Agile is hot. Almost every Fortune 500 company is “Doing the Agile Thing”. But with the success also the critics are growing rapidly. The post “Agile is Dead” from Matthew Kern was extremely popular. Many of his arguments are dead right. For example, Agile has become a brand name and a hype and the original Agile Manifesto has lost most of his power and purpose by bad interpretations of it. But there is a lot more to add to this discussion which is often based on misinterpretations what Agile actually means.
Something absolutely revolutionary (or should I say evolutionary) is currently unfolding @WaTech. This CIO-department of the State of Washington is transforming towards the first Teal governmental organization in the US and perhaps even worldwide.
Invited by initiator CIO deputy Michael DeAngelo, Joe Justice and I visited the WaTech offices in Olympia to observe and coach the Scrum teams applying Scrum, Lean, and Holacracy. What we’ve seen there can be described best as energizing, accelerating, customer centric and dedicated. Characteristics you’ll expect from a start-up, not from a governmental organization.
This was exactly what Michael DeAngelo had in mind starting this journey in order to be more competitive with WA-State based companies like Microsoft, Disney, Expedia, Amazon and Boeing by creating an awesome "Smell of the Place".
Ingredients for this tasteful recipe were Agile, Lean and Holacracy. These methodologies paved the way for a different, more empowered mindset of WaTech employees.
WaTech is using Scrum to enable fast learning and acceleration and stay focussed on the most important Minimal Viable Product (MVP). In combination with the core principle of Lean, how do I create a maximum of customer value with as little effort as possible, a powerful combination was born.
But still, bureaucracy and time-taking decision making would still be there without Holacracy. How does Holacracy eliminate this? Holacracy is a system that makes accountability in an organization crystal clear. Decisions don’t need to travel looking for a home. They belong to the person who is empowered for the specific role. As a result, 80% of team members feel empowered and confident they can lift impediments themselves.
Another powerful mechanism in Holacracy which prevents long decision making, is consent. Unless you have a tangible example how a proposal could cause harm or move the organisation backward, the proposal will be accepted. Currently, an average decision in a governance meeting takes less than 2 minutes. This means a decrease of 93%(!) with the situation before Holacracy.
Step by step but determined, WaTech is moving towards a self-organizing Teal Organization. WaTech employees feel more empowered, valued and happy. It's no rocket science to draw the conclusion this a blessing for the citizens of the state of Washington.
Perhaps the most important outcome is team members don't think in restrictions anymore but use their imagination again pushing borders achieving the unthinkable: projects which would have taken 3 years before, are now executed in just 3 months.
The next phase of this transition will be even more exciting and challenging; Leadership from the local government is needed to enroll Agile, Lean and Holacracy in more departments. However, new elections are underway later this year. Let's see what happens. But I'm convinced the teams we've seen in Olympia would even survive the biggest storm!
Curious about a more in-depth analysis and the current situation @WaTech? Join our presentation and panel discussion @Agile2016 in Atlanta! See you there on July 25th!
In reaction on the Era of Big Transitions we currently live in, many organizations are reinventing themselves as we speak. How can we survive? Or rephrased more positive: How can we turn this threat into a unique chance?
Most organizations start with this journey by redesigning their culture, way of work and organizational structure. But are these building blocks not too rigid and too slow to change?
In my opinion, we should be seeking for smaller building blocks. For example in nature, the smallest building blocks are atoms. Of course, we can’t go back to atoms for redefining the most ideal building blocks for an Agile Organization. But for now, imagine people in organizations are like molecules forming the organization. Small, but not the smallest.
But as we can observe almost every day, people are often not that agile at all. We love what we have and don’t like change. But is this really true? Is this not just our behavior which makes us feel comfortable? Do we unconsciously as human beings, somehow share deeper needs and values and different types of interaction? Referring to nature’s metaphor again: where are our atoms, our smallest building blocks?
This question challenged my mind for quite a while. Until last month. As Agile Coaches we went on a Aikido Ki Workshop to experience the physical and mental side of resistance and cooperation.
In Japanese martial art, this Material Energy or Life Force is called “Ki”. By respecting and connecting with the “Ki” of another person, you will be able to take away the resistance of the opponent. I’ll bet, this all will sound hazy to the most of you, but it’s actually quite easy to experience.
What to do with this almost spiritual blogpost?
As long as we focus primarily on our personal interest, we will never achieve the purest form of Agility and cooperation. We’re on earth as one collective organism, whether we like it or not, all with one goal: making this world a bit better iteratively. By Learning, Inspecting and Adapting. Together. This is where our evolution (read: agile) is all about.
It’s like creating an Internet of People. It all starts with making real connection with the people around us. Somehow that’s where it becomes very hard for most Western minds. On the other hand, it’s so logical for us we should create an Internet of Things as the next big step for our prosperity. Food for Thought. Don’t you think?
Watching the evening news and it should be no surprise the world around us is increasingly changing and is becoming too complex to fit in a system we as humankind still can control. We have to learn and adapt much faster solving our epic challenges. The Agile Mindset and methodologies are an important mainstay here. Adding some principles from nature makes it even more awesome.
Many organizations are reinventing themselves as we speak. One of the most difficult questions to answer is: which agile organizational model or framework do we use? SAFe? Holacracy? LeSS? Spotify?
Based on my experience on all these models, my answer is: just use as many agile models and frameworks you can get your hands on. Not by choosing one of them specifically, but by experimenting with elements of all these models the agile way: Inspect, Learn and Adapt continuously.
For example, you could use Spotify’s tribe-structure, Holacracy’s consent- and role principles and SAFe’s Release Trains in your new agile organization. But most important: experiment towards your own “custom made” agile organizational building blocks. And remember: taking on the Agile Mindset is 80% of the job, only 20% is implementing this agile "organization".
Probably the worst thing you can do is just copy-paste an existing model. You will inherit the same rigid situation you just wanted to prevent by implementing a scaled, agile organizational model.
Finally, the main ingredient of this agile recipe is trust. You have to trust your colleagues and this new born agile organization in being anti-fragile and self-correcting just right from the start. These principles are the same as successful agile organizations you probably admire, depend on.
In my opinion, the best indicator how "agile" teams actually are, is their sprint length. The theory says 2-4 weeks. To be honest, as an agile coach, this doesn’t feel agile all the time.
Like I wrote in one of my previous posts, in my opinion the ultimate form of agility is nature. Nature’s sprint length seems to vary from billions of years how the universe is created to a fraction of a second how matter is formed.
Of course, it’s nonsense stating we could end up in sprints of just a few nano-seconds. But on the other hand, we see our society is speeding up dramatically. Where a service or product could take years before it went to market a couple of years ago, now it can be a matter of days, even hours. Think about the development of disruptive apps and technology like Uber and 3D-printing.
In these disruptive examples a sprint length of 2 weeks can be a light year. Even in Scrum we can be trapped in our patterns here. Why don’t we experiment with shorter sprint lengths? All agile rituals are relative in time; during build parties and hackathons I often use sprints of only 30 or 60 minutes; 5 mins for planning, 45 mins for the sprint, 5 mins for the review/demo, 5 mins for the retrospective. Combined with a fun party atmosphere and competition, this creates a hyper-productive environment.
Try some hyper sprinting next to your regular sprints. You’ll be surprised how ultra-productive and fun they are. For example, it enables your team to build a car in just an afternoon. Enjoy!
I finished my last post with the statement Agile will be applied on a much wider scale in the near future. Within governmental organizations, industry, startups, on a personal level, you name it. But how? In my next posts I will deep dive in this exciting story lying in front of us in five steps:
Blogpost/Step I: Creating Awareness & Distributing Agile Knowledge
Change is a chance, not a threat. Understanding and applying the Agile Mindset and toolsets will help everyone riding the wave of change with more pleasure and success. This is the main reason why I’ve joined initiatives like Nederland Kantelt, EduScrum, Wikispeed and Delft University’s D.R.E.A.M. Hall.
Blogpost/Step II: Fit Agile for Purpose
The Agile Manifesto was originally written for software. Lots of variants of the manifesto emerged the last couple of years serving different sectors and products. This is a good thing if the core values of the agile manifesto are respected.
However, agile is not applicable for everything. For example, Boeing will never apply Scrum directly for producing critical systems. They’re applying Scrum for less critical parts and R&D processes. For determining the right approach they use the Cynefin framework. In this post I will explain this framework making it a lot easier where you could apply Agile and where you should be careful.
Blogpost/Step III: Creating a Credible Purpose or “Why”
You can implement a new framework or organization, hire the brightest minds and have loads of capital, in the end it all boils down to real passion and believe. Every purpose should be spot on in hitting the center of the Golden Circle. But how to create this fontainebleau in spring?
Blogpost/Step IV: Breaking the Status Quo and Igniting Entrepreneurship
Many corporate organizations are busy or have implemented existing frameworks like SAFe or successful Agile models from companies like Netflix and Spotify. But the culture change which goes with it, is the most important step. How to spark a startup mentality in your organization? How to create real autonomy?
Blogpost/Step V: Creating Organic Organizations
Many Agile implementations do not transform organizations in being intrinsically Agile. To enable this, organizations should evolve organically, like Holacracy. They will become stronger and stronger by setbacks and uncertain circumstances. Organic organizations will be more resilient and anti-fragile. In fact, it’s exactly how nature works. But how can you work towards this ideal situation?
- The Agile transformation at ING was frontpage news in the Netherlands. This made us even more realize how epic this transformation and assignment actually is.
- The Agile-built hydrogen race car from the TU Delft set an official track record on the Nurburgring. We're proud on our guys in Delft!
- Hanging out with Boeings’ Agile champs at their facilities in Seattle exchanging knowledge. Impressive and extremely fruitful!
- Coaching the State of Washington on their ground breaking Agile initiatives together with my friend and fellow consultant from ScrumInc, Joe Justice.
One thing became clear for me after a week like this: Something Agile is cookin’. And it’s BIG!
In this blog I will be explaining why and how Agile will develop in the near future.
Last fall, I was approached by Tom van Norden from the UC Berkeley School of Information. A team of professor Morten T. Hansen, famous from his bestseller with Jim Collins “Great by Choice”, was investigating the magic around Joe Justice’ WikiSpeed. His agile team outperformed companies like Tesla during the XPrize a couple of years ago. Berkeley did research on the Agile and Lean practices being applied by the WikiSpeed team and it’s current status.
The summer holidays are over. Fall is coming. Like the start of every new year, a good moment for new inspiration.
Recently, I went twice to the Boston area for a client of Xebia. I met there (I dislike the word “assessments"..) a number of experienced Scrum teams. They had an excellent understanding of Scrum, but were not able to convert this to an excellent performance. Actually, there were somewhat frustrated and their performance was slightly going down.
So, they were great teams, great team members, their agile processes were running smoothly, but still not a single winning team. Which left in my opinion only one option: a lack of Spirit. Spirit is the fertilizer of Scrum and actually every framework, methodology and innovation. But how to boost the spirit?