Tag Archives: agile

5 Insights to Help HR Ride the Agile Wave

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In a recent scan of the e-literature on the reciprocal impact of Agile on HR, I connected some very interesting insights which I’d like to share. A set of insights that looks like ripples across the surface of a pond. Ripples that started when the Agile stone was thrown into the pond in 2001. In its simplest form, Agile is about a different way of working with each other in teams. Teams that are cross-functional, collaborative, co-located and customer-driven in their decision making. The insights provide compelling reasons why HR needs to take an active role in Agile implementations.

Insight #1

“In the most successful Agile transformations, HR is a driver of the change and a key hub that steers other departments’ success.”

(cPrime.com)

HR certainly needs to be ‘a’ driver in the change, but not ‘the’ (sole) driver. Rather they need to partner in the change. Successful Agile transformations will benefit from HR’s expertise in

  • Organizational Effectiveness
  • Learning & Development
  • Workforce Planning & Talent Management
  • Total Rewards

The driver of the change, historically IT, will need HR’s help to manage the impact to people and traditional HR processes/tools. As the change scales and starts to impact other departments in the business, HR can play a large role in ensuring the business overall stays aligned in delivering end-to-end value to customers.

Insight #2

“2016 will be the year of Agile HR… most HR teams have no clue what Agile HR means.”

(HR Trend Institute)

Agile was a hot topic for HR in 2016 as evidenced by the number of times ‘Agile HR’ has made the shortlist of topics being brainstormed for HR conferences and networks.  It was the #1 trend on the 2016 HR Trend Institute list. Its popularity is not cooling off in 2017. And yet most HR teams still don’t have a clue what ‘Agile’ means, never mind what ‘Agile HR’ means.

Insight #3

“As the world becomes more volatile, organizations need to find ways to become highly agile. HR will need to support a world where people may no longer have predefined ‘jobs’ that lock them into doing one activity.”

(HRO Today)

Agile has entered the mainstream. A necessity given the VUCA[1] world we live in.  Agile is no longer the sole domain of IT. The common refrain from all C-suite leaders these days is increased agility and nimbleness across the entire business – not just IT. The impact of capital ‘A’ Agile or small ‘a’ agile will affect HR. People will no longer have predefined jobs – People’s career paths will change. In this VUCA world, standardized career paths are no longer effective. Batch-of-one career paths will become the norm.

Insight #4

“HR’s job is not just to implement controls and standards, and drive execution—but rather to facilitate and improve organizational agility.”

(Josh Bersin)

The HR profession itself has been going through its own transformation. The HR profession has evolved from an administrative and transactional service to a strategic business stakeholder with a seat at the executive table.  The role of HR now includes a focus on organization-wide agility and global optimization of departmental efforts.

Insight #5

“Human capital issues are the #1 challenge for CEOs globally.”

(The Conference Board CEO Challenge 2016)

The Conference Board’s 2016 survey of global CEOs ranked human capital issues as the number one challenge. It has been number one for the last four years in a row. Within that challenge, there are two hot-button issues:

  1. Attracting and retaining top talent
  2. Developing next-generation leaders

The adoption of agile ways of working will change

  • How we recruit and engage
  • How we nurture and grow not only our leaders but our talent in general

In the words of Robert Ployhart, “…employees don’t just implement the strategy – they are the strategy”[2]. CEOs around the world would tend to agree.

The net of these insights is the more HR professionals understand Agile and its implications, the more effective Agile or agile initiatives and people/strategy will be.

I’d like to see HR ride the wave.

 

 

[1] VUCA is an acronym introduced by the US military to describe a state of increased Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity

[2] Ulrich, Dave, William A. Schiemann, Libby Sartain, Amy Schabacker Dufain, and Jorge Jauregui Morales. “The Reluctant HR Champion?” The Rise of HR: Wisdom from 73 Thought Leaders. Alexandria, VA: HR Certification Institute, 2015. N. pag. Print.


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How HR Can Save or Destroy Agile

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“Business engagement alone is a necessary but not sufficient condition for Agile to succeed”

It’s taken a while but now it’s well understood amongst seasoned Agile practitioners that Business engagement is necessary for successful Agile implementations. Just when we thought engaged Business owners were enough, we’re now realizing Business engagement alone is not sufficient. The impact of corporate shared services, especially Human Resources (HR), on Agile adoptions or transformations are often overlooked. In fact, Agile practitioners often bypass HR in their zeal to quickly change the way they work and the related people processes.

