Agile and Lean ways of working and the practices that led to these concepts have been around for decades already. Certainly, there are good reasons: They empower organizations to unfold and grow in many ways to create the products and services customers really need. But Lean and Agile should not be seen as an IT niche phenomenon: nearly every department in every industry can learn and grow with it!
Here are our top tips on how your organization can pick up the pace in Lean and Agile adoption:
Be aware of your current state of agile and what you want to achieve. The way to agility is a path, not a big bang release.
What are your pain points? Do you lack flow efficiency? Do your products and services lack quality? Are your customers and employees unhappy, or do you simply deliver too little value? Make sure you have a comprehensive understanding of your current pain points and clear overall visions and goals for your transformation. But before you start, have in mind that Lean and Agile methods are not universal tools to magically fix all problems. See them as tools that can help you with things, like
- A faster time to market,
- Feedback from real customers,
- A prompt risk detection,
- Improved quality stats, or
- Better predictability of your initiatives.
As soon as you know what you want to achieve, view your journey as a huge set of little experiments – hypothesize, implement, and evaluate step by step. Always in mind that an Agile transformation is not a big bang release.
Identify the right people for your transformation and leave the laggards behind (for now)
Many changes in your journey will happen on the organizational level: whether you’re planning your changes bottom up, top down or in any folded and mixed forms of it, people are the main resource that drive a successful transformation.But not everyone is open for change: Identify the people in your organization that are willing to initiate, innovate and improve. Identify how your role models can spread their message with tons of positive experiences throughout your organization and launch the ripple effect. There will still be people within your organization that are just not willing to change and adopt new ways of working. Leave them out of the process as much as possible until the new way of working is omnipresent, and it’s an oddity to work the old way. I’m convinced that this will get every last one on board.
And what about management? If they’re not fully convinced of the new way of working, your transformation is extremely likely to fail at some time. Leadership must be team #1. They are the ones that need to manifest the big picture and embody the visions of their organization. Their job is to enable the whole organization for its journey – layer by layer – by training, coaching and guiding people rather than telling them what to do. They need to act as role models. This will let people unfold their true potential by taking end-to-end responsibility for your organization’s goals and visions.
Intrinsic motivation is your friend – people should engage in a behavior because it’s personally rewarding, and not for an external reward.
(Re-)shape teams towards their value creation
This might seem odd, but one of the main keys to unlock true agility is to let people reshape their identities: Identities towards their value creation and contribution in your organization.
Always think from a customer perspective. Ask yourself what people really need. Start to set up teams over multiple departments to cover customer journeys end-to-end. No department silo can create value on its own, but small cross-functional teams that have all the required skills can do so.
Here’s the approach: Challenge the existing value creation and identify the most important value streams. Set and prioritize your goals and visions for them. Arrange people around them and make sure everyone has a clear sight towards their customer’s needs (customers can be internally as well). Finally, create networks between your teams to make sure your goals and visions are aligned and to foster knowledge and skill sharing throughout your whole organization.
Adopt new leadership patterns: Inviting to change over inflicting change
I’m sure you’ve heard this sentence not just once: We’re agile, because we’re using scrum.
This is exactly what many organizations get wrong: Agile frameworks like Scrum or Kanban are tools that can be utilized to help people implement Lean and Agile practices into their daily value creation. These are not tools to create Lean and Agile value creation. Steps one to three won’t be optional in your transformation. If they’re not done correctly, it is very unlikely to see a team thrive on any of these frameworks. However, it could also be the other way around: if done correctly, choosing the right framework can be an optional step. Scrum, Kanban and all the other frameworks out there should just be seen as guiding principles. Let people experiment with them! Maybe a team's value stream does work better with Kanban or “Scrumban” or they even created their own one. Instead of enforcing frameworks, rather try using a minimum viable set of rules for your overall process to work and make sure that every team is supported with guidance, coaching and training throughout their journey.
If you feel lost on the way of your journey, or you simply need to know more – let’s have a chat.