January 8, 2020

There is No "Done" in Agile Transformations

Bob and Carl Ferro are the proud owners of Nick’s Bar and Grill in Hollywood Beach since 1980 and this place is an institution in this South Florida beach town to say the least. A low-key place, famous for its lobster, clams and chowder dishes. Easy beach living, flip flops year-round mixed with seafood, drinks and entertainment. You get the picture, a perfect combination. From a tourist perspective read more about Nick’s here.

In August 2018, the Ferro’s initiated a renovation project that would disrupt the laid back beach style vibe at Nick’s and bring the brothers almost to a tipping point.

The project kicked off as a quick 3-month “freshen-up” project to bring the restaurant up-to-date after all those years in operation. And just like many projects around the world, once people take a deeper dive into the subject matter, things get complicated and so did it at Nick’s. Termite and salt-water damage required an almost tear-down renovation due to severe structural damages. After a brutally long 11 months into the renovation, patrons wouldn’t be able to celebrate 4th of July at Nick’s, for the very first time in 40 years! Even worse, the project was nowhere near to be “completed”. Many other details, like fences around dumpsters, stonework or awnings just kept extending the time-line. The manager, Robert Bettencourt, summed it up nicely in an interview “We are 99% there,  every time we think we’re ready, something else pops up”.

Missing the the 4th of July is one thing, but another busy week during peak season during the holidays end of December would be another major set back. Long story short, Nick opened doors between Christas and New Years Eve after a total of 16 months of renovation. 13 more than the initially planned for 3 months. As a total coincidence, I visited Nick’s on their second day back in business again. The staff took it, just as you would expect it from this laid back place, with a great sense of humor. They told me that they are still improving and refining, still being 99% done.

When large organizations go through agile transformations, they often organize them as projects similar to Nick’s. Organizations also often have “structural” issues that take time to work through and unforeseen details that keep adding time. But most importantly, agile transformations are never complete. After a certain time, we might be more agile than before, but there is no end-state that would complete the transformation.  Just like at Nick’s, constant refinement will continue, otherwise every business will being challenged by its competitors.

Agile Transformation Kata Poster
Agile Transformation Kata Poster

Nick’s has transformed but that does not mean that they are done. Curve balls will continue to hit the business, the question will be how fast they can respond. The same is true in agile transformations where eco-systems, business directions and competitors constantly evolve.  Accepting constant adaptation will be a crucial part of an organization’s DNA, the agile transformation itself must be adaptive or even better; agile. The majority of agile transformations I have seen, are plan-driven that might work in the short run or to kick-start things, but making the agile transformation long-lasting and impactful an agile approach is certainly more effective. I am also not sure how many businesses would take a delay similar to the one at Nick's with humor.

The Agile Transformation Kata for example promotes an agile approach to agile transformations and the transformation coach knows how to bring the Kata to life. If you are interested in how a Scrum Master can play the role of an agile transformation coach and drive changes in particular to Scrum, start with any of these learning aids.