Power cables are an important part of laptop usage . . . I am glad that Amazon has great delivery options.  A reprint while I charge my laptop!

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 that make it difficult to 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.

While values are important, a better approach for a leader is to focus on behaviors.  Michael Fester in his interview in the Corner Office column in the New York Times of August 6th stated, “Values are ambiguous, behaviors are explicit.”  Define the culture change in terms of how you want people to behave.  How an individual behaves is a direct representation of their interpretation of the values they hold. Most process changes or organizational changes are evidenced by how people behave. Leaders must clearly identify how they want people to behave as a result of any change. The same leaders must act in a manner that supports the change (they need to walk the talk).  Leaders have the further burden of holding others to account for how they behave when it conflicts with how the behaviors needed to support the change.  An organization that wants to promote the value of empowerment must identify the behaviors that define empowerment, execute those behaviors, hold everyone accountable, and measure the results.

Values are the focus of many changes journey. Lofty goals are set for values such as empowerment without a linkage to behaviors.  The lack of linkage to behaviors often leads to failed change efforts.  In the end, leaders must understand that action speaks louder than words. A leader needs to stop talking about values and rather talk about how they want the organization to behave.  Behaviors are a more accurate representation of the values being promoted.

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SPaMCAST 551 features our interview with Michael (Mike) Lynn.  Mike and I talked about leadership and agile. Leadership is important any time two or more people get together to pursue a goal. Mike shares his expertise, experience, and wisdom to help shine a light on the relationship between agile and leadership.   (more…)

Book Cover

 

This week we re-read Chapter 7 of Thinking, Fast and Slow,  A Machine for Jumping to Conclusions.  Logistics note: every time I think I can get to a two chapters a week cadence with this book, I find that hit a chapter that I really think is full of ideas that will be useful for thinking about how people behave and how change can be facilitated and feel that I need to spend more time with it. Maybe next week!   (more…)

Being late is not an option!

In Quality: Fit For Purpose, we wrote that there are four major categories of quality: delivered defects, fit for purpose, cost, and timing. Several readers wrote to me directly to point out that all of these categories were interrelated (the word covariant was even used). In addition to the covariance comments, they pointed out that cost and timing are often viewed as capricious. I would like to point out that as soon as a team or leader accepts the work, says “yes” it doesn’t matter if the agreed-upon cost and timing is stone cold crazy.  I like the saying, “you bought it, you own it.” All customers measure quality based on their needs and what they think has been agreed upon. (more…)

 

Fit for purpose?

A discussion of quality and how it is defined always seems to engender a passionate discussion. There are several seemingly easy definitions that are often quoted. I heard a product manager at a conference define quality as a product that is good enough that customers will consistently buy it (the product). The definition sounded a bit cavalier to me but it does have a bit of simplistic charm. Boiling down a number of definitions of quality exposes four common attributes. Quality is partly about: (more…)

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SPaMCAST 550 features our essay titled, Intertwining Conway’s Law And Agile. Conway’s Law trains a spotlight on how an organization’s structure impacts the product they ship. The “Law” states that the structure of a software product will mimic the structure of the organization that produces the software.  It can (and has) been said that you are shipping the “org structure.” How you are structured therefore is going to impact just how much agile you can achieve.

We also visit the QA Corner with Jeremy Berriault.  Jeremy discusses the differences between test engineers and testers. We also tackle whether every person with the word test in their title should have the ability to code or script. Jeremy’s LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeremy-berriault-mba/

I know this is not the show I promoted last week but my guest, Mike Lynn,  is out of pocket this week and wanted to around when the show went live. Not only am I agile, but I am also flexible therefore we are rearranging the lineup!   (more…)

Think About It!

 

I am celebrating my birthday this weekend instead of working on the re-read of  Thinking, Fast and Slow.  We will be back next week, so in the interim, I decided to reprise and revise an entry from 2014.  I hope you will enjoy and reflect on the piece!

Teams are an important concept in most IT organizations, regardless of their development philosophy. Philosophies like Agile may put more emphasis on teams, but even in organizations that do not embrace Agile philosophies, teams are important. Dan Ariely in his Ted Talk, “What Makes Us Feel Good About Our Work” suggests that overly self-interested, cynical behavior can negatively impact organizations by reducing their ability to communicate and innovate. The same problem can occur, albeit on a small scale, at the team level. In a recent presentation, a fellow Agile coach described a team engaged in overly self-interested behavior. He described a scenario in an organization that cuts the bottom 10% of all groups annually and stated vision that IT should maximize the value it deliverers to its customers. After losing a popular team member the previous year, the team had decided to make sure that his replacement was given the worst assignments in order to ensure he stayed on the low end of the performance scale in the coming year. Their goal was to ensure that the core team stayed intact during the next review cycle. In their mind, keeping the core team together ensured that they would deliver more value to their internal customers. The behavior of the team attempted to circumvent the idea that adding new and more highly qualified personnel would lead to improved performance. Viewed from the point of view of organizational policy, the whole team was acting in an overly self-interested behavior manner, but from the point of view of core team they are acting rationally and within their interpretation of the rules as seen through IT’s vision of value delivery. The team did not believe that their behavior was at odds with the behavior the organization wanted to incent. (more…)