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Survey results are in… People would wonder about their management style

The results are in!

In the survey I recently posted, to the question How would you react to bad news? most people would “wonder if their management style had anything to do with the current situation”.

How would you react to bad news?

Rest assured, this survey didn’t pretend to be scientific and the statistical method could easily be challenged. Nonetheless, it is nice to see that people would display what I would think to be the right behavior.

I can’t quite understand why 21% of the people would curl up in a foetal position :-p

Clueless – 7 hints you’re probably not on the Agile track

Are you sure you want to be Agile?As an Agile coach and working for a consulting organization that specializes in Agile Software Development, I get to meet people who have decided to adopt or are thinking of adopting Agility within their organization.

I have to say, most people understand what an Agile transition means for them and their organization and are willing to make the changes required to make their transition a success.

And then, there are others who are most likely adopting Agile for the wrong reasons and as such, aren’t really interested or even aware of what it means for them.

I’ve put together a short list of 7 (real life!) conversations that made me wonder if common sense had left the building. Feel free to share your conversations…

Time estimates

  • Client: I don’t understand. Since we’ve adopted Agile, our developers consistently exceed the time estimates for their tasks.
  • Me: Interesting. Who provides the time estimates?
  • Client: The project manager…

Change Management

  • Client: We are really serious about implementing Agile within our organization.
  • Me: Great! You realize Agile is not a silver bullet that will magically eliminate all your issues?
  • Client: Of course, we are fully aware. We would like to start with a new project that is scheduled to start shortly.
  • Me: Good. Following our earlier conversation, you realize you will have to make changes to the way your team is currently working and that might impact their productivity in the short term.
  • Client: We can’t impact the team’s productivity. The project budget, scope and time lines have already been defined and the project is already 2 months behind schedule…

Trust

  • Client: We have identified a list of issues that we need help with. Here’s the list. Can you help us?
  • Me: Possibly. Let me look at your list. Who came up with the items on this list?
  • Client: Me and my direct reports.
  • Me: Has the team been involved in putting this list of issues together?
  • Client: Absolutely not. We asked them to put together a list of issues they were facing and most of the items were related to lack of trust, micro-management, and bad communication so we threw out their list and put this one together for them…

Retrospection

  • Client: We are just about to begin a new iteration but our last iteration was a disaster. We missed our time lines, the product owner is upset at the development team and morale is very low.
  • Me: Have you done a retrospection at the end of your iteration?
  • Client: No. We need to start development on the new project immediately.
  • Me: Wouldn’t there we be value in evaluating what went wrong in order not the repeat the same mistakes?
  • Client: We don’t have time for that and quite honestly, we don’t want the team’s morale to get worst once they realize how bad the situation is…

Management Support

  • Client: This Agile thing is great! I’m going to impress the management team with our success.
  • Me: How so?
  • Client: The development team asked me if they could use Agile for their next project and from what I read, Agile can help them improve their performance and reduce the time to market.
  • Me: Yes, if it’s done right you may get those benefits.
  • Client: Wonderful! After I gave them the go ahead to start immediately, I told them I now expected to project to be delivered in 9 months (instead of 18 months) and cut their budget by half…

Collaboration

  • Client: Agile has done good things for our development team but we keep facing issues with project members that don’t report into our department.
  • Me: Who are those external contributors?
  • Client: The architects and the DBAs.
  • Me: Do you keep them informed of your project progress? Do they get involved in defining the stories? Do they estimate their work?
  • Client: Hell, no. We simply assign them the work they need to do and complain to their boss if they fall behind…

Scrum Master

  • Client: I don’t understand why things aren’t working well.
  • Me: What is the issue?
  • Client: We took the Certified Scrum Master training you offer, we read a few books, and we’ve started implementing Scrum but nothing seems to be working.
  • Me: What do you mean?
  • Client: The only thing we didn’t do is take a natural leader to be the Scrum Master. Robert was available so we asked him to be the Scrum Master.
  • Me: Who is Robert?
  • Client: Robert has been with the company for 22 years. He’s one of the few Mainframe project managers who preferred not to learn the new web technologies and since he didn’t have any assignments, we thought he could do the job…

Do you have any hints you would like to share?

The 5 Dimensions of Leadership in an Agile Context

Following my posts on delivering results in an agile context, the 7 dimensions of an agile project team and their agile work environment, this fifth and final post on Agile Leadership presents the “Leadership” level of the model. I’m hoping to help managers, leaders, and stakeholders better understand which behaviors to modify in order to obtain better performance and improve employee satisfaction within their organization. I came up with five dimensions associated with Leadership in an Agile context.
Picture by pedrosimoes7

Before I begin, I want to make a distinction between management and leadership. Over the years, the terms “leadership” and “management” have often been used as synonyms. To distinguish the two words I would specify that leadership is “transformational” in nature while management is more “transactional”.

