If you’re an Agile coach (or transformation/change agent) and you can’t get leadership support… Stop talking Agile and Start talking strategy.
Great Agile coaches know how to build and grow great product teams. However, most struggle with gaining leadership support (either funding, physical engagement or behavioural change) because of their focus on Agile (or Design thinking or Lean etc) and the language they use.
Most executives are driven by shareholders and stakeholders to deliver against shorter-term targets and outcomes — none of which include Agile. So talking Agile and Agile Transformation will at best lead them to ask more questions to determine it’s relevance to them, at worse, it will alienate them and lose any hope of support.
It’s our job as coaches, consultants and change agents to lead the adoption of better practices and principles by contextualising their benefits within the organisation’s strategic deliverables.
To do this we need to understand the commercial drivers, goals, and the strategy being used to deliver those goals. Agile transformations must always focus on the organisation’s highest value when we decide what, when and how to approach the transformation. Agile transformations that don’t use Agile are both ironic and doomed to fail through lack of leadership support.
Once we understand the business context we can determine the best transformation approach that helps deliver shorter-terms wins, begins to build capability and most importantly build leadership support, when Agilists (whatever they are) start talking about strategy and delivery we are talking the language that executives understand and it demonstrates to them that we are focused on similar outcomes — not pulling valuable resources away from delivering strategic initiatives.
Questions To Help Drive Your Strategic Thinking and Conversations
- What are the organisation’s key commercial drivers? (gain market share, reduce costs, increase revenue)
- What are the cross organisational and departmental strategies that are in place to meet these commercial drivers?
- What KPI’s do your executives need to deliver against and by when?
- What keeps your executives awake at night? (Fear is one of the largest motivators of behaviour.)
- What projects and initiatives are high priority and why?
- What projects could be started or stopped to help deliver objectives in new ways?
- Finally, how can you now articulate your Agile transformation strategy using the above information and only talking about delivery and business outcomes?
Remember- STOP TALKING AGILE, START TALKING STRATEGY!