4 Dos and Don’ts when going “Agile” Enterprise wide.

31 August 2021

Key contributors, obstacles, lessons from past experiences … here is all you need to keep in mind before embarking on the journey.

author picture Article written by Claus Fjelding Whitt

Going Agile entreprise wide? We help you navigate the waters of organisational change. Our previous blog explored the 5 traits most agile organisations have in common. And to get you there, we are now taking a deeper dive into Change Management best practices. Key contributors, obstacles, lessons from past experiences … here is all you need to keep in mind before embarking on the journey. 

“How did they get there?”: 4 success factors

Worldwide surveys conducted by PROSCI over the years pinpoint 4 success factors[1], closely tied to how well organisations can manage the change in a structured and consistent way:  

# 1. Ensuring solid executive sponsorship. This is the number-one success factor, no matter the nature and scope of the change. To make it high-impact and long-lasting, change champions count on active and visible leaders who walk the talk. Sponsors create awareness and embody the core values of Agile.

# 2. Communicating effectively. A strong and clear “why” not only helps ignite the change, but it is also what people hold onto when things get tough. Success stories are born from creating and distilling a compelling message around the change.

# 3. Training impacted people on Agile. This one is self-explanatory. But most successful organisations understand that training and coaching come after the need to create awareness and desire. Start with the why, move to the how. Not the other way around. 

# 4. Bringing in Agile experts… people can lean on. Experts are there to help steer the boat, advise and train the people.

“What did others get wrong?”: 4 obstacles and pitfalls

As you might have guessed, any change not being strongly supported and backed up by active sponsors is bound to fail. This has been demonstrated time and time again. But besides anything sponsorship-related – the golden rule of change, there are 4 major obstacles and pitfalls that explain many setbacks and resounding failures:

# 1. Not addressing resistance upfront. Managing resistance is a big part of dealing with the change. And it should be done at three different points in time: preventively by explaining the value of Agile, proactively by addressing doubts and concerns, and reactively when resistance starts to hinder progress [url Nexum are they resisting?].

# 2. Maintaining traditional waterfall approaches. Problems arise when Agile is not yet the norm. Its principles and practices must be applied to every single initiative. Partial or fragmented implementation ends up consolidating the status quo and legacy routines[2].

# 3. Fearing failure. This goes against the mindset and everything the approach stands for. But as Edwards Deming wisely said, “transformation is not automatic. It must be learned; it must be led”[3]. That brings us to the final obstacle, and probably the biggest hurdle.

# 4. Not treating the change as a cultural change. Agile transformations take time and targeted Change Management skills. It is essential to map out culture, understand and measure it to effectively shift mindsets and behaviours. For that reason, agile transformations are never … that agile.


Enablers Barriers
Active and Visible Executive Sponsorship Not addressing Resistances
Effective Communication Still using of Traditional Waterfall Approaches
Training on Agile Fearing the Change
Agile Experts Not treating Agile as a Cultural Change

4 major lessons from successes and failures

When asked what they would do differently in hindsight, respondents to PROSCI’s survey emphasised several key points that sum up a lot of the above:

#1. Create a Change Management plan. A robust Change Management plan can address recurring issues, starting with the need to create awareness and desire, or deal with resistances before they surface and spread.

#2. Create buy-in from impacted groups. Improving adoption rates takes intentional efforts. Generating buy-in among top executives and involving sponsors is only half of the battle. To get everyone on board and cascade the change, managers are your best allies.

#3. Deliver more coaching on Agile. Oftentimes teams fail to embrace the approach because they haven’t been properly equipped and feel they are tiptoeing through a minefield with the approach technicalities.

#4. Apply Agile sufficiently. Creating organisational agility (agile) is one thing. Choosing and implementing specific Agile methodologies to run the portfolio is another (Scrum, Lean, Kanban, …)[4]. As mentioned earlier, make sure to apply Agile sufficiently. In our experience, the biggest challenge with organisations asking us to do Change Management in Agile is their patchy implementation of Agile.

To learn more about the intersection between Change Management and Agile, feel free to explore our extensive library of resources. We have a lot to share!

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