Waterfall to Agile = Hybrid. What goes wrong? Is it wrong?

The buzz of Agile has resulted in some really good outcomes for companies but then there are those who land up with a lot of frustrations and models which just don’t provide adequate ROI.

There are a lot of opinions of why a transformation is unsuccessful, some common causes, I have come across are:

  1. Management and executive buy in
  2. Company culture not cohesive to Agile
  3. People are not willing to change
  4. Lack of understanding of Agile
  5. Lack of pre investigation or analysis
  6. Balance of incremental to radical change

There are other possible reasons, however I would like to share on some of these points for now and happy to discuss further points.

1. Management and executive buy in

If your leaders don’t believe in change, then how are you supposed to?

There are situations where management and executives are accustomed to certain processes, they’re known and “safe”.

However they not always the most efficient. If leaders are not willing to adapt to change, they will push their own interests and hinder adoption.

This hindering may cause organisations to become hybrid, as some areas will be Agile and others Waterfall.

Solution:

Early Change Management: Bring external Change Managers who are familiar with Agile transformation and have experience in Executive and Management engagements.

I would not recommend an internal Change Manager – Executives and Senior Managers might sway the pendulum to favour their way.

An external Change Manager will be neutral, objective and steadfast in their discussions.

Early adoption, benefits realisation, addressing concerns and so forth are important at senior level as this will drive the transformation more effectively.

2. Company culture not cohesive to Agile

Many organisations hear how successful companies who have gone Agile are doing. They see how responsive the other organisations are, flexible and able to meet demands more timely.

They believe they need to go Agile to keep up with the competition, however their company has for many years been built around strict processes, rigid ways and the peoples culture has adapted to this way.

Now you trying to turn the culture of an organisation from rigid to flexible, strict processes to innovative, authoritarian to empowerment and individual to team.

If your culture is not cohesive to Agile, this is where you need to drive Change before you start stirring the pot.

Solution:

External and Internal Change Managers who have a strong Agile transformation background, if internal don’t have the skills then training is required.

Once Internal Change Managers are able to take over the change then they need to create an open dialogue and training across the organisation.

3. People are not willing to change

Not everyone can so easily adapt to certain changes. They will not conform and will hinder the progress.

There will be those who adapt easily, those who need additional clarity and those who just won’t change.

Solution:

Transparency, communication, constant updates, training and other strategies can be utilised to convince people that this change is good for the future of the business.

There will be those who just won’t change after all efforts have been tried.

This is where tough decisions will need to be made, if the company is changing and you cannot change with it, then the company is longer suited for you – move on.

4. Lack of understanding of Agile

With many companies, they believe moving to a complete Agile methodology will improve their business, however in certain situations, it might actually be negative.

No two companies are the same, so there is no set formulae to Agile transformations. There are guidelines, but each transformation needs to customised.

Some organisations might need to be hybrid, others don’t need to change and so forth.

Solution:

Before you think of going down the road of an Agile transformation, make sure you analysis your business thoroughly and completely understand what being Agile means.

Have independent reviews of your business, and open this across all experts of the business. These open discussions and with an independent review will shape the transformation.

5. Lack of pre investigation or analysis

Many companies take short cuts and make decisions hastily. These decisions may cause severe consequences down the line and lead to undesired outcomes.

Solution:

Spend time and resources investigating and analysis your business, get professional external help before decisions are made, don’t rush and rather be clear of the tasks at hand.

Refer to points 1-4, which all speak to pre investigations

6. Balance of incremental to radical change

Many companies go full throttle into their change, trying to quickly and cost effectively change the entire business. This is not recommended and is very risky.

The chances of failure are high, which in turn will increase costs and cause massive delays. Sometimes the complete scrapping and redoes are the results.

Solution:

Incremental changes are less risky and are more favoured.

Because of your proactive pre investigations you are able to identify areas/ services where an easy transformation can occur.

Start with these services and build onto them. Use lessons learned to improve the next.

This also makes it easier to concentrate resources and not spread too thin.

Keep building on and continue this throughout the organisation.

Another benefit is the success of the one division can help with convincing the change to other divisions, the buy ins will be more easily attained, as results speak louder than words.

Once comfortable and you have a sound knowledge of this change, the more radical you can become.

I would be interested in hearing more about your challenges and accomplishments, so please do share a comment or email me at chris.kourie@alphajobs.co.nz

Christopher Kourie
Senior IT Consultant

This is a Project Plus community blog post. The opinions represented are personal and solely belong to the author.