Leaders in organizations are exceptional in their industry’s domain of expertise and have proven themselves applying leadership styles that have defined their success to date. It is this momentum and reassurance that propels leaders into failure with their Agile Transformations. 

Why Leaders Fail Their Agile Transformations

When asking employees to change to a completely different way of working, most leaders fail to recognize that it also requires a more substantial change in how they lead. Industry leaders are always experts, but never experts in everything, especially with Agile Transformations. A false sense of confidence closes leaders down from seeking and having faith in the advice of others. 

The Seven Keys

If leaders must change their ways of thinking and leading, how do they do so and be successful? We offer seven “Agile Transformation Keys” to provide leaders the guidance they need. They are a distillation of the wisdom from decades of leaders that have made similar attempts in the past. Some have succeeded, and most have failed, and we have extracted the essence of what leaders do when they succeed.

The Seven Keys give executives specific, tangible ways that leaders can apply starting tomorrow. These business patterns are essentially keys to unlock the transformation that they’re responsible for. 

Vintage keys made out of iron on a wooden table

Each Key is a Successful Business Pattern

At SHIFT314, we’ve been leading with Agile for decades. What we’ve realized from looking back at what does and doesn’t work is that much of what happens in the Agile industry is not a reflection of the Agile manifesto. 

We also have enough experience to know that your transformation is probably not performing as expected. There is even a chance your transformation is more of a facade than a real change. We want you to succeed and are handing you the keys to your transformation’s success.

Agile Transformation Keys

The mainstream thinking on Agile hasn’t always worked. There’s a lot of guidance out there about Agile that is based on theory or hearsay. What we have found is that the organizations that are successful with Agile transformations are not following the herd. 

While they may not follow the mainstream narrative, The Seven Keys contain the successful business patterns leaders need, and put them into a format that’s easy to understand, communicate, and apply. 

How Are the Seven Keys Connected to Agile?

Over the last couple of decades, our industry has been distracted by a lot of the initiatives that sound like they’re Agile, but aren’t actually mentioned at all in the Agile manifesto.

Hand pointing to agile graphic with six key details

I’ll pick on Scrum or Kanban just for fun. Scrum and Kanban were around before the Agile Manifesto and there’s not even a mention of them in the Agile manifesto. However, when we work with our clients who ask for our help with their transformations, they usually begin describing their deployment of Scrum with detail. Additionally, when asked, they can’t recall most of the four values of the Agile Manifesto. 

Early in my career, I had a pivotal experience which led to an epiphany. As a leader, I was implementing Agile as best as I could within my organization, but we weren’t achieving substantial improvements in outcomes. My epiphany was that the Agile manifesto was telling me how to be a leader and that it was really a framework for making decisions. Once I implemented this, we saw the improvements we’d been seeking. These Seven Keys give you the simple and practical steps to implementing that framework in your day-to-day organizational environment.

How Are the Seven Keys Different from What We’ve Already Heard?

Most organizations we work with initially approach their transformation overly focused on what the employees and teams do. What’s their process? What are the job descriptions? What are the hiring practices? While these are useful structures, the reason why the transformations are not working is that organizational leaders are not embracing the values that are defined in the Agile manifesto.

They’re missing the point that the Agile manifesto is really a description of how to lead a team and make effective decisions as a leader. When you’re rolling out Scrum or Kanban, the focus is on teams. However, the Agile manifesto speaks more to the leaders because the leaders are the ones who have the power and authority to create the space for these frameworks to be successful. Asking employees, scrum masters, or coaches to do this makes no sense.

Audience raising their hands at a public speaking event

While there’s no doubt that everybody on the team needs to embrace the four values, it’s the leaders who shape the culture and model what’s acceptable and unacceptable in an organization. 

The Seven Keys help executives and leaders to figure out specifically how to embrace these four values as business patterns in their organization. As leaders work to bring those values into their decision framework, they can use these Seven Keys as a simple way to actually embrace the Agile manifesto through specific and practical steps that will help them create a successful transformation.

Leading the New Way of Working with Results

As an executive or a leader of an Agile transformation, you may find the Seven Keys rather counter-intuitive. They’re not a parrot of the common industry narratives. Why is this? 

You simply have to do the math. At least 90% of the Agile transformations in flight today are not working. So listening to what the whole industry is parroting is just going to have you go down the same path as everybody else. 

Agile Transformation Keys

What these Seven Keys help an executive understand is that listening to the industry is a design for disaster. Instead of the unsuccessful narratives that are dominant in the industry, these Seven Keys represent the business patterns that have actually been proven to be successful. These are the approaches that organizations have used to achieve success with Agile. 

The Seven Keys have been called “The second wave of Agile.” It’s the new way in which organizations have cracked the code on Agile after we’ve spent the last two decades not getting it right.

Your Leadership is the Key

The Seven Keys also point to an important message: Agile has a lot more to do with the leaders than it does to do with the teams. The business patterns in the Seven Keys are really trajectories that leaders can take and help their teams progress towards.