Tag Archives: leadership

Executive Conversations At the Start of a Transformation Effort Are Key

To have a decent chance of leading a successful change effort it is imperative to have the right conversations, at the start, with the executives and stakeholders who will be instrumental in the success of the transformation effort. While starting at the team level and focusing on the process introduction is far easier, it is also the riskiest strategy long-term.

So what might you want to do during the initial session:

  • Ensure that the executives and sponsors are clear on why they are embarking on their Agile journey. Remember that Agile practices and methods are just a means to an end and not the end itself. Additionally, most transformations fail because people treat them as transitions instead — you want to make sure the leaders understand the difference between the two.
  • The leaders also need to be clear on what outcomes (quantified where possible) they want to achieve.
  • Change efforts succeed when leaders actively lead the change and remove barriers to higher performance. You may want to talk about the three key components of organizational agility — (1) leadership agility (how leaders lead, inspire, direct, and motivate others), (2) organizational structures (structures, rules and policies that facilitate how work gets done and how results are produced), and (3) organizational culture (collectively held beliefs, values, and assumptions that determine how people think and how they behave) — and how they themselves need to approach the leadership work differently.
  • Ensure they understand the concept of looking at things holistically — discovery, development, delivery, and leadership and how each affects the other.
  • Lay out at a high-level what the incremental goals might be — moving from tactical to strategic to aspirational.
  • Check their level of commitment on a 1-10 scale, where anything less than 8 indicates wavering commitment.
  • If committed, introduce the concept of an enablement team and ask them for recommendations on who should be on that team.

Make sure you keep engagement high — have the leaders work through exercises that get them up and collaborating.

Bottom line — in my experience, two to three hours spent with the executives and sponsors early on will prevent hundreds of hours of pain and suffering later on. What have your experiences been?

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Posted by on November 9, 2017 in Coaching, leadership



The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership

In partnership with George Trachilis from the Lean Leadership Institute (LLI), I’m making available material from LLI’s “The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership” course. Check back every week for a new chapter from the course.

Week 17: A3 Examples: Standards, Standard Work, and Visual Management
Week 16: More A3 Stories
Week 15: A3 Stories
Week 14: A3 Thinking
Week 13: Why PDCA?
Week 12: Problem Solving to Develop People
Week 11: Root Cause Using 5 Whys
Week 10: Toyota Business Practices – An Example
Week 9: Toyota Business Practices Explained
Week 8: Problem Solving Towards Ideal Part I and Problem Solving Towards Ideal Part II
Week 7: What is Lean? Problem Solving, Improvement, and A3 Thinking
Week 6: Developing People
Week 5: Lean Thinking—Philosophy for the Long-term
Week 4: True North Values
Week 3: Toyota Production System Origins
Week 2: Problem Solving: The Toyota Way
Week 1: Great Company Characteristics

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Posted by on July 31, 2017 in leadership, lean


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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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Railing against reality

Just because you want reality to bend to your wishes, doesn’t make it so. You can fight reality all you want and you’ll lose every time. Just like you can’t make a baby in three months despite working hard (putting in overtime and working nights and weekends), having the best intentions, and having an optimistic frame of mind (thinking positive thoughts, visualizing success), similarly, you can’t deliver on unrealistic expectations that are absolutely divorced from reality. Challenges are good, ridiculous demands aren’t! Executive fiat and management by fear only gets reluctant compliance not people’s enthusiasm, innovation, and best effort.

As a Program Manager, your first order of business should be in resetting management expectations otherwise your teams will very likely become disheartened and demoralized. Help stakeholders and executives realize that there is more than thinking in binary oppositions of “all” and “none” — give-and-take on scope and depth of functionality is a good viable alternative.

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Posted by on November 6, 2014 in Agile, Coaching


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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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