CIOs are under increasing pressure to deliver more digital innovations faster and more efficiently. Business leaders expect IT to develop new products, improve customer experiences, automate workflows, and deliver new artificial intelligence capabilities.\n\nTo do so, CIOs must continuously improve their product management, program management, and delivery capabilities to wow customers and deliver competitive advantages, all while steering clear of surefire DX mistakes such as prioritizing too many initiatives and underinvesting in developing digital trailblazers. \n\nMany IT teams use agile methodologies to iteratively deliver feature-rich releases, improve capabilities, address technical debt, and experiment with emerging technologies. But speaking to many IT leaders, there are often gaps between how IT runs Scrum, Kanban, or other agile practices and what CIOs need in order to achieve digital transformation objectives.\n\nI recently moderated Adaptavist\u2019s \u201cAgile Back to Basics\u201d roundtable, which included three authors of the Agile Manifesto. We discussed how many agile teams focus on rituals without truly understanding the manifesto\u2019s objectives or the organization\u2019s goals. Their comments offer insights as to what to do if your teams are \u201cdoing agile\u201d but aren\u2019t agile enough to deliver digital transformation results.\n\nBelow are five key issues organizations often have when undertaking agile methodologies to fuel digital transformation.\n\n1. You\u2019ve failed to build trust and communicate the vision\n\nTina Behers, vice president of enterprise agility at Aligned Agility, shared two key prerequisites organizations need to execute digital transformation initiatives with agile methodologies. \u201cIf the organization has little to no trust, especially between software development teams and management or your executives and anyone under them, the transformation of anything will not work,\u201d she said.\n\nAgile can help build trust between teams, stakeholders, and leadership, but agile cannot correct a lack of trust between people. CIOs should not assume there\u2019s sufficient trust between leaders and teams and psychological safety for people to work without unnecessary stress. CIOs and digital transformation leaders should openly discuss the importance of trust, ensure room for learning from failures, and schedule team-building programs.\n\nAnother prerequisite is ensuring agile teams understand the vision and goals of the digital initiative from the outset. \u201cIf the executive of the organization, whether that\u2019s the CEO or the head of product, has not published and communicated several times what the vision and the strategy are for the company or the product, there is no way for the product managers to set the priorities, and therefore there\u2019s no way for the teams to be able to deliver value realistically,\u201d Behers added.\n\nThe best way to address this gap is to draft a simple vision statement written by product managers and delivery leaders in collaboration with stakeholders and agile teams. The writing process builds trust, and a documented vision builds a shared understanding of priorities. Equally important, the documented vision is a tool for agile teams to make implementation decisions when there are multiple ways to solve problems, each with different benefits and tradeoffs.\n\n2. You\u2019re retaining waterfall planning but demanding agile delivery\n\nWith your vision statement in hand, planning is the next vital step, which includes speaking to customers, defining problem statements, reviewing operational data, and conducting proof of concepts. \n\nUnfortunately, organizations too often define planning as a pre-agile business activity, an artifact from waterfall project methodologies where planning helped define requirements, timelines, costs, and other factors before leaders were ready to make investments.\n\n\u201cBusiness leaders get scared and say, \u2018Tell me the plan so I can sleep at night,\u2019\u201d said Ronica Roth, co-founder and principal of The Welcome Elephant. \u201cThey are afraid of failure and the uncertainty of knowledge work, and so that\u2019s stressful. Agile is an amazing risk management tool for managing uncertainty, but that\u2019s not always obvious.\u201d \n\nThe key is recognizing that planning must be an agile discipline, not a standalone activity performed independently of agile teams. Agile planning practices include prioritizing backlogs every sprint, writing short user stories with acceptance criteria, and conducting retrospectives. Many organizations will also estimate user stories and undertake other continuous planning practices.\n\nDigital transformation initiatives are often the organization\u2019s big bets to change the business and operating model. The strategic importance of these initiatives creates even more tension for CIOs and their teams to answer what will be delivered and when. \n\n\u201cLeadership has a right to ask agile teams when something will be delivered and how much it will cost, but teams have a right to push back on unrealistic expectations,\u201d said Jon Kern, agile transformation consultant and co-author of the Agile Manifesto.