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3 beliefs you need to let go to start you agile journey – Agile EE 2017

The biggest reasons so many agile transformations fail have reported to be lack of management support and general resistance to change.

In my talk I describe the 3 underlining beliefs that cause resistance to change and lack of management support for agile transformations.

These paradigms are fundamentally incompatible with the agile way of working. Trying to transform or change an organization where these beliefs are prevalent will fail.

How to change these beliefs? Answering that question is the second part of my talk. I will describe my experiments to help people unlearn these beliefs and share what I have found to work to support this kind of change in mindset and culture.

My talk will help people in any knowledge work organisation who want to change their organisation into more agile mindset and ways of working.

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3 beliefs you need to let go to start you agile journey – Agile EE 2017

  1. 1. 3 beliefs we need to let go to start our agile journey Antti Kirjavainen @anttiki Agile EE 2017 Kiev
  2. 2. The purpose of this talk Give you ideas and concrete practices to invite people and organizations let go of beliefs that hold them back from embracing the new paradigm of knowledge work.
  3. 3. Our beliefs hold us back
  4. 4. 3 layers of culture Practices, processes, rules Values (stated) Assumptions, beliefs (unconscious) Source: Schein, Edgar (1992). Organizational Culture and Leadership: A
  5. 5. Why beliefs and assumptions are so strong? • Most things in a culture are built atop of our beliefs and assumptions • Lots of connections with other ideas, assumptions etc. • Usually unconscious • Conflicting ideas and assumptions do not fit with the ideas and assumptions that are based on the old unconscious assumption • The idea with less sticking points has less change to prevail than the connceted (old) one
  6. 6. 10 years ago: Games for Learning
  7. 7. I used to develop and research games for learning • In collaboration with science teachers • For primary school children • ~12 years ago • Agora Game Lab, University of Jyväskylä • Problem: children’s misconceptions about scientific phenomena
  8. 8. Why are there seasons?
  9. 9. Misconceptions about Science • Hinder the children’s ability to learn about scientific phenomena • The earlier conception has stronger connections in cognition • Scientific knowledge is inter-connected, new knowledge sticks if it fits with the existing assumptions • A couple of misguided assumptions can hinder the child from learning most of related science (e.g. astronomy and climate theories related to model of seasonal changes)
  11. 11. Let’s do it like in stand-up shows: clap if you’ve been there, seen that
  13. 13. So stupid, right?
  14. 14. ”Delivering each batch of work has costs, so it is most efficient to do it all in one big batch” Photo CC-2.0-BY-NC by Cameron Grant
  15. 15. Problems with batches or big projects • Assumption: big batches save money (true, but…) • Unconscious tradeoffs: • Losing the adaptibility to changes • Risks are discovered and acted on late • Testing of assumptions is done in the end • Scope tends to get even bigger – scope creep • Long time to market
  16. 16. Keeping people 100% utilized on planned work is efficient Photo by Walter Parenteau
  17. 17. Problems with 100% utilization • No capability left to deal with surprises • Results in low predictability if there is variability (= surprises) • Often leads to multitasking • Task-switching reduces effectiveness
  18. 18. ”Using specialists’ time just for what they are best at is most efficient”
  19. 19. Problems with specialisation • Loss of information • The need to ask something competes with the fact that people are already on their next assignment • Leads to multitasking • Task-switching reduces effectiveness • Lots of unfinished work, which is potentially waste
  21. 21. New processes can be rolled out to organizations and teams
  22. 22. Changes in an organization chart will lead to similar changes in reality
  23. 23. Problems with rolling out new processes, org charts • People do not change anything in their behaviour • People do not understand the changed process in the same way • Lack of commitment towards change • Hard to relate a modelled process to everyday work
