How to tackle the challenges of transitioning to agile?

Digital Project Management

As with any change, whether in business or personal life, there will always be challenges and problems along the way, but hopefully these are worth it and will only give you even more experience to avoid similar challenges in the future. In this blog post, we will dig into how to successfully transition to an agile project management method, and getting your team engaged without too many problems.

Here, we’ll list some of the main problems companies experience when changing processes, and how to make a more smooth transition.

Resisting to change and adapt

Now, first of all you may experience that some of your team members will not be completely into this change you’re trying to enforce. Well, the problem here is often that people don’t understand or believe in this change. Maybe the changes came out of nowhere, or at least it may feel this way from the team member’s perspective. Here, it’s the project manager’s responsibility to carefully present to the team; why all of these changes make sense. And even better, engage your team members, and encourage them to design this change themselves, give feedback, come up with new suggestions, etc.

No I, only We

Secondly, many people get a boost when you get personal kudos based on a recent result, your hard work, etc., but in an agile team it is a lot more about the team’s efforts rather than your personal effort. A negative competitive environment doesn't really work in an agile team. Now again, this is linked to the previous challenge, if the right collaborative environment is not in place yet, and people don’t quite understand why an agile team makes sense, or maybe don’t feel this “togetherness” in your team - then problems will naturally arise. Why do you suddenly not get the same kudos anymore? How does all of this work now, and am I really providing something useful for this team? Who gets the credit?

Effective and efficient communication

Thirdly, communication doesn’t come out of nowhere. You need to practice effective and efficient communication with your team. Project manager to team, team to project manager, and team member to team member. Agile is all about collaboration and the team as a whole. If people don’t understand this, and don’t know how to communicate with others in the team in this context then problems will quickly arise.

Focus on the most important

Each team member should always focus on what’s most important within their space, but still with an aligned view with the rest of the project and business. Make sure everybody is on the same track, have fun, and everybody should contribute where the need is highest.

Processes vs. Productivity

It’s easy to get caught up in all of these new interesting processes, try to implement them, and see how it all works out. But you need to adapt the agile method to your business, not just the business to agile. It needs to embrace your business. Does it make sense to have this specific process in your specific business? Does it actually bring you, the business and the team, value? If not, then don’t implement it. Sometimes yes, you need to try a process to see if it works for you, but at least make sure to evaluate your processes on a quarterly basis. Does the time and effort spend doing it actually make sense, or could it be spent better elsewhere?

Real agile or just relabeling

Now, this one is linked to the previous one. Agile is a complete new mindset, not just a relabeling of your previous mindset. It doesn’t change anything if you keep your previous meeting schedules, practices and processes, but just add a new name to it. For instance, a long time-wasting meeting every morning - now just called a stand up meeting instead, and everybody needs to stand up. That’s not how it works.

Remote teams

Having a remote team working in an agile mode can be a challenge. Especially, if you don’t know how to do it effectively. A remote team has the same basic needs, but these may need to be fulfilled in other ways than an in-house office. All team members do still need to feel as a part of something, feel appreciated, have regular chit-chats with colleagues by the “watercooler”, etc. Make sure to have such virtual systems setup. Use a proper project management platform with great collaborative features that is fun and easy to use. Set up a virtual hub for direct live communication, not just email, but a chat system like Slack with text, video conferences, both public and private channels, direct messages, emojis, space for fun videos, etc. This will all make your team across the world feel more connected, and willing to work just a little bit harder, no matter where they might be.

Purpose, values and principles aligned

This one is probably the most fundamental of them all, and at the same time it sums everything up. Every part of the team needs to be aligned with the overall business strategy, the values of the company, and the culture among people. If everybody is on the same page, and actually feels like they’re having a blast, no matter if it’s within a local office or remotely, then you’re sure to have at least a really good foundation for success.

To sum up, it’s paramount to make sure that everybody is engaged from top to bottom. Make sure everybody feels a part of the team, and that everybody can talk with anybody about anything. If you have a remote team, make sure these are a part of the team just like anybody else. Be willing to listen more than you speak. Reflect, and act. Make sure to only implement the processes that bring value to your business and team. Don’t go agile just to go agile, don’t implement new processes just to implement new processes - do it because it makes sense here and now, and in the long-term perspective.

Kasper Nymand

My name is Kasper, and I'm doing Marketing at Forecast. Besides that, I really enjoy experimenting with different projects to see where my imagination brings me.

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