Forget the Big Bang: Cultivate Real Agility

There’s a reason why large scale Agile transformation programmes are failing.

Take Company Z. They decided to roll out Agile across their product, marketing and finance teams. Product owner training, scrum teams, 2-week sprints and daily standups were now required by executive decree.

6 months into their Agile transformation, Company Z’s employee engagement dipped, delivery slowed down and business performance had not changed.

Why? Agile became extra process layered on top of the existing model. It was yet another methodology to implement – not a method to bring about real agility.

This example reveals why many agile “transformations” fail.

Companies assume that implementing agile frameworks will accelerate pace, increase flexibility and improve efficiency. In reality, creating agility requires a much deeper transformation than rolling out new processes and tools.

Why Agile Transformations Often Fail

Because Agile promises accelerated delivery and better responsiveness, it is understandable why the temptation to rapidly “transform” by widely operationalising Agile methodology is strong. However, research shows that large-scale rollouts of Agile frequently fall short*.

When mandates replace buy-in, and rituals replace reflection, Agile frameworks lose their versatility. They become cumbersome burdens rather than enablers of adaptability. Without autonomy, learning, safety and growth-mindsets, Agile practices become empty motions.

True Agility Requires an Enabling Culture

Real agility is a goal, not a near-term destination. It requires conscious examination of business goals and thoughtful understanding of how new behaviours and systems will promote those aims. Rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach, leaders need to deeply consider what agility means for their situations before implementing frameworks.

Agility emerges gradually through a supportive environment where teams take ownership, processes adapt, and cultural elements like psychological safety and transparency enable structural flexibility. Building this environment where agility can take root and grow needs:

  • Clarity on what agility is for;
  • Team autonomy to self-organise and make decisions;
  • Structures and practices that enable collaboration and information flows;.
  • Openness to experimentation and learning.

Rather than seeking a one-off agile “transformation”, recognise that enabling agility is an ongoing journey.

How to transform without a Transformation

There is a pragmatic way to cultivate true agility. The key is to take small, experimental steps initially and transform gradually, using Agile.

Don’t aim to overhaul large swathes of your organisation at once. Start with a pilot team embracing Agile values and practices from end-to-end. Then nurture that ‘sapling’ team into a thriving ’Agile forest‘ over time.

Planting the Agile seeds

Begin by cherry-picking a small team of your most progressive staff across key functions – business, design, marketing, technology. This cross-functional group forms your pioneer agile team.

Shelter them from the status quo, so they have space to self-organise and try new ways of working. Give them an inspiring vision for what they need to achieve and support their autonomy. Coach them just enough so they can learn as a team.

Avoid pushing Agile onto other established teams initially. Let this new team embrace the version of agile that works for them without compromise, so they become an example of what’s possible.

They are your first ’Agile sapling.’

Nurturing Growth

Once this sapling matures in applying agile principles comprehensively, it becomes a model for the wider organisation. The team’s experience of how the new ways of working (using Agile practices) helps them in a real way can then be shared organically.

When the team is becomes mature – which you’ll know when they are delivering the throughput and quality you need to see – you can split it into 2 teams, adding new people to make both whole again, who will learn how you do agile.

This proliferation continues, spreading agile step-by-step across the organisation.

Rather than a big bang “transformation”, change is low-risk, incremental and driven bottom-up through top-down inspiration.

Agility Requires Cultivation – Not a Sudden Overhaul

Leaders should ground teams in agile values of adaptation, transparency and safety. With patient support for experimentation and ownership, agility takes root through organic growth.

Genuine agility emerges from the interplay of aligned autonomy and accountability. The goal is not perfect framework implementation – but embedding adaptability powered by self-organising teams.

You can avoid the pitfalls of big bang transformations by planting seeds, nurturing early successes and proliferating what works. Guide with Agile principles rather than mandates. Then watch as small beginnings blossom into enterprise-wide responsiveness through incremental, sustainable evolution.

About Kindred

Kindred helps organisations achieve growth and impact by establishing the structures, practices and behaviours for people to do their best work.

We guide agility by tailoring solutions for our clients’ goals taking incremental steps, not risky transformations. Our adaptable tools and support assess readiness, create common language, establish accountability and metrics, and sets the path to long-term agility. If this sounds good to you, let’s talk!

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