Everything you need to know about agile transformation
Blog: Monday Project Management Blog
What started as an ideology for developing quality software efficiently has evolved into a way of thinking about business as a whole. By embracing interdisciplinary teams, open collaboration and communication, and openness to change, organizations small and large can deliver more successful products and services faster than ever before. But doing so requires a large-scale shift, otherwise known as an Agile transformation.
In this guide, we’ll examine the principles that drive Agile transformations as well as the differences between transformation and adoption of these tenets. Along the way, we’ll see how project management is an important aspect of Agile transformation and how you can use monday.com to move your transformation along successfully. But first, let’s define what an Agile transformation is.
What is Agile transformation?
In simple terms, Agile transformation describes changes aimed at adopting Agile values and principles. As the word transformation implies, the process encompasses the entire organization rather than a single team or department.
A successful transformation entails overhauling most systems and processes and discarding others. It requires embracing Agile values and principles across every team and department and especially executive leadership.
As one would imagine, this kind of undertaking isn’t marginal, quick, or easy. It requires dedication to reactivity, flexibility, and collaboration that transcends traditional hierarchies and departmental silos. It’s a mindset driven by the core values and principles of the Agile manifesto.
“Agile transformation” is a part of our Project Management Glossary — check out the full list of terms and definitions!
The 4 main values of Agile transformation
Undergoing an Agile transformation requires a deep understanding of the values and principles of Agile, along with why and how they impact product, project, and business success. While the 12 principles of Agile are worth studying in their own right, they all spring from the four core values outlined in the Agile manifesto:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
It’s important to keep this distinction in mind: These values are prescriptive of priority rather than one or the other. The processes, practices, and ideas on the right are not unimportant. But in Agile, they’re less important than their counterparts. For example, an Agile approach doesn’t suggest you forgo planning, it simply states that the ability to respond to change is more important than adhering to a rigid plan.
Agile transformation was originally created as a guiding ideology for software development, but you’ll notice that only one of the values describes software. You can replace “working software” with “great products” or “services” that you provide your customers, and the values are still applicable for many types of businesses.
While tech businesses are likely familiar with Agile by proxy of their software teams, this doesn’t necessarily mean the organization itself is Agile. This results in some confusion that’s worth clearing up.
Agile adoption vs. Agile transformation
Agile adoption is when a team or department adopts Agile principles and practices within their sphere. And while they may benefit from doing so, this adoption doesn’t describe Agile transformation as, in fact, Agile adoption in one project or department is often stifled by ingrained practices in other departments within the business.
A total Agile transformation requires an upheaval resulting in fundamental changes across the entire company. It’s an arduous process that often faces many roadblocks and tremendous resistance, sometimes taking years to complete. On an individual level, it requires a significant shift in mindset, attitude, and ways of thinking about work on a macro level.
Put simply, undergoing an Agile transformation entails a sweeping overhaul of the company culture that requires buy-in from every corner of the organization.
When you should use Agile transformation
Most organizations still operate under traditional structures that are incompatible with Agile. The way the businesses structure management and departmental hierarchies and how they deliver their products and services must change radically for true Agile transformation.
A well-defined, siloed, and rigid hierarchy is the norm in traditional businesses. Executives govern from the top and their decisions flow downward, with middle managers ensuring their teams execute according to plan.
In an Agile organization, governance is redistributed and hierarchy flattened. Small teams are self-governing and given the autonomy to respond to information they’re closest to. Middle management, rather than acting as taskmasters or directors, must become leaders who provide vision, coaching, and inspiration. And executives must themselves become champions of Agile by seeing the business from a wide angle and establishing operational bounds, such as resource management and project schedules.
Whether it’s a business developing a new product or a new service, the traditional approach is to establish a goal, work towards that goal, and release it once it’s completed. In software development, this is known as the waterfall method. Each iteration of the project follows the previous iteration with little deviation from the original plan until the team completes the project. The problem with this approach is that you won’t know whether the project succeeds until it’s released into the world months or years later.
Consider the traditional project management approach that’s planned in detail from beginning to end. As practically any experienced project manager will attest to, this approach inevitably runs into unexpected ad hoc requests and ad hoc tasks that threaten timetables and budgets. Thinking in Agile terms, these ad hoc projects can lead to new opportunities.
