May 18, 2017

Transformation Is the New Norm

“I became aware of the fundamental difference between doing scrum versus agile thinking several years ago when my former colleague asked me to give a presentation about communication in scrum. I made a presentation and listed all the scrum ceremonies I could think of. I went to a conference room full of colleagues and gave the presentation. People looked confused. They were not positively overwhelmed. I was told that I only listed the ceremonies. The people wanted to discuss honesty, transparency and trust. It was my turn to be amazed.” – Tuomas Kepanen


Challenge of the day

The ceremonies, such as planning, daily meetings, refinement and demo, are easy to adopt. But in reality, this is just the surface of agility or not agile at all. As stated in the agile manifesto, following a plan has value, but agile adopters value responding to change more.

Today, when discussing the agile transformation, we face similar challenges as with the communication presentation above. Different ways of working can be easy to adopt, but real value comes from understanding your environment and the system you are working with. It is only by trying and failing, inspecting and adapting that you are able to understand what works best for you.

At Landis+Gyr, our challenges of today are more in the area of scaling our work in a multinational environment and a changing market. It is also about communicating the change, taking into account the fears and assumptions people may have. It is about continuously bringing out the vision, inspecting and adapting the feedback and message.

Do you trust a prediction?

To be able to survive in today's market as a company you need to be able to embrace constant change. This can happen in several ways:

  • Drive change towards where you want to be
  • Predict what will happen and proactively change
  • React, respond and adapt to what you were not able to predict

The key is to continuously improve to make your organization capable of handling the above-mentioned situations.

Driving change towards a desirable state many times requires muscle. Larger companies could, for example, drive regulation, or create common industry standards by introducing uniform solutions to a large enough customer base.  

Predictions are difficult. Even if you are able to do the impossible and predict the future, you still need to execute the necessary actions to gain the advantage. Accepting the fact that many things cannot be predicted and controlled leaves us with the focus on being able to embrace the change. Traditionally this has been hard to accept, but reality has shown otherwise. Instead of sticking to a rigid plan, you should strive to gain visibility through agile practices, tools and methods. Once you know what is really happening in your organization you should focus on improving your ability to change. 

Problems in adopting agile frameworks

Agility for development teams is nowadays an industry standard. Companies including Landis+Gyr have a long history of developing software in the agile way. What has been debated recently is how to scale agility and what can be achieved by trying to make the whole organization agile. There are several approaches to scale agility and transform the organization from traditional to agile. These include:

Many of these sources describe not only the end goal, but emphasize that it is a continuous journey, and suggest a way of setting the company on that journey. Also, many of them state that these frameworks can, and in most cases should, be adapted to your organization.

That being said, there is also debate on how useful some of these approaches are. Just because an approach has worked in some organization does not mean that is the right way to go for yours. The problems with adopting these frameworks are usually the ones that are common in most transformation programs. The organization might not share the understanding that the transformation should be the new norm. It is not something you do once and then you can have a rest. The transformation should also be viewed from the whole organization’s perspective, not just from parts of it. Also, the role of communication cannot be overemphasized.

With agility, people often feel like they are losing control and there is not enough trust in the people or the added transparency that agile methods can bring. You see organizations juggling new role descriptions to match the adopted framework, but nothing has really changed. The organization still runs on projects that are navigated through waterfalls.

Are there solutions?

Unfortunately, you still need to do the work. It seems that there are no easy or ready-made paths to success in adopting a scaled agile framework – especially not ones that are a fit for all organizations. There are suggestions, and the most vocal ones seem to encompass the following:

  • Adopt and adapt a Framework that seems to solve your problem – do not choose a framework based on promises of generic benefits.
  • Develop your leadership. Agile methodologies, organizational changes, or even hard facts do not change the organizational culture. Embracing agility needs more. Putting the customer first and experiencing delight in being able to exceed customer expectations is one way to fall in love with agile. Another tool could be deeper emotional storytelling to make the leadership realize and internalize the inherent value of agile.
  • Develop the teams. As with agile in general, the teams are the focus. There are advocates who say that you do not need a framework or scale agile at all. If the teams are performing on a high enough agile fluency level, the problems that scaling agile frameworks are trying to take care of go away. Dependencies among different teams should not be taken care of by synchronizing and coordinating, but instead by aggressively removing them using, for example, XP methods.

What do we gain?

By educating yourself in different frameworks you gain an understanding and awareness of how other people with similar challenges have survived. In order to try it out for yourself, you need courage and support. Failing may not be easy, but it is important for you to learn.

At Landis+Gyr we have started to adopt new ways to improve collaboration globally. We are in the process of trying out something new, which should make our development efforts more focused and transparent. As with all interconnected systems, a change in one place will have an effect on its counterpart. This is also true in the case of our organization. By collaborating better globally we automatically gain transparency and an awareness of where we really are and where we are going.

The vision is that trust, transparency, empowerment and honesty will affect our motivation. These ways of working support quality and productivity, thus delighting our customer.


Petri Marttinen Tuomas Kepanen
Software Specialist R&D Manager