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How Most Agile Transformations Start
Most of the Agile transformations I have witnessed have started like this: First, a company raises a strategic initiative on so-called Agile implementation. A large budget is allocated and a tender is arranged to purchase Agile coaching services from companies on the market. Then employees are trained, and the pilot teams start working. However, they immediately stall, because there is lots of tension between them and an old cultural landscape.
Here are only a few of the issues that pilot Scrum Teams usually face.
- Teams organized around internal business processes and, consequently, artificial dependencies on other teams.
- No political will to assign a real Product Owner, who would be the product’s mini-CEO and could quickly make decisions, increasing both the product’s- and, in the end, the company’s agility.
- Challenges with assigning full-time team members, the team being dragged apart.
- Difficulties with creating full-scale cross-functional and cross-component teams.
- Tasks being thrown at the team by functional managers.
- Difficulties with locating the whole team at the same location.
- Dependency on vendors.
- Hierarchy inside Agile teams, with Tech Leads and Team Leads preventing teams from taking independent decisions and their self-arrangement.
All of the above are examples of “organizational gravitation”. Even when it’s not present, each company is plagued with many other factors that, visible or not, fully contribute to the fact that pilot teams can only implement superficial changes. My experience shows that most pilot projects have very limited success. Often, companies even don’t realize how effective their teams could potentially be.
How to Make Pilot Teams More Successful
In a small start-up, success is largely defined by skills and competency of team members, the level of trust between them, their drive and enthusiasm, and good practices.
In large companies, however, the culture (that is, behavior and beliefs) depends on other factors, namely the system of dedicated Teams, bureaucracy level, KPI and bonuses system, the number of levels in company hierarchy, etc. Organizational gravitation is so strong that it makes sense to create the right structure for future pilot projects first, and then launch the Scrum Teams. Below I will explain why this approach is more likely to succeed.
The Team’s Effectiveness Is Defined Before It Is Launched
In my work, I saw teams and companies whose pilot projects had tremendous success. There was no need for metrics and KPI to see the difference. For a long time, I thought about the things that make these teams different from the less effective ones. I was happy to read Richard Hackman’s and Ruth Wageman’s works because their research fully supports my personal experience.
“60% of a team’s success is defined BEFORE the team is formally launched.” (Ruth Wageman)
According to Richard Hackman (Leading Teams) and Ruth Wageman (Senior Leadership Teams), a team’s effectiveness is defined as follows:
- 60%: the team’s structure (we’ll talk about this later)
- 30%: the way you launch the team
- 10%: the quality and level of team coaching
Thus, the team’s design and structure are key to its future success.
This is why the right way to start is to begin with organizational structure.
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Source:: Business 2 Community