AgileConsultingProject Management

Scrum-ish? How to Successfully Transition to an Agile Organization

Process Improvement and Project Management methodologies have combined to create the latest organizational phenomenon of Scrum. This fluid PMO methodology relies on creating an adaptable and customized solution that evolves in the fast-paced and ever-changing project environment. Scrum is essentially a specialized project framework and Agile is the collaborative approach and ideology through which it is deployed. Throughout the past 5 years, Agile has moved from being the go-to approach of choice for the fast-paced and competitive market of software development, to the leading PMO methodology for dozens if not 100s of the Fortune 500.

While this exciting project management approach yields amazing results, allows teams to collaborate in a flat org structure, and empowers employees to deliver creative solutions that better meet the changing needs of the project, it can be HARD to implement. Why? Because Scrum relies on having an Agile organization in which to thrive, and to put it simply, most large organizations aren’t structured in that manner.  What results is a Scrum-ish approach which fails to meet any of the competitive advantages of Scrum yet also lacks the structure and specificity that companies enjoy from Waterfall.

As a consulting firm, we have the inherent advantage of seeing an organization from a neutral outside perspective. This can make it immensely easier to spot areas of concern, or bottlenecks. As a result, Precise Process Consulting has been able to identify the key factors in helping organizations successfully transition to Agile:

  1. Start at the Top: Agile requires a relatively flat organization where employees/team members are empowered to be expert individual contributors with light oversight and guidance. Scrum projects thrive on having a collection of talented team members with strong expertise, and then allowing them to do what they do best. While this is easy to see in smaller lean organizations and start-ups, large established organizations can struggle with this shift. The solution, start with the leadership and top executives to create a cohesive understanding of this new model, and adjust the organizational structure to reflect this.
  1. Train in Change: Once the leadership and organizational structure have been updated to align with the Agile approach, the next step is to ensure the employees understand how this change will work, and what impacts they will see to their role. Setting expectations and training the team members and product owners in this new Scrum methodology is KEY for a successful transition. Bring in Certified Scrum Masters (CSMs) and Agile coaches to help standup the new project methodology and work through the first 1-2 big initiatives. This will be a priceless help in the long-run and yield to a process that follows more closely to the actual Scrum principles and promised results.
  1. Establish a Prototype: One of the biggest mistakes we see organizations make is trying to implement too many large changes, too quickly. As much as we may want to, you cannot go entirely Agile overnight and magically have a company full of experienced Scrum Masters. It’s a process, and most importantly it is a HUGE mental adjustment to the way we work. The best way to help lead an organization into the future is to create a test-run of this new process within a specific department or on a highly visible initiative. Establish a successful example or proto-type of the process and then roll this out to the rest of the organization. This allows the organization an opportunity to figure out the kinks and make adjustments on a smaller scale. From there, it is much easier to deploy the changes to the rest of the organization and integrate the lessons learned as you go.

Establishing a fluid and fast paced work environment that consistently produces high quality project results is incredibly fulfilling. However, it is important to keep in mind that this methodology is largely different from the basic ways of working that have been established over the past several decades. Organizations small and large have struggled with how to stay up to date on the latest processes and methodologies, and without the use of experienced change implementors, it can be nearly impossible. If your organization is interested in moving towards a Scrum methodology or already in Agile but not fully aligned yet to it’s principles, schedule a consultation to learn how PPC can assist. A bit of time and preparation on the front end will save money and resources in the long-run.