7 habits for sustainable agile transformation

Author, Speaker, Consultant, Trainer, Coach at Advanced Product Delivery
Nov. 30, 2020
7 habits for sustainable agile transformation
7 habits for sustainable agile transformation
7 habits for sustainable agile transformation
7 habits for sustainable agile transformation
7 habits for sustainable agile transformation
7 habits for sustainable agile transformation
7 habits for sustainable agile transformation
7 habits for sustainable agile transformation
7 habits for sustainable agile transformation
7 habits for sustainable agile transformation
7 habits for sustainable agile transformation
7 habits for sustainable agile transformation
7 habits for sustainable agile transformation
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7 habits for sustainable agile transformation

Editor's Notes

  1. The fish rots from the head down Success Oil and Gas – Multinational roll out. Clear emphasis that increasing effectiveness through agility was a priority for survival/growth. Started with a pilot – when the results showed a clear benefit in MBOED, it was grown. Clear communication from the CEO that becoming more agile was a priority. Clear support with finance, people and space , and with encouraging people to engage. Growth year on year, supporting a strong sustainable model. Failure Financial services Agility one of the many competing strategic initiatives. No single clear reason to adopt. Nominal support from leadership, no clear alignment. Many hesitant attempts at implementation
  2. Feedback is a gift. How many meetings do you have around sharing information instead of acting on it? The fastest news to travel should be bad news – it allows time to deal with it. You cannot be in business and avoid messy or downright unsuccessful situations forever. We need feedback loops to support ownership from the CEO through to the customer. The shorter the time between feedback loops, the shorter the session. Scrum suggests no longer than a month, in my experience that is the longest you would want to wait.
  3. Language Matters. Words shape our thoughts, thoughts shape our deeds. I was working with a client supporting their DevOps. There were 4 people on the call, a project manager, the IT manager, the lead developer and Me. They kept using the word “Sprint” and there were problems with releasing. It turns out they used the word Sprint to define a two week cycle. So you can probably see where this is going: Analysis Sprint, Design Sprint, Build Sprint, Test Sprint etc etc. I went on to help them with their work on Agility. There was a clear vocabulary defined, we kept the definitions of the Scrum Guide. The improvement was significant – and they started to challenge their vendors on adoption. A less successful adoption was where each coach used their preferred language for everything. This created confusion and broke down the benefits of economy of scale. This led to inconsistent applications of frameworks, so you end up with all the pain of adoption and none of the benefit. Not so good: In another company there were many vendors. Each was using a different set of language, which created confusion amongst the org. This isn’t about being dogmatic – it is about precision.
  4. No organisation adopts agility as the end goal. The reason you would is to boost the effectiveness of your organisation – to deliver more value in better time. To do this there needs to be a balance between outcomes and output. Not every release will be ideal – what we need to do is ensure that we can get the release to the consumer to close the feedback loop. Without outputs, we will not achieve any outcomes. Some of the outputs may need adjusting to achieve the preferred outcome. That is fine, take the feedback, make the adjustments and release again. Your context will guide the balance of throughput and risk, you need to be in a state ready to release to give yourself the option.
  5. Empowerment encourages engagement and ownership. This is a key element to reduce cycle times, encouraging flow through the organisation. The decision needs to go the data, not the other way around. This is the opposite of centralised control – and allows the organisation to be more adaptive and responsive to change. In an increasingly complex world, the ability for each team in an organisation to be able make fast decisions – reducing cost of delay and increasing flow.
  6. My model builds upon the work of Simon Sinek (start with the why), and David Marquet (turn the Ship around) Have a clear purpose. The Why and how you achieve it. To achieve the way you need to do it in the right way. It is soccer if you don’t carry the ball into the goal. As soon as you pick the ball up it is another game. As we have explored the purpose needs to be clear and understood by everyone, at all levels. Boundaries are key to managing risk as well as enabling self organisation. A clear boundary creates clarity around accountabilitys and decision authority. It defines the edges in which people can operate. A good boundary defines decision authority and provides clear risk management. By having clear boundaries the control mechanisms are commonly understood. This sets the space for people to innovate in. These boundaries will include legal, compliance, safety or enterprise tool. Expect boundaries to be challenged, and have the flexibility to adjust them. This will depend on the context and scenario. Fixing boundaries and not reviewing them is the absolute opposite of Agile. This will grow Trust between people. This is not a naïve Trust. This is a trust that is built through delivery. Where people at all levels help develop greater competencies. The nature of an agile learning organisation intentionally grows the trust to enable individuals and the organisation to achieve their best.
  7. The opposite of open communication is either miscommunication or suppression of information. Either way it is not helpful. The intent of effective open communication is to share information effectively. If we as an organisation do not encourage objective sharing of data – we are breaking feedback loops. Typical barriers to objective open communication are fear and politics grown from silos. When this happens the flow of information and learning starts to break down. Success: Large commercial organisation would have information radiators on the café wall, where people from all levels would chat about the data in the lunch queue Fail:
  8. I don’t like calling impediments blockers. If you wait until you are blocked you have waited too long. These should not be collected in a list and curated like a collection. They should be ordered in a backlog and removed. This should be happening and encouraged at all levels. One of the key elements of empowerment is to encourage individuals to remove what impediments they can. If they can’t resolve it, it goes up the organisation. We don’t want people escalating everything – it is in our duty of care to encourage and educate everyone to remove impediments. In my experience people want to, however they are often worried or constrained. Success – The regional director of an oil and gas company I was working with would attend a Daily Scrum/Stand up and at the end ask the team what they needed from him. Fail – a global company at the early stages of adoption struggles with impediments. They fall in to the blame game and accept the problem “as the way we do things here”