Enterprise Agile or Agile Enterprise?

There is a huge world of difference between Enterprise Agile and Agile Enterprise. They are both valuable and accomplish very different things.

Enterprise Agile

Enterprise Agile addresses the question – “How can we use elements of Agile to improve typical corporate environments while staying within the existing paradigm of traditional (Tayloristic) management. This is Orange level in Laloux Culture model.

In the diagram we see that traditional management practices are in part replace by Agile ones. In this case we are adopting Agile practices and may well have small pockets of Agile culture as well. SAFe is a good example of practice adoption. We typically see a very structured approach to orchestrate activities that are all about top-down steering and control.

Enterprise Agile is about adopting Agile practices

 

Scaling Agile

The industry term Scaling Agile is about how can we scale Agile practices to support the Enterprise. It is essentially Enterprise Agile that is focused on adoption in large-scale environments. In contrast, Agile as a mindset or culture is about a way of being and does not require specific practices to scale.

Agile Enterprise

With the Agile Enterprise the we are evolving an organization that is very adaptable and resilient to change. Anti-fragile is a good description for this type of organization.

Agile Enterprise Is Resilient

In the Laxoux Culture model this would be represented by Green or perhaps even Teal levels.

In an Agile enterprise, there is leadership at all levels. The people who are closest to the work are the ones driving decisions. Here we replace top-down control with a clear organizational purpose, shared values, visibility and trust. Since everyone is contributing to the shape and direction, the results are emergent. Like a living organism, everyone is sensing and responding to the environment. The intelligence that emerges from the collective is what allows our organization to be ‘Agile’.

Fostering an Agile Enterprise will usually require a complete reboot of the cultural operating system of the organization. As such it is a much more significant undertaking that adopting Agile practices.

Both Enterprise Agile & Agile Enterprise Have Value

It is important to re-iterate that both Enterprise Agile and Agile Enterprise have value.

Enterprise Agile allows organizations to improve their operational capability so they may execute better.

Agile Enterprise is about creating an adaptable future-proof organization.

It’s not about which is better. It’s about what is right for your context.

 

 

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Culture is the Core of Your Organization

Culture is at the core of your organization. Everything in your organization informs culture. And vice-versa: culture informs everything in your organization. Here is an illustration:

Culture: Structure, Systems, Management, Leadership

Culture is at the Core

Culture = “How we do things around here to succeed”

Each element is the above diagram intimately tied to your organizational culture. Let’s consider each in turn:

  • Leadership: Who is allowed to lead change in your organization? Is it just managers or is anyone allowed to initiate a change program?
  • Management: What are managers expected to do? How are they expected to behave? Are they elected by staff?
  • Org Structure: Is there a hierarchy that shows importance and power?
  • Roles: Do people have clearly defined roles that limit how they can contribute? Can people easily create new roles to meet new business needs?
  • Systems: Are these chosen to serve business needs or to reduce costs and standardize? How do they enforce or limit behaviours?
  • Policies: What rules do we have for people? How much do we trust them to make good decisions on their own?
  • Processes: Are our processes designed to support the needs of customers and staff? How much process (rules) do we need? In what areas?
  • Unwritten rules & norms: What are the sacred cows and taboo subjects? What is acceptable behaviour?
  • Identity: How do we see ourselves in relation to the organization’s purpose?
  • Values: What are the stated values? How well does this reflect what actually happens?
  • Behaviour: What we say and do is the most concrete manifestation of culture. How we think about ourselves and our organizations will show up in every single meeting. Not only in how it is conducted, but in what is noticed and what people choose to say (or more importantly not say).

The arrows linking the elements illustrate that they are all inter-related and connected. It is a web of cross-linking and supporting elements. The web they weave together defines the organizational culture.

Note that the above diagram is illustrative rather than an exhaustive list. For example, we may note that elements such as office structure could be added.

Laloux Holistic Culture Model

The Laloux Culture Model provides a holistic view of culture that encompasses all of the elements shown above (and more!). In his book, Reinventing Organizations, Laloux makes a clear link between these elements is shown. We cannot shift behaviours without shifting the systems we use. This link was also noted in a 2003 journal paper: Systems and Culture: Connecting the Dots.

In contrast, many models of Culture only use some of these elements. For example, the Schneider Culture Model uses a very specific set of filters that examine what is valued by an organization. This is great for building awareness and starting a discussion around culture, but not as useful for identifying a holistic plan for changing it.

 

Changing Culture

Effective and lasting culture change requires that all of these elements shift together. Teaching people new behaviours or beliefs – such as collaborative meeting techniques or how to assume responsibility – will not work in isolation. Neither will changing our systems and processes without other changes. For more on culture change, please see Culture Change: Reinventing Organizations.

Introducing change efforts such as Agile with teams without changing all the organizational elements around it will generally fail to achieve the desired results. Whole Agile is one of several models to propose a holistic change model.

 

 

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Culture Change: Reinventing Organizations

The following infographic adapted from Frederic Laloux’s Reinventing Organizations shows:

  1. A path for reinventing your organization.
  2. The reason why management and workers need to care.

Culture Change Model

Laloux Culture Model in Action

 

The infographic shows that greater trust and consciousness leads to higher engagement and better results. Better results is proven out by case study after case study. As organizations develop from one stage to the next, they develop a more human approach that leads to greater trust.

The Teal stage is shown as separate since it yields dramatic benefits and represents a paradigm shift from conventional management thinking.

Please see: Laloux Culture Model for a description of each of the stages of development.

The Reinvention Path

Increased success requires that we focus our efforts on developing organizational trust and consciousness to foster engagement. We may consider how our existing processes, structures, and behaviours support or reduce engagement.  We may measure engagement scores to see if we are on the right track.

A good place to start is by understanding where we are today: is the way our organization functions mainly Orange stage, Green stage or somewhere in between? When we inventory different areas of functioning (See P. 237) , what stage are we at? It helps to do this without judgement. Where we are is where we are. It’s a fact. Not good, not bad.

We may read through case studies in books or other business literature to inspire us to desire a different future and give us ideas of what experiments we wish to run to move us in that direction. My suggestion here is to start with small experiments. We need to take small steps so we may all develop our levels of trust together. Trying to get there all at once is a sure recipe for disaster. It helps to think of Teal as a star on the horizon – a direction to steer in – rather than a destination.

Why Management Needs to Care

If your organization is near the Orange stage, then your focus is on achievement and results. The dramatically increased results offered by the higher stages compels action. It is the responsibility of management to grow the capacity of the organization to get better results.

If your organization is near the Green stage, then your focus is on the people. The dramatic impact on improving the joy and satisfaction of the people compels action.

Why We All Need to Care

Do we want to work in a place where we are supported and grow? Do we want to feel like our opinions count? Do we want a place where we can give our best every day? The answer for everyone is yes – we would like to contribute and to feel like we are making a difference.

What’s New Here?

The infographic and post is adapted from Laloux’s book – my interpretation & extension. His work identifies trust, consciousness and results as related to organizational stage development. I added the clear association with cause and effect to highlight where it helps to focus. I also added the word engagement.

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People over Process – Win with People

Success comes from Valuing People

Woody Hayes, PeopleWhen we simplify the Agile Manifesto’s “Individuals and Interactions over Processes and Tools” we get “People over Process”. Agile is about people. It’s about a people-first culture.

Sadly, many organizations are mired in organizational debt: mistrust, politics and fear. Changing the process won’t fix this. We need to go to the root of it – to find a way to talk about and shift to a healthier culture: one that values people.

The VAST (Vulnerability, Authentic Connection, Safety and Trust) shows us how we can make our workplaces more human.

We outline a fundamentally different approach for organizational change: one where valuing people is integral to building lasting success.

Slides from my Keynote at Lean Into Agile Conference

Video Summary (7 minute PechaKucha)

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Letting Go of Agile (Culture)

Letting go of Agile Culture“If you want something very, very badly, let it go free.  If it comes back to you, it’s yours forever.  If it doesn’t, it was never yours to begin with.” – Harry Kronman

I have discovered the truth of this with Agile. The one time in my whole life I truly surrendered my attachment to Agile, it resulted in a beautiful transformation starting. But most of the time I was too attached to Agile to let it go.

This post is about how we may accidentally harm organizations with Agile and how we can let go so that we may succeed.

Accidentally Harming Organizations

Here is the basic thinking:

  1. Agile is a good thing.
  2. We can help companies if they use Agile.
  3. Let’s do it!

Trap #1: Accidentally introduce cultural conflict

Agile for me is basic common sense – this is how to get stuff done. BUT Agile does not work in most organizations due to culture. Sure there are some small pockets where Agile just works but this seems to be relatively rare – especially now that Agile has crossed the chasm.

Agile is a different culture from most companies, so the first trap is to accidentally introduce organizational conflict. That’s why I wrote “An Agile Adoption and Transformation Survival Guide: Working with Organizational Culture” – to help people notice this trap and avoid it.

My suggestion was to look at two options:

  1. Adopt elements of Agile that fit with the culture.
  2. Transform the organizational culture.

For many, option 1 is like giving up on Agile since they key part of it is missing so many Agile folks don’t like that option.

Increasingly Agile experts go for option #2 instead: Transform the Organizational Culture. I sure did. I set out to learn how to change organizational culture. And I figured it out. But there was a problem. A big one.

Trap #2 Attempt to Transform to Agile Culture

The core of the problem is that Agile is not an end in itself. It is means to an end. Some common goals (ends) are: a quality product, time to market or engaged staff. The problem is not that Agile doesn’t help with these goals (it certainly does), the problem is that people confuse Agile as the goal and often act in ways that undermine the real goal. We see Agile being used as a Whip or a Shield. That is why it’s a good idea to Stop Agile Initiatives. A better alternative to an Agile initiative is to have an initiative around the real goals. One way to get at the real goals is to run a workshop to clarify why people want Agile.

It is a good thing to change culture in service to what organizations really want for themselves. A specific culture is not a goal in itself, but a means to accomplishing something. We may seek a culture of engagement and innovation not for itself, but because we want our organization to thrive in a competitive landscape.

There are many many beautiful, productive organization cultures all over the world that have nothing to do with Agile. The implication is that there are many ways to get to a place where people love what they do. If we really want to help people, then the best move is to work with them to evolve a wonderful culture that is right for them. And for sure it will not be exactly “Agile Culture” (especially since this is not completely precise). If it is a progressive culture, it will likely be Agile-compatible and using Agile to get benefits will be very natural. It’s a win – win.

Agile Culture should never be a goal. If it is, we will likely just cause harm.

Let Go of the Outcome to Find Success

Here is my secret to success: Let go of the outcome.

I wrote a couple of years about about how leaders have a choice between the red pill (deeper reality) and the blue pill (surface reality). I stated it like I gave people a choice. But I didn’t. The only choice I wanted was the red pill. I wanted so much to help the people in organizations I pushed for the red pill. The truth is I cared so much for the outcome which I assumed was best that I didn’t really give a open choice. In subtle and more obvious ways I was attempting to coerce leaders into taking the red pill. Ooops! Coercion is not any part of Agile, but here I was wanting my outcome for others. And it is not just me. I have talked to dozens of professional coaches and this is pandemic in the Agile community.

The solution is obvious. If we really want to stay true to Agile values, we can’t coerce. We have to let the people (especially management teams) make their own decisions and their own mistakes. We have to help them find and walk the path that they choose. This means letting go of the outcome. This means letting go of Agile.

This business of learning to let go is not new. In fact, letting go of attachment is a central message of Buddhism.

To close, the one time I fully let go of Agile it came back in such a beautiful sustainable and lasting way. Time to rinse and repeat.

“If you want Agile very, very badly, let it go free.  If it comes back to you, it’s there forever.  If it doesn’t, it was never meant to be.”

(Stay tuned for a follow-up post on Agile as a means of creating freedom by Olaf Lewitz.)

My Apology

I helped a lot of people see Agile as a culture system and learn how to stop causing accidental conflict.

Unfortunately, I also energized a lot of people to seek culture change with the goal of growing Agile. As clarified in this blog post, this was a mistake. I am sorry.

What’s the alternative? For those who want real change, let’s help them meet their organizational goals with culture transformation and let Agile come willingly.

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Stop Agile Initiatives!

