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!  


Line Segment Shutdown

Line Segment Shutdown

When making any significant change to a team or organization, deciding whether to take a big bang or incremental approach is important.  Both of these approaches–and hybrids in between–can work.  Big bang and incremental approaches mark the two ends of a continuum of how organizations make a change.  The decision is almost never straightforward and organizations often struggle with how they should approach change.  The decision process begins by defining big bang and incremental implementation approaches in between the two ends so they can be compared. (more…)

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Software Process and Measurement Cast 381 features our essay on Agile adoption.  Words are important. They can rally people to your banner or create barriers. Every word communicates information and intent. There has been a significant amount of energy spent discussing whether the phrase ‘Agile transformation’ delivers the right message. There is a suggestion that ‘adoption’ is a better term. We shall see!

We will also have an entry from Gene Hughson’s Form Follows Function Blog. Gene will discuss his blog entry, Seductive Myths of Greenfield Development. Gene wrote “How often do we, or those around us, long for a chance to do things “from scratch”. The idea being, without the constraints of “legacy” code, we could do things “right”. While it’s a nice idea, it has no basis in reality.” The discussion built from there!

And a visit from the Software Sensei, Kim Pries!  In the essay, Kim ruminates on the gender gap in computer science education leading to a gender gap in the industry. (more…)