CA Champagne blog series (#6): Four ways to sustain business agility
How to sustain agility as new challenges arise and old ways beckon
In the sixth installment of our series on CA Technologies’ business agility transformation, Dave McKenna, Christine Hudson, Sri Parthasarathy, and Sairam Chamarti talk about how to sustain agility as new challenges arise and old ways beckon.
Adopting agile in your organization is a lot like adopting a new exercise regimen. While you know there are significant benefits that will last a lifetime, it still takes effort to get started and perseverance through the process. Similarly, we know there are significant benefits to agile. Benefits that will last the lifetime of the business—in fact, prolong that lifetime. But real dedication is required.
CA is nearing the end of our initial corporate initiative that we’ve jokingly referred to “installing agile.” (We are a software company, after all!) We’ve made tremendous progress with agile, evidenced by any number of metrics: Delivery is speeding up. Teams and trains — teams of teams — and lines of business, are more coordinated. Collaboration has improved. Employees understand new processes and how to embrace and execute against their new roles.
In fact, all leading indicators, from behavioral adoption of new cultural norms, to specific organizational practices like Quarterly Business Steering and PI Planning, and technology and tool use like strategy grids and Agile Central are very positive.
Seven LOBs are making steady progress, sometimes even phenomenal leaps forward in agility and owning their own continuous improvement. We’ve had one LOB–originally a shining star–that has struggled some and briefly slid backwards, but is now making forward progress again.
Why the struggle? Because cultural changes, like trips to the gym, are difficult to maintain. It’s essential that you stay motivated. You’ve spent too many hours and resources and too much money to allow teams to slide back into old habits. So, how do you maintain motivation?
As with exercise regimens, a coach can be invaluable in helping you to maintain discipline. Agile has always incorporated on-site coaches that act as feet-on-the-ground leaders who drive the agile implementation process. They’re an essential part of a successful agile transition.
Expanding on that concept, CA is implementing a Global Coaching Team of agile coaches to guide day-to-day practices, mindset and interactions. There’s at least one coach for leaders, scrum masters and teams inside our major offices, each looking for ways to improve mindsets and encourage more customer value. These coaches remind us how the behavioral indicators they’re looking for result in sustained business outcomes. They ensure a sustained commitment to business agility.
Leaders often find they need the coach as much or more than others in the organization. Changing behaviors that you’ve always been rewarded for is hard and takes courage. Leaders feel the most pressure from executives, the board and the Street to revert to previous behaviors. And if the leader reverts back…all bets are off.
At its core, agility drives continuous improvement and adaptation. Business unit leaders achieve this by promoting constant experimentation that’s executed, evaluated and used as a basis for improvement. This is why retrospectives are important. They allow you to learn from your successes and mistakes while continuously reevaluating existing processes.
Teams will need to adjust to new market challenges. An adaptive and experimental lean, agile mindset at the core of your business is critical to its success. Each line of business must therefore take ownership of agility. Everyone, from leaders on down, must regularly analyze their own mindset: “Am I willing to muster the discipline necessary to support the next experiment?” “Am I behaving in a manner that’s consistent with this new culture, this new mindset, I’m attempting to embrace and model?” If the answer to these isn’t a resounding, “Yes,” see section above on the benefits a coach can provide.
Also – don’t forget to leverage the power of your leadership team. You’re all practicing together. Learn to call each other on these practices, be each other’s coaches.
As agile evolved into an entirely new way of running an organization, it became clear that agile leaders must lead differently. Your current staff has learned this, but they won’t be around forever. And, if your business is growing, you’ll need additional leadership soon anyway.
But installing new leaders unfamiliar with agile processes, who use old terminologies and revert to waterfall methodologies is a roadmap to relapse. Grow your leaders from within. It’s as easy as incorporating agile ideologies into existing leadership development programs.
People often forget to appreciate how far they’ve come. Much like our customers, CA has sometimes neglected to celebrate milestones as they were achieved — and this doesn’t help maintain momentum. Sometimes, nothing is more inspiring than stepping back to admire and celebrate how far you’ve come. We’re reflecting on our success and sharing that with you as part of our own current celebration!
Agile is sustainable. It just requires discipline from the organization. To hear one of our leaders talk directly and openly about their own agile journey, visit: