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Agile Transformation - Cultural and Behavioral Challenges

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Agile Transformation:
Practical Insights into Behavioral
Adjustments and Cultural
Changes
SESHADRI VEERARAGHAVAN
PRINCIPAL...

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Definitions – Common Understanding
 Transformation (noun) - trans·for·ma·tion
 a thorough or dramatic change in form or ...

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Levels in the Hierarchy
 Team
 Organization
 City/State
 Country

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Agile Transformation - Cultural and Behavioral Challenges

  1. 1. Agile Transformation: Practical Insights into Behavioral Adjustments and Cultural Changes SESHADRI VEERARAGHAVAN PRINCIPAL PROJECT MANAGER – AGILE TRANSFORMATION IHS INC., - HOUSTON, TEXAS
  2. 2. Definitions – Common Understanding  Transformation (noun) - trans·for·ma·tion  a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance.  Culture (noun) - cul·ture  the attitudes and behavior characteristic of a particular social group.  Definition versus reality: Form/appearance vs. beliefs, behaviors/attitudes, and cultures
  3. 3. Levels in the Hierarchy  Team  Organization  City/State  Country
  4. 4. Context Switching  Switching between levels  Highly frequent/constant occurrence  Seamless transition  Bowling alley/family
  5. 5. Attributes of Successful Cultures  Adapt  Evolve  Contribute
  6. 6. Example: Culture of India  Influence of foreign cultures  Music, drama, literature, architecture, philosophy, sciences  Curry Houses
  7. 7. Need for Agile Transformation  Competition – faster delivery cycles (TTM)  Better quality (stronger customer retention; happy customers)  Customer focus (better feedback, better software; satisfied customers)  Predictable delivery (customer faith increases; better reputation)  Higher productivity and happiness at the team level (cost savings and employee retention)  A total culture and behavior/attitude/mindset change emphasizing ownership, commitment, responsibility, and transparency
  8. 8. So, What Are We REALLY Transforming?  Superficial factors  Methodologies  Processes  Practices  Tools  (Real) Human factors (identity)  Behaviors  Attitudes  Cultures  Beliefs
  9. 9. Transformations Bring Up Hidden Biases  Biases (a brief list)  Technological  Process/procedure  Methodology  Groupthink  Status quo  Availability  Proximity  Anchoring
  10. 10. …and Biases Lead to Resistance  Types of resistance (not an exhaustive list)  This won’t work  This hasn’t worked  Doesn’t suit our team, personality, culture, or company  Things are fine the way they are – why change!  Too disruptive  What will happen if the team fails? Who will take responsibility?  Let someone else do this first, we’ll follow if it’ll work for them
  11. 11. Before We Go Further, Let’s Look at Motivation  Intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation  Study for an exam  Play football for fun
  12. 12. Scenarios  Let’s take a walk through some of the common categories of concerns, worries, and doubts from agile adopters  Valid/exaggerated  Emotional/purely technical  Cultural/individual  Behavioral-adjustment/requires education  Unfounded concerns (e.g. “inner workings” of a developer/QA/tech writer etc. being exposed)  Concerns regarding task estimates and accuracy thereof  Concerns about workday hours (use vs. productivity)  Common root: resistance to and being fearful of change
  13. 13. Cultural Roadblocks and Behavioral Challenges
  14. 14. Ownership  Issue: Narrow view of ownership  Mainly concerned with what’s directly laid on their (or their team’s) plate  E.g. This is not my problem or my team’s problem  Strategies  Emphasize transcending the job description and that a given problem is everyone’s business to help solve  Emphasize going above and beyond the call of duty and breaking down silos and virtual walls  Talk about how the business (and thus the individual) can succeed only when they support each other and don’t create islands
  15. 15. Belonging  Issue: Absolving oneself, not considering oneself as part of a team or unit  Highly self-centric; prone to blaming others; not thinking themselves part of the team  E.g. This is a dev issue, QA issue, PO issue. The code drops are of bad quality; testing is inadequate; PO is usually MIA.  Strategies  Educate/inspire the team to think as a unit  Empower the team to find its own solutions to their concerns  When one fails, the team fails; when one succeeds, the team succeeds
  16. 16. Status Quo  Issue: Status quo with gross inefficiencies  We were told to do this process this specific way (do-as-told, no creative or innovative thinking)  E.g. We’ve always waited 4 hours for the build to get done.  Strategies  Challenge and encourage the team to experiment  Motivate them to aim for incremental yet meaningful improvements  Celebrate victories and recognize key talent  Guarantee “protection” from implications of failed experiments (there are no failures, only attempts)
