Leading by Alignment: Agile Transformation Pt. II

On alphaBeta, we’ve been sharing learnings about ATB’s own agile transformation. In Part I, we explored the Principles and Governance Framework: key assets developed to create consensus around this evolution as well as how to measure ourselves along the way. In this installment, we explore the importance of leadership.

Any shift in how teams work requires a shift in how leaders lead.

Traditionally (and ATB was no different), leadership values stability: hierarchical reporting structures, concentrated decision-making and control, business unit silos, and firm, unwavering project goals.

Declaring the intent to transform into an agile organization is like taking a sledgehammer to the old ways of managing and leading. Instead, agile environments need leaders who thrive in ambiguity, encourage collaboration, and who have mindsets tailored to ‘discovery’ versus certainty. 

When we committed to Agile, it’s probably fair to state that we underestimated how deeply embedded the old beliefs and habits were. 

Agile organizations prioritize purpose and outcome over ‘output.’ But change is hard.  At ATB, everyone was onboard in principle, but it was still second nature to take comfort in the “plan” as a means to guide our work. 

So, when going Agile meant the plan was no longer set in stone - rather  ever-evolving - it can create a sense that your team is just spinning its wheels. This is where organizations often fail at Transformation. Ego, old habits, fear of uncertainty … these are terribly hard (and human) traits that leaders need to overcome to empower teams to test early and release in iterations instead of one major push.

Through our own experiences, we’ve discovered the most successful, productive teams  have accomplished mindset shift and found key alignments thanks to strong leadership: 

Mindset — leadership need to walk the talk:

  • Attending Sprint Reviews and Product Demos. Being present is key.
  • Allowing for autonomy and encouraging diversity of thinking
  • Relinquishing control and finding ways to collaborate
  • Encourage creativity
  • Embracing tools (such as test automation vs. manual testing - test early, test often!) 
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate! 

Alignment:

  • For agile to work, product and technical need to be aligned
  • Vision and purpose need to provide clear North Stars
  • Leaders at ALL levels need to be aligned, and bought-in 
  • Product owners and technical leads need to constantly share with, and educate one another

We’ve started to see the positive impacts of Agile in tangible ways. The cross functional fluidity of communication and decision-making has brought together technical, product, customer experience, design, digital into conversations with one another earlier in the process. 

Product development has changed from an assembly line style into a fluid process that allows teams to challenge and support one another more often - resulting in a quality outcome for Albertans.

Becoming agile is vastly different than going through the motions of adopting a few tools and processes. It takes sound methodology, strong leadership and dedicated team members. Not to mention time (and constant evaluation). Want to learn more about ATB’s journey of Transformation? Sign-up to follow alphaBeta, where we’ll share more about learnings while making the shift to agile. Follow along with us by scrolling to the bottom of the page.

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