Many companies start their shift to Agile by bringing in a trainer. It’s a good idea, but it is not enough. Agile adoption is not like putting a new set of tires on your car. Before too long, you are going to have to redesign the car because people will be sitting in different places and the engine will be using new, more powerful fuel. Your organization is going to change and the change will be quicker and more successful if you go about it deliberately. 


History shows that training in Agile practices such as Scrum, Extreme Programming and Kanban will have limited success if that is all you do to transition your organization to the agile perspective. Software development happens within an organizational context that includes business development, portfolio management, product discovery, operations, support, organizational structure and corporate culture. All of these elements will be impacted by a shift to Agile. So they all need to be involved in the transition.

A proven approach to Agile transition is to apply Agile principles to the transition process itself. The traditional planned approach to organizational change management is replaced by an adaptive, strategy-based rollout of Agile efforts through use of an Agile framework. A typical approach consists of the following:

  • Development of an overarching Vision for the change including explicit goals and leading and lagging indicators of progress.
  • Formation of an Agile Transition Team consisting of Leadership decision makers, internal Agile experts, existing PMO members and managers involved in the initial products to be transitioned.
  • Creation of an initial Transition Backlog, a prioritized list of work to be accomplished or facilitated by Transition Team members.
  • Execution of the Transition Backlog by the Transition Team that meets frequently to review progress, identify new items for the backlog and manage impediments to progress.


Sample Transition Strategy

This is an illustration of an Agile Transition Strategy. Your organization is unique and will benefit from determining its own strategy. This may serve as a starting point for that determination.

  • Identify the sponsors and stakeholders of the Agile Transition
  • Identify the members of the Agile Transition Team
  • Launch the team using activities to define the charter of the team (purpose, agreements, skills and communication and collaboration processes)
  • Identify internal experts in Agile practices
  • With sponsors, stakeholders and experts
    • Identify specific transition goals
    • Identify leading and lagging indicators of success
    • Identify pilot transition products and teams
    • Develop the initial Transition Backlog
  • Use the Scrum framework to execute, update and extend the Transition Backlog
    • Meet 1-2 times per week
    • Self-assign items to accomplish from the Backlog
    • Report on task status
    • Periodically solicit feedback from stakeholders
    • Periodically retrospect on Transition Team process and progress
  • In time, shift the Transition Team into an Agile Sustaining Team to integrate organizational lessons learned, promote relevant best practices and identify organizational opportunities for further growth. This team may augment the PMO or become the internal Coaching Team.


Sample Transition Backlog

This is a sample starting backlog for an Agile Transition Team:

  • Identify transition KPIs
  • Develop a training plan
    • Initial Agile Awareness Training
    • Targeted Team Training
    • Agile for Managers
    • Agile Development and Testing Practices
  • Identify external and internal training resources
  • Choose pilot Agile products
  • Assemble pilot Agile Teams
  • Choose Agile reporting tools
  • Identify space needs
  • Identify tool needs
  • Establish Communities of Practice for Agile roles and interest areas
  • Initiate review and evolution of HR practices in support of Agile development
  • Extend Agile training and coaching to other department
Here is another sample.


Sample Transition Backlog with Themes

Next: Agile Transition Part 2: Success Factors



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Agile Transition Part 1: It Takes More Than Training

One thought on “Agile Transition Part 1: It Takes More Than Training

  • May 13, 2015 at 9:08 pm

    Good blog on Agile transitions. For a variety of reasons, many agile transitions have failed, resulting in immediate chaos, infighting, and an exodus of top talent to insist their employers “don’t get it”. Your agile transition can work, but you need to pay attention to what your competitors have ignored: you must get to the heart of your organisation’s problems before you can begin to apply tools from the agile toolbox.


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