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The Results are In: Tips for Transitioning to Agile

Posted by Deborah Bigelow Crawford

Deborah Bigelow Crawford has more than 20 years of experience in business management and handles the operational and administrative functions of PM Solutions. Ms. Bigelow Crawford also serves as Co-CEO of the PM College®, PM Solutions' training division, where she is responsible for the fiscal management and quality assurance of all training and professional development programs. Prior to joining PM Solutions, she served as the Executive Director of the Project Management Institute (PMI), and was instrumental in providing the foundation and infrastructure for the exponential growth that the Institute has maintained over the last 10 years. In addition, she served as the Executive Director of the PMI Educational Foundation. Over the last decade, she has authored numerous articles in PM Network, Chief Project Officer, and Optimize magazines. Ms. Bigelow Crawford is also co-author of the book Project Management Essentials. She has presented a variety of papers as a speaker at international symposia and conferences, and is a member of the National Association of Female Executives and the Project Management Institute.

I just finished a webinar on the research study conducted by PM Solutions on The Adaptive Organization (if you missed the webinar you can access the recording here).  One of the most interesting things that connected this study with PM Solutions' other research done over the last 20 years is that High-Performing Organizations, much more than the average or low-performing organizations, train their people.  Average and low-performing organizations actually train their people two to three times less intensively; that is, they offer fewer types of training for fewer days per year.  This lack of training on adaptive skills was viewed by the 191 respondents in The Adaptive Organization study as the biggest challenge when transitioning to Adaptive PM approaches.  Other challenges included were organizational culture, inconsistent processes and practices, and individual resistance to changing the way one works.

These results make me wonder, when will we ever learn?  We want the latest and greatest.  We want to be “state-of-the art”—yet, we are not willing to prepare our employees culturally or technically.  With transforming to a more adaptive/agile culture, we don’t provide enough training on the foundations and technical skills, but also we don’t provide training on the changing mindset that must occur.

Interestingly enough, organizations,  at least the high-performing ones, also rely on contracted resources to “up their game.” They are slightly more likely to bring in outside experts to run adaptive (agile/scrum/Kanban) projects … and far more likely to use outside resources to train on agile topics.

Training wasn’t the only area where the High Performers stood out.  These organizations were more likely to make a PMO responsible for adaptive and hybrid projects.  They also used adaptive or hybrid approaches on 64% of their projects, while the average organization used these approaches on about half of their projects.  Not a coincidence that they rated their capability of performing hybrid projects at a level 4 or 5 and felt that hybrid and adaptive approaches worked well for them.

The other connection point of this research with the other research performed over years is that the biggest pain point for organizations continues to be optimally allocating project resources.  Surprised?  Probably not.  For some reason, the reality that “people do projects” and that they are better at it IF they are not spread too thin, is a hard lesson to accept in the project management field.

This will have to be resolved in companies that hope to become more agile because adaptive methods are even more reliant on the behaviors and traits of leader and teams.

Bottom line … if you are thinking of moving more toward adaptive methods—a few things to remember:

  1. Start changing the “mindset” of those whose style of work is going to change.
  2. Establish consistent process and practices.
  3. Make leaders and team members feel they are in a safe, honest, and transparent environment.
  4. Communicate frequently and quickly.
  5. Train your people.

How’s your organization doing??

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