Often when talking to companies thinking about becoming agile, I hear people say things like: “We want to be agile, but we do fixed price fixed scope contracts and we can’t change that”, or “We’d like to be agile, but we work in a compliance industry so we need requirements to be signed off first”

The problem with these statements is that they make assumptions about things that can’t change. If one thing is true about agile it is that it will highlight where there are problems in your organisation, and give you an opportunity to improve. However if you take some things off the table before you even get out of the starting gates, how likely are you to succeed? Agile is all about challenging the status-quo, to find a better way of working. Let’s face it, if the status-quo was working you wouldn’t be looking to change it, would you?

Imagine I decide I’d like to lose 10kgs. I go to a dietician and say: “I’d like to weigh 10kgs less, but I can’t change my diet, and I don’t want to exercise”. The dietician is likely to tell you something has got to give. Notice any similarities?

This is especially a common problem with managers. They would love their team to be agile (and by this they really mean hyper-productive), but they don’t really want to change the way they manage the team. People think agile is about developers. To really benefit from being agile, the whole company needs to be agile. That means change at every level. I have seen Scrum fail in organisations exactly because although there was a requirement for the developers to change, management and the rest of the organisation was unwilling to change.

So if you are a manager considering moving to agile, ask yourself this: What am I willing to change to help my team be more agile? What are the assumptions I am making about things that can’t change? Can I imagine a future where those could change, and it would be for the better? Am I putting obstacles in the way of our own success because I am unwilling to change?

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