Viewing entries in
Agile Leadership

Push/Impose vs. Pull/Invite vs. push+Pull/Inspire

2 Comments

Push/Impose vs. Pull/Invite vs. push+Pull/Inspire

Dan Mezick wrote about the Agile Industrial Complex in this article. It’s inspired me to respond with this one.

Personal Aside

I really like Dan’s work. It’s truly inspirational to me. There are folks who are leading some different thinking in the agile community, swimming upstream if you will, and Dan is certainly one of them.

Dan is expert in Open Space. He’s also introduced the notion of Open Space Agility as a means of introducing agile to organizations. One of the hallmarks of OSA is the aspect of invitation. In OSA, folks are not told to be agile, they are invited to be part of crafting the organization transformation to agility.

In other words, they’re a part of it. It’s inclusive.

Now moving on from my bromance with Dan…

2 Comments

Engagement vs. Disengagement

1 Comment

Engagement vs. Disengagement

There is the notion of – The ONE Metric that Matters. I want to translate that metric into the agile transformation space. 

You could also replace agile transformation with:

  • Lean Change Initiative

  • Agile Adoption

  • Digital Transformation

  • DevOps Strategy

  • Organizational Agility

I know, you’re heavy with anticipation. What IS the ONE Metric?

It’s engagement vs. disengagement. That is, how are your leaders affecting the engagement of your teams as they shift the organization towards more of an agile approach? 

Another way of looking at it is this,

  • If the leaders are engaging and pulling their team members into the process of the transformation. Asking them instead of telling them, then they are engaging;

  • However, if the leaders are more telling them what to do, deciding which specific agile frameworks and tools will be used, and then telling them from “on high”, then they are disengaging.

Of course, it’s not quite as simply as this, but you certainly get the idea.

1 Comment

Self-Awareness

2 Comments

Self-Awareness

Not that long ago, I wrote a blog post that was inspired by Kim Scott, the author of Radical Candor. She had written a very brief note around a leader’s responsibility to receive feedback, as well or better than, they are at giving feedback. 

And many leaders, to put it mildly, suck at receiving feedback.

And you want to know another surprise? Most of them are unaware of this blind spot. They think they’re great listeners. But they’re not. 

They are simply not self-aware!

2 Comments

A Different Take on Agile Scaling

11 Comments

A Different Take on Agile Scaling

Frankly, I’m tired of all of the scaling frameworks. They’re mostly driven by three needs: 

  1. Creating revenue for the firms creating them;

  2. From a company or organizational perspective, they’re indicative of lazy, buy agile in-a-box, thinking;

  3. And they feed the “certification happy” nature of our community.

And yes, I too am guilty of falling into the above traps.

I think the introduction of Scrum@Scale has ticked me over the edge and inspired me to write this post. That and reading this article by Neil Perkin, which takes a more reflective view to leveraging useful bits from the various scaling frameworks.

11 Comments

The Art (and Responsibility) of Truth-Telling

4 Comments

The Art (and Responsibility) of Truth-Telling

A ScrumMaster asked me the other day how they should handle the situation where half their team doesn’t seem to care about the work. They don’t seem to be motivated. They seem to be slacking…a lot. And where two individuals seem to be doing all the work. And they seem to be burning out.

A senior leader in an organization that I’m coaching asked me the following when he found out I would be meeting with his boss. He asked me to tell him that they have too much work to do. That they are being stretched over capacity and that it’s causing delivery, quality and morale problems. In fact, the house of cards is about to fall.

I was training a class at a client the other day and three individuals, not at the same time, asked me to escalate their impediments. One impediment was that their leaders were excessively interrupting the sprints. Creating chaos. Another was that the priorities changed constantly. And the final, small problem, was that the leadership team expected the team to exceed their capacity by 350%. They wanted me to address these (fix it) with their organizational leaders. And, believe it or not, they were all serious.

4 Comments

100% PowerPoint Free

2 Comments

100% PowerPoint Free

I see Scrum Alliance certification classes advertised this way all of the time. Declaring minimal to no, to 100% no PowerPoints in the classes. And it’s not only the Scrum Alliance classes, but many other organizations and trainers proudly declare it.

One of the trends that have influenced this is the work of Sharon Bowman and her Training from the Back of the Room approach to adult learning. I attended the training a few years ago and it definitely changed the way I approach constructing classes, the learning, and the medium/mechanisms I used to foster the learning.

That being said, I don’t have a class today that is 100% PowerPoint-free. I just don’t feel that PowerPoint is inherently bad in its use for training. I view it as simply a tool, one of many, that I leverage. But clearly, I’m a Dinosaur in my thinking, as not many others view things the same way.