“Companies are running 21st century businesses with 20th century workplace practices & programs”

– Willis Towers Watson

It’s not just IT departments practicing Agile but 21st century businesses overall that are characterized by flatter organizations and an insatiable appetite for small ‘a’ agility. Agility that is pushing and breaking the envelope of current HR processes and tools. Agile individuals and teams are very vocal when it comes to calling out technical obstacles in their way. The same could be said when it comes to HR related obstacles that impact Agile individuals and teams. If we listen, here’s what we would hear:

  • “Can we team interview the candidate for attitude and fit?”
  • “I was an IT Development Manager. What’s my role now?”
  • “My manager doesn’t see half of what I do for my team. How can she possibly evaluate me?”
  • “With no opportunity for promotions in sight, how can I advance my career?”
  • “Why do we recognize individuals when we’re supposed to be focused on team success?”
  • “Charlie’s not working out. Can we as the team fire him?”

As the volume increases, how will HR and HR professionals respond?

“2016 will be the year of Agile HR … most HR teams have no clue what Agile HR means”

– HR Trend Institute

The reality is that most HR teams have no clue what Agile is, never mind how it will ultimately rock their world. Most Agile initiatives emerge from the grass-roots or are driven independently by IT functions with little to no involvement from HR. HR  sits on the sidelines and watches IT “do their thing”. There is a misconception that Agile exclusively falls under the IT domain; overlooking the fact that the core of Agile is about the people and culture – the sweet spots of the HR profession.

There are three significant change movements gaining momentum:

  1. Reinventing the way we work – whether it’s IT adopting Agile or an organization becoming more nimble.
  2. Reinventing HR – where HR is moving beyond its historical focus on basic people administration, compliance and transactions to a valued place at the executive table; ensuring context and alignment across the business to generate Customer delight.
  3. Reinventing organizations – as the level of human and organizational consciousness evolves from valuing meritocracy, accountability and innovation to valuing self-management, wholeness and evolutionary purpose. (See “Reinventing Organizations” by Frederic Laloux: http://www.reinventingorganizations.com/)

All three have the common denominator of people; an integral part along the entire timeline of each movement. As these three movements overlap – at the intersection – will be HR. So, who better to help navigate the emerging paths of each change than “the People’s people”?… otherwise known as “HR”.

An analysis of the Human Resources Professionals Association’s (HRPA) Competency Framework shown below can help guide which HR competencies will have the greatest impact (on a scale of 1 to 10) on Agile.

“How do we get HR started towards their destiny?”

If you’re an Agile team member, invite HR to start a conversation about what Agile is and how they can help you and the team.

If you’re an HR professional, here are some suggestions:

  • Learn about Agile
  • Visit with your Agile teams during sprint reviews or daily scrums
  • Talk to your friends and colleagues about their Agile experiences and challenges
  • Review in-progress HR process & tool changes through an Agile lens
  • Partner with IT and other Agile implementation stakeholders to guide the success of Agile

To help HR take the first step, here are some suggested Agile learning resources:

It’s time for HR to get off the sidelines and get in the game.  HR needs to be a “friend” to Agile, not perceived as a “foe”.

Borrowing from a Chinese proverb,

When the winds of change blow, some will build walls while others build windmills… the harnessing of your greatest natural resource, your people, into power.

Build windmills.


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How a Non-Agile Big Corporation Lost Out

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The Scenario

In a search for new vistas and growth, my husband had been scanning employment ads across the country and applied for a job he was well-suited for with a large corporation. He received two interviews by telephone and SKYPE. The new job would require us to move several provinces, leaving family, friends and a community we were attached to.

He received confirmation by telephone that the corporation wanted to hire him. We spent a few days agonizing over a decision, consulting with family and friends, praying about it, and decided my husband would accept the job. After his verbal acceptance, a contract followed a few days later, which he duly signed and sent back. He was told it had been signed at the other end and he could now announce the new job publicly.

He gave notice to his present employers, as did I mine, and we proceeded to take steps to put our house on the market, search for housing in the new city, and pack. We had begun to say good-bye.

Three days later a phone call came from the HR Department of the corporation saying they had to rescind the contract as someone “higher up” had not given approval for it.

We were stunned. There had been no hint in any part of the process that the job offer was in any way tentative or not thoroughly vetted. We had taken many steps forward, and now had to backtrack several steps.

My husband had to go, hat in hand, to his current employers to see if he could retain his job. After a painful good-bye session with my team I had to inform them that I was not leaving.

This whole experience has brought to mind the importance of what my employer, BERTEIG Inc, is attempting to do through agile training, consulting and coaching.

The “Agile Manifesto” proclaims:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.”

And, further on: “Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.

These are prime values to be lived by small and large businesses.

Admittedly, Agile was initially created for software developers, but more and more corporations and organizations are seeing the value in being agile, and are responding to this necessary change of culture in what is currently a time of deep disruption.

What If?

What if the corporation my husband was contracting with had honored the implications of “individuals and interactions over processes and tools” and “customer collaboration over contract negotiations?”

If some “higher up” had not actually given approval for this hiring, once the contract was signed at both ends (which it was), could this higher-up not have responded with more agility, more compassion, and more ethically?

What if he had acted in such a way that, even if he did not approve the contract, he acknowledged the good intentions of both sides and let it go? After all, his corporation was getting a highly-qualified, experienced employee.

What if he was transparent and acknowledged that the contract was not to his liking, and asked would my husband consider some other version of it? And then consulted directly with my husband and HR over certain changes to the contract? And made sure everyone was agreeable with the changes?

What if the “higher-up” just called my husband directly, apologizing that the contract was made without his say-so, that they were not in a position to hire him, and offered two-months salary for any damages – material and emotional – that had been incurred?

The above scenarios could have changed the situation from one of loss, to one of win-win for both sides. Agile frameworks are clearly proving to be of great benefit to employers and employees alike.

Hundreds of eager attendees take Certified Scrum Master and Certified Product Owner training from us. Many have taken our Certified Agile Leadership offering in cooperation with Agilitrix. Do the corporations they belong to welcome the changes these attendees are prepared to make? Are corporations taking steps to truly alter their culture?

The Losing End

My husband was almost employed in that organization, where hundreds of others are employed. I wonder how often their employees experience this type of trauma, since this neglectful handling of my husband’s contract is a likely sign of ongoing cultural problems within.

This rescinding of a contract was a losing situation on both ends. The corporation in question lost a highly-talented employee who would have been extremely loyal and hard-working (as was determined in the interviews). My husband lost professional credibility having to backtrack with his current employers. We lost the challenge of a new adventure.

We’re recovering, despite this having a huge emotional impact on our lives. We’ve been agile enough to say: we’re still here, we still have jobs, we can make the best of it all.

I just wish that Big Corp would get it. And soon. Before more is lost.


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How Kanban Saved Agile

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For my working definition of Kanban, please refer to my previous article 14 Things Every Agilist Should Know About Kanban (this contains links to the Kanban body of knowledge, including Essential Kanban Condensed by David J. Anderson and Andy Carmichael).

For my working definition of Agile, please refer to The Manifesto for Agile Software Development.

In reality, Kanban isn’t actually saving Agile nor is it intended to, nor is any thoughtful and responsible Kanban practitioner motivated by this agenda. What I’m really trying to convey is how human thinking about the business of professional services (including software development) has evolved since “Agile” as many of us know it was conceived around 20 or so years ago. The manifesto is the collective statement of a group of software development thought leaders that captured some of their ideas at the time about how the software industry needed to improve. Essentially, it was about the iterative and incremental delivery of high-quality software products. For 2001, this was pretty heady stuff. You could even say that it spawned a movement.

Since the publication of the manifesto in 2001, a lot of other people have had a lot of other good ideas about how the business of delivering professional services can improve. This has been well documented in well known sources too numerous to mention for the scope of this article.

Substantial contributions to the discourse have been generated by and through the LeanKanban community. The aim of Kanban is to foster environments in which knowledge workers can thrive and create innovative, valuable and viable solutions for improving the world. Kanban has three agendas: survivability (primarily but not exclusively for the business executives), service-orientation (primarily but not exclusively for managers) and sustainability (primarily but not exclusively for knowledge workers). Kanban provides pragmatic, actionable, evidence-based guidance for improving along these three agendas.

Evolutionary Theory is one of the key conceptual underpinnings of the Kanban Method, most notably the dynamic of punctuated equilibrium. Evolution is natural, perpetual and fundamental to life. Long periods of equilibrium are punctuated by relatively short periods of “transformation”—apparent total and irreversible change. An extinction event is a kind of punctuation, so too is the rapid explosion of new forms. Evolutionary theory is not only a scientifically proven body of knowledge for understanding the nature of life. It can be also applied to the way we think about ideas, methods and movements.

For example, science has more or less established that the extinction of the dinosaurs, triggered by a meteor impact and subsequent dramatic atmospheric and climate change, was in fact a key punctuation point in the evolution of birds. In other words, dinosaurs didn’t become extinct, rather they evolved into birds. That is, something along the lines of the small dinosaurs with large feathers hanging around after Armageddon learned to fly over generations in order to escape predators, find food and raise their young. Dinosaurs evolved into birds. Birds saved the dinosaurs.

