To have a decent chance of leading a successful change effort it is imperative to have the right conversations, at the start, with the executives and stakeholders who will be instrumental in the success of the transformation effort. While starting at the team level and focusing on the process introduction is far easier, it is also the riskiest strategy long-term.
So what might you want to do during the initial session:
- Ensure that the executives and sponsors are clear on why they are embarking on their Agile journey. Remember that Agile practices and methods are just a means to an end and not the end itself. Additionally, most transformations fail because people treat them as transitions instead — you want to make sure the leaders understand the difference between the two.
- The leaders also need to be clear on what outcomes (quantified where possible) they want to achieve.
- Change efforts succeed when leaders actively lead the change and remove barriers to higher performance. You may want to talk about the three key components of organizational agility — (1) leadership agility (how leaders lead, inspire, direct, and motivate others), (2) organizational structures (structures, rules and policies that facilitate how work gets done and how results are produced), and (3) organizational culture (collectively held beliefs, values, and assumptions that determine how people think and how they behave) — and how they themselves need to approach the leadership work differently.
- Ensure they understand the concept of looking at things holistically — discovery, development, delivery, and leadership and how each affects the other.
- Lay out at a high-level what the incremental goals might be — moving from tactical to strategic to aspirational.
- Check their level of commitment on a 1-10 scale, where anything less than 8 indicates wavering commitment.
- If committed, introduce the concept of an enablement team and ask them for recommendations on who should be on that team.
Make sure you keep engagement high — have the leaders work through exercises that get them up and collaborating.
Bottom line — in my experience, two to three hours spent with the executives and sponsors early on will prevent hundreds of hours of pain and suffering later on. What have your experiences been?