Monthly Archives: November 2013

Agile Culture: Impacts to the Organization

In previous blogs, we reviewed the implications of adopting an Agile Culture on management – learning to trust the teams, understanding the new aspects of teamwork and the reality of more transparency.  In this blog, we are going to address the impacts to the organizational structure.  Jim Highsmith, one of the original signers of the Agile Manifesto recognizes the evolution of organizations and has presented a webinar titled “Stop doing Agile.  Start being Agile.”

ChangeWhen we think about that phrase – to start being Agile – we have to dig deep into our culture and organization to truly examine how things currently are and how they ultimately should be.  What we typically find when we start coaching an organization is that they are open to fitting Agile into their existing structure.  But that isn’t enough.  There has to be a willingness to abandon the existing structure in favor of one that is truly Agile.  This is a much bigger shift and much harder to accomplish and in many cases (unfortunately) this is where Agile implementations are compromised.  Let’s look at some examples.

Agile Culture: Management and Transparency

Image Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transparency_and_translucency

Image Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transparency_and_translucency

This is a blog series about the impacts of an Agile implementation for management.  We have already discussed trust  and teamwork, and this post is dedicated to transparency.

Transparency for the Team

People that move into Agile (or Scrum) team typically experience a dramatic increase in their involvement in the business.  They have access to more information and they are participants in conversations that would have excluded them in the past.   The team members now see more of the Product Vision or Roadmap than they ever have before.  They probably have a task board where they can see which tasks are in which state.  They should be having a Daily Stand-Up meeting where the team learns if anything is standing in the way of progress for their development effort.  They are now included in conversations about scope and timing and release planning.  Thus, from the team member’s perspective, transparency has increased exponentially.

This is not necessarily true for management.  When you have a team that you trust and that is working together, the transparency for management might actually decrease in some ways.  As a manager or Director, you will no longer know everything that is happening on your teams in an Agile environment for two main reasons.  (1) You trust the teams to work together to deliver so you no longer micro-manage them and (2) Because of the trust and teamwork, more things are happening than ever before and it is much harder – and unnecessary – to stay on top of everything.

Agile Culture: Management and Teamwork

When it comes to implementing Agile, managers who are used to a “Command and Control” environment are going to be very uncomfortable.  Now, let’s be honest, Command and Control managers are not all bad.  They typically feel a high degree of accountability and that is a great thing.  They feel like their neck is on the line so they want actions to be done as they command so that they can deliver.  But what they fail to benefit from is the wisdom of the team.

Image Source: http://buzzardnbigdog.com/?p=3131

Image Source: http://buzzardnbigdog.com/?p=3131

The Power of the Team

Think about your team or colleagues.  Who has long tenure and has ‘been there, done that’? Who is a relative new hire who may have relevant experiences from a previous employer?  Who has worked in several different departments? Who has worked in several different roles?  Each of these unique traits means that an employee might bring a unique perspective that the manager would benefit from, if they were willing to listen.  Albert Einstein has famously said “we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that we used when we created them.”  Our employees have great ideas and many welcome the opportunity to creatively solve the problems of the business.

Members of management – manager, director, VP, whatever – should present the team with the problem or opportunity and let them ‘self organize’ to determine how they will solve the problem with teamwork.

Agile Culture: Management and Trust

I recently led a discussion on the impacts of Agile on the culture of an organization.  I shared that if your company is undergoing an Agile transformation and you aren’t uncomfortable, then you aren’t stretching enough.  Agile is uncomfortable.  It is awesome and the positive impacts on productivity, collaboration and customer and employee satisfaction are profound.  But getting there can be bumpy.  This blog is dedicated to the subject of trust and how it plays out with management.

Trust and Teenagers

trust-230x300

Image Source: http://www.webapptesting.com/trust-no-one-who-doesnt-localize-their-apps/2012/08/

A good analogy on trust is college freshman.  If anyone has sent away a child, niece, nephew or neighbor, then you know something about trust.  When we send our loved ones away to a land of temptation with minimal supervision and high expectations, we have to trust them.  How do we do that?  Well, hopefully a number of factors are working towards the positive.  We hope the following about college freshmen:

–          They have a strong foundation

–          They are smart/intelligent

–          They are capable of learning from their mistakes

If an 18 year old has these qualities, they will probably fare well in their new environment.  They have a foundation of values and experiences that will influence their decisions, they are smart people who can navigate through new experiences and if they do make a wrong turn, they can learn from their mistakes and course correct.

So why is it that we are able to trust immature and hormonal teenagers but we cannot trust our employees?  Are the same factors not also true about our employees?