Leadership


There are four leadership concepts that can double the chances that your agile transformation will be effective. They are:

  1.   Behavior – The values you exhibit through behavior matter more than those you only espouse in words.
  2.    Goal – Goals define where the transformation is going.  
  1.    Self-Awareness – Agile leaders must be self-aware. Self-awareness is having a clear perception of your personality, including strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions. Building on the understanding of self allows a leader to understand other people. Self-awareness is a first step for leaders to put their own baggage aside and to support others.  Change in the workplace is difficult. Being good at conflict management and exposing issues is important for leadership when leading change, but if a leader not good at understanding his or her own cognitive and emotional biases it will be difficult for the wannabe leader to connect with those around him or her and for others to follow. The linkage between self-awareness and transformational leadership is not merely pop psychology.  In recent years the academic literature has empirically established the relationship between self-awareness and transformational leadership.

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There are four leadership concepts that can double the chances that your agile transformation will be effective! These four concepts are not new, but they require a degree of passion and constancy of purpose that are often missing.  The constancy of purpose was the first point in W. Edward Deming’s 14 points for management (Out of The Crisis – 1982 MIT Press) that has rewritten management and leadership philosophy across the globe. Deming’s philosophies form the bedrock for the Agile and lean revolution in which we are currently engulfed, so we ignore Deming at our own peril.  Agile delivers great benefits, but those benefits require leadership and vision to provide motivation and constancy of purpose. The first two of the four cornerstones that define agile leadership that delivers are: (more…)

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SPaMCAST 457 features our essay on cognitive biases and their impact on decision making.  If you doubt the impact of biases on decision making, read chapter five of The Science of Successful Organizational Change (current Re-read Saturday Book) and listen to this week’s podcast!

Our second column this week is from Jon M Quigley (The Alpha and Omega of Product Development), Jon continues his theme of learning organizations with penetrating insight on how a learning organization evolves.

Kim Pries (The Software Sensei) anchors the cast this week with a strong argument that if you want to improve the software you are delivering begin by hiring the right people!

We also have a promo for 2017 Agile Leadership Summit:

Mark your calendar for an entirely new class of business conference. More “business theater” than a conference, the 2017 Agile Leadership Summit (September 22nd in Washington, DC) is sponsored by AgileCxO (agilecxo.org). It features an integrated mix of six vignettes on Agile leadership, two fantastic industry keynotes, and onstage jazz musicians who are demonstrating agility, iteration, and excellence throughout. Learn more at http://agilecxo.org.

Re-Read Saturday News

This week Steven dives into Chapter 6 of Paul Gibbons’ book The Science of Successful Organizational Change.   There are a lot of techniques that I see used on a daily basis that are based on pop psychology. Confronting the true believers is often a lot like jousting at windmills. 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…)

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SPaMCAST 456 features our interview with Jeff Dalton.  Jeff makes his fifth appearance as an interviewee. Jeff discussed leadership and whether leadership is more or less important in the Agile, dynamic world we find ourselves inhabiting.  

Jeff Dalton is President of Broadsword, a Process Innovation firm, and Chief Evangelist at AgileCxO.org, an Agile Leadership Research and Development center that develops models for high-performing agile teams.  Jeff is the principal author of “A Guide to Scrum and CMMI,” published by the CMMI Institute, and is a SCAMPI Lead Appraiser and Certified Agile Leadership Consultant that specializes in software product development, self-organizing teams, and performance modeling.  

Jeff’s previous appearances on the Software Process and Measurement Cast include

SPaMCAST 433 – Jeff Dalton, Holacracy is the Future

SPaMCAST 366 – Jeff Dalton, 12 Attributes of Great and Agile Organizations

SPaMCAST 296 – Jeff Dalton, CMMI, Agile, Resiliency

SPaMCAST 176 – Jeff Dalton, CMMI, Scrum and Agile

We also have a promo for 2017 Agile Leadership Summit:

Mark your calendar for an entirely new class of business conference. More “business theater” than a conference, the 2017 Agile Leadership Summit (September 22nd in Washington, DC) is sponsored by AgileCxO (agilecxo.org). It features an integrated mix of six vignettes on Agile leadership, two fantastic industry keynotes, and onstage jazz musicians who are demonstrating agility, iteration, and excellence throughout. Learn more at http://agilecxo.org.

Re-Read Saturday News

This week Steven dives into Chapter 5 of Paul Gibbons’ book The Science of Successful Organizational Change.  Cognitive biases are a topic that the Software Process and Measurement Blog has explored multiple times.  Cognitive biases are important decision-making tools.  Gibbons’ words have helped to crystallize our thinking on cognitive biases and logical fallacies in this chapter.   Remember to use the link in the essay to buy a copy of the book to support the author, the podcast, and the blog!    (more…)

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!  

 

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…)

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