By Steve Denning – The successful Agile transformations that I have seen in large organizations have typically begun without authority or budget resources. That’s because at the outset the organization usually doesn’t understand what Agile is or what it is getting into. This can lead some despair among Agile coaches as to whether Agile transformation is even possible in large organizations.
In fact, a comprehensive survey of successful organizational change in large organizations by Larry Prusak and Tom Davenport back in 2003 concluded that deep change rarely begins at the very top of a large organization. In part, that’s because the CEO is usually too busy to understand what’s involved or give it the commitment that it needs. It’s also because, if the change is led from the top, it risks being perceived as “just another command-and-control brainwave.”
In theory, the change could also be led by someone at the lowest level of the organization, though it can be hard for people at that level to see what’s going on beyond their own unit, or to acquire the organizational knowledge or the social capital to mobilize broader support.
So typically, the change begins at the middle, or upper-middle, of the organization and follows a certain pattern.
The pattern is similar to what I saw in a large and very change-resistant organization— the World Bank— where I was working in the late 1990s and where I—quixotically—set out to effect a change its strategy, without any budget resources or authority to do so. The organizational transformation in question wasn’t Agile, but it was a big, deep change involving a shift in organizational culture.
The dynamic that I experienced in the World Bank—the whips, the scorns, the opposition, the skullduggery—is something that I’ve seen play out in many organizations implementing Agile. If your challenge is an Agile transformation in a large organization, here are ten fundamental characteristics that you are likely to encounter, more>