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Tribal Leadership – What level of leadership are you at?

There are many perspectives about what leadership is and how it should be done. Contrary to many recipe books on this topic, Tribal Leadership is a useful tool to assess the stage of your personal leadership style and evaluate the impact and the consequences of each stage. Although the backdrop of the book is that a higher leadership stage is better, the real value for me was as a tool to understand the culture and more importantly the people we deal with as part of Agile transitions.

While the majority of leaders in the work place are at stages 2 and 3, Tribal Leadership shares tools and insights to help individuals and organizations break through to the next evolutionary stages – which are usually much easier for a transition.

To help you get a gist of where you may stand as a leader and possibly help you determine at what level people you work with are, the authors provided on their web site a quick map (below).

As Agile coaches, we must often work with teams and their leaders. Understanding the behaviours of the leaders and their motivation is extremely useful. As such, the book presents a model allowing the transformation of Level 1 leaders to higher levels – granted most people start at level 2 or 3.

The book provides rich insights into human behaviour, group dynamics and individual motivation. Overall, it provides a good framework to understand people’s behaviors and with some clear thinking, can lead into actionable strategies to help support an agile transition.

Tribal Leadership is available in audio book [285 Mb zipped file] and in a traditional book format (Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization).

See Dave Logan’s presentation at TED.

http://video.ted.com/assets/player/swf/EmbedPlayer.swf

Cracking the Code for Standout Performance (part II)

image by shadaringtonAs Agile team coaches or organizational coaches, we aim to increase the teams’ performance in an attempt to deliver better results. We improve quality, help the team work more efficiently, and have fun while delivering increased business value. Interestingly, many of the observations presented in Great Business Teams: Cracking the Code for Standout Performance (this is the second part of the book review) are in line with the Agile values and principles. Here are some of the keys points to remember:

THE LEADERS

The leaders have an important role in developing high performance teams. Their actions and behaviors will be closely observed and people will modify their own behaviors based on those of their leaders. Guttman highlights some of the leader imperatives to achieve high performance.

Develop and drive the horizontal vision

An horizontal organization means moving to an organizaton in which everyone operates according to a clearly defined set of decision-making protocols, where people understand what they are accountable for and then own the results.

For an organization to raise its level of performance every team, on every level, must be a great team. That is to say, it must be aligned in five key areas:

  1. business strategy
  2. business deliverables coming from the strategy
  3. roles and responsibilities at individual and business unit or functional levels
  4. protocols, or ground rules, for decision making and conflict resolution (see a recent post on this topic)
  5. business/interpersonal relationships and interdependencies

Create the right mindset

  • Being candid from “wary, closed with hidden agendas” to “candid, open, relaxed, easy to speak your mind” – from “no tolerance for confrontation, conflicts suppressed” to “tensions surfaced, confronted, and resolved”
  • Accentuating accountability: putting equal emphasis on cross functional, peer-to-peer accountability, as well as peer-to-leader acountability.

Provide the right skills

Such as influencing, active listening, assertion, giving and receiving feedback, conflict management, decision making and leadership.

Keep the game and guard the rules

Everyone is clear about and committed to the business strategy and the operational goals that flow from it; undertsands his or her roles and responsibilities, and adheres to agreed-upon protocols, or ground rules for decisions making and for interpersonal behavior, especially those relating to conflict management.

Here’s how great teams make decisions:

  • Identify the decisions that need to be made
  • Identify decision subteams
  • Assign accountability
  • Set objectives and timelines
  • Select the decision making mode
  • Identify information sources
  • Determine the shelf life of the decision

Raise the bar

Keep challenging the status quo, revisit the targets and get the team involved in the process.

Be player centered

Leadership is in large part about power – about how it is exercised, shared, delegated, and used. High performance leaders seek to leverage power, not monopolize – to put it to use to drive up their team’s or organization’s performance. Putting the power in the hands of the teams members provides the right conditions to deliver maximum payoffs.

THE PLAYERS

The road to a great team begins with two nuclear elements of team reality: the leader and the team members. Consequently, team members must show four very obvious characteristics.

Think like a director

Keep their eye on overarching goals and the need to stay on top of their competition.

Put team first, function second

They are team members first and functional representatives second.

Embrace accountability

Slowly move from an individual accountability for their own results toward accountability toward the success of the entire organization.

