With more and more companies appreciating the power of business agility, there’s greater focus than ever on implementing Agile transformations to unlock that power. However, Agile transformations are full of challenges. From the right support, team focus, ways of working, and team capabilities, there’s a lot you need to figure out.
One under-appreciated element of a successful Agile marketing transformation is tracking it via the people involved and how they act. You can’t solely focus on metrics like cost savings, because any Agile transformation is ultimately a transformation of culture. In my 15+ years helping organizations successfully implement Agile, I’ve built a system to understand and track this cultural transformation.
How to Think about Agile Transformations
Any Agile transformation is a bit like a diet. Quick crash diets that don’t fit with a person’s lifestyle usually leave them worse off than when they started. Similarly, an Agile transformation that’s viewed as an intense but finite period of changes which haven’t been aligned with the organization’s culture and goals are unlikely to succeed.
Put another way, these transformations are a marathon, not a sprint. Aside from how long those races are, a successful marathon requires training, planning, and the right mindset.
Understanding How Organizational Transformation Occurs
Here you need to start with a single important fact: you won’t see the impact from an Agile transformation right away. It’s a journey and it takes time to build the components needed to get the outcomes you want. Note that this is easier when the journey is tracked through a visual tool like a dashboard.
This gets even more tricky and intimidating when transformation is done on multiple levels at once. For example, it can happen at the individual, team, organizational, and enterprise levels. Trying to manage simultaneous transformations at multiple levels at the same time makes the entire process feel even more overwhelming and magnifies complications and problems. That’s why it’s best to start small, get a successful Agile team operating, and expand from there.
But beyond scope, in order to capitalize on business agility benefits from an Agile transformation, it’s helpful to understand the roles within an organization which catalyze this transformation. Those roles are culture champions, operation optimizers, and impact igniters.
Viewing Agile transformation through the lens of these three roles allows for a balanced view of what real success looks like on your Agile journey. Additionally, it more easily allows those across the organization to see themselves and their role in the transformational journey, putting more of a people focus into a process which can easily get bogged down in metrics. This people focus is critical because, at the end of the day, the entirety of the organization has a responsibility to the vision of success.
The promise that business agility has to offer is big and bold, but remember getting there requires an organization to start small and focused. If you are looking to break down organizational silos and bring the new way of working to the forefront, you will want to build momentum through a pilot which ties to culture, operations, and impact. Early learners and successes are critical to the journey as you pivot and persevere proving the benefit case. Remember, this is not about Agile; this is about value. Your frontrunners will set the tone for what’s to come.
This process usually begins with culture champions. They’re the ones to blaze the trail and bolster excitement for a new way of working. Using tools like internal satisfaction or employee Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys, they both develop and measure culture as an Agile transformation progresses.
Their role is so foundational because ultimately it’s your culture that gets you to true business agility. Getting back to the diet analogy, your culture is like your personal habits. You can have the best diet in the world but without the habits to make it a part of your lifestyle there’s simply no way it’s going to stick.
Likewise, without the right culture to back up the ongoing process of being an Agile business, your Agile transformation is unlikely to succeed in the long run.
Once an Agile transformation is underway and people begin to collaborate, you start to unlock the operation optimizers. This role is more about how your processes are working: are they effective, efficient, do you have flow to your work? To understand this, you might look at Agile metrics like throughput, predictability (though it's more often speed to market), speed to learning, speed to value, etc.
So, while the culture champions are setting that foundation, operation optimizers are showcasing efficiencies and ensuring that processes are either working or are being iterated on.
The final set of people and metrics you need to be monitoring are the impact ignitors. They’re the ones who come in later to effectively demonstrate the better business results achieved through the transformation. After all, it’s not enough to simply obtain results, you need people capable of properly framing and presenting them to ensure continued support for business agility.
Seeing the Business or Customer Value Beyond the Metrics
At the end of the day, you're doing what you're doing for a reason beyond something like speed. Any Agile transformation is about the ultimate business or customer (or both) value you're driving towards. After all, a focus on value over simple metrics is a core Agile tenet. Often, that value may simply be something tied to improving employee experience, increasing customer satisfaction, and/or driving shareholder value.
In the end, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach for an Agile transformation. Instead, success is driven by adaptability built around the right culture. The journey is tough, takes focus, but if you're looking for the right partners who have guided others before, you can find them through AgileSherpas Ascension. Bringing in experienced coaches helps ensure you’re able to plan a path towards business agility that fits with your unique needs.