As a coach and trainer, I’ve had the privilege to partner with organizations to help them achieve some really big goals. As the CEO of Agile Velocity, it’s been an honor to grow what was a company of one to multiple teams.
I’ve accomplished a life goal of building a business and have had a great time doing it, but it’s time to take AV to the next level.
First, I’m so pleased to welcome Richard Dolman as our new Vice President of the coaching team (we’re working on a title). As the leader of our coaching team, Richard will establish the vision for and grow our coaching practice while also helping coaches strengthen their capabilities. He will also work with our coaches to drive high-level execution of transformation strategies while partnering with our Client Success team to deliver consistent and accurate visibility into our client engagements.
Second, I have asked Erik Cottrell to be the new CEO. As we have scaled, it has pulled me in many directions and has forced me to explore how I could best serve the company, our employees, and our clients. The area that I feel I can contribute best and gives me the most energy is in a thought leadership role and developing my passion project, the Path to Agility®.
I promoted Erik because I believe he has the experience to fuel growth while continuing to foster and develop what separates us from the herd–our people-first culture.
In my new role as Chief Agilist of AV, I will help maintain our status as a thought leader by continuing to speak and write content. I will continue to workwith our most strategic engagements by engaging with leaders and coaches. Last, and most exciting, I will be continuing to develop the Path to Agility® transformation framework. The Path to Agility® guides organizations on how to actually achieve the business outcomes Agile has promised them for decades but have always been just out of reach.
My time as the CEO was wonderful and it left me fulfilled and so very grateful. I am excited now more than ever about the future of AV and its ability to help organizations and their teams.
As the rate of market disruption increases, it’s now more important than ever that organizations gain the ability to respond, adapt, and thrive. This is why many companies are embarking on Agile transformations. However, few of them ever realize that level of agility and many struggle to realize the benefits Agile promises (speed, quality, engaged employees). For that reason, many organizations give up before they see results.
In this workshop at Southern Fried Agile 2019, Agile Velocity Founder and Chief Agilist David Hawks explained common impediments to agility and how implementing Agile develops new capabilities across the organization.
Key Takeaways From “Overcome Transformation Impediments with Outcome-Driven Agility”:
The impacts of four key impediments slowing or preventing significant gains
An understanding of how an organization develops new abilities by implementing Agile practices and how those abilities result in organizational agility
The ability to assess their current state of agility and where to focus near term
In this workshop at Keep Austin Agile, David Hawks discussed the importance of being outcome vs. practice-driven and how that will lead to sustained impact and organizational agility. Attendees worked together to break down desired business outcomes into core capabilities to help them determine where their organization is and provide them with action items to focus on next.
An Agile transformation is an organization-wide change
Descale to reduce complexity in the system and help an organization scale
Outcome-driven organizational agility frames an Agile transformation based on the business outcomes an organization is trying to achieve
Learn more about being outcome-driven in our Business Outcomes series:
In today’s business, the current rate of disruption and increasing amount of global competition require organizations to treat their employees differently. In this new workforce dynamic, it is more imperative than ever for organizations to foster empowered teams and inspired workers.
At ATX HR, David Hawks discussed how HR agility enables focus, innovation, engaged workers, adaptability, and happy customers.
Key Takeaways from “HR Agility”:
An understanding of the current state of the global marketplace
Why an organizational-wide mindset shift is required to support Agile teams
How Agile practices and values can attract and retain top talent
Please excuse the autofocus issues in the video, we are iterating on how to avoid this problem in the future.
When we talk to leaders about what they want from Agile, most of the time, the top answer is Speed. Businesses need fast product delivery in order to satisfy customers and grow revenue.
Often the delivery team is seen as the bottleneck, and if the organization could just remove what’s blocking them, they would definitely get more value out the door… right?
Turns out there’s more to improving delivery speed than that. Read on to learn 6 organizational capabilities needed for achieving fast product delivery.
How To Measure Speed
Before we get started, let’s define speed as the time it takes to deliver an idea into the market. Speed could be measured by metrics like cycle time, lead time, deployment frequency, mean time to restore (MTTR), etc.
In order to accelerate value delivery speed, there are 6 key capabilities companies need to acquire at every level of the organization. Let’s dig in.
6 Organizational Capabilities Needed For Improving Speed
1. Ability to Focus
When teams are interrupted with new priorities, they get bogged down by task-switching costs. In order for teams to go faster, leaders need to be clear about priorities and refrain from shifting directions constantly. The new leadership mantra should be “Stop Starting, Start Finishing.” It will take discipline for leaders to make hard decisions, sequence the work based on priority, and allow teams to pull in work as they have capacity.