  17. 17. Leadership  Issue: Inability to take a leadership position  We can do well only with external support and explicit guidance  E.g. Our lead is in another location; we won’t make any decisions without his approval even though this is a critical issue and we’re losing money every minute that we don’t do something about it  Strategies  Provide soft-skills training (leadership and business skills)  Strongly drive home the idea that they’re the masters of their own destiny; recognize leadership talent in the team and motivate them  Recognize any roadblocks (politics) and guide the team through obstacles  Let them test the waters with smaller projects to gain confidence
  18. 18. Execution & Commitment  Issue: Very narrow idea of execution and commitment  This is outside the scope of our responsibility and duties  E.g. this defect is another team’s headache (although we know how to fix it)  Strategies  Educate the team that personal and professional growth comes by standing out, not by being average  Elaborate on how the organization grows by contributions that come from everyone and at all levels  Think horizontal(ly) – grow networks across team structures to find pain points and see how one can help (and how another team may have already solved our current vexing problem) – NETWORK!
  19. 19. Responsibility  Issue: Passing the buck  This is above my pay grade  E.g. This decision is definitely my lead’s – or my manager’s (even though I have the power to decide)  Strategies  Empower members to “pull the chain/stop the train”  Good-faith “interruptions” and “hold your horses” debates are welcome and necessary  Demonstrate your commitment to talking about the ‘elephant(s) in the room’  Teams learn and evolve only when they are able to question questionable practices and take charge of the situation
  20. 20. Communication  Issue: Perceived or real problems stemming from communication issues  Information flow is restricted or exclusive to some personnel; active sharing is discouraged  E.g. I never hear about these things. Or, I’m always the last to know  Strategies  Humans are social creatures; investigate and remove any real communication blocks  Support and drive open and honest feedback and communication  Be clear: being rude is NOT being frank or honest (there’s a difference!)  Ensure all relevant email/messages are indeed percolating to the right levels  Address bureaucratic and red-tape problems at the appropriate management levels
  21. 21. Perceived Helplessness  Issue: Perceived helplessness or being over-cautious  Can address the problem, but won’t due to not wanting to step on others’ toes  E.g. I really want to fix this problem, but am concerned what others may think  Strategies  Pull together and relate (true!) anecdotes of people crossing boundaries and being recognized/promoted  Show them you value their ability to be altruistic  Banish the idea of fearless and possible recriminations merely for helping others  Demonstrate you stand behind the team every step of the way
  22. 22. Rocking the Boat  Issue: Avoid “rocking the boat” [or, it is OK to say no!]  We suffer from many issues but we're afraid to speak up  E.g. Don’t want to be seen as a complainer and bring it up even though our technical practices are weak and I want to resolve this problem  Strategies  Have weekly 1:1 conversations to really dig into what’s bothering the team  Mark incremental improvements and changes as gateways to team success  Delegate responsibilities for technical issues and recognize each success story  Draw together leads and architects from varied teams to discuss common concerns and instill a sense of support and security into the team  Drive home the point that everyone has right (and the duty/responsibility) to bring up issues without fear or favor – and that they’ll be listened to and addressed by everyone working together as a single unit
  23. 23. Infrastructure  Issue: Infrastructure problems and concerns  We don’t have the necessary resources (servers, facilities, phones, network etc.)  E.g. I can’t work on that issue because the VM is always going down or the network is choppy or the telephone keeps disconnecting  Strategies  Work with IT to resolve these issues on an urgent basis – this makes you look like you mean business, and also voids any similar excuses in future  Be prepared to escalate as high as needed to get your team the resources it needs – you’re the champion/cheerleader of the team – act like it!  Earn the team’s respect and gratitude by being responsive and attentive to such disruptions and by being proactive (use charts/trends as needed for resource consumption to forecast what’s needed)
  24. 24. Denial  Issue: No problem!  There are actually TONS of problems, from bad code to terrible quality to nonexistent review processes  E.g. Sure, it’ll get done (but there are so many hurdles it’ll be impossible to get it done right)  Strategies  Talk to everyone 1:1 in complete confidence, to understand the reality  Reaffirm you’re there to support and help the team succeed and not to find scapegoats or punish anyone  Bring in outside experts and internal, successful teams’ leaders/architects to demonstrate easy wins and small changes that can go a long way  Develop roadmap to improvements; assign responsibilities – ensure complete transparency and accountability for each assignment. Project roadmap should be CLEAR and known to ALL  Train/educate the team on solid technical practices – and WHY they’re critical to succeeding as a team (and why without them, the team WILL fail)