There has been a lot of social media chatter and buzz lately about how Agile is dead. It is a movement that has run its course, or so the narrative goes. After all, 20 years is more or less the established pattern for the rise and fall of management fads. But too much emphasis on the rise and fall of fads can blind us to larger, broader (deeper) over-arching trends.

The agile movement historically has been about high-performing teams. More recently, market demand has lead to the profusion of “scaling” approaches and frameworks. Scaling emerged out of the reality of systemic interdependence in which most Agile teams find themselves. Most agile teams are responsible for aspects of workflows—stages of value creation—as contributors to the delivery of a service or multiple services. Agile teams capable of independently taking requests directly from and delivering directly to customers are extremely rare. For the rest, classical Agile or Scrum is not enough. The feathers just aren’t big enough. Agile teams attempting to function independently (pure Scrum) in an interdependent environment are vulnerable to the antibodies of the system, especially when such interdependencies are merely denounced as impediments to agility.

Some organizations find themselves in a state of evolutionary punctuation (the proverbial sky is falling) that can trigger rapid adaptations and the emergence of local conditions in which independent service delivery teams can thrive. Most large, established organizations seem to be more or less in a state of equilibrium. Whether real or imagined, this is what change agents have to work with. However, more often than not, the typical Agile change agent seems adamant that the sky is always falling and that everyone accepting that the sky is falling is the first step to real and meaningful change. This is not an attitude held by Agile change agents alone. This is a standard feature of traditional 20th Century change management methods, the key selling point for change management consulting.

Naturally, most self-identifying “Agilists” see themselves as change agents. Many of them find themselves in the position of change management consultants. But the motivation for change can quickly become misaligned: Change needs to happen in order for Agile to work. If you are passionate about Agile, you will seek to bring about the environmental changes that will allow for Agile to thrive. We don’t need to follow this path too far until Agile becomes an end in itself. It is understandable then that for some, Agile appears to be a dead end, or just dead.

But if there is a larger, over-arching historical process playing out, what might that be? Perhaps it has something to do with the evolution of human organization. Perhaps we are living in a period of punctuation.

 

 


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Leading to Real Agility – Introduction

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Leading an organization to Real Agility is a complex and difficult task.

Leading to Real Agility is about how leaders including executives and senior managers help their organization achieve great business results and a great corporate culture. This video introduces the topics of our next series of videos.

This is the first video in a series on Leading to Real Agility.

Leading to Real Agility

The following topics will be covered in the video series.  A new video will be posted every two weeks.

  1. Leadership Responsibilities – what must leaders do to inspire change.
  2. Communicate the Vision for Change – how leaders can craft a compelling vision for change.
  3. Lead by Example – the actions of leaders matter.
  4. Change the Organization – the primary work of leaders.
  5. Environment for Change – hindering and helping change.
  6. Real Agility Practices – how do leaders and their staff work?
  7. Choosing a Change Approach – options for changing your enterprise.
  8. Leadership and Culture – what do you need to know to change culture?
  9. Change Adoption Curve – when do people adopt change?
  10. Leadership Time Allocation – a major benefit of improvement.
  11. Handling Resistance and Laggards – leading sometimes means pushing.
  12. Choosing a Pilot Project – some projects are better than others when you’re starting out.
  13. Real Agility at Scale – if you have a big organization.
  14. Organizational Agility – having wholeness and integrity throughout.
  15. Individual Leadership Development – a leader’s personal journey.
  16. Assessing Your Organization – where are you right now?

Please subscribe to our YouTube channel to receive notifications when each new video is published!

Mishkin Berteig presents the concepts in this video series.  Mishkin has worked with leaders for over fifteen years to help them create better businesses.  Mishkin is a certified Leadership Circle Profile practitioner and a Certified Scrum Trainer.  Mishkin is co-founder of BERTEIG.  The Real Agility program includes assessment, and support for delivery teams, managers and leaders.

BESTEIG Real Agility logo

 


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Learning the Value of Transparency Through Agile

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Learning the Value of Transparency Through Agile

by Valerie Senyk

IMG_5461 (3)

I am intrigued by the principle of transparency which my employer, BERTEIG, models so beautifully.

When we have company (team) meetings, the owners practice complete transparency in regards to company finances, including profits and salaries. As we discuss various agenda items in our meetings, we are encouraged to be completely frank in order to make good team decisions. If personal issues are affecting a team member, he or she is respectfully listened to. If an employee needs time off, the need is not questioned. These are just some concrete examples of BERTEIG’s transparency.

Yet I don’t know how transparency is understood and practiced in other Agile environments or teams.

