- retiring Oracle data warehouse licenses / servers,
- retiring disk space / hardware,
- and saving CPU time with new hardware
The Real Agility Program is an Enterprise Agile change program to help organizations develop high-performance teams, deliver amazing products, dramatically improve time to market and quality, and create work environments that are awesome for employees.
This article is a written summary of the Executive Briefing presentation available upon request from the Real Agility Program web site. If you obtain the executive briefing, you can follow along with the article below and use it to present Real Agility to your enterprise stakeholders.
At Berteig Consulting we have been working for 10 years to learn how to help organizations transform people, process and culture. The problem is simple to state: there is a huge amount of opportunity waste and process waste in most normal enterprise-scale organizations. If you have more than a couple hundred people in your organization, this almost certainly affects you.
We like to call this problem “the Bureaucratic Beast”. The Bureaucratic Beast is a self-serving monster that seems to grow and grow and grow. As it grows, this Beast makes it progressively more difficult for business leaders to innovate, respond to changes in the market, satisfy existing customers, and retain great employees.
Real Agility, a system to tame the Bureaucratic Beast, comes from our experience working with numerous enterprise Agile adoptions. This experience, in turn, rests on the shoulders of giants like John Kotter (“Leading Change”), Edgar Schein (“The Corporate Culture Survival Guide”), Jim Collins (“Good to Great” and “Built to Last”), Mary Poppendieck (“Lean Software Development”) Jon Katzenbach (“The Wisdom of Teams”) and Frederick Brooks (“The Mythical Man-Month”). Real Agility is designed to tame all the behaviours of the Bureaucratic Beast: inefficiency, dis-engaged staff, poor quality and slow time-to-market.
Studies have proven that Agile methods work in IT. In 2012, the Standish Group observed that 42% of Agile projects succeed vs. just 14% of projects done with traditional “Bureaucratic Beast” methods. Agile and associated techniques aren’t just for IT. There is growing use of these same techniques in non-technoogy environments such as marketing, operations, sales, education, healthcare, and even heavy industry like mining.
Real Agility Basics: Agile + Lean
Real Agility is a combination of Agile and Lean; both systems used harmoniously throughout an enterprise. Real Agility affects delivery processes by taking long-term goals and dividing them into short cycles of work that deliver valuable results rapidly while providing fast feedback on scope, quality and most importantly value. Real Agility affects management processes by finding and eliminating wasteful activities with a system view. And Real Agility affects human resources (people!) by creating “Delivery Teams” which have clear goals, are composed of multi-skilled people who self-organize, and are stable in membership over long periods of time.
There are lots of radical differences between Real Agility and traditional management (that led to the Bureaucratic Beast in the first place). Real Agility prioritizes work by value instead of critical path, encourages self-organizing instead of command-and-control management, a team focus instead of project focus, evolving requirements instead of frozen requirements, skills-based interactions instead of roles-based interaction, continuous learning instead of crisis management, and many others.
Real Agility is built on a rich Agile and Lean ecosystem of values, principles and tools. Examples include the Agile Manifesto, the “Stop the Line” practice, various retrospective techniques, methods and frameworks such as Scrum and OpenAgile, and various thinking tools compatible with the Agile – Lean ecosystem such as those developed by Edward de Bono (“Lateral Thinking”) and Genrich Altshuller (“TRIZ”).
Real Agility acknowledges that there are various approaches to Agile adoption at the enterprise level: Ad Hoc (not usually successful – Nortel tried this), Grassroots (e.g. Yahoo!), Pragmatic (SAFe and DAD fall into this category), Transformative (the best balance of speed of change and risk reduction – this is where the Real Agility Program falls), and Big-Bang (only used in situations of true desperation).
Why Choose Transformative?
One way to think about these five approaches to Agile adoption is to compare the magnitude of actual business results. This is certainly the all-important bottom line. But most businesses also consider risk (or certainty of results). Ad-Hoc approaches to Agile adoption have poor business results and a very high level of risk. Big-Bang approaches (changing a whole enterprise to Agile literally over night) often have truly stunning business results, but are also extremely high risk. Grassroots, where leaders give staff a great deal of choice about how and when to adopt Agile, is a bit better in that the risk is lower, but the business results often take quite a while to manifest themselves. Pragmatic approaches tend to be very low risk because they often accommodate the Bureaucratic Beast, but that also limits their business results to merely “good” and not great. Transformative approaches which systematically address organizational culture are just a bit riskier than Pragmatic approaches, but the business results are generally outstanding.
More specifically, Pragmatic approaches such as SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) are popular because they are designed to fit in with existing middle management structures (where the Bureaucratic Beast is most often found). As a result, there is slow incremental change that typically has to be driven top-down from leadership. Initial results are good, but modest. And the long term? These techniques haven’t been around long enough to know, but in theory it will take a long time to get to full organizational Agility. Bottom line is that Pragmatic approaches are low risk but the results are modest.
Transformative approaches such as the Real Agility Program (there are others too) are less popular because there is significantly more disruption: the Bureaucratic Beast has to be completely tamed to serve a new master: business leadership! Transformative approaches require top-to-bottom organizational and structural change. They include a change in power relationships to allow for grassroots-driven change that is empowered by servant leaders. Transformative approaches are moderate in some ways: they are systematic and they don’t require all change to be done overnight. Nevertheless, often great business results are obtained relatively quickly. There is a moderate risk that the change won’t deliver the great results, but that moderate risk is usually worth taking.
Regardless of adoption strategy (Transformative or otherwise) there are a few critical success factors. Truthfulness is the foundation because without it, it is impossible to see the whole picture including organizational culture. And love is the strongest driver of change because cultural and behavioural change requires emotional commitment on the part of everyone.
Culture change is often challenging. There are unexpected problems. Two steps forward are often followed by one step back. Some roadblocks to culture change will be surprisingly persistent. Leaders need patience and persistence… and a systematic change program.
The Real Agility Program
The Real Agility Program has four tracks or lines of action (links take you to the Real Agility Program web site):
Structurally an enterprise using Real Agility is organized into Delivery Groups. A Delivery Group is composed of one or more Delivery Teams (up to 150 people) who work together to produce business results. Key roles include a Business leader, a People leader and a Technology leader all of whom become Real Agility Coaches and take the place of traditional functional management. As well, coordination across multiple Delivery Teams within a Delivery Group is done using an organized list of “Value Drivers” maintained by the Business leader and a supporting Business Leadership Group. Cross-team support is handled by a People and Technology Support Group co-led by the People and Technology leaders. Depending on need there may also be a number of communities of practice for Delivery Team members to help spread learning.
At an organizational or enterprise level, the Leadership Team includes top executives from business, finance, technology, HR, operations and any other critical parts of the organization. This Leadership Team communicates the importance of the changes that the Delivery Groups are going through. They lead by example using techniques from Real Agility to execute organizational changes. And, of course, they manage the accountability of the various Delivery Groups throughout the enterprise.
The results of using the Real Agility Program are usually exceptional. Typical results include:
Of course, these results depend on baseline measures and that key risk factors are properly managed by the Leadership Team.
Not every organization needs (or is ready for) the Real Agility Program. Your organization is likely a good candidate if three or more of the following problems are true for your organization:
Consider that list carefully and if you feel like you have enough of the above problems, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. or read more about the Real Agility Program for Enterprise Agility on the website.
Agile Advice was started in 2005. In ten years, we have published over 850 articles (an average of just about 2 per week!). Here are some collections of the ten “best” articles. I hope you enjoy looking back at (or discovering for the first time!) some of the things that have made this such a great joy for me.
Ten Most Popular Agile Advice Articles
Ten Most Commented Upon Agile Advice Articles
I also want to acknowledge that there are a number of other contributors to Agile Advice besides me (Mishkin). These contributors are all experts, all have great experiences, and all are fantastic people to know. I’m grateful for their contributions since they have all made Agile Advice a better place to browse!
Five Most Frequent Contributors (of Articles, besides Mishkin)
Plans for the Future – Five Top Ideas for Series
Lyssa Adkins, the “Agile Coaches’ Coach” has written a fantastic article sharing her feelings and perspective on SAFe. (Thanks to Gerry Kirk for bringing this article to my attention!)
As you know, dear readers, my colleague Travis and I are at SAFe Program Consultant training with Dean Leffingwell this week in London, UK. I have lots of notes even after my first day and I will write one or two articles this week giving you my impressions and highlights. I have already reviewed all the course materials including appendices, ahead of the actual training. I can say this so far: SAFe has a lot of great things in it, and overall, I think it is a fantastic example of a Pragmatic approach to Enterprise Agile Adoption. I will definitely be writing more on this idea of Ad Hoc, Pragmatic and Transformative approaches.