The Agile approach breaks projects into small, functional parts, which are completed in work sprints. This results in continual releases that enable teams to adapt to market changes, stakeholder input, and customer feedback in order to strategize project development and determine the next phase. Short, focused, daily meetings ensure teams stay on track, and after every iteration, a larger retrospective meeting helps identify areas of improvement.
Depending on the size of a business and how established it is, the culture shift is often the most difficult aspect of an Agile transformation. Abandoning the traditional working model is not an easy task — it involves changing the corporate culture of a company. Think of the stereotype of a scrappy startup with minimal hierarchy and rapid releases. In this environment, the idea is to move fast, respond to market changes and customer feedback, and get iterations of their products and services out the door as quickly as possible. You could describe this as a chaotic version of Agile.
For established businesses rooted in traditional structures and practices, shifting to a fast-paced yet reflective and communicative way of working is a culture shock. For some, it’s exciting. But for most, it’s an uncomfortable shift from their normal way of working. Moving the cultural needle requires continuous coaching, education, and support on the merits of Agile.
Why project management is important in an Agile transformation
Agile adoption is often the catalyst for a wider transformation. As such, this adoption deals with the systems and practices associated with Agile. Project management software, in particular, is where many of these new systems and practices come to life. Scrum, Kanban, and the concept of working in sprints are all components stemming from Agile thinking.
In short, project management is where any Agile transformation begins. When you look at the potential benefits of Agile project management, it’s easy to understand why:
- Higher quality products: When stakeholders are involved and new information is integrated throughout the development process, the result is higher quality products.
- Less project risk: When a project team is reactive and can pivot based on new information, long-term plans become adaptive strategies and projects are more likely to succeed.
- More visibility in project performance: Agile entails breaking projects down to their smallest constituent parts, so stakeholders know what’s completed and what’s needed throughout the project lifecycle.
- Better project control: When leadership can see progress from a micro and macro level, they can assess progress, make necessary changes based on real-world feedback, and control the flow of their projects far easier.
To begin an Agile adoption and reap the benefits of a more flexible, responsive, and collaborative way to work, the first step is overhauling systems and providing tools to support an Agile approach to project management.
How monday.com helps with Agile transformation
Whether it’s a small team adopting Agile or an organization beginning its transformation, embracing a Work OS that supports Agile processes and practices is essential. monday.com is built — and continuously refined — with agility and flexibility as its guiding light.
Highly customizable task boards and templates are the heart of monday.com’s approach to project management. Fast access to sprint planning and sprint retrospective templates are the foundational systems for Agile workflows. And since data on monday.com is shared across the entire organization, collaboration and open communication flow easily across departments and silos.
monday.com’s flexibility extends to traditional organizations as well, with templates for traditional Waterfall projects. And with dozens of integrations, teams can incorporate their existing tools and data into monday.com, making it the perfect foundation to launch an iterative Agile transformation.
Frequently asked questions
For those wanting more information about Agile transformation, here are a few common questions and their answers:
What is Agile transformation?
Agile is an approach to project management that favors rapid iteration and small releases over large releases. It helps teams deliver value faster while providing the ability to react to new information and feedback during the process. This evaluation of new information and feedback is built into Agile methods and frameworks, enabling teams to respond to changes in real-time and pivot effortlessly.
What must management do for a successful Agile transformation?
A successful Agile transformation requires, first and foremost, buy-in from leadership. This is often the catalyst for a culture shift from the top down. Adopting systems and tools can begin the shift from the bottom up, acquainting team members with new ways of delivering and iterating on their work. Taken together, it requires continuous support and education for every individual across the entire organization. That said, a successful Agile transformation is iterative, unhurried, and comprehensive.
How to measure Agile transformation
The first step to measuring Agile transformation is establishing the metrics by which you want to measure. Some potential metrics to include are:
- Employee Engagement: Measure whether employers are more satisfied, willing to engage more, or feel a sense of purpose in their projects and work.
- Customer Satisfaction: Measure whether your customers are delighted by their experiences with your products and services.
- Quality: Measure the quality of your products and services to determine whether you’re meeting and exceeding market expectations.
Agile is the new frontier in project management
By definition, any transformation is a lengthy, challenging process that creates something entirely new from what came before it. But without transformation, progress stagnates. As consumers grow wiser and more discerning of the products they use, traditional business approaches grow less relevant.
If teams and entire companies want to stay competitive, they need to deliver higher quality products and services at a faster rate while responding to rapid market changes and customer demands. Transforming into an Agile organization is a challenging process that doesn’t happen overnight, but the results are well worth the effort.
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