Tag Archives: change

Can we get out off the Agile weeds?

I’ve been having far too many conversations regarding Agile frameworks, their implementation, and scaling recently. It seems to me that a majority of agile coaches and their clients seem preoccupied with rituals over results and I get the sense that people are too mired in the weeds and losing sight of the few basic things needed for becoming a more nimble and customer centric organization. So, here are some things to ask yourself:

  • Are we truly a customer centric organization? Do we actually get out of the building enough to understand our customers, their needs, their problems, and how they use (and struggle with) our products. Can team members do a “follow-me-home” or some other customer discovery practice – journey maps, customer interviews? Are product teams primarily focused on gaining customer insight in order to better meet their needs? Do we even care about customer delight?
  • Are we open to disrupting ourselves without the motivation of a crisis? Does our culture allow us to preempt crises, without much drama, by reinventing products and services offered or by changing the existing business model? Or are we complacent and reactive and buffeted by what are competitors are doing?
  • Do we have true business and IT partnership? No, I don’t just mean that a PO sits with the team or that there is a Product Manager who ensures that her POs are aligned on the order in which to build the identified features. What I mean is that the business folks and IT have the same goals, the same targets, the same key metrics – and that they together focus on the same desired outcomes (and not just the outputs). Think X-Matrix and OKRs here. Think collaboration (in the true sense of that word) and not just communication, cooperation, or coordination. Think the CIO meeting daily with the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) to strategize.
  • As a company, are we good at making accurate decisions quickly? Can we get the right information to the right people making the right decisions at the right time? Can we provide the decision makers with relevant and timely feedback about their decisions? And then, do we encourage them to learn from mistakes and improve?
  • Do the IT folks sit together with people from Product, Marketing, UX, Finance, and Operations so that we have true cross-functional product teams? Do these product teams (small, collocated, long-standing, cross-functional) have the autonomy to determine their own best solution to meet the defined goals? Do they have license to experiment and learn? Do senior leaders trust them to do the right thing?
  • Are we providing open collaborative spaces for the collocated product team members? Or are we still struggling with ineffective communication amongst the distributed and/or dispersed team members?
  • Are teams keeping design simple and writing good code? Can they rapidly get feedback by integrating and deploying continuously? Can they release on demand? Do they demonstrate their working product frequently to their stakeholders and to their customers? Yes, inviting real customers to a demo is a good idea.

You’ll notice that these are independent of any agile framework used. You can actually start improving on all of these without even using the term agile. So what’s keeping you from moving off the rituals bandwagon and focusing on what truly matters?

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Posted by on November 24, 2017 in Agile, Improvements, leadership


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Why most #agile and #lean #transformation efforts fail

I’ve seen far too many change efforts run into a stone wall and fail to achieve the initial expected results. In simplistic terms, C-level managers who are less than happy with the results they are getting (or not) determine that doing things differently is the right way to obtaining the better results desired. Makes sense logically, but works rarely!

People do the things they do for a reason — their actions are guided by their beliefs that have been formed based on past experiences. For example, I might believe that making mistakes is career limiting because I experienced this firsthand somewhere or saw what happened to a peer who tried to make an improvement and “failed.” Beliefs like this may lead me to value, “avoid risk taking.” Now when you, the Agile proponent, come to me and say, “Alex, I’d like you to experiment and inspect and adapt,” I’m more likely to have a visceral reaction and to write you off. Experimenting might make sense theoretically, but that’s not my perceived reality. And that’s the challenge — asking people to do different things (or things differently) doesn’t work if what you are asking is counter to the person’s existing beliefs and conditioned values.

Successful change happens when the champions of the change attend to the management systems (leaders’ behaviors, expectations, tools, common practices, etc.) and also engineer new experiences that lead to a questioning of the validity of existing beliefs. Sadly, few leaders are good at either.

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Posted by on September 16, 2015 in Coaching, Improvements


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What does an Agile leader do?

What does an Agile leader do? Set the vision, establish priorties, focus on critical performance drivers, motivate people. Yes, these are important but not the primary responsibility. A good Agile leader creates necessary change to make the product being produced or the service being offered easier, better (safer and higher-quality), faster, and cheaper in that order. The way to move forward and produce different (and better) results is to not mandate new actions but to attend to the required culture changes by altering management systems (leaders’ behaviors, beliefs, expectations, tools, common practices, etc.) and by evaluating existing rules, policies, norms, procedures, and structures for continued relevance.

So, if you are a leader, ask yourself two questions: “Do I know where we are and were we are going?” and “How much time am I spending in creating meaningful change versus managing the status quo?”

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Posted by on September 14, 2015 in Agile, Improvements


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Process change shouldn’t always start with process change

A software development process is just an implementation of an idea someone had — an idea that has since taken root and flourished in people’s mind. People often identify with a process they’ve grown comfortable with and simply asking them to drop it and adopt a new one will not get you much buy-in. As a change agent, you most likely will have to deal with fear mongering, ridicule, death by delay, and stirred up confusion and doubt.

However, as John Kotter advised, “Don’t try to crush attackers with ridicule, counterattacks, or condescension, even when it seems as though people deserve it, even when a part of you really wants to do just that, and you have the skills to do so.” Instead let the attackers in and let them take pot-shots at you — that at least gives you an opportunity to have a conversation with those who aren’t yet proponents for the change.

If you want to change the current process you have to start with changing what people think about the process, what they like about it, and how they relate to it. Try to win their hearts by showing respect and keeping your responses clear, crisp, simple, and common-sensical. Show them that the proposed change is in their best interest and that you have no private ends to serve. Focus on changing what’s in their minds before attempting to tinker with the process if you want buy-in and lasting change.

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Posted by on November 11, 2014 in Coaching



Is your leadership team ready to enable change?

Here are the top 10 questions to ask about the readiness and ability of leadership teams to enable change and for project and product teams to believe in the proposed change.

  1. Is your leadership team aligned about the future, the change being proposed, or the change already underway?
  2. Is the messaging — about the change, the rationale for the change, the expectations of people, what the “new way of doing things” are, and when this needs to be in place — down the organization consistent?
  3. Does your leadership team speak with one voice and is it consistent with the vision, the goals, and the message?
  4. Do the leadership team members support each other and make and keep their commitments to each other?
  5. Do your leaders and managers trust their teams? Do people feel empowered to make a difference? Do they have a say in contributing to and guiding the change effort?
  6. Does your leadership team inspire confidence based on their ability, their competence, and their personal character?
  7. Do people respect the leaders for their beliefs, behaviors, and actions and not just for their position in the organizational hierarchy?
  8. Do the people in your organization trust your leadership team or have their thoughtless actions, unmindful words, and broken promises eroded the trust?
  9. Are the leadership team members building trust by paying attention to what they are saying, speaking directly and honestly, coming through on their promises, and listening for understanding?
  10. Does you leadership team support the change not just in words but in deeds? Are they willing, eager, and able to attack any obstacle (including those that are uncomfortable or difficult to face and discuss) that is standing between the project/product teams and their success?
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Posted by on September 21, 2014 in Agile


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