How to Spark an Agile Revolution: 5 Steps to Win the War

A year and a half ago, if projects were our battles, my company was on the losing side.  The battleground of the IT project portfolio at our Company was a mess — ineffective communication, extreme frustration, and stalled projects across the organization.  But then a spark of Agile inspiration — fueled by new Agile tools — ignited an organization-wide revolution. A grass-roots Agile Scrum model has been our winning battle strategy.  This article will tell you the story of an Agile revolution and how we conquered our foes.  Our Agile Revolution was won by chipping away at our disorganized, decentralized, top down project approach, one battle at a time.  I can identify 5 battles that once catapulted our success to win the war to become an Agile company: Battle #1. Convince one individual that the Agile war is a good idea and worth fighting.  Having an organizational Coach or Champion is key.  Many people think of Agile as a buzzword or a fad, or that it doesn’t apply to their particular area of the business.  The core concepts of Agile are universally valuable.  Certainly Agile started as a Development discipline, but it can be successful for any part of the organization.  Fifteen months after adopting Scrum, 86% of Salesforce.com employees were having a “good time” or the “best time.” Only 40% said that before adopting Scrum.  92% would recommend agile to others.  Perhaps employees like agile because there’s 2/3rds less overtime according to University of Calgary research.  At SingleHop, a managed services hosting company, a single Agile Champion turned into 85% of the organization using Agile in 2 years. These are the benefits that Agile promises for everyone. Having a passionate Champion in the organization that understands and believes in the benefits of Agile is the only way to start to formulate a strategy to win the war.   Battle #2. Convince your Generals and Admirals that Agile is a good idea. Not only do you need to have a powerful General to formulate the winning strategy for the organization, but that General needs to be able to get all of the other Generals and Admirals moving in the same direction.  What organization doesn’t want to achieve “higher productivity and lower cost, improved employee engagement and job satisfaction, faster time to market, higher quality, and improved stakeholder satisfaction”?  Reported Benefits of Agile Development – Mountain Goat Software Mike Cohn  But, change is hard and Agile thinking and concepts are very different from traditional ways of thinking, and the ways that companies have always done things.  A commitment from leadership to respect, and uphold Agile, as well as a commitment to invest in the necessary tools, training, and process is required.  Battle #3. Convince One Team that Agile is a good idea, and start using it in the trenches Once you’ve got commitment from leadership, piloting Agile with a team is the next obstacle.  This may involve convincing and training, and will most certainly slow current perceived project momentum down while the team churns with retraining their way of thinking.  But, spending the time with this first team is foundational to moving it to the rest of the organization.  After all, individual and team commitment are the key component of Agile success.  I think Eisenhower was referring to Agile teams when he said “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” It won’t be perfect, some project casualties will happen.  But, in my experience what emerged from this first team was a model for other teams to follow, as well as an underlying excitement and enthusiasm that infected the rest of the organization.  Battle #4. Enable the One Team with the proper weapons and tools to help them tackle challenges with Agile Teams need the weapons to organize their work, as well as to automate tasks to create organization and as much automation as possible to thwart the enemy.  Enabling the One Team with these powerful weapons, will give them the tools to really embrace Agile.  Figuring out how to apply Agile for the One Team and across the organization is a big hurdle.  This requires investment in time and resources to make these tools successful and possible moving away from legacy tools and ways of doing things.  Some of the most effective weapons in the war are the ones that make life easier for the team, to communicate, collaborate, and create a continuous flow of work.  And making the tools scalable at the outset to be able to share Agile best practices, processes, and resources to create wins across the entire organization is a key battle strategy to create long term success.  Battle #5. Let the One Team's success be your Battle Cry to the rest of the organization Finally, once you have so many wins under your belt, the rest of the Organization will see the success, and want it too.  Agile ideas make sense, and once the One Team overcomes the hurdles and makes the investment in making Agile successful they become the rallying force that the rest of the organization wants to be part of.  It is not an easy war to win, and there will be many casualties along the way; from overcoming old ways of thinking and doing things to embracing new tools and expectations around how work moves through the organization.  But, by following these simple strategies you can win your war on Agile too! By arming yourself with the right tools and mindset, you too can win the Agile war. Viva La Revolution!  We provide Agile training, to check out the schedule click here  
Elizabeth Volini
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How to Spark an Agile Revolution: 5 Steps to Win the War

Elizabeth Volini
Agile Management
12th Sep, 2017
How to Spark an Agile Revolution: 5 Steps to Win the War

A year and a half ago, if projects were our battles, my company was on the losing side.  The battleground of the IT project portfolio at our Company was a mess — ineffective communication, extreme frustration, and stalled projects across the organization. 