In order to increase product delivery speed, teams have to start working in smaller batches or increments of work. In Scrum, we talk about working in 2-week sprints. While team members might think this is arbitrary at first, this is a forcing function to encourage teams to break work down so they can deliver an increment of value at the end of that 2-week period.
That means they need to break the scope of work into small, demonstrable increments of value, and teams need to learn how to collaboratively swarm to get work done. Similar to the first capability where leaders limit work-in-progress (WIP), teams need to learn the discipline of limiting WIP in their sprints and daily work. Instead of everyone working on their own thing, teams need to work on as few items as possible at a time in order to get things completely finished. This allows teams to shorten time-to-value. Even if it is incremental, it is better than waiting months to see any value.
3. Cycle Time
Once teams get good at breaking work down and getting small increments of value out the door, they can start focusing on shortening their cycle time. Cycle time is measured as the time from when they start the work to the time it gets delivered.
Teams that are good in this area foster a true spirit of shared ownership of the work, greatly reducing skill boundaries and gaps. By investing in more knowledge transfer and skill flexibility, teams are able to adapt to whatever type of work is of the highest priority. In addition, teams need to invest in reducing waste in their processes, such as quality issues that cause frequent interruptions. For software teams, this would be things like reducing the amount of technical debt in the product enabling teams to make code changes faster.
4. Release Continuously
It is not good enough to only shorten the time it takes to get something done in a sprint. What we also need to focus on is getting value out the door. How long does it take to get the finished product into the hands of the customer? How can we improve this?
Focus on ways to shorten deployment time through tools and automation. For software teams, this is where DevOps practices come front and center. They allow teams to get code into the hands of the customer faster, which means removing manual tasks as much as possible and using automation so that we can operate with speed and quality.
5. Faster Time to Value
While an individual team could be delivering fast, the overall flow of work through the system or value stream could be compromised by a bottleneck outside the team. This is when leaders across departments need to work together to ensure that optimizations are being made to improve the overall system, not just one team or one department.
To help, leaders should explore systems thinking and try employing techniques like the Theory of Constraints.
6. Decision Agility
Part of speed is how long it takes to make a decision. In traditional hierarchical companies, it takes a long time for decisions to go up the chain and come back down. And the decisions are being made by people too far removed to fully understand the problem.
In order to increase speed and deliver faster, we need to empower the people closest to the problem to make decisions without having to wait. However, we want these decisions to be aligned with the goals and direction of the company. So in order to empower the teams, leaders need to clearly communicate goals, objectives, and direction (The Why) and leave the plan and details (The How) up to teams. Leaders should be clear about the “goal posts” by defining what success looks like, not “how to achieve success.”
As you can see, gaining speed and achieving fast product delivery is a lot of work and requires a lot of discipline. Many leaders approach speed the wrong way, trying to push more work into the system and hoping it will come out the other side faster.
As Henrik Kniberg said, “you can’t just shove more paper in the printer trying to get it to go faster.” The printer will jam…and this is what is happening to most teams today. They are jammed and going slower and slower as more work is piled on them.
You have to go slow to go fast. Reduce WIP, get small increments done, optimize the whole, focus with clear goals, and distribute decision making closer to the problems.
In this world of exponentially increasing market disruption, it is more imperative than ever for organizations to not only achieve operational agility (efficiency, speed, etc.), but also organizational agility (speed to respond to market change).
In this session at Global Scrum Gathering 2019, David Hawks showed attendees how leaders can guide their organization’s past top Agile transformation impediments and accelerate the momentum towards true organizational agility using a proven transformation framework, the Path to Agility®
Key Takeaways From “Why Transformations Get Stuck”:
The impacts of four top key impediments slowing or preventing significant gains.
An understanding of how an organization develops new abilities by implementing Agile practices and how those abilities result in better agility and impact an organization.
The ability to assess their current state of agility and where to focus near term
It’s 2019, and Agile has officially transitioned from a software development methodology to a mindset designed for entire organizations. It truly doesn’t matter what business department you highlight—all have similar problems at the root cause level. It’s simple: many teams are burdened with more work than they can realistically get done. Agile can help teams get on track, own their outcomes, and work toward accomplishing clear goals and objectives.
In this miniseries, I’ll highlight trends within four core departments and how leaders can implement Agile to eliminate bottlenecks and waste, increase throughput, and create predictable and empowered teams.
