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The pressures to innovate, disrupt, build quality, and uphold customer commitments are incredible… and relentless. There are no easy answers or quick fixes, but there are many paths to achieving business agility. What’s real and what’s sustainable?

Over the years, Agile coaching, Agile transformation and business agility have been proven effective at enabling businesses to unlock the full potential of their people, their products and services, as well as their overall organizational capabilities. They continue to be more relevant and valuable in the foreseeable future. In this article, we will also show how Agile coaching, Agile transformation and business agility are interdependent while serving different purposes. Let’s break down what each of these is, how they differ, when they come into play, and how they deliver business value.

What is Agile Coaching?

Coaching is an often a misunderstood word in many industries. In the most general sense, a coach is “someone who helps a learner improve some skill or technique”. Coaching can be applied to any team, level, department, organization, or industry – Agile does not have the corner market on the word “coaching”. So, first and foremost, coaching is its own practice.

Then, there is Agile Coaching. While Agile coaching can be used as an umbrella term that can be used to address different types of people with vastly different needs, for the purpose of this post, it means Agile coaching at the individual or team level.

An Agile Coach works with people and teams to help them learn how to be more Agile. This often entails helping them understand what Agile is, where it comes from, the tools that support being and working in an Agile way, and so forth. They often provide supportive training and mentoring as well. Agile Coaches can coach one-on-one or in team interactions. The Agile Coaching Institute has created a structured and rigorous program for helping Agile coaches hone their skills and develop mastery in Agile coaching across different capabilities like facilitation, mentoring, and more.

Agile coaching is valuable in that it helps individuals and teams on their Agile journey. There’s a reason great sports teams have several coaches, many of whom are some of the best paid and highly valued: all coaches help learners – whether players or employees – to strive for more and better, and some coaches have specialties, adding deeper learning to the equation. Great coaches tap into the potential in individuals and teams, which yields business value such as:

  • Faster time to market
  • Fewer escaped defects
  • Higher individual and team morale
  • Better employee loyalty

Successful coaching is a two-way street. As much as the effective coach needs a firm grasp of how to help others improve, the coachee needs to understand how to be coached and they have to want to change on a personal level. The synergy between the two is what enables the person being coached to grow and outperform themselves.

It isn’t enough, however. Coaching isn’t the only activity that needs to happen to enable an organization to thrive today. If sustained change and improvement through Agile mindsets and methods across an organization is the goal, Agile transformation is the means.

What is Agile Transformation?

Transformation impacts the strategic capabilities of the organization – it means the organization no longer acts the way it used to and there is no way to go back to old ways. Agile transformation employs new organizational structures, new ways of allocating funds and strategizing your portfolio(s), changes in culture, and more in order to deliver real value to customers, faster.

This is more than implementing a new process in the organization; leaders cannot relegate it to subordinates – or even a group of expert Agile coaches. It requires vision, communication, and systemic change management. Agile transformation focuses on changing the environment of an organization. Much like a scrum master identifies impediments to delivering customer value at the team level, Agile transformation necessarily reveals impediments to delivering organization-wide value to both internal and external customers.

It’s not an easy venture, and few organizations apply the necessary rigor, but those who do reap benefits like:

  • Fewer failed initiatives due to more product delivery predictability
  • Better allocation of funds, people and resources
  • Happy customers because products address real (rather than imagined) problems

Becoming Agile in an organization is sometimes seen merely as an installation: you buy the product, plug it in and wait for it to work its magic. That’s not how it works. Agile transformation often requires a change in the company culture because, when you change the environment of a company, culture changes as a result. This change enables the Agile organization to rise to today’s challenges and excel in thrilling customers rapidly. Even this, however, is not enough to address the challenges of tomorrow and to ensure that your organization isn’t outwitted by more innovative competitors who are not afraid of disrupting themselves and existing markets. The fight to remain relevant and profitable in the future is already well underway, and business agility is the foundation upon which the Agile organization can build a stronghold.

What is Business Agility?

In a predictable, less volatile world, where markets were stable for decades and customers were happy to buy whatever you put in front of them, Agile transformation might have been enough. But volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity all but guarantee that the market environment will continuously shift. It isn’t enough to be a good company with good products anymore. Leading businesses – Agile or otherwise – must innovate and deliver more effectively than ever. Organizations must bring people and environments together into one dynamic system.

When predictability is low, adaptability is key – and enterprises must become holistic learning organizations. Where complexity severely limits your line of sight, you must use your other senses: send out feelers that report back what they encounter, gather feedback from users – and competitors – and then turn the input into action. Data is key, but only insofar as they enable critical insights into market trends, user delight and competitor movement. Operating on just enough information, with just enough flexibility and speed, you can innovate market disruptions that favor your organization, whether it’s a new product line or completely new business model.

Business agility enables organizations to sense and respond to continually changing market needs, adapt internal structures and workflows rapidly to seize new opportunities, and deliver innovative products and services that thrill users. All this requires leaders with keen perspective who lead with a clarity of vision and empower everyone in the organization to act when the moment presents itself. Fast-turnaround experiments can be expanded upon for optimal learning – and learning is the name of the game.

The learning organization epitomizes business agility, yielding value like:

  • Effectively using technology to deliver innovations previously unimaginable
  • Disrupting existing markets – your own and others – to create new “blue ocean” markets where you have first-mover advantage
  • Developing a mature learning capability as an organization, to keep pace with continual technological advances

Agile organizations now look to business agility to build on what they have already become and for what they still need to strive for, so they can continue to innovate, deliver, and lead in ways that execute against their vision, mission and values. As a result, a successful business agility transformation usually means radical change to how people work, and how the company operates.

Putting it All Together

What Agile team coaching, Agile transformation and business agility all have in common is that they each focus on learning and developing new skills. The difference is the scale, therefore scaling the outcomes. In a lab, you might be able to achieve business agility without Agile coaching or Agile transformation, but in the wild, they are inextricable. People are the wild card – people and all their passion, experience, hopes, fears, knowledge and imperfections are what power the business of the future. It is each business’ responsibility to ensure that their people have the support to grow, change, and fail fast to learn faster. Industry-proven and well-established methods cannot guarantee success. And in a way, the days of guaranteeing success are behind us. Instead, we must focus on learning and acting as quickly as possible, with just enough data and insights, driven and connected by a unified, human-centric vision of the future.

Ready to Learn More?

With business agility, organizations can outlearn and outperform their competition. They can become learning organizations that improve continuously, their success fueled by passionate, empowered employees. For more information and resources about business agility, keeping reading…

What is Business Agility? >

The post What’s The Difference Between Agile Coaching, Agile Transformation and Business Agility? appeared first on SolutionsIQ.

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Today, we are taking a huge step towards strengthening our Business Agility Transformation offering. We couldn’t be more excited to announce our expansion into what we call the ASGR region, which includes Austria, Switzerland, Germany, and Russia. Expanding our brand reach and service delivery this way will help us better serve clients in the region, helping them to realize and sustain their full potential no matter how the environment changes around them.

We are proud and excited to share this announcement on the coat tails of a fantastic reception at the Business Agility Conference in beautiful Vienna, Austria. It was a moving experience to connect, sometimes for the first time, with our new colleagues from all over Europe, many coming from our new Germany headquarters in Frankfurt. The leadership in this region has already been energizing the movement in our growing Accenture | SolutionsIQ community there, in our wider, well-established Agile community all across Europe, as well as with our client base.

As we look at the ASGR market, we see many organizations turning towards Agile delivery, decreasing their time to market and fostering product innovation. We already see the innovators starting to disrupt the market and their competitors by focusing on the entire Agile enterprise, beyond just teams and IT. In the current age, there is only one way to survive in highly competitive markets: business agility. Just “doing Agile” is for the past. Agile transformation is certainly an important step on the path to business agility, but it doesn’t stop there. Our clients and community in the ASG region have been working hard to drive the movement forward and we now have a German-language website to support them!

Agile Amped Highlights from May Events in Europe

We have been hard at work capturing more podcasts with thought leaders on both sides of the “pond.” Here’s a taste.

Phil Abernathy’s 3 Key Capabilities for Agile Leaders

3 Key Capabilities for Agile Leaders | Business Agility Series - SoundCloud
(1392 secs long, 8 plays)Play in SoundCloud

Clarity of purpose, control without controlling, and designing for flow – these are three capabilities that are essential for Agile leaders to possess, according to Agile trainer and coach, Phil Abernathy. “Empowered teams are more dangerous if there is no clarity…[and are] nothing more than powerful horses pulling in different directions,” says Abernathy. The difference between good companies and great companies is discipline – they are not chaotic. Complex structures will always result in complex processes and inefficient controls because leaders believe in the biggest lie – that multitasking is efficient and effective. The idea is to work on one or two things at the same time, maximum.

Listen Now >

Your Budgets Are Undermining Your Values – with Bjarte Bogsnes

Your Budgets are Undermining Your Values | Business Agility Series - SoundCloud
(1480 secs long, 2 plays)Play in SoundCloud

Once upon a time, budgets were a management innovation that improved business performance. This is something that Bjarte Bogsnes knows, just as well as he knows that the budget mindset that most businesses operate with today needs to evolve – if not be replaced completely. Bogsnes champions the Beyond Budgeting movement, which might very well have been called “business agility” – because it is about so much more than just budgeting. It encompasses leadership and management, taking a holistic view of the organization and particularly casting a new light on the dysfunction of budgeting cycles. The culprit is that budgeting concerns three entangled and yet very different concepts: sales targets, forecasts, and resource allocation. ““This is problematic because it stimulates behavior that is borderline unethical – the lowballing, the gaming, the internal negotiations.” The solution is simple, even if the implementation is not: untangle the three processes and give them each individual attention.

Listen Now >

Carlo Bucciarelli – “This Transformation is Not Your Baby”

This Transformation Is Not Your Baby | Business Agility Series - SoundCloud
(1245 secs long, 5 plays)Play in SoundCloud

Agile Transformation is a collective effort requiring much work and dedication from all levels of the business. It’s no wonder that some people become very attached to it, whether it’s a VP, a coach, a manager, or team member. Carlo Bucciarelli, senior manager at Accenture, reminds us that “this transformation is not your baby.” Further, he says leaders fall into the trap of forcing top-down changes on their reports, which can create resentment in individuals and team. Because the transformation belongs to everyone in the organization – as well as the trainers, coaches, and consultants providing guidance along the way – empathy, inclusion, a powerful guiding coalition, and tons of humility are all necessary on the path to success.

Listen Now >

The post Accenture | SolutionsIQ Expands Business Agility Into Europe appeared first on SolutionsIQ.

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Microservices architecture has become popular over the last several years. Many organizations have seen significant improvements in critical metrics such as time to market, quality, and productivity as a result of implementing microservices. Recently, however, there has been a noticeable backlash against microservices. In this three-part article, I discuss typical antipatterns with implementing microservices, followed by solutions and suggestions for how to avoid these antipatterns. Part 1 and Part 2 discuss the many antipatterns that my colleagues and I have encountered and suggestions for better approaches. Part 3 introduces ways to quantify benefits of microservices.

Part 3: Quantifying the Benefits of Microservices

When done right, microservices can offer significant, quantifiable benefits. Here I describe the benefits of microservices architecture and translate them to quantifiable business metrics, specifically by looking at critical metrics and the impact microservices can have.

But first let’s look at some real-world numbers resulting from successful microservices implementations that we have been a part of:

  • Employee Engagement – increased by 20-50%
  • Time to Market – reduced from months to days (or even hours)
  • Production Incidents – reduced by 50-80%
  • Productivity – improved by 20-50%
  • Utilization – increased by 2-3x
  • Cost to Maintain – reduced by 30-80%
  • Non-Labor Cost – reduced by 20-50%

Two other areas are worth mentioning: customer satisfaction and business KPIs. While we do not have concrete numbers to share, we have seen significant improvement in both areas on a case-by-case basis, each company having their own ways of measuring these areas.

Critical Metrics

In order to quantify the benefits of microservices, we need to establish metrics that are critical to software organizations, then see how microservices architecture impacts them.

Below are the most critical categories of metrics for software organizations, followed by concrete metrics that can be utilized:

  • Business KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) – business specific metrics, such as conversions, revenue, etc. 
  • Customer Satisfaction – NPS score or equivalent 
  • Employee Morale – employee engagement score or equivalent 
  • Time to Market – hard to measure directly. Often, proxy metrics are used instead: age of code being deployed to production, frequency of production deployments. 
  • Quality – production incidents, production availability 
  • Productivity (cost of unit of work to implement new functionality) 
    • If projects are monetized – Cost to Implement (primarily, labor)  
    • If projects are not monetized – a proxy metric of Utilization (percentage of time spent coding vs. other activities) 
  • Cost to Maintain – cost to maintain existing functionality (primarily, labor) 
  • Non-Labor Cost – cost of servers, software, etc. 

Note that these are outcome metrics: they should be used to measure ongoing health and impact of initiatives, and not as execution targets.

Impact of Microservices

Microservices, when done right, can significantly improve critical metrics:

  • Non-labor cost improves as physical resource utilization is right sized, and commodity hardware and cheaper software are used
  • Cost to maintain improves because smaller/simpler services are easier to evolve and maintain and because the quality of these services is better
  • Productivity improves as churn is decreased due to decentralization/decoupling, development teams closely collaborating with business, and automation
  • Quality improves due to simpler code, smaller scope of changes, technical excellence practices, automation of software delivery and operations, resilient and scalable architecture
  • Time to market improves due to decentralized execution and automation of software delivery
  • Employee morale improves as people spend more time on meaningful, value-producing work and from working on small stable teams with a sense of ownership and purpose
  • Customer satisfaction improves due to improved quality and improved flow of valuable features stemming from development teams collaborating closely with business
  • Business KPIs improve with customer satisfaction and due to business learning and adjusting faster to market conditions
Quantifying the Impact

In order for businesses to make investment decisions about microservices architecture, they need to be able to quantify its impact in terms of financial metrics – primarily, cost and revenue.

While some metrics can be used directly – Non-Labor Cost, Cost to Maintain, Productivity, Business KPIs – others require translating into financial metrics.

The following financial metrics can be used to measure the impact of the remaining metrics:

  • Customer Satisfaction – Revenue per Customer, Cost of Customer Acquisition
  • Employee Morale – Revenue per Employee, Cost to Hire
  • Time to Market – Cost of Delay
  • Quality – Revenue per Customer, Cost of Customer Acquisition, Cost of Downtime
Conclusion

Microservices has been experiencing a lot of press lately – and for good reason. It’s a powerful tool that, when done right, can have a significantly positive impact on critical metrics. In this series, I hope to have made clear that the benefits must be balanced with the risk, complexity and investment necessary to do it right. Too often businesses seek out shortcuts to implementing microservices architecture and are surprised by the problems that arise and the unintended outcomes. Doing microservices properly requires investment in architecture, delivery, and organizational models – and now you know just how to do these things in a way that will yield real and positive business outcomes.

Thank you to reviewers and contributors to this article: Matt Lancaster, Paulo Villela, Ryan Keawekane

The author Stas Zvinyatskovsky will be hosting Agile Amped podcasts at the upcoming Deliver: Agile conference in Nashville.

The post Microservices Done Right, Part 3: Quantifying the Benefits of Microservices appeared first on SolutionsIQ.

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Microservices architecture has become popular over the last several years. Many organizations have seen significant improvements in critical metrics such as time to market, quality, and productivity as a result of implementing microservices. Recently, however, there has been a noticeable backlash against microservices. In this three-part article, I discuss typical antipatterns with implementing microservices, followed by solutions and suggestions for how to avoid these antipatterns. Part 1 and Part 2 discuss the many antipatterns that my colleagues and I have encountered and suggestions for better approaches. Part 3 introduces ways to quantify benefits of microservices.

Part 2: More Microservices Antipatterns to Avoid Delivery and Operations Not automating software delivery, testing, operations

If you are successful in implementing microservices, your organization will need to continuously develop and operate hundreds or even thousands of independent services. Doing it manually is wasteful and, frankly, impossible. Additionally, manual interventions can cause quality issues (because humans are not reliable) and slowness (because humans are slow).

To realize the benefits of microservices make sure to automate software delivery, testing, and operations. And do not forget to design and provision for highly reliable, highly available tooling and infrastructure to support this level of automation. Additionally, supporting this level of automation by independent teams requires the supporting infrastructure to provide self-service capabilities so that teams can automate their delivery pipelines, testing, and operations. See below for more about decentralized execution.

Not automating resource provisioning

Getting hundreds of independent services through delivery to production if you aren’t able to programmatically provision resources sounds like a lot of pain, because it is! Yet companies still do it. Besides being wasteful and painful, this often leads to overprovisioning of physical resources.

Save yourself the pain (and money): embrace and operationalize programmatic provisioning of virtual resources – VMs, containers, etc. Or, when you can, avoid it altogether and go serverless!

Not building quality in

Although possible, achieving a high level of testing automation without addressing quality at the source – when the code is developed – is extremely wasteful. Addressing quality at the source is the most efficient and effective way to achieve high quality.

To achieve high quality, exercise “technical excellence” when developing software: unit testing, TDD, BDD, etc.

Not adjusting testing approaches

Testing hundreds of independent services acting in concert to solve business problems requires changes to testing approaches:

  • Individual services must be tested to contracts.
  • End-to-end functionality can only be tested in production, which, in turn, requires dedicated tooling and feature toggle infrastructure (or equivalent).
  • Approaches to test data management must shift to favor dynamic data synthesis.
  • Move from a probabilistic testing approach to a deterministic one – see my Don’t Test Your Software article for more details.

If not addressed, these issues can result in coupling of services and significantly diminished quality.

As you are designing microservices, make sure to update your approaches to testing.

Product Not adjusting user interfaces as your consistency model changes

When it comes to data consistency, microservices architecture favors eventual consistency. As a result, some things that are trivial with monoliths are often impossible with microservices. As an example, see Part 1 about transactions across microservices.

Product interfaces need to adjust to reflect the consistency model supported by the underlying architecture. Otherwise, this can lead to misleading product interfaces and data quality issues.

As you design your microservices architecture, be explicit about data consistency models, and make sure product properly reflects them.

Organization Not decentralizing execution

Microservices, by definition, are developed, delivered, and operated independently of each other. Often, this is not possible in organizations with traditional operating models and traditional technical governance. Things that often get in the way: rigid hierarchies, shared services organizations, strict technical governance, release and compliance processes, etc.

Without addressing the operating model and governance up front, you run the risk that your microservices won’t be able to execute independently of each other. Even though the architecture might be perfectly decoupled, the execution will still be monolithic.

Addressing operating model and governance requires strong support from executives in charge of the organization and takes a long time to implement. Make sure to address these issues up front.

Organizing around software components or technologies

Teams should be organized around business capabilities and services that support them. If teams are organized around software components or specific technologies – as is most often the case – they end up supporting multiple services, creating a train wreck of execution dependencies between teams. This couples execution (development, delivery, operations) of services and kills speed.

To realize the benefits of microservices, organize teams around business capabilities and services that support them.

Keeping development teams and business separated

Organizing teams around business capabilities allows them to be closely aligned with business. Preventing close collaboration between business and development teams is a lost opportunity to improve speed and quality of value delivery to the end user. It can also lead to unnecessary churn and waste.

To improve speed and quality of value delivery to end user, make sure development teams and business collaborate closely around business capabilities.

Not setting people up for success

Proper implementation of microservices requires people to develop new skills including:

  • New responsibilities on cross-functional teams – development, testing, delivery, operations, etc.
  • Architecting for scalability, resiliency, cloud
  • Domain-driven design
  • Technical excellence practices – Unit Testing, TDD, BDD, etc.

Yet we often see organizations not investing in people enablement and development, which results in poor quality, poor architecture, and not achieving the expected benefits of microservices.

As you embark on microservices journey, invest in people skills to make sure the team is ready.

Technical Governance Not governing technical evolution in the organization

In a highly interconnected system, managing the evolution of services and technologies across the organization – versioning, technology lifecycle, end of life processes, etc. – becomes critical. When ignored, these issues can result in the accumulation of technical debt and can create unnecessary dependencies across services. This, in turn, leads to decreased speed of execution.

To keep your system in good health proactively manage evolution of services by developing the necessary procedures and protocols.

Not managing security

Microservices often create a multi-technology, polyglot environment. If not actively managed, this can increase security exposure and increase the number of attack vectors.

Additionally, people often combine microservices re-architecture with their first forays into public cloud, which introduces the need for different approaches to security.

When implementing microservices, make sure to develop and enact a proper security strategy and implementation.

Microservices Done Right…

Summarizing the points from the previous two parts of this series, your microservices architecture should have the following characteristics if you hope to achieve the expected benefits:

  • Services are scoped around business capabilities
  • Services are small, focused
  • Service internals are encapsulated and are not visible to other services
  • Services integrate through formal APIs with proper contracts, versioning, serialization, transport, etc.
  • Architecture is designed for scalability
  • Architecture is designed for resiliency
  • Architecture is ready for the cloud, even if not planning to go to the cloud in the short term
  • Inter-service communication patterns are established
  • Design incorporates supporting communications infrastructure (gateways, service meshes, event buses, etc.)
  • An organizational operating model is established to:
    • Facilitate decentralized execution
    • Facilitate technical evolution
    • Support cross-functional teams organized around business capabilities, collaborating closely with business
  • Cross-functional teams are organized around business capabilities, supported by services
  • Services are developed, delivered, and operated independently of each other
  • Technical excellence practices – unit testing, TDD, BDD, etc. – are employed
  • Software delivery is automated
  • Testing is automated
  • Resource provisioning is automated
  • Operations are automated
  • Security is actively managed and integrated into software lifecycle

Getting your microservices implementation right requires an investment in architecture, delivery, and organizational models. However, if you do it right, you can see significant benefits for your organization, which I will quantify in Part 3 of this series.

Thank you to reviewers and contributors to this article: Matt Lancaster, Paulo Villela, and Ryan Keawekane.

The post Microservices Done Right, Part 2: More Antipatterns to Avoid appeared first on SolutionsIQ.

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Microservices architecture has become popular over the last several years. Many organizations have seen significant improvements in critical metrics such as time to market, quality, and productivity as a result of implementing microservices. Recently, however, there has been a noticeable backlash against microservices. Some organizations that have attempted implementing microservices found themselves with more problems on their hands than they expected, sometimes ending up in a worse state than their starting point. As the CTO of a major company remarked to me, “We traded one giant pile of crap for hundreds of smaller piles.”

Most of the time, these problems should not be attributed to the microservices approach itself but, rather, to the mistakes and compromises made during design and implementation. Microservices is a powerful architectural model: it is applicable and beneficial in many situations. But it does come with complexity and requires an investment in architecture, delivery, and organizational models.

Organizations that are considering microservices architecture should be clear about the involved complexity as well as its cost and be ready to embrace them in order to realize the benefits.

In this three-part series, I discuss typical anti-patterns with implementing microservices, followed by solutions and suggestions for how to avoid these antipatterns. Parts 1 and 2 discuss the many antipatterns that my colleagues and I have encountered and suggestions for better approaches. Part 3 introduces ways to quantify benefits of microservices.

tl;dr
  • When done properly, microservices architecture can offer significant quantifiable benefits.
  • However, when shortcuts are taken microservices architecture can create more problems than benefits.
  • Doing microservices properly requires investment in architecture, delivery, and organizational models.
What Are Microservices?

Let’s start by establishing a definition for microservices architecture.

Microservices is an architectural style where the overall system is decomposed into services with the following characteristics:

  • Services are small and focused.
  • Services are created around business capabilities.
  • Services are loosely coupled, meaning the impact of changes is localized.
  • Services are developed, delivered, and operated independently of each other.
  • Service internals are encapsulated and are not visible to other services. Services interact with each other through formal APIs.
  • Business problems are solved by services working in concert.
  • No centralized workflow or state management exists – unlike traditional Service Oriented Architecture (SOA).
Avoid the Antipatterns!

We at Accenture | SolutionsIQ have worked with many companies who have adopted or attempted to adopt microservices. While many organizations have successfully gone through the transition and are realizing the benefits, others are struggling. Often, results do not live up to expectations. Sometimes, the resulting state of the system ends up being worse than the starting point.

These shortcomings and failures are not due to the microservices architectural model itself. In our experience, these problems are typically due to mistakes and compromises made during design and implementation of microservices.

Let’s review some of the often seen problems with microservices implementations.

Architecture Using microservices where the problem doesn’t justify the complexity

Microservices is a complex architectural model and the cost of complexity is significant – just look at the rest of this article for all the things that need to be setup right! Do expected benefits justify the complexity? Not necessarily. Often, the cost outweighs the benefits.

If the problem is simple and if scale is not required, are microservices really needed? Can the problem be addressed with a simpler architectural approach?

If you are considering microservices, make sure that expected benefits justify the investment.

Attempting to solve the problem with tools

This sometimes happens with established companies that have traditionally relied on COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) software to solve their technological needs. The question we sometimes hear from companies is “I want microservices, what tool will do it for me?”

There are good tools out there – commercial and open source. And you will need tools to support microservices implementation. But tools are not a substitute for a proper architecture. Be suspicious of any tool that claims to implement microservices for you.

Start with designing the architecture, then find the right tools to support it.

Not architecting for scalability

One of the major benefits of microservices architecture is its ability to scale. However, we sometimes see companies not architecting for scale – typically in the areas of data and state management. While incurring the cost of complexity from implementing microservices architecture, these organizations are not realizing one of its major benefits.

If you are considering microservices architecture, make sure to architect for scalability.

Attempting to preserve the notion of transaction across services

Much time has been wasted by organizations of all shapes and sizes attempting to preserve the notion of database-like transactions across independent services. It never works in the end, wasting time and money.

Worse yet, if not cleaned up, remnants of the ill-fated attempt – whether in the fundamental architecture or in the code itself – can cripple the architecture and prevent scalability and resilience.

If you are reading this and thinking that you can somehow figure this out, you can’t. Make it easy for yourself and everybody else in your organization and abandon the idea.

Transactionality (i.e., immediate consistency) can easily be achieved within the bounds of a service. Across services, eventual consistency is the right approach to use.

Not architecting for resiliency

Another benefit of microservices architecture is its support for resilience. With properly designed and implemented microservices, availability of the application is not impacted at all or is only slightly diminished when failures occur (and they will occur).

But companies often fail to proactively architect for resilience. This can have catastrophic effects. Without proper design and implementation, the architecture can become brittle: local failures can cascade to become larger, even global, failures.

When working with microservices architecture, make sure to architect for resilience.

Not encapsulating data

This should not even be considered microservices, but it’s a frequent occurrence – a service opens its internals to other services. This results in coupling of services, where services can only be developed and operated in a coordinated fashion, which slows the organization down significantly. Additionally, this is often a symptom of poor architecture that is not designed for scale or resilience.

Make sure that services maintain proper encapsulation of data and interact with each other via formal APIs.

Not designing for inter-service communications

With microservices architecture, you can end up with hundreds or even thousands of independent services all needing to communicate with each other. Without proactive planning, this can lead to a hot mess – coupled services and brittle architecture. Results can have a negative impact on time to market, availability, scalability, and resilience.

Make sure to spend the time to design proper inter-service communication patterns to avoid getting yourself in trouble. And don’t forget that supporting infrastructure (gateways, meshes, event buses, etc.) might be required.

Another thing to ponder: excessive communication between services could be a sign that services were not scoped properly and are, therefore, coupled. Read on for ideas for how to properly scope services.

Clinging to Enterprise Service Buses (ESBs)

In practice, microservices architecture requires use of gateways and event buses. To organizations transitioning from traditional Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) these concepts are not new. They are used to similar functionality provided by Enterprise Service Buses (ESBs). As the result, they sometimes choose to retain the ESBs, arguing that, if used properly (i.e., no workflows or state management), it provides a lot of the needed functionality. The problem is that it also brings all the other baggage with it. An organization that is used to relying on ESBs for workflows and state management will almost inevitably revert to its old habits. This results in coupling of services and diminished scalability and resilience. I would go so far as to say that if you have ESB in the picture, you are most certainly not doing microservices.

If you want to transition to microservices, retire your ESBs and replace them with better tools.

Making services too big

It’s not uncommon for people to forget about the “micro” in “microservices” and give services too many responsibilities. As a result, the architecture does not produce the expected benefits.

As you design your services, make sure to scope them well. Good microservices are small and focused around business capabilities. Domain-driven design is your friend.

Making services too small

Breaking services down to the atomic level also leads to problems. A good service is cohesive. When cohesion is lost, services become hard to maintain: besides introducing additional complexity for no reason, natural evolution of services doesn’t match their physical manifestation and, as a result, they become coupled. Why break them up in the first place then?

Make sure to scope services so that cohesion is maintained. Once again, domain-driven design is your friend.

In Part 1 above, I defined microservices and identified typical antipatterns concerning Architecture. In Part 2, we’ll look at even more antipatterns in the areas of Delivery & Operations, Product, Organization, Technical Governance.

Thank you to reviewers and contributors to this article: Matt Lancaster, Paulo Villela, and Ryan Keawekane.

The post Microservices Done Right: Avoid the Antipatterns! Part 1 appeared first on SolutionsIQ.

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  1. The Definition of Business Agility
  2. Examples of Business Agility mindsets in the real world
  3. Resources
  4. Partnering with the Business Agility Institute
  5. Strategizing your Business Agility Transformation
  6. Capabilities
  7. Upcoming Events
The Definition of Business Agility

Business agility is the ability of a business to realize and sustain its full potential both in terms of its profits and its people, regardless of internal or external environment changes. We define business agility as comprising several critical organizational capabilities:

  1. Deliver Fast and Responsively (Delivery Agility)
  2. Innovate and Disrupt (Product Innovation)
  3. Adapt Organization and Culture (Organizational Adaptability)
  4. Lead through Complexity (Leadership Effectiveness)
Examples of Business Agility mindsets in the real world

Finding Agile in the real world is easy for most: go to any software company and ask to see their development team – chances are, they have converged on an Agile hybrid working process integrating Scrum, Kanban, and Extreme Programming (XP). If they are advanced, they will have a full continuous delivery pipeline up and running and are taking steps to address DevOps.

It is becoming just as easy to find evidence of business agility in the real world. It becomes palpable first in the growing number of voices calling to overhaul, reimagine and evolve the rest of the business so it too can benefit from Agile mindsets. When businesses have integrated agility into their everyday work, they are able to look to the future, to build a strong capability of sensing and responding to change, and to drive disruption – to become disruptors before they can be disrupted. This takes concerted efforts from leadership and supporting functions, like HR, portfolio and budgeting and more.

    Blog Post

    7 Things You Need to Know About Agile Product Management

    Blog Post

    8 More Things You Didn’t Know About Agile HR

    Blog Post

    10 Things You Didn’t Know About Agile HR

    Blog Post

    The 5 Simple Rules of Agile Portfolio Management
Resources

The path to business agility is long and difficult, but it is the only way forward. We have painstakingly collected and created resources to help light the way, whether it’s case studies that prove out the success of business agility transformation, to webinars that connect you to our thought leaders and processes for championing change, to our popular Agile Amped podcast – the voice of the agile community. Dig in, dive deep – you may be surprised by what you find.

Case Studies

A transformation is a tremendous undertaking. How do you start? What does success look like? How do you measure progress to ensure you’re heading in the right direction?

We’ve got you covered. Here we share our experiences helping to guide clients across the US and the world with their business agility transformation efforts. Our clients hail from every industry and come in all shapes and sizes, and whatever their troubles may be, we helped them approach transformation with an Agile mindset to increase the chances of success.

    Case Study

    A Vision of Delivery Agility & Innovation

    Case Study

    From Growing Pains to Embracing Change

    Case Study

    A Ticket to Transformation

    Case Study

    An Investment in Innovation

SEE MORE CASE STUDIES >

White Papers

Accenture | SolutionsIQ has been a thought leader in the Agile space for more than a decade. Being agilists ourselves, we are always learning, always experimenting – and we turn our learning into artifacts that have helped thousands make sense of the opportunities that stand before businesses in the shape of business agility transformation, the problems agilists and our clients face on that path, and lessons that help all of us grow.

    White Paper

    Resources for Agile Humans

    White Paper

    Unlocking Business Agility

    White Paper

    Insights into Agile Transformation Success

    White Paper

    The Third Wave of Agile

SEE MORE WHITE PAPERS >

Webinars

In the digital age, visual media is ubiquitous and webinars are just another platform where we can engage with thought leaders, our clients, our followers and our wider community. We favor webinars for the opportunity to share our thoughts live with participants and hear from them. Our community favors webinars because they are engaging, dive deep into a topic, and provide them the chance to speak to experts in the field. Everyone wins!

    Webinar

    Delivery Agility: The (Imaginary) Battle Between Agile & DevOps

    Webinar

    Enabling Product Innovation Through Agile Product Management

    Webinar

    Organizational Adaptability Through Active Executive Sponsorship

    Webinar

    Leadership Effectiveness Webinar

SEE MORE WEBINARS >

Agile Amped Podcasts

The Agile Amped podcast is the shared voice of the Agile community, driven by compelling stories, passionate people, and innovative ideas. With more than 300,000 downloads across iTunes, SoundCloud, YouTube and more, this vehicle for learning is only growing with each day. Our Business Agility and Women in Agile Series have struck a chord with our community because, respectively, it inspires us to see the future as bright and full of opportunities and it also empowers us to support diversity and inclusion in our work place.

    Agile Amped Podcast

    Beyond Scaling and Onto Descaling with XSCALE | Business Agility Series

    Agile Amped Podcast

    Holacracy: A Complete System for Self-Organization | Business Agility Series

    Agile Amped Podcast

    Kanban and Mob Programming in Action | Business Agility Series

    Agile Amped Podcast

    “The Agile Marketer” Author Roland Smart | Business Agility Series

SEE MORE PODCASTS >

Blog Posts

What’s new, what’s hot – that what we cover in our blog posts. We provide updates about our company, share tips and tricks that agilists can use in their day-to-day work, and also tackle big ideas and gather feedback from the community. Many of our biggest ideas and most impactful offerings start small – in a blog.

    Blog Post

    Welcome to the Age of Business Agility

    Blog Post

    Addressing “Management Defects”

    Blog Post

    5 Steps Leaders Can Take Toward Business Agility

    Blog Post

    Design Thinking and the Business Agility Ecosystem

SEE MORE BLOG POSTS >

Partnering with the Business Agility Institute

The mission of the Business Agility Institute (BAI) is to “advocate for, connect, educate, and inspire people within these organizations, encouraging them to create an environment of shared knowledge and trust that will usher organizations around the world into the future of business.” The Business Agility Institute believes the next generation of companies are “Agile, innovative and dynamic.”

That is why Accenture | SolutionsIQ is a founding member and global sponsor of the BAI. We actively participate in improving the engagement and impact of the Business Agility Report.

2018 Business Agility Report

Collaborating with forward-thinking organizations across the Agile community – including the BAI and AgilityHealth – we dedicate our research efforts toward understanding shifting market trends, data and business needs. And we do this with a single objective in mind: to continually enhance our ability to deliver the best outcomes for our clients and the wider community.

As a founding member and global sponsor of the BAI, we have an unwavering commitment to this goal. One of the most impactful ways we can contribute is by helping to gather more insights into what people all over the world are experiencing at work and how it enables or impedes their agility. This is where the power of the Business Agility Report stems from.

In 2018, 394 respondents from 166 companies from around the world took part in the first-ever Business Agility Survey, rating their maturity and sharing their insights, challenges, and successes. We are dedicated to expanding the participation this year.

Download 2018 Report

2019 Business Agility Survey

This is your opportunity to share learnings from your organization’s journey by participating in the 2019 Business Agility Report.

Collaborating with forward-thinking organizations across the Agile community, like the BAI and Agility Health, we dedicate our research efforts to understanding shifting market trends, data and business needs – all with a single objective in mind: to continually enhance our ability to serve clients and the wider community.

TAKE SURVEY >

Strategizing your Business Agility Transformation

Business agility represents the capabilities that businesses need to be competitive in today’s marketplace often people think of agile and business agility as Scrum or SAFe, but those while good are not enough. One of the hardest parts about achieving business agility is realizing it requires real cultural change in your organization. Understanding how to move those levers of change requires leadership commitment and fortitude to change. Understanding some of those institutional habits that slow you down – particularly in support functions like HR and budgeting, which are newer to Agile – and having the willpower to change those habits is critical for success.

Sustained culture change, leadership buy-in, and reimagining support functions must be central to your business agility transformation strategy.

Capabilities

The rate of competitive disruption and the emergence of new business models threatens traditional market leaders. Leading businesses must innovate and deliver more effectively than smaller competitors, while being willing to disrupt their own products and business models to survive and thrive into the future.

With business agility, organizations can outlearn and outperform their competition. They can become learning organizations that improve continuously, their success fueled by passionate, empowered employees.

Business agility comprises several critical organizational capabilities:

  1. Deliver Fast and Responsively (Delivery Agility)
  2. Innovate and Disrupt (Product Innovation)
  3. Adapt Organization and Culture (Organizational Adaptability)
  4. Lead through Complexity (Leadership Effectiveness)

Building strength in all of these capabilities prepares you to create and execute on your Vision, Strategy, and Goals.

Upcoming Events

As a global sponsor for the BAI, Accenture | SolutionsIQ will participate in the following conferences:

You can also learn more about Business Agility Meetups here.
We also continue to support the Agile community by participating in these events in 2019:

See you there!

The post What is Business Agility? appeared first on SolutionsIQ.

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One of the most challenging experiences of any transformation is working with a coach. Whether the goal is weight loss or improving business agility, the coaching experience can be a mixed bag of success. Some experiences are fantastic and productive; others have missed expectations and personal chemistry clashes that leave people hating the idea of ever getting coached again.

Whatever the case may be for you, there are a few ways to get the value you deserve from your coaching relationship. Often, they are overlooked by both the coach and those being coached. Setting up a strong foundation of expectations for both parties at the start gives your efforts a much better chance for success.

Coaching is a broad topic; this article is focused on coaching teams and leaders in business agility, Agile, and technical practices. Although team coaching and individual coaching experiences can be different, there are some basic constructs for success that apply to both types.

1. Establish Clear Outcomes

“I didn’t realize I was going to have to do the work. I thought the coach would make a few slides for me to take and run with.”

