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The retrospective is a critical component of any Agile team’s journey to high performance. Agile process and frameworks are based on the pillars of inspecting and adapting, as well as transparency through quick feedback loops, and retrospectives help strengthen these pillars. But often retrospectives are perceived as a dreaded ceremony.
Principle #12 of the Agile Manifesto is “At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly” and teams do this by holding regular retrospectives.
Unfortunately teams, whether new or seasoned, often find it difficult to run an effective retrospective. Some of the behavior patterns observed are:
Lots of finger pointing and blaming for failures
Difficulty in coming up with creative ideas
A general feeling that the team has optimized their behavior and there is no need to change\
An unwillingness to challenge things beyond teams control
Edward De Bono, guru of creative thinking, has devoted his life to creating simple tools to improving think and also challenging the assumption that thinking is a natural process but instead a skill, which can be learned and improved. One such tool is his Six Thinking Hats – a simple, effective process that helps people be more productive, focused, and mindful.
Retrospecting with the Six Thinking Hats
While De Bono does not recommend any particular sequence of using six hats in a meeting or brainstorming session, during retrospective teams can use the six hats in following sequence first. Then they can experiment and learn using different sequences as well.
Blue Hat (5 minutes) – Participants discuss the high-level objectives for the session.
White Hat (10 minutes) – Participants raise and discuss anything from the last iteration which can be said to be a fact or information. Hunches and feelings and any discussion of reasons or other non-information-based output should be left for the appropriate (red) hat.
Yellow Hat (10 minutes) – Participants talk about the good things that happened in the last iteration, any positive feedback worth sharing.
Black Hat (10 minutes) – Participants talk about the bad things that happened, any negative criticism they have or worst-case scenarios they can think of.
Green Hat (10 minutes) – The discussion moves on to any creative ideas people have about solving problems or things that may add more value to the business or help in any way. Outside-of-box, blue-sky thinking is encouraged.
Red Hat (5 Minutes) – Participants spend a short period of time coming up to the board and write down two statements each about their emotions in relation to the last iteration. These could be issues that stood out for them the most or an idea for solving a problem. These statements should be instinctive, which is why you will give them very little time to do this.
Conclusion and Actions – Spend a little time as a group having a look at the Red Hat output. Are there any themes? What relationships do you see? What stands out? After this, the group determines if there are any action items or takeaways. As always ensure the actions items are actually actionable.
If your retrospectives are getting boring or spiral out of control or you are not getting new creative ideas, I recommend the six hats retrospective. It is a simple framework, easily understood and with good facilitation, it can work wonders!
Business agility refers to the distinct capabilities that allow organizations to respond rapidly to changes in the internal and external environments, without losing momentum or vision. Adaptability, flexibility and balance are three of the qualities essential to long-term business agility. We assert that most organizations will need to undergo some kind of transformation in order to develop the capabilities necessary to thrive in this transformed environment. They need to transform because the problem domain has transformed – and will continue to transform.
In our upcoming webinar, the second installment in our Business Agility Webinar Series, we want to delve specifically into what this means from a leadership perspective. For most organizations, developing the capabilities that comprise business agility will require that their leaders re-shape their understanding of leadership and management, and develop the new skills needed to lead people and manage operations in our radically changing world.
For most organizations, developing the capabilities that comprise business agility will require that their leaders re-shape their understanding of leadership and management, and develop the new skills needed to lead people and manage operations in our radically changing world
It’s natural for us to hear the words learn “new skills” and immediately jump to the logical-mind conclusion that we need to learn more tips and techniques. The new skills that we are talking about here are something else altogether. What we mean by “new skills” is learning how to make different sense of things. Jennifer Garvey-Berger sums this up nicely as learning how to hold multiple perspectives at the same time, adopting a “listening-to-learn” approach, and finding the willingness to engage in “messy” ways. Leading in this complex, ambiguous environment is about creating a safe-to-fail environment, not a fail-safe one.
We are offering our new Intentional Agile Leadership workshop in March, and you can be among the first to get your ICAgile Certified Professional – Agile Leadership (ICP-ALP) Certification!
What we know through decades of research, and through our own hands-on experience, is that this kind of change demands much more than a behavioral adjustment. What is truly required is a paradigm shift in how leaders think about their role and their organizations, and how the two support each other in mutual development. In its most essential form, this is Agile leadership. In order to catalyze the kind of transformational change that our current circumstances demand, a leader must develop not only the organizational capabilities required for business agility but their own agility of mind and agility of action, as well.
So how do we learn to create a safe-to-fail environment, or learn how to hold multiple perspectives? It may be surprising to learn that in a true Agile transformation, our primary focus is not on the practices of Agile. Of course, the practices are certainly part of what we are learning, and possibly even the first step in the journey, but the bigger, more fundamental responsibility is shifting the mindset. This realization, that transformation requires a mindset shift, is what you might call the “secret sauce”. This essential responsibility – living, teaching, and modeling that mindset shift – ultimately lands in the lap of the leader.
There is a surprising amount of science around what shifting mindsets really means and how that comes about in human beings. In the context of an organization, you can think about the culture as being the mindset of the organization; essentially it is the collection of all of the individual mindsets within this construct we call an organization. There is no single greater impact on this organizational mindset than the personal mindset of the leader. Leo Tolstoy famously wrote “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” We believe that this is precisely where Agile leaders need to start in order to effect transformational change in their organization. A transformational challenge demands a transformational response. Mere change is insufficient. Transformation begins here, with ourselves, not out there, with process and tools. Only when we shift the mindset of the leader can we shift the mindset of the culture itself.
