It is an interesting conundrum - managers and leaders say they want to be more Agile, yet they are usually the ones who are responsible for putting the brakes on further Agile Adoption. It is a lot like me saying that I want to get 6 pack abs but I don't want to exercise or eat healthy food. What I say is not aligned with my actions.
So why do I say that managers are putting on the brakes on Agile? Well, first it's because it is what I've seen happen at one organization after another. Managers and leaders control what is happening - directly or indirectly.
Second, surveys say so. The VersionOne Annual State of Agile Report in particular as a question about barriers to further Agile adoption. Respondents continue to point to the leadership when it comes to inhibiting agile adoption. The chart below compares the responses from the 10th Annual Report conducted in 2015, and the responses collected in 2010. It is interesting to look at the "barriers" identified by organizations and how they all relate to the leadership. It is also interesting that the results have changed little over the last 5 years.
As an Agile Coach, most clients I talk to are interested in becoming more Agile. Who wouldn't? I mean after all, what is the alternative? So I've learned that when clients express an interest in agile, I need to ask a lot of questions. If I am going to be successful as a transformation coach, I need to confirm whether people know what it is they are asking for. Leaders may say they want to be Agile the same way they say they want to be thinner or better looking. Perhaps it is what others are doing or something they heard from others that sounded really cool. So I've learned to ask questions like these:
- What is your end goal, the "Why" of being agile?
- Do you really understand what being Agile means to the organization and culture?
- Have you tried Agile before? If so, what exactly did you try what were the results?
- Do you have the ability to create long-standing teams and then leave the teams alone?
- Who in the organization wants to be agile? Is there a desire from the people and teams doing the work to become more agile? Is this an IT only initiative?
- How serious are you? Do you have a budget for training and coaching?
- What impediments or obstacles do you anticipate a change like this would encounter?
Questions like this start to give me an idea of how likely it will be that the organization can actually adopt or transform to be agile. Or becoming more agile.
Note that questions alone are insufficient. I also want to observe and talk with team members who are on the ground to see how engaged and empowered they are. I want to take the temperature of the organization, and begin to understand the culture. I want to see if what the leaders say matches what is the reality for those who are closest to the work.
What is your experience with barriers to Agile Adoption? What gets in the way of your agile transformation?