Key strategies for influencing leadership to let go of the traditional "waterfall" approach
A common question - "How do we even begin to change our traditional waterfall approach to Agile?" – may invoke responses such as, "we just need training", "create self-organizing teams", "setup a transition team", “SAFe”, etc. But those don’t get to the heart of the question. We need to get leaders to understand the “Why” and the "How" in order to help insure a successful transition and provide the proper support for their teams.
This session directly answers both the “Why?” and "How?" questions, by focusing on 2 key concepts and concrete practices, that leaders/managers need to learn and apply.
To do this, we start by helping them understand the context for agility and equipping them with new "agile glasses" that change the way they see and think about Agile. We equip them with 2 new "lenses" through which they can:
- Visualize the problem domain(s) that exist in their environment and understand the relative level of complexity and uncertainty represented in their projects or product delivery efforts, using the Cynefin framework and VUCA modeling. Understanding these can help to provide better context for decision-making and mitigate the risk of taking a "one size fits all" approach to product or project delivery.
- Visualize a multi-dimensional planning model, often referred to as the "5 Levels of Planning", that breaks the pattern of big up-front planning and wasteful change control processes, common to waterfall, by reinforcing the practice of continuous planning. This centers on getting them comfortable with key techniques associated with an adaptive approach, rather than a predictive approach to planning.
Many leaders view Agile as simply something that their teams need to learn and/or something that training alone will solve. The reality is that most agile initiatives fail due to a lack of leadership engagement (connection) because leaders aren't given the knowledge or tools to help them adapt.
If this describes you or your managers/leaders, then this session will help answer the question of “how do we get started…?”
Outline/Structure of the Talk
Quick Introduction of self and topic
Connection (C1) –
Share a brief story of 2 different companies and how they dealt with the question of "How do we even begin to change our traditional waterfall approach to Agile?"
Ask everyone to introduce them to their table mates and share their own stories of how they answered the question, or if they’re still trying to figure out the answer.
Lecture / Concept (C2) portion –
Get everyone grounded on the 2 key concepts of: 1) Complexity, leveraging Cynefin and VUCA, and 2) Continuous Planning, leveraging emergence and empiricism.
- Introduce Cynefin framework – followed by exercise (see C3-1 below)
- Introduce VUCA and relate to concept of Empirical Process Control vs. Define Process Control – followed by exercise (see C3-2 below)
- Five Levels of Planning model, examples of a technique and/or artifact for each level of planning – followed by exercise (see C3-3 below)
Concrete Practice (C3) Core Exercise –
Provide handouts for individuals to take away. Exercises best preformed on a flip chart, so all table participants can effectively interact and contribute. Ask them to create a flipchart resembling the handout and slide I’ll be showing.
- Cynefin exercise - Ask each person to think about a current or recent project, product or problem they worked on, write that on a post-it, then discuss the characteristics with their table mates to see if they can make sense of what problem domain it might align with.
- Empirical Process Control or Define Process Control – Ask each table to map items from exercise 1 to either end of the spectrum (visual example provided)
- Five Levels of Planning modeling – Table talk with each person sharing their experiences and/or questions related to the techniques or artifacts at each level.
The point of the exercise is to have them learn how to visualize problems and then improve decision-making based on that understanding.
Close/Conclusion (C4) –
Wrap-up the exercise with table “Shout-Out” – Ask each table to pick 1 example and share it with the group.
Encourage everyone to ID 1 key take-away that they think they can use immediately with their leaders/managers/peers back at their organizations that would help answer the question, "How do we even begin to change our traditional waterfall approach to Agile?"
General Q & A
Introduction to Cynefin framework and VUCA model
Learn to differentiate Empirical, Defined, and Statistical Process Control models
Learn how to move toward continuous planning using the Five Levels of Planning model, including specific techniques for: Visioning, Mapping, Releasing, Iterating and Daily level planning.
Be better equipped to answer the question of “how do we change…” and leverage concrete practices to help take the right actions.
Leaders, Managers, Coaches, Scrum Masters,