Agile shifts

Thinking about agile organizational transformation brings a number of metaphors in mind, one of those could be a civil war – pretty much! However, in political science there is this theory that argues that every civil war takes place on three different levels: on the streets, in state administration, and in the minds of people. And exactly in this order!


Transformation on the streets takes place fairly quickly and not necessarily in aggressive ways. As for state administration, it might be a little slower of a process as new rules and regulations first must be formed, and then issued, validated, and shared with every player within a given entity. Finally, this whole process takes the longest in the minds of people. Not of the people of the streets, but everyone else. Old habits that die hard, even when we know that the new system is better. Therefore, the hardest seems to be changing people’s minds and those who participated in training or coaching before know that it isn’t enough to just understand the reasons and advantages, but what really takes time and practice here is changing behavior and mindset. Countless number of obstacles, try and error, failure, and then success. If it all worked out just fine without this bitter part, development advisors would not have a job.

How is all this interlinked with the agile organizational transformation?

Considering that in the center of most transformations are the currently employed, while there are a couple of leaders and messengers that lead and represent the process of repositioning, the example mentioned above is completely adoptable. A decision on agile organizational transformation is made regardless the longtime preparation and occurring opposition. Following that, there is time for the organization to digest this change as the „hard transformation” of the process begins, new roles and connections form, and the rest of the organization is also working on adjusting to the new setup. This part of the transformation is a road from A to B that is doable and fairly easy to operate as the preliminary conditions and steps, the new structure along with the already existing procedures and daily tasks are all given.

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How to avoid the potential pitfalls of agile organizational transformation?

People in agile organizations are not robots nor processes, and on top of that they are all different from each other. Their agile transformation essentially takes place slower – think about the bullet points of the Agile manifesto! If you’d like to speed up their transformation, then this segment needs to get dedicated attention right from the beginning. Just like in traditional organizational models, success depends on people and their competencies and adjustment skills. Purely the presence of agile coaches and some preparation training won’t suffice, the potential and limitations of people in an agile environment need to be analyzed and explored. The assessment and potential development of competencies is essential.

In addition to that, the employee of the traditional organizational model differs a lot from the agile one, and because of that there will be almost certainly some challenges when it comes to meeting agile competencies. Those, however, whose competencies are already in line with the ones necessary for agile positions are the ones that should be appointed for key roles, such as product owners and chapter leads. Knowing the kind of people you have on board will make transformation trainings and the job of agile coaches easier. By paying attention to the soft transformation side, problematic situations can be more easily anticipated and planned for.

Agile organizations are run by agile people

People pick up the agile mindset if they are given the necessary amount of time, attention, and cognitive support. Without that even the most neatly organized hard transformation will reverse over time or will not function at all.

Gábor Füzér – Assessment Systems Hungary

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