Have you ever wondered what drives the high productivity of start-ups? An agile culture continuously takes small productivity boosting steps. Start-ups are obsessive about velocity and creating an agile “Way of Working”. Read on to start the journey with your own teams.
It is both a very large challenge and a small one at the same time. “Grown up” teams tend towards measuring progress in monetary terms, at least to start with and the reality is that agile culture transformation costs money and can be hard to measure especially during inception. So this in turn means established teams struggle to build consensus on how to start.
There are two elements that you must separate out:
Projects or even single days of effort produce blocks of value. This gets noticed. You need to use these blocks of value to show progress. “Hey, I delivered that latest report!” The report is the business value. But how did you produce the report?
If you want to deliver agile culture improvement you must concentrate on both the content (Value) and the way of working (How).
Way of Working
The “Way of Working” or agile culture improvement, is a continuous activity. It will never stop. It will become the new normal. Do not think of it as a “project”. Because of this ongoing nature many organisations find it nebulous and hard to plan out effectively.
Xonetic apply a Business Technology Way of Working, which pragmatically incorporates standards such as Scaled Agile Framework, ITIL 4 and Prince.
Here are 5 coaching points for you to think about.
- Have a (small) goal in mind
The most important starting point is to avoid over complicating things. Do not even think about how to measure success or have a grand scheme (park this for later). It doesn’t need to be that hard. Start with a small idea, perhaps ask employees to list the 5 tasks they hate the most. Hate is a good measure, much easier to define than cost or quality.
- Take small steps
Trying to change too much at once is a sure-fire way to spend a lot of money/time and whilst it can be successful its a high-risk strategy. Above all however, changing a lot of things at once is slow. Complexity is the enemy. Whilst you are describing what the change is, and asking others to buy in, you are not making progress.
It is better to make steady progress and see continual results than a long period of intensive effort (during which it is easy to get blown off course or just plain demoralised).
- Remember your progress
It can be very easy to focus on what is next and forget what came before. A visual representation of progress is vital and it can be simple. Marbles in a jar? A tally of minutes saved? Be sure to regularly communicate this with your team. Culture change requires lots of communication.
Remember that others may only recognise the “value” you have delivered, rather than the “way of working” improvement that has delivered it. This is ok.
- Make decision making a part of your daily routine.
Many organisations get stuck on decisions. Who should sign off and who knows enough to decide? Who has the authority? The key to unlocking this is the size of the decision and the frequency of decision making. Too many organisations have weekly or worse monthly steering meetings. This sets a precedence that decision making is something to do occasionally and by a select few. Decisions should be taken rapidly – set a rule about the maximum time a decision can take – try 12 hours. If you make faster decisions you will inevitably break the questions into smaller steps. We call this Minimum Viable Governance.
- Ask for guidance and not decisions.
Leadership should focus on mentoring, guiding and coaching. The more guidance that is available the easier it is for decisions to be taken. Look for precedence set in other areas and seek guidance on how to apply it. Guidance is on ongoing discussion with your stakeholders which in turn boosts communication.
- Have a big goal in mind!
No this doesn’t contradict the first point. It is important to know where you are headed. Take a point 12 months out and work back in monthly steps, and then do it again from 3 years out in 6 month steps. This thinking is vital to ensure you have a heading set. It will enable you to get others to buy in to your vision. A framework such as Business Technology is vital to help you set direction.
Isn’t that 6 points? Well yes. Don’t be too constrained with “rules”.
At Xonetic we solve your hardest technology challenges. Follow the steps above to get started on the road to agile culture transformation and accelerate business value creation.
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