Stop Agile HeadlineI am sick to death of Agile Initiatives because they usually fail. Sure there are some companies where Agile just fits, but the most common case is a culture conflict. Best fix I know is: Agile is NOT the Goal (Workshop)

The core problem is that the typical approach used to initiate Agile is inconsistent with Agile goals of empowerment and engagement.

Paul Heidema and I ran a session to explore this at Agile Open Toronto this Spring and this post is a way to share the key learnings.

This is a great workshop to run with people to help them understand different options for engaging with change.

I Caused Damage By Agile …

My mom used to say: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”.

Here is how I and others have caused damage with Agile:

 I caused damage with Agile by...

Of course you can replace the word “Agile” with any other word such as “Lean”, or “Total Quality Management” or <Fill-in-the-blank>.

 Real Change Happens When…

We then reflected on the times when we participated and witnessed real change and found that it emerges – it’s not forced:

Real-change-happened-when

How Change Your Agile Initiative into Something Better

Real success comes from digging in deep on what is important and really valued in the organization – not just jumping on the Agile bandwagon.

Here is are practical exercise you can use to transform your Agile Initiative into something more resilient and lasting: Agile is NOT the Goal (Workshop)

Acknowledgements

We really appreciate all the folks who showed up and participated in this session. It was awesome.

Stop-Agile-Initiatives-Contributors

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Transformation Case Study – Video Interview

At Agile 2014, many people were inspired by this case study so Olaf Lewitz interviewed me. Here is what happened.

Slides and Highlights are here.

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Agile is NOT the Goal (Workshop)

Here is how to run a one hour workshop turn your “Agile” initiative into something valuable, sustainable and open the door for real change (transformation).

This may be the most important hour in your whole change effort.

Setup: One Hour to Clarify Goals

Get the senior managers and stakeholders together for a one hour workshop to clarify the purpose of the Agile initiative you are leading or participating in or hope to undertake. Also consider including key influencers from the organization.

Remember that the higher up you go, the bigger the scope of possible change. See How to Build a Culture Bubble for why the choice participants is crucial.

Step 1: Ask Why?

Give everyone sticky notes and sharpies and ask them to brainstorm Why are we doing this Agile Initiative? Ask people to work on their own for three to five minutes before sharing as a group.

I find with senior management, I usually need to explain How to go Fast with Sticky Notes. If they will not use sticky notes, then real change has little hope and focus on adopting Agile practices or use stealth Agile.

Step 2: Data collect around What, Why, How

Once they have finished writing sticky notes, then setup three flipchart pages with labels What, Why and How. Ask them to put each sticky note on the spectrum made by these three words and cluster based on matching concepts. Circle each cluster. See diagram below.

Why Agile

Explain to people that we are using this model to help clarify thinking around why we are doing this.

As you can see from the photo, I sometimes add the label Outcome to help clarify meaning of “What”.

THE TRICK: It is really important to ask WHY when brainstorming and only during playback separate the reasons into What, Why, How.

Step 3: Explain What, Why, How

Here is my explanation:

  • What/Outcome –  This is about the result: what we want want to achieve. The outcome we are looking for as an organization.
  • Why – The motivation for this undertaking. You may also see here leading indicators of success.
  • How – This is about the mechanism or means that support getting to the outcome. How we actually do things.

Note: it doesn’t really matter where things go as long as it generally makes sense to participants.

Defend the What/Outcome. It is really important that the What or outcome only contains the end result that is sought after by this group. If it has means and intermediate elements, then expect unhelpful distortions in your initiative.

Step 4: Pick most important Elements

Quality ProductUse dot voting to have them select the most important elements for this initiative.

Important: Have them vote in reverse seniority order to avoid hierarch bias. See Highest Paid Person in the Room (HIPPO) bias problem for why this is very important.

Summarize  the results to check for understanding: “So it seems like the outcome for this initiative is X and we see Y and Z helping us get there?”

Step 5: “Agile” is Not the Goal

Let them notice that Agile is gone! The outcome that they seek has nothing to do with Agile! Agile is not the goal.

Help them notice how Agile will help with the What, Why and How (if that is true).