In the official Scrum website authored by Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber (www.scrumguides.org), transparency is described as one of the three “pillars” of Scrum Values:

When the values of commitment, courage, focus, openness and respect are embodied and lived by the Scrum Team, the Scrum pillars of transparency, inspection, and adaptation come to life and build trust for everyone. The Scrum Team members learn and explore those values as they work with the Scrum events, roles and artifacts.

Successful use of Scrum depends on people becoming more proficient in living these five values….The Scrum Team members have courage to do the right thing and work on tough problems….The Scrum Team and its stakeholders agree to be open about all the work and the challenges with performing the work. Scrum Team members respect each other to be capable, independent people.

From the above description, one understands that transparency exists along with other values such as commitment and courage, and that it is one of the necessary ingredients to building trust in a team.

Yet trust seems to be a deficient commodity in our times. There are so many reasons in everyday life to not trust, that trusting others becomes a challenge and perhaps even an obstacle.

The above site goes on to describe what is meant by transparency in a specific Scrum IT environment, which I believe is applicable in diverse organizations:

Significant aspects of the process must be visible to those responsible for the outcome. Transparency requires those aspects be defined by a common standard so observers share a common understanding of what is being seen.

For example:

  • Those performing the work and those accepting the work product must share a common definition of ‘Done’

Further in the same site there is a heading for “Artifact Transparency” which gets a little closer to the bone of understanding transparency’s importance:

Scrum relies on transparency. Decisions to optimize value and control risk are made based on the perceived state of the artifacts…To the extent that the artifacts are incompletely transparent, these decisions can be flawed, value may diminish and risk may increase.

The Scrum Master’s job is to work with the Scrum Team and the organization to increase the transparency of the artifacts. This work usually involves learning, convincing, and change. Transparency doesn’t occur overnight, but is a path.

 

What the above description does not include is corporate or personal transparency as practiced at BERTEIG. Transparency in an organization at the level the authors are talking about is impossible as long as a hierarchy exists whereby ascending the corporate ladder needs to be on the proven merits of things that a person has done instead of their attitude and willingness to walk a new path.

However, the above does make it clear that decisions will be sound, risk will be controlled, and value is optimized when transparency is practiced.

Overall, how do these ideas co-exist with the general Agile framework? From an article by Sameh Zeid on the Scrum Alliance website, he discusses six ways a product owner can increase transparency, then writes:

…without transparency we may not succeed in implementing Agile — and even if we can, the project can revert to command and control. Transparency implementation starts by leadership as represented by the product owner.

https://www.scrumalliance.org/community/articles/2013/june

There is a plethora of resources that one can access regarding Agile values and how to make it work. I believe transparency is a value that requires courage to begin with – courage which is facilitated by having an Agile culture.

BERTEIG is one company I know of that whole-heartedly practices transparency – – In fact, that element of “heart” may be exactly what’s needed in many organizations. It seems transparency can truly occur when there is caring between employer and employee.

How do you experience transparency, or lack of it, in your workplace? 

 


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Quotable Quotes: Leadership is the key to driving change

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Jerry Doucett 201601 white background - head - 275 square“Leadership is the key to driving change and progress.  Executives and managers of Scrum teams need to nurture the environment, let go of the “how”, allow the team to learn from mistakes, and encourage and coach the growth of the collective team knowledge and overall experience.

Understanding the dramatic impact leadership has on a transitioning team is also very critical, as a single word or direction from the executive level can single-handedly affect (either positively or negatively) the team’s future behaviours and resulting successes or failures.  And without a true environment of trust built by the leadership, team members will often shy away from taking a risk to try something new or unknown.” (By Senior Agile Coach Jerry Doucett)


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Quotable Quotes: Limit Work-In-Progress As Much As Possible!

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Jerry Doucett 201601 white background - head - 275 squareScrum team members should be allocated to as few different initiatives as realistically possible.  The more projects you are allocated to, the more task switching you may have to perform, the longer it will take to complete any one item, the thinner you will be spread and the less effective you will be.  In other words, people (and teams) should limit their work in progress as much as possible and focus on completing those things that truly matter most.  This is true for any framework, but it is particularly emphasized with Agile ones.  Note there is a slight but fundamental difference between being allocatedto a team and being dedicated to a team – that is a topic for a future article.

(By Senior Agile Coach Jerry Doucett)

*******************************************************************

Jerry is leading a series of SAFe training classes in Toronto, Ontario from September through to December 2016. See here for more details.


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Announcements, Links & Ponderables

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For 10 years, Agile Advice has been providing useful information, Agile-related announcements & entertaining content for Agile ambassadors.

But Agile Advice is just one of the many portals to the BERTEIG online network.