  24. 24. Rolling out agile structures and processes is not helpful • If you just mandate cross-funtional teams and Scrum ceremonies, you are not doing much differently than scientific management thinkers • Cross-functional teams need to be more than organizational structure • The most important aspects of agile frameworks are principles: • People over processes and • Continuous improvement.
  25. 25. Dividing the organization to thinkers and doers is efficient
  26. 26. Problems with separating thinking and doing • People far away from work have hard time seeing the real problems • People with most insight on improvement opportunities are left out of work design • Lessens commitment on improvement on ”doers” • Takes meaning out of ”doers” work
  27. 27. CARROT AND STICK The best and only ways to keep people motivated and committed
  28. 28. But no-one really believes that anymore, right?
  29. 29. Control by rules, incentives and status reports is effective Photo by Dneary
  30. 30. Why command and control is really command and hope • People will figure out ways to game any system • If you incentivize certains behaviours, people will do anything to reproduce those behaviours, even wrecking the company • Intrinsically motivated people become demotivated when they are directed to game the system instead of working for the actual wanted impacts
  31. 31. ”People are weak-willed, lazy and will cheat if you let them”
  32. 32. The belief that people are lazy and weak-willed: a self-fulfilling prophecy • If you do not remove impediments from people to work towards their intrinsic motivation, they will become demotivated • Demotivated people seem lazy and weak- willed • If you have lazy and weak-willed people, you have either recruited them or they have changed since they arrived in the organization
  33. 33. HOW TO GET RID OF THESE LEGACY BELIEFS? Photo CC-2.0-BY by wecometolearn
  34. 34. Problems with using logic to help get rid of old beliefs • The old belief has lots of connections with other ideas, assumptions etc. • The old belief is usually unconscious • Conflicting ideas and assumptions do not fit with the ideas and assumptions that are based on the old unconscious assumption • The idea with less sticking points has less change to prevail than the connceted (old) one • Arguments against the old belief have less existing allies in the cognition
  35. 35. 1. Experience Photo CC-2.0-BY by Jim Sneddon
  36. 36. Games for Learning: Experience • Safe experience • Distanced from subject matter • Chance for the child to experiment different strategies, theories • Constructed so that strategies based on actual scientific theories work better
  37. 37. 2. Reflection together Photo CC-2.0-BY-NC by Juska Wendland
  38. 38. Games for Learning: Reflection Together • Compare experiences from playing the game • Form a collective opinion on what strategies worked and why • Confirmation on individual observations from group • Connect the experience to scientific theory (at this point the experience has provided connecting points to the children’s cognition)
  39. 39. 3. Application Photo CC-2.0-BY-NC by Juska Wendland
  40. 40. Games for Learning: Application • Application of ther newly learned theory to another context • To reinforce the newly formed theory • I.e. Another exercise, project work etc.
  42. 42. Marshmallow Challenge Tom Wujec,
  43. 43. Marshmallow Challenge Experience Reflection Application
  44. 44. Multitasking Name Game Image CC-3.0-BY-SA by Henrik Kniberg
  45. 45. Multitasking name game Experience Reflection Application
  46. 46. Ball Flow Game Karl Scotland,
  47. 47. Experienc e Reflection Applicatio
  48. 48. Motivation Storytelling
  49. 49. Motivation Storytelling • Take turns of: • Pick a motivator that is a strong one for you • Tell a story about a recent event when that motivator worked for you to learn or achieve more • Find similarities and differences in stories • Discuss how you could amplify the positive effects of the motivators described in the stories
  50. 50. CONCLUSION
  51. 51. Assumptions and beliefs hold us back Practices, processes, rules Values (stated) Assumptions, beliefs (unconscious)
  52. 52. How To Facilitate change in beliefs 1.Experience 2.Reflection together 3.Application in real context - experiment
  53. 53. Links to experiences, games • Marshmallow Challenge: • Multitasking name game: guider/multitasking-name-game • Ball Flow Game: • Motivation Storytelling: a blog post coming up soon on
  54. 54. THANK YOU!Antti Kirjavainen @anttiki Are you a scrum master or a team coach? Would you like more consistent peer support on further learning and self- development? Check this out: