How to Lead the Agile Charge Out of the Comfort Zone

As a company begins the transformation to Agile methodologies, some of the necessary changes are bound to be uncomfortable. Old and familiar ways of doing things will be reworked. Schedules and expectations will be altered. Perfectionists beware: much of the pre-planning will be sacrificed in favor of achieving shippable results and collaborating with the end user to refine and improve the product.

So how can leaders in the organization lead the charge out of the “comfort zone” as the company goes Agile?

Explain the Benefits

Knowledge is key.

As the transformation begins, it’s important to communicate how the new Agile methodologies differ from the philosophy or work flow everyone is used to, and why Agile is an upgrade.

For example, if transitioning from a traditional waterfall method of product development to Agile, help team members understand the benefit of collaboration with the end user to expose areas of improvement as opposed to mitigating flaws from the outset, which traditionally slows down development.

Of course, frequent patches or upgrades can be a hassle to the end user, so talk with your team about the benefits of a published release schedule or roadmap that keeps users in the loop. Agile is all about transparency and this is a good way to introduce that concept.


Integrate Tradition but Don’t Compromise Agile

As the transformation progresses, it may be possible to integrate Agile with some traditional methods like Waterfall, at least to a limited extent. But it’s important not to compromise the value of Agile methods for the sake of maintaining the team’s comfort level. This only perpetuates bad habits that will hurt production down the road.

One option is to integrate Agile methods only into the development and QA cycles at first. This will allow for more thorough planning at the beginning of the project along with customer collaboration and iterative improvements near the end, helping employees grasp the Agile methodology with less fear.

Communicate Openly, Top to Bottom

Maintaining open communication is key to helping teams accept and support the move to Agile. And this communication needs to span all levels of the organization, from the C-suite to each and every team member.

By keeping all parties apprised of the transformation at all stages – and by using these updates as an opportunity to encourage support for the move – everyone can achieve a higher level of comfort in the transition. Use words and actions to demonstrate the entire company is fully behind the move to Agile at all levels of leadership in the organization.

Embrace the 4 Change Agents Required for Transformation

There are four primary “change agents” that form the foundation for successful change management. If any of the four is missing or weak, there is a potential for transition failure:

    • Leadership Support: Successful transformation requires a collaborative approach from the top, down, which requires leaders to understand Agile values, benefits and transformation details.


    • Organizational Immersion: Stakeholder buy in is vital to ensure a smooth cultural transition. Excitement about embracing change must be generated company wide. Think posters, t-shirts, Agile booklets and fun promotional items to rally your troops.


    • Organizational Alignment: Getting everyone on the same page to build a consensus on a set of goals for the organization is a must.


    • Organizational Learning: Whether a part of scrum teams, a member of HR, or a manager, every individual in the organization must be aligned with basic Agile knowledge to complete the transformation puzzle.


So if you want to help lead the Agile charge out of the comfort zone, now you know where to focus your efforts. If you want help, take a look at our Change Management coaching and let us make your transformation as smooth as can be.