4 Behaviors to Drive Your Company’s Agile Transformation

Anika Nishat

Anika Nishat


Anika is a member of the Remesh marketing team.

We live in an age of disruption. In the past, technological revolutions transpired over the course of centuries (industrialization) or millennia (agriculture). Today, breakthroughs surface in a matter of years. 

This dramatic pace change means we’re getting farther and farther away from the social and economic landscapes that shaped many of our institutions - including business. The rules that previously governed business are no longer effective. Traditional organizational models that favor stiff, siloed, structured hierarchies are suited for a world that is stable and predictable - not one that is as complex and dynamic as ours today.

No industry is safe from disruption. As technology evolves and traditional barriers to entry deteriorate, enterprises must transform how they work so they can rapidly learn, iterate, and compete. 

what is agile
What is Agile Transformation?

Agile transformation entails an organization’s complete metamorphosis from the rigid, bureaucratic mindsets that dominated 20th-century institutions to the adaptable, post-bureaucratic mindsets of the future. That means creating an environment conducive to speed, flexibility, innovation, and - most importantly - employee empowerment.

what is agile
Transformation vs. Adoption

Agile adoptions happen when teams adopt practices, processes, and frameworks inspired by the values and principles outlined in the Agile Manifesto. The main goal of the Agile Manifesto is to accelerate the process of delivering technology to meet consumer needs through frequent collaboration, feedback, and product releases. 

Product and software development teams are typically the first teams to adopt agile methods, since they’re closest to the product. As a result, adoption tends not to greatly impact organizational structure. Even in cross-functional teams, agile change is often localized and temporary in nature. 
agile maturity by organization

Transformation, on the other hand, requires change across an entire organization. It encompasses all aspects of an organization including strategy, structure, process, people, and technology. The impact on the organization following transformation is comprehensive and profound. Agile Transformation Obstacles

Try thinking about transformation and adoption as concentric circles. While agile transformations entail adopting agile methodologies, simply adopting methodologies doesn’t necessarily result in a transformation. In fact, most teams adopt agile without making any changes to the broader organization within which they operate. 

what is agile
Benefits of Transformation

Though business leaders are tuning into the power of agile processes, few have embraced the behaviors necessary to stimulate a full transformation. 

A survey by Forbes found that while 92% of executives believe that organizational agility is critical to business success, only 27% consider themselves highly agile. 

The vast majority of businesses are stuck somewhere between adoption and transformation. But being agile has different benefits than doing agile. 

Adoptions improve value delivery, flexibility, and quality - transformations drive revenue, improve speed to market, and expedite decision making processes. 

As organizational structures continue to shift from mass production models to customer personalization models, agile organizations will become the premier model for enterprises across all industries. 

For companies struggling to move the needle away from adoption and towards transformation, we recommend four key behaviors of high-agility organizations. 

what is agile
Behaviors That Drive Transformation

There are a number of behaviors that drive companies to transform. Successful metamorphoses require:

  1. Organizational and team alignment
  2. Leveraging technology  
  3. Investing in agile cultures
  4. Providing the right tools 

We’ll dive deeper into each of these organizational behaviors below.

Place Organizational and Team Alignment First
Place Organizational and Team Alignment First

Aligned teams are teams that pursue a shared vision, understand goals, and can leverage individual strengths to achieve them. They are more productive, perform at a higher level, demonstrate lower rates of staff turnover, and are more capable of adapting to change.

Alignment with strategic goals is both a principal motivating factor to undergo transformation and a key component to reducing barriers to it. According to The State of Scrum, 29% of respondents cited lack of alignment with other projects in the portfolio as a factor holding back agile transformation.

Improving strategic alignment can be a nebulous and difficult task. Try these strategies to tackle organizational alignment:

agile transformation example 2
Connect business actions to long-term goals

Setting goals is an integral part of defining your company’s strategy - connecting everyday practices to those goals is the key to enacting it. 

Most long-term goals fall within four categories:

  • Profit. Goals focused on increasing profits
  • Growth. Goals linked to company expansion
  • Service. Goals aimed at improving customer satisfaction and retention
  • Social. Goals related to giving back to the community

If your long-term goal is to expand your company, connected short-term objectives might include increasing your team, your regions of operation, or your average deal size by X amount. 

Understanding how each role, project, and action (both long-term and short-term) relates to your business’s vision enables employees to link disparate functions in a shared purpose. This helps to boost responsibility, camaraderie, and overall morale. 

agile transformation example 1

Clearly communicate company strategy

Clear communication is always important - but especially so in times of change. 

Sharing your organization’s strategy has several benefits, including: 

  • increasing trust within the organization
  • opening lines of communication
  • empowering employees to strive toward distinct, unambiguous goals 

Ensure all employees understand your company’s purpose, goals, and objectives through clear, effective, and transparent communication. 

