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Agility is about adapting and delivering value. More and more organisations are discovering that they either need to get on the agile train or fall hopelessly behind. 

Many of them turn to frameworks to adapt agile ways of  working. But what they get is another framework that will sit  on top of  the others and cause more confusion and frustration. What they need is to focus on the real problems like organisation, leadership  and culture. I’m going to use SAFe as an example in this text (there are other frameworks trying to solve this out there but I know more about SAFe).

A framework with a clear hierarchical role chart, process arrows, planning cycles and new roles is a way of satisfying the controlling part of an organisation. And it is exactly this part that we need to remove, if we want to be truly agile. To dare go down the agile road you need trust from leaders and in many organisations that is the exact thing they are lacking. So their own fear of losing control drives them to turn to things their recognize, roles and hierarchy, processes and planning, things that are feeding the controlling needs and is satisfying their own fears.

When introducing a framework like SAFe you are forced to focus on roles and planning cycles instead of culture, organisation and leadership. To get the right people in these roles is not an easy task an one that is impossible if there are no people with an agile mindset in the organisation. When people without agile mindset take on these roles what we get is another gant chart and detailed planning that will not adapt to the changing needs of the customer.

SAFe says leaders go first and teach the pilars of house of Lean to management, but it is not enough to go on a two day education and then be ready for a mindset shift and start changing your behavior. Patterns and behaviors within a organization is highly dependent on culture and will require patience and consistently to change. Therefor you need  to work on values,  coaching behavior and system changes to enable the culture shifts to a learning and team based organisation that agile requires to succeed. Because it is not in the knowledge we have that make the change to agility happen, it is our ability to turn that knowledge into actions that build an agile culture.

Agile is about trusting in everyone’s ability. That the people you have hired are there because they share your values, believe in the vision and want to work on the goals to accomplish that. You need to focus on building an organization where people with different skills can collaborate, innovate and develop and most importantly one where the culture is based on trust.

Three things you need to create an agile organisation:

  • Managers that are focused on people growth and trust the people they hire
  • Teams with skills needed to deliver customer value
  • Common values, mission and vision

One argument I’m getting is that “Well we won’t get them to change the organisation so it’s good that they take on SAFe to get some agility”. Yes, I agree, but it is still a poor argument for not facing the real problems of culture, leadership and organisation.

These are hard things to change but company leaders have the responsibility to make sure your company survives on the new market and the best way to do that is to create a culture that can use the intelligence from teams and adapt to the customers needs. If you don’t there will be no more company to go to.

You need good leadership, a trusting culture and employees that are dedicated to your company vision.

You don’t need another framework.

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When using the word resources, what do you think of? I think of nature’s resources and the money I have in the bank. Resources is by definition: means, a stock or supply of money, materials and other assets. How in any aspekt can people be considered resources?

The allocation of resources is a key element in traditional project management.  Resource allocation takes no considerations to human needs or changes. For that you will require a separate risk analysis and change management process. I think you understand where I’m going with this.

One of my agile coach friends started repeating to the managers in the organisation we were coaching ”People are not resources” ”People are people that have capacity to do things”. And this stuck.

We can not continue treating humans as numbers in a excel sheet if we want to accelerate our businesses. We have to start talking about them as people, humans, employees.  Today I correct and repeat. And I use the words that the organisation often have as well, the co-worker, the clients, the employees. It just has to be a word that describes the people for all our qualities and not just the number of hours we can produce.

Because does a allocated number mean you are getting value? No. So we have no way of knowing if we are actually creating something of value to our customers and organisation just by optimizing our use of ”resources”.

Humans are intelligent thinkers and in the age of information and technology they are smarter than ever. So why do we put them in systems that only count their heads and not their contribution and value creation? Traditional organisations must realize this is a new age and treating people like numbers is not the best use of their capacity.

Agile ways allocate resources (money, budgets) on teams.  This creates an environment where people can use their intelligence and adapt to the changing needs of the customers and make decisions and act within the teams budget without change management or high risk, every day. It also makes budgeting real easy when separating the budgeting from what needs to be done to create value.

By shifting just one word you can create a culture shift where everyone starts being considerate of peoples needs and adapting to them. Both the needs from our employees  and the needs of our customers.

So stop calling people resources, they are not!  People are people. And they have tremendous amount of capacity to spend if we let them.

If we treat them like humans they might even stay, feel happy and make a difference.

Isabelle Svärd, Agile coach

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We are exposed to an incredible number of impressions in one day. We are met by advertising on the way to work, pictures on instagrams and ads on facebook, emails about fantastic offers and news from all over the world. At work, we are often met by policies, attitudes, expectations of others and performance reviews. Not being able to sort in this and finding your own meaning and purpose can create stress, uncertainty and a feeling of being overwhelmed. The importance of being able to lead yourself, and others, to create a sustainable lifestyle has never been as big as now.


Your values ​​and your why

I see the personal leadership as something that needs to grow when you find your own values ​​and purpose. “Start with why” was founded by Simon Sinek, he says that organizations need to start by establishing why they exist before they can start talking about how and what they do. It is fully applicable to the personal leadership as well,  you need to find your own “WHY” before you know what to do and how.

To find your own WHY, you first need to know your values. What is most important to me? You can do this by listening inwards, by turning off all impressions and expectations from the outside world. To ignore the template that society is trying to put us all into and listen to yourself. There is much talk about meditation and that it is the only way to listen inward, but I think that when you do something that you love, whether it is to meditate, yoga, paint, walk your dog, ride or run, it is your opportunity to hear your inner voice . The one who says what you really like and value. The key is to listen and above all to trust what that voice is saying. Trust yourself, that you know best what is right for you.

Based on your values, the why is easier to find. My WHY statement is:
“I empower myself and the people around me so we can become the best people that we can be”.

Exercise WHY statement

To write your WHY statement, follow these guidelines:

  • Simple and clear
  • Only one sentence
  • Language you use yourself
  • Work both at work and in private
  • Write several until you find the right one

Safety and learning

To feel that your purpose is being fulfilled and developed, our sense of security and learning is important. The human instincts are the same today as they were in the stone-age and our brain is divided into three motivational systems. The model created by Paul Gilbert consists of the red threat system, the blue drive system and the green soothing system.


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