Transformational change is a developmental process where the outcome is increased or heightened capabilities. Transformation can occur in a number of different ways. It can be intentional, where a developmental process leads to positive transformation through deliberate transformational growth. However, it can also be forced through catastrophic circumstances, as in the case of a hostile takeover, a hurricane, or a swift market change. In these instances of “forced transformation”, while change will happen, it is usually not developmental.
Check out Newton’s first law of motion and consider the parallel to your leadership stance. It could be stated as “Any object continues in its state of rest or its uniform state of motion, unless compelled to change that state by external forces acted upon it.” What if you didn’t wait until you were “compelled” to change? What if you were intentional about your leadership transformation, such that you were ready for that inevitable occurrence that could lead to forced transformation? What becomes possible when you are able to embody a leadership stance that allows you to respond BEFORE that forced transformation?
Being intentional about your own leadership transformation IS the way to respond to the complexity, uncertainty, and ambiguity you are immersed in…
Something we know to be true about the world we live in (we’ve all heard by now that we are living in a VUCA world, right?), is that change is inevitable. Let me put it a different way: you will face disruption – not if, but when. Your ability to respond to that disruption is directly related to your leadership competency. Intentional transformation, requires deliberate leadership. I invite you to consider that being intentional about your own leadership transformation IS the way to respond to the complexity, uncertainty and ambiguity that you are immersed in as you lead your team, your organization, your industry, in the successful navigation of our environment.
We’re aware that achieving the benefits that Agile has to offer requires engaged senior leadership, but that simply isn’t enough anymore. What we need is a shift from traditional management to more modern leadership techniques for today’s knowledge workers. Over the past years, we Agilists have drawn inspiration from the work of Daniel Pink (“Drive”), David L. Marquet (“Turn the Ship Around”), Malcom Gladwell (“Blink” and “Outliers”), Daniel Kanheman (“Thinking Fast and Slow”) and more. We attend conferences and hear about leadership, perhaps see Dr. Bill Joiner speak about his book “Leadership Agility”. And yet do we have a full picture of what it means to truly be an “Agile leader” and succeed at inspiring change within an organization?
The challenge with being an Agilist is that we’re often pretty smart, perhaps too smart for our own good. Sometimes we understand these concepts in theory, but when it comes to embracing the principles of Agile leadership, we don’t always behave and act in the ways we know are best for our teams and organizations. My personal journey on this path has had ups and downs, and I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the best coaches and consultants out there. What has been missing, however, is a clear, corroborated definition of Agile leadership and a roadmap for how to unlock this ability. That’s why I’m very excited about our work on Agile leadership with ICAgile, which was announced officially in a press release today.
Becoming an Agile leader doesn’t mean just taking a course; it is a journey over many months (even years) where we evolve our core beliefs about serving individuals and organizations. While the journey includes acquiring new skills and competencies, the core is focused on transformation of self.
I’ve seen the growth of our SolutionsIQ leaders over the years as we have experimented with leadership training, coaching, and development services both for ourselves and for our clients. Throughout this experience, we’ve found ourselves at the table with other thought leaders defining exactly what Agile Leadership means. It is an honor for SolutionsIQ that our very own Charlie Rudd was one of the three authors of the ICAgile Learning Outcomes for Agile Leadership. He worked alongside Michael Hamman and Pamela Caraffa to define the 38 outcomes that outline the intent, capabilities, and mindset of Agile Leaders. Everything is geared towards the leader’s primary responsibility, which is to nurture and develop an Agile culture in the organization.
I’m moved by one of the purpose statements the Agile Leadership Learning Outcomes: “An agile culture is very explicitly about creating an environment where it is safe to experiment and learn, where creativity is encouraged and rewarded, and collaboration is expected; it sits on a foundation of deep respect for people as the primary source of value and as the key contributors in the organizational system.”
“An agile culture is very explicitly about creating an environment where it is safe to experiment and learn, where creativity is encouraged and rewarded, and collaboration is expected; it sits on a foundation of deep respect for people as the primary source of value and as the key contributors in the organizational system.”
There are four categories explored through the Learning Outcomes:
1. Why Organizations Need to Increase Their Agility
2. Introducing Personal Agility in Leadership
3. Introducing Relationship Agility
4. Introducing Organizational Agility
The most resonant aspect to me is the deep dive into Personal Agility. The work here blends mindfulness, emotional intelligence, and adult development. When I talked to Charlie about his work with ICAgile, he emphasized that the team working on these learning outcomes has been some of the first to blend the best singular leadership ideas into a comprehensive, systematic approach to leadership in the 21st century. He said, “We were very intentional about doing this work in a way that made it consumable for today’s managers and leaders.”
“Charlie brings a depth of experience and perspective from a career of not only advocating for, but also role modeling Agile Leadership behaviors. His contributions to ICAgile’s leadership track have been invaluable and he epitomizes the leadership mindset critical for success in today’s business climate.” – Shannon Ewan, managing director, ICAgile
Now is the Time
As an industry, we weren’t ready and had not yet acquired the collective knowledge necessary to create this definition even three years ago. Thinking back on 2015 now, you may remember we were in the middle of a tipping point where team-level Agile coaching was becoming something truly pervasive in the market. Now we are looking for senior leaders and managers in organizations to become coaches for the organization in the same way Agile coaches enable high-performing teams.
