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Agile Leadership

Creating Business Agility

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Creating Business Agility

My colleague and friend, Anthony Mersino runs VitalityChicago. And agile coaching and training firm in, you guessed it, Chicago. He recently shared a post about 3 Key Steps that leaders should be taking to create business agility. The steps are: 

  1. Get Executive Buy-in and Agile Mindset

  2. Agile Leaders Should Get the Right Mix of Talent

  3. Foster an Agile Friendly Culture and Organizational Structure

While I really like Anthony’s 3 Key Steps, I’d like to add to or augment them…just a little bit.

For #1

In my experience, there’s a HUGE difference between getting buy-in and achieving an agile mindset. Most executives have a modicum of buy-in. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be embarking on an agile journey. However, achieving an agile mindset is different.

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What is Business Agility?

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What is Business Agility?

I was approached to speak at a startup event for a local Business Agility Institute user group here in the Raleigh/Durham area. I was quite pleased to be approached and am more than willing to present an agile topic to the group. 

But the request made me think…

I’ve been engaged in agile approaches for nearly twenty years. So, I have quite a lot of experience with the core methods, practices, scaling, agile leadership, cultures, etc. But what the heck is “Business Agility” and what sorts of topics would that group be interested in?

The answer escaped me and I realized I had to do some research.

Basic Definitions

Here’s what CA (Rally Software) had to say regarding a definition and 3 key aspects:

A company’s way to sense and respond to change proactively and with confidence to deliver business value—faster than the competition—as a matter of everyday business.

1.     It’s making the customer the central focus of your organization

2.     It’s driving value faster, better, and more efficiently

3.     It’s transforming how your business operates to achieve successful outcomes

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Building a First Team

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Building a First Team

During the years 2009 – 2012, I worked at a small company called iContact here in the Raleigh/Durham area. iContact had developed an email marketing, SaaS application that competed (still does) with the likes of Constant Contact and MailChimp. 

Ryan Allis was our CEO at the time and he was very innovative when it came to organizational change & evolution and leadership development. He happened to read The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni at that time, and became enamored with the ideas contained within.

At the same time, we were adopting agile (Scrum, Kanban, and Scrum of Scrums for scaling) across the organization. Quite successfully, I might add. So, the two efforts naturally converged. And I was pleasantly surprised how well our Agile efforts and the 5 Dysfunctions blended together. That’s really what this article is all about.

5 Dysfunctions & Agile, like Peanut Butter and…

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Choosing Trust

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Choosing Trust

A colleague and friend of mine, Jamie Howard, wrote a short but interesting piece on trust. He called it Choosing Trust and you can find it here - https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/choosing-trust-jamie-howard

What I found most interesting is the personal nature of it. Jamie was introspective, honest, and vulnerable all at the same time. I applaud him for the courage to share what many of us are feeling.

It’s a short read, so please take a look.

Extend Instead

But it also made me think about a different approach to it that I’ve used. I write about it in this blog post.

http://rgalen.com/agile-training-news/2014/7/17/what-comes-first-the-chicken-the-egg-or-trust

I personally think the key is EXTENDING trust. Unconditional trust. A good example of this is the film – Yes Man. And yes, I wrote about that one here.

http://rgalen.com/agile-training-news/2016/4/17/agile-leadersbe-a-yes-man

I’m not disagreeing with Jamie. I’m basically saying, Yes, And…and extending his thoughts ;-)

Wrapping Up

I want to thank Jamie for his courage in sharing. And for the inspiration! I also want to re-encourage all of us to aspire to the mindset of Yes, Man. Try it for a day, a week, or a month. It might be an interesting experiment for you to try…

Stay agile my friends,

Bob.

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CIO’s – Technology, Business Process, or Culture Builder?

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CIO’s – Technology, Business Process, or Culture Builder?

I received an email from Strategic CIO Journal entitled – Top CIOs Become Business Process Czars. 

The key focus of the article was raising the bar on CIOs to become more broadly engaged in the overall business and the processes to deliver value.

https://thestrategicciojournal.com/2018/07/23/top-cios-become-business-process-czars-2/

Now, I’m not going to critique the article. Because it was the title alone that inspired this response. It made me think about senior technology leaders – CTOs, CIOs, and any senior technology leader in a larger organization.

It made me think of their Prime Directive. Is it: 

  1. Technology Leadership?

  2. Business Process Leadership?

  3. Or is it, Culture Builder?

The article seemed to allude to role moving from a focus on #1 to #2. And that is a relevant and important shift given today’s Digital Transformation strategy focus.

But that being said, in some ways, I think the article set the bar too low or in the wrong direction.

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The Two Most Fundamental KEYS for your Agile Transformations

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The Two Most Fundamental KEYS for your Agile Transformations

This is a short blog post. But I hope the brevity doesn’t undermine the seriousness of the message. 

Most firms focus on:

  • Reorganizations or flattening their structures

  • Bringing in coaching firms that only coach the teams

  • Buying a TON of tools

  • Sending everyone to certifications classes (everyone on the teams that is)

  • Expecting a bottom up success without top down engagement

  • Getting more done, lots more!

  • When challenged, reorganizing again…and again

  • Converting the PMO to an Agile PMO

  • Executing agile “projects” with “resources”

  • Buying a scaling framework to rule them all…

  • Literally, “leaders & managers” are focused on “making” the firm “agile”…

The most fundamental steps…

  1. Bring in a coaching partner that has real experience coaching at all tiers of your organization. Starting with your leadership team. A partner who understands the principles of agile and isn’t selling you classes, certifications, and frameworks.

  2. Realizing that your teams are your fundamental value proposition. You have to engage or invite them to participate in ALL aspects of your transformation. Listen to their ideas, trust their advice, and act based on it. No longer are the managers running the asylum, Nor the inmates. You are all in it together.

Everything revolves around activating your workforce to deliver customer value. You serve your workforce first and customer value (and ROI) will follow.

Oh, and you need expert help. Help that you trust. Help that is deeply experienced. Help that looks to partner with you, while also being willing to challenge you and tell you the truth.

Wrapping Up

There. That’s it!

Value your teams and get a trusted and experienced partner to help guide your path. 

It’s as simple as that.

Stay agile my friends,

Bob.

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Stop Disrespecting Managers in Agile Contexts!

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Stop Disrespecting Managers in Agile Contexts!

I might be the first one to complain about bad managers. Heck, throughout my career, I’ve had more than my share of incompetent, self-centered, and poor-intentioned leaders. So, it would be easy for me to jump on the bandwagon in the agile community that lambastes managers on a daily basis.

No, you say. This doesn’t happen. We in the agile world embrace and respect all roles and all people.

Well here’s an example from the Larman & Bodde – Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS) book. The reference is from Anton Zotin, an agile coach, and it was published on LinkedIn. And no, I’m not picking on Anton or the LeSS guys. I’m just using this as an example. There are countless others.

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Do Skills Matter?  Understanding Key Person Dependencies...

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Do Skills Matter? Understanding Key Person Dependencies...

One of the larger challenges facing many agile teams is having the requisite skills to deliver the goods. And it’s an insidious problem because it’s hidden by the very nature of cross-functional teams. 

When I coach agile teams, I usually emphasize a couple of things:

  • Becoming T-Shaped over time, and

  • Delivering as a Team

I often exaggerate the responsibility by saying – the team needs to “suck it up” and work together to deliver on their shared goals. Everyone chipping in and helping each other out. There are no lone wolfs in an agile team and folks often need to do work that may be beyond their skill comfort zone.

But that has a prerequisite supposition…

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

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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…

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Engagement vs. Disengagement

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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.

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