Step 6: Replace the “Agile” Initiative with something else

Suggest officially dropping Agile as a goal and instead re-brand the initiative to focus on whatever their desired outcome was.

This will help people focus on the outcome, and not on “doing Agile”.

In a recent transformation, this turned out to be a key element in our success. Do not underestimate the value of a name and the stories we tell about ourselves. 

Being Agile & Transformation

It probably seems scary to let go of Agile as an official goal.

It turns out that this is necessary to Stop Agile from being used as a Whip or a Shield.

My experience is that the only way we can really get to an Agile mindset is to let it arrive of it’s own free will. Coercing a system as an evangelist (I have done this) guarantees limited results.

If you love something, set them free.

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Guy Laurence – Culture Change Through Renovation

Guy Lawrence – former CEO at Vodafone – tells of an organizational transformation effort that is intrinsically tied to office renovation – he says: “Conventional offices and working is dead”.

A Simple Recipe: Death to cubicles and offices

  1. Buy everyone in the company a cell phone and a laptop.
  2. Remove all offices and cubicles. Open plan office with desks.
  3. Remove all personal material so that every day starts fresh
  4. People sit with the people they need to work with that day.
  5. Meeting rooms are just for meetings of 6 or more people.
  6. Build coffee shops in in the center of each floor to create a “buzz”

Innovation & leveraging Gen Y

The motivation for undertaking these sweeping changes is to have people from Generation Y (born after 1982) actually want to work at Vodafone. A basic requirement here is that the tools they get at the company are as good or better than what they have personally. Nobody wants to use an infrastructure that sucks but for Gen Y this is a real problem.

Gen Y work on a collaborative model and do not tolerate a dominant hierarchy. Their employee engagement score plummet and they quit in droves.

Subversion of Management Hierarchy

A central part of the plan is to put the organizational hierarchy in the background and push communication and decision-making lower down in the organization. Part of the idea of getting rid of offices is to reduce the power differential between managers and subordinates. Guy reported that 49 of his 5000 staff did not make the adjustment to this brave new world.

The net of all this is to create a place that can rapidly respond to changing events. To use open networks of communication to tap into people’s creativity.

Video of Guy’s Talk at Google

What About Teams?

I am curious about teams in this brave new world. Agile Software Development and many others observe that building stable teams is a great recipe for high performance. My suspicion is that this model would be further enhanced by having a clear role for teams.

Curious About Culture

One thing very interesting is that Guy is leading a cultural transformation without clearly outlining the culture of the organization the way many other great organizations such as Zappos do. Instead, he uses simple rules to subvert traditional corporate behaviour. I imagine that this type of transformation could be even more successful if accompanied by an explicit culture model.

What’s next? Rogers Media/Telco!

I have been involved with Agile at Rogers (based in Toronto) on more than one occasion and it is by and large suffering from the typical culture and bureaucratic challenges of any large organization. I have been wondering what hope there is for the organization to truly transform without top-level leadership in a new direction.

Guy starts at Rogers in December, 2013.I am truly delighted to see that he will take steps towards a people-friendly work culture. I am also very curious to see if he will be able to overcome deeply entrenched resistance to change. Go Guy, GO!

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10 Things Executives Need to Know about Agile

Slide deck with the top 10 things executives need to know about Agile:

Here’s the list with some handy links:

  1. Agile Is Mainstream
  2. Many Benefits from Agile
  3. Agile is not a Silver Bullet
  4. Agile Fails Due to Culture
  5. Agile Differs from Most Company Cultures
  6. Most Value Comes from Mindset/Culture, not Practices
  7. Adopt Agile Practices that fit Culture (Option 1)
  8. Change Culture through Organizational Transformation (Option 2)
  9. Culture Mismatch will Slow and Ultimately Fail Your Agile Initiative
  10. Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast

Of course, it is fine to proceed with either option – adoption or transformation – it’s about what is the best fit for the client environment and their wishes.

There are two conversations around transformation that this deck is designed to trigger/encourage:

  • What does break-through organizational culture look like?
  • What does organizational transformation look like?

My Favourite Slide in the Deck

Benefit of Practices vs Culture

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank the hundreds of people who have attended my workshops and talks over the last two years to help clarify and refine this message.

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