But then a spark of Agile inspiration — fueled by new Agile tools — ignited an organization-wide revolution. A grass-roots Agile Scrum model has been our winning battle strategy.  This article will tell you the story of an Agile revolution and how we conquered our foes. 

Our Agile Revolution was won by chipping away at our disorganized, decentralized, top down project approach, one battle at a time.  I can identify 5 battles that once catapulted our success to win the war to become an Agile company:

Battle #1. Convince one individual that the Agile war is a good idea and worth fighting. 
Having an organizational Coach or Champion is key.  Many people think of Agile as a buzzword or a fad, or that it doesn’t apply to their particular area of the business.  The core concepts of Agile are universally valuable.  Certainly Agile started as a Development discipline, but it can be successful for any part of the organization.  Fifteen months after adopting Scrum, 86% of Salesforce.com employees were having a “good time” or the “best time.” Only 40% said that before adopting Scrum.  92% would recommend agile to others.  Perhaps employees like agile because there’s 2/3rds less overtime according to University of Calgary research.  At SingleHop, a managed services hosting company, a single Agile Champion turned into 85% of the organization using Agile in 2 years.

These are the benefits that Agile promises for everyone. Having a passionate Champion in the organization that understands and believes in the benefits of Agile is the only way to start to formulate a strategy to win the war.  

Battle #2. Convince your Generals and Admirals that Agile is a good idea.
Not only do you need to have a powerful General to formulate the winning strategy for the organization, but that General needs to be able to get all of the other Generals and Admirals moving in the same direction.  What organization doesn’t want to achieve “higher productivity and lower cost, improved employee engagement and job satisfaction, faster time to market, higher quality, and improved stakeholder satisfaction”?  Reported Benefits of Agile Development – Mountain Goat Software Mike Cohn 

But, change is hard and Agile thinking and concepts are very different from traditional ways of thinking, and the ways that companies have always done things.  A commitment from leadership to respect, and uphold Agile, as well as a commitment to invest in the necessary tools, training, and process is required. 

Battle #3. Convince One Team that Agile is a good idea, and start using it in the trenches
Once you’ve got commitment from leadership, piloting Agile with a team is the next obstacle.  This may involve convincing and training, and will most certainly slow current perceived project momentum down while the team churns with retraining their way of thinking.  But, spending the time with this first team is foundational to moving it to the rest of the organization.  After all, individual and team commitment are the key component of Agile success.  I think Eisenhower was referring to Agile teams when he said “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” It won’t be perfect, some project casualties will happen.  But, in my experience what emerged from this first team was a model for other teams to follow, as well as an underlying excitement and enthusiasm that infected the rest of the organization. 

Battle #4. Enable the One Team with the proper weapons and tools to help them tackle challenges with Agile
Teams need the weapons to organize their work, as well as to automate tasks to create organization and as much automation as possible to thwart the enemy.  Enabling the One Team with these powerful weapons, will give them the tools to really embrace Agile.  Figuring out how to apply Agile for the One Team and across the organization is a big hurdle.  This requires investment in time and resources to make these tools successful and possible moving away from legacy tools and ways of doing things.  Some of the most effective weapons in the war are the ones that make life easier for the team, to communicate, collaborate, and create a continuous flow of work.  And making the tools scalable at the outset to be able to share Agile best practices, processes, and resources to create wins across the entire organization is a key battle strategy to create long term success. 

Battle #5. Let the One Team's success be your Battle Cry to the rest of the organization
Finally, once you have so many wins under your belt, the rest of the Organization will see the success, and want it too.  Agile ideas make sense, and once the One Team overcomes the hurdles and makes the investment in making Agile successful they become the rallying force that the rest of the organization wants to be part of.  It is not an easy war to win, and there will be many casualties along the way; from overcoming old ways of thinking and doing things to embracing new tools and expectations around how work moves through the organization.  But, by following these simple strategies you can win your war on Agile too!

By arming yourself with the right tools and mindset, you too can win the Agile war. Viva La Revolution! 

We provide Agile training, to check out the schedule click here


 

Elizabeth Volini

Elizabeth Volini is the Director of Project Management for SingleHop, a cloud services infrastructure provider in Chicago, IL. She is a leader in IT Project and Program Management for 15 years.

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