One of the interesting parts of my job as a Agile Transformation Coach is the shift from command and control cultures (that created waterfall as a way of delivering software), to an Agile way of working where free and informed choice is assumed and solutions are created using what everyone knows (rather just the single perspective of one expert).
This is the shift from hierarchy and compliance to autonomy and commitment and it is a hard, hard shift to make as it involves how we interpret the world.
In Agile this plays out in many different ways. If you aren’t into the world of Agile, what I am talking about is probably happening In your space as well, only the roles involved have different labels, so please read on. The role that gets a lot of focus in the Agile works is that of the Scrum Masters.
I am spending time at the moment as a Team coach (yes, am still facilitating Leadership Labs but am balancing the two ) and have noticed a trend in the area I work where teams have their work on a wall, but never refer to the wall! So I have been coming up with ideas to bring the visualization of work and flow back into the heart of what the team does. Here are my thoughts! What ideas have you used in the past ?
Alomgside all the other talks from Agile Africa 2017, my talk is now available on YouTube. I was talking about my passion, creating spaces where people are able to shift into more powerful versions of themselves, versions that coincidentally also build Agile Cultures. Agile isn’t only about the easy to spot processes or even the widely discussed principles. It is also about how people think and how they make decisions differently!
The question on everyone’s lips these days seems to be how do we get large, waterfall aligned organizations and teams to change and do Agile! The answer seems to be ‘coaches’ although I suspect we don’t have the same understanding of the word ‘coach’ and may have disguised ‘consultant’ and ‘telling’ into this new role of ‘coach’. We kinda had to rebrand our old unilateral ways so that they look like this new autonomous teaming that Agile needs and we need Agile … to deliver faster, from less!
I can’t help wondering if we are using the same outside driven thinking to solve the ‘problem’ and in so doing re-creating what we want to leave behind.
What if Agility comes from inside ?
People create work and people who already live from Agile mindsets create Agile spaces both without any kind of process and within non-Agile processes.
Agility is an inside job!
It is inside your culture and it is inside your people. When the inside is agile, the outside does agile with ease!
I shouldn’t mind this insistence that to do Agile needs an Agile coach, it is job security after all, but perhaps we have a different ‘how’ in mind. Because in my mind my job as an Agile coach isn’t to tell you how to do Agile but allow you to find it for yourselves and create it for yourselves! That is the difference between a team who complies and only does Agile with consistent, directive ‘coaching’ and a team that is committed and uses coaching lightly, to keep direction, come unstuck and take the next step!
Until we let go of controlling this, directing it into our idea of how it looks, we will be stuck in an endless loop where teams are stuck and coaches needed to tell them how. We never had control anyhow, all we had was fear and power and they aren’t the same at all!
There is a reason why the Agile Manifesto values people over process – do we really value people over process ? Or are we still holding onto process and roles as a way to control and direct ?
It seems to be the year for me to speak at conferences. Agile Africa went really well and my topic seems to be connecting well into a new direction for Agile as a whole – Humanising Agile.
My talk for SUGSA is once again about behaviour, but with a twist – making it practical and so bringing it into our day to day, a part of how we do business well! Makes sense right ? Because we are people not machines and what separates us from machines is the uniqueness of our behaviors.
Hope to see you there!
I facilitate our internal 3 day workshop on Agile Leadership (Servant Leadership based in Roger Schwartz’s book, The Skilled Facilitator ). For one of our bigger programs (around 200 people and about 12 feature teams), I am a permanent fixture with a permanent, dedicated space. We do the training at work which has raised some concerns – surely training should be an event, something special that is done outside the office ? To which I tend to look confused.
“Don’t we value learning ? ”
Which is when they look confused. So I keep going, “If we valued learning, then wouldn’t learning be something that was part of our everyday, something that we could easily access ? ”
Their response tends to be along the lines of “But my Scrum Master/ team members/ boss can see me here and they want me to come and do work”
An interesting response don’t you think ? I always answer with a request, “Please ask them to honour and respect the training that you are on. Your executive and leadyvalued this enough to sacrifice 3 days of your cap toy so you could be here. When you mix that with work, you are compromising both your work and the time that has been set aside for this leaning. If you were offsite would you be expected to spend your ‘free’ time working ? Would you go back to work when we finish ‘early’? No? Then why do it now ?”
This whole conversation was a surprise for me. I knew that I saw learning differently but I didn’t really see how corporates separate learning from what they do! Learning isn’t actually valued because if it was, capacity would be set aside for it.
When you have an internal, dedicated capacity and space for learning and learning about agile leadership, you send a message around what you value as a team! You also create a space that individuals can access as they need to, for continued learning! What your create is the opportunity to live what the training offers, to embed it and so create real change.
