrics-driven, exception-based process
  • Working actively with functional managers, procurement, HR and other key stakeholders to change their project engagement models to be more support of adaptive approaches
  • Helping portfolio governance committees to make their investment selection, evaluation and prioritization processes more agile

An agile transformation provides the leadership of a PMO with a good opportunity to review their charter and service catalog – are these still relevant, and if not, what can be changed to ensure that the PMO is not identified as common impediment by agile teams!







Categories: Agile, Facilitating Organization Change, Project Management, Project Portfolio Management | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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