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The new black

·4 mins

Agile transformation #

How we made all the mistakes so you don’t have to #

Part 1 #

I have had a talk processing in my mind for a while, but it didn’t crystalize until this year. While it got accepted to a conference I didn’t get the travel approved so I’m releasing the extended version as a blog series instead.

This too shall pass …
This too shall pass …

Is the organisation waiting for this initiative to pass as all the others did prior? Let’s not rock the boat until the next reorganisation is done.

Too many times I have been part of planned changes, part of larger transformations or smaller team or department change, where an imminent improvement or engagement with a team have been put on hold because of … well reasons. Many times these reasons have been “Let’s see if this blows over as well.” The teams and/or their manager have been around for a while. This is not the first so called transformation they are part of.

Why would it be any different this time?

There have been initiatives before to improve how they work, new processes, new meetings, new deal. (Usually without involving the teams themselves) Only to become a nuisance to their “real” work, which they keep doing as they always have, and going through the motions of the latest new black. If we only keep up the charade for a little while, this will be finished soon, replaced with something else, or just cancelled. And then we can continue as we always have in the open again. Their question and doubt is well founded. Why would it be different this time? Because management say they are committed? They said that the last time. And the time before.

I have no good answers here. We can only assume good intent and hope everyone means business this time and will follow through. However, I have also seen such initiatives put on hold or cancelled when key leadership positions have been replaced or the expected result didn’t show in within the time frame someone had wanted. Often those results and time frames were set without any correlation to the teams’ starting position and despite objections from the people about to support the change.

Sometimes it’s such a small thing as a peak in work load, vacations, change of team manager, or all of the above. Me and a coaching partner worked with a team in a larger journey. We had an excellent team kickoff supported by their manager, where they discussed, disagreed, and then reached agreement on major changes to their team structure and how they would work going forward. Soon after, everyone was away for summer vacation and when returning they were all a bit disoriented. As you should be after a great vacation! What did we agree? Why did we decide that change? Some are still on vacation and we have to cover for each other. And work had accumulated, people were stressed and started to fall back to their old way of working. Then their manager was replaced and the new manager had a completely different idea and as their agreed way of working wasn’t “really working for them anyway”. Everything was cancelled and the new new way of working was pushed in. Which incidently was how they had been working before but with new names on things.

They didn’t get a chance for their own ideas to settle in before it was changed again. We should have, could have, supported them through the uphill battle of making the changes. But the pressure from stakeholders, backlog, and the new manager, it just didn’t work out and we were asked to disengage and support another team.

Could we have done things differently? Most likely. Would that have changed anything? Who knows? What we did learn is that we need to be there along the way with team both uphill and downhill before they will continue on their own. We learned that don’t do the team kickoff just before the summer breaks. It would have been better to actually hold off until late August. Just as you need to be agile and things can change quickly on the market, it can change quickly internally also and you need to be nimble on your feet and adjust accordingly. If an “agile transformation” or “journey” is done or perceived as a standard project, it will be treated as a project. And we all know they have a limited time span, they will end. What we need is to initiate an improvement change every day and keep it up. Continuous improvement means just that, continuous.

Photo by Miha Jan Strehovec on Unsplash