Riina Hellström is the CEO of a Finnish company focused on Agile HR. She often writes about topics related to that area and I really like her style. 

She is a no nonsense, straight-shooter who you can tell has lots of experience collaborating with leadership teams.

Not that long ago, she wrote a piece in a LinkedIn comment about how she approaches agile transformations. I thought I’d share it with you…

  1. Grill the CEO or Unit head before you start teaching them Agile. Tell her/him that she/he is 100% responsible for making agile work.

  2. Train the Leadership team in Agile for 2 days - make them go through a mind-blowing transformation backlog building exercise together. It must hurt. Grill them all - tell them nothing’s going to happen if none of you actually take an item off that backlog and finish it. Very few of these people have been very action oriented lately. It is a stretch to them to actually see that shit gets done.

  3. Agree a cadence to the LT. Grill them all - tell them that they can either have this nice little backlog in their normal monthly death-by-PowerPoint reporting meetings or then they setup biweekly checks, sprint planning and backlog refinement sessions. Make them swear to have retrospectives on HOW they work.

  4. Tell them nothing’s going to happen if they won’t start communicating with each other live by the board. Agree on who facilitates next session. Teach them to keep on doing this at least 3-4 sprints.

  5. Watch them have HUGE expectations on what they can finish. Watch them fail.

  6. Watch them start collaborating. Watch them start being creative. Watch how their estimates start becoming better. Watch how they start developing their own work

  7. Watch how they are starting to transform their behavior towards the rest of the organization, because they finally know what agile is and how tough and structured it is.

  8. Watch them proudly start moving things to done. And getting rid of things that are not valuable after all. 😍

  9. Hear that they have totally changed how they have meetings after a while. No PowerPoints. Talk by the board instead.

  10. Hear how they challenge C level in what and how they are doing work - and get busted because it is too a big collision. Watch them go back and figure out another plan to get through to C level. This is not left here. Darlings - because it makes so much sense it can’t be stopped.

  11. Have an agile coach facilitated retrospective after 6 sprints and be blown away by the progress these leaders have been doing! The team is totally different now. They have been born as transformation leaders, from silo managers.

  12. When you have a rainmaker in the greatest smartest willing team - it will grow and prosper. I just plant the seeds in a very impactful way into their minds and hearts. And watch what happens when smart people are allowed to succeed with all their potential. ❤️

I thought this simple, wordy yes, but still quite simple and focused advice, got lost on LinkedIn. I wanted to share it more broadly.

I think the KEY points that Riina makes are:

  1. Leaders go first

  2. They need to walk their talk

  3. They need to stay humble and be willing to learn

  4. They need to let themselves go in order to do great things

Wrapping Up


If we could only follow her advice…

Thank you, Riina!

Stay agile my friends,