Agile transformation (part 2) — top-down

Creative Commons 3.0 by Corinna Baldauf

TL;DR version — Top-down approach is a natural progression from bottom-up approach. Use Knoster’s model to find gaps, resolve obstacles and create enduring organisational change.

In my previous post on agile transformation, I mentioned that a bottom-up approach is a good way to start small, deliver quick win and demonstrate agility. I also mentioned that all is good until you reach the chasm and it becomes a different ball game.

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you — Mahatma Gandhi

Let me introduce one of my favourite tools to create enduring organisational change — Knoster’s change model.

Adapted by Knoster from Enterprise Group Ltd.

The first row in the model depicts successful organisational change when all elements — vision, buy in, skills, incentives, resources and action plan — are present. The subsequent rows depict resulting outcomes on the right when the required elements of change are absent on the left. For example:

  • When the vision is unclear and the leader’s direction is opened for different interpretation, organization changes will be perceived as unconcerted and tend to create confusion.
  • When people do not perceive themselves as adequately skilled for the new environment, they will be anxious and reluctant to accept autonomy and new responsibilities.
  • When resources are insufficient or unavailable — training, consulting services, additional headcounts, tools, bandwidth — to support the desired organizational changes, people will be frustrated and discouraged by the false start.

For each column, perform a gap analysis on what’s required versus what’s missing and include people, process and tools/technologies in the consideration. Using the ‘Skills’ column as an example, probe with the following questions:

  • Are we training our people with the right agile mindset about people’s behaviour? E.g. Theory Y over Theory X
  • Are we training our people with the right process that is fit for agile team?E.g. Cross-functional team with a common goal over functional silos with different goals
  • Are we training our people to choose and use tools that are information radiators over information silos?

Next step is to devise an action plan to close the gap across the columns. For example:

  • Abolish bell curve
  • Frequent coaching and feedback over annual performance appraisal
  • Teams assess performance over managers assess performance
  • Effective outcome over efficient utilization
  • Adaptability over predictability
  • Validate assumptions with MVP over product arrogance
  • Highly collaboratively cross-functional teams over functional silos with disparate goals
  • Trust and empowerment over defensive management
  • Self-organizing team over manager-assigned team
  • Self-chosen task over manager-assigned task
  • Self-managed team with servant-leadership over command-and-control leadership
It’s not enough to have lofty ideals. The biggest failing of the average organization is usually its inability to execute — Stephen R. Covey

And lastly, avoid these common mistakes in the execution.

Have always been fascinated by the intersection of software development, organizational learning and systems thinking. If you like this post, check out the rest of our publications. Hope this helps :)


Updates — Apr 2016

Updates — May 2016