23 Jun Choose the Right People for Agile Transformation
Agile methodology, initially designed for rapid software development, has become popular in various organizational settings as teams seek to execute projects more efficiently. However, research conducted by Babson’s Rob Cross, Alia Crocker, and Harvard Law School’s Heidi K. Gardner reveals that many large agile initiatives not only fail to achieve their goals but also lead to organizational disruptions, including staff burnout, talent loss, and inter-team conflicts.
To understand the reasons behind these failures, the authors have utilized organizational network analysis, a method that maps how people collaborate, to identify unforeseen barriers that hinder agile initiatives. Three common mistakes in high-profile strategic initiatives have been identified, which undermine agile teams from the start:
1. Staffing teams only with star performers: Relying solely on star performers can disrupt existing work since they are deeply embedded in networks crucial for ongoing operations. These stars are continually sought after by colleagues, even when they are just assigned to one agile project.
2. Keeping agile teams isolated from the core business: Agile teams often lack all the necessary capabilities to execute a new initiative fully. It is essential for these teams to collaborate with other parts of the company to gain a holistic understanding of problems, regional nuances, and competitive landscapes. Engaging with organizational stakeholders is also critical to gain support for resource requests and implementation plans.
3. Demanding 100% dedication from agile team members: While agile teams aim for total commitment and focus, expecting all members to dedicate full-time effort is unrealistic. Some initiatives can benefit from input from experts who can provide valuable insights without leaving their regular roles.
To enhance the success of agile projects, the authors propose two core principles for assigning individuals and defining their roles:
1. Staff teams with “hidden stars”: Instead of relying on recognized star employees, consider tapping into hidden stars who may have lower profiles within the organization. These individuals may be less tied to existing norms and can bring fresh perspectives. Opting for less-obvious talent also helps build a deeper bench of skilled employees.
2. Find highly connected potential resources: Agile projects frequently require input from people outside the core team who have complementary capabilities.
By considering these principles and recognizing that agile teams are part of larger collaborative networks, leaders can maximize talent both inside and outside teams, reduce overload and burnout, avoid disruptions, and achieve their goals more efficiently and effectively.