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Aug 13, 2020

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12 Steps to a Successful Enterprise Agile Transformation

Many large organizations are faced with the necessity of agile transformation, which is quite challenging to achieve. For the organizations that have...

Agile transformation: definition and best practices

Many large organizations are faced with the necessity of agile transformation, which is quite challenging to achieve. For the organizations that have been traditionally managed, the journey toward agile transformation includes a big shift in organizational culture including workforce attitudes, core company values and mindset. 

📚Download our eBook "10 Principles of Modern Employee Communications" and learn how to communicate with the modern employee in today's digital age.

Given the pace of change and the constant pressure to adapt, it is not surprising that organizations are trying to become more agile. 60% of executives rate this issue as very important, and 90% rate it as important or very important. 

agile-transformationMoreover, the current pandemic is requiring from employers to quickly adapt to new technologies and new ways of working. Being agile has become the new normal

In this blog, you will learn about how to drive and manage a successful agile transformation at your organization as well as the importance of proper employee communications in encouraging and supporting the workforce to adopt an agile mindset in the workplace. 

What Is Agile Transformation?

According to McKinsey agile transformation is

“the ability of an organization to renew itself, adapt, change quickly, and succeed in a rapidly changing, ambiguous, turbulent environment”,

as well as

“the ability to quickly reconfigure strategy, structure, processes, people, and technology toward value-creating and value-protecting opportunities.”

agile-transformation-definition-1

Therefore, agile transformation is a process of changing organizational processes in order for the company to embrace and thrive in a flexible, collaborative, self-organizing, fast-changing environment.

The Rising Importance of Agility in the Workplace

The adoption of new technologies and working environments, the shift to remote work, the implementation of new procedures and safety regulations, layoffs, changes in organizational structures... and th elist goes on. Indeed, employers across the world are facing many changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic

These unprecedented times had an immense impact on how organizations manage their human capital and operations. Hence, as a great whitepaper by Deloitte explained, companies need to learn how to combat COVID-19 with an agile change management approach

More precisely, organisations need to:


"strengthen their workforce through resilient leadership, internal and external collaborations, and open and honest communications across stakeholder groups".


In order to test the readiness of companies to adapt to the new circumstances and successfully go through change management and agile transformation during and after these times, the same Deloitte study asks these 5 crucial questions:

  • How does leadership manage expectations and prioritize the health and well-being of their workforce?
  • How to help stakeholders communicate better using tools to keep the workforce informed and engaged, thereby creating a more resilient and agile workforce?
  • How a clear and consistent communication strategy can be established to keep all stakeholders informed and address their
    concerns?
  • How to help employees adopt new ways of working?
  • How a renewed focus on online learning strategies can be leveraged to engage and upskill employees?

Let's now take a look into some best agile transformation practices in the workplace. 

12 Best Practices for Leading Agile Transformation

Another Deloitte survey of more than 10,000 senior executives revealed that less than 10% of senior executives see their current organization as “highly agile" today.

agile-transformation-stats-1This is a shocking statistic as the majority of them see agile transformation as necessary for their organizations to succeed in this ever-changing business environment. 

Even though becoming more agile is not easy to achieve, there are some best practices organizations should follow.  

1. Agile structures and processes should be redefined

Before starting with an agile transformation plan, organizations first need to define their new, more agile structures and processes. Defining agile structures and processes is an important prerequisite for flexibility and speed.

More precisely, organizations with linear, bureaucratic structures with rigid chains of command often make decisions ineffectively and, therefore, struggle to become more agile.

Such organizations work in silos and experience redundancies as a consequence of lack of information, transparency and lack of robust employee communications plan.

best practices for leading agile transformationIn order to embrace agile transformation, organizations need to switch to flatter hierarchies, embrace employee empowerment, establish new decision-making processes and set up cross-functional teams.

💡Read on: Change Management: Definition, Best Practices & Examples

2. Organizations need to rethink their corporate cultures

In order to achieve agile transformation in the workplace, organizations first need to understand the role employees play in the whole process as it requires a complete shift in employees’ mindset and behavior.

company-culture-agile-transformationBoth executives and their team members need to be willing to work in cross-functional teams with a stronger emphasis on employee collaboration, self-management, and knowledge sharing

Changing internal culture is the most consequential obstacle to transformation, accounting for the top three barriers to adopting and scaling agile.

Therefore, the importance of investing in culture on the journey to agility cannot be overstated. Research has already proved that the organizations where executives and employees develop the right, agile mindset are much more likely to succeed in their agile transformation. 

However, culture takes a long time to change, and internal communications is the most important prerequisite for achieving cultural transformation in the workplace. 

3. Internal communications should play an important strategic role

Clear and transparent employee communication is always critical - but developing great employee communication is even more important in times of change and transformation. For that reason, employers need to understand the crucial role of IC departments in driving successful agile transformation.  