Work with your coach to define what it is you or your team want from coaching. Instead of looking at a contract, statement of work, or a nifty spreadsheet you created, have a discussion with your coach. Answer upfront questions like the following for everyone involved, including the coach:

  • What are my expectations?
  • What outcomes do I want to achieve?
  • How do I expect people to work with me?
  • What defines success for me?

Begin with intention and goals to get the most value out of your coaching experience. You can always adjust as you learn what can be accomplished.

2. Be Prepared

“I don’t have time to learn to swim. I am too busy drowning!”

Accept that quality individual and team coaching experiences take time. When you give your time and focus to coaching, you are far more likely to have a successful experience. Slowing down to talk about the current and future states, as well as what you’ve tried so far, is incredibly valuable to shaping coaching discussions and outcomes. If there are many things to talk about, you will likely need to prioritize them with your coach, so you can limit your focus. Some individuals and teams make a visual reference, such as a Kanban board, of the things they want to work on together, so they don’t lose sight of anything, and can determine what are the most important things to work on.

In my coaching experiences, I have observed many people and teams being very vocal about wanting to get coaching help, but then are unable to make any time to actually meet. The usual impediment is that something else more important needed their attention. “This will never work. We can’t tell our leader that we aren’t working on Project X because we are getting coaching!”

How true. Most leaders are completely supportive of coaching, until it affects their favorite program. Getting buy-in from leaders is important to introducing a successful coaching program. The next equally important activity is for individuals and teams to plan for learning in their work. Communicate to those who care that you are committed to creating sustainable change and this work demands consistent coaching. This prepares them – and yourself – for the likelihood that your coaching journey and work priorities collide. By establishing this up front, neither you nor the person whose program is being deprioritized have the out for you to put off coaching. In the end, everyone benefits – you from the coaching, and them from the fruits of your experience.

3. Be Honest

“We didn’t tell our coach about the feud we’re having with that other team. It’s not worth explaining all the legacy systems stuff, because he won’t get it.”

Your coach can only help achieve outcomes as much as you and your team are honest. Establish the kind of confidentiality you need and the scope of coaching focus you want in order to have productive discussions. Share the things you’ve tried before and why they did or did not work. Share your hopes, frustrations and reality so that your coach has a clear view.

Honesty often opens up problems and opportunities that have been avoided in the past. It’s difficult work, and a good coach will help move past or through these things. The result is often new space to innovate and add value to the organization.

4. Own it!

“We listened to what our coach said, and even asked another coach for their thoughts. Then, we took into account what we’ve already tried, and we have a new path to try.”

Coaching is founded on ownership of the individual or team. Coaches don’t prescribe how to do work or give solutions to problems; they challenge with questions, share their insight, and offer advice. It’s up to the person or individual to take what they hear and combine it with their experiences and knowledge.
At first, it might feel like the coach isn’t doing anything to help. You may think to yourself, “All she did was ask me questions!” Ownership of learning is a mindset that can be difficult to practice at first. Over time, with a coach’s encouragement, change can happen. Individuals and teams learn to listen to the coach’s offerings, think about their own perspectives and realities, and then balance it to create a next right move. It might be a small-scale experiment they need to validate, or a philosophy that needs time to steep.

When individuals and teams begin to do own their learning – to learn out of their own self-identified desire to understand – the environment of your organization begins to change in an exponential way, ultimately making a strong contribution to transformation. The reason is that learning – once considered something that people did until they graduated from high school or college – is now seen as a necessary skill throughout life. That in itself can be transformative for an individual, but when you encourage people with a continuous learning mindset to interact and grow together, the learning grows exponentially.

5. Experiment

“I liked the advice I got from my coach, but I wasn’t sure how to translate it into my work. Together, we found a way to try one part of the advice, and then evaluate what happens.”

Transformation work is undulating; rarely does a person lose weight exactly the way they planned to do it. With uncertainty as the norm, having an enterprising, experimental mindset with coaching offers a chance to create a cycle of taking small steps, inspecting results, and adapting from there. This approach helps create a coaching experience that is meaningful and sustained. Your coach can help you find ways to experiment with what you want to accomplish using this inspect-and-adapt cycle.

If an organization is new to experimentation and innovation, this activity can be difficult to embrace. Preparing for coaching ahead of the engagement with leader and team buy-in can help make space for this kind of work. Your coach’s insight can help ease into this mindset with small steps that won’t likely cause any major calamity.

6. Have Some Perspective

“Coach A told us this is a good way to do it, but Coach B said we should try it another way. Which one should we do? We don’t have time to keep trying things!”

Coaches will have different perspectives, insight, and advice, and this is a good thing. Most coaches seek a healthy, sustained transformation for the people they coach. Consider the adage “Ask a different doctor, get a different opinion.” Most doctors have the intent to help you be as healthy as possible, and the same goes for coaches. If the intent of the coaching is consistent, there is great value in experiencing different coaches and their insight.

The necessary ingredient for a positive experience with multiple coaches is ownership on the coachee’s part. When you or your team owns the path you must take and your own learning, it’s easier to welcome and accept different insights. Ownership makes it safe to look at these different insights and then combine them with your own perspective to create a meaningful next step or experiment.

7. Stay Connected

“I met with the coach a few times. Then I had to cancel, because I had other priorities.”

Successful coaching experiences are founded in connection and trust. Both you and your coach must give time to the relationship to be connected and build trust. Similar to a line from the Agile Manifesto, the value of coaching is in the people and interactions. Your coach will actively seek connection; it’s up to you to respond in a way that makes sense and gives opportunity to build trust.

Whether it’s an individual or a team, leaders or entire organization that is receiving coaching, time is crucial and cannot be delegated to others who are not being coached. It takes more than a few meetings to learn new capabilities or unlearn skills that are no longer serving you. Work out with your coach what you can reasonably commit to that will still give you a chance to derive value from the process, and then commit!

Anything worth doing is worth doing well. Give coaching the energy and time it deserves, and watch the exponential changes happen.

The post 7 Ways to Get the Value You Deserve From Coaching appeared first on SolutionsIQ.

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Did you know that while women account for 53% of new hires, only 3% of them become a CEO? In 2018, among the Fortune 500 companies, only 24 had women in the position of. 24 out of 500! These were just a couple of the shocking statistics on the dire state of diversity in leadership that Fabiola Eyholzer shared in her keynote at the Women in Agile session, which preceded the Business Agility Conference earlier this month in New York City.

Diversity seems to be on everyone’s mind these days. For some, the need is obvious, but others have different concerns. For example, if we move more females into leadership positions, doesn’t that mean we are taking power away from men? According to Eyholzer, the answer is a resounding no. Creating better companies through diversity is not about taking or releasing power, it’s about leveling the playing field. “We all agree that want to have the best leaders in our organization, and gender should not affect how we make that decision.” It’s about embracing diversity of thought, because it should not matter whether you’re a man or a woman or what your race, nationality, sexual orientation, age or religion is. What does matter is what you bring to the table.

We all agree that want to have the best leaders in our organization, and gender should not affect how we make that decision.

What Do Women Bring to the (Boardroom) Table?

Stereotypical male leadership characteristics are often described as competitiveness, assertiveness, and aggressiveness. Female leadership traits, on the other hand, are typically known to be soft skills like collaboration, communication and inclusiveness.

Since men hold 97% of the top leadership positions, does that then mean that in order for women to rise into the highest leadership positions, they should emulate the behaviors typical for their male counterparts? Unfortunately, that approach has proven to have negative consequences.

Women can’t win. If they conform to the feminine stereotype of nurture and care for others, they tend to be liked but not respected.

Iris Bohnet, a professor at Harvard, writes in her 2016 book What Works: Gender Equality by Design: “Women can’t win. If they conform to the feminine stereotype of nurture and care for others, they tend to be liked but not respected. Dozens of studies have now demonstrated that women face a trade-off between competence and likability.” At the WIA session, people even mentioned how a male leader would be described as “assertive” – which seems related to competence – while the same trait on a female would be labeled “bossy” – which comes across as a ding against likability.

Crucially, characteristics typically associated with females are also core to successful Agile leadership: collaboration, communication and nurturing of relationships. Women make great leaders because they have high emotional intelligence: they listen, and they check their egos at the door. They make it about the success of the team, not the individual.

According the Eyholzer, “Agile organizations have built the breeding ground for diverse leadership because we thrive on diversity, collaboration, and we need people who are nurturing and great at communicating.” In today’s fast-moving marketplace, we need to be more innovative and creative, but you can only be innovative if you allow different ideas to emerge.

If your company has 30% women in your leadership, your profit margin is shown to increase by 1%.

And the numbers prove the case for promoting more women. If your company has 30% women in your leadership, your profit margin is shown to increase by 1%. Put into perspective, a typical net profit margin is 6.4%, so 1% increase represents a huge boost in profitability. But it’s not just because you have more females, it’s because the company has embraced diversity, and thus allowed for diversity of thought.

If you want an innovative company, you need different points of view. To ensure you get real diversity of thought, you need to look at your hiring process.

Reversing Institutional Bias

So much of how organizations operate today are reinforced by the way they look for new hires and the hiring process. In other words, business isn’t how it is on accident: unconscious bias contributes to the shape of the culture and the resulting innovative capability – or lack thereof. Eyholzer shared with us many examples of unconscious bias and the science behind it, including the following:

  • Many job descriptions are geared toward extroverts, so think about how to change that narrative.
  • Because of confirmation bias, most hiring decisions are made in the first 90 seconds of an interview. The first 4 seconds is enough time for your brain to answer these questions: Do I like you? Do I trust you? Are you safe? And who do you remind me of? Shortly thereafter you make your hiring decision and spend the rest of the time confirming that decision.

To begin breaking down gender biases specifically in your organization, Eyholzer suggests a 4-step process for changing how you hire people:

  1. Write gender-neutral job ads. For example, avoid using terms associated with men, such as “ninja.” Only use must-haves on job description and ditch the nice-haves because women typically only apply if they check all the boxes; men will if they check 60% of them.
  2. Overcome the confirmation bias. One trick you can use to overcome confirmation bias is to rate the interviewee on a scale every 5 minutes, and then average out the score at the end. Also ask yourself, “Why did they excel in that section, and why didn’t they in that section?” Finally, compare your assessment with other people and be open to their own impressions.
  3. Use a gender-reversal exercise. Consider how you would react if a male had made the same statement as a female did. Would we feel the same way?
  4. Deploy a team-based hiring decision. Use hiring hackatons where you can observe people solving a problem and hire based on performance.
Climbing the Ladder, in Heels

Something else that holds women back is – well, women themselves. Women are often hesitant to tout their own strengths while they enthusiastically support others in their personal or career growth. Eyholzer recommends four ways for women to help themselves and those around them grow and “flex their muscles”:

  1. Reach up. The first ways Eyholzer recommends women can grow in their position is to ask their manager to take on a task or a project they’ve always wanted to take on. This lightens the manager’s load and stretches the individual’s own capabilities.
  2. Reach out. Next, you can ask your colleagues to teach you a skill they’re an expert in and you want to learn.
  3. Reach down. This means delegating a responsibility you need to move off your plate to one of your colleagues or reports, at the same time providing for them a learning opportunity.
  4. Reach sideways. This is the inversion of reaching out, where you offer to teach and mentor a colleague on a skill you have.

If you yourself are a woman and a hiring manager, you may need help trying to level the playing field from your position. You may want to experiment by doing what Eyholzer calls “try before you buy”. If you have a leadership position you’re hiring for, you can put someone in that position on a trial-basis. Ask questions like “If you had two weeks to do this, what would you like to do?” Figure out how to open up those opportunities through cross-training, sabbaticals, job rotations, and vacation or absence coverage.

Embracing Feminine Traits

Mary Beard, a professor at the University of Cambridge, wrote in her 2017 book Women & Power: A Manifesto: “We have no template for what a powerful woman looks like, except that she looks rather like a man.” We have numerous examples of women in leadership positions emulating their male counterparts. Margaret Thatcher took voice lessons specifically to lower her voice, to add the tone of authority that her advisers thought her pitch lacked. Hillary Clinton is known for her pantsuits, not dresses. And the now nefarious Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes adopted the black turtleneck look (and a deeper voice) from her idol, Steve Jobs.

Beard also wrote: “You cannot easily fit women into a structure that is already coded as male; you have to change the structure.” Agile organizational values of transparency, creation of safe work environment, and empathy also happen to be traits female leaders are typically ranked better at than men. It’s time for us women to embrace our feminine leadership qualities, and for organizations to seek us out for them.

We interviewed Fabiola Eyholzer for the Agile Amped podcast Women in Agile series about her keynote topic, listen to the full episode here:

How Unconscious Bias Hurts Innovation | Women in Agile - SoundCloud
(1546 secs long, 12 plays)Play in SoundCloud

The post The Power of Female Leaders in the Agile Enterprise appeared first on SolutionsIQ.

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While Agile originated as an approach to software development, due to its benefits, it has since been applied in almost every industry and environment, including HR. The journey to “being Agile” in HR begins with understanding and believing in Agile values and principles then applying them to the way (and the “why”) we do our work.

The Agile values and principles help to guide the way I work every day. Accenture | SolutionsIQ distills these down to “bringing humanity to the workplace.” I genuinely believe Agile HR centers around this brief but powerful statement. To me, this means: to lead with empathy, focus on the employee experience, make a meaningful impact, and inspect and adapt often. I encourage HR practitioners to start your Agile journey by answering the question, “What does bringing humanity to the workplace mean to you?” This is an easy exercise to help you identify your HR north star and begin embracing Agile values and principles.

Reading about Agile ways of working in HR can be a bit overwhelming. Many articles and white papers focus on high-level Agile transformation initiatives such as, “overhauling the recruiting experience, the performance management process, the compensation program, or the on-boarding program.” (Whew, where to even begin!). While these are excellent initiatives – if you and your teams are new to Agile, I recommend starting a little simpler.

Working in an Agile Way Try turning your camera on!

Accenture is the biggest consultancy on the face of the earth – so it’s hard to keep track of all the new connections I make almost daily. So what could be simpler than ensuring that you turn your camera on when you are on a video call, even just to wave hello.
Seeing my colleague’s faces, reactions, hand gestures, and laughter makes all the difference for me. It helps with collaboration, builds connections, and ultimately can help create friendships which makes work much more fun.

In the beginning, this was difficult for me to get used to, so I recommend trying with some colleagues you are most comfortable with. You will appreciate the difference it makes in no time. And be smart about it: if you encounter bandwidth issues, or you’re not feeling your best, you don’t have to turn on your camera. I am saying, though, that if you start you using your camera more, your relationships and effectiveness will noticeably improve.

Contribute whenever possible.

If you have feedback, a question, a comment, an idea – say it! Easier said than done. Participating in a group takes trust and courage. Working with my HR colleagues, I believe I am in a safe environment where all ideas are both considered and valued. Believing in this trust has helped me build the courage I needed to contribute and share early and often. My colleagues have told me in words and actions how much they appreciate my contributions. It may seem insignificant to you, but over time, your contributions will have an impact.

Another aspect of this is giving feedback. If you are a regular contributor in any setting, you will eventually have to provide feedback, which can come across as negative. Two things are important to keep in mind: First, if you often contribute in a way that has a positive impact, then it makes your feedback easier to take, because you have collectively established a safe, productive environment. And second, if your feedback is to point out a problem, offer a solution if possible.

Spice up your meetings with new facilitation techniques.

