What is the goal of an agile transformation? How do we define success? What changes? What stays the same? What assumptions have we made about why we need to transform and how we go about it? What if, in our consideration of these questions, we discover that agility isn’t the point, but something deeper? What if we’re focused on changing the wrong things first?

For the past several years, respondents to the State of Agile Survey have consistently identified their respective organizational culture as a major impediment to the adoption of agile practices. Accordingly, if we accept the well-established observation that culture follows structure, transformation efforts need to begin with re-examining our thinking about how we lead and manage organizations.

In this session, participants will engage in an idealized redesign exercise to examine the thinking and theory that shape transformations while revealing the changes that can be made by senior leadership in cooperation with their people that will encourage agile-like behaviours to emerge at all levels of the organization and improve the quality of their transformation efforts.


Establishing our Thesis for Transformations that Matter:

  • Agility is not the aim or purpose of an agile transformation
  • Agile transformations are not changing what matters most in an organization, eg. true cross-organization teamwork, joy in work, pride in workmanship for managers and staff alike
  • The prevailing theory of management and transformations limits their efficacy because they hold the most meaningful elements of the organization constant while changing how teams do their work.
  • Escaping this orbit requires transformation of the way we think about organizations and how they are led and managed.

Proposed Solutions to Our Thesis (30m)

  • Exercise: Vision Therapy Trip Report - Exploring the “Me” to “We” organizational culture continuum.
  • Ten meaningful changes to enable meaningful and purposeful transformation
  • Now what! Where to start!

Summary of Key Learning Points and Take-Aways (5m)

  • Review: Why is agility not the point of a transformation?
  • Review: What is the theory of the prevailing mode of management?
  • Review: What countervailing theory have we proposed to promote meaningful transformations?
  • Review: What is the “Me” to “We” organizational culture continuum?
  • Review: What is one thing that I can start doing tomorrow?

Attendee Knowledge Level:  Intermediate/Advanced

  • This session will be addressing some abstract ideas around agile and transformation which will draw upon their experiences. Beginners may be a bit bewildered.

Learning Objectives:

  • Why agile transformations clash with the culture that is created by the current mode of thinking around leadership and management of organizations and people.
  • Understanding the “Me” to “We” continuum of organizational culture.
  • Where to direct transformation efforts first to have the greatest impact throughout the organization, not just in software delivery departments and teams.
  • Options for improving the quality of leadership and management, irrespective of their role in the organization.
  • Why it may be better to help leadership and teams learn to improve together first before embarking on an agile transformation.
  • It's ok if agility isn't the point.

Interactivity: 3.5

  • Main feature of the session is an idealized redesign exercise (per Ackoff) for envisioning what conditions and structures best support a transformation and what needs to change first.

Co-Presenter: Robert Pragai

Language of Presentation: English

Timeslot: 45m


Experience level


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