Agile transformation : Agile and Scrum daily life

French Female Senior Consultant/Coach for Agile and Scrum implementations in huge companies, I share the beginning of my Agile and Scrum daily life.

I have a long background in coaching agile teams, since 2011. At that time, Agile was not very known in Europe. For me, Agile Manifesto was not only for developing apps but also to transform organizations.  Let me tell you how I started to deal with Agile to solve “bureaucratic” problems, breaking out silos, and leading agile transformations @scale.

Agile transformation context

I will share with you the adventure and also nonsense encountered all along my different experiences.

Remember that for me Agile Manifesto was not only for developing apps but also to transform organization. 

As people were bored and on the verge of crisis (some others companies in France were dealing with suicides) , Corporate union requested to Top Management to find solutions to help employees in their current job. So, as my job provided me with the opportunity to lead Lean implementation “my own way” all around departments, I kept the opportunity to deal with Agile to reduce bureaucracy and provide evidence in a very short period of time.

Agile Manifesto was a revelation, a new way of working, an amazing autoway to transform organizations to focus on value and people enthusiasm. As a black belt Lean leader, it was evidence that I had to develop further and provide evidence to my company that Agile, with successive waves of bottom-up experiences, was key to drive people in the Future.

What did we implement? 

We selected (in France only) all representative jobs all-around companies and nominated 4 people per representative’s jobs in each department. We invited around 200 people (a sample of 2500 employees) without managers to a workshop to identify key pain points. We collected 45 topics that we reduced to 10: pain points were about tools, competitivity, and organization. During this event, I asked for volunteers. 

For each topic, a small team, only volunteers, worked together to solve the 10 pain points. We used Scrum to deliver values for each topic. We had to provide evidence to Corporate union that we had found solutions and kept informed all employees.

I was so happy about Volunteers teams success that I wanted to engage all compagny in Agile ways.Thanks to my management for the support.

To bring all in, I organized a  Scrum two-day event to share first success and agile experimentation games. During these two days, only 58 people came! All were union representatives.

What happened ?

  • Management never gave permission to employees to waste time in it because they think they were not concerned about Agile and Scrum.

*After analysis, root causes: we were not developers. So Teams members were not concerned about Agile. We were integrators of the system and not our own provider. 3 years later, with cybersecurity development, it was evident that we have to recruit developers to create our own systems (not only integrate them) and used Agile to perform.

First absurdity: no one wants to experiment, no curiosity, and no ability to learn on their own errors

  • Corporate Union took the opportunity to learn more about what I suggested to check it was fear based.

First Success: Corporate Union looked at what I did during the 5 years I was a Lean and Agile coach, and they never wrote a negative article about Agile. In Parallel, in Germany, we managed successfully to obtain their authorization to develop Agile ways of working in several departments. 

In parallel, what was about the bureaucracy topics?

Second absurdity:  solved bureaucracy topics highlighted root cause concerning the general organization. We never did the transformation just because New organization was in place and they dealt with other problems: nominate new leaders. And new leaders had new concerns to solve…

Third absurdity : the focus was to be concentrated on core business.

Nevertheless, at the bottom-up level, some volunteers were still engaged as a community of actions to pursue first evidence identifying in bureaucracy. But we didn’t have the opportunity to scale the pilots for transforming organizations…

When I tried to obtain authority for bottom-up teams, I had two issues -I find these issues every time in all transformations when teams become autonomous,:

  1. The first issue was the common way of thinking that they had not the ability to manage budget,
  2.  the second issue was that employee was accountable in a budget’s projects to deliver certain its. If we had new tasks, we could not use budget define for projects, we had to create a new budget line. We need to obtain a new cost center to scale scrum project!

What more? Agile transformation @scale?

After 5 years, I succeeded in generating a big community with lot of amazing experiences to develop new businesses, new ways of working, generate continuous improvement, and an innovative labIt was a fantastic experience and incredible career boost for all people involved in.

Fourth absurdity :  Bottom up successes were grouped on a platform and we had put in place a community support in Agile to help other to deal with, we were nominated on Cie awards. We lost because: “this is not scalable!” . For them success was based on human soft skills, particular to the project governance…

When Agile was in the mood, one department was created from scratch to deliver tools and Top Down speech, and enthusiasm was lost…. The community organize with volunteers disappear…

Five absurdity : Middle management who was involved in the transformation processes and who experimented new ways of working was not recognized, and suffer a lot when its initiative who was a success was stopped because at Top level they did not recognize enthusiasm and autonomy as key for a long term business development. 

When success is recognized, Top management wants to put Agile transformation as a process because they can not properly manage autonomous teams… or they bought skills in start-ups because it is more easy than develop internal skills…

How I was a black duck for Agile and Scrum community

Imagine also, that I was a black duck for Agile and Scrum community because I am Lean Black Belt first, and used Agile to solve bureaucratic problems. In 2011, It was totally incredible.

So inside my company, I am a pioneer with a new technique and outside in the community I was “ the crazy of the king” to start to implement Agile everywhere.

 I remember my first participation in a Scrum event in 2012, the Agile community doesn’t want to reconize me for two reason. I was lean blackbelt and deliver outside IT. 

Yet it already was leading teams to enthusiasm: They liked the creative atmosphere, the taste of enthusiasm, the taste of the game, the innovation by applying the Agile techniques. They were pioneers with a new technique. To learn more about this fantastic energize, look at Why Employees Like Scrum and Not Bosses.

Agile is becoming the Agile Landscape including Lean, Change transformations tools and more… Agile is know well-known for transforming organisations.

The Agile Landscape

Nowadays the topic has got another flavor: Top Management wants Agile because of productivity targets. Everywhere companies see Agile as a recipe for everything. It is a trend. This has big risks.

As I was a pioneer by using Agile for transforming, I see the ghosts of Taylorism and productivism came back massively.

 I see more rigour, time constraints tan in the pioneer phase. The face to face was no longer possible as collocation was too expensive, the search for value was too long and uncertain. Teams have less autonomy than Scrum and Agile used to offer before. The rhythm of working was now opposed. Some people, told me why I will become autonomous. I will be hired on result while others (Top management) will not change. Which recognition, will I have? More job and no more recognition, no more money, and we had to report as previous…

Example : in a Windows 10 implementation in a big company, we would implement it by sample. So one guy, told me : “Alright, but why I will do that. We have a roadmap until 2020 and lot of outside teams to deliver. If I do by sample, I will manage alone in less than 3 month. what do I win? more stress, no teams abroad to support, no recognition…and how do I deal with others who have to develop something in 2 years as “roadmap and budget” is decided, “

In all companies, when teams are in capacity to transform, and ask to change organisation, Agile transformation is stopped… and..go. Statu quo

 (what else?). One of the reasons why is the managers are afraid of this open method Agile. They don’t like it. They are no longer the master of the flow of information. Other fears? But on the other side, we have in the organisations many challenges – sometimes companies are totally lost, they have to move faster and they do not know how to move people.

Discover more Feedbacks

Tony Amos sharing also his own expérience as Agile transformation @scale and said : “

“Agile transformations are difficult. They require huge shifts in the way people think, respond, and behave that are, by their nature, challenging. Unfortunately, many organizations underestimate the extent of these challenges, and their lack of preparation or inadequate resourcing can cause the transitions to be unsuccessful.

During an Agile transformation, it makes sense to have an experienced professional to help overcome the obstacles while providing guidance and support to teams, individuals, and leaders. That person is the Agile coach..”

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