If you’re showing up to meetings “checked out”, chances are that you’re not engaging with others and being present. This can happen even with teams who have worked together for a long time. To ensure participants are present and energized to contribute, you can spice up the format of the meeting in simple ways:

  • Use sticky notes over PowerPoint
  • Rotate the meeting facilitator role
  • Use video
  • Use “check-ins” with participants

Try incorporating an interactive activity to encourage participation, spur group brainstorming, and just make meetings more productive and fun.

Ask for feedback early and often.

I ask for feedback on almost everything I work on. Collective brains produce much better outcomes than my one brain! I used to hesitate to share my work for fear of criticism and/or the thought that “my way is the best way.” I have discovered that “criticism” (or what I now just call feedback) is always meant with good intent and that “my way is the best way” is much more successful as “our way is the best way.” Ask your colleagues early on to pair real time – you will enjoy the experience and create great work together.

Make things better.

Think of the end user or “customer” (often the employees in HR) and ask these questions often:

  • How would this policy, communication, conversation, or approach make me feel if I were receiving it?
  • How can we make this better?
  • Who might we include in this conversation to provide another perspective?
  • Where can we find an impactful win for the employees, the business, the team?

Personal experience tells me there is almost always room for improvement.

Stop or reduce multi-tasking.

Like most, I have years of constant multitasking and reactive thinking under my belt. I had to put in some real work to re-train my brain to focus one getting one thing done. But there’s so much to get done – who can find the time to do just one thing at a time? Well, you can.

It helps me to schedule periods of strategic “focus” time on the calendar each day. I am prioritizing the focus that I need to be effective, which isn’t for nothing: multitasking – and task-switching for that matter – results in poorer-quality work. If I turn down a meeting to focus on one task, the other participants in the meeting can rest assured that, when I am working on something that impacts them, I will do it right, in a focused environment.

Other approaches you can try to improve focus and reduce multi-tasking include turning off your email for specific periods of time, putting away anything that you know will distract you, or using the Pomodoro technique.

Create a backlog to help prioritize, provide transparency, and better organize work.

I found that having a visible backlog (prioritized task list) has transformed the way I work. This has been most effective for efficient collaboration with cross-functional (and often times distributed) teams. In my experience, it’s worked best to create both a team and individual backlog, providing transparency amongst team mates and/or leaders. Creating a backlog can be quick and simple by using a physical whiteboard with stickies if you are collocated with your team, or leveraging a virtual board like Trello, LeanKit, or the one integrated in Microsoft Teams (which is what I use).

Refer to employees as “Employees, colleagues, co-workers, people” – not as “Resources”

This is a sticking point for me and has been for years. Resources are inanimate objects, such as money or oil, that we use to accomplish a goal. People are not resources.

Referring to people as resources can be dehumanizing and can make us feel less engaged, less empowered, less collaborative, and possibly even less human. This is exactly why at SolutionsIQ we have strived for years to “bring humanity into the workplace” in both big ways and small. Just call people, “people!”

Summary

While certainly not an exhaustive list of tips, I hope some of these recommendations inspire you to consider different ways of working together. For me, Agile has significantly transformed the work experience, enhanced my relationships with colleagues and leaders, and made me a happier employee overall. I am so passionate about spreading the goodness of Agile into HR and across business because I want everyone to benefit from it. Small changes can have big impacts, and that is something I can attest to.

Looking for more tips on making HR more Agile from Allison Flaten, check out this Agile Amped podcast. Or check out our white paper “Resources for Agile Humans.”

The post Bringing Agility into HR appeared first on SolutionsIQ.

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From now on, the organizations that are able to outperform the competition will do so by outlearning them. By becoming a learning organization, you’ll re-equip and re-energize your business to innovate and deliver more effectively than new market entrants – while remaining open to disrupting your own products and business models to survive and thrive into the future.

Welcome to the age of business agility.

Sponsoring the Forthcoming 2019 Business Agility Report Source: https://businessagility.institute/learn/business-agility-report-2018/

Collaborating with forward-thinking organizations across the Agile community, like the Business Agility Institute, we dedicate our research efforts to understanding shifting market trends, data and business needs – all with a single objective in mind: to continually enhance our ability to serve clients and the wider community.

As a founding member and global sponsor of the Business Agility Institute, our commitment to this goal is unwavering. We strive to leverage our global reach with clients and partners across our ecosystem to expand participation in future iterations of the survey and related report.

With this in mind, we’re excited to be partnering with Business Agility Institute and Agility Health to increase the already extraordinary impact being made by the groundbreaking work within this community. Please join the growing number of leading organizations around the globe that are sharing lessons learned from their own business agility transformations. With your help, we can make the 2019 Business Agility Report better than ever. And if you haven’t yet had a chance to, we invite you to explore the 2018 Business Agility Report further.

We dedicate our research efforts to understanding shifting market trends, data and business needs – all with a single objective in mind: to continually enhance our ability to serve clients and the wider community.

Crossing the Chasm

One key observation we have made about the survey demographics is that the two largest groups of participants were from consulting organizations and information technology. If you think about it, this actually makes sense. These are two groups that we would expect to be on the forefront as early adopters of business agility, given that most businesses today expect to operate with Agile mindsets and practices or, if they haven’t reached this stage yet, to at least strive for it. We’re encouraged to see results from other key industries like financial services, manufacturing and entertainment.

Read the 2018 Business Agility Report

Looking forward into next year, we are optimistic that we will see even more participation from these and other industry segments, primarily because we are committed to leveraging our global client network to help reveal more impactful insights. We believe we are at a tipping point, where we will see more and more industries cross the chasm and become early majority adopters of business agility.

Source: https://businessagility.institute/learn/business-agility-report-2018/ Survey Findings Reflect Our Experience with Clients

For our clients, key themes are emerging around the major challenges that large global organizations face during their business agility journeys, and these themes are similar to what the 2018 Business Agility Report revealed.

Firstly, culture and leadership are often two of the most prominent aspects of an organization that can present challenges to success with business agility. What we have found – and this was corroborated in the report – is that in order to address these challenges, organizations need to be prepared to apply sound change management principles to support a widespread culture change. Further, in order to help leadership achieve new mindset changes, leadership itself needs to be willing to receive coaching ongoing throughout the transformation.

Secondly, challenges that surfaced in the report tend to concern supporting functions within the business, such as human resources, finance and budgeting. Including these supporting functions in the transformation is essential, and for many organizations it is wise to start running experiments on new ways of working early in the transformation. For example, it might be wise to start learning about some of the radical new concepts around planning that are introduced in the Beyond Budgeting movement and experimenting with how that can help create more agility in your funding and planning cycles.

Including supporting functions in your business agility transformation is essential. For many organizations, it is wise to start running experiments on new ways of working early on.

Business Benefits Source: https://businessagility.institute/learn/business-agility-report-2018/

We found this year’s report very revealing in terms of the benefits that survey participants are reporting as a result of their investment in business agility. Highlights include market success, employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction. Often when we work with our clients, one of the first questions we hear is “How can we show quantitative evidence of a future business benefit?” While the report makes no guarantee of a one-to-one correlation between transformation cost or duration and business outcome, as this report continues to gain traction and reveal further insights, we expect to see more quantifiable evidence of market success as a result of investing in business agility.

Looking forward into the future, we are eager to see what types of correlations can be revealed between organizational maturity in business agility and business results, as expressed in measures of economic value, employee engagement and customer satisfaction. This is one of the primary drivers that is motivating our participation and sponsorship of this effort. Many of our clients are also interested in this type of information, as are many organizations in the broader business agility community – and for good reason. Better data means better learning, which leads to better outcomes.

This is your opportunity to share learnings from your organization’s journey towards business agility by participating in the 2019 Business Agility Report. We believe that, in 2019, we will see the network effect of the report reach a tipping-point with businesses around the world. It’s an inspiring goal to aim for – and one we hope you’ll commit to helping us achieve, together.

Take the 2019 Business Agility Survey

Continue your own business agility journey with these resources.

The post Welcome to the Age of Business Agility appeared first on SolutionsIQ.

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