Fundamentals of Agile Transformation

This content is syndicated from LeadingAgile by Mike Cottmeyer. To view the original post in full, click here.

Okay…I think this is the 5th post (or so) we have in our series on the Fundamentals of Agile Transformation. You might ask yourself… wait, Mike hasn’t said anything about the Fundamentals of Agile Transformation… and, you know what, you’d be right. What I’m trying to do here is lay the foundation for a different kind of conversation on Transformation than you’re used to having.

I believe that many of us are solving a problem we think our customers have. We might even be trying to solve a problem our customers really do have. The challenge is that our customers don’t always see it that way. They aren’t trying to be more emergent, adaptive, and empowering. They are trying to be more predictable and bring value into market earlier.

I believe that most organizations are very broken… they were never built to be agile and getting them there is going to require a major refactoring. I don’t think this can be done by giving everyone Scrum training and letting them self-organize. That’s like explaining the virtues of service orientation without teaching the skills to untangle their tightly coupled code base.

My belief is that leading an agile transformation with cultural indoctrination may result in pockets of success, but is ultimately doomed to failure. The predictive-convergent organization will always see the budding adaptive-emergent agile teams as a threat. Most organizations need a top-down, bottom-up strategy to ultimately refactor into an agile enterprise.

The first pass through a predictive-convergent company almost never results in a complete adaptive-emergent ecosystem. The first pass often results in ‘agile-like’ team based organizational structures, tight coordination structures and dependency management, and iterative and incremental delivery across all the teams in the system.

I’ve started referring to it as a pre-agile pattern. It’s the first step for an predictive-convergent company to move further down the path to agile. They may never be able to fully achieve the same level of performance of the adaptive-emergent companies, but they’ll be better off and achieve many of the shorter term goals the executives seek

Every company wants to be emergent, adaptive, and empowering… but not if it means they don’t get what they need when I need it. Our goal is to figure out how to build an ‘agile-like’ delivery foundation without disrupting the controls current in place in the organization. Once that foundation is in place, the cultural side of the transformation can begin to emerge.

So let’s take a look at where we are and where we are going:

Post 1: Are We Solving the Right Problem?

Post 2: What Problems are Executives Trying to Solve with Agile?

Post 3: Is Your Business Model a Good Fit for Agile?

These three posts were designed to setup the idea that the agile community is disconnected with the goals of many executives and that different companies have different goals with regard to delivery. We called these two kinds of companies adaptive-emergent and predictive-convergent.

Post 4: How to Make Commitments in the Face of Uncertainty

Post 5: Predictability Over High Performance

Post 6: Fundamentals of Agile Transformation

I wish these three posts were a little more cohesive, but blogging for me is as much learning how to tell my story as it is me telling you my story. I had fully intended to tell you about my house building project, but I felt the need for a little more context setting.

I think we managed to lay a foundation for how adaptive-emergent and predictive-convergent companies look at managing time, cost, and scope and the expectations of each regarding project delivery, and then made a case for why predictability was the first order goal over high-performance.

Here are some topics I think we’ll explore in the next three posts.

Post 7: How Do Agile Teams Work?

Post 8: How Do Agile Teams Fail?

Post 9: Patterns For Forming Teams in Large Organizations

What I want to do here is talk about the failure modes we see in most of the agile companies we engage with. There are a lot of folks doing agile that have it totally screwed up. These next posts will also give some insight into how to properly form teams and what it takes to lay the foundation for success.

After that we’ll either fork into a discussion on the structures of agile organizations or how to coordinate the efforts of many teams having to produce integrated deliverables. We’ll get to both eventually, but not sure exactly what we’ll do next.

I’m going through great pains to untangle some complex thinking here, but I think it’s essential for helping many of you (and maybe me) understand my point of view regarding agile transformation at scale. I tell this story on whiteboards all the time, but writing it is an interesting exercise.

Also… not promising we won’t have a detour or too along the way. Writing on a cadence is hard, and sometimes you have to follow the muse ;-)


Check out the previous post, Post 5: Predictability Over High Performance.

The post Fundamentals of Agile Transformation appeared first on LeadingAgile.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

17 − thirteen =

There are 101 ways to do anything.
To find the best way, sometimes you need expert help

What People Say

“Kelly was engaged as a Program Director on a complex business and technology transformation program for Suncorp Commercial Insurance. Kelly drew on his key capabilities and depth of experience to bring together disparate parties in a harmonised way, ensuring the initiate and concept phases of the program were understood and well formulated. Excellent outcome in a very short time frame. ”


“Kelly and I worked together on a very large project trying to secure a new Insurer client. Kelly had fantastic commercial awareness as well as his technical expertise. Without him I would never had secured this client so I owe a lot to him. He is also a really great guy!”


“I worked with Kelly whilst at Thoughtworks and found him to be a most inspiring individual, his common-sense approach coupled with a deep understanding of Agile and business makes him an invaluable asset to any organisation. I can't recommend Kelly enough.”


“Kelly is an Agile heavy-weight. He came in to assess my multi-million $ Agile development program which wasn’t delivering the right throughput. He interviewed most of the team and made some key recommendations that, when implemented, showed immediate results. I couldn’t ask for more than that except he’s a really nice guy as well.”


“Kelly revolutionised the way our digital department operated. A true advocate of agile principles, he quickly improved internal communication within our teams and our internal clients by aligning our business and creating a much enhanced sense of transparency in the decisions the business was making. Kelly also introduced a higher sense of empowerment to the development teams...”


“Kelly’s a leading program director with the ability to take charge from day one and keep strong momentum at both a program and project level driving prioritisation, resourcing and budgeting agendas. Kelly operates with an easy-going style and possesses a strong facilitation skill set. From my 5 months experience working with Kelly, I would recommend Kelly to program manage large scale, complex, cross company change programs both from a business and IT perspective.”


“I worked with Kelly on many projects at IPC and I was always impressed with his approach to all of them, always ensuring the most commercially viable route was taken. He is great at managing relationships and it was always a pleasure working with him.”


“Kelly was a great colleague to work with - highly competent, trustworthy and generally a nice bloke.”


“Kelly was a brilliant CTO and a great support to me in the time we worked together. I owe Kelly a great deal in terms of direction and how to get things done under sometimes difficult circumstances. Thanks Kelly.”


“Kelly came to the department and has really made a huge impact on how the department communicates, collaborates and generally gets things done. We were already developing in an agile way, but Kelly has brought us even more into alignment with agile and scrum best practices, being eager to share information and willing to work with us to change our processes rather than dictate how things must be done. He is highly knowledgable about agile development (as his active blog proves) but his blog won't show what a friendly and knowledgeable guy he is. I highly recommend Kelly to anyone looking for a CTO or a seminar on agile/scrum practices - you won't be disappointed!”


“Kelly is an extremely talented and visionary leader. As such he manages to inspire all around him to achieve their best. He is passionate about agile and has a wealth of experience to bring to bear in this area. If you're 'lucky' he might even tell you all about his agile blog. Above all this, Kelly is great fun to work with. He is always relaxed and never gets stressed - and trust me, he had plenty of opportunity here! If you get the chance to work with Kelly, don't pass it up.”



To explore how we can help you, please get in touch