It’s more than just industry maturity that has brought the need for Agile leadership to the forefront. The 21st century has brought forth the need for emergent management practices that reshape how we think about organizations and organizational capabilities. Rapid technology innovation has resulted in destabilized markets and less certainty. Twentieth century management techniques, strong in policies and procedures, were excellent for achieving economic gains, partly because the market was more stable and so more conducive to the execution of corporate visions and plans. Those days are gone though, and we need to refactor traditional management to human-centered leadership approaches that engage people as humans, not resources, and are rooted in the genuine invitation to share the vision and purpose of today’s modern enterprise.
As we fully leave the days when Agile was relegated to software development and the conversation pivots towards achieving business agility, the need for continuous leadership is paramount. I’m excited by how the innovations within our community will shape the people we are for years in the future.
Join the Journey
If you’re interested in an exploration of Agile Leadership and how it unlocks the gateway for achieving business agility, join us for the March 7 webinar, “Leadership Effectiveness: Guiding the Way to Business Agility” where you’ll hear from senior Agile consultants Katrina Ferguson and Phillip Cave as they explore what Agile Leadership means in today’s enterprises.
In a recent Agile Amped podcast, SolutionsIQ Chief Technology Officer Evan Campbell and Senior Agile Coach Kat Conner discussed “The Rise of Business Agility”. This podcast was recorded from our annual employee gathering in Tucson, Arizona, where the whole company came together to reconnect and refocus. In this timely podcast, Evan and Kat focus on common organizational and cultural impediments to business agility. Here we have consolidated their advice into five actionable steps that leaders can start taking today on their journey to business agility.
1. Modernize Budgeting and Management
The need to reframe entire performance management systems and move away from fixed targets and budgets is obvious when considering the constant volatility and uncertainty of the market today. According to Evan, “It’s easy to get the executives to a point of agreement that annual budgeting is irritating and wasteful and not very efficient in the things that we use it for.”
In response, Kat identified something that would aid leaders in the charge to modern budgeting and portfolio management: decoupling forecasting from their annual or strategic targets.
“You still need to have a forecast… to understand where you really are today in relationship to a target, but the target needs to be just as flexible and adaptable, changeable, based on what’s happening within the market conditions… You [have to apply] Agile principles to these high-level, enterprise targets and goals. [For example] a goal today that’s typically three to five years away will change based on market conditions, and [you need to ask,] ‘Do we have the right budget systems, forecasting systems, strategic planning systems in place to understand that quickly and be able to change?'”
Need a compelling stat to convince you? Evan’s got one:
“One of the most interesting statistics that I like… about innovation, digitizing, and leveraging modern technology in the line of business and making technology an inherent competency and strategic advantage for the business is that… In 1975, 80% of the market value of the S&P 500 was made up of physical assets. Plant equipment, property, transportation assets, things like that. 80% of the S&P 500 was physical assets. Today’s, that flipped entirely. 80% of the value of the companies on the S&P 500, their market value is made up of intangible assets… [That means] today, much, much more of the value of our business is based on intangibles, on knowledge, faster moving, more learning-based assets in our organization.”
For this reason, traditional fixed assets, in many cases, impede an organization’s ability to respond more quickly both to market pressures and opportunities. Evan goes on, “This ability to understand your market, sense and respond to what customers want, and competitive threats… means information and knowledge has to flow through the organization very rapidly. Business agility is all about helping our clients become learning organizations that can adapt themselves even more rapidly. This goes all the way to the idea of changing their corporate structures, their policies, their rewards, compensations and measures. All of these things should be open to management innovation of the organization.”
In 1975, 80% of the market value of the S&P 500 was made up of physical assets. Plant equipment, property, transportation assets, things like that. 80% of the S&P 500 was physical assets. Today’s, that flipped entirely. 80% of the value of the companies on the S&P 500, their market value is made up of intangible assets…
2. Focus on Transforming Culture and Mindsets, Starting with Leadership
“We often talk in the Agile community about specific practices and even mindsets that need to be put into place [in organizations],” says Kat, “but if the organizational structures don’t change to support … the flow of work and the flow of ideas, that’s a major failure point for large-scale business agility transformations.”
Evan agrees saying, “There’s no way that we’re going to be able to change critical governance and asset allocation and policy components of a large publicly traded company without the senior leadership of that company having the vision and the courage and the awareness to actually lead the organization.”
But it isn’t just leaders who need to change: it’s everyone in the organization, because culture emerges from thousands of random interactions regulated by both tacit and explicit agreements. Says Kat, “What we’re talking about is changing our hearts and minds, not just changing our practices, and that’s a huge cultural shift.” For this reason, a cohesive change management effort is necessary for transformation to stick. “In our approach to transformation,” Evan says, “an Agile change management program to support the organizational transformation towards business agility is really the core or the capstone of what we bring to help [our clients] learn to learn, and ultimately to adapt to be more efficient.”
It’s not too late to register for the Business Agility 2018 conference in New York City. Tickets on sale now! We are also offering our new Intentional Agile Leadership workshop and be among the first to get your ICAgile Certified Professional – Agile Leadership (ICP-ALP) Certification!
Many of the problems we face daily now surpass the level of complexity that any individual can effectively manage. This is even, or perhaps especially, true for knowledge work and the people who do it. Knowledge workers need greater latitude to experiment, learn fast, make quick and impactful decisions, and resolve problems at the source before they can spread. Traditional command-and-control leadership rose naturally out of the industrial age, where human workers were viewed as fungible and as interchangeable as any cog in a machine. But, Evan tells us, “the role of leadership really becomes something different from the old directive models”.