\n\nThe tension can undermine trust, prevent teams from focusing on transformational objectives, and destabilize the environment teams need to succeed in the longer term. \u201cI want my teams to be thrilled about putting smiles on the customers\u2019 faces, delivering value, and having fun doing it,\u201d Kern added.\n\nAccording to Tim Ottinger, senior consultant at Industrial Logic, leaders need to get back to basics when there\u2019s tension between defining timelines and committing to big-rock objectives. \u201cThe first three words are the best in the manifesto: We are discovering. I think that many people lose this context,\u201d he said.\n\n3. Your agile principles are too vaguely defined\n\nBeyond the tension between leadership and teams, there is often a secondary tension across and within agile teams.\n\nJames Grenning, co-author of the Agile Manifesto, said, \u201cAgile adoptions usually start with introducing iterative management, but we can\u2019t expect development teams to know iterative engineering instinctively. There are skills to learn and master, and technical excellence is a key factor to successful agile adoption.\u201d\n\nToday\u2019s agile organizations are staffed with employees, contractors, and freelancers who have experienced different agile frameworks, methodologies, and tools. What are the decision-making authorities? What are the organization\u2019s agile principles? Where can teams self-organize and make decisions? What practices are standard?\n\nOur \u201cback to basics\u201d conversation led to several insights about where organizations often fall short on practicing agile effectively in support of their digital initiatives, including the following:\n\nDigital transformation initiatives often require the coordination of multiple agile teams, so misaligned expectations on principles, team authorities, and standards lead to conflicts. The challenge for CIOs and agile leaders is to create a structure and process for an agile center of excellence chartered with evolving the organization\u2019s agile principles and standards.\n\n4. You treat change management and feedback as afterthoughts\n\nAgile teams, especially ones using CI\/CD and other devops practices to enable continuous deployment, can easily leave out key practices required in digital transformation initiatives.\n\nAgile teams aren\u2019t done when they deploy the code. Successful transformations require change management activities to ensure end-user adoption, capture meaningful stakeholder feedback, and review operating metrics.\n\nAre these activities within the scope of agile programs? If not, the disconnect can lead to poor end-user satisfaction and angry stakeholders. Additionally, agile teams operating without customer feedback may overengineer features and miss opportunities to realign priorities. \n\nHere, Kern offered one suggestion. \u201cTell people to think of the smallest thing they can do and then do something slightly uncomfortably less. You can always add more, but you can never get back the wasted time. Aim to fall a little bit short and get some early feedback.\u201d\n\n5. You\u2019re ignoring the culture aspect of agile \u2014 or not aligning it with business objectives\n\nTransformation requires a culture change for people to look beyond how things work today and to challenge assumptions. Agile leaders seek agile mindsets and cultures, but defining what this means in the context of digital transformation goals should be on the CIO\u2019s agenda.\n\nOne example paradigm to avoid in defining agile culture is \u201cwe\u2019re not agile enough\u201d without aligning process improvement to business objectives. A second, and my pet peeve, is hearing teammates say, \u201cThat\u2019s not agile,\u201d and I share several stories around this anti-pattern in my book Digital Trailblazer.\n\nSo, how can CIOs define an agile mindset in their organizations? \u201cAn agile mindset is developing habits through our behaviors, and those behaviors must be pervasive across the organization,\u201d said Behers. \n\nAnd how can CIOs know when trust and an agile mindset are forming across the organization? Roth answered, \u201cThe conversation between agile teams and stakeholders shifts to the right one, which is not about the team\u2019s capacity but instead is about the priority of the work.\u201d \n\nHighsmith added, \u201cThe purpose of an agile mindset is to prepare us for a turbulent future.\u201d\n\nFor CIOs looking to accelerate digital transformation and improve business outcomes, aligning agile methodologies and seeking an agile culture can be a game-changer.\n\nMy recommended CIO action plan:\n\nThere isn\u2019t a one-size-fits-all playbook for agile methodologies or digital transformation, and success requires the CIO to take on many leadership responsibilities.