Leadership

Leadership has been described as the “process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task” (wikipedia)

Servant Leadership

Servant-leaders achieve results for their organizations by giving priority attention to the needs of their colleagues and those they serve. Servant-leaders are often seen as humble stewards of their organization’s resources (wikipedia)

Management

Management in all business areas and human organization activity is the act of getting people together to accomplish desired goals and objectives. Management comprises planning, organizing, staffing, leading or directing, and controlling an organization (a group of one or more people or entities) or effort for the purpose of accomplishing a goal (wikipedia)

Goal Setting

Goal-setting ideally involves establishing specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-targeted objectives. Work on the goal-setting theory suggests that it can serve as an effective tool for making progress by ensuring that participants have a clear awareness of what they must do to achieve or help achieve an objective (wikipedia)

A few questions to assess the Goal Setting dimension of the Leadership model:

  • Are the team members objectives aligned with one another?
  • Are the suggestions coming from the retrospection of the team taken into consideration in the objective settings?

Performance Management

Performance management includes activities to ensure that goals are consistently being met in an effective and efficient manner (wikipedia)

A few questions to assess the Performance Management dimension of the Leadership model:

  • Does the leader clearly define the objectives of his people?
  • Does the organization measure its progress toward its goals?
  • Is the performance measured at the team level in addition to the individual level?
  • Does the company evaluate both the individual’s work behaviours and outcomes against the defined objectives?
  • Do the team members receive timely and frequent feedback?

Remuneration

Remuneration is pay or salary, typically a monetary payment for services rendered, as in an employment (wikipedia)

A few questions to assess the Remuneration dimension of the Leadership model:

  • Do managers mostly rely on intrinsic (rather than extrinsic) motivation?
  • Does the remuneration model reflect the individual’s contribution to the team or is it based on seniority?
  • Is the compensation model clearly understood by all team members?
  • Is the leader rewarded for the development of his members?
  • Do team members participate in the definition of the compensation of their colleagues?
  • Is the compensation model strictly based on individual performance?

Coaching

Coaching refers to the activity of a coach in developing the abilities of coachees. Coaching tends to focus on the achievement by coachees of a goal or specific skill (wikipedia)

A few questions to assess the Coaching dimension of the Leadership model:

  • Does the leader support its members in their skills and competences development?
  • Does the leader take the time to teach his team members on how to increase their skills and better themselves?
  • Is the leader selected by the team members?
  • Is the leader evaluated by his team members?

Change Management

Change management is a structured approach to transitioning individuals, teams, and organizations from a current state to a desired future state (wikipedia)

A few questions to assess the Change Management dimension of the Leadership model:

  • Does the leader work with the team members to establish a clear change management strategy?
  • Does the leader acknowledge that the pace of change is different for all team members?
  • Does the leader deal constructively for team members’ resistance to change?

Leader’s Qualities

Finally, in order to assess if the leader has the right qualities to be successful in an agile environment, I have selected a handful of qualities the leader should clearly demonstrate.

Does the Leader display the following qualities?

  • Making decision when necessary
  • Enthusiasm / Optimism
  • Humility
  • Respect
  • Trust
  • Integrity
  • Confidence

How do you react to bad news? Assess your management skills

Picture by dsevilla Have a few minutes? Want to quickly assess your ability to react to bad news? Try this short exercise.

Context

Working for a large multi-national organization, you are the head of a 40 people software development team. Your team’s ability to deliver on their commitment continues to decrease despite implementing new measures to help boost productivity.

During a recent lunch meeting, you were informed that things on the floor are really bad by one of your external partner. In an attempt to help you, the partner offers to present some key findings about your team – their processes, their tools, their skills, their environment, etc.

