Is your Agile transition stuck?
Ready for transformation?
Can you still remember the euphoria when your “agile transformation” started? Maybe you were full of enthusiasm, and wholeheartedly supported the movement. Perhaps it all started after participating in an inspiring training to become a Scrum Master, Scaling Agile Consultant or Product Owner. There was a buzzing atmosphere that connected you and your colleagues because you felt that you were entering a new world of work! You all felt as if you were travelling in the interior of a high-speed train and suddenly can reach unimaginable destinations at an incredible speed in any weather.
Managers and coaches talked about new, more human values that were supposed to be lived from that moment on. Principles were presented, some of which entailed a complete U-turn compared to previous practice. New terms for meetings, artifacts, and roles were discussed. There was also a lot of confusion, because the new language was initially understood differently by each colleague. Some voices were critical, but the momentum of “the train” was strong enough to drag them along. There may also have been consultants who had already worked with agile in other places and “knew exactly” how agile works because they have already successfully “introduced it” in countless places. There were also pioneers from your own organization who talked about how “agile” in their context had led to a new sense of togetherness and great success.
How does this “agile transformation” feel today?
On the one hand, I have personally observed some sustainable movements that were in fact set in motion, and which are still thriving today. Much, much more often, however, I have observed how a huge success was celebrated on the outside, while no lasting change was initiated internally. Still, there’s always the proud PR story that proclaims: “We have successfully completed the Agile Transformation!” The sentence already says that it wasn´t even initiated.
In these cases, new structures and processes have been added to the existing ones. These types of “transformation programs” were typically dragged across the “finish line” under high pressure and with enormous, exhausting effort from everyone. As soon as specified goals were threatened, well-known methods and values were re-applied. Earlier pioneers and tiresome evangelists were then “disposed“, unless they had already given up. The new terms, nonetheless, stayed. The leaders of these initiatives made the next career step within the company or with a new employer, and the consultants moved on to the next client. Together, they now stand on stages to spread “their” story. At the same time, new leaders took over and decided to bring in new consultants who have “successfully adopted” agility elsewhere.
Are you familiar with this? Then you are sitting in one of those environments where a transformation program has failed. Depending on the study, the statistics for failed transformation programs can rise up to 85%.
You are in the perfect place
The good news is that if you are disappointed, you are actually in the right place to start your own transformation! Furthermore, your organization is also in the right place. The question is whether you are ready to choose evolution this time, or if you are going to repeat the past. The intention brought into the process is decisive.
Transformation in humans has been studied since the dawn of mankind. Surprisingly, this knowledge is obsessively ignored in our culture, especially when an initiative is supposed to be all about transformation; this is true for business, politics or in society. In particular, the “inner sciences”, the wisdom traditions of the world, hold knowledge through practice that has been tried and tested.
It is not the processes, structures and practices that transform, but the people. And then, there are structures and practices that support people to transform.
Transformation is becoming aware, including and transcending subconscious “inner” structures that are obstructive to our self, or our organization and that are therefore causing discomfort.
Discomfort in particular is a key indicator of the subconscious! This applies to individuals, but also to the collective and explains why “impediments” play such a central role in agility.
Transformation happens in cycles, once you are “done” with a cycle, the next one comes along to bring further evolution to the fore.
Transformation comes from within.
This is true for individuals and the collective – teams, organisations and society. This means that nobody can do transformation “for you”. Rather, it is the transformation within individuals that leads to the transformation of the collective. Evolved humans can join forces to form more complex organizations. Embodied agile organizations are “highly complex, conscious beings” that can create effective solutions for a world that is becoming increasingly complex. Digitalization accelerates increase in complexity even further
Agility is not the end of the road, for the road has indeed no end. By evolving and constantly re-inventing themselves, organizations remain relevant. Digital high-tech requires “social high-tech” in order to be used effectively in an evolutionary sense. Digital high-tech, in the hands of egocentrically-lead organizations, represents a great danger for all of us.
Transformation of the individual is accelerated by a collective movement. For this reason, it makes sense to create an organization that is deliberately geared towards everyone’s development. Organizing this inner journey for each individual in the organization is the task of effective leadership today—that is, if we want to evolve as a species, and let behind the structures that underlie the symptoms of environmental, social, and psychological exhaustion.
Leaders of an organization, through their own deliberate transformation, create the space necessary for the transformation of “their” organization. Only people who are further in their development can effectively facilitate other individuals and organizations in their transformation. In the same manner, coaches and consultants, as well as their organizations and their managers, must be further along in their transformation than the clients they are working with. They must be able to authentically embody the values that make up the culture they want to help create and continually evolve from that moment on.