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How (and when) to make a leap of faith into agile ways of working

Small experiments are great but there comes a time for larger change...

We often hear how it is important to start small using a test and learn approach as you adopt agile as your way to work. But what I'm going to put to you today is that there will come a time when a bigger leap of faith is required in your agile journey. The relationship between running a series of change experiments and how the impact on performance can visualised using the illustration below (see Lean Change Management for more on this).

After a series of smaller experiments there comes the time where a leap is the next best step. Depending on the maturity of your organisation, your culture and level of change readiness, the size of this leap of faith will vary. The leap will be from what you know and what is safe to what is unknown and feels uncomfortable. Agile coaches, consultants and agents of change are in the business of supporting organisations to make these leaps into the unknown. Before making these bigger leaps we collect learnings and generate insights from a series of smaller experiments.

Designing your next leap

Here are some common examples of when a leap of faith may be indicated:

  • Changing the organisational structures to support persistent value delivery teams

  • Changing the way teams are funded; trialling longer term/persistent funding

  • Scaling from one team to a team of agile teams

  • Changing decision rights/delegated authority and governance processes

Of course, there are many more examples; these are just the common ones. The point is, that preceding such leaps of faith are a series of smaller experiments that have generated sufficient insights to support a larger change. It should be noted that these experiments may not have been “successful” in uplifting performance but instead pointed to the need for a larger leap in order to have impact.

Here’s a canvas I have been using to design my experiments recently; thanks to Braden Kelly.

Final words / conclusion

The risk as an agile coach is to get stuck in activity; lack of impact from the work you do. Using a canvas has helped me hold myself accountable to delivering agility outcomes and not just be ‘busy’. It also helped me generate the right metrics and insights to gain support for larger change interventions.

I also made a short video on this topic; check it out here.