In order to share the suggestions of your external partner with your team, you invite your direct reports (managers) to the presentation. It’s a sunny day outside and despite some technical glitches, the consultants begin the presentation by stating the objective of the meeting and inform you they intend to be very candid. After a few introductory slides, the real content of the presentation begins…

Slide 6

Lack of Team work

  • No ownership of the project by the team members
  • No shared commitment by the team members
  • Team members not working with a common goal in mind
  • Seperation of responsabilities leads to a silo work environment

Consequences

  • Lack of efficiency
  • No sharing of knowledge
  • Team members have no common focus

Slide 7

Lack of Technical Skills

  • Testing (Unit, Functional, Acceptance) non existant
  • No knowledge of Object Oriented Programming
  • No knowledge of Web Development Skills
  • Sound engineering practices absent
  • No time for learning

Consequences

  • High and increasing number of bugs
  • Quality is constantly low
  • Maintenance costs are increasing
  • Will have a negative impact on future projects

Slide 8

Difficult Work Environment

  • Micro management and interference by management
  • Lack of communications and transparency
  • Maintain a culture of fear and blame
  • Dictates the ways of working
  • No time for learning

Consequences

  • Overall unpleasant work environment
  • Team members want to quit the project
  • Overall quality is suffering

How would you react?

Enter your answer below. I will publish the results shortly.

Is your work environment Agile?

Picture by Alessia206

As a follow-up to my post on Agile Leadership, I have described the 7 dimensions of an Agile Project Team and what it means to deliver results in an Agile context. This forth (out of five) post briefly looks into the Agile Work Environment (or Agile Work Space) to successfully support the delivery of results by the project team.

Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done – Principles behind the Agile Manifesto.

As suggested by the Manifesto, providing the right environment will support a fast paced, entrepreneurial, flexible and autonomous culture allowing the project team to focus on their objective while enjoying their environment.

A few questions to assess the work space configuration of the project team:

  • Are all team members co-located?
  • Does the physical environment support effortless communication?
  • Are team members within 10 meters (30 feet) of a white board?
  • Are team members allowed to stick post-it notes to the walls around them?
  • Does the project team have access to natural light?
  • Are team members allowed to decorate their work space?
  • Do the project team members have access to free good-coffee?
  • When necessary, do team members have access to private rooms to concentrate on their activities?

Needless to say, the right work environment can have a significant impact on the project team’s performance. More specifically, the right work environment should support the team’s autonomy, ability to communicate and collaborate. It should support the use of the right processes and tools to be efficient while allowing them to enjoy their surroundings.

We need better management – we need agile management

As mentioned in my guest post on Management 3.0, times are changing and many organizations are finding ways to lead people to deliver better results.

Having spent most of my professional career in the software development industry, either as a consultant or as an employee of large corporations, it is obvious that many of my inspirations for leadership came for the technology side of things. I quickly realized two things:

  1. Working with technology opened my perspective to more innovations and allowed me to develop a willingness to continuously improve what was around me – not only the technology but the tools and the processes in order to derive better performance from people and later on to strive for a more balanced work-life,
  2. I noticed that many people in organizations who could change the way people were managed were caught in their old paradigms:
    • Senior managers who had power refused to change and were counting the days until retirements,
    • Middle managers who had an open mind, had no time to implement innovations or had no power to do so,
    • Support departments were more interested in maintaining status quo after years of implementing policies and procedures and weren’t so inclined to look for better methods.

Once in a while, an external consultant would present some promising avenue to help improve performance and morale but their attempt would vanish once they closed the doors behind them.

Then came Agile. Although the Agile Manifesto was published in 2001, I discovered the underlying principles years later and it became obvious to me that what was recommended for software development organizations would certainly work, outside the technology departments. For almost two years, I have been analyzing the principles, reading books, and working with colleagues and clients to derive an improved method of working. From my “Rebel Leadership” concept came the “Agile Leadership” approach.

What does “Delivering Results” mean in an Agile context?

A few days ago, I broke down the key dimensions associated with an Agile Project team in an attempt to explain Agile to managers but I purposely excluded the concept of RESULTS in order to remain focus on the key dimensions. As such, the main reasons why an organization would choose to go Agile haven’t been specifically addressed in my previous post.

Image from dullhunk

Working software over comprehensive documentation – Manifesto for Agile Software Development

Yes, working software is the goal of the project team but the ultimate goal of the organization remains to maximize return on investment (ROI). The next logical question should be “What does maximizing return on investment (ROI) mean in an Agile context?”

In my opinion, maximizing ROI in an agile context means:

  • Paying the right price for the developed software while getting the most business value – the right price means the cost associated with the labor without significant overhead costs;
  • Developing a competitive advantage by adapting to changes in the environment while quickly and incrementally developing the results in order to capture the market opportunities;
  • Increasing customer satisfaction by giving them the product they need, when they need it;
  • Allowing project team members to develop their skills while having fun.

Too many times, maximizing ROI simply means increasing throughput and/or decreasing cost – no matter what. Delivering results in an agile context should not limit its focus on the very short term but also take into consideration a longer term investment in the capabilities of the team members.

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