Without further adieu, let’s jump in. In this blog, we’re discussing Agile Marketing.
Agile Marketing: Taming Content Craziness
Content may be king, but it also can be disruptive. Most organizations’ marketing departments typically are responsible for a range of objectives, including:
Let’s be honest: This is A LOT of work. Eliminating waste within these processes is crucial to achieving key goals. All work may seem like a high priority, but Agile helps marketing teams prioritize tasks that truly need to be completed now over those that can be deferred.
However, Agile Marketing is a different beast than Agile in technology. Software teams usually work on features, whereas marketing is multi-faceted—the same team of people is responsible for multiple funnels of deadline-driven work.
In spite of this, Agile works well in marketing. Why? Because companies, regardless of size, require high-performing, independent, and empowered teams—teams that are able to quickly adapt to change, collaborate effectively with other departments and achieve results. Additionally, since marketing is now MarTech, many proven and invaluable Agile software delivery solutions can play a greater role in marketing organizations that rely on technology.
There’s a lot marketing can borrow from our experience in the technology sector. That’s why we’re seeing more Agile implementation within marketing departments and beyond.
P.S. The Agile Velocity marketing team had to undergo this transformation not too long ago. Follow their journey (and learn from their mistakes) in the blog series, Adventures in Agile Marketing.
We’ve been watching companies thrive—and struggle—for a long time. 2019 is our ninth year as a company and marks over 15 years of my personal work with clients as they transition to Agile. Throughout our time as a team, we’ve identified many key issues and problems that affect companies on their Path to Agility®.
Here are five Agile trends to look out for this year:
1. Companies still struggle with Agile implementation
Over the last year or two, I’ve been conducting a survey in some of my talks, including when I spoke at AgileCamp 2018 in Dallas. We found that 75 percent of companies undergoing organizational transformation were using Superficial Agility—mimicking Agile practices without truly understanding them.
As stated above, Superficial Agility is a practice where companies adopt Agile methodology without fully comprehending or communicating why. These adoptions often fail because they’re practice-driven versus outcome-driven. These companies tend to implement Agile and Scrum without a clear, tangible goal in mind. If you have an ambiguous goal, you are guaranteed to have a bad outcome.
Remember: Agile is a solution, not an outcome. What we mean is, companies have to understand the business outcomes they want to see, such as delivering to market faster or responding more quickly to market demands. These are business outcomes people can align around and by which companies can measure success. Agile is how they can obtain those results.
2. More companies realize the importance of leadership involvement during an Agile transformation
The good news: Companies are recognizing that getting stuck is more than just a team problem. It’s a leadership problem that requires…
Organizational structure change
Behavior shifts that impact culture
Leaders to adjust their decision-making processes
We are seeing more clients asking for help as they realize leaders have to be a larger part of an Agile transformation to ensure success.
3. More companies are implementing the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®)
Whereas Scrum traditionally takes places at the team level, Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®) and other scaling frameworks, like Scrum at Scale, etc. take place in large organizations with thousands of team members, managers, and leaders. SAFe® is one of the hottest things among large companies today, and it continues to gain traction.
Unfortunately, we’re seeing companies repeat earlier mistakes made 10 years ago. Back then, there was a similar sense of peer pressure to implement Scrum. Today, companies are following Agile trends, like SAFe® or Scrum at Scale, without understanding the reasoning or goals behind their practices and processes. As we saw with Scrum, this leads to a lack of business results for the organization.
SAFe® only works when companies become outcome-driven rather than practice-driven. Companies should know why they want to implement SAFe®, have a clear set of objectives they want to achieve, and apply the right amount of process to reach the goals they want to accomplish.
4. There are too many pretenders in the Agile coaching space
I know, I know—this is a bold statement. But let’s be honest. It takes a lot to help companies successfully undergo an Agile transformation. This business pays very well for consultants, and as a result, there are a lot of unqualified people who’ve hung their shingles in the Agile space.
The person hiring an Agile consultant is typically an uninformed buyer, and it’s easy to get snowed. These coaches may not have a deep understanding of how to implement an Agile transformation, how to motivate others, or the nuances of implementing Agile across different corporate cultures.
We’ve seen more and more individuals call themselves Agile coaches, yet they lack the experience and expertise to deliver value and coach organizations through major change. Few Agile coaches truly understand the patterns and challenges of agility because they simply haven’t done enough engagements to recognize them.
5. Agile is expanding outside of IT
This Agile trend has been gathering steam for a few years now. When we break down the core principles of Agile, we’ve found