How Feedback Loops Drive Powerful Culture Change in Agile and Digital Transformation

It's hard to get everyone excited about your initiative to modernize apps with improved user experiences, automate tasks in a workflow, or roll out new dashboards to improve decision making. 

Even after sharing your vision, gathering feedback from stakeholders, and sharing progress in sprint demos, there are always detractors in the back of the room or with their video off during Zoom calls that just don't buy the need for transformational change.

Agile and Digital Transformation Feedback Loops by Isaac Sacolick

I've been sharing details the last few months on the barriers to culture change, including posts on 

Yes, I am passionate about driving transformative culture changes. And I'm here to help if you want to chat about your challenges. 

Because without culture change, it's hard to accelerate digital transformation with force multipliers which can come through agile planning and citizen data science programs.

But there's one missing ingredient that you can see in my diagram - feedback loops.

How Feedback Loops Turn Naysayers to Supporters

People like to stay in their comfort zones, especially when a transformation program challenges their knowledge, job functions, and beliefs. Many people feeling this way will remain quiet and play a "wait and see game" before confronting their feelings.

When your program gets funded, many of them are like, "meh, I've seen this before." Unfortunately, most companies have a history of investing and cheerleading new programs that failed or delivered little change. So, no need to panic yet!

Then you start running sprint reviews, and your team builds up the confidence to invite more people across the organization to participate in them. I highly encourage this - and the top agile teams turn their demos into theater where the audience can participate with Q&A. Ask me about it!

A naysayer should hear about these demos and hopefully attend them. But there's still little reason to panic because the change isn't real yet. Everything you're showing isn't in production or rolled out, and there are plenty of things that can slow down or stop the train. 

Some naysayers may turn into detractors at this point if they feel threatened. Others will continue to sit back of the room and wait. (Note: You should engage everyone all the time through this transformational change, but that's another post that I wrote on transformational change versus change management.) 

Digital Transformations Must Demonstrate Incremental Success

Even at the launch party, where the extended team celebrates a win for their first production deployment, there's still some doubt left in the gas tank! Plenty of things can go wrong - performance issues, defects, security problems, just to name a few. (Note: make sure to celebrate this win and take steps to avoid agile team burnout!)

But hopefully, you're team is on top of these risks. Maybe you implement shift-left security in your devops program, institute continuous testing, or have an AIOps solution in place. These are all critical practices that help derisk bringing new tech to production fast and support rapid enhancements.

Why Digital Transformation Teams Seek to Accelerate Deployment Frequency

So why rapid enhancements? Why are we trying so hard to automate with CI/CD, increase speed to market, reduce feature cycle types, and accelerate deployment frequencies?

To get customer and end-user feedback, of course!

And when your team listens for the feedback, processes it, develops insights, adjusts priorities, and rapidly deploys changes, well then you have an engine that should improve customer satisfaction!

And that's the point where naysayers and detractors are out of time and options. You've invested and deployed, and are now listening to customers, and making ongoing improvements. 

Hard to stand in the back of the room and challenge the change when the agile team shows ongoing success and delights customers.

How to Leverage Feedback

Of course, managing feedback isn't easy. What feedback should be captured, how should teams use feedback in decision-making, and who is responsible for driving this process? I begin to answer these questions in my 35th episode of 5 Minutes with @NYIke on Developing Feedback Loops in Agile Programs and Digital Transformation.

I hope you'll watch and subscribe to the channel!



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