Agile is more than a set of methods, practices and behaviours. Agile is an enabler for transforming organisations, as relevant in the public sector as it is in the lean start-up.
Agile transformation requires new approaches across a number of dimensions:
• Delivery (engineering): where the push for Agile normally starts, from practitioners influenced by education, social media, peers, pragmatism.
• Governance (management): once the delivery teams start doing things differently, ways of governing and assuring are challenged to remain fit for purpose
• Organisation (culture): the changes being driven from the Delivery and Governance dimensions will highlight issues with our organisation’s culture which need to be understood and addressed
Those of you in Delivery Teams using Agile to build products and services, will often feel frustrated, hamstrung by the mechanisms and structures that delay your progress. You should realise that the leaders in your organisation want the same thing as you – delivery of value early and often. They just want to protect their investment, and they look for assurance about that. You can help by explaining how iterative and incremental delivery, with frequent demonstration of product, protects their investment. Providing easy access to your information radiators, and inviting them to visit you often will help.
Those of you in Leadership positions want your organisations to be agile and adaptive, to react to the forces of change – reduced budgets, new legislation, and better informed customer and citizen needs. You may be frustrated by the pace and cost of change. You will be concerned about the risk of wasted investment, and the consequences of that in terms of investor, regulator and media scrutiny.
So you look for assurance and appropriate governance to safeguard your investment. If you have good Agile delivery teams, their very approach is safeguarding your investment. They will ask you to empower your best, most visionary people to work with them to deliver what you really need. They will ask for time to explore, make mistakes, learn. They will ask for your patience – don’t expect the false certainty of a two year plan – let them know your desired outcome, give them space to figure it out. Visit them as often as you can – they’ll welcome you.
Those of you responsible for governing and assuring are caught in the middle of this drive for agility and adaptability. You are expected to be the brokers between the Sponsors and the Delivery Teams, facilitating the means for ensuring that money is invested appropriately, and is being used effectively.
You will need to create the conditions whereby leaders can:
• make decisions about the most important things to do
• allocate skilled, knowledgeable and empowered people to the delivery teams
• come and see the progress for themselves
Delivery teams will expect that the information they generate as they work should be sufficient to demonstrate progress and control.
And everyone will expect you to ensure that governance approaches add value and don’t slow down delivery (easy so).
In a nutshell, the potential for Agile to enable organisational transformation can only be fully realised when all of you (Leaders, Managers and Delivery Teams) align your behaviours as you mature from focusing on the Delivery dimension (using Agile practices to deliver a specific product or service) through to the Organisation dimension (harnessing agility to create an adaptive, learning evolving organisation).