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News & Press: Blog

Agile Research Network: Industry informed research

21 June 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Abi Walker
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For many organisations, moving towards business agility is challenging as there are many elements at play, from culture and leadership to process and tools.  In a unique collaboration, the Agile Research Network is working with experienced personnel from a range of well-known organisations across several countries to bring together the best of academic and industry research. 

Two workshops, one in London, the second in Montreal, brought together a wide range of people from energy, finance, retail, and public sectors to share and explore their Agile Transformation experiences.  To ensure relevant expertise and experience these workshops were invitation-only events.  They ran under ‘Chatham House’ rules to create a safe environment to share whilst ensuring confidentiality

In a highly interactive format presentations based on real stories were interspersed with detailed discussions and group work.  Examples and experiences were shared around collaboration rooms, setting up Agile teams in a non-agile environment and experiences from the financial sector.

In group sessions a list of challenges in large scale transformation, identified by researchers[1], was presented to the participants.  Working in groups, these challenges were discussed between participants then prioritised. The top ranked challenges were; hierarchical management and organisational boundaries, integrating non-development functions and resistance to change.

In a later open space session, the participants identified these issues in Agile transformation from their own work experience:

  • Agile Approach to Agile Transformation
  • Alignment between teams
  • Design Thinking / Implementation Toolbox
  • How to Approach Budgeting / Resources / Forecasting
  • Psychological Safety and Leadership
  • Resistance from Managers
  • Seeking human values and meaning in Agile transformation
  • Transformational Leadership

ARN is currently analysing the data received from both London and Montreal workshops to create a more comprehensive report on these findings that will be available during July 2019.  The photo below is an example of the work from the ‘culture’ group, this area got the biggest number of votes in the survey.

Agile Research Network - Industry informed research

These workshops are a great example of bringing together researchers and practitioners

  • to build up a research agenda on agile transformation that relates to the needs of practitioners
  • to develop networks for further collaboration.
  • to share practical examples of what works and what does in specific environments

Feedback on the workshop included:

“[it was] great to have a safe space to discuss scaling with other companies doing it”

“really impressive audience participation”

After the workshop, one participant tweeted “I was fortunate enough to attend a highly inspiring Agile workshop in London yesterday with lots of interesting talks and great discussions”.

The format of the day worked well to provide a safe environment for participants to speak candidly about the challenges in their workplace around Agile transformation beyond software teams.  ARN is currently reflecting on whether participants would receive greater value if each workshop were industry or sector specific.


The Agile Research Network (ARN) is a collaboration between researchers at two UK universities at the forefront of investigating Agile methodologies.  The Open University(OU) has a strong research record in the use of Agile methods in practice. The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has a strong record of linking research, teaching and practice through industry-based research and practitioner-focussed Master’s and doctoral programmes.


[1] Dikert, K., Paasivaara, M., and Lassenius, C., "Challenges and success factors for large-scale agile transformations: A systematic literature review," Journal of Systems and Software, vol. 119, pp. 87-108, 2016


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