The Psychology Behind Successful Agile Transformations
Having led or assisted on multiple whole-organization Agile Transformations, I know it can be a difficult road to navigate. There are many flavors of Agile, each with their own dictionaries of common Agile terms, often in conflict with each other. Agile coaches can give you widely different advice. And on top of this there are different levels of experience throughout the organization, so some employees are overwhelmed while others are bored.
Are you struggling with your Agile Transformation? Have you ever rolled out a new technology or a new practice that worked great for one team but fell flat with another? Do you have some teams that just aren’t getting any better? You’re not alone.
The reason is based in psychology. Some organizations and some teams aren’t ready. Others, like the fabled Icarus, fly too high, too fast, and crash and burn. I started noticing an overlap with a 40-year study on human social evolution I had been exploring, and began weaving it into my consulting. Now, several transformations later, I can show you how to spot the patterns, and engineer your own Agile Transformation.
Outline/Structure of the Talk
The Problem (5 minutes)
After outlining the problem with a few quick interactive, electronic polls, we acknowledge together that the Agile landscape is vast and complicated.
The Research (5 minutes)
I then introduce a concept that almost everyone is familiar with, but they don’t know how it applies - Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. We walk through the research behind the Hierarchy and expore the theory of Spiral Dynamics. (For those who want to learn more, I refer them to the easier-to-understand book “Reinventing Organizations” by Frederick Laloux.) In the rest of the session we use this framework to explore “spheres of awareness”.
Level 1 - Red / Self-Interest (5 minutes)
Some teams are so overwhelmed that they can’t see beyond their own backlog. They’re wrapped up in proving themselves and recognition. They need to be empowered, but within constraints, so that they can let go of the fear of not feeling valued, and begin to see the larger picture. If you have one or more teams like this, you must address this issue first.
Level 2 - Amber / Hierarchical-Alignment (5 minutes)
Teams who can see beyond their own team need to learn how to align to organizational goals. Being able to participate in a hierarchy and in collaboration with others, while sometimes having to set aside their team needs to help another team, is a vital skill in the social growth of human beings and Agile transformations.
Level 3 - Orange / Data-Driven Decision Making (5 minutes)
The third sphere of awareness is awareness that while we may all be aligned and in agreement, we may not actually all be right. We can build a fantastic delivery pipeline, but if nobody uses what we deliver, our organization will grind to a halt. As with human evolution, a scienfitic enlightenment is a critical next step in organizational growth. Paradoxically, though, trying to introduce true data analysis too early into an organization can also significantly slow progress. (Teams that aren’t aligned never manage to design good metrics.)
Level 4 - Green / People & Culture (5 minutes)
Once teams can look beyond their own collective egos, they start to awaken to psychology, culture-building, and emotional awareness. Few teams are able to implement effective, long-lasting culture programs until they are able to humble themselves to objective, external reflection.
Agile Transformation Roadmap (5 minutes)
To help guide my Agile Transformation clients, I’ve developed an Agile Transformation Roadmap. It helps to keep teams focused on the right concepts at the right time, and fill in the knowledge gaps that might be slowing teams down. It’s not meant to be exclusive, but more representational of industry wisdom. We use them as both assessment tools and planning tools. They allow for teams to evolve at their own pace, while also identifying and helping those teams which are struggling to keep pace with the rest of the organization.
Questions (10 minutes)
- An understanding of why a participant’s team or organization might be struggling
- A method for allowing teams to design their own action plans
- A detailed map of multiple possible techniques your teams could try
- A map of which techniques your teams may or may not be ready to use
- A practical method for deploying an Agile Transformation
Executives, managers, internal coaches, PMOs, and HR managers
Prerequisites for Attendees
Familiarity with the Agile landscape, and the many flavors of Agile, though you definitely do not need to be an expert in them all.