  25. 25. Understand the “Why-s”  Issue: Team doesn’t understand the need to know WHY something is being done  Typically the team follows a given task blindly with no consideration of the ultimate goal  E.g. Team breaks work into tasks and executes it without knowing the implication of the implementation or the impact of the work that’s being done  Strategies  Explain the why-s to the teams at the beginning of the project, then send occasional reminders (this should stop at some point when the team has started getting the picture)  Encourage the team to delve into details of how this particular work will affect future deliverables, or deliverables being done in parallel  Recognize team members that make key breakthroughs in understanding and sharing of important knowledge  Stress upon the value of knowing WHY we do what we do; WHY is the most important question there is
  26. 26. Lack of Transparency  Issue: Nothing’s blocking me at all  Person has no idea what they’re supposed to do, but afraid to speak up  E.g. I’ve never really worked on this technology, but if I say something I’ll look clueless  Strategies  Take the time to know each member’s understand of their role/duties and clarify matters ASAP  Provide technical training as required; ensure talent and skills match what’s being asked of the team  Be gentle and compassionate – being harsh will get you nowhere. Demonstrate sincere concern and address deep-rooted worries about “speaking up,” “making noise,” or “being disruptive” – make it amply clear that you can’t fix what you don’t know needs fixing.  Emphasize your team are your eyes and ears – show them you rely on them to make the proper decisions
  27. 27. Lack of Transparency, Contd.  Issue: Nothing’s blocking me at all  Well, my colleague/friend is the one blocking me, but I don’t want him getting in trouble  E.g. My module can’t be tested as I have to do full integration test with my friend’s code here, but his code has problems. By reporting this I’ll lose a good friend!  Strategies  Establish working agreements in the team and ensure everyone understands (e.g. everyone owns all problems; swarming is greatly encouraged; reporting problems will get nobody in any trouble; the team is empowered to come up with solutions to each problem described)  Accentuate the need to get things right – and to do the right thing  Stand behind the team – no ifs or buts – demonstrate your commitment to them as they do to you  Stress the importance that a team succeeds only when each member succeeds – no exceptions!
  28. 28. Nobody Told Me to…  Issue: Nobody told me to do X, Y, Z  Nobody said being a professional software engineer meant I had to decide a lot of things on my own and be fully and completely responsible for ALL aspects of my code  E.g. Nobody told me I had to write unit tests; nobody told me I had to get my code integration- tested first; nobody told me I had to verify with QA if they understood the Story  Strategies  Lay down CLEAR expectations that you have of each member (skill/maturity/experience- specific). Communication is vital – ambiguity/vagueness WILL cause major problems later  Lay down CLEAR expectations that you have of each member (universal – e.g. all dev MUST write unit tests; must do TDD; QA must write automation scripts etc.)  May not be always necessary, but critical when dealing with immature teams  Educate the team on the usual and customary technical practices that are expected of them; get them training if need be; organize cross-team training sessions on good practices
  29. 29. Recommendations  Conduct workshops on cultural differences and sensitivities around dealing with other cultures  Leadership should encourage more meaningful exchanges between teams in varied global locations (lead by example as much as possible to foster positive behaviors)  Use Enterprise Social Media (e.g. Jive) to further encourage cross-domain and pan- company interactions and collaboration  Leadership should understand and drive home the point that all cultures may not value all things the same (priorities and values differ among cultures – e.g. vacation, family)  Spread news widely about any successful cross-cultural collaboration activities that demonstrate solid, relevant results (e.g. success projects involving teams in multiple locations)  Identify local champions and leaders and encourage them to talk to their teams on a set basis about respecting and valuing other cultures (this way the results of any workshops/training persist and don’t dissipate quickly)
  30. 30. Q&A and Contact  Q&A  Contact:  Seshadri.Veeraraghavan@ihs.com

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