Both Evan and Kat have experience leading both at SolutionsIQ and at previous companies. Kat shares how scary it was for her to start making the mindset transformation:
“It was for me 30 years ago when I first dipped my toe in… I’m an MBA, I come from a fairly large operations background, Lean Six Sigma — so in my mind I had very clear operational management techniques that made me successful. It’s a hard transition to be able to believe that if you create the structure, create the knowledge, create the support, the information is going to flow back to you so that you can trust the decisions [being made]. I went through a transition phase and I’m sure that every leader I worked with seems to have their own version of that, as they’re moving into this different world.”
In the end, delegation by leadership is what enables an organization to sense and respond to real-world data in real time, which unlocks business agility. For any who are hesitant to embrace uncertainty, Evan has this advice: “It’s hard for large organizations to be fast and responsive and highly efficient if information and decisions have to flow up and down long chains of command.”
It’s hard for large organizations to be fast and responsive and highly efficient if information and decisions have to flow up and down long chains of command.
4. Establish Teams as Long-Lived, Persistent Value Delivery Units
In Agile, we understand that uncertainty is everywhere, so we actively seek out ways to mitigate uncertainty. Agile organizations seek to remove unnecessary waste and tap into human-centric values like trust and community to create a resilient ecosystem. This is at the root of establishing long-lived teams. Members of persistent teams build deep trust bonds and community ties, which makes for the sharing of learning, feedback and experience seamless and continual. The result is the mitigation of uncertainty inherent in new team formations – and yet surprisingly most traditional businesses, if they leverage teams at all, still measure individuals as the unit of value.
For many Agile organizations, however, teams are the unit of value delivery, thus championing team persistence along with constant knowledge cross-pollination. As Evan put it:
“The most foundational thing in Agile always is establishing high-performance teams that stay together as a cohesive unit, groups of teams that stay together in product lines, or value streams… The important thing is instead of thinking of projects as the primary means of asset allocation and organization of people, we look at the critical streams of value that are flowing from technology to business leaders or customers, and we create long-lived, persistent, capable delivery units… We invest in them over time, and instead of measuring secondary outputs like on time, on budget, in exclusion to value delivered, we really focus on [things like] ‘What’s the impact this investment stream is having on the products, customers, and users in the marketplace? Should we increase or decrease that investment over time?'”
To be sure, we are not advocating for treating teams as fungible units, either. Changing team members, even one, changes the team dynamic and only time will reveal whether the delta is in the positive, negative or neutral directions. Even so, establishing, supporting and incenting long-lived, persistent teams of knowledge workers reduces the uncertainty that is inevitably injected into ever new project that you start up, because the traditional calculus assumes that individuals operate at the same capacity regardless of factors like environment, morale, team dynamics. The same calculus assumes that people are only motivated by money and prestige. Both of these are proving to be less and less true today.
For more on what we call “return on team”, read this article.
The most foundational thing in Agile always is establishing high-performance teams that stay together as a cohesive unit, groups of teams that stay together in product lines, or value streams…
5. De-risk Learning to Unlock Innovation
One important element of an organization’s culture is its risk tolerance. Risk is a continuous concern for business, and yet to innovate and disrupt markets, the Agile organization must learn new ways to mitigate risk, on the one hand, and de-risk learning on the other. As mentioned above, return on teams can be one way to mitigate risk over time. Meanwhile business agility, as we define it, is an emergent property of learning organizations – organizations who seek out learning opportunities in the midst of uncertainty to make sense of small segments of a whole in hopes of coming to better grips with the whole itself.
Here, too, the traditional business fumbles. “[One thing] that can really kill innovation is the idea that if a hypothesis is disproven, it is a failure in the sense… that instead of appreciating that we learned something and acquired some knowledge, we ask, ‘Well, why didn’t you guess the right hypothesis the first time?'”
This mindset belies how business feels about learning and experimentation: if you fail, you’ve wasted time and money. In fact, only through rapid learning cycles and experimentation can the business respond to changes it senses in its surroundings. Therefore, to de-risk learning, Evan advocates for making innovation “safe and cheap”:
“[If] you have a hypothesis, I have a hypothesis, if we can get comfortable in an environment where we’re using theory-driven decision-making, we can both accept that neither of us knows enough to be certain of our hypothesis, but we can agree to design experiments that will run fast and cheap and help validate one or both hypotheses as rapidly as possible… It creates a whole cultural shift when everybody from the developers and testers up to the senior leadership is saying, ‘Have you validated that? I hear what you’re saying and that’s very interesting, but it’s really still just a hypothesis. How can we validate that before we make too big a bet on it?'”
Business agility is all about helping our clients become learning organizations that can adapt themselves even more rapidly. This goes all the way to the idea of changing their corporate structures, their policies, their rewards, compensations and measures. All of these things should be open to management innovation of the organization
Excerpts are taken from this recent Agile Amped podcast:
Recently, we had our annual employee gathering in Tucson, Arizona. While the location was spectacular with many opportunities for relaxing and exploring, we were able to accomplish some very important work making the event a success by several measures. This gathering in particular was important as it was the first while in the Accenture ecosystem and resulting from it was a backlog of items associated with integration, some role recalibration, and methodology and service offering tweaks.
In addition to these very important items, we had two overarching objectives in coming together this year:
Connecting with each other and
Refocusing on our mission and the opportunity in front of us
It is always inspiring to see what happens when you simply bring people together. When the group is caring and shares a common passion, the results can be amazing. With the mixing of two awesome Agile communities and the sprinkling in of several folks who recently joined Accenture, the group as a whole was eager to get to know each other and share stories about our common craft and life in general. We had the goal of providing just enough structure to help facilitate addressing many needed conversations. These collaborations improved our common understanding of each other as well as what we are trying to accomplish together. In addition, a number of latent topics emerged that likely never would be addressed outside of a venue that afforded this latitude.
