Either way takes time. But at different times
As agile ways of work have made their way into many types of organisations, methods of implementing agile have been tested. There is no right way. There is always pros and cons and what to choose depends mostly on the culture of your organisation, the leadership style, the culture and many other factors.
Both approaches can work overall, both top-down and bottom-up agile transformations have equal chances of success as a starting point. The key is learning and adjusting to find the right balance that is appropriate to your organisation.
Two ways, or a hybrid?
The top-down agile transformation tend to be planned for the entire organization at once. Such transformations take much longer to prepare and to create traction. One year at a minimum would probably be required, often more.
During that period, a comprehensive org redesign is planned and performed. Then the organisation is prepared for the implementation of an Agile Operating Model – what ever the basis is (SAFE, DAD, Scrum of Scrums).
One major benefit of using this approach is, that it naturally requires top management to communication the “why” and the vision of such a transformation. And organisations tend to listen to and follow leaders. There are other cons to this approach, however there are risks as well. One of the major risks are, that if not orchestrated carefully you might “forget” to ask those who are closest to the work to be involved as influential stakeholders, making the adoption less likely to succeed.
The three major pros
- Creates more momentum as the wholeorganisation is involved in a big-bang style event, and if executed the right way delivers enterprise-wide results.
- Less uncertainty about when and how the change will be implemented
Adequate funding for training, coaching is agreed upfront
And the equally major Cons
- Longer preparation require adequate resourcing and a disciplined approach to be successful
- Could be led by those who are not closest to the work and therefore might not know the best route forward for transformation
- “Command and control” which is counterproductive to the nature of agile transformation could be an outcome
The buttom up
Single teams, units or projects can start the journey and become the example of success for the rest of the organisation to follow. When individual teams are empowered to make decisions based on experience and current data, there is a
high probability they are the right decisions.
Organisations that use this approach often state that this constant improvement approach allows them to decrease the risk of the transformation, however, at the expense of duration of the entire journey for the organisation – and with the risk of different teams using different cadence, agile model and culture, which makes it more difficult to align later.
The three major pros
And the eqally major cons