How to Transition to Agile Management

Walk into any organization of any size and sit down with the product and project managers. It’s very likely that one of their primary concerns is in how to ensure that their teams are set-up for success and positivity. These managers know that their own professional success rests on how well their teams perform.

It’s time to spill the beans on the wide-open secret that is letting more and more project and product owners rest easy at night. Agile management. To be frank, agile management has and is changing the way organizations operate, meet and define their goals, manage their employees, and realize success. Yes, agile management can be that much of a game-changer for project and product managers who are struggling to keep their team members motivated, happy, and focused.

One of the problems for managers and companies new to agile management methodology and practices is the shear amount of content available. Information overload can be suffocating, making it hard to know where and how to start – this can result in trying to do too much or not doing the right thing for the organization.

For anyone looking to transition to agile management or looking for ways to refine their agile management practices – this is the blog for you. We’ve kept it focused and narrow – giving you the important nuggets of information you need to get agile working for you and your organization.

Is Your Organization Ready for Change?

Change is hard and not many organizations are willing or able to embrace real effective change. Before you jump head-first into agile management, we want you to make sure that you and your team are really ready for the changes. We’re not going to sugarcoat it – there will be push-back, there will be anger, and you might even lose people.

However, when done thoughtfully, this transition to agile management doesn’t need to be fraught with stress, confusion, and trust issues. Sit down and answer the following questions about your organization. (Don’t rush this process – your answers will help get you ready for agile management success.)

  1. List your pain points. What are the challenges and pain points that you and your team are trying to work with and around? What is causing these pain points?
  2. List your product/project goals. What are the goals of your current product or project? How are you working towards these goals? What is your success rate?
  3. Look at your calendar. Do you and your team have time to make a change? What is on your radar in the next month or two months? Schedule time to start the transition – just put something flexible in your calendar such as “planning meeting”.
  4. Organization buy-in. Have you talked to your boss and other product/project managers about agile? Remember that this transition takes commitment from the top-down. Be ready for some tough questions about agile and how it will improve the organization.

Answering these questions gives you a complete understanding of how your team is really working and the reasons why change is required.

The Transition to Agile Management

Now that you know the challenges your organization is facing, it’s time to make the transition to agile management. One caveat – you need to take a measured approach to this transition. Make sure you’ve taken some agile management training courses, have talked to agile experts, and have put measures in place to support your team (this can include agile management software, agile management training, and new hires).

  1. Hire an agile coach. An agile coach will be your best ally in making the transition to agile. Make sure the agile coach is on-site to conduct training sessions and remains in the office during the transition. Rely on the agile coach to answer questions, guide the team during the transition, and to provide agile expertise.
  2. Communicate with your customers. Regardless of the type of organization, your customers matter (don’t forget your internal customers including sales, customer support, and upper management). When making the transition to agile management, it’s a good idea to talk to your key customers about the change. Remind them that this move to agile management will provide them numerous benefits.
  3. Remember to be flexible. One of the major premises of agile methodology is its flexibility. The inherent flexibility of an agile team enables a successful transition process. Be open to trying different approaches or to implementing agile with one team first. Remember, there are lots of ways to implement agile – find the one that works for your organization.
  4. Listen to your team. Remember the people most affected by this transition are your team members. Give them all the tools they need for agile success. Let them research agile and give them a voice in the agile software tools they want to use. The more supported your team feels, the easier it is to gain their trust. Don’t force this on them.
  5. Collaborate and communicate. Agile management requires continual open collaboration and communication. From day one, you need to work with your agile coach to establish this practice.

Like any management process, agile does take work and discipline. Know that there will be missteps and you may need to take two steps back to realize real progress. Reach out to the agile community and don’t hesitate to bring the agile coach back for future training. The reason why change is so hard is because it’s so worthwhile.