Agile Transformation – A new hope

Hello people,

I just have been assigned to a very interesting project. It is about to do an Agile Transformation in a big client of ours. This is cool, right? But it is also very complex and sometimes confusing. So I´ll write about what we are doing in that project and explaining which approach we are using and why. So before start to explain something, I´ll give you a bit of context.

Context:

It is a big client. They have more than 15000 employees around Brazil, more than 2 million clients and are growing pretty on the last few years. To keep that amazing numbers, they need to improve their business agility and time to market. Nowadays they have a heavily document oriented process using a waterfall approach. Also, they have outsourced all software development to external providers and have a pretty troubled relationship with them. It takes two years on average to build and release a software. On the end of this long and complicated process, usually, they have a buggy software, that´s late on the market and costing a lot more than it should.

They asked us to change this painful process to a collaborative, iterative and agile approach. So after accept the work, the question is: How to start? The answer is below 🙂

Creating a team

That´s a really important part. We are talking about an Agile Transformation, this is a change on the organization itself. The team must be diverse, cross-functional and with different skills. In our case, we were able to build this team. We have 8 people. 4 ThoughtWorkers and 4 people from the client. This is an interesting mix, since the ThoughtWorkers keep pushing to change faster and the client people keep warning us to go slower, otherwise people will get scary and defensive if we push too hard. So we, as a team, keep discussing if we are going too fast or too slow. This is very important to keep us going on the right pace.

Defining goals

After having a team, we need to define our goals. An agile transformation is not a real goal, isn´t? It is very subjective, everyone who listens the term “Agile Transformation” thinks in something different. We had to align what that means. Also, this project is about an organization change, which means we have lots of stakeholders. So we needed to define who are our direct stakeholders, the goals for our team and the steps to get there.

To come up with all that definitions, we did what we call “Inception”. This is an workshop we do that takes around 4-5 days that defines goals, stakeholders, features and tasks. You can get more information about this workshop here. After 4 days we came up with a vision statement for our team, a list of goals, a list of important personas (including stakeholders) and a list of tasks required to achieve that transformation. Those tasks were classified by risk, effort and business value, but not yet prioritized.

Engaging stakeholders

So now we have a team, a clear vision, well defined goals and a lot of tasks to start to work with. But yet, we were missing an import part of this: our stakeholders. Even though, an organizational change impacts everyone, usually there is a small group of people who defines if your project is successful or not. These people need to have visibility in what the team is doing and what is coming next. Also, they need to participate and engage on the team’s work. However, often these people are very busy and don’t have time to do that. So it very difficult to engage them on a project daily basis. We solved that by presenting what we have defined so far. Also, we explained that we didn’t have a chance to get their opinions, so we went ahead and defined our next steps, based on the tasks we came up with. We have talked to them about all of this,  but they didn´t give us any input on prioritization. So they got curious and bit annoyed to see that we already had prioritized everything. So they wanted to understand more about what we were doing, so they quickly found room for us on their agendas. It was a hard move, but it was essential to make them engaged with our project. They understood our message. If they don´t follow our pace, we will go ahead anyway.

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2 thoughts on “Agile Transformation – A new hope

  1. Engaging stakeholders is so important at the start of an Agile Transformation. If you don’t get them on-board from the start you might have some big problems that threaten the success of your progress. Did you start with any information radiators? I know when we went through a transformation that got some people to talk and see what was being done.

    • Hi Tom!

      It is very important to engage stakeholders. Since we have a weekly meeting with them, it is easy to us to understand what they think about our work. On the information radatiors itself, we are adopting two strategies. The first is one is very informal. In ThoughtWorks we can get some free tickets to events or courses, so we are using this tickets to send key people in our client to those events. It is not planned, but we use this when the chance comes. The seconde is more formal and structured, in our client we have the “multiplier’s meeting” every two weeks or so, we use those meetings to perform some dinamycs with them about Agile. It works pretty well since it is easy to understand why Agile is a good methodology and is also fun! People are even performing the dynamics in their own areas! This is great, isn’t?

      Also, we’ll present a briefing about our project for the whole company in the next weeks. To make sure that everyone understands what we are doing, why we are doing and how we are doing. I’ll write more about that on the next posts in more details and also what problem we are facing when doing that.

      Thanks for your comment!

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