Death by PowerPoint

I think one of the reactions driving these statements is the scar tissue that poorly constructed and delivered PowerPoint classes has done to people. You can see it in their eyes of countless students who have been forced to sit through such training.

The other part of the problem is we all learn in different ways. Some of us prefer PowerPoints done well and learn quite effectively that way. Others of us want a more experiential and collaborated approach, where the learning emerges instead of us being told it. Information density is also a challenge. Especially when we’re trying to convey complex information or problems.

2 Comments

The Sounds of Silence

1 Comment

The Sounds of Silence

I was never a huge Simon and Garfunkel fan but there are a few songs of theirs that really stood out for me as I was growing up.

One of them is The Sounds of Silence.

It’s a haunting vision of the future.

And it swirled in my head as I read an article by Chris Murman. Chris is a friend and colleague that I find incredibly thoughtful about his (and others) agile journeys. But the article I found was published in September 2017, so nearly a year ago. And unfortunately, I missed it.

The article is entitled – What Can You Do About Organizational Silence?

And it focuses on a common corporate cultural phenomenon where the following occurs:

  • Leaders drive most of the “thinking”

  • Alternate ideas are not brought up

  • Discussion and debate are not realized

  • Disagreement with the status quo is discouraged

  • Creative ideas aren’t even suggested

And where silence, connoting tacit agreement, is the norm.

1 Comment

Stop Norming & Performing!

1 Comment

Stop Norming & Performing!

Perhaps it’s just me, but I’ve been indoctrinated into the Tuckman Model as THE view or model when it comes to team maturation and overall health.

You all remember Tuckman, don’t you?

He presented the following stages:

  1. Forming,
  2. Storming,
  3. Norming,
  4. and Performing
  5. sometimes Adjourning

that teams go through in their evolution to a solidly performing state.

One of the things that it’s influenced in my coaching and leadership style is the predilection to honor the team. That is, once a team is formed and performing, I am loathed to break them up for whatever reason. Even good reasons like the business priorities have changed or there is a desperate need for the skills of one team member in another team. Or even, the team has some dysfunctional relationships brewing.

1 Comment

Guidance for Soliciting (Receiving) Feedback

2 Comments

Guidance for Soliciting (Receiving) Feedback

We’ve all been there. Someone walks up to you in the hallway, musters up their courage and gives the gift that keeps on giving – direct, thoughtful, feedback.

In this case, I’m presuming it’s constructive or otherwise challenging feedback to share with you. And if you’re a leader within the organization, you have to realize that it was probably hard for them to muster the courage to give you that feedback. Let’s say it’s critical.

Or conversely, you're walking down the hall and run into a colleague. And you ask them for feedback on how you're handling yourself in a critical agile project. As a leader. Again, they muster up their courage and share honest and open feedback with you.

So, what is the next thing you do?

Of course, you don’t:

  • Consider it a gift;
  • Thoughtfully digest it;
  • Look for the “truth” in it;
  • Thank the person for their candor;
  • Ask them for any other feedback;
  • Confirm an example that supports the feedback;
  • Ask clarifying questions to better understand the feedback.

Instead, you ask them for precise examples that support the feedback they just gave you. Probing, inquiring, and looking for direct evidence. Picture an episode of Law & Order. Clearly, putting them on the defensive and making the feedback their challenge versus your own.

If you’ve followed my writing, you know that I’m quite enamored with Kim Scott and her Radical Candor book. (check out another post here) I saw this blogs picture on a LinkedIn post and it inspired me to write this short reply.

The "Gift"

Whenever someone gives you constructive feedback, you want to consider it a gift. Don’t challenge them. And don't ask them for "supporting evidence".

Instead, simply accept it and consider it. Most of the time, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Stay agile my friends,

Bob.

2 Comments

Is Leadership a Lonely Place to Be?

Comment

Is Leadership a Lonely Place to Be?

I came across a blog post by Tricia Broderick in January 2018. I often read Tricia’s thoughts and really enjoy her perspectives. This one was entitled Leadership Is Lonely and it largely lamented this aspect of leadership. To her credit, Tricia shared some activities that leaders could use to combat the effects of the inherent loneliness.

But I wanted to provide a different take or perspective.

I’ve been in leadership roles for over 25 years. In the early days of my leadership journey, I felt very much like Tricia. In fact, it was one of my early and shocking discoveries of leadership.

When I wasn’t leading, I was “friends” with most of my work colleagues.

But when I was promoted to a leadership role, things changed. I was no longer Bob. I suddenly became “the Boss”. And in today’s terms, that often meant being equated to the pointy-haired boss in the Dilbert cartoons. It also meant that it was suddenly a very lonely place to be.

Comment