Becoming an Agile Leader, Part 4: Determining Next Steps

To summarize: your agile transformation is stuck. You’ve thought about your why, as in Becoming an Agile Leader, Part 1: Define Your Why. You’ve started to measure possibilities. You have an idea of who you might talk with as in Becoming an Agile Leader, Part 2: Who to Approach. You’ve considered who you need as allies and how to enlist them in Becoming an Agile Leader, Part 3: How to Create Allies.

Now, it’s time to think about what you will do next.

You might be thinking, “I know what to do next. I have a roadmap, I know where we want to be. What are you talking about?”

Influence. I’m talking about thinking about discovering the short-term and longer-term actions that will help your agile transformation succeed with the people who hold the keys to your transformation.

Here’s an example. Patrick (not his real name) wanted to help his organization’s agile transformation. When he came to the Influential Agile Leader, that was his goal: help the transformation. That’s one big goal. By the time we got to the influence section, he realized his goal was too big.

What did he want, right now? He was working with one team who wrote technical stories, had trouble getting to done, didn’t demo or retrospect, and wanted to increase the length of their iteration to four weeks from two weeks. He knew that was probably going in the wrong direction. (There are times when it’s okay to increase the length of the iteration. This team had so much change and push for more delivery, increasing the time was not a good option.)

He thought he had problems in the management. He did, but those weren’t the problems in the team. When he reviewed his why and his map, as in Part 1, he realized that the organization needed an agile approach for frequent delivery of customer value. If this team (and several others) could release value on a regular basis, the pressure from the customers and management would lessen. He could work with the managers on the project portfolio and other management problems. But, he was sure that the way to make this happen was to help this team deliver frequently.

He realized he had two influential people to work with: the architect and the QA lead. Both of those people looked as if they were “resisting.” In reality, the architect wanted the developers to refactor to patterns to keep the code base clean. The QA lead thought they needed plans before creating tests and was looking for the “perfect” test automation tool.

He decided that his specific goal was to “Help this team deliver value at least as often as every two weeks. Sustain that delivery over six months.” That goal—a subset of “go agile”—allowed him to work first with the architect and then with the QA lead and then both (yes, he practiced all three conversations in the workshop) to achieve his small goal.

Patrick practiced exploring the short-term and long-term deliverables in conversations in the workshop. While the conversations didn’t go precisely the same way back at work, he had enough practice to move between influence and coaching to see what he could do with the people in his context.

It took the team three more iterations to start delivering small stories, but they did. He spent time enlisting the architect in working in the team with the team members to deliver small stories that kept the code base clean. He asked the architect for help in how to work with the QA lead. The architect showed the lead how to start automation and refactor so the testers could test even before the developers had completed the code.

It took that team three more months to be able to regularly deliver value every week, without waiting for the end of the iteration.

Patrick’s original roadmap was great. And, once he started working with teams and management, he needed to adjust the deliverables he and the other coaches had originally planned. The influence conversations allowed him to see the other people’s concerns, and consider what small deliverables all along the way would help this team succeed.

Some of what he learned with this team helped the other teams. And, the other teams had different problems. He used different coaching and influence conversations with different people.

If you want to experience learning how to influence and who, in the context of helping your agile transformation continue, join us at the next Influential Agile Leader, May 9-10, 2017 in Toronto.

My next post is about our participants learn.

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