In this issue:
If you’re trying to use agile approaches or manage an agile transformation, consider these three mindsets for you, your project, and your organization:
- Manage for change (Part 1)
- Emphasize collaboration. (this part)
- Use principles, not practices, so teams can be autonomous and deliver what they need to deliver. (I'll send this in Part 3.)
Joe, a director in a 3000-person division, was worried about their agile transformation. The division had created cross-functional teams. And, each person still had MBOs (Management by Objectives) that were based on that unique person’s work.
Joe thought individual learning goals were great. But each person was “responsible” for “their” deliverables, not a team's deliverables.
The teams looked as if they were cross-functional. But, the managers didn’t collaborate. As a result, the team members had “extra” work from their manager, all in service of meeting each team member's specific goals. The team members were supposed to do this extra work even as they were supposed to work as a team.
People are smart. They did what their managers wanted them to do, not what the team needed.
Joe realized the teams might be cross-functional in name, but the team members couldn’t only work on the team’s work. Each person had to work on the work their managers wanted them to do, too.
Joe could see the problem of this “extra” work prevented the division from creating an agile culture, where people lived the agile values, not specific practices.
He raised this issue with his peers at the division manager’s staff meeting:
- Did anyone else see this problem?
- Did it look like a problem to them?
- Was anyone willing to work on this problem with him?
Joe wanted to gain agreement on the data, the effect of the problem, and to model collaboration with his peers. He thought if they worked as a collaborative team, the rest of the organization might, also.
The division’s general manager did see this problem. He took a note to see what he could do about each manager’s MBOs. He was sure he would have a problem with HR.
Several directors said they were willing to work with Joe, as long as they could frame their possibilities as experiments. They chose a specific program, the Aura program to use as an experiment.
They ran an experiment for two weeks, to see if each team's cycle time and the program's cycle time would decrease. The program felt sluggish, with a cycle time of ten days. That means it took ten working days to release value as a program.
After two weeks, the program's cycle time decreased to eight days—better, but not great. That's when the managers collaborated with Sherri, the program manager. She knew at least part of the problem—the product owners for the various feature sets weren't collaborating.
Sherri, with the help of the managers, asked all the product owners and the product manager to collaborate as a product value team. (See a picture of a product value team here.)
Everyone agreed to run the product-side collaboration experiment for another two weeks along with the team collaboration experiment again. They discovered overlap between teams, places the feature sets would have missed without the collaboration, and ways to increase collaboration inside the program. The program’s cycle time decreased to between four-five days. And, it was much easier to release.
Joe brought the results back to the staff meeting and asked these questions:
- How do we make collaboration the default?
- What can we stop doing?
- What can we start doing that makes collaboration in everyone’s best interests?
The managers are working on those questions, to free the teams and the product people to collaborate. And, the division manager is working on the organizational impediments so the organization rewards everyone—people, teams, managers—for working across the organization. It’s not a trivial problem. He's making slow and steady progress.
Stay tuned for Part 3, about principles, not practices.
Would you like to visualize some of your collaboration challenges? Please join Gil Broza and me at the Influential Agile Leader workshop. It will be April 24-25, 2019 in Toronto. Register now to save your seat. We're already 2/3 full. I hope to see you there. (Have questions? Email me.)
Are you new to the Pragmatic Manager newsletter? See previous issues.
Here are links you might find useful:
- My Books
- Online Workshops
- Managing Product Development Blog
- Create an Adaptable Life
- Johanna's Fiction
Till next time,
© 2019 Johanna Rothman
Tags: agile, change, collaboration, transition to agile