Do you do Agile — or is Agile part of your DNA?

The greatest obstacle to agile involves cultural and organizational change.

As with the agile methodology, an effective approach is incremental, parallel acceptance by multiple business units.

To illustrate my points here, I’ll tell you about the experience of a leading North American insurance company. For many companies in regulated industries like insurance, staying competitive in the age of digital disruption requires a major transformation that enables them to better sense and respond to change to create tangible business outcomes.

Change #1: New mindsets

Waterfall is a sequential process and agile is an incremental, parallel process, so waterfall may seem more logical and less messy. (Remember when we complained that the Internet wasn’t sequential, like reading a book? Now, when we research a new nutritional supplement or the best bikes, rather than buy a book, most of us instinctively turn to the non-sequential web.)

That’s the kind of change in mindset we need to graduate from “doing” agile to “being” agile.  The commitment to think in a new way has to extend to everyone, and it requires leadership and teamwork.

The client was accustomed to designing, building and delivering software using traditional methods, and they recognized the need for a more nimble operating model that produces quicker time to market. They called upon CA to scale an enterprise-wide agile transformation via CA Agile Central and consulting.

Change #2: Culture shift

To be agile, organizations must change their culture organically. Managers need to value and promote workers who drive quality collaborations, not just individual results. They need to train collaborative leaders who build teams that can handle the confusion and conflict that often surface during rapid change. Other essentials include favoring outcomes instead of rules, responding to change instead of following a rigid plan, and supporting participation and self-direction over command-and-control.

The organization, depending on its current state, may need to be restructured, and certainly needs to identify agile coaches, transformation agents, and other leaders who drive the training, structure and systems that facilitate transformation.

Agile touches every aspect of an organization’s operations. In our client’s case, it affected organizational roles, delivery group structures, business engagement, collaboration and synchronization. To ensure adoption of Agile Central, the client enlisted CA’s Agile for Success Program, which helped the client quadruple its use of Agile Central in the past 18 months.

Change #3: Collaborative teams

Agile is renowned for its self-directed, cross-functional teams that collaborate to create customer value, prioritize and limit work in progress to deliver short bursts of progress, and engage in continuous planning and improvement. Collaboration feeds transparency, which emboldens trust and helps teams achieve laser focus and alignment across swim lanes. Ideally, delivery teams have a product owner and an objective facilitator. Teams make their own decisions, unlike teams in command-and-control cultures.

Like many large companies, the client has several independent BUs with their own CIOs, which challenges enterprise transformation. When the client originally enlisted CA, the relationship was transactional: Agile consultants performed short deliveries to train targeted groups and launch pilot teams.

To scale transformation and move it up the value staircase, CA embedded consultants in every BU and the group responsible for the transformation. When momentum and excitement about Agile picked up, the relationship morphed into multi-team agile release trains using the embedded management consulting model and Scaled Agile Framework. Today, the relationship is an enterprise-wide partnership, with consultants acting as trusted advisors.

Out with the old, in with the new

Is it time for you to say goodbye to waterfall attributes (sequential phases, heavy up-front investments, large-scale designs) that make it difficult to respond quickly to changing markets? If so, say hello to agile attributes that reap faster time-to-market, higher quality, teams that aggressively deliver on commitments, and a business headed in the right direction.


As the general manager of CA services and education, Chris leads the global CA technologies…

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