Become comfortable with discomfort

People need to be or become comfortable with the changes required of them and their leader.

Building an outstanding team requires time and energy and is achievable once people agree to work together and pull in the same direction.

Expected behaviors of a self-organized team

Picture by Creative DonkeyFollowing a recent post on the topic of self-organization, I’m offering a few examples of how people react / should react when a team is self-organized.

 

Not self-organized Self-organized
  • Waits to be told what to do
  • Figures out what needs to be done
  • Is a victim of circumstances
  • Is responsible for his actions
  • Gossips about the motives
  • Seeks information to understand
  • Whines about the constraints
  • Attempts to operate within the constraints
  • Complains about his colleagues’ performance
  • Holds his colleagues accountable
  • Waits for rules to be defined
  • Defines the rules of operations
  • Reactive
  • Proactive

What other behaviours have you noticed?

The PATH: a model to facilitate the diagnosis of the Agile maturity level

Pyxis created the PATH model to facilitate the diagnosis of the Agile maturity level within a team in order to recommend the appropriate intervention. PATH is:

  • An intervention approach within the organization;
  • A model allowing to lessen the impact of an Agile transition.

PATH is an acronym for Process-Added value-Technologies-Human, the 4 dimensions of software development.

Processes: Efficiently deliver value with a simple process adapted to the project’s needs (lowest cost within time).

Added value: Deliver functionalities and maximize their business value (prioritization and flexibility).

Technologies: Deliver quickly and consistently with appropriate engineering practices (sustainable pace and skills development).

Human: Deliver at a sustainable pace and in harmony while promoting team work (collaboration and communication).

In addition to the dimensions, the PATH model introduces 3 influence levels—vision, funnelling and emergence—that, when applied to all 4 dimensions, produces 12 intervention areas.

Vision

The ‘Vision’ level shows the orientation to meet established objectives. This level is generally linked to the strategic vision of the organization. The vision represents the objectives to achieve.

For instance:

Maximization of return on investment:

  • Connection between the IT group and business units, and globally between all stakeholders
  • Development of inter-project synergies in order to adopt best practices and pool them
  • Management of simple and adaptable projects in order to reduce administration fees
  • Capacity to innovate in order to be equipped with the tools required for the organization to evolve
  • Capacity to anticipate in order to gain a competitive edge
  • Greater respect for budget allowance

Maximization of a cooperation and collaboration culture:

  • Better team organization
  • Evolution of the strategy and change culture
  • Adaptation of the leadership model

Performance:

  • Quick project execution compared to traditional approaches
  • Quality improvement of software delivered
  • Establishment of parameters allowing to measure performance
  • Adaption of the competency model and expertise development
  • Process implementation to select initiatives

Funnelling

The main objective of the ‘Funnelling’ level is to implement mechanisms promoting collaboration (e.g. communities of practice, wikis, and blogs).

This level:

  • Allows to implement a communication approach in order to make the vision visible
  • Allows to make sure the field practices (emergence) are aligned with the objectives established at the ‘Vision’ level

Therefore, funnelling allows the emergence of the best practices arising from development teams as well as the dissemination of these practices to all groups that may benefit from them. Therefore, the ‘Funnelling’ level acts as an information catalyst and aggregate.

Globally, the objective of this level is to ensure reuse of:

  • Tools
  • Practices
  • Experience acquired by stakeholders

Emergence

The ‘Emergence’ level is the level for project teams developing software solutions. It is important to implement new development processes and train team members on how to apply Agile principles.

At this level, transformations imply:

  • New ways of doing
  • A behaviour oriented towards collaboration in order to achieve established objectives
  • The implementation of methods allowing to obtain best results

Agile teams – What people managers can learn from parents

image by candrewsBefore I explain what people managers can learn from parents, I feel the need to defuse what some readers may have in mind. I am not suggesting that employees and team members are children or act like babies [although, sometimes ... - sorry, I'm digressing].

The Art of Parenting

If you have children, you should quickly relate to the fact that nothing really prepares us to be good parents. Sure, while growing up we assimilate patterns, behaviours, and skills from our environment – including and often to a large extent from our own parents. At a later stage in our children-free life, some of our friends start to have kids and we observe them – sometimes with curiosity, sometimes out of sheer voyeurism, and sometimes with envy – and that’s when we contemplate the idea of having kids of our own.