Most of us walked away with new friends, new ideas and a renewed sense of who “we” are and what we can accomplish together.
We at SolutionsIQ firmly believe that organizations can only be truly successful, if they abandon the subjugation paradigm and transform to one based on humanity.
Refocusing on mission
As agilists, we really don’t have jobs but rather vocations. The Agile community is largely made up of people that truly want to (and do) make a difference at their client and ultimately in the world. We have a sense that the time is now and we are involved in something special. Something very different in that bringing agility to organizations is also bringing them a set of people-centric values. We at SolutionsIQ firmly believe that organizations can only be truly successful, if they abandon the subjugation paradigm and transform to one based on humanity. The Accenture platform offers us a grand opportunity. We have been invited, by the largest consultancy in the world, with unparalleled access to the Global 2000, to come in and lead the way in helping our clients transform to this more human-based system.
As the venue for this year’s gathering, Tucson was the first step in channeling the energy and passion of our group toward the goals of making a truly impactful and humanity-inspired change in the world. We are just getting started and have much to accomplish, but we’ve got the right people, with more quality folks joining daily, and we are heading toward a common and worthy goal. I am thrilled to be part of this community and excited to see what this group will be able to accomplish together!
SolutionsIQ is proud to be one of the founding members of the Business Agility Institute, which was founded to promote the structure, mindset, and behavior of Agile organizations. This exciting partnership enables SolutionsIQ to expand on our mission to unlock the creative power of people and organizations by promoting new approaches that make you think, and act, differently. Read more about our commitment to the institute here: https://www.solutionsiq.com/business-agility-institute/
Business Agility Conference 2018
The Business Agility Institute is taking concrete steps to build a global community by organizing conferences where leaders across industries and regions can share their experiences and insights with each other. The second annual Business Agility Conference in New York City March 14-15 consists of two days of authentic short stories and facilitated deep dives on business agility focusing on organizational design, market disruption and product innovation, Agile outside IT and next-gen leadership.
Save 25% off your registration when you use the code solutionsiq-founding-member at checkout, or simply click the button below to register and the discount will automatically be deducted:
SolutionsIQ is also excited to announce that we are offering a pre-conference workshop called Intentional Agile Leadership, which uniquely links leadership competencies and skills with a holistic Agile leadership model that enables personal and organizational transformation to unlock a competitive advantage in today’s complex business environment. This brand new course is certified by the International Consortium for Agile (ICAgile). That means that you could become one of the first people in the world to hold the ICAgile Certified Professional – Agile Leadership (ICP-ALP) Certification! With a focus on both immediate and long-term learning, this workshop will equip you with new mental models, as well as practical tools to start applying right away. Return to work armed with a roadmap for continued future development and a strengthened ability to champion transformational change and lead in an Agile way.
This special two-day workshop takes place during the Business Agility Education days immediately preceding the conference in New York on March 12-13.
Quick tips for registering: Click on “Tickets” on the right of the event page, select your ticket type in the popup, and then enter your information on the registration form. Then on the bottom of the form, where it says “Other Information,” please select “Intentional Agile Leadership (ICP-ALP with Accenture | SolutionsIQ).”
Business Agility Podcast Series
The Business Agility Institute has partnered with us to make Agile Amped their official podcast series! With more than 100,000 downloads, this popular podcast seeks to collect and disseminate knowledge and insight from thought leaders both near and far whose stories and experiences inspire transformational change in individuals and organizations. The Business Agility Series will allow you to access conversations with speakers from Business Agility Institute events even if you can’t attend in person.
Our very first Business Agility series guests were Jutta Eckstein and John Buck who will be speaking at the Business Agility 2018 conference about “Company-wide Agility with Beyond Budgeting, Open Space, and Sociocracy”. Learn more about their approach in this podcast episode:
Company-Wide Agility with Beyond Budgeting, Open Space & Sociocracy | Business Agility Series - SoundCloud (1596 secs long, 7 plays)Play in SoundCloud
And Don’t Forget Our Business Agility Webinar Series!
We are excited to have started our new Business Agility Webinar Series, in which we explore what business agility is, both in terms of business value and human motivators, and why it is absolutely imperative for long-term competitive advantage in today’s uncertain and continuously shifting world.In the first episode in the series, “The Path to Business Agility”, SolutionsIQ’s Evan Campbell and George Schlitz take a hard look at the traditional business, the stories and the people that make it what it is, and ask:
Why do businesses continue to value the old ways and why are people at the center of the need for change?
How does business agility enable enterprises to thrive in complexity and how can we transform businesses into learning organizations
It’s been an exciting time since our SolutionsIQ team joined Accenture last year. From my perspective, the best part has been the opportunity to dramatically expand our ability to reach individuals on their Agile learning journey. We’re truly bringing together the best minds in Agile and all of the adjacent disciplines that amplify Agile enterprises.
Some of the best collaborative work we have going on right now is the extension of our training services to align with the ICAgile learning roadmap. As more Agile learning opportunities become available in the market, we believe it’s important to serve the community by providing opportunities to reach true mastery in Agile. A week doesn’t go by when we’re not answering questions like, “I’ve been a ScrumMaster for three years, what should I do to take my skills to the next level?” Similar discussions occur with business leaders centering around the best way to create learning organizations that support enterprise transformation towards business agility.