Focusing on the mindsets and behavior changes is especially I,portent when you are shifting from an old, project based system entrenched in a unilateral control hierarchy, to a Agile based system where decision making is consciously decentralised and teams are expected to show up as autonomous and self-organizing. This isn’t just a new process you are asking people to apply! You are asking them to change how they see the world and themselves! You are asking them to change what they expect from leaders and team members and unless you focus on this new behavior, all you are giving them to support this change is a process.
Changing the process isn’t enough to change the way people use the process and to change how people use a process takes time and constant practice – which is where the leadership lab concept fits in.
Or you could just send everyone on external Agile training and wonder why when they come back they don’t seem to be using what they learnt!
Have you noticed how most initiatives in flow and agility focus exclusively on new processes and skills ? Have you also noticed how the people use these ? In the same way they used the last lot of processes and so we get so,e change, but mostly we are now just wrapping the old process in new paper.
People create flow! Yes, processes help! A bad process will hinder flow and stall it, but there is always that handful of ‘go to’ people who somehow get it to work. Note I said people, not a go to process.
Shifting from a traditions, resource optimization culture to a capacity driven one is a big deal. It means stopping answering the question, “How long will it take ?” Yes! Stopping answering! Because every time you answer you keep yourself locked into a viscous spiral that seldom (if ever?) has a positive outcome. Only you have to answer right ? Because the person asking is meaner and more powerful and a whole host of nasty things will happen if you change your answer to, ‘well, it looks like the effort is around 8 story points which is quite high and we are currently able to manage 12 story points a sprint. Do you want to prioritize this for the next sprint ?”, which for the person asking isn’t an answer at all!
Whenever I suggest this as an option the room goes quiet and the discomfort and anxiety levels shoot up. I mean, how dare I be so, well rude and brazen ? How dare you not be ? Your job is to deliver reliably and predictably, yes ? You like delivering and being competent! You like being proud of who you are and your work, yes ? Well then, how can you not change how you answer ?
If you look back over your last year, how often where you able to accurately get that number right ? How often where you able to predict the work that was unknown or the hidden dependencies or the new work that would arrive ? More likely, over the last year you haven’t managed to hit that number once and into the deadly spiral you have dropped… being beaten with the delivery stick until you and everyone else knows how useless you are!
So what if you starting answering that question differently? Instead of spending hours and anxiety minutes on finding an accurate number, start answering in terms of capacity and shift the onus on prioritizing to the business – it is after all their primary responsibility!
What if YOU are the culture!? Which would mean you make a doffer nice – you are either reinforcing the culture or changing it.
And … what if all it takes is changing how you are showing up?
We think that for things to change management needs to change, but what if all it took was something as small as refusing to answer the question, “how long will it take?”
Changing culture isn’t easy, especially as culture can be seen to be the sum of all the individual identities, so it is inherently personal. One consistent narrative across organizations undergoing culture shifts seems to be that the leadership is the reason why we aren’t changing! If only our leaders would change, then so can we! It sounds good, after all leaders influence what behavior is and isn’t acceptable, right ? Perhaps not! Perhaps leaders are only half the equation !
What if our listening is the biggest culprit ? Ontological coaching uses listening as a way to describe how we interpret the world, so what if the lack of change has nothing to do with the leaders at all and everything to do with how we interpret what we hear and how we expect leaders to be ? What if the ‘followers’ and their listening was the more important factor of the two ?
Why do I say this ? Because I see Servant Leadership in action in the workplace at the higher levels and yet I still hear from those who are more removed and struggling to shift the same narrative, that our executive need to change, they are command and control, how can I be expected to change if they won’t, so I cant help wondering if we are not stuck in a story about change and how it happens?
If we expect leadership to be command and control wouldn’t that be what we see ? Wouldn’t that be how we would retell our experiences and even worse, retell what we hear, translating and subtly altering events to fit our subconscious belief, creating a narrative that insists leadership needs to change whilst never being able to see the change has already occurred ?
What if as individuals, we never notice that command and control is in fact our model, our way of thinking, our expectation of how things are, simply because we never really lead and because we don’t ever notice it, we never see anything else!
So maybe it isn’t our leaders that need to change! Maybe it is how we see leadership and our listening to leaders that first needs to change before we can even see another way, never mind experience it!
Not your usual combination – orchestral music combined with rock. I am sure there are some die hard musico’s of both persuasions who shudder at the thought – where is the purity As I listened to the first of the concerto’s I started to wonder, how would you do it so that it is seemless ? How many ‘rules’ would have to be broken to bring an electric guitar into an orchestra ? Or a section of violins (with obo and brass) into a rock band ?
The idea fascinates me and listening to the end results leaves me inspired and in one of my favourite moods, curiosity and wonder.