Going along with what you said @Mark_Troyan, I think there’s also a growing awareness of the need for Organizational Design to come into play. More and more as people start looking at an organizations through a complex adaptive systems lens, we’re seeing the need for a more comprehensive view of the organizational structure needed to truly enable higher levels of Agility. I think Business Agility is a start, but we also need to go beyond that to Enterprise Agility and the organizational structure that’s needed to support it.
@Mark_Troyan & @marissa - your feedback is interesting… I had worked at a large company (30+K employees) where there was a philosophy that a) no manager from the CEO down could have more than 7 direct reports, and that there would be no more than 7 hierarchical layers. This created a structure more akin to a network of spy or terrorist cells where people were isolated from decision making and the like with only 1-in-7 having access to the next point of contact. If, as I believe, the intention was to optimize the lines of communication, the implementation left a lot to be desired.
Goes to show that there really needs to be conscious intention and follow-through to get the benefits of flattening the org.
Yes I don’t have the answers but yes it needs to be thought out (or maybe not at all like ants:)). I think the problem either in hierarchies or in a bad flat implementation if their are dependencies they need to be removed or there has to be openness, visibility, collaboration and communication. If you don’t have the openness and visibility it will always have a bad feel to someone and then spread like a bad virus.People will fill the voids with their own paranoid thoughts and ideas. 7 layers still sounds like a lot for 30000 is not that huge relatively.
I worked at an org that did the same 7x7 restructuring; I think ostensibly what they were looking to accomplish was they were looking to weed out the pseudo-managers with few/no direct reports that had impressive titles (and as an extension impressive salaries). What it ended up doing is harming good leaders who didn’t necessarily require a large team, and it also hamstrung future managers as there’s no way you could “ease” into it, as you’d go from no directs to 7 at the minimum. Like you said, implementation left a lot to be desired.
Also…they did stacked ranking with standard distribution, so that meant I was doing 7 mid-year and year-end reviews. I still have nightmares.
Well I don’t have that much experience with multiple and/or large companies, but from what I learned, I think it would be most valuable to change the way to introduce agile from “Bottom to Top” to “Top to Bottom” - i.e. don’t start with agile silos and hope that it spreads across the company, but explain to the managers how goal-driven guidance combined with freedom (and, when necessary, reporting-line-free coaching) and meaningful metrics can work wonders.
O.M.G. @thostaylor - that’s horrifying! Terrorist-cell-Agile sounds awful!
This is so real though! I think it reflects the challenge a lot of folks are struggling with where the organizational culture isn’t in alignment with Agile values. In order for Agile to be adopted effectively in an organization, the company has to have a corresponding worldview that works well with the core values of Agile, especially trust, transparency, honesty… A lot of organizations, especially the larger ones, tend to have more of an amber/orange worldview and, in my experience, that tends to result in some of these bad smells and antipatterns when they try to adopt Agile. Agile at its core embodies a worldview closer to teal. And I feel like the challenge for most organizations, especially large ones, when they’re adopting Agile is trying to evolve from that amber/orange worldview to a teal worldview, which is kind of like trying to incite a mass spiritual awakening -> not very realistic, not what the workforce signed on for, and please stop scaring us.
So, my question for the Coalition is, has anybody successfully helped an organization transform their worldview up the spiral to something closer to teal; from highly hierarchical to mostly flat with equal empowerment for all? I feel like that’s the most challenging part and what we’re really trying to do when we’re talking about an enterprise transformation. We can put processes and tools and practices in place all day, but that’s not going to make any difference if the organization’s worldview doesn’t change. And that kind of a change involves a major culture shift, and culture shifts are notoriously very difficult, if not impossible; it takes a long time to turn that ship around.
I would agree but that is exactly the problem to solve. Those people at the top are the ones that have to let go and they don’t want to. Now there are many companies out there selling Agile to companies as a package top down. They use new terminology but its still the old way of working and they feel comfortable so they like it and it still fails. In larger companies it’s the only way to make change is to cause a virus that spreads for the better good but that will not even achieve what we are talking about here. I think this would be a forward moving company that grows fast and then other try to do the same. I am not in the know but maybe a company like Alphabet is doing that… I am not even sure if its possible for a established behemoth to change at scale. Kinda have to rip it apart and start over.
When talking about agile and agility, we should not forget that we are talking a lot about culture, values, and identity.
