Achieving discipline in an agile environment: Q&A

Marc Lahmann Partner and Leader Transformation Assurance, PwC Switzerland May 29, 2020

In collaboration with the PMI chapter in Switzerland, we held a webinar on achieving discipline in an agile environment. During and after the webinar we received various questions that we would like to answer in the following Q&A.
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What are typical resistance factors you have encountered? How did you overcome them?

Here are some examples:

1. A concise vision, interpretation and strategic goals need to be in place. Otherwise, it leads to confusion and to the perception that management is not serious about the change and is incompetent.

2. There needs to be consensus among stakeholders, otherwise the people who are not being considered will sabotage the transformation with different practices: Scrumerfall, Scrumbut, passive compliance, etc.

3. Employees need to be provided with the necessary skills. Pushing people to do something they don't understand, or are not capable of doing, creates anxiety.  Pushing change without building the necessary skills creates the perception that management is being unreasonable.

4. Teams need to be enabled through agile tools/resources:

- access to training
- access to coaching
- tools, etc.

If management does not provide these tools, it appears to people that management is consciously trying to prevent the change being successful.

There are many other factors, e.g. prioritising the culture aspect as number one, investing significant effort into change management and having the right leadership in place. If these are not there, the transformation is very likely to fail, creating an increasing level of frustration within the organisation.

Doesn’t the “Safe Agile framework” (SAFe) solve some of the issues?

SAFe only touches upon governance and doesn't really provide detailed solutions. Many questions are not answered, and specific solutions are still missing for governance, risk & compliance issues. SAFe does not include the fine-tuning of control functions or the adjustment of the corporate culture, nor does it provide responsibilities for roles and functions. They  need thorough adjustment to make them fit for purpose and make sure that they are applied well to the organisation and industry.

Any recommendations on how to motivate the organisation to go through with the agile transformation and overcome resistance?

I suggest referring to articles that underline with facts and figures that running an agile organisation actually provides significant benefits. There are many articles that highlight such figures, e.g. the ING case. There are also multiple articles that describe what happens if an organisation chooses not to adapt an agile culture, e.g. "Recent studies have shown that in the next 15 years, 78% of the S&P 500 firms will rotate and 1 in 3 publicly listed organisation will delist (study conducted by Innosight)".

Let the numbers do the talking. There are also lots of publications regarding these figures on Forrester, Gartner, Statista, etc.

To lead the change, you should construct a task force which is a cross-functional unit of individuals steering the organisation. Further, it is good to have an Agile Centre of Excellence in place. Ideally, you have 100% dedicated people in these roles, but reality looks different: they will need to juggle their day-to-day work with the agile transformation.

Regarding slide 16 and the 1-4 LoD: who do you address to get this implemented since it seems well beyond the remit of the scrum master?

Ideally, the team needs to be in a position to define and live the rules, or overarching governance and control measures need to be defined by, e.g. the Agile Centre of Excellence. The scrum master can raise awareness of inefficiencies in the control or governance model that negatively impact the agile way of working or agile values.

Which tool do you recommend to "align the team programme and portfolio" level?

First, alignment of the various levels is achieved through the different planning and alignment ceremonies that should be in place. Further, the walls of the Obeya Room should provide a comprehensive view of the various expectations, finances, resources and progress on the different levels (list is not exhaustive). In addition, Jira also provides plug-ins for Themes, which allows you to track progress at portfolio level; at the programme level you would have your Epics translating into Features.

How many extra FTEs in risk/compliance/legal do you need if you fully implement all this?

This depends on your needs. Many initiatives don't require extensive involvement or just partial involvement. As mentioned during the presentation, you could also assign one such resource to a tribe, where the work of the teams is being prioritised. As mentioned, the bottom line is that risk management is carried out as a continuous and collaborative effort between business and control functions.

How do you introduce agile in environments which are regulated or have to meet regulatory or mandatory restrictions?

Industries with regulatory or mandatory restrictions must particularly take care of adjusting their 3LoD and consider the special requirements. The project to transform your 3LoD is therefore more complex. The requirements you face are, in most cases, not adjusted to agile environments. GRC is not method specific. You can translate the special requirements into agile ways of working. It is very important to really understand the requirements and the agile methods so the legislator has a clear understanding of how you address the special requirements or standards. You can follow the eight steps and you should focus especially on the first four steps.

If an unexpected situation occurs that cannot be considered a risk as it has not been identified during the risk assessment, what is the impact on the agile environment?  How can you overcome this situation if the business did not identify the risk?

It is nearly impossible to define a response plan for such types of risk. We would suggest a pragmatic approach to overcome such a situation, and to follow PMI recommendations by creating reserves.

Is the agile system applicable for all kinds of project?

If the project deliverable is clear and can be delivered based on simple instructions, that favours more the traditional approach. If the output of the project is more of a mystery and the solution is unclear, that favours an agile approach.

Could you share a couple of companies (globally and in Switzerland) that already implement "agile discipline" in an acceptable manner?

Due to secrecy agreements, we are not allowed to mention any client names. But if you research online, you can find the following companies as examples who follow this mindset: ING, Paypal, SalesForce, HSBC, BBVA, Barclays, etc.

Where is financial controlling in the new agile transformation?

Finance can be a real accelerator and critical factor in achieving the desired flexibility and responsiveness. In an agile enterprise context, finance has three key roles for "tribes and squads" (it facilitates and services):

1. Finance advice – directly supports the domains with all activities related to the planning and control cycle, starting up initiatives, workforce planning and sourcing (charging, contracting, etc.). Each tribe should be assigned a dedicated finance advisor (or business partner).

2. Finance services – supports all tactical and operational activities undertaken by financial advice and control such as reporting and calculation. Finance services also ensure services are automated (self-service principle).

3. Finance control – focuses on finance processes that are not tribe-specific and mandatory activities such as financial reporting, cost accounting and valuations.

Contact us

Marc Lahmann

Marc Lahmann

Partner and Leader Transformation Assurance, PwC Switzerland

Tel: +41 58 792 27 99

David Nagy

David Nagy

Transformation Assurance, PwC Switzerland

Tel: +41 58 792 21 97

Simon Wieczorek

Simon Wieczorek

Senior Manager, PwC Germany

Tel: +49 511 5357-5230