the LENS: how we look at agility matters
Every „Change Agent” has their own Lens through which they perceive Agility and implement changes to transform an organisation. Their approach can be categorised into one of the 3 points of view – Culture, Process or Structure
Agility as most of us put it is kinda mindset thing applicable to individuals, groups and. organisations. When a transformation is approached with a bet that changing the culture by coaching and motivating people to develop the right traits, it actually means that, these changes will drive the people in the organisations to develop the structure and practices they need to becoming agile.
In a practices first approach the bet would be that if we trained the people of an organisation on methodologies and frameworks like Scrum or SAFe or LeSS or any other, the people would do the practices understand the true principles of agility, develop the culture and structure needed for Agile to thrive in.
When we start the transition by making changes to the organisational structure it is regarded as a structure first point of view. The bet we are placing with this method would be that we systematically (or fundamentally) change the structure of teams and hoping people will create the necessary practices for an agile way of working which will enable the culture / mindset to emerge.
It is quite important for Change Agents, to understand the „Knowing – Doing – Being“ variations in agility and coach teams + sponsors as needed to create a sustainable continuous learning organisation
A „culture first“ change strategy might look to be the best starting point for a transformation, but, especially in the large scale traditional organisations, this could very well be the biggest mistake. They would have been working in functionally siloed mode for decades, the organisational structure and practices would be so incongruent to apply and sustain any kinda change. A culture first approach would be a much safer bet, with a single team which is willing to transform, rather than a team of teams.
A „practices first” implementation is the most common bet placed (also my personal choice till 5–6 years ago) by agents of change, you start by doing agile hoping to be agile at some point. Yet again, when the structure and the necessary governance (principles of flow), are so incoherent, the agile culture might not emerge and the actual economic value of agility might be left unrealised.
In large corporations that are unborn in agile culture, from my experience it would be good to start with a „structure first” approach, i.e., to fundamentally change the team structure (not only new labelling), overlay a set of practices for their interactions (collaboration, service, etc.), and provide the guidance to develop the cultural traits of agility. This would enable the right level of agility to emerge in time. This is a gamble that I think would have better chance.