Why are many lean & agile adoptions not delivering the expected results?
- Is it because of their lack of experience?
- Is there not enough focus on learning?
- Did they forget about change management?
- Are they not doing Agile by the book?
- Is it because they haven’t hired an experienced coach?
- Maybe they forgot about the technical practices?
- Is it because it’s driven top-down, bottom-up, centrally or inside out?
- Is it because you haven’t mastered complexity or systems thinking?
- Or because the portfolio level isn’t aligned?
- Maybe they should do more gamestorming or serious play?
- Or focus on continuous improvement?
Possibly! But many cases I’ve seen are related to organizational design.
Why would you think that creating an agile team should do the trick?
Agile teams are focused on delivering value on regular intervals. Within a couple of weeks they work on a list of business opportunities, often expressed as user stories or features. Together they work full speed ahead to analyze, develop, test and release the whole set. Their focus is strong and simple.
However, in order to do this, they are depending on people outside of the agile development team. Business unit managers, system engineers, marketeers, help-desk,… These are all individuals that are part of different organizational entities which have another focus.
- Some focus on keeping existing systems up.
- Other focus on expanding the customer base.
- And even others focus on minimizing change, such as help-desk and support.
While the agile development team’s primary concern is releasing pieces of value in regular intervals, this is only a minor concern for others. Let it come as no surprise that this has a serious impact on the delivery success rate of the agile development team.
- User stories are not completed within the iteration because the business owner had not time to validate them.
- The next release could not go live because the help-desk had no time to prepare for support.
- Operations decided to delay the installation because they faced a storage capacity issue.
How can we ever reap the benefits of a change-embracing process if the rest of the organization does the opposite? So instead of promising great results through agile coaching, I now start by looking at the organization. And in most cases, I have to deliver this message:
Coaching your teams will bring no major added value, as long as we don’t start redesigning the corporation.
Funny thing is that it comes as no surprise to most managers.
Some are willing to take this risk and step forward. I found one! One of a rare breed, who is more concerned about company success than covering his own #ss. In my opinion, that’s where you can really deliver value as a coach. Helping him to design an organization that is built on taking advantage of constant change and feedback.