Stuck in the Middle with Your Agile Transformation? Part 1

Here's something I see in many organizations: Management wants to “control and manage” the projects/efforts/work (whatever they call it) in the same way they did before the organization started agile. They want Gantt charts. They want commitments. They want assurances that the work will proceed in the same way they thought of it before the project started.

In the meantime, the project teams revel in the adaptability of being able to re-rank the backlog and show value. They progress on the work the Product Owner wants, in the order the PO wants it.

If you are a manager, project manager, or a change artist in your organization, I bet you are dismayed. Management is not nurturing an environment in which agile can thrive—and more important—the managers don't receive the value of agile.

You are stuck in the middle.

Agile (and lean) help us to deliver constant streams of value. Once we deliver, we can change what we work on next. If you have small stories, you can deliver and change every day. I don't recommend changing every day—I prefer a slightly longer perspective. But you could. I wrote about this in a Pragmatic Manager last year, called Commitments or Resilience.

You have a problem. What is it, and how can you solve it? You might need some data:

  • What problems does your management have?
  • How will agile help solve those problems?
  • What does agile success look like for your management?

These questions are part of getting ready to coach and influence your management. When you ask these questions, you learn what is in it for the managers (WIIFM in influence terms), and what you might need to measure to help everyone understand how agile can help. If you feel stuck in the middle, join Gil Broza and me when we address these issues in the Influential Agile Leader workshop.

Sometimes, it's not just management who is a little stuck in the agile transition. Sometimes, it's the team(s), too. I'll address the team concerns in Part 2.

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