There are lots more than 8 ways to ruin the Agile transformation, but these are a good start. Agile / The Guardian Podcast / Uncategorized

How To Ruin Your Agile Transformation.

The road to perdition is paved with good intentions. Executives and organizational leaders mean well enough wanting their people and bottom line to benefit from all that is Agile. Unfortunately, mandating a change like this is not the same as engaging in it. On her weekly podcast titled “The Guardian” Ryn Melberg lists the ways to make certain an Agile transformation fails in spectacular fashion.

There are lots more than 8 ways to ruin the Agile transformation, but these are a good start.

There are lots more than 8 ways to ruin the Agile transformation, but these are a good start.

1. Lack of executive leadership. Many people associate visibility and cheerleading with this while in the midst of any Agile transformation and call that visibility. But according to Ryn, those leaders have to model the behavior that shows they are fully invested. “Unless C-Suite sponsors change their behavior in terms of what they measure and value, they are courting failure,” Ryn told her podcast audience.
2. Go cheap on coaches. Without the right coach or set of coaches, the Agile transformation will founder. “Agile concepts are easy to understand but very hard to implement,” Ryn said. “If the same firm that recruits office professionals is also recruiting and staffing Agile coaches, there is little chance that the level of expertise is on hand. Some firms pay $40.00 to $60.00 an hour less than the top consulting firms do. And in this as in all cases, you get what you pay for.”
3. Take the DIY approach. So many people view Agile as just another fad. Fads are easy and fun, so learning Agile should be easy, but it is not. “Going from traditional work to Agile is incredibly challenging,” Ryn said. “No one would try and learn how to do their own heart surgery so why would you try and learn Agile yourself?”
4. Hire a high school kid. Or the Agile equivalent of the high school kid. The reference goes back to the early days of the Internet when even the largest companies were hiring (or at least suggesting) that a teenager on their street could build a web site for less money that was as good as anything. “The staffing firms are the equivalent of the high school kid,” Ryn said. “A staff augmentation firm will not have the level of coach able to make an impact. Hiring a true consultant is one who will speak the truth and even tell them what and how where and why they are coming up short.”
5. Keep the same governance and cultural standards. Knowledge workers in general and Agile workers in particular need a purpose to give meaning to their work. Making a living is not enough for them, their work has to matter. Part of mattering is the respect and freedom to invent solutions to challenges. Anytime a process starts to become bureaucratic it is not going to be Agile. “Purpose is not about paperwork, or status reports,” Ryn said. “The Agile worker is purpose driven in their career choices. Once the atmosphere becomes top down or command and control, those working there will look for the exits.”
6. Show Power Point Slides. Busy bureaucrats love to show slides. But successful Agilists want to show a working product. Demos are what is powerful, not status reports on power point. “What would you rather see, the working web site or a filled out compliance letter,” Ryn asked. “Get rid of status reports. They are almost never accurate so why do them? Even regulators would rather see working products than status reports.” Customer confidence comes from seeing the stuff that works. If employees keep doing reports, everything in the Agile transformation will degrade.
7. Measure the wrong thing. Humans will always do what is measured. If status reports, updates, rundowns, or counting lines of code that were written are the way productivity is measured then the process is not Agile. “Governance is about the knowledge generated and the customer response,” Ryn said. “None of that can be measured the same way coal or whale oil was. It makes no sense to measure knowledge the same way as wheat or feather pens. We live in a world of knowledge and knowledge workers. So measure appropriately.”
8. Use the carrot and stick. Everyone wants and needs to get paid. But when members of the same team with the same experience and qualifications are paid differently, the entire team suffers. “The team members need to be successful and valued the same,” Ryn said. “When team members are devalued by money, their collective purpose is too.” Similarly, the stick is not the best approach with knowledge workers. “When people work doing rote mechanical tasks, carrots and sticks will motivate and direct work properly,” Ryn said. But this same system will not work with knowledge workers. “The stick approach engenders fear in employees,” Ryn revealed. “Fear will motivate employees to keep the ugly truth from the leaders. When failures are celebrated it gives people the freedom and security to learn from mistakes and do their best. Fearful employees will not deliver bad news of any kind because of the likelihood of reprisal. In Agile, failures are celebrated because of what they can teach everyone on the team.”
To Learn More
To hear The Guardian Podcast with Ryn Melberg go to, or to Soundcloud or iTunes.

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