Who is ICAgile?
International Consortium for Agile (ICAgile) is a community-driven organization that consists of pioneers, experts and trusted advisors. They are a certification and accreditation body, not a training company. ICAgile helps organizations and training providers design learning experiences that cultivate an Agile mindset and enable sustainable organizational agility.
A journey to Agile mastery is more than acquiring three-letter acronyms behind your name. It is about transforming the way you fundamentally approach work within teams and organizations, and acquiring the skills (through both training and practice) that enable you to unlock your own as well as your organization’s creative potential. It starts with a mindset shift and an embrace of Agile values and principles. Building on that foundation is an exploration of Agile practices and approaches, focusing on delighting customers, and ultimately, enabling organizations to achieve competitive advantage in the marketplace.
ICAgile’s commitment to helping organizations realize the power of Agile by focusing on people, not processes, aligns with SolutionsIQ’s own mission: we believe in the boundless potential of people. The ICAgile Learning Roadmap provides us a framework for stewarding the growth of Agile practitioners around the world-first as an ICAgile Expert and then moving into ICAgile Mastery. Our partnership goes beyond being a Member Training Organization that obtains course accreditation and faculty approval. We leverage our partnership with ICAgile to explore and validate our thought leadership, and are privileged to sit at the table with other industry stalwarts as we shape the definition of Agile mastery.
Practicing What We Advocate For
Within Accenture, we’re taking our own recommendations. Our SolutionsIQ team has started with more than 3,000 Accenture employees on their ICAgile journey this year. Our plan is extend our learning journeys to the global Accenture community by the end of the year. The ICAgile Learning Roadmap is fundamental to our professional development approach. The best Agile practitioners, coaches and consultants are lifelong learners.
Start Your Journey to Mastery Today
Interested in starting your ICAgile learning journey to mastery? Check out our Agile Training Course Catalog, featuring five courses with current ICAgile accreditation, including the new workshop Intentional Agile Leadership that is accredited for the newest ICAgile Professional Certification – Agile Leadership (ICP-ALP).
Following up on our webinar last week, “The Path to Business Agility” with Evan Campbell and George Schlitz – the first in our Business Agility Webinar Series – we are shining a light on a couple of really great questions that came out of this session. We shared these questions with consultants all over the world through an internal Slack channel (#business-agility) and have attempted to consolidated the responses into a reasonably cohesive answer. Thanks upfront to those who asked questions here and during the webinar and many thanks as well to those who contributed to the answers!
How do you get commitment for a transformation when the productivity gains from overcoming bureaucracy results in losing so many (now unnecessary) job roles? Extrapolating from Gary Hamel’s $3T point (from this HBR article), possibly 17% of employees will not be needed, a rate of headcount greater than most organization’s rates of growth, so even re-deploying people cannot absorb all the change. (Thanks to Jay Goldstein for this question!)
The article in question here, “Excess Management is Costing the US $3 Trillion Per Year” by Gary Hamel, focuses on management, but regardless the motivation for companies across the nation and around the world to address such waste is considerable and urgent. The commitment and investment in transformation is likely to come from leadership, however, who are not known for being particularly squeamish about laying off jobs they deem “unnecessary.” The question may be more for those middle managers who are tasked with implementing transformation initiatives, despite knowing that they may be rendering their own roles obsolete.
Here, we acknowledge a truth about business agility and Agile transformation: all roles may see greater or lesser change as a result of reduced waste through the organization, wherever it occurs. This will include middle management positions, as they are currently defined. The change is generally of two varieties:
Attrition = A person’s role goes away and said person has motivations to leave the company.
Transition = People who fill a no longer necessary role are offered the opportunity to transition into new roles.
The use of the word “role” is important: people can grow and transform to fill different roles, despite the generally accepted concept that people are synonymous with the roles they play, in life as in work. Thus a middle manager is someone who performs the functions associated with middle management because the organization enables it. By extension then, the organization can enable a former middle manager to embrace or even help define a new role that generates value for the Agile organization. Now we are in a position to ask, “How can existing middle management roles be transformed to generate value in the Agile organization?” Indeed, Agile organizations may want to invite those whose existing roles are likely to be impacted the most to help find ways of tapping into their own trapped value. Even so, some people won’t want to or will be unable to change or transform so there will likely be some attrition.
In addition we assume that transformation is justified not just to reduce costs but to also increase growth. The transformed organization should be able to better leverage the experience of middle management, for the same reason that it can now better leverage knowledge workers in general. Also, once it is understood that the objective is not just to reduce costs but to grow, the expectation is set that not only will middle management positions add more value but the ratio of these positions to staff in general will decrease over time as the Agile organization matures and grows.
One way middle management can be re-injected into the value stream?
Well, in large organizations, the job of grooming both the business and technical runway at the program and portfolio level is typically understaffed. As a result, there tend to be appreciable gaps in systems/architecture that need attention and could be addressed by people who previously performed middle management functions. Over a multi-year transformation of a large organization, the need for various roles will likely shift several times and, if that process is managed with much foresight, people can transition into new roles or leave the company without necessitating a mass layoff.
I am curious if you can give me an example of some useful metrics a team or organization can use to measure their effectiveness implementing Agile Development or Business Agility? (Thanks to Josh Speerstra for this question!)
Because metrics can be used to measure anything, in either case, it’s critical to create alignment throughout the organization to the “big why” for their transformation:
Why is the company trying to transform? What is the desired value the company hopes to achieve as a result of the transformation?
