Stop Your Agile Transformation!

Stop Your Agile Transformation!

2018, Jun 19    

You are planning or currently executing an Agile Transformation or Journey? You should stop that immediately! This is the advice that Michael Sahota gave in his CAL1 training that I attended, and I totally agree.

Contradictory? No, not really.

For me, as an Agile Coach or even as consultant working with organisations, that have the desire for going Agile, it seems quite contradictory to agree to stop Agile Transformations, but still I would fully recommend it to any leader out there.

When I was sitting in the meeting room where Michael Sahota hosted the Certified Agile Leadership training in Vienna, he posed a question: Who of you is currently going through some kind of Agile Transformation or Journey?

Most hands in the room, a group of leaders, went up pretty quickly - of course. For many participants that joined this training (or workshop?) it was one of the reasons they were there. Michael’s reply were two simple words of advice:

Stop it!

Okay - that was unexpected. But actually, I agree, and the reason for this is pretty simple: When you take the time to ask (and listen) what the goal of any of the Agile Change Initiatives out there is, you will get plenty of replies. There are those who do it to get better outcomes, those who are in it for improved collaborations, better products, increased customer satisfaction or even those who just want to deliver faster and more stable.

What you will -not hear any of them say is, that they want to become an Agile Organisation just for the sake of being and Agile Organisation. Of course not - it would not make any sense. It would be like getting a brand new engine for your car and then just placing it into the garage and never take it for a drive.

Agile is the means, not the end

What you actually want to achieve is usually something different: You want to utilise Agile to build a high-performance organisation. And by the way, that is something the whole idea and foundation of the Agile Manifesto is about. The whole philosophy and concept is designed to do exactly that!

What came to my mind during this training was something bothering me for some time already. Whenever I am with one of my clients I always felt, that, despite the job title of “Agile Catalyst”, the whole Agile thing is just the content that I am transporting and not the actual service that I provide. To phrase it with Michael’s words: Agile is the means, not the end!

All in all my clients thrive to achieve high-performing organisations, or at least they are in for an improvement in their organisational performance of some kind.

λόγος! (Logos!)

So why the advice to stop an ongoing Agile Transformation? Simply because if the meaning that you transport. Find a name that describes what you actually mean it. Is it for higher customer orientation? Call it a Customer Focus Initiative! Do you intend to improve your collaboration? Then what you do is a Collaboration Improvement. Maybe you want to go for more team autonomy and self-organisation to reach higher performance? Why not just call it an Initiative for Autonomy and High-Performance?

The important thing to understand here is, that the words and names you give something carry an important message. You don’t want to do Agile just for the sake of it. And if that is the case, then you really need to drop it!

And when you are about to drop it: Also don’t call it a Transformation. But there’s enough content in this discussion to save it for another post.