For your easy reference here is a list of other 5 links which may bring you to the information you are looking for.

  1. Register for Training & Learning Events 
  2. Sign Up for BERTEIG’s Loyalty Program
  3. Find out More About BERTEIG’s Corporate Experience
  4. Join the 1000+ others in the LinkedIn Worldmindware Group
  5. Visit the BERTEIG-hosted Facebook Scrum Group with 2600+ members

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Announcement: BERTEIG is launching the first course of its kind in Canada!

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The Certified Agile Leadership training is a new course. At the Orlando Scrum gathering the program was announced and shortly after, CSTs and CECs with strong leadership coaching background and formal education in this field were invited to apply to teach the class.
Michael Sahota - Profile Picture (2016)
Michael Sahota was one of these selected coaches.
The course is an acknowledgement that Agile transformation can only go so far if it is driven from the grassroots level, or without the full support of the leadership.
As a leader, they are driving a culture change in the organisation to get better results. This goes far beyond corporate mantras and motivational speeches. Participants can expext to learn the intracacies required of a leader to bring about lasting change.
The target audience is C-level executives, VPs and Senior Directors with decision making capability. The training is also for Change Agents who are catalysts in an organisation, who have the drive and willingness to make a difference.
Michael is known by the Scrum Alliance and since he has had taken formal non-Agile related Leadership training, his application was accepted making him the second global trainer to be approved after Pete Behrens (who is part of the creation committee of CAL) and another chap.
BERTEIG is honoured to be a part of this global launch of a brand new training and we look forward to the positive feedback from many more participants!
CAL1

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Four Awesome Agile Links

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Agile_Axioms

What is agile exactly? How do we practice it? What does it look like to be an agile product owner? What is an agile team?

One of the qualities I’ve come to admire the most about agile teams and agile ambassadors is this continuous state of learning which everyone agrees to be in.

It seems as though “being agile” gives us permission to sometimes know an answer and sometimes not to. It gives us permission to sometimes understand a situation and have a solution and sometimes not to. Agile methods have a built-in “Reality Check” which is so refreshing.

By openly communicating often in retrospectives and by making work and backlog visible the process is taken out of the abstract and into the concrete. Agile seems to put everyone on the same page ~ even if people are coming at agile from very different angles.

Recently I posted a question to the 2500+ members of the Facebook Scrum group, asking for good recommendations for meaningful resources.

Here are the TOP Four Responses:

  1. The Stacey Matrix

2. 9 Things Every Product Manager Should Know

3. How Agile Are You?

4. Think Purpose

I’m interested to read your comments about any of these four articles or sites. What do you agree with? What do you disagree with?

What has been your biggest challenge and greatest success with implementing agile methods in your work environment?


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Skills Matrix for Launching Teams – Presentation

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Here is the set of slides from my presentation on the use of the Skills Matrix to help launch Agile teams.  This was first presented at AgileTO in March 2016.

20160316 Agile TO Meetup – Skills Matrix [pdf]

And the video on YouTube:

 


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High-Performance Teams: Where Does Trust Fit In?

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Mobbing TeamAt a recent Agile Coach Camp I attended in June, a fellow participant said it best when he commented that as a software developer who had not really had an interest in people or relationships before, agile changed everything for him. He said Agile methods gave him a way to communicate with others, to trust them, and to understand how to work together to deliver excellent products.

What this gentleman was referring to, perhaps unknowingly, is one of the stages of team development. When an individual moves through stages of not trusting to trusting they are participating in an evolutionary process with a positive end result.

Daniela Moinau writes about this process in her article entitled, “High-performance Teams: Understanding Team Cohesiveness.”

She writes, “Once the storming stage is overcome the team is ready to establish open communications, stable positions and norms – the norming phase. Trust is finally gained, and “when the trust account is high, communication is easy, instant, and effective.” These are the first steps towards cohesiveness. Once cohesiveness is achieved, teams will move from norming to performing and subsequently to highly performing. ”

So while it may appear somewhat obvious that teams would trust one another, its not obvious to everyone. Each person carries their own unique history and their life experiences are of value. These experiences shaped who they are and what they have become. These experiences, whether pleasant or traumatic, shape a person’s ability to trust.

Agile methods to challenge teams to trust on a more profound level because of the nature of the values and principles which insist on it.

When a person, such as the software developer I mentioned in the first paragraph, overcomes his own internal patterns and learns to trust in a new way it leads to cohesiveness for him and his team. And this cohesiveness leads to high-performance.

As it turns out, trust is essential.


