Starting with Simplicity: Agility for Executives, part three

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Starting with Simplicity: Agility for Executives, part three

You've become well versed in what it takes to make change toward agility. Understanding the major pitfalls will help you avoid common false-starts. Now you're ready to make a change. What next?

What to do: the first three steps

  • Create a Sense of Urgency What's the message around why this change should happen? Recall the pitfall around change via broadcast. The aim is to connect the change with the burning need at both mid-level management and staff level.
    • Action: As an example only; we've previously used a change message such as ""; "". this connects the major pain-points in the example organisation and provides a 'what's in it for me' for people within the target change domain to be enthused about the change.
  • Build a Guiding Coalition Are the stakeholders in support for the change? Your boss? Your reports? Do you have the relevant experience either of experts or are willing to put in the learning to be the strategic driver of this change.
    • Action: A change at this level contains both Change Management practices as much as it does agility domain expertise. Map out the parties involved in the change, and ensure that you also take them on the journey. I suggest that you want to turn this coalition into a regular 'Scrum of Scrum' or a 'Steering Committee' that itself runs in an agile manner.
  • Strategic Vision and Initiatives Change starts at the top. There are a number of models that you can pick for this; I suggest Martin Fowler's Fluency Model is a good place to start.
    • Action: Start applying change within your own senior circle. Ask your reports to make visible their top initiatives. Put in operating cadences that allow you to inspect the work daily. Engage a third-party scrum master/agile coach to facilitate your conversations. I strongly recommend starting with a kanban style initiative board; adding standups and a retrospective operating rhythm. If you haven't done a planning exercise in a while; it may be useful to conduct an initiative mapping session, a user story mapping workshop, and/or creating an inception deck together.

Next chapter, we'll discuss at a deeper level the tactics of getting started, to compliment the strategic view we've made visible here!

 

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Starting with Simplicity: Agility for Executives, part two

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Starting with Simplicity: Agility for Executives, part two

What to refrain from: four pitfalls

So you've considered the change toward agility. You have desire, have some knowledge and have at least made a preliminary assessment of the organisation's stamina for the change. You're eager to get started, which we'll cover in the next chapter. What you don't do next matters even more; and we'll discuss that here.

  • Enacting change via broadcast Kotter's steps for change tell us that the 
    • Action: take a sample opinion survey on the major pain points at the staff level; alternatively, use the retrospective techniques outlined in our last post. Many discoveries of improvements to the organisation can be linked as symptomatic to some root causes that moving toward agility can address.
  • Adding more things to do Spend the excitement & enthusiasm capital that you have when you first announce the change carefully. If you add more processes, measurements, practices etc. on top of your team's current ways of working, you are adding to the 
    • ction: Spend the excitement & enthusiasm capital on reducing the culture around a productivity killer. Some suggestions: Try killing emails with Slack (an agile coach who has some experience with this is recommended). Try finishing all meetings 5 minutes before the end of the hour. Try breaking up meetings longer than 90 minutes with a mandatory 10 minute break time. Try coaching teams to introduce the concept of the 16th minute - a hard stop to long standups. These are tiny cultural changes that will have large impacts.
  • Starting with measurement There are inherent fallacies in creating measurement programs with respect to change. The critique of these I leave to others.
    • Action: Behaviours trump metrics. Allow behaviours to lead the design of metrics; allowing teams the space to define them as the transition toward agility occurs. Common metrics for maturing teams include - cumulative flow, story points, business value points. All of these metrics have something in common - they are created for the team, by the team for their own continuous improvement. They are not comparable across teams; and they are meaningless when 'rolled up' into a overall dashboard. Instead, quantitative escalations of impediments will provide you with actionable insight - and teams will want you to do this!

Join me in the next chapter, where we discuss the first three steps of what to do when enacting a change toward agility!

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Starting with Simplicity: Agility for Executives, part one

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Starting with Simplicity: Agility for Executives, part one

The organisation is embarking on a journey toward agility. You're aware of the benefits and understand that moving toward agility is a significant change. You have hundreds of people, used to their current ways of work; and a thousand in-flight projects that you can't stop mid-flight to make this change. What should you do?

Are you ready?

  • Do you actually want the change? Obvious, yet critical. The emphasis toward agility is one that is built on a fundamentally different assumption about the world. Failure for leadership to be willing to make this change will be an expenditure of effort without delivery of value; putting the organisation at risk of brochure vs. actual.
    • Action: If you do not actually believe in the need for a change; then it is better leadership to make that visible and transparent instead of incurring the cost of a change effort.
  • Do you understand what the change looks like? The growth of agile consultants leads to a lot of material being available to help one understand the landscape. Unfortunately, as with many business trends; this material is often of low quality and aimed at a wide range of audiences. I'm always happy to help  by providing you with tailored, relevant introductory material.
    • Action: As generalist reading material, try starting with the Cynefin framework and understanding the transition from complicated to complex contexts.
  • Do you have the stamina for the change? Moving from the 'domain of experts' to the 'domain of emergence' requires constant and relentless application of empiricism beyond what your organisation will currently be designed for. Maintaining an operating rhythm of improvement and change requires a stamina from the people within the organisation that needs to be considered and prepared for. Experiment with your people; rather than on them.
    • Action: I recommend techniques such as face-to-face retrospectives on a regular basis throughout the change. Select high EQ-members of the team to conduct these on a basis no less frequent than monthly.

Next chapter, we'll talk about what to refrain from and what to focus on, throughout this change.

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