This is the thirteenth episode of the Agile Leadership & Management Series.
A core function of Agile leadership’s management work is to develop organizations into what is called learning organizations, a term coined by MIT’s Peter Senge, which are organizations that facilitate the learning of its members and continuously transform themselves. Such organizations possess the capability to survive and thrive in the midst of rapid change and high complexity.
Learning organizations are one of the best ways to create a flexible organization that can handle VUCA in a good way. The idea for a learning organization is that people identify needs so that strategy emerges from the accumulated activities of peoples and teams. It emerges within the overall vision of the organization’s future so innovation and improvements add to the organization’s whole.
This is the sixth post in the November Agile Leadership and Management Series.
Research has shown that new teams face significant struggles with coordinating their efforts, are more prone to making mistakes, and are less likely to catch and correct those mistakes in real-time. The reason is that almost none of the conditions required for team effectiveness are in place.
Harvard researchers Ruth Wageman and J. Richard Hackman has used the conditions required for effective teaming to create a 10-minute teaming process that helps new teams get on a strong positive trajectory and overcome the liabilities that could sabotage their success. This process has been shown to radically decrease the number of mistakes made by the team, catch and fix errors in real-time, and create the psychological safety required for everyone to speak up and create a shared understanding of how to accomplish the team purpose.
This is the fourth post in the November Agile Leadership and Management Series.
When forming Agile Leadership Teams we have found some mistakes to be common within many different organizations and through different types of businesses. Here they are compiled in a list to make it easy for you to study before you form your leadership team, and come back to on a regular basis.
This is the third post in the November Agile Leadership and Management Series.
As an Agile Leadership Team, regardless of the four Leadership team hats you find yourself wearing, there are certain conditions that dramatically increase the chances that a group of leaders will develop into an effective team.
This is the first post in the November Agile Leadership and Management Series.
Leadership today is a team sport. The emphasis is no longer on the skills, characteristics, and traits of a single, all-powerful person with the designation of “leader”. Leadership has evolved to be a collective endeavor that leads to the betterment of all involved and looks different depending on the context.
Over the summer, the Dandy People team put together an Agile Leadership Team poster. The poster introduces 7 powerful Agile Leadership Principles designed to help leaders create a focus on what will help increase the business outcome of the organization. If the members of an Agile Leadership team agree upon strives to move towards these principles, collaboration and exploration can be enabled and strengthened!
As Leaders, We Always Strive to:
1. Keep a transparent strategy and facilitate a pull-based backlog for teams to self-organize around value – NOT pushing things to the teams, or micromanaging
2. Give a clear direction and share WHY we are doing things to enable new learnings to impact the WHAT – NOT deciding on a solution.
3. Managing structures around the teams so that they can make quick and smart decisions – NOT managing the people.
4. Acts as sponsors by asking “What do you need to succeed?” and actively remove impediments – NOT acting as a steering group and only following up results (or making decisions on the team’s behalf).
5. Empower the people and foster a culture of psychological safety to enable initiative, experimentation, and problem-solving together – NOT stepping in to solve every day, low-risk problems so teams can become increasingly mature.
6. Empower teams and individuals to build the capabilities needed to take responsibility for delivering value continuously – NOT taking the responsibility from them, and not only optimizing for short-term goals.
7. Lead with vision, practice what we preach, and actively encourage a spirit of joy and responsibility – NOT keeping old structures and practices in place that reinforce ineffective behaviors.
The same rookie mistake I made on my transformation journey into marathoning is one that I see a lot of organizations make on their Agile journey: not taking the time to find the right shoes. Let me explain.
“Doing” agile is not enough
I thought I had a solid start on my transformation from couch potato to marathoner by focusing first on the routines and habits of runners. I felt like I was a runner because I was DOING the things runners do, like running 5-days a week, eating healthier, and strength training. Many organizations fall into the same trap. They think they’re agile because they’re going through the same motions and copying best practices. But then my mother saw me running out in the neighborhood and pointed out something that changed everything. She gave me the same perspective that I’ve given clients looking to become agile, and it blew my mind.
My goal is to coach myself through a transformation from couch potato to marathoner (well, a half-marathon). It’s been life-changing.
Behavior science is the secret sauce
The barriers and obstacles I experience with “becoming a marathoner” are similar to those experienced by organizations wanting to “become agile”. The secret sauce lies in behavior science. Through this marathoning process, I’ve uncovered my own behavior-based twist of the Deming cycle and Lean Startup and am using them to inspire a Lean Performance Management model for teams and organizations. It’s always fun when personal and professional worlds collide!
The Behavior-Change Cycle
Below is the Behavior-Change Cycle I created for myself inspired by the Deming Cycle and how behavior scientists approach organizational change:
I just took on the most challenging client–MYSELF.
Inspired by friends who are marathoners, I decided to cultivate what I’m calling a Marathon Mindset. I’m coaching myself towards achieving increased flow in the presence of variability. My aspiration is to emerge from this COVID-19 crisis a better person. Through this process, which involves training for an actual marathon, I’m learning that my own barriers and obstacles to “become a marathoner” are similar to those experienced by organizations wanting to “become agile”. This aha moment was unexpected, but transformative as an Agile Coach. I now believe the Marathon Mindset is the Agile Mindset because it simultaneously fosters both stability and agility through continuous and incremental evolution instead of a big bang transformation. Below I share some insights into what I’m learning for the benefit of Agile change agents everywhere.