As you will see later in the article, corporate and business communications are responsible for sharing the organization’s agile strategy, building trust in the workplace, opening lines of communication, and aligning employees with the business goals and empowering executives.

They are responsible for assuring that employees understand your company’s purpose, goals, and objectives through clear, effective, and transparent communication. 

4. Employees must align with the company’s strategic goals

As mentioned above, employees’ alignment with the strategic goals is a key component in reducing barriers to successful agile transformation.

Yet, according to The State of Scrum, 29% of employees cited lack of alignment as a factor holding back agile transformation.

agile-transformation-strategic-alignement

5. The benefits and effects of agile transformation should be clearly and regularly communicated

In order to achieve organizational alignment, employees need to understand the benefits of becoming more agile for their success and the organization as a whole. The entire organization needs to understand the value of agile transformation in order to benefit from the rewards of achieving true organizational agility. 

Before and during the agile transformation, employees want to know why agility is worth investing in, how it is going to be achieved and how it will affect their jobs and careers.

Therefore, change management teams, leaders and managers have to work closely with internal communications teams to develop a comprehensive change communications plan

Take, for example, the current situation. The previously mentioned white paper by Deloitte provided a great example of what a proper workplace communication strategy should look like during these uncertain times. 

6. Communicators should create and share inspiring internal content

One of the most important parts of an agile transformation communication plan is to create a set of inspiring, creative and motivating internal content.

Even though IC departments should drive such initiative, it is important for other teams to get involved in creating the IC editorial calendar. 

Today’s internal communicators also have to be creative storytellers. Developing a story around the importance and benefits of agile transformation can make or break your success.

You can only manage to get your employees’ attention and buy-in if they can relate to your messages and if you communicate them in an authentic and personal way.  

7. Leaders and managers should act as role models

In order to successfully drive change, leaders and managers need to realize that agile transformation isn’t just a project or a new initiative, but rather an ongoing journey that requires a way of thinking that is fundamentally different from the top-down hierarchical approach.

💡Read on: 5 Change Management Models to Take a Look At

Without full executive buy-in, agile transformation initiatives are unlikely to be successful.

However, leadership's buy-in isn’t enough. Leaders and managers should continuously act as the role models to the entire workplace. Their actions and behaviors should mirror the behaviors employers want to see from their employees. 

💡Read on: Interpersonal Communication: Definition, Importance and Must-Have Skills

Leadership and management need to share their passion, inspire and guide the implementation. Here, leadership storytelling through authentic leadership communication plays a major role. 

8. Teams and departments should be able to easily collaborate

According to Deloitte, 94% of organizations report that “agility and collaboration” are critical to their organization’s success. Yet, very few say that they are agile today.

During agile transformation, organizations need to shift to a networked, team-based collaborative structure as collaboration among different departments is a must

Cross-functional collaboration highly impacts your agile transformation initiatives as different teams from various departments are often involved in this process. 

Deloitte calls this the central response office (CRO) that many organizations are now forming in order to mitigate the consequences of the current pandemic and create a collaborative, open, and inclusive virtual work environment.

Such teams mostly consist of IC, HR, IT, legal professionals as well as leadership. According to Deloitte, their common responsibilities include:

  • Drive consistent messaging across the organisation—the single source of truth for all.
  • Manage multi-channel communication including confidential feedback and reporting channels.
  • Share updates on the latest public advisories from the local, state, and national political leaders and health officials for
    organisational leaders to align on scenarios and actions required.
  • Be at the center of all remedial actions across all work streams based on scenarios and triggers. Coordinate with the functions
    and act fast.
  • Set the governance to enable cross-functional teams to work together.
  • Evaluate any changes in the ways of working owing to the Business Continuity Planning (BCP) scenarios and communicate
    acceptable ways of working clearly.
  • Provide consistent guidelines to managers to ensure employees safety and engage them.

9. Agile-friendly communication mediums should be defined

The same study by Deloitte found that only 14% of companies believe their internal processes for collaboration and decision making are working well, and 77% believe email is no longer a viable tool for effective communication and collaboration. 

internal-collaboration-emailTherefore, employers need to find better ways to communicate internally, and they should implement new solutions that enable employees from different departments to communicate and collaborate more efficiently.

Emails and outdated intranets will not cut it. Instead, more intuitive and mobile-friendly communication solutions should be considered. 

Organizations need to consider Millennials’ and Gen Z’s preferences and better understand how they communicate with each other. They need to give their best to provide technology that mimics intuitive and fun-to-use apps that they are used to using in their private lives on a daily basis. 

💡Read on: Top Communication Channels to Consider for Your Business

10. Cognitive overload should be eliminated

Another research proves that,cognitive overload can be one of the major culprits for unsuccessful agile transformation. 