Then, one day out of the blue, the kind doctor tells your spouse that she is pregnant – in our case with twins! But that’s an entirely different story ;)

Then comes the next stage of learning to become a parent, we spent countless hours on amazon.com previewing and ordering books, lot’s of books. Except for a few best sellers, the others titles vary based on our perceived areas of weakness and the bad pattern we noticed from our parents when they raised us.

And one day, a beautiful baby boy is born and/or a pretty baby girl – once again, in our case we got one of each.

Once the sleepless nights are over and the baby is capable of learning, parents slowly transfer increasingly complex tasks to their child: holding the milk-bottle, feeding themselves, walking without holding mommy’s hand, abandoning the diaper, selecting how much ketchup to put on their food, picking their own clothes, walking to school by themselves, deciding what time to go to bed, going to a movie without supervision, and so on up to the point when the child moves out of the house to start their own independent life.

What people managers can learn from parents

It is obvious that parenting is very different from managing people, no doubt about that. On the other hand, their are some similarities.

Nothing prepares people to become good managers. Sure, while growing up in our professional career we assimilate patterns, behaviours, and skills from our environment – including and often to a large extent from our own managers. Granted, some people had the opportunity to learn about management during their school years and that could be an added bonus.

As with parenting, once we decide to get into management we spend countless hours on amazon.com previewing and ordering books, lot’s of books. Except for a few best sellers, the others titles vary based on our perceived areas of weakness and the bad pattern we noticed from our previous managers.

How that applies to Agile teams

Agile management is somewhat similar to the art of parenting with the manager transferring to its team increasingly complex tasks and responsibilities. Helping the team self-organize doesn’t mean to abandon the team to itself without help or some supervision. Along the same lines as parenting, there comes a time when the manager must determine how much responsibility to transfer and what level of support to provide.

Similar to the role of the parent, the agile manager is there to support the team’s development and make it successful and autonomous until one day – maybe – the team is highly performing and can become independent.

The myths of self-organized teams

Image by Lauren_MillerMany Agile practitioners will push forward the concept of self-organized teams as a first step towards an Agile transition. Unfortunately, self-organization is often mis-understood and many become frustrated with the concept. Below are myths taken from real life situations – including the inner workings of our organization.

  • Self-organized teams can only work with experienced people. Although more experienced individuals may make it easier to self-organize, they can also make it much more difficult due to their old work habits. Overall, the age of the team members or their actual experience doesn’t impact their ability to self-organize. Self-organization has more to do with the people’s willingness to self-organize and the support they get from their manager than it has with age or experience.
  • Self-organized teams don’t need a leader. Wrong, self-organized teams still need a leader to move them through the various stages and toward their end goal. This being said, it doesn’t mean that the leader has to be a manager or a person in authority. Quite the contrary. Emerging leadership is a much better way to achieve self-organization but management needs to be patient because self-organization takes time.
  • Self-organized teams don’t need managers. Why not? Managers are a key success factor to support self-organization. Once again, this doesn’t mean that the manager is included in the self-organized team or that the manager will be leading the team. As Jurgen puts it – “Agile managers work the system around the team, not the people in the team”.
  • Self-organized teams are for everyone. Not necessarily, some people may not be ready for self organization or they may not be willing. Everybody has the capacity to be part of a self-organized team, it is simply a matter of wanting to be part of such a team because it is demanding and requires people to become responsible and accountable.
  • Self-organized teams are easy to implement. Really? If it was easy, why wouldn’t everyone adopt self-organization? The fact is that starting at a young age, we keep being told what to do (brush your teeth, go to bed, pick up your clothes, do your homework, show up at the office at 9am, finish the report for your boss, go on vacation in July, retire at 65, etc.) Wanting to be self-organized and taking control of your life is counter-intuitive and difficult. People in self-organized teams often act as victims of circumstances during the early stages (I can’t do this because the system won’t allow me) and then start to notice the opportunity the freedom of choice brings.
  • Self-organized teams quickly increase the team’s performance. No, it won’t. The team’s performance will indeed increase and for the long run but self-organization requires time, energy and much efforts to deliver results. If you are interested in quick-wins with minimal investments (time and/or money), I would suggest the Agile magic pill.

Autonomy or self-organization is a strong contributing factor for motivation and motivated individuals lead to improved performance and better results. Attempting to implement self-organized teams without understanding the risks and the energy required isn’t a good idea.

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