Insights and learnings from pursuing a large-scale Agile Transformation remotely
Updated: May 15, 2020
As transformation consultants we are quite used to talk about and deal with change in large organizations. We usually have the outside perspective, not directly being affected by the change at hand. Until now.
The state of the Agile Transformation
Right now, we are in the middle of a large-scale Agile transformation together with an insurance company that spans across the Nordic countries. The transformation project has been planned, discussed and detailed since last spring. In January we launched the first “tribe” of the first value stream consisting of nine eager scrum teams, responsible for the first steps of the customer journey. The teams where quickly picking up speed in their value delivery, team cohesion and collaboration. In parallel, a second wave of the transformation was being mobilized, with two additional tribes consisting of 20 teams, planned to be launched during mid-April.
Being Agile about Agile Transformation
Then Corona hits the world. And us. Our families. Our daily lives. Everyone suddenly works from home. Since our client is present in all Nordic countries, many of the team members are also filling in as teachers for their kids, as the schools are closed in several of the Nordic countries.
Despite the situation, our client is determined: “We will not cancel or postpone, we will follow through and make this launch happen. We can do it! And of course, we can, we just have to adapt and respond to the situation at hand. That is what Agile is all about and why we started this transformation in the beginning”
Now we as consultants had to step up and be Agile about the Agile transformation, showing that we can walk the talk.
Adjusting the plan – Going remote
Our “launch sequence” consists of four major steps prior to the first sprint planning;
Training of Product Owners and Scrum masters
Agile awareness training for all team members
Kick-off with the full tribe
Ramp-up week to prepare the teams for the first sprint.
So, what are we doing differently with our upcoming tribe launch to make it an even better experience than the last one? As you probably know, continuous improvement is a cornerstone of Agile – even more now that we will go remote.
Insights and Learnings: Training key agile roles remotely
We start with the training of the key roles. To conduct a full three-day training remotely, instead of in person, requires some adaptation and prioritization. When conducting Agile training, a lot of the learning happens through hands-on-exercises and discussions in small groups. So, our challenge is to find ways to replicate that learning experience in an online format. Our key learnings from this is;
Limit the time you spend on going through theory and do much more of break-out sessions, exercises, small group discussions etc. Also fill the schedule with air and add more breaks, both long and short.
Preparation and attention to details - facilitation requires more time since the ability to “freestyle” or change on the fly is more limited in a remote format.
Stretch your mind on what is possible to do digitally and find simple solutions. How can we for example do a physical human sorting exercise remotely? Use the tools you are comfortable with, e.g a shared powerpoint where everyone can drag and drop an image of themselves in a grid. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that.
Use a meeting tool where everyone can see each other at the same time and where breakout-rooms for small group exercises are available (e.g. Zoom.us)
For the agile awareness training our client had one key request – make it possible for team members to do it on their own terms.
Try our manual: "How you can prepare and facilitate the best remote meeting"
Spreading Agile knowledge in the organization
Given the situation with home quarantine, many people cannot be asked to participate on a full-day training while at the same time taking care of kids, cooking lunch for their families, filling in as teachers etc. So, our take on that was to divide the content into modules and pre-record a walkthrough of the theory on each module. Then we prepared exercises possible to perform individually and finally offered common Q&A sessions on a number of occasions to allow for questions and discussions.
These adaptations made it possible to not only go through with the team member trainings as planned, but also offer easy access to the same training material to a broader audience within the company. This side effect of spreading agile knowledge to even more people will most likely help us further down the road of this journey, probably even creating some additional pull effect on the upcoming waves of implementation.
The Kick-off part was a bit harder. The intention of the event is to come together as a tribe and get to know people outside of your own team and country. Mingling and having dinner together will be saved for later. However, coming together, understanding the vision and mission of the tribe and getting a sense of your own team’s role in delivering as a tribe is still as important as ever. The learning for us was to scale down and prioritize the most important thing – having the teams come together to understand who they are and where they are going.
Relying on the Agile Principles to achieve Business Agility: Insights & Learnings
Last part of our launch sequence is the Ramp-up week where team members are ramping down their previous workload and ramping up the scrum team’s work – getting to know each other, setting collaboration agreements and building the backlog. Our take-away here is to “trust the team”, an Agile principle that is very much applicable in this situation. Give teams a clear description of the expected outcome, provide the right pre-requisites and make sure to support them whenever needed and they will figure out their way forward themselves. The power of self-organization at its best. To summarize our learnings;
Stretch your mind on what is possible to do with digital collaboration tools
Preparation, preparation, preparation - when facilitating longer events remote
Trust your teams and rely on the Agile principles, because they will help you in times of uncertainty
Do not pause, postpone or cancel
In a world that is defined as “VUCA” (Volatile-Uncertain-Complex-Ambiguous) you need to be flexible with your strategy for how to handle obstacles in your way. Use your teams, be transparent about your decisions and set clear goals for them. They will figure out the “how” and make you as a company stay ahead of the competition.
About the authors:
Jenny Lagergren Agile Transformation Consultant
Connect with me: Linked In
Jenny have driven and contributed in several large-scale agile transformation projects of different sizes. From companywide business agility projects with more than 2000 employees in scope, to smaller agile implementations in a handful of teams. Besides the agile mindset and expertise, Jenny has great knowledge and experience from process development, project management and customer journey mapping and optimization.
Agile Transformation Consultant
Connect with med: Linked In
Johan Svensson is a senior management consultant and senior agile coach. He has been involved in large-scale agile transformation at some of the leading companies in the Nordics. He has a background in marketing and often seen as a keynote speaker when it comes to agile practices. His main focus at present is to help increase work efficiency by implementing agile methodologies.