What are indicators that that transformation is yielding the desired value?
If an organization is looking to improve quality, we can talk about quality metrics. But if they want to focus on customer experience, then that leads to another conversation and likely different metrics. Once we have a set of outcomes in mind, then it becomes much easier to start talking about specific metrics, whether its likes or sales conversations or more employee engagement.
The challenge then becomes “How do you create a basis for comparison if you are enabling net new capability within the organization?”
For example, we had a client who stated simply, “We want to ship four times a year instead of once a year and six weeks late.” In seven months, they shifted to quarterly releases, on time and vastly fewer defects. Then they started thinking about a different way to measure continued improvement. In each case, the metrics differ. For example, to achieve the desired state of “on time delivery four times a year”, metrics would be aligned to delivery cadence. Whereas, to achieve the state of “continuously improve delivery processes”, the metrics might be aligned to team dynamics, or bug count, or even user engagement.
A question that you might ask of any proposed metric is “What would you do if that number changed? What decision would you make?” This calls every metric into question, to ensure that it is serving a higher purpose and not simply vanity metrics. All too often people measure stuff just because they can, without any real understanding of how the metric might connect with their desired outcomes. Instead we encourage driving toward the desired value and leveraging whatever metrics that help.
And in case you want something slightly more concrete, check out our blog “Aligning Metrics to Your Agile Vision”!
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Richard Kasperowski is an expert on high-performance teams, he’s a keynote speaker and the author of The Core Protocols: A Guide to Greatness. He leads clients in building great teams that get great results using the McCarthy Core Protocols, Agile practices and perspectives, as well as Open-Space Technology. Kasperowski spoke with our Agile Amped podcast to explain what high-performing teams are, how to measure team performance, and what is required for a team to become high-performing. This article is based on our conversation with him.
What is a High-Performance Team?
Most people look back at the best team they were ever on in their life, and they think, “That was awesome and I got lucky.” Most of us also don’t know how to do that again on purpose, even though everybody wants that again. But on closer inspection, you may find that you were actually on a high-performance team. How do you know?
Kasperowski defines a high-performance team as “a team that gets objectively better results than other teams doing similar work.” Also, high-performance teams often are recalled long afterward as being remarkable, as delivering good value.
A high-performance team is a team that gets objectively better results than other teams doing similar work.
So the question becomes: how do you measure performance?
Performance is something you can observe and measure. Different teams have different objective measurements. For example, you can gauge how much revenue a team brings in, and you can compare that to other teams using that same measurement. On this point, Kasperowski says that, “if you compare [high-performing teams] to all the teams in the universe doing that kind of work, the high-performing teams are the ones that are objectively better than the others.” So in the case of revenue, for all teams being evaluating according to the revenue they bring in, high-performance teams have a better record from an objective standpoint.
It turns out that most businesses, however, don’t always measure some of the squishy stuff that contributes to high performance in teams, both directly and indirectly. Such indicators include many things that Agile organizations value: transparency, problem resolution, collaboration, delivery velocity and predictability. For help evaluating these, Kasperowski turned to the McCarthy Core Protocols.
The Science of High Performance
The McCarthy Core Protocols are a set of practical skills and scripts that help individuals function more effectively with others, both in a team context and more generally. The Core Protocols provide people scripts and poses that allow emotional intelligence and psychological safety to emerge organically. The Core Protocols are the work of Jim and Michelle McCarthy, who together are celebrated as having led one of the best teams ever in the software industry at Microsoft back in the mid 90’s. Says Kasperowski, “They weren’t really sure how it happened, and they wanted to see if they could make it happen again on purpose.”
So the husband-wife team started up their own team research lab where they noticed that higher-performing teams shared some common behavior patterns. They began documenting these behavior patterns and called them protocols, which is a way two humans or two machines interact with each other. Then they started to experiment. In their lab they would teach teams these behavior patterns, and they noticed that these teams were statistically more effective and experienced more successes.
Psychological Safety Key to Trust and Thus High-Performance
Emotional intelligence, sometimes called emotional competence because it’s actually something you can develop, is not something that you’re born with. Emotional competence is demonstrated in your ability to do the following:
Understand your own emotional state and articulate it
Govern my behavior appropriately, regardless of your current emotional state
Infer the emotional state of others
Influence the behavior or emotional state of others based on what I know
While this may seem complicated on the surface, most everyone does this everyday. For example, if you see someone frowning, you may tell them a joke to cheer them up. Whether or not they laugh, you were able to infer that person’s emotional state and, based on your own understanding of influencing emotions, you were able to choose an appropriate joke to evoke the appropriate response (an improvement in that person’s mood).
You can also scale that up to team emotional intelligence. In a paper written by Vanessa Druskat, Steve Wolff, et al. entitled “Team Emotional Intelligence: Linking Team Social And Emotional Environment To Team Effectiveness,” they identified nine independent variables of individual, including psychological safety, team efficacy and proactive problem-solving. “These are things that, in a team that’s emotionally intelligent, people can do,” Kasperowski says. “So when we disagree with each other, we can resolve that dispute efficiently and wisely without destroying the team.” Kasperowski draws inspiration and support from an article by the New York Times called “What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team,” which says that “psychological safety, more than anything else, was critical to making a team work.” Kasperowski explains:
“We’ll say everybody at Google is individually a high performer, so like 80th percentile or better as an individual. If you take a team at Google of 99th percentile individuals, but they have low psych safety, and then compare their performance to a team that’s 80th percentile individuals that have really high psych safety, that team of apparently lower-performing individuals will be a higher-performing team because they have higher psychological safety.”
