Constraints Brings Innovation in Agile Transformation
When the chips are down and resources begin to decrease, it's survival of the fittest...and the most innovative.
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During our Agile transformation, we had several workshops to figure out what we should be doing as a part of an organizational Agile transformation. As a result of this exercise, we had hundreds of items added to the product backlog.
Our leadership team said at the end of the exercise that we do not have the time or resources to address all these, so we had to go back to the drawing board to find which ones were the
In the transformative book, A Beautiful Constraint, authors Adam Morgan and Mark Barden explain that authentic success is really about changing our stories from “We can’t, because...” to “We can, if....”
“By making a constraint beautiful, we mean seeing it as an opportunity, not a punitive restriction, and using it as a stimulus to see a new or better way of achieving our ambition.” — Adam Morgan and Mark Barden
Why Do Constraints Help?
Research on creativity and constraint demonstrates that, when options are limited, people generate more, rather than fewer, varied solutions — apparently because their attention is less scattered.
Zappos, Southwest Airlines, and Aravind Eye Hospitals are examples of organizations where they drive home the point about turning a constraint, such as a resource, time, and method, into a winning opportunity.
In our coaching assignment, we have a rough level timeline set for all the coaches for a team, to complete the Agile journey in about a 3- 9 months timeline. To achieve this timeline, a coach has to figure out the best way or steps he or she has to take to complete the journey. Exceptions are always allowed. We are forced to come up with out of the box solutions.
Constraints drive innovation. Resource constraints mean that people go and find interesting solutions to work around all those constraints.
"I think frugality drives innovation, just like other constraints do. One of the only ways to get out of a tight box is to invent your way out." — Jeff Bezos
What are some constraints we come across?
Every year there is always a huge budgetcut in the middle of the transformation.
Goals and numbers are the same, but the budget cut was there. We have to produce more with less. Leaders expect that we will achieve the same goal with the available resources we have. Therefore, we have to be more disciplinedin our actions and more cautious.
Another is that we have fewer coaches and many teams to transform. People like challenges; they like problems; they like constraints.
These situations energize some of our coaches to do best and utilize the talents. They demonstrate that we can do better under constraints.
What different way did we achieve this journey with innovation?
We have come up with our own exclusive framework to address these constraints and established our own training and leadership programs to address these constraints. We built up our own exclusive games to engage the team members and sustain the transformation and produced videos for all the team members to introduce them to the unique roles and responsibilities and numerous other subjects. We also developed many assessments to evaluate our maturity, both within teams and roles. We piloted many initiatives to validate our thoughts, and once we gained confidence, we rolled this out as an institutionalized step.
We often had several design sprints workshops for a few days to aid us to work out this unique problem.
So look as constraints in the system as a boon for all. Learn to work with constraints and take it as a challenge to bring innovation.
George Brandt said correctly:
"Don't over-water your plants and don't over-resource your innovation. If you need innovation, put people in a box with limited resources and a tight deadline. The real innovators will thrive on the challenge and find surprising, new and perhaps revolutionary ways out of the box."
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