An Agile Transformation Strategy That Actually Works: Demand Change
There is a big difference between talking about change and demanding change, especially if your goal is an Agile transformation.
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I’ve worked for several companies that talk about becoming more Agile. I’m told they need an Agile coach to come in and help get them there; help them align more closely with the Scrum Guide and empower teams to innovate faster, produce more valuable work, react to changing needs, and so on.
When I’ve been told these things from even the higher ups, it seemed great. The first thing to look out for when joining a company as a Scrum Master or Agile Coach (or any title in that realm) is the organisation’s appetite for change. So far so good!
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There is a difference, however, between talking about change and demanding change.
The amount of demand (or pull) is how one can truly measure the appetite. Every 1st of January, I talk about how I want to be healthier and how I want to eat the right food. But in truth, I have no appetite for a healthy salad. When it means beer and pizza are wiped off the menu, I shut any doors to a healthier lifestyle. “I should probably eat the salad, but…”
A CEO can easily talk about becoming more Agile. She might even expect a section of the latest reports on her desk to discuss how well the Agile Transformation Program is going.
That’s not enough, though. The CEO needs to be demanding evidence of change all the time. She should go see for herself what’s being done differently, what the failures were, how the teams reacted to those failures, what the successes were, and how the teams are building on those successes.
Equally as important, if not more, she should be demanding her own list of impediments to resolve. Sitting back and waiting for a rose-tinted report is no more than bookmarking a healthy recipe.
Managers of all levels must exert this kind of pull. Demand evidence of change, but also lead by example, and go to the impediments to facilitate or action change. “What can I do to help the guys doing the work?” should be stamped at the top of any manager’s to do list.
By putting this servant-leadership into practice and by shifting the managerial mindset from decision making to enabling, an environment of continuous improvement can really grow. Without it, at best we have a guilty admission of what should be done. “We should probably change, but…” Such a weak appetite will undoubtedly render genuine agile change simply a pipe dream.
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