Agile Transition and Transformation

MinfTheGapMarko, you are the transition” – well known statement in our leadership team when we were starting with agile. Our agile leader and coach was putting a lot of energy to drive our agile transformation and therefore he well deserved such an epithet.

However, the statement above reflects outsourcing or shift the burden mindset suggesting that someone else is driving and responsible for the change.What about the rest of us!? – Do we just continue to do the “work”?

So, thinking (or not thinking) about the transformation always reflects back to us as how do we make changes – how do we change ourselves, not just others and things around us.

Even though transformation may look similar to transition, to my view, it would be great to consciously make a difference. We usually use agile transition as a rubber to erase a particular terminology and to change some practices to the new ways of doing things. When we are done, we declare peace. Transition, as I would describe it, is a process that does not even need to be mentioned. It is a continuous effort. Transformation is on the other hand an effect of the transition and represents a vision where we would like to be and how closer to such a vision we are.At the end, it is just the terminology. The most important part is to go that road!

A while ago we had a small celebration – one of our managers was going to retirement (I hope I will be so vital during my retirement celebration party!). He has given a small speech looking back to his career and said:

I had two really big changes in my professional career – one was when we changed the technology from mechanical to electronic switching network nodes. We needed to learn everything from scratch.

The other, even bigger was transformation to agile”.

We actually never talked about it this way, but his career retro speech emphasized a magnitude of the biggest change in his 40 years of work. Even riding on the agile transition train for a few years, it was a moment to realize that our responsibility as leaders and our influence is tremendous. Why not use that chance!

 

Leadertip:

While our transition is (or should be) a never ending journey in adopting and changing the way how business is done, transformation to agile mindset and how to become agile is rather a matter of setting it as a strategic organizational (and personal) goal. Please note, transformation of the organization to the agile one is a learning process, NOT an installation process.

 

The Most Valuable Advice – A Feedback

The Most Valuable Advice – A Feedback

When we talk about the personal feedback, no matter how mature and how senior we are, leaders need a feedback, not only from their “supervisors” [2], but also from their peers.

Some years ago, we had a management workshop with the external human resource facilitator. As a part of the team bonding activities the feedback session was organized on a way that everyone writes anonymously three positive and two things to improve for each of the team members. At the end of the session, all of us received a bunch of yellow stickers from which we needed to present ourselves in front of the team.

You might get surprised how others see you! Presenting self through the light of the yellow stickers that talk about you is a great way to learn and understand some more things about yourself and others in a same time. It is in accordance to the Johari Window [1] shown on the picture

Johari Window

Johari Window

 

We are all blind for certain things.

Such an exercise makes a better bonding with others.

At the end, we needed to commit on three things to improve in the next three months in front of the team, while the facilitator would remind us to persist.

Having myself the opportunity to lead the team of leaders, we repeated similar sessions few times. Last time we get rid of the yellow stickers and talked openly one at a time about each of us.

[Tweet “Having feedback from your peers and team members is the best advice you can get!”]

 

 

Leadertip:

As we progress with our growth, learning and bonding within our team, we should think innovatively about getting a feedback from our team members on a regular basis. We can always improve, so make commitments to the improvements suggested by your team pals.


[1] The Johari window is a technique created and named after Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham in 1955 to help people better understand their relationship with self and others…more

[2] I personally don’t like to use the word supervisor, especially in the context of leadership. However, here is related to the process of formal feedback, or annual individual talks often prescribed as a process.

 

Oh, Balance Scorecard Is Missing!

Oh, Balance Scorecard Is Missing!

Goals and targets frequently reside in the forms of Balance Scorecards (BSC). Handling of BSC for us was a practice for years. In 2010 according to some respectable surveys, it was the most widely adopted performance management framework. Since its original incarnation by Drs. Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton in the early 1990s as a performance measurement tool, the BSC has evolved to become a strategy execution framework[1].

In the first year of our lean and agile transition, we have discontinued the BSC. One reason for doing so was to reduce the tracking of just performances with the hard-fact measurements. Even following the logic of SMART goals (Specific Measurable Assignable Realistic Time-related) we couldn’t tell where was the highest value. What was the most important among the goals? Having 8-10 or more goals to reach is simply defocusing. Everything had the same priority! If we take a look at the Theory of Constraints and applying the concept here, can we say which one of those is our biggest bottleneck to solve first? Is it a focus on finance, customers or own people? Is it the learning and knowledge of the whole organization or a delivery on time with 100% accuracy?

Another reason was a misalignment with a concept of continuous improvement and PDCA. The BSC was a pretty static and focusing one year on the same stuff questions our readiness to open the door for a bigger value when needed. Theoretically, we could have changed the goals any time, but I am not sure how many organizations really do it. This statics removed a need to continuously improve. Bonded to a period of one year, the BSC is discontinuing focus on improvements and setting too long distance between review milestones.

Annual was simply too slow!

Mike Rother in his book Toyota Kata – Managing People for Improvement, Adaptiveness, and Superior Results explains how our wishful thinking prevents us to see the reality and mechanism to reach better results. He introduced the knowledge threshold term. With the best current knowledge we can see the things up to the knowledge threshold and we can accordingly predict and estimate a certain period in advance. Variations and business dynamics shorten this period.

After the knowledge threshold, we are convicted to learn and go through the unknown territory. Moving over such a “cloud” would most probably not be a straight line to reach the next wanted condition, but rather slalom through different obstacles and impediments. Our knowledge threshold was never one year-long, but we were pretending as it was.

Continuous improvement is a constant day by day activity embedded in our daily ceremonies. It extends our current knowledge threshold and helps us to reach our goals on a persistent and efficient way!

 

[1] Source: Wikipedia