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Formula for Building a Successful Scrum Experience

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Under the right conditions Scrum can be a tremendous success story, but it often requires hard work to get there.  For new Scrum teams it means learning to fundamentally work very differently than they are used to, such as relying on a lot more collaboration, making and delivering on shared commitments and building a high degree of trust.  For existing Scrum teams it means constantly renewing the team commitment to each other, the cause, and to the Scrum framework.  This includes the rather painful practice of revisiting the fundamentals and ensuring any deviations from accepted processes or practices were for the right reasons and had the right results.

To have a chance at achieving high performance a new-to-Scrum team will not only need to just change their processes, but fundamentally change the culture and behaviour of the team and all of the supporting roles (that includes their leadership).  Meanwhile, a mature or well-established team should never assume they are high performance; they should always be checking (and rechecking) that they are still living the Agile values.

Needless to say this can become an extremely complex challenge!  To be absolutely clear, I’m not proposing there is a single formula or recipe that works, but I do believe certain criteria can dramatically improve your Scrum team’s chances of success.  To that end here are 10 tips (plus a bonus) that may help you focus your efforts towards building a successful Scrum team and experience.

 

1. Right Number of Team Members

Currently the Scrum Guide recommends that Scrum teams will work best with three to nine people (not including the Scrum Master and Product Owner).  Too few people on the team and you risk not having enough technical expertise and coverage of critical skills.  Too many people on the team and you may become challenged to truly collaborate effectively.  Remember, this is just a guideline and you may be successful with different numbers, you just need to be aware of the impacts and make sure the gaps are covered.

2. Appropriate Balance of Skills

Scrum teams really should be balanced and cross-functional.  Having all of the necessary skills on the team for delivering a complete solution (not roles, but skills) will encourage and support end-to-end thinking all the way from design to implementation.  This approach will result in a better solution and a superior customer experience, but it relies on whole team collaboration.  Note this does not mean individual team members need to be fully cross-functional, but what is important is that all the critical skills are represented on the team and each team member contributes their domain expertise towards the collective strength.

3. Propensity for Engineering Technical Ability

For increased chances of success, a Scrum team should leverage technology and engineering practices whenever possible.  Techniques, skills and tools that facilitate Agile approaches such as Continuous Integration, Automated Testing and Test Driven Development all make technical excellence, continuous improvement and truly being “Done” every Sprint a possible reality for a Scrum team.

4. High Team Member Allocation

Scrum team members should be allocated to as few different initiatives as realistically possible.  The more projects you are allocated to, the more task switching you may have to perform, the longer it will take to complete any one item, the thinner you will be spread and the less effective you will be.  In other words, people (and teams) should limit their work in progress as much as possible and focus on completing those things that truly matter most.  This is true for any framework, but it is particularly emphasized with Agile ones.  Note there is a slight but fundamental difference between being allocated to a team and being dedicated to a team – that is a topic for a future article.

5. Empowered and Knowledgeable Product Owner

Your Product Owner needs to be informed, available, business-savvy, knowledgeable, collaborative, and empowered to make decisions about what to build and what order to do it in.  They also need to be a strong negotiator and very capable at conducting business driven trade-offs.  In the end, a Product Owner needs to effectively communicate, convey and deliver on a clear vision to the Team and Stakeholders to ensure a useful solution is created.  Without empowerment, knowledge, and vision in a Product Owner the team will struggle.

6. Equitable Scrum Master

Having a good process is only part of the equation.  A good Scrum Master will champion and enforce that process, protect the team, encourage collaboration, highlight (escalate when necessary) and encourage the removal of obstacles, facilitate discussions, provide fair and constructive feedback, cultivate a culture of continuous improvement and learning, and work to help the team live the Agile values.

Remember that the Scrum Master has authority over the process but not over the team.  As the process champion the Scrum Master may sometimes even find themselves in a conflict between maintaining the Scrum rules and guiding the team as they discover the need to adapt practices to better align with their own needs and ways of working.  In that regard a Scrum Master should understand and embrace the servant leader role.  In the end, a Scrum Master needs to be the person that helps the team make decisions, but not the person that makes decisions for them.

7. Strong Executive Support

Leadership is the key to driving change and progress.  Executives and managers of Scrum teams need to nurture the environment, let go of the “how”, allow the team to learn from mistakes, and encourage and coach the growth of the collective team knowledge and overall experience.

Understanding the dramatic impact leadership has on a transitioning team is also very critical, as a single word or direction from the executive level can single-handedly affect (either positively or negatively) the team’s future behaviours and resulting successes or failures.  And without a true environment of trust built by the leadership, team members will often shy away from taking a risk to try something new or unknown.

