There’s a widespread recognition among the organizations I speak with that they need to become more agile, but there’s also a common struggle when it comes to actually adopting more agile principles and practices. In a recent interview I conducted with Amanda Moore, Head of IT – Customer Projects, Support & Field Services at Schneider Electric for a must-listen episode of the Future of Field Service podcast, she attributed much of the reason for this shared challenge to three things: a lack of understanding on what agile is, alignment not just within IT but across company functions on why and how to become more agile, and the need to rethink agile from simply a software methodology to more of an overarching business mindset.
“The term agile grew out of software development, but the concepts within the mindset are critical to the entire modern enterprise,” says Amanda. “Incremental change, autonomous and cross-functional teams, better accountability, and working across functions are aspects of agile that benefit all areas of the business. Companies from a focus on adopting agile as a mindset across the business rather than just for software development within IT.” Amanda summarizes the biggest challenges in adopting a more agile mindset to four main areas:
- Lack of understanding. “Agile isn’t just moving fast, it’s far more than that. One of the biggest barriers to companies becoming agile is not having a clear definition or vision for what it is they are working to become. Landing on a common understanding of agile is imperative,” explains Amanda.
- Alignment. “Again, agile is most impactful when it’s adopted as a company mindset versus just as a methodology within IT,” says Amanda. “This requires alignment across groups and functions of the business – a common goal and breakdown of silos.”
- Skepticism. “As with any change, people are uncomfortable giving up what they know. Within IT, those experienced in linear waterfall development are most comfortable with a detailed project plan – an agile approach is out of that comfort zone, and it causes skepticism,” says Amanda. Clear communication on objectives and a plan for change management will help you navigate this challenge.
- Support from finance. “Agile presents a major shift for most companies’ finance processes – finance departments are typically accustomed to funding projects, in terms of ROI on a business case, versus the ongoing prioritized work of teams,” says Amanda. This fundamental change can be challenging to overcome.
Amanda is experienced in facing these challenges and has some advice to offer you if you are in the midst of the quest to become more agile. First, she suggests training everybody on agile. “It’s worth hiring an expert to give your company a common vernacular and toolkit around what an agile mindset is and how adoption will impact the organization,” she says. Second, she suggests starting small and proving yourself. “Don’t try to boil the ocean to start – take a small first step,” Amanda says. “Focus on this small start and prove yourself. Earn the trust of your peers and don’t forget to promote the success beyond your own team so that others can see how agile is paying off.” And finally, build on your success. “Be flexible. Focus on putting the right people on your team and trust them to make the right decisions. Constantly review your progress and look for where you need to pivot and change.”