What to Call Your Transformation Program

The word “Transformation” is being used quite a bit as today’s organizations realize they must innovate in order to compete or they must transform to Agile to build products faster, better and cheaper.

The problem with the word “Transformation” is that is assumes a logically starting and ending point.  Once the ‘transformation’ program is done, you’re transformed and voila!  Problems are solved!

The other problem with the word “Transformation” is that it’s so over-used that it’s not as compelling of a statement as it used to be. Read more…


InfoQ Interview about Agile Transformation

Jason Little recently sat down with InfoQ to talk about Agile Transformation: A Guide to Organizational Change.  Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

InfoQ: Thanks Jason for finding the time to answer some questions. Your video training with Pearson is about agile transformation. Why was this topic chosen?

Jason: Chris from Pearson was at my Agile 2011 session and he liked how I was talking about Agile Transformation being a trigger to organizational change.  At the time the Agile community seemed to be focusing more on agile adoption and transformation and, in some cases, forgetting that ‘agile’ isn’t the point.  Bringing on Agile is huge organizational change, not something only IT and teams do.  My session focused on showing people how to understand that their market, size, culture, approach to finding work and more contribute to the approach you take when bringing Agile in.  We chose the title ‘Agile Transformation’ because that’s what people in organizations ask and look for.

Click here for the rest of the interview.


Navigating the Currents of Your Organization

An important aspect of organizational change is understanding the cultural norms in your organization.  You can think of ‘cultural norms’ as ‘the way things go around here’ and that can be different from what your organization’s culture is.

The term ‘Culture’ means different things to different people and there are many models you can use to help make sense of your surroundings.

The Re-Engineering Alternative: William Schneider

William Schneider writes about how organizations have a dominant culture as well as many sub-cultures.  He helps readers of his book understand how to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their culture citing that one culture isn’t better than another.  Why is this important?  When bringing Agile practices into your organization, one approach might make more sense than another.  For example, if you organization is a functional organization focused on rules and processes it could be difficult to start with Scrum which immediately breaks down those silos.

He describes 4 culture types: Control, Collaborative, Cultivation and Competence.

In this book, he draws parallels to organizational culture and David Kersey’s MBTI temperaments.  Culture evolves from leadership and problems can arise when new leadership is brought in and their personality is opposite the existing dominant culture.

OCAI Organizational Culture Assessment

OCAI offers another culture assessment that has similarities to Schneider’s culture model.  OCAI describes Clan, Adhocracy, Market and Hierarchy cultures.   On the surface, the descriptions of OCAI’s culture types are similar to Schneiders:

Clan = Collaborative
Hierarchy = Control
Cultivation = Adhocracy
Competence = Market

The differences lie primarily in how Scheider and OCAI classify their culture types.  OCAI splits their culture types between internal and external focus on one axis and by flexibility and stability on the other.  Schneider splits his culture types by people and organizational focus on one axis and by reality and possibility focus on the other.

Subtle differences but enough that you *could* benefit from understanding both to help you understand your organization and how to shape a change program that would be the most effective.

These are 2 of many other models and theories I’ll be blogging about over the coming weeks.   It’s important to not lose sight of “the way things work around here” because organizational change is part art and part science.  Models are useful to help us understand our surroundings but sometimes you need to trust your gut to help you navigate the currents of your organization.


Bridging the Gap Between Agile and Change Management

Often organizations “fail with Agile” for a variety of reasons.  According to a recent survey from McKinsey & Co, 70% of change efforts fail and that’s got very little to do with Agile.

Agile is a trigger for change, not a destination or an objective.  Some in the Agile/Lean camps take different stances to bringing in change.  Some feel Kanban is best.  Some say Lean is best.  Some say you must change your culture and mindset.

At the end of the day, change is change and people react to change at different rates and different intensities.

On November 26, Jason Little, author of Agile Transformation: A Guide to Organizational Change and Andrew Annett, Agile Coach and Communication Professional presented “Managing Resistance to Change” at the Toronto Agile Tour.  The session was recorded and we’ll be posting the video as soon as it is processed and available.

Resources mentioned in the Session

Satir Change Model


BJ Fogg Model

Everett Rogers Adoption Model

ADKAR Assessment

Kotter Change Model

Lean Change

Temperament, MBTI Types and Change

STOOS Canada


Session Presentation


Agile Transformation Sneak Peek Available

Agile Transformation: A Guide to Organizational Change is now available for preview on Safari Books Online!  Lessons 1 and 2 are available to subscribers of Safari Books online, here’s an outline of the chapters:

Lesson 1: The Roots of Agile

  1. From Deming to TPS to Modern Agile:  In this lesson I talk about how Agile isn’t the latest management fad, it’s rooted in practices, values and principles that are decades old.
  2. Breaking the Disconnect – Is Agile Processes and Tools or a Mindset Shift?: Are you “Being Agile” or “Doing Agile”?  52% of Version One’s 2011 Agile Development survey concluded that failure to change the culture was the reason for Agile failure.  I challenge that notion because changing your culture isn’t the point.
  3. The Value Stream and Business Agility:  Building from the last section, I describe what Business Agility is and introduce the differences between Agile Adoption and Agile Transformation.
  4. Agile Isn’t the Goal:  In this section I summarize the previous sub-lessons and reenforce that Agile isn’t the goal.  You’re bringing Agile in to solve business problems, it’s important to not lose sight of that.

Lesson 2: Understand – Discover the Business Purpose Behind Your Agile Transformation and Why Your Business Context Must Drive It

  1. Agile for the Sake of Agile: This lesson starts with a brief story of an organization that wanted to bring Agile in without establishing a strong business driver to guide the transformation.
  2. Establish a Sense of Urgency for Bringing Change Based on Business Objectives: I briefly walk through Kotter’s 8-Step model and talk about how to create a sense of urgency and how to avoid creating a false sense of urgency for change.
  3. Understand Your Organization’s Culture and Why Trying to Change Your Culture Might be a Bad Idea:  Ah, culture.  The often used yet misunderstood word as it relates to Agile transformation and organizational change.   It’s important to be aware of your culture to guide your Agile implementation plan but your goal isn’t to change you culture.
  4. Understand How Your Mindset Fits into Your Culture and Why That’s Important for Creating Your Strategy:  Your culture is a by-product of the behaviours exhibited by your leadership team.  What’s your leadership style?  In this lesson I’ll show you why it’s important to understand how your leadership style will influence your path to agility.
  5. Now Try This:  I’ll give you an exercise you can try on the spot and with your management team to help you understand your organization’s culture and more importantly, your leadership styles and how that will influence your path to agility.  I’ll also talk about why Agile is a trigger to organizational change and set the stage for the next lesson where you’ll learn about change models and how to use them.

The remaining lessons will be posted shortly, here’s a quick peek at lessons 3 – 7:

Lesson 3: Educate – Learn About Agile Methods and Organizational Change

Simply put, Agile isn’t enough.  Agile is a trigger to bring change, you’ll learn about change models and gain an understanding of how people process change.

Lesson 4: Execute – Generating and Executing Your Organizational Change Strategy

There are no shortage of options for bringing change into your organization with Agile.  I’ll show you 3 common options and encourage you to use what you’ve learned to pick which one is most likely to get you where you want to go.

Lesson 5: Reflect – Using Metrics to Reflect on Your Progress in Order to Decide What To Do Next

Retrospectives are the most powerful Agile practice.  I’ll show you how to use retrospectives, how to scale them and how to find the right metrics to measure progress.

Lesson 6: Tying it All Together

I’ll summarize my 4-step model: Understand, Educate, Execute, Reflect and show you step-by-step how you can get started with it.  I encourage you to customize it and leave feedback on this blog.  I’ll also be updating this site with tools and new information as I learn more.

Lesson 7: Lean Startup and Visualization Techniques

Lean Startup is the latest reincarnation of Plan Do Check Act, from William Deming.  Some think it’s the latest fad but it’s the fastest way through Deming’s cycle that I know of.  I’ll show you how I used Lean Startup in a non-startup company to generate 160K of opportunities within 3 months and how my team won the Lean Startup Machine weekend competition in 2012.  I’ll also give you some bonus material on visualization techniques from my LSSC 2011 talk including how to visualize a release wall, non-software projects and more.

I am pleased to partner with Pearson Education, Safari Books Online and InformIT to deliver this Live Lesson.  I started this project as a book over 2 years ago, in fact, the original story map is still up on the wall in front of the desk where I’m writing this post.

At Agile 2011, Pearson Education approached me and asked if I wanted to write a book based on the workshop I delivered.  I agreed and it morphed into this Live Lesson.    I hope you enjoy it and I appreciate all feedback!


3 Reasons to Attend Shaping Your Agile Adoption Path

Don Gray and I are presenting “Shaping Your Agile Adoption Path” at Agile 2012 this year in Dallas.  Here’s 3 reasons for why we think you’ll want to attend our session.

Reason One: You’ll Learn How to Handle Resistance

“Bob really won’t get on board with Agile, he says all the right things at our management meetings but then does the opposite.”  Joe was frustrated that Bob seemed to be the only person preventing progress given his role as the Director of Development.  “I know”, said Melissa, “it would be so much easier if he’d just leave.”

Does this sound familiar?  What’s going on with Bob?  Why is he resisting the transformation to Agile?  Doesn’t he see all the benefits?  At Shaping Your Agile Adoption Path with myself and Don Gray, you’ll learn how to work with guys like Bob and overcome the perceived resistance.

Reason Two: You’ll Learn what Culture Is

“Agile is about building a new mindset, we must change our culture!” proclaimed Bill.  “Right you are Bill, everyone has to stop controlling everything and build trust!” Jeff replied.

Sounds good doesn’t it?  It’s a little more complex than that.  It’s simple to say “we must change our culture” but what does that mean?  How do you do it?  First you start by understanding what culture is and what your organizational culture type is.  At our session you’ll learn to be aware of this and be given tools to help you make progress.

Reason Three: You’ll Learn how Leadership Styles Influence Your Path to Agility

“Jay is such a control freak.  He wants us to implement Agile but he’s not getting involved and just telling us to ‘be more agile'”.  Sally was frustrated because she felt her CTO didn’t trust her to rollout Agile.  “I know how to roll this out, he’s got to stop telling me how to do my job or it’s not going to work”

Is Jay, the CTO, really a control freak or is that simply the way he works?  How can you learn to give Jay what he wants without driving yourself crazy?  At our session you’ll learn how different leadership styles approach Agile Adoption or Transformation differently and more importantly, how that can shape how you leverage those styles to get you where you want to go.

View our Session Details

Register for Agile 2012