And further, to harness diversity in the people on a team, you can set up an environment “where people feel safe and where there’s a high level of group emotional intelligence together, and these are skills that people can learn.”
Team EI Protocol Stack
Research into the science of team psychological safety has been underway for decades, but there’s more to team emotional intelligence. As Kasperowski says, “Teams that measure high on team emotional intelligence, also measure high in performance.” He has gone so far as to identify a “protocol stack” that he believes has enabled the emergence of team high-performance.
Teams that measure high on team emotional intelligence, also measure high in performance.
1. Positive Bias
This is the base layer of the Team EI Protocol Stack. This means that among team members there’s a bias toward positive outcomes, that they exhibit positive intent together. “One of my clients talks about this using the phrase, ‘Unconditional positive regard for each other.’ So we always assume that our teammates are doing the right thing so the team gets the right results.”
The next layer in the protocol stack is autonomy. “Everything on high-performance teams is about opting in. Nobody is coerced, nobody is forced to doing anything, everything that you want to do, even being on that team, is a choice for the individuals on that team. When you observe high-performing teams, people want to be on those teams, they choose to be on those teams. They choose the tasks, they want to do the work, nobody coerces them into doing the work…
“Google is a good example of this. Most of the teams at Google spin up autonomously. Some engineer has a good idea, they share it with somebody else, they join together, they start working on this good idea together… It happens voluntarily. There are a lot of things at Google that happen because somebody had a good idea, and other people opted in to collaborate on that good idea together.”
3. Self-Awareness and Psychological Safety
The third layer in the Kasperowski’s stack is self-awareness. So teams use the McCarthy protocols like check in and asking for help. “Did you know in high-performing teams, people ask for help for things they don’t know to do or things they actually want help with? This gets into the idea of psychological safety. When people feel safe, it’s okay to admit that you don’t know something, or okay to admit that you made a mistake. And so on teams where people feel safe, they learn… They make a mistake and they learn from it.”
Next is a layer he calls Connections. “You’ve got these awesome, self-aware individuals as the atomic unit of the team, and now we connect together into a cohesive whole… Now you’ve got an awesome team, they really are aligned, they’re mutually connected, people know what they want, they know what they want as a group, and they can align toward whatever their goal is.”
The Fifth Layer?
According to Kasperowski, you could put anything on the stack on top of that. “You could put, for example, Scrum on top of that. If you’ve ever worked with a Scrum team that doesn’t have these elements of group emotional intelligence or psychological safety, that team isn’t going to be a well-performing team. They’re gonna be a mediocre team at best. And no matter what they do, if they don’t build up these skills, these behaviors, this connection with each other, they’re just not gonna perform at that high level.”
Excerpts were taken from this recent Agile Amped podcast episode:
Building Great Teams | Richard Kasperowski - SoundCloud (1842 secs long, 34 plays)Play in SoundCloud
Last week we sponsored Southern Fried Agile for the third year in the row – and boy, is third time the charm! This year was the biggest yet with one thousand attendees, all dedicated to keeping the energy in the Agile community alive. With a keynote by Menlo Innovations and “Joy, Inc.” author Rich Sheridan, this year’s conference was focused more than ever on joy, connectedness and the power of Agile. “Our goal is giving back in the community,” said SFA chairperson and SolutionsIQ Agile Practice Lead for Products Neville Poole. “People come here to see their friends… people that they may or may not have seen since last year, so you can feel that energy… There’s almost this sense of urgency because it’s only one day.”
For a one day event, it certainly gave us wonderful podcasts, and here are our favorites!
How is a cellphone like a satellite? Says Tom Friend, Agile consultant at Duke Energy who is blowing our minds with his work at NASA, “If you think about it, a cellphone is a micro satellite [without] stabilization [or] propulsion.” Tom walked us through using Scrum and other Agile practices in a satellite mission simulation to create a roadmap and a backlog and to produce a paper prototype of a to-scale small satellite (smallsat), which Friend calls a cubesat. Of the experience, he says, “It creates a shared mental model that everyone can see. It’s not what you get out of the paper, it’s individuals and interactions.”
Ken Pugh, author of “Lean-Agile Acceptance Test-Driven Development: Better Software Through Collaboration”, gives us a lesson on Acceptance Test-Driven Development (ATDD) and Behavior-Driven Development (BDD). And guess what? They aren’t as different as you may think. It comes down to whether the tests are written based on acceptance criteria or on the behavior that a system must meet. Pugh reminds us that the important thing is getting the customer representative, the developers and the testers together to write the acceptance criteria in plain human language before a line of code is even written. More kernels of wisdom from Pugh:
“Fixing a defect is valuable, but preventing a defect is even more valuable.”
If during development you can’t ship until a particular test passes, then that test is a requirement. “Testers aren’t writing tests, they’re writing requirements.”
“If you take more than half an hour to write the tests, then your story is probably too big.”
“If you feel like you need a defect tracking system… you’ve got too many defects. I have been in places where they actually have just one defect! “
The Southern Fried Agile (SFA) conference has come a long way since its inception. James Collins, SFA chairperson and a technical leader at Wells Fargo, and Neville Poole, SFA chairperson and Agile Practice Lead for Products at SolutionsIQ, sit down with us to share their experiences going from a literal shoe-string budget to major conference venue. James and Neville touch on some horror stories and victories – and joy – that they have experienced in this fun and energizing conference which may or may not have had a chicken for a mascot once upon a time.