A significant amount of transformation and leadership literature centers on establishing or changing the culture centered on values. Instant problem.  According to the Harvard Business Review online article on organizational culture (May 2013)  “there is little consensus on what organizational culture actually is.” There are two common threads in the definition of organizational culture; definitions that center on value, and definitions that center on behaviors. Many change leaders espouse value-centric definitions.  This decision causes them to focus their efforts on changing values in order to change the culture. These change programs are immediately starting in a difficult position. Values are amorphous.  Every individual interprets specific values differently.  For example, I asked several friends to define creativity.  Each person had a different definition.  Some of the differences were more than mere nuances.  Our individual interpretations would make the outcome of embracing the value of creativity unpredictable.  The variability of how we interpret values make it difficult create a common vision and then elicit a common outcome. Diversity makes this issue even more problematic.   As someone schooled in the need for measurement and feedback, the lack of a clear definition makes monitoring and measuring a change in the values at best difficult and often outside of the expertise of most internal measurement groups.  Without a clear definition and without a mechanism for monitoring change, talking about values is merely window dressing. (more…)

Moving Toward The Light!

The fact that leadership is critical in an Agile transformation should not be too shocking. As noted in Leadership: A Cycle to Deliver Transformation, leadership is a critical component to attaining any goal.   Leadership provides a focus for an organization in transition.  The phrase “providing a focus” doesn’t refer to a single simple skill, but requires that leaders guide organizations in many ways, all of which are important to facilitate change.  In order to generate focus, leadership provides:

  1. Vision – Leaders provide a picture or manifestation of the future which helps the organization understand why they are being asked to change and the rough parameters of the of the future state.  Developing a tangible understanding of the destination is very useful in overcoming resistance. Tony Manno, Premios Group, when asked about the importance of leadership quoted the following definition of a leader to drive his point home: “An effective leader is a person who creates an inspiring vision of the future.  They motivate and inspire people to engage with that vision.”
  2. Adaptive management – Leaders use adaptive management to reduce uncertainty.  Adaptive management uses an iterative process of decision making to break down the events that create uncertainty.  Adaptive management is most effective for addressing change when leaders take a systems perspective and leverage input from the whole system to guide decisions. A leader leveraging adaptive management breaks the ground so that transformation can follow.  Andrew Schreiber, HHMI, described the role of leaders as “master navigators or way finders for the teams.”
  3. Systems/Lean Management – Leaders own the organization’s internal eco-system and workflows.  Transformation requires changing the environment in which work gets done.  Leaders own the creation of an environment in which respect for people and their time exists.  This includes simple items such as demanding that people are on time for meetings or ensuring that decision making is pushed down and individuals are empowered to make decisions inside the workflow.  Steve Woodward, Cloud Solutions, described the leader’s role as including “assuring right amounts of governance is in place while still embracing the agile manifesto.”

Leadership exists in many places and layers in an organization.  The leader enables change by getting everyone on the same page and making sure the organization’s eco-system isn’t acting like an antibody, actively working to reject the change. Michael King of Halfaker and Associates (interviewed on SPaMCAST 455) stated: “an Agile organization without strong leadership can spin their wheels without clarifying of focus/backlog.” For an organization to have any chance of transforming with Agile, senior and executive leaders must step to the forefront and make stuff happen!  


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SPaMCAST 455 features our interview with Michael King.  We talked about Michael’s approach to Agile, process improvement and the CMMI at Halfaker and Associates.  Michael provides a glimpse into making a change in the real world.  Mr. King delivers more than just theory.  One word describes the interview – insightful.

Michael’s Bio:

Michael King serves as Chief Technology Officer at Halfaker and Associates (www.halfaker.com), leading customer solution architecture, internal IT operations, business process architecture, and quality management activities.  Michael has 14 years of systems engineering, project management, and process design experience within the Federal contracting industry.  He has previously served as Halfaker’s Chief Operating Officer.  Prior to Halfaker, Michael worked within Lockheed Martin’s Critical Infrastructure Protection group, providing system engineering support related to identity management, physical security, and cyber security.  Michael holds a Bachelors in Computer Engineering from the University of Virginia, a Masters in Information Systems and Technology from Johns Hopkins, and several professional certifications (PMP, PMI-ACP, SAFe SA).  Michael King writes about organization design, Agile, and process management at https://designinggreatorganizations.com.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/mikehking

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mikehking/D

Re-Read Saturday News

This week Steven dives into Chapter 3 of Paul Gibbons’ book The Science of Successful Organizational Change.  This chapter has provided me several sleepless nights considering the difference between complicated and complex systems.  Understanding the difference is important making change happen, work, and stick!  Remember to use the link in the essay to buy a copy of the book to support the author, the podcast, and the blog!  

This week and previous installments: (more…)

The Science of Successful Organizational Change

The Science of Successful Organizational Change


This week Steven dives into Chapter 3 of Paul Gibbons’ book The Science of Successful Organizational Change.  This chapter has provided me several sleepless nights considering the difference complicated and complex systems.  Understanding the difference is important making change happen, stick and work!  Remember to use the link in the essay to buy a copy of the book to support the author, the podcast, and the blog!   – Tom


Week 6 —

Welcome to week-6 of the re-read of Paul Gibbons book “The Science of Successful Organizational Change” (get your copy).  We tackle the C and A in VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity) this week.

Chapter 4 – Decision Making in Complex and Ambiguous Environments

Complex environments require different decision-making tools than complicated environments.

Gibbons references David Snowden (Welsh scholar) classification of systems … (more…)

From the Princess Bride

Leadership is a critical requirement to attain any significant goal.  The transmission mechanism from leadership to action (and back again) can be distilled into a finite set of actions.  These actions represent a cycle.  Good leaders hit every step in this cycle.  Good leaders: (more…)

Leadership provides vision and the motivation needed to push the boundaries, change direction and challenge the status quo.  Each leader takes a different path; therefore, there is a myriad of leadership (and leadership’s alter ego: management) styles, however, there are three leadership archetypes typically seen in Agile teams.  They are: (more…)

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SPaMCAST 454 features three columns!  The first is our essay and checklists on iteration planning. Aristotle stated that “well begun is half done.”  While we might argue the half part, planning is required to be well begun and that is important on any measurement scale.

Jeremy Berriault delivers a new entry in the  QA Corner.  In this installment of the QA Corner, we discuss the function of a QA Lead. Check out Jeremy’s blog at the QA Corner!

Gene Hughson anchors the cast with his Form Follows Function blog to the SPaMCAST to discuss the entry,  Trash or Treasure – What’s Your Legacy? Gene begins with the contentious topic of legacy systems.

Re-Read Saturday News

We continue re-reading The Science of Successful Organizational Change.  Steven Adams is leading this re-read.  In this week’s entry, we cover the introduction to Part 2 and chapter 3.  Gibbon’s takes us down the path of strategy and uncertainty. Remember to buy your copy.   

This week and previous installments:

Week 1: Game Plan

Week 2: Introduction   

Week 3: Failed Change

Week 4:  Introduction to Part 1 and Fragility to Change-Agility

Week 5: Governance and the Psychology of Risk


A Call To Action (more…)