The Journey to enterprise agility – Blog by Stephen Rathod

Moving towards greater enterprise agility is essential but the journey there is not always clear or easy. Stephen Rathod draws on his wealth of experience in helping organisations implement Agile transformation.

Organisations must enter the new digital world or be left behind, but the enterprise must be agile if it’s to truly embrace digitisation. Although many organisations today understand this, they do not necessarily know how to get there.

Through my experience working on many different Agile transformation projects, there are several common elements that must be present in order to successfully increase agility across the entire enterprise:

1. Establish your vision

At the outset of any Agile transformation journey, you must clearly establish your vision. That means what you want your organisation to look like in the future, using the best knowledge you have available at that time. This vision will act as a guiding light for everyone in your organisation to aim towards, so it is critical you can clearly communicate it and are collaborative when creating it.

Without establishing this, you run the risk of different teams or individuals setting off in completely different directions. Always keep this vision relevant and focused on the outcomes you want to achieve. For example, being the best at Scrum, Kanban, SAFe or any other Agile framework is not an enterprise agility end goal – it is simply one of the ways in which your organisation will move closer.

2. Bottom up VS top down

When it comes to Agile transformation, you might have heard of the terms ‘bottom up’ or ‘top down’. ‘Bottom up’ refers to starting your transformation with the people who are working every day on developing and building products and services in your organisation – such as scrum masters, product owners, developers, testers, business analysts and delivery leads. Whereas ‘top down’ refers to starting your transformation with the people at the top of the organisation such as the key decision makers, management or CEOs. In my experience, to create true enterprise agility, it is essential to have a mixture of both ‘bottom up’ and ‘top down’ to drive real change.

From the ‘bottom up’, the teams who are delivering the work are able to change their own ways of working to align with Agile principles, but this can only go so far if the rest of the enterprise is still working in a more traditional way. At the same time, if transformation is only driven from the ‘top down’, it risks being seen by the wider organisation as a ‘management only’ initiative. Teams may well follow the new way of working, but their hearts and minds may not be truly won over by the initiative.

3. Start small

Another often overlooked element I have observed with Agile transformation is the importance of starting small. Agile principles and practices teach us to break down work into small chunks, so it makes no sense to try to adopt full-scale transformation right from the outset.

There is a much greater chance of success if you start with a single or small group of teams, rather than trying to change the whole organisation at once – as well as clear cost savings to taking things one step at a time. These early successes are so important when trying to gain buy-in and validation for rolling out new ways of working across the wider organisation.

4. Remember, it is all about people

Without a doubt, your people are the most important part of any transformation. Even with the best working practices, processes, tools and methodology, your transformation is nothing if you cannot successfully encourage your people to get behind it. Becoming an Agile enterprise is a big step and people will naturally feel uncomfortable when things begin to change. A commonly recognised element to successful adoption is encouraging a culture of psychological safety for your people. That means, creating an environment where people feel empowered to try new things without fear of repercussions. You need to help them understand that failure is a learning opportunity and not a lack of success.

5. There is no one-size-fits-all approach

Finally, and most importantly, recognise that there is no clearly defined or guaranteed route to creating enterprise agility in an organisation, and you cannot prepare for every eventuality. No journey will be completely smooth and there will always be bumps in the road that will form major parts of the learning process. No two Agile transformations are ever the same but these five points are, in my experience, the key elements to every successful journey that I have been a part of.

If you would like to find out more about how our experts could help you accelerate enterprise agility and realise your vision, take a look at our Agile Digital Services page.


Please add at the end: For more information about CGI’s relationship with Dynamo North East, please contact quoting CGI/North East

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