"I've been working in this company for a long time, we've tried everything. We've tried involving the teams, we've tried training senior management, but nothing sticks! We say we want to be agile, but..."
Many people in organizations that try to adopt agile will have said this at some point. Not every company fails to adopt agile, but many do.
Why does this happen, what prevents us from successfully adopting agile practices?
Learning from our mistakes
Actually, this section should be called learning from our experiments. Why? Because every change in an organization is an experiment. It may work, it may not work - but for sure it will help you learn more about the organization you work for.
I learned this approach from reading Jason Little's Lean Change Management. Probably the most important book about Agile adoption to be published this year. I liked his approach to how change can be implemented in an organization.
He describes a framework for change that is cyclical (just like agile methods):
- Generate or gain insights: in this step we - who are involved in the change - do small experiments (like for example asking questions) to generate insights into how the organization works, and what possible things we could use to help people embrace the next steps of change.
- Define options: in this step we list what are the options we have. What experiments could we run that would help us towards our Vision for the change.
- Select and run experiments: each option will, after being selected, be transformed into an experiment. Each experiment will have a step of actions, people to involve, expected outcomes, etc.
- Review, learn and...: After the experiments are concluded (and sometimes right after starting those experiments) we gain even more insights that we can feed right back into what Jason call the Lean Change Management Cycle.
The Mojito method of change
The overall cycle for Lean Change Management is then complemented in the book with concrete practices that Jason used and explains how to use in the book. Jason uses the story of The Commission to describe how to apply the different practices he used. For example, in Chapter 8 he goes into details of how he used the Change Canvas to create alignment in a major change for a large (and slow moving) organization.
Jason also reviews several change frameworks (Kotter's 8 steps, McKinsey's 7S, OCAI, ADKAR, etc.) and how he took the best out of each framework to help him walk through the Lean Change Management cycle.
The most important book about Agile adoption right now
After having worked on this book for almost a year together with Jason, I can say that I am very proud to be part of what I think is a critical knowledge area for any Agile Coach out there. Jason's book describes a very practical approach to changing any organization - which is what Agile adoption is all about.
For this reason I'd say that any Agile Coach out there should read the book and learn the practices and methods that Jason describes. The practices and ideas he describes will be key tools for anyone wanting to change their organization and adopt Agile in the process.