Leverage existing systems like regular meetings and established communication structures to communicate your strategic priorities and goals. Or, try something different: offsite meetings offer the change of environment necessary to better engage employees and align on strategy. 

Case Study #1 - Experian 

Take for example Experian’s approach to communicating their company goals. 

In an effort to inspire employees and demonstrate the importance of internal communication, the multinational credit reporting company held Experian Live. The live, TED-style event brought together people from disparate markets and effectively communicated the company’s goals and objectives to thousands of employees. 

Case Study #2 - KPMG

Another example is KPMG’s approach to communicating their company’s vision and values. The firm faced the herculean task of communicating their purpose to hundreds of thousands of employees across the globe. Their plan? Launch a multifaceted campaign consisting of corporate posters, video content, and events - all highlighting employee stories and encouraging leaders to discuss mission-driven purposeful work. 

KPMG employee campaign

The initiative yielded impressive results: more KPMG employees were attuned to their company’s story than ever before, leading to increased pride in KPMG and its work.    

agile transformation example 4
Invest in Cultures That Enable Agile Principles

Changing internal culture is the most consequential obstacle to transformation, accounting for the top three barriers to adopting and scaling agile.

Cultivating cultures that facilitate the mindsets and processes necessary for a successful transformation can be difficult. This is especially true in industries that have long traditions of strict hierarchies and heavy regulation. But there are some steps all enterprises can take to invest in cultures that take an agile approach, regardless of industry.

Creative, Not Reactive

Transformations transpire when all stakeholders champion a creative mindset over a reactive one. 

  • Reactive mindsets are like reflexes. Actions happen without conscious intention, as if on autopilot. 
  • Creative mindsets are thoughtful. Actions are a result of brainstorming innovative, new approaches.

Making the shift from reactive to creative isn’t easy. It means admitting uncertainty and requires keeping a constant, real-time pulse on industry trends and changing consumer behaviors. Luckily, businesses have more business agility tools than ever before to stay up to date and make thoughtful, insight-based actions. 

People Over Processes

Valuing people over processes is a proven formula for producing cultures that enable and reinforce agility. 

Research from McKinsey shows that people-centric cultures engage and empower employees to rapidly create value by engendering autonomy and accountability throughout the organization. 

The Spotify model for employee accountability and autonomy is an inspiring example of this principle in action. 

The Swedish media service provider uses a combination of four complementary groups called Squads, Tribes, Chapters, and Guilds to provide employees autonomy and community.

squads tribes and chapters agile model

Squads are the fundamental unit which comprise the model. These small, cross-functional teams build what they want and how they want, so long as they maintain alignment with strategic goals. 

Squads with similar goals are grouped into Tribes, and related competencies within the Tribes are grouped into Chapters. Squads, Tribes, and Chapters can be grouped together to form Guilds, which are focused on sharing knowledge. The result is an organizational structure that values connection and collaboration over hierarchy and hegemony. 

Trust Over Fear

Effectives teams are built on relationships and collaboration - both of which require trust and psychological safety to flourish. 

Corporate cultures based on fear tend to abide by the rules rather than seek new ways of doing things, while cultures that prioritize trust treat failures as opportunities for learning and innovation. The freedom to give feedback without fear of penalty is essential to experimentation and progress.

another agile transformation example
Provide Employees With Tools for Success

Ensuring your people and team members are ready for change is critical to a successful transformation. After all, it’s their input that will give rise to new innovations and drive cultures of agility.

While some employees and leadership teams may have experience with agile, others will be new to the concept and how it unfolds in the context of their roles. Consider enlisting agile coaches to aid in this transition.

Share Knowledge and Experience

Organizational knowledge proliferates when the entire organization commits to sharing new knowledge and experiences. Make sharing knowledge and experience a priority by providing an employee communication platform and engage them in conversation.

Transform Talent Management

Agile organizations call for talent management and recruiting processes geared toward fostering agility. This may include:

  • Considering role mobility and career pathing
  • Integrating agility as a core value to invite the right talent
  • Reevaluating employee performance measures
  • Modifying compensation structures and benefits

Leverage Technology to Move Faster 

Agile transformations and digital transformations go hand in hand. That’s because new technologies are constantly reshaping the modern workplace, whether it’s changing the way businesses communicate, meeting new security demands, or enabling flexible work arrangements. Technology is changing every aspect of work as we know it, and resilient organizations are committed to making the most of it. 

There are several tools available to support agile ways of working. Consider how integrating disruptive technologies like automation and machine learning into the fabric of your business may improve speed and flexibility. 

In Summary

Embarking on an agile transformation is a large undertaking - but it’s important to ensure your company’s survival in this age of disruption. Use these behaviors to elucidate your path to transformation.

Want to know what your employees think about agile transformation? Dig into their thoughts with 200 open-ended questions from our eBook.
how to write a discussion guide (download)

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