This is why simplification of work practices and new work tools are critical. Earlier, we mentioned that networked and collaborative structures are necessary for agile transformation.

However, such changes can also increase the need to coordinate teams, resulting in overwhelming number of meetings, emails and communications channels. This cognitive overload can dramatically reduce productivity and lead to significant information overload.  

Considering the fact that employees spend hours looking for relevant information needed to do their jobs successfully, agile transformation is only possible when this challenge gets completely eliminated. 

 corporate-communications-stats

11. Success should be celebrated and recognized

As agile transformation needs to be regularly managed even after it is implemented, it is important to show appreciation for new employee actions and behaviors in order to embrace change even further. 

Consider implementing a recognition program built around the new company values you wish your employees to live by. When employees act in accordance with those values, make sure to recognize their hard work and success. This is a great way to also encourage those behaviors among other employees. 

💡Read on: 8 Employee Engagement Statistics You Need to Know in 2020 [INFOGRAPHIC]

12. Employee-driven communications should be encouraged and supported

One sign of positive change in the workplace is a rise in employee-driven communication rather than communication initiated just by leaders, managers or internal communicators.

Employees should be able to, at any point, start and lead a company-wide conversations visible to everyone. 

agile-transformation-employees-voiceAgile transformation teams should be able to easily collect feedback, opinions and concerns from the entire workplace. 

Remember, only those cultures that support and drive open and honest communication in the workplace can actually be successful in agile transformation. 

4 Common Barriers to Agile Transformation 

Driving agile transformation doesn't come easy. When it comes to driving change in the workplace, most companies face challenges and those include: 

1. General resistance to change

Most people are resistant to change as it requires employees to adapt to new ways of working. It is the employer’s job to carefully, clearly and continuously communicate the benefits of agile transformation in order to get employees’ buy-in. 

2. Lack of support from managers and leaders

Even if you manage to get employees’ buy-in, agile transformation will not be possible without  leadership and management's support. As they account for most of the employees’ engagement in the workplace, their role is crucial here. 

3. Poor internal communications

Workplace communication is one of the main reasons why change fails. Therefore, internal communications departments need to work closely with the agile teams and have strategy around how, when and via which channels to communicate updates related to the agile transformation. 

4. Inability to provide the right tools and technology

Fortunately, there are solutions that make agile transformation much easier to achieve. But the thing is, many employers neglect the role of technology in becoming more agile. 

Agile Transformation Operating Model

According to McKinsey, there are 5 main aspects of business that agile transformation includes: strategy, structure, people, process and technology.

agile-transformation-modelWhile all of these aspects are important to assess, many organizations fail to give special attention to the “people” aspect of agile transformation. As a consequence, barriers get created very early on in the process resulting in inevitable failure. 

If you have your employees on board and if they are aligned with your new culture and initiatives, everything else becomes much easier. 

The Role of Internal Communications in Agile Transformation

As explained earlier in this article, the journey to improved organizational agility requires organizations to transform themselves and adopt new ways of working at the same time.

Organizations have to restructure to enable greater collaboration, communication, cultural change, employee empowerment, engagement and the right flow of information in the workplace. 

Employee communications play the most critical role here. Let’s take a look into how IC can drive employee engagement, enable employees, leaders and managers and drive cultural change in the workplace during the process. 

agile-transformation-corporate-communication

1. Employee engagement and experience

One of most important corporate communications’ tasks is to talk internally and externally about the transformation toward agility, and therefore, to create a positive perception about change so you can drive higher employee engagement with the new initiatives.

Often, IC departments are responsible for creating and delivering internal communications campaigns in collaboration with other departments such as HR whose most common ultimate goal is to drive more engagement and shape a positive employee experience in the workplace. 

2. Employee and leadership enablement

Communication departments also carry the responsibility to drive the overall organisational agility by enabling other members of the organisation.

More and more, IC departments also act as coaches and advisors for managers and leaders while providing the right set of content, tools and technology to facilitate more agile workplace transformation.

💡Read on: Top 5 Communication Skills and How to Improve Them

3. Cultural change and workplace transformation

Last but not least, communication departments have to transform themselves and be able to drive bigger cultural change in the workplace. Just like other parts of the organisation, communication departments need to find ways to handle a growing number of their tasks with limited resources. 

When leading agile transformation, they need to react more quickly to external and internal demands, and learn how to make processes faster and more efficient.

As this requires a new culture of collaboration and a new mindset among the entire workplace including executives, they are also the ones responsible for driving the overall cultural change.  

If you are looking for a modern, intuitive and user-friendly internal communications platform to drive successful agile transformation at your workplace, schedule a Smarp demo today!

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Written by

Kristina Martic

Kristina Martic

Digital Marketing and Employer Branding

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