The Basis for Deciding on First Steps in a Transformation

There are three main approaches in doing a Lean-Agile Transformation.

  1. Take a canned solution and apply it.
  2. Select a few useful practices and grow your own solution as you go.
  3. Take advantage of patterns of success and challenge. This requires:
    1. Starting with understanding what you are doing.
    2. Clarifying the intentions behind those actions (the actions may be wrong but the intentions typically are valid).
    3. See the challenges to achieving these intentions (this may be what you are doing or challenges in your organization).
  4. Apply different solutions to solve your challenges.

We rarely take the first one because it is a one-size-fits all approach. The second has people re-invent the wheel and is, unfortunately undertaken by people without deep experience. FLEX takes the later approach.

The question remains, however, what solutions do you start with? There are two main approaches to this:

  • Take the low-hanging fruit
  • Attend to which changes will sets up later changes the most.

Taking low hanging-fruit (that is, easy changes with big improvements) is that it does not account for its effect on later changes. Sometimes starting with the wrong thing may be easy but may make later changes more difficult. For example, starting with Scrum may achieve better Scrum teams but 1) doesn’t necessarily help the bigger picture problems and 2) may make it that teams don’t want to slow down later when they need to in order to work with other teams. That is, teaching local optimization as a start can make it harder to achieve value stream optimization. See Successful Pilots Can Hurt an Agile Organization.

When considering what to do first (or next) one must consider the overall benefit and/or cost over time. Another example is starting with Test-Driven Development when teams can’t really break down stories or do refactoring at the time they learn it. This may have them decide TDD isn’t very useful when it is.