8. Solid Partnership Commitment

There must be a consistent commitment and engagement from all parties in the organization towards adopting the Scrum framework, Agile methods, and thinking.  The initiative must be an open, collaborative experience and there must be complete understanding  and alignment by all parties in assuming the risks and rewards as well as sharing in the effort.  This includes not only business partners and their IT counterparts, but their leadership as well as all of the people and teams supporting an Agile initiative.

9. Reduced Team Dispersion

Co-located teams are more effective communicators and can sometimes experience increased productivity by up to 60% if situated together in the same room.  More simply stated, the greater the dispersion factor, the greater the challenge of collaboration.  Note that time zones are often considered the largest dispersion factor and can have a greater impact than geography.

Although it is strongly recommended that teams be co-located, it is not mandatory to success.  In fact, certain Agile practices have factors, tools and techniques inherent to them to help bridge some of the shortcomings of increased dispersion, such as a higher reliance on frequent collaboration and communication.  But to be clear, they do not replace the value of face-to-face conversation, they are merely a crutch to not having it.

10. Consistent Education and Coaching

To ensure consistency and a shared understanding, whole teams (including the business, IT, and their leadership of executives and managers) should receive a common skills development and education experience in proper Agile Thinking, the Scrum Framework, aligned practices and mindset training.  Coaching should then reinforce this new knowledge and encourage appropriate behaviours to turn these new practices into habits.  Indeed, learning should be a continuous cycle and endless journey towards excellence, and Scrum leverages this through frequent retrospection and continuous improvement.

11. The Right Attitude!

Mutual respect and caring are the cornerstone to the team’s success and it needs to be integral to their culture and beliefs.  Not just saying but living the belief there are no heroes or scapegoats.  Everyone, including the business, executives, team members and leadership must collaborate and share in celebrating the successes as well as accepting responsibility for setbacks and failures.

Everyone must have the right attitude and commit to not only DOING as needed by attending the ceremonies or following the process and practices but truly wanting to BE part of the solution by willingly changing the way they think, work and collaborate.

 

At the end of the day your goal should not be to become Agile or Scrum savvy.  Instead your real goals and outcomes should align with achieving the key benefits of Agility, and with what Scrum offers.  These should include (but are not limited to) increased customer satisfaction, faster delivery of value, improved feedback loops, adopting a continuous improvement mindset, improved employee morale and increased employee retention.  Scrum is just one of the many tools or approaches you may choose to get there, but it is certainly an important one to consider if these outcomes align with your goals.

For Scrum to be truly successful at your organization, you must dramatically transform your very culture and business approach.  To be clear, this is not easy to do but the rewards are well worth the effort.  By embracing such a transformation, the adopted change in behaviour, beliefs and practices should result in a more successful Scrum experience and a higher degree of satisfaction for both your customers and employees.

Can you think of other success factors that might help your Scrum team succeed?  There are lots, so feel free to reach out and share them below.

 

Thanks to Photographer: Chris Potter for this awesome photo.

Sourced from stockmonkeys.com | Flickr Portfolio


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Are Agile Teams Just More Comfortable Being Uncomfortable?

Learn more about transforming people, process and culture with the Real Agility Program

Stretch Goals - failure can be disasterous

Lately I’ve been appreciating the Top 100 Agile Websites compiled by Oikosofy.

Just out of curiosity, I thought I’d check out Number 100, just to see who was the lucky guy who wasn’t listed as number 101.

What I found was a delightfully surprising and pleasantly entertaining blog by a coach named Yves Hanoulle. One article which particularly caught my attention is called “Getting out of your comfort zone.”

8 key points for coaches creating safety for their teams
  1. Getting out of your comfort zone is important for personal improvement  
  2. When you do experiements as a coach to learn people about this, people might see things differently, because of their earlier experiences.  
  3. Give people a safe environment so they can learn to push their boundaries.  
  4. People need to feel safe to move out of their comfort zone.  
  5. The Safety Zone is bigger then Comfort Zone.
  6.  Stepping out of your Comfort zone increases the size of Safety Zone.
  7.  Staying to long in your Comfort Zone decreases your safe zone.
  8. Safety zone is perceived.

His reflections after a training seminar on the topic really made a lot of sense to me.

Basically, an agile team is striving to create a Safe Zone for themselves and their team-mates so people will take risks and move out of their comfort zone. In order to do this, they are or become really comfortable with that uneasy state of being uncomfortable.

It’s as though it is no longer uncomfortable to be uncomfortable.

When an agile team moves out of its Comfort Zone together and everyone feels safe and supported, the end result is the type of team described in the Agile Manifesto. It’s the type of team companies really get excited about. It’s the type of team people love to work with and in doing so they may find they love their work more than ever.


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