How not to be an Agile Alien

Agility isn't a buzzword, but a necessity for companies to survive and thrive. It needs to be woven into the workplace so teams can adapt and respond to change - fast. Without agility, companies (and comms folks) get left behind.

04 Jan 2024
by Erum Quddus

In my last blog, should professional communicators care about Agile in 2024 we looked at the important role internal communicators play in handling alignment and change fatigue. There are many complex issues at play during transformations, but we, as communicators, can manage some of this through good comms and storytelling design. We can take people on the rollercoaster that is the change journey.

That said, while driving the communications for my first global Agile transformation a few years ago, I quickly found this wasn't so easy. Everything was different! The way things were planned, the meetings, the jargon. And the tech folks thought comms was ‘all fluff’!

I felt like an alien.

I quickly realised that something had to change. If I was going to fulfil this role successfully, I needed to change myself. But where to start?

I saw that one of the most important drivers of Agile Ways of Working is an absolute focus on value.

So here’s what I did first. I changed my professional comms mindset. I stopped striving for perfection and polishing my plans and comms. I stopped being uncomfortable with sharing drafts and works-in-progress. I started to share drafts early and fast, and build on them using  stakeholder feedback.

I was now embracing common Agile practices. I was getting comfortable with MVPs (Minimum Viable Product), and iterating on it using feedback. I was focusing on value, which saved me a tonne of time and energy in re-works and sign-offs. A big win!

Here’s the next thing I did - I changed my approach to comms planning.

I stopped planning too far ahead. Instead, I planned in three month cycles, in sync with the transformation roadmap, and put my immediate focus on what’s due in the next two weeks. I was focusing on high priority, high value work. I learnt to not try and build the perfect plan or get hung up on having to make changes, which inevitably happens during a transformation. I was learning to be flexible and pivot in response to change.

I was now getting the hang of more Agile practices and the way work was planned, agreed and delivered in 2 week cycles or a sprint. I learnt the art of being an effective scrum member and where to put my focus, and pivot when needed. I was talking the language, and became accepted by the Agile teams. I was no longer an Alien.

Once I got used to it, and it did take a bit of getting used to, I loved it because I knew exactly what I needed to focus on. And I was ‘allowed’ to say ‘no’ to any new work that crept in. Even if it came from VIP stakeholders!

This was the start of my journey to embracing Agile Ways of Working. Choosing not to be an Agile alien and instead working with Agile practices. And what a difference it has made to my output, efficiency and confidence working in this space!

Is your company going through an Agile transformation? Are you required to support the comms for it? If you’re not experienced in this, start with your mindset and the way you approach comms.

And if you need it, here’s a free ready-to-download and immediately executable Agile transformation comms planning template, with my recommended day-to-day comms touchpoints, based on my personal experience, laid out by sprint to align with your transformation roadmap.

Interested in learning more about Agile and how to do great comms for an Agile transformation?

Blog author, Erum Quddus, runs the popular Leading Agile Communications Course for the IoIC. The next course is on 30 January. Find out more here.