agile transformation done wrong. four common anti-patterns.

I spent an average of 110 days a year in "agile transformation" workshops in different industries and regions in the last decade. 

Here four anti-patterns I see, where managers going agile get stuck frequently:

1. AGILE MEANS CHAOTIC

Taking small decisions in frequent, fast iterations means one arm is always on the wheel while you drive. This could feel chaotic. But only if you lack the basic process knowledge about how to organize for flow, which allows you to steer smoothly through rough waters. 

I often see patterns of avoidance: leaders avoid taking ownership and responsibility for decisions, and hide behind "commitees" and "rounds", which nowadays get fancy names, but are still a comfort zone to procastinate decisions. 

2. AGILE APPLIES ONLY TO SMALL TEAMS
There is evidence that the easiest and fastest way to get a team in high performance mode is to keep it the size of 4-5. But also much bigger teams can be effective and efficient, if they progress from "consensus" to "consent". In consensus, moving forward happens after everybody agrees. In consent-mode moving forward happens by default, unless somebody tires to hinder your idea. 
This is the very underestimated core of agile decision making. It is not the fancy vocabulary. 

3. AGILE WORKS ONLY FOR PROJECTS, NOT FOR THE WHOLE ENTERPRISE
Companies like Google show us that you can implement agile steering methods at scale from top to bottom. A well documented example is the transparent and iterative goal setting process OKR, objectives and key results. 

4. AGILE CAN NOT BE PLANNED
A hilarious misconception, since the more agile your planning processes get, the more you plan when to decide what with whom! My calendar has always the next 12 months planned in advance. It says "strategy workshop" or "steering group", or "staff day" and I do know exactly what we will do: Take the most important decisions on what matters right there. This is the exact opposite of what happens in most corporations, where you get invited to meetings one week before they happen, without the inviter respecting your priorities or schedule. Of course the agenda is not yet fixed, it will emerge in real-time. And if the team and the moderator do their job, it will be both productive and fun. 
 


 

simon severinoComment