Sunday, February 28, 2016

Five Frictions to Stifle Business Agility

Being agile needs to have a totally different mindset and multidimensional perspectives.

 Many organizations are doing agile, and very few organizations are being agile. Agile is the mindset, the philosophy, and the methodology to not only manage software but to run today’s businesses. The point is how do you make radical management transformation from a traditional setting to agile; what types of frictions do you experience with Agile? And how can you overcome the barriers, build TRUST to improving the overall business agility?




Lack of agile transformation leadership: The key difference is a transformation from "command and control" to "digital leadership” -trustful, innovative, holistic, empathetic, and solution-driven. Being agile is the mindset, which is shaped by the top leadership. In the workplace, trust means trusted to deliver. To begin establishing trust especially with a newly adopted methodology going through a shift in how work is approached. And building two-way-both top down and bottom up trust relation is crucial to succeeding. Agile approaches require evolution within organizations, especially in regards to governance. Managers will need to relinquish control. If you were an Agilist, you know that the primary success factors will not be related to agile. Leadership effectiveness, team maturity, and team member competency are all important than the specific process/approach. It must be determined if the current leadership and team have the competency for the proposed effort/project and someone with technical aptitude must accept responsibility for that evaluation. Then, being agile becomes a reachable journey even with some challenges on the way.


Stifled business culture: Consider the culture and how it needs to change organization-wide. People are more influenced by their environment than environments by people. Being agile is a transformation which needs something of a quite bigger and most likely organization level culture shift. Remember Deming's advice: 95% of individual problems can be boiled down to systemic issues. So, if you're going to pilot a cultural shift, and you want to use it to change the culture from something mechanistic to something more organic, the last thing you should do is to treat people like replaceable parts. The key to agile is not to just implement agile practices, but to actually BE agile. Implementing agile with people who still subscribe to old practices will not likely lead to success. If the team is dysfunctional, you need to see why the trust is not there and address that. Sometimes managers have unrealistic expectations and in rare occasions the team is wrong. It is important to help EVERYONE makes the transition to adopting the agile mindset. When the team and management are all on the same page, you are more likely to succeed.


Narrow perception about Agile: Agile is often narrowly viewed as 'something for technology,' rather than as something to the business. Agility won't fix what being call "technical problems." It is a way to organize work. You still have to be good at doing the work. It takes more engineering and management discipline, not less. If problems happen, why not take some time to look into the root cause of the technical problems and late deliveries.If doing Agile is more about managing a software project which is still a business initiative to achieve the corporate goals, and then being Agile is to follow a set of agile principles to run a business with customer centricity, and business agility is the upper level characteristic of organization maturity.


Focus on tools and processes, rather than people: Tools and processes are definitely going to be add on, in being agile, but they are not mandated to become agile. Agile is about people, not tools and processes, being agile means respectful to each other, open to others’ views, being a good listener, being collaborative. In practice: on one hand, organizations focusing on artifacts, metrics, ceremonies without ever understanding the why from the inside, will not get far. On the other hand, evangelists of agile who lose touch with business, do agile for its own sake, will also fail to achieve the business expecation. Agile is an open mindset, where you are open to fail and learn from mistakes, start by offering training to the management. They need to see what is asked of them to provide the right environment for an Agile way of working.


Lack of trust relationship between management and team members: Often the rationale for agile transformation is not well understood or articulated. People do not come to work with the intention to do a bad job, to make life difficult for coworkers. Agile provides the guidelines to empower people to work more creatively and proactively, to make iterative communication, cross-functional collaboration, and continuous improvement and delivery. People should ride on the excitement that agile has generated in the management team and suggest that in the spirit of agile, would they at least be willing to try an experiment and then reflect and adapt based on the outcome, and make the journey more adventurous and advance. To overcome mistrust, you need to see why the trust is not there and address that. Sometimes managers have unrealistic expectations and in rare occasions the team is wrong, if you can figure out the root cause of the actual problem, it’s easy to communicate with actual data points. The only way to gain trust, particularly in a difficult environment is through successful delivery, you have to prove it.


Doing Agile is just a first step; being agile needs to have a totally different mindset, and multidimensional perspectives. Move out of your regular communication patterns since you should work close together with people in all positions: step out of your comfort zone since agile encourages creativity and improvement; and connect the dot between agile and many other success factors of the business, such as flexibility, trust, accountability, quality, innovation, prioritization, and maturity, etc.



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