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Thought Leader Series: Why Exec Buy-in is Crucial for Agile Projects

Apr 25, 2016 9:00:00 AM

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Susan Payton is the President of Egg Marketing & Communications, a content marketing and social media firm. She's written three business books, and blogs about small business on sites including Forbes, AllBusiness, and The Marketing Eggspert Blog.

In the software and IT world, you hear a lot about the miraculous cures of the Agile process. It's the fix for projects that get off the rails. It's the solution for long-winded meetings that accomplish nothing. But Agile is the next thing since sliced bread...only if it works.

To get an Agile project up and running to its full capacity, you need the buy-in of top-tier leaders and execs, even if they're not involved in the day-to-day. It's this "top down" approach that ensures that Agile adoption and support happens at every level of an organization.

Why Executive Buy-in Matters

While leadership is the one writing the check for Agile training and coaching, there needs to be more engagement at this level than simply bankrolling the change.

When there's a disconnect between what's actually happening on a software development team (or product development, if that's your bag) and executive management, there's a problem. Because this top tier of an organization is concerned with results and financials, it will be challenging to prove the value of adopting Agile without actually inducting management into the process. An exec who does no more than sign a check and then pops in to "see how this whole Agile thing is going" will likely not see the benefit of it:

Why are meetings just five minutes long? The project manager isn't getting his hands dirty enough. I'm going to pull the plug on this Agile mess.

On the other hand, leadership that goes through Agile training will better understand how the methodology works and see its beneficial application for the company. A shorter go-to-market period? Execs can get excited about that. Pushing the product out before it reaches perfection so you can get client feedback? That's a cost-effective way to make sure the product delivers what customers want.

Once executives understand the why behind Agile projects, they are more likely to be supportive of the initiative.

How to Get That Buy-In

Knowing how important it is that leadership supports Agile initiatives, use these tips to foster their approval.

Make sure Agile goals align with company objectives.

Like I said: the bigwigs care about money and strategy. If adopting Agile goes against those aims, buy-in will be more challenging to get. On the other hand, if you can prove how it will save money and increase revenue, you'll get the seal of approval.

Invite execs to training.

Even if they don't need to know the nitty gritty for their own roles, it can be eye-opening to go through training and understand how Agile works. This will prevent the "I just don't get it" argument down the road.

Convert a cheerleader.

Having even just one fully supportive executive can be a boon. If one manager is more inquisitive and involved in the process than another, ask for her support to rally the rest of the executive team around the Agile transformation.

Set goals and provide ample data.

You want to quickly prove that adopting Agile practices is beneficial, so set realistic goals, then come to the leadership team with results. Overcommunicate reports and data so they feel connected to what's happening with the team.

Agile projects can be amazingly effective, but not without the support of the peopleat the top of the command chain.

Ready to dive into Agile? Download the Agile 101 eBook today.

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Brian Geary

Written by Brian Geary

Brian is a true believer in the Agile process. He often assists the development process by performing the product owner role. In addition to his technical background, he is an experienced account manager with a background in design and marketing.

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