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What Is Enterprise Agile Transformation? Four Factors You Shouldn’t Miss

Enterprise Agile transformation is the process of shifting the management approach toward better adaptability, customer focus, and improved collaboration. Discover how adopting the Agile mindset can unlock a successful full-scale Agile transformation.

What Is Enterprise Agility? 

Agility is a key management characteristic of successful Agile organizations that stems from the Agile mindset, values, and principles. Agility represents the ability of organizations to adapt swiftly to the dynamics of the business world, induce a culture of learning and knowledge sharing, and preserve their momentum (novelty). 

Enterprise agility refers to scaling and evolving Agile practices across the entire enterprise, which requires a firm commitment to continuous improvement. Many businesses adopt Agile methodologies to establish an Agile culture within their organization. The ability to adapt to change is a key component of organizational agility, and it allows companies to execute their strategies better.  

Goals like these aren't easy to achieve, and scaling frameworks alone cannot guarantee long-term survival. Although there is a growing number of enterprise-scaling Agile approaches, going back to the roots of what Agile thinking entails is what matters. 

four agile valuesAgile values 

What Can Management Do for a Successful Agile Transformation? 

An enterprise Agile transformation journey starts by embracing change. In addition, the role of leadership, aligning the transformation goals to the company’s vision, and sustaining a culture of constant improvement are critical to the process.

1. Adopt and Promote the Agile Mindset 

While effective Agile transformation initiatives are recommended to be executed both top-down and bottom-up, change starts with leadership. Leaders should pick up and adopt the Agile mindset first. Their commitment and involvement in the transition are vital to promoting a culture of agility. 

Agile training and coaching agents support leaders on that mission. They advocate Agile practices and evangelize their benefits on efficiency and productivity as part of their roles. Dedicated coaches can help you scale those efforts across teams, departments, and business units. But remember, having an Agile coach alone will not “magically” propel an enterprise Agile transformation. Instead, leaders should focus on diving deep into the Agile mindset themselves and look at external consultants as "supporters" on their journey, not as the main drivers.  

2. Set Outcomes that Align with Your Vision 

When it comes to Agile, the customer must come first, and getting into their shoes is the key to delivering the most value. To achieve such synchronization at a company level, you need to define the clear outcomes of the transition process and establish how to measure success. 

To help you better execute a full-scale Agile transformation, create transparency between the current state of your organization and where you want to be in the future. It's in the Agile leaders' hands to ensure teams understand how the Agile transformation process will benefit them too, not just the management. These team-level benefits include autonomy and involvement in the decision-making processes.  

3. Define Interdependent Services 

To embrace agility, it's important to get a bird’s eye view of your company's processes and different value streams. It's important to view your organization for what it is - an ecosystem of interdependent services.  This way, you can begin to evolve and uncover inefficiencies without disrupting what's already in place. 

The Lean technique of value stream mapping, for instance, can help you achieve that full transparency in interconnected services. On the other hand, regular feedback cadences can provide an opportunity to maintain these systems constantly synchronized. 

Using a method such as Kanban can help you optimize delivery processes while dealing with enterprise challenges, including managing portfolios and aligning strategic initiatives. To do this at an enterprise level, Kanban uses a concept known as Enterprise Services Planning (ESP). ESP is a way of planning, scheduling, tracking work, and managing dependencies in the knowledge work domain. 

The ESP is a management curriculum taught by the Kanban University

4. Learn and Improve 

Mastering Agile practices and sustaining a culture of collaboration and adaptability is what makes a successful enterprise-level Agile transition. A cornerstone of that mission is learning from your experience and improving while focusing on what works in your scenario. 

By incorporating regular feedback loops across the entire organization, you can gain valuable insights from your experience. Creating such a powerful flow of information in all directions in your company can unlock a true symbiosis between all operating units. 

Real-life Enterprise-level Agile Transformations 

Let's uncover a few examples of successful enterprise Agile transformations that all applied different approaches. What is common between the following examples are acknowledging the need to change, willingness to experiment, and commitment to continuous improvement. 

Bringing People Closer to the Company Mission with a Customer-Centric Perspective at Roche. 

Leading biotechnology company Roche began their Agile transformation journey in 2018, driven by the ambitious vision to deliver 3 to 5 times more patient benefits at a 50% lower cost to society. 

The complex processes, systems, and governance dominating the organizational culture at the time had a negative impact on employee engagement. Furthermore, external factors such as healthcare digital transformation, accelerated product development, and competition also imposed the company’s evolution. 

Shifting the mindset toward ownership and empowering people was the first goal for leaders of the Agile transition. Evolutionary design based on incremental improvements was another cornerstone in implementing the Agile behavior.  

Team members were encouraged to take a customer-centric approach, to look beyond processes, teams, and functions, and consider how their work impacts customers and the organization. The Agile tools were of lesser importance for the initiative's success.  

Altering the leaders’ mindset was the first step in the transition at Roche. Leaders needed to get in the shoes of the coaches and facilitators rather than decision-makers. Furthermore, a strong network of Agile ambassadors also played a critical role in the adoption process. 

Source: Agile: The new active ingredient in pharma development 

Source: The Roche Agile Transformation Journey 

Achieving Company-wide Visibility, Streamlined Dependencies, and Faster Feedback at Valmont. 

Lack of visibility into product development was one of the key challenges that international developer of agriculture and infrastructure products leader Valmont Industries experienced. To face that challenge, the company initiated an enterprise Agile transformation. 

The initiative mainly focused on knowledge work processes such as R&D, Marketing & Product Development, including Irrigation Engineering. However, process improvements led to the decision to scale the transition further across the enterprise. 

Critical to the success of the project were two things: extensive Agile training and coaching, as well as the use of Kanban and Scrum of Scrums. Kanban boards allowed for greater transparency into the work in progress. Additionally, feedback loops allowed early consideration of customer requirements, which led to faster value delivery. 

Combining professional Agile coaching services and applying Lean and Agile methods enabled Valmont to increase work visibility, streamline the coordination of internal dependencies, and spot work roadblocks. 

Source: Valmont Industries Case Study 

Building an Agile Community from Agile Practitioners at Energy Giant - E.ON. 

Once again, a successful Agile transformation was completed first at the IT department of the German energy company E.ON. Staring on a small scale allowed the company to accumulate enough Agile knowledge and training in Agile practices. 

The transition challenges were solid hierarchical organizational structure and processes and an inherited demand and control culture. However, the rapid changes in the energy market and growing environmental concerns were undeniable drivers of the transformation.  

In the beginning, teams started to run Scrum projects; however, the initiative emphasized on strong in-house training. The goal was to create an Agile community of practitioners inside the organization. The community itself allowed E.ON to focus on improving upon those Agile practices that proved to work instead of adopting a well-known framework.  

Strong leadership support and extensive Agile coaching enabled the success of the holistic approach at E.ON. Furthermore, starting at a small scale at different teams and regions, and adjusting the Agile approach as per the local atmosphere, reduced the level of resistance. The initiative empowered self-organizing teams across the various regions where the company operated and improved the organization's capability to respond to business volatility. 

Source: E.ON Case Study 

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In Summary

Enterprise Agile transformation represents the global behavioral shift in work management toward a nimbler way of operating, with the goal of achieving long-term organizational resilience. The process can include the application of methodologies, techniques, processes, and tools to support its completion. There are four key factors to every successful large-scale Agile transition: 

  1. Adopting and promoting the Agile mindset first 
  2. Setting outcomes that align with your vision 
  3. Defining interdependent services 
  4. Learning and continuously improving 

Successful Agile transitions cannot be time-boxed. Instead, what’s important is getting used to always trying to improve and adapt the mindset that there is always a better way. 

Nikolay Tsonev

Nikolay Tsonev

Product Marketing | PMI Agile | SAFe Agilist certified

Nick is passionate about product marketing and business development and is a subject matter expert at Businessmap. With expertise in OKRs, strategy execution, Agile, and Kanban, he continues to drive his interest in continuous improvement. Nick is a PMI Agile and SAFe Agilist certified practitioner.

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