Irrespective if you start from top to bottom or from bottom to top, we need to understand that we have to take a lot of people with us. For many it is a big adventure, as their system, which helped them to achieve stability and reliance is questioned to some degree. We ask them to trust people, with whom they probably never have worked with and where they are lacking a fundamental understanding of their needs and objectives.
I am trying to change an organization from a kind of middle layer for almost one year now. In this time I had to learn several things. The first thing was to have the right intentions. From a point of view, where we have a pretty good idea of what might be required, we tend to be too ambitious to drive change. We want people to think differently without giving them the chance to understand what it is all about. Set free a domesticated animal to the wildness, and it will not feel free but frightened. You need to get used to a different kind of thinking and acting.
The second learning was about the importance of humility. Understanding that people have to learn, requires a good amount of patience. The guys need to have time to fail and to learn from it. They are not dumb, but they do not start on a greenfield. Humility can help a lot in supporting them to change their minds, as they need to do it on themselves. Steady feedback is a very important instrument, that will do wonders in such a context, as it helps to consolidate understanding and recognize even small changes.
Finally it is about trust. At first, you need to have a lot of confidence in your vision and objectives. It is something others will feel. You will not have to talk about it. Moreover, have trust in others to create the same kind of confidence. With the growing understanding, the steady feedback, and a good amount of time they will follow up. The trust you put in them will make them feel they are on the right way.
So if I want to summarize it, modern agile methods will provide tools to steadily work towards an culture, values, and identity to face the volatility and uncertainties in our world with confidence from mutual understanding, feedback, and trust. This definition does not have to consider a top or bottom anymore.
“Terrorist-cell Agile”…I’m definitely stealing this, I’ll remit a Starbucks card for the copyright usage
Okay I am going to go way out there. Looking at the Scrum Values especially of respect and openness. Is it possibly we would ever get many whole organizations “Agile”. Maybe we are assuming they are good but are many evil? Maybe we should I/we should just stick with why Scrum exists? To improve the profession of software delivery? Maybe the rest just have too many objectives that don’t mesh with the world of agility and the agile manifesto. Maybe I have too much time on my hands and think too much:)
Bottom up? Top down? Both require somewhat different approaches.
Either way: Go with what you’ve got.
Embrace the paradoxes. Accept the co-existence of competing systems of values/beliefs/principles.
Conduct lots of experiments. See what sticks. Leverage that.
Recently read a decent article from 2013 that still feels relevant:
I think that Machine Learning/AI is an area with a ton of potential value in the agile space.
Another area is the move away from co-located teams. As technology improves, we’re going to find that colocation will be the bottleneck.
Just my 2c
The only problem is we may not be developing anymore either:)
I think the next thing will be the eventual death of Agile. There will be a shift to good business practices that embrace agility. Many things we do now as part our Agile practices are becoming standard practice, an example is daily stand up. This is encouraging, but some of the practices, such as introspection and adaption can get lost in noise of a framework.
I can’t remember where I heard it, but Agile should always be by invitation and never by force. Each time an Agile framework becomes a whip, removes the safety and is strictly enforced Agile as a whole dies a little death.
The problem arises when these practices are abused and moved to something they were never meant for. The daily stand up is a classic example, the accountability can be used to castigate rather than as a point of syncronisation. When scrum is used as an excuse for a team “going rogue” rather than to provide a safe place to grow productivity we have problems.
I love this Agile space. I’m a latecomer. I’ve lived in the land of waterfall and all the risks that they entailed, and I saw every risk realised. I love the emphasis it puts on a team having valuable input its destination and the positives of not burning people out. The core of Agile makes as much sense today as it did when the manifesto was created.
Having said that, I have seen colleagues battered, bruised and scarred from Agile implementations to the point where some almost twitch when you mention XP practices or scrum ceremonies. To be completely fair this is a people problem. The frameworks can work amazingly when implemented with compassion and respect. Too often though it seems the framework forgets the human.
I now need to introduce “agile” practices under the radar and never use the “A” word. I’m a developer, not the team lead or product owner, so anything I introduce is by invitation only. It helps. Mention Scrum and you get push back in big ways from those who have suffered under a Scrum Master that was dogmatic to the point of damage or those who had been savaged in conflict filled “retrospectives”.
When we stop using “Agile” to sell and start using agile practices to create amazing things that deliver business value without breaking the people who make them, we will have then moved on to the next thing in Agile.
And to the above I realise I am probably being unrealistic, but I can dream.
Edit: I went back and listened the future of agile episode. Interesting points of view are still relevant to this discussion today. Podcast Released: Agile Certifications/Future of Agile (Audio corrected)