Five ways to prepare your company for Agile ways of working

Keyboard with five central keys spelling out 'agile'

Many organizations go into Agile assuming it to be a “silver bullet” for numerous business management issues.

Managers may have attended conferences or read articles where forward thinking companies, such as Amazon, Netflix or Toyota, are held up as positive case studies. This creates an expectation of success and – more often than not – the assumption that Agile will automatically work. But this is dangerous ground.
It overlooks the fact that Agile is more than a new set of systems and processes; it’s a set of values, a mindset and a fundamental shift in the culture of the organization.

Preparation is key

Every corner of the company will be expected to adopt new behaviours as part of the evolving Agile culture – many of which are likely to be worlds apart from long established habits. So it’s unrealistic to expect this level of change to happen overnight.

Rather than rushing into Agile – and then being disappointed when it doesn’t deliver immediate results – organizations need to pave the way for a smooth transition. This means preparing the company for change at the earliest opportunity; announcing your intention to evolve working practices and then following it through in a number of different ways. For example:

  1. Invest in Emotional Intelligence (EQ) training: ensure staff have all the information they need to be more open-minded. The decision to change has been imposed on them and you now need to actively support them to make the personal change required for this journey. 
  2. Get rid of people holding you back: it makes no sense to keep anyone who is not on board with the new direction. Dutch bank, ING famously went through “an emotional revolution” to rid the organization of staff with the wrong mindset; those identified as such were made redundant, even if they had all the right skills.  
  3. Encourage ownership: let staff have a say in the defining principles behind the new culture and the skills needed to make it happen.  
  4. Start low key: an Agile approach doesn’t work for every project, so pick one or two relatively small initiatives as prototypes to demonstrate it in action.  
  5. Build excitement: roll out the new approach in such a way that it creates a positive buzz across the company and brings everyone along as it gathers momentum. 

It’s all in the (Agile) mind(set)

Even with the most thorough preparation programme in place, however, it should be remembered that the Agile method is not for everyone. It won’t suit every situation, project and organization. There is certainly no one size fits all approach. And yet….

I firmly believe that any individual involved in project or programme delivery needs to do everything they can to stay relevant and adopting an Agile mindset is a valuable asset. The world of work is changing, the way we interact is different and there is a new generation of disruptors coming into the workforce. In this context, being flexible in your thinking is a vital part of having the right mindset and behaviours to adapt and thrive.

In this blog post, Colin has been sharing key points from his keynote speech the ITx 2018 conference in New Zealand.

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