Posted by Simon Baker
In the last Agile Practitioners Forum there was a debate about why there is a need for organisational change when using agile methods. At least 2 people were arguing that there isn't a need to bring about change outside the project. The majority, however, were saying that there comes a time when the wider organisation becomes a constraint and inhibits a project team's ability to improve further and achieve higher levels of quality and throughput. A bugbear of mine, and I've been harping on about it again and again and again , is how many organisations restrict adaptation to how they practice agile methods. Some practices are used and not others, principles are ignored or compromised, values are not understood and little is done to establish an ecosystem in which project success can be achieved. They refuse to entertain the idea that the organisation needs to adapt too . As George Dinwiddie says: Organisations want the benefits of Agile, but they don't want to give up the cubes and solo development work. They don't trust the team to self-organise and create valuable software, so they stick with organisational frameworks that prevent the very things they fear won't happen. One of Brian Marick 's themes about agility is that it's about acting to change the context more than it is about adapting to suit the context . Inevitably there needs to be some local adaptation because agility is in constant interplay with its environment. But organisations need to empower the people doing the work to ask themselves "what should I change about my environment that would enable me to work better?" and then take the necessary actions to bring about that change. When an organisation is trying to achieve agility, restricting change to just the project imposes a glass ceiling on a team's ability to get better. This is effectively capping human potential and that can't be good for the organisation going forward.Comments: 2
Posted by Simon Baker
Anyone who reads this blog knows that I've been harping on about the need for traditional organisations to change to better accommodate agile teams and enable their projects to be successful. Well, here's a great 30-minute interview with Joe Little and Michael Spayd about Agile and organisational change .
Posted by Simon Baker
As an organisation matures it develops a way of working that is typically borne out of progressive trial and error. In a young organisation, change occurs often and changes are often big. But as time progresses changes become smaller and smaller and less frequent until eventually the organisation settles into a steady state. Of course, change for change's sake is a bad thing. But without continued effort to undertake change that specifically brings about improvement, and enables the organisation to be responsive, innovative and competitive in a rapidly changing business world, the steady state becomes a lacklustre default. Sure it works. People are working and managers are managing. There's not really a 'buzz' anymore and it's unlikely to produce 'eureka moments' resulting in product breakthroughs that will take the market by storm. But it's plodding along nicely, shareholders seem reasonably happy, people are in their comfort zone and they don't see anything wrong. In a more critical light, I might say that the default state is stale and fails to push the boundaries. Managers are often leading the inevitable. They spend their time managing plans and events that, in all likelihood, are going to happen anyway. There's little invention and practically no investment in continuous improvement . If problems are identified - "what we have here is a communication problem" - they're simply talked about. Action is seldom taken to identify and deal with the root cause . It's simply enough to label the problem, perhaps make some superficial changes to address some of the symptoms, and then basically ignore it, hoping it will go away. It doesn't go away and so people learn to live with it, accepting it as 'just the way it is'. What happens when someone realises the market is leaving the organisation behind, and fast? Executives become nervous and request more effort, managers become pushy and people become stretched. Processes that worked in the default state now either hold things up or cause failure. And all the while the pressure is building. The default state doesn't cater for innovation and responsiveness. It isn't geared to take the organisation to a new level of success. Real change is required. A tweak to the organisation chart won't cut it. Extraordinary results require extraordinary ideas from extraordinary people using extraordinary processes. Everyone sees that the company is broken and that people are miserable, but nobody has the courage on their own to start changing things. Change is seen as too painful and too disruptive. It's going to get painful anyway whether change is attempted or not. Pain is inevitable. Misery is a choice. And change doesn't have to be disruptive. Don't be too busy chopping wood to sharpen the axe. Set things up for success. Create a sense of urgency. Focus on achieving behavioural change and be sensitive. Communicate intent clearly, openly and up-front to neutralise uncertainty and anxiety. Maintain transparency. In parallel, start working with people to define a shared vision and strategy while empowering more people to take action to bring about the changes they feel are required to improve how they work. Look for quick wins. Success is addictive and motivating. Build momentum. Share experiences and knowledge. Initiate a culture of continuous inspection and adaptation and improvement.Read more...
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