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Agile Transformations – Are We There Yet? – Part 1

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The journey begins...

You start your agile transformation. Multidisciplinary teams are created. Ceremonies are arranged and followed dogmatically. Metrics are derived from the teams around throughput or burndown. User stories, automated tests, frequent releases – you name it.

So, you've implemented 'agile' and you're done. Right?

The problem is that the teams don't appear any more bought in to the programme of work or are any happier? Shockingly, after an initial spike in productivity the teams appear to have flatlined. Why has this happened you ask yourself, agile is the magic bullet that solves all organisational issues or, so you were told.

Team structure, working in iterations, concentrating on the flow of work and limiting work in progress (WIP) – they are all important elements in moving towards high performance, but they are processes and disciplines to be employed rather like source controlling your code.

A more fundamental change in mindset is required right across the organisation to allow for the real benefit of your agile transformation to be realised.

Shifting gear

Science shows that people are motivated by three things Mastery – the desire to get better and better at something that matters; Autonomy – the urge to direct our own lives; and Purpose – to do what we do in name of something larger than ourselves.

Yet organisations ignore what science knows. Extrinsic motivation still prevails, the carrot and stick approach. Traditionally, if management want to improve performance they either sharpen the stick or sweeten the carrot. Studies across the globe have proved that when addressing tasks that require only a small amount of skill or are moderately complex, then extrinsic motivators reduce performance – the more the complexity and skill requirements increase the worse performance becomes. Maybe, this is why your agile transformation has plateaued?

During our agile transformation at LexisNexis Enterprise Solutions (LN ES), there appeared to be some indications of this, so one of our many bright sparks suggested: "Shouldn't we use the agile process of reflection?" Great idea! So, we organised a 'values retrospective' (LN ES has five core values – #Trust, #Thirst, #Together, #Fun, #Open), asking the following questions: Were we living the values? To what extent? And if not, does that influence performance and productivity?

The feedback gained from the retrospective session unearthed some things hampering performance and productivity and, on further investigation, these were all traced back to three specific tenants (you guessed it) Mastery, Autonomy and Purpose.

In part two of my blog, find out how we were able to 'course correct' and really start to see the benefits of our agile transformation.

About the Author:


Paul Jones is a System Architect at Lexis Nexis Enterprise Solutions (LN ES). He is particularly interested in lean / agile ways of working and has played an integral role in the company’s organisational agile transformation to date.

Outside of work, Paul is kept busy with his young family. He also enjoys going to the gym, running and following Leeds United.

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