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Agile Transformation Requires Paradigm Shifts

12 October 2017

Sathyanarayanan Damodaran
Cognizant Technology Solutions

Organizations have invested heavily in transformational benefits that would be gained from adopting Agile practices, but how many realize the value of the transformation? Although all benefits of Agile transformation are not equated to a financial advantage, investment in change is targeted at bringing about an innovative mindset, trusted engagement, and a focus on high-quality products and applications, which by itself would satisfy the ROI needs. When do we consider that an organization has fully transformed to Agile?

Paradigm shifts critical to success

Below are the paradigm shifts — or the major changes to processes — necessary to transform an organization to Agile.
  • From financial value to customer satisfaction and shared benefits: Although projects are approved and executed based on budgetary decisions, projects executed in Agile have to primarily focus on customer satisfaction indexes. This focus ensures sustainability of customer relationships and builds a model for shared benefits with both IT service providers and business customers.
  • From predictive and controlling to adaptive and embracing: Projects planned with high precision in the earlier phases are bound to have a higher cost impact to accommodate changes, which is a concern for many organizations that perform multiyear initiatives. Agile emphasizes adaptive or rolling wave planning methods, which makes it easier to embrace the changing needs of business.
  • From efficiency and variance metrics to cohesive engagement: Reporting of scope, schedule, cost and quality metrics, and variances have been traditionally used for tracking and monitoring projects. Cohesive engagement helps to identify slippages and instantaneously corrects to realign with the project objectives, causing minimum impact to project metrics.
  • From directed groups to self-governing and self-organizing teams: Dependency on directions results in delays and lags and prohibits cultivation of any innovation within the team. Agile emphasizes self-organizing teams, which reduces these dependencies. Also, teams feel empowered to make decisions for the collective good of team and business objectives delivered.
  • From rigid hierarchies to a flexible and open environment: The free flow of directions and information within the Agile teams from the right people negates the need for a formal approval chain. Decisions reach team members more openly, enabling delivery with a minimum number of roadblocks. Recognition is also an important factor that in turn develops trust and improves efficiency.
  • From structured communication to transparent feedback: Delay on formal approvals impedes progress during project execution. Transparency and trust, along with Agile practices, help to keep the planned tasks and activities moving. As a result, shippable solutions to the customer are delivered in a shorter life cycle.
  • From redundant process to simple ground rules: Although Agile practices are not for complex and redundant time-consuming processes, it’s necessary to maintain a certain discipline within the Agile teams. These ground rules should be formulated with the consent of the team and strictly adhered to.
  • From valiant leaders to transformational and facilitative leadership: Mindset changes in leadership are key to the success of the team. A leader is more of a facilitator for executing projects, resolving issues and managing expectations. The success or failure of any decision, project, or initiative is the joint ownership of the entire Agile team.


Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

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