Tactical or Strategic? Two Agile Transformation Paths

Leaders seeking agile transformations often have the daunting task of shifting entire cultural and organizational changes necessary to stay relevant and ahead of the competition. Change does not occur overnight and utilizing Agile frameworks make necessary transformations manageable and, more importantly, successful.

There are two general paths in which an organization will develop agile knowledge. I refer to these two approaches as the “tactical approach” and the “strategic approach” for agile development transformation. The tactical approach is what I describe as learning from a seasoned expert in the mentorship role, usually someone within the organization. The strategic approach is where an external trainer and/or coach is hired to help bring teams up to speed quickly and efficiently in the agile transformation. There are certainly benefits to both approaches as well as some challenges which I’ll explore more carefully.

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Tactical: Delivery Based

The tactical approach is appealing due to its efficient use of an in-house agile expert who already understands the culture and structure of the organization. A seasoned software developer who is already a member of the delivery team and understands agile development practices is able to mentor and teach others to adapt in meaningful and relevant ways. This person is responsible for software development, releases, infrastructure recommendations, and the list goes on and on. If this is the person teaching Scrum or Kanban, it may appear on the surface that this approach provides the best of both worlds at a fraction of the price. However, I encourage you to look carefully at this option. One main disadvantage of to this approach is that player/coaches have two focuses: delivery and knowledge transfer. Under a hardpressed deadline, knowledge transfer will often suffer when delivery responsibilities take priority.

Strategic: Dedicated Trainer/Coach

A more strategic approach to transformation would entail a training class followed by a dedicated onsite coaching and advising. This approach has the benefit of focusing directly on learning and evaluating results through practice. For some, this approach appears more expensive with less direct results in the output. However, I would challenge a decision maker to look more holistically. A trainer or coach isn’t going to help deliver your critical project on time. However, they will help identify value, help you focus your money and people on that value stream, increase visibility, and improve end-to-end throughput while reducing expensive quality problems.

Best of Both Worlds

Imagine having a team of agile technology professionals who also understand the best of agile development practices. Now imagine them working with expert trainers, coaches, and advisors. This team formation makes the most drastic impact on how delivery is done within an organization.

Conclusion

Agile transformations are not easy and there are some common reasons they fail. Read my blog on Four Reasons Why Your Agile Implementation Isn’t Working for more on this topic.  I recommend the delivery-based approach with a dedicated trainer approach or a hybrid, both valid ways to approach an agile transformation.

If you’re looking for any of the above solutions to help your company make the transition, let’s talk. Our expert professionals do this all day every day. We can help.

Robert Pieper

I like Metalcore, and cupcakes.