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Struggles of Becoming Agile

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Last updated on
13th Oct, 2020
Published
06th Nov, 2017
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Struggles of Becoming Agile
 
 

With the ever-shrinking timelines for delivering technical solutions, more and more IT companies are now compelled to shift from traditional delivery models to more Agile delivery approaches. Organizations are expected to quickly make the said transition in terms of their processes, practices, tools, and techniques while being capable of delivering more with an exact number of resources or even less.

Transitioning into Agile delivery approaches is no easy task. Organizations and teams tend to struggle to make the necessary changes. So, what are some of the pertinent challenges in transitioning into Agile?

Strategic misalignment
Consider a plump of baby ducklings swimming in the water following the mother duck. The ducks will follow the mother duck following her cry. The mother duck sets the direction and sets an example by leading the team. If at all the mother duck loses focus the little ducklings go astray.

An IT services delivery company shifting to Agile is exactly the same. The strategic objectives of the organization must directly be linked to the tactical decision of doing delivery using Agile approaches. Often what happens is that the C-level executives suddenly hear the latest buzzwords from the industry and blindly try to implement them within the company. If the leaders themselves embrace the principles and values in Agile and then motivate the staff in following the same, then the application of the new approach becomes more fruitful. 

I once worked in an organization where the CEO of the company was one of the first individuals to become a Certified Scrum Master (CSM®) from the company. This ensured that the CEO himself understood the terminology and the dynamics in following Scrum and was better able to even onboard customers to get their solutions done using an Agile delivery approach.

Receptiveness to change
The success of any change depends on how receptive the individuals are for that change. Agile demands teams to move away from being process oriented to being more focused on collaboration, communication, and continuous improvement. Organizations who have been used to running projects in waterfall approach with well-defined plans and with tight processes often find it difficult to move away from their comfort zone. 

Agile demands just enough documentation to execute projects and expects teams to figure out things on the go. Teams must be more hands on and be prepared to experiment and be ready to fail. 

Clients too need to adapt to these changes by first being onboard to Agile contract types of Time & Material models and be receptive for a continuous definition of requirements and ever-evolving solutions.

‘We’ vs ‘I’
One of the common problems which most of the teams have is with regards to ‘groupthink’ and the ‘dominator’. Teams often tend to go with the ideas of the consenting majority even when an idea given out by one single individual seems most plausible. Similarly, there can be one person in the group who can be dominating and be able to influence the entire team. 

Another side of this problem is where teams expect one person to be the superhero and be responsible for taking up a task and completing it all by himself. This is the traditional waterfall approach where the assignee is expected to be the sole owner of a task. Agile begs team members to be different where individuals are expected to pitch in whenever a task is pending or whenever a team member is stuck and be able to provide a solution to take the team forward. Thus, Agile teams are expected to be self-organizing and self-healing. This requirement for change in mindset often leaves new Agile teams scratching their heads for answers.

In conclusion, a shift from traditional approaches to Agile requires shifts in the mindsets of both employees as well as the leaders. It is often a matter of getting the basics right and getting the consent of everyone to follow suit. However, this often is the toughest part in transitioning to Agile!!
 

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Rumesh Wijetunge

Chief Innovation Officer - Zaizi Limited, Chief Operating Officer - LearntIn (Pvt) Ltd., Director /

Rumesh is an IT business leader with over 12 years of industry experience as a business analyst and project manager. He is currently the CIO of Zaizi Limited, a UK based data management company heading the operations in Sri Lanka, the COO of LearntIn, a global training institute based in Sri Lanka and is also a lecturer / trainer at multiple private universities on management, IT, business analysis and project management subjects. He is the current president of the IIBA Sri Lanka chapter and is one of the most qualified and sought after trainers in Sri Lanka. Refer his LinkedIn profile for more details and to see more articles he has written on linkedin