The start of the Industrial Revolution in North America was in the late 1700s. Over time there have been other waves of revolution through wars and improved technologies. As we march through the 21st century, there is a need for improved agility and the technology is allowing organizations to do so there is one component that is just on the cusp of making that change to make things run smoothly: Leadership.
As organizations move to more agile principles and methodologies, the central premise that most senior leaders miss is that the previous “command and control” structure will reduce the value potential of delivering products and services.
In Lejla Cizmic’s article, she goes into detail about two groups of leaders in an agile organization. Group 1 is all aboard with the agile transformation to achieve the value they want and Group 2 that mask “command and control” in their agile methodologies.
Agile Methods Are No Match For Outdated Leadership
She states, “These Group 2 leaders, in contrast to the first group, see Agile as a product delivery framework where the implementation is led by an expert (an Agile consultant or a coach) and implemented at a local, confined level. They see the Agile implementation as something that affects the teams at the execution level, leaving the executive leadership and the middle management to go about their work business as usual.”
Leaders that fall into Group 2 only see Agile as delivering something faster. That is the value that they see. Yes, there is an outcome with agile methodologies that improve efficiency, which in turn produces products more quickly, yet that is not what is the real meaning of Agile. Let’s review the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, that was the starting point of this new revolution:
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan
In these four lines, there is not one mention speed. Now let’s look at the 12 principles. In each of those principles, again, there is no explicit mention of speed. There is, though, mention of delivering valuable software early, the miss is the words “continuous delivery.” The intent is to offer in small chunks to ensure the feature is what is needed.
What is happening now is that the benefits found in Agile Software Delivery are having organizations move other departments and divisions to become more agile. In doing so, they need to recognize that the current structure needs to change.
Lejla lays it out as such “Implementing Agile transforms an organization horizontally and vertically. It impacts leaders and teams. It impacts the processes, people, technologies and more importantly, it impacts the language, culture, behavior and the mindset of everyone in the organization.
Agile as a system is akin to that of a live organism. It is like a tree that relies on favorable conditions to thrive and bear fruit.”
On this cusp of a new evolution in senior leadership, there is one critical thing that must be endocrine into everyone’s mind. To quote Jeff Dalton’s book Great Big Agile, “ Don’t do agile, be agile.”
As with any organizational evolution, there is a fundamental shift in mindset needed so that it is not a matter of just following steps to get something delivered. Doing that will only lead to frustrations for everyone involved and only achieving a fraction of the value possible.
Embracing agile values, continuously communicating them, having the right alignment within the organization, keeping everyone engaged and empowered will shatter the old ways of leading and move organizations to previously unimaginable levels.
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