According to Kurt Bittner, Agility is really the engine that powers Digital Transformation
At Agile India 2018 Conference, the attendees will have two opportunities to learn more about agile transformation, digital transformation, and scaling agility, from Kurt Bittner. Kurt will be presenting a talk on “5 Things You Need To Do To Scale Your Digital Transformation” on Digital Transformation Day (March 8th, 2018). Attendees can also benefit from the workshop “Scaled Professional Scrum with Nexus” which he will be conducting as a part of Post-conference Workshops, on 10th & 11th, March 2018.
The #agileindia2018 team interviewed Kurt on the challenges and various dimensions of digital transformation, agile adaption, and scaling agility.
What the are some of the key challenges that organizations need to overcome to scale their agile transformation?
Many organizations think that scaling agility is about establishing processes; it’s not. The key challenge in scaling agility is building strong, resilient, cross-functional teams that can frequently deliver business value, measure the results, adapt based on those measures, and then repeat. To do so also means inverting the organization, so that managers and leaders serve those teams, helping them to improve, removing their impediments, and protecting them from interruptions that drain their ability to focus.
Teams that work together to produce an integrated product also need some practices that help them to manage, reduce, or eliminate cross-team dependencies that kill productivity and introduce waste and delay. Nexus is a framework that extends Scrum to help multiple Scrum teams working together manage their dependencies and deal with integration problems.
Agile is at the heart of Digital Transformation and scaling is important for any successful Digital Transformation in large enterprises. Do you see both Scaling Agile and Digital Transformation complimenting each other or should there be different strategies for both?
Successful Digital Transformation means being able to respond quickly to change, in competitor behaviors and in customer preferences. It means being able to sense when those changes occur, and responding quickly.
Agile Transformation helps organizations create strong, high performing teams that help organizations to deliver value to customers in rapid cycles. Agility is really the engine that powers Digital Transformation. Where digital transformation guides the goals of what to deliver, agile transformation provides the means of delivery. Digital transformation is not possible without agile transformation.
Agile transformation without digital transformation often results in empty rituals. Delivering solutions quickly using agile practices doesn’t yield differentiating business results when business practices can’t utilize the new information that agility can provide to improve customer experiences.
What are the necessary investments that organizations need to make to overcome some of the challenges, specifically on culture, ways of working and expectations in globally distributed setup?
The foundation of both agile and digital transformation is creating empowered, cross-functional, highly collaborative teams, and building, within these teams, a culture focused on frequently and consistently delivering business value to customers (or users who serve customers). The importance of this increases not decreases when team members may be spread across the globe. Building trust between team members, creating acceptance of transparency, empowering team members (and extended team members, including stakeholders) to be courageous in upholding their commitment to professional excellence, fostering in them respect for each other and every person with whom they interact, and protecting them from outside distractions and removing impediments the teams face requires real leadership.
Leadership is the indispensable essence that separates success from failure in both agile and digital transformations. Leaders themselves must embody the Scrum Values of commitment, courage, respect, focus, and openness:
- Commitment to servant-leadership of their teams
- Courage to provide that support when the organization pulls in other directions
- Respect for team members, customers, and stakeholders
- Focus on continuously improving their organizations’ ability to serve customers
- Openness and transparency about how and why the organization makes and carries out decisions
Working in these new ways takes time, investment, and patience on the part of everyone, but the new way of working, delivering value incrementally and continuously, also reinforces the changes. Consistent delivery builds both trust and confidence, which reinforces the cultural change.
What are the key takeaways from your workshop titled “Scaled Professional Scrum with Nexus” to the attendees? Can they apply it immediately to their work?
The Scaled Professional Scrum with Nexus workshop helps people who are already using Scrum to build upon that experience to enable multiple Scrum Teams to work together to deliver a single working Product Increment. Nexus consists of a set of minimal extensions to Scrum that help teams overcome the common problems that nearly all teams encounter when they try to get more than 2 Scrum Teams working together. The workshop also covers complementary practices, such as loose component coupling, microservice architectures, DevOps, and Continuous Delivery, that help these teams improve their ability to deliver working Product Increments. The workshop follows a case study and uses experiential exercises to provide attendees with practical experiences that they can try when they return to their own teams.
What are the key takeaways from your talk titled “5 Things You Need To Do To Scale Your Digital Transformation” to the attendees?
Some organizations think that they have to adopt complex agile scaling frameworks to scale their agility. The essence of scaling agility at an organizational level is growing an agile culture, not adopting a set of processes. To foster this cultural change, organizations need to do a number of things differently from how they may work today:
- They need to focus project and product funding and governance on delivering better customer/business outcomes, rather than focusing on schedule and budget as they do today. To do that, they need to be able to articulate the value that they are looking to achieve when they fund a particular initiative, and then measure this value once they deliver. Getting everyone, from the development team to Product Owners, to Stakeholders, to focus on value establishes a common language that spans everything the organization does.
- Leaders, the teams they support, and stakeholders need to form working agreements about how they will collaborate, and they need to hold themselves and each other accountable for upholding these agreements. To do this, they need to accept that everyone makes an essential contribution, and no role is more or less important than any other role.
- Following on to this, the essential role that leadership plays is to establish an environment in which empiricism can take root and thrive, to establish and communicate clear goals toward which teams work, and protect and support those teams as they work to achieve these goals. Agile leadership is focused on helping teams to achieve ambitious goals, not telling team members what they need to do to achieve those goals.
- Agile teams seeking these goals often need help and support to do their best. Traditional organizations are typically not optimized to support cross-functional, goal-seeking teams. Traditional organizations incorrectly believe that costs and minimized when people are utilized to the fullest; they mistake being busy with producing value because they are too fragmented and hierarchically organized to be able to measure business value delivery. Agile teams change this by organizing themselves to deliver business value, but they often need support from leaders to get the help they need from the rest of the organization.
- Improving business value delivery is the whole reason organizations are pursuing digital transformation, but in order to improve, they must be able to measure the value they deliver. Traditional measurement approaches focusing on cost and schedule confuse output with value, and as a result, they end up spending far too much time and money building things that are not useful and don’t produce value. The truth is that almost all “requirements” are a guess about what customers or users need, even when customers or users are the sources of those requirements. Clearly articulating goals, explicitly framing “experiments”, inspecting results achieved, and adapting based on those results is the foundation of digital transformation and continuously improving results delivery.
More About Kurt Bittner
Kurt Bittner has had a long and diverse career in software delivery. He has been in different profiles and roles starting from a developer, consultant focusing on RDBMS application architecture, a product manager, a software product line owner, a software process improvement consultant, an industry analyst. His specialties and areas of expertise include product development, organizational transformation, software development tools and practices, agile development techniques, teaching, mergers and acquisitions, software product management, IT strategy. At Scrum.org he is focused on scaling Scrum to the enterprise level, both in terms of breadth (consistent practices across teams) and depth (applying Scrum to complex products that span Scrum teams). Prior to joining Scrum.org, Kurt was a Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, where he focused on Agile and DevOps trends, specifically how Continuous Delivery Practices help remove impediments faced by Agile teams. Before that, he was CTO-Americas for Ivar Jacobson International where he spent 6 years helping organizations with their Agile adoption efforts. He was also a founding member of IBM’s Jazz Platform team.