In a recent post, Mishkin outlined the Leadership Team component of the Real Agility Program. While the Leadership Team track focuses on developing leadership capacity for sustained transformation, The Execution track focuses on launching and developing high-performance project, product and operational teams. This track is the one that most of our clients use when they run Agile pilot programs and is a critical component of getting quick wins for the organization.
Groundbreaking works such as The Wisdom of Teams (Katzenbach & Smith), The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (Lencioni) and Drive (Pink) have served well to distill the essential requirements of high-performance teams. Scrum, Kanban, and OpenAgile are proven frameworks that optimize the value of teams and create the necessary working agreements to help teams reach that high-performance state.
The Delivery Team track of the Real Agility Program creates new, cross-functional, multi-skilled, staff-level teams of willing individuals. These teams are responsible for delivering value—business results and quality. Individuals are committed to the performance of the team and the organization. Teams develop the capacity to self-organize and focus on continuous improvement and learning. A team is usually composed of people from various roles at the delivery level. For example, and IT project team might be composed of people whose previous* roles were:
* These roles do not get carried into the new delivery team other than as a set of skills.
The track begins with establishing pre-conditions for success including executive sponsorship, availability of team members and management support. Team launch involves a series of on-the-job team development workshops designed to enable the teams to create their own set of values, working agreements and high-performance goals. Teams are guided in the creation of their initial work backlogs, defining “done”, estimation and planning and self-awareness through the use of a collaborative skills matrix. The teams are also assisted in setting up collocated team rooms and other tools to optimize communication and productivity.
Qualified coaches assist the teams to overcome common issues such as personal commitment, initial discomfort with physical colocation, communication challenges of working with new people in a new way, management interference and disruptions and appropriate allocation of authority. This assistance is delivered on a regular schedule as the team progresses through a series of steps in the Execution track process. Usually, these steps take one or two weeks each, but sometimes they take longer. A team that needs to get to a high-performance state quickly might go through the entire program in 10 or 12 weeks. In an organization where there is not the same urgency, it can take up to a year to get through the steps of the track.
The coaches for this Execution track also help management to resist and overcome the strong urge to manage the problems of the teams for them. In order to develop through the stages of team development, teams need to be effectively guided and encouraged to solve their own problems and chart their own courses towards high-performance.
The goal of the Execution track of the Real Agility Program is to help the team go through the stages of forming-storming-norming and set them up to succeed in becoming a high-performance team. Of course, to do this requires some investment of time. Although the Execution track is meant to be done as on-the-job coaching, there is a 5% to 20% level of overhead related to the Real Agility Program materials themselves.
See also the article on the Recommendations component of the Real Agility Program.
Coaches for Agile teams and organizations is a growing profession. I’ve been coaching for a long time, and I’ve used/invented/learned-about many different techniques or interventions for coaching in the context of Agile teams. I have recently started a Wiki to capture some of this information. (Originally, I was hoping to write a book, but I don’t have the time to do it on my own or even to coordinate a multi-author effort.) This is an open invitation to participate in the wiki. I won’t make it fully open (like wikipedia), instead, it will be by invitation. Connect with me on LinkedIn and mention you would like to contribute, and I will set you up with an account… and then you can go nuts If there end up being several contributors, I’ll make a block on the front page for links to contributors and/or their organizations.
Michael Badali, a good friend of mine, has asked a great question on LinkedIn: What is your Backlog for Agile Transformation?. From his question:
While I think that Band-Aid off quick is more likely to be successful than Band-Aid off slow, often Agile Coaches & Leaders are put in the position of Kaizen instead of Kaikaku. When asked for a detailed waterfall plan and schedule on how to become Agile… I generally refuse and create an Agile Transformation Backlog – a prioritized list of things that need to be done to become Agile. Please share your prioritized list of things that need to be done to be Agile.
In his book “Crossing the Chasm“, Geoffrey Moore describes the difficulty of creating a popular new product due to a conceptual “chasm” between the first people who adopt a new product and those who come later. He describes five types of people in relation to how they adopt new products:
This product adoption behavior also applies to new ideas in general, and of course, to Agile Transformation [Agile Transformation vs. Agile Adoption] in particular.
Implications of the “Chasm” Model
An organization attempting to do an Agile Transformation [Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model] should understand how to use this model to ensure long-term success. This diagram illustrates the concepts (click on it to see it full size):
First, the organization should start the transformation by finding the innovators and early adopters. These people can then be recruited to run the initial pilot projects. They will be enthusiastic and will typically adapt themselves to the new behaviors and thinking patterns required by Agility. If they are properly supported by managers, they will also be successful – at least within the bounds of a limited pilot environment. Success here will mean that the pilot projects deliver value, use feedback effectively, and the participants (team members and stakeholders) will be happy with the results.
In this stage, it is best to avoid putting people on the teams who are from the early majority, late majority or laggards groups. These people will tend to drag on the results of the pilot projects. This is a common mistake in running a pilot program and leads to discouraging results. One way to help filter between these two groups is simply to ask for volunteers for the pilot projects. Innovators and early adopters will be much more likely to volunteer for a new initiative.
After the pilot projects have shown some good results, the next step is to go the general roll-out. In this step, you are now working with the early and late majority. These people need much more substantial support for a change of this nature. They will require intensive training, and hand-holding in the form of coaching and mentoring. This hand-holding can come partially from your innovators and early adopters. Some of the participants in the pilot projects will have the desire to share their success. From these, you need to carefully select and prepare a few who will act as internal coaches. If you are a small organization or if you wish to do your transformation quickly, you will likely need to hire coaches from outside your organization as well.
The early and late majority require evidence of benefits and reassurance that risks are minimal or can be mitigated. This evidence partially comes from your pilot projects. However, this may not be sufficient. There are two other important sources of evidence for this group: the leadership team and external experts.
The leadership team must be committed to the change to agility and can demonstrate this commitment by doing their own management work as an agile team. The exact details of the agile process do not need to be identical to that of the staff teams, but it should be recognizably similar. As well, this “Agile Transformation Team” must make itself very visible during the general roll-out. This can be done with communication and by taking up visible residence in a central conference room or bullpen. As well, this Agile Transformation Team must work diligently to remove obstacles that are raised by staff teams during the general roll-out.
The second source of evidence comes from external sources. Published case studies are one valuable source. However, there is a huge value in a visible management investment in external support from recognized experts. This can be in the form of training, coaching, consulting as well as informal “lunch-and-learn” meetings, town hall meetings and the like. When engaging experts, it is imperative that the Agile Transformation Team act on their advice otherwise the early and late majority will take that as a sign of hypocrisy.
The final stage of a roll-out is to deal with the laggards. For the most part this is a do-or-die proposition for these people. Either get with the program and engage like a committed employee or leave the organization. If your organization is large enough, you will likely have observed some of these people leaving the organization in the general roll-out.
For some organizations, this transformation process can take many years. An organization with thousands of people should expect to be working on the pilot projects for at least a year, the general roll-out for at least three years. Often it will be longer. Good luck on your agile transformation effort!
Over the years working with clients, I’ve discovered that there is often confusion about what are the differences between mentoring, coaching and training. We all know that these are ways for an expert or experienced individual to help people do something more effectively. That’s the similarity. But the differences…
Mentoring is generally an informal relationship between two people. A mentor will do many of the same things as a coach or even someone who is a trainer, but there is no formal obligation on the part of either party. A mentoring relationship often develops gradually from a friendship or a professional association, intensifies as the mentor discovers he has valuable insight and experience to share, and as the person being mentored discovers his desire to learn from the mentor. The two people will at some point recognize the special nature of their relationship, but may not name it. And as life circumstances change, the relationship will gradually de-intensify. It will often turn into a friendship of peers.
In working on this article, I read a number of other articles about the differences between coaching and mentoring. All of them talk about how a coach does not provide solutions or answers. I beg to differ. Think of an athletic coach. An athletic coach definitely does not simply ask the athlete questions and help them bring out their own solutions to problems. An athletic coach helps point out problems, makes very definite suggestions, and sometimes even intervenes physically to help the athlete do the right thing. So what is coaching? The main difference is in terms of formality.
A coach is a coach from the start of the relationship with the person being coached. The person being coached has a specific goal to achieve. It can be long term or short term, but it is specific. The coach is there to help that person meet their goal. Once the goal is met, the relationship is re-evaluated.
Here are some of the ways that coaching can happen (actually, mentors do these things too):
Classroom training is the type of training we most often think of, but it is not the only kind. There is also on-the-job training and of course all sorts of e-learning methods of training. Training is very formal, should have well-defined learning objectives, and is often relatively brief as compared to coaching or mentoring.
Training can also include many of the types of interaction that are found in a coaching environment, but there is a very strong focus on the trainer being a subject matter expert. The trainer has extensive experience or knowledge in the subject that is being delivered in the training. It is expected that the participants in the training learn from the trainer – there is knowledge transfer. How this happens can be very flexible, of course, and good training is never just a speaker standing at the front of the room and lecturing for the whole time. Discussion, simulations, case studies, and other forms of interaction are critical for an effective training experience.
Some other links:
James Shore wrote a great post about the problems he is seeing with agile adoptions that start with Scrum called the Decline and Fall of Agile. Please please please (pretty please) read it before you read what I am about to write here! I agree with what James is saying 100%.
Now, let’s hear the truth:
Scrum is really really hard! Doing Scrum well is like quitting a heavy, long addiction (I think). Don’t ever make the mistake that because Scrum is simple (lack of complexity) that it is somehow therefore easy (lack of effort).
Doing Scrum properly takes:
sacrifice – sacrifice of our ways of thinking, our habits, our comfort
wisdom – wisdom to see the small improvements while struggling with the humongeous ones
and most importantly,
truthfulness – honesty to see and say the truth, integrity to act on the truth, detachment to avoid believing in what you want instead of what is real, courage to continue even when things aren’t perfect or easy
Scrum depends heavily on commitment both at the small scale of an individual committing to a small piece of work, and at the large scale of an organization committing to real deep cultural change. Without that entire spectrum of commitment, it is unlikely that adopting Scrum will be anything but the latest fad imposed by management or done stealthily by staff.
But Scrum isn’t the only “agile” method. As James points out, the engineering practices of Extreme Programming such as pair programming, test driven development, continuous integration, evolutionary design and refactoring are all critical. Do they have to be done and perfected first? No. But eventually, if you are using Scrum to build software (not everyone is), they do have to be done.
As a Certified Scrum Trainer, I have always emphasized how Scrum is hard, and how being a ScrumMaster is very very very hard. This is why my training class is three days instead of two. This is why I don’t encourage anyone to come to it, only people who will be ScrumMasters. This is why after the first day of my course, most students are actually feeling quite discouraged!!! It takes three days minimum for people to understand and process the incredible shift in mental model. And of course, even after three days, it is oh so easy to revert back to our normal thinking habits.
So what should people do? Do Scrum by the book. Yes that means putting a whole team in a single room. Yes it means that you have to really remove obstacles, and fast! Yes that means that your teams actually have to be cross functional (and not just in the weak sense of multi-skilled developers). Yes that means that it – will – take – a – long – time – to – get – it – right!!!!
And please, it is so worth getting help beyond just the training! If you think that I’m just trying to promote my own coaching services, please go check out:
They all have great coaches and I would absolutely way rather see you succeed than believe that I am just trying to promote my own business.
Someone recently said to me that I should offer individual coaching assistance to people based on Agile Work. This would be completely non-technical life/profession style coaching. It’s an interesting idea. I don’t think I’m quite ready for it, but here are a few links to coaching, life improvement, and related things.
Given the huge interest in the article by Dmitri Zimine about context switching, and despite a couple of good articles about how to determine iteration length, there has been no empirical method described, only reasoning processes. This article describes a simple method to quickly determine iteration length by experimental means.
Dmitri is only looking at one side of the cost/benefit equation. He’s laid out a very convincing argument why Sarah should not interrupt her carefully planned two week iteration, but he hasn’t even mentioned arguments for the other side: the important sale that will be lost.
Okay… I’ll bite.
I have now trained over one hundred people in my Agile Project Managmenet / ScrumMaster Certification course. I’m starting to see and hear some of the results of this training. There are a couple specific “smells” that I have become aware of.
Starting off on the right foot is just as important as it ever was. However, with Agile Work, this takes on a significantly different meaning than it does in other methods as the emphasis of what is “right” is also significantly different. This is a short guide on how to successfully launch a team using Agile Work.