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* * *    ONE STEP AT A TIME    * * *

The last 18 months have represented an unprecedent challenge for the entire world. Whether we agree or disagree on the root cause, every single of us around the world experienced an unexpected, merciless situation.

Although it is true that Covid affected each of us in a different way, this became one of the few times in history when, as human beings, with virtually no exception, we agreed on something:

  • It was tough –sadly, it is still for many.
  • We all had to adjust.

The level of agreement we reached was not the result of having improved communication channels, more evolved social skills or higher levels of sympathy. That level was reached because we all experienced exactly the same stages.

We all went through a learning curve –from discovering how to deal with confusion and cope with fear, to adjusting some attitudes, changing some behaviors and adopting some habits.  For each of those attitudes, behaviors and habits, we all had to walk through different stages: crawling, walking, running and flying; unfreezing, changing, refreezing.

That is the way change happens –whether it happens under controlled or uncontrolled conditions, there is always a multi-stage, evolutive (or degenerative) process involved.

Agile implementations, adoptions or transformations are not the exception. Those who have been in the field for more than a decade and/or have witnessed a few Agile transformations usually see some common patterns:

  • First, the main focus is on teaching Agile and training the teams –the faster teams stop thinking about frameworks and reporting tools, the quicker they are able to move forward.

  • When the teams get up to steam, the focus shifts to cross-team alignment: to deliver end-to-end solutions the work of the various teams need to be integrated –discussions about the role of management usually arise, as well as about portfolio, technical excellence and the need for simpler, more meaningful metrics.

  • Once organizations are able to adjust processes and teams adopt their own rhythm, the focus shifts to delivering value and boosting business performance.

Since Agile is not a methodology nor a maturity model, we do not call them steps or stages. We call them waves!

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Understanding the nature of those waves and recognizing the way they materialize along the Agile journey becomes priceless: first, it provides clarity of what to expect through the transformation, and second, it helps grasp a better sense of what is happening in the organization.

This will enable leaders, management teams and coaches to tailor not only technical practices but also leadership behaviors and coaching approaches.

A friend and author of agile-thoughts has been writing for a while about the treats and characteristics inherent to each wave. After many requirements about putting his thoughts together, Derk-Jan de Grood decided to condense ideas, examples, practical tips and checklists in a book that is launched on the very same day as this edition of agile-thoughts!

In his own words…

“Out-of-the-box solutions do not thrive well in Agile-land. If you are completely new to Agile and Scrum, of if you expect to get detailed instructions to implement improvements without thinking, you might be disappointed.

Agile solutions do not come plug and play, you will need to do some work yourself, but I trust the book helps identify challenges, define solutions and explain why this is relevant.”

His book ‘The waves of Agile’ explains how the transformation changes with each wave of Agile adoption. It also explains how the coaching needs of the organization change over time –and consequently the evolution of the Agile coach role. And it explores how the waves are used to structure the practices that can be adopted in order to improve the value flow.

“I share the insights and experiences that I gained in the last couple of years. ‘The Waves of Agile’ deals with value delivery in medium and large organizations and clearly states why it is a challenge to have an effective Agile way of working. In a single team setting, a lot of things are easily organized. However, on an enterprise level an organizations’ culture and structure often gets in the way. This is the main reason why today we see a lot of teams and departments struggling in this area.”

Change does not happen at once –neither Agile transformations. The larger the organization, the more complex the process becomes. And even though each organization follows its own journey, common patterns can still be recognized in a broader context.

The more aware and prepared we are, the smoother the process will become.

That is the purpose of agile-thoughts. That is why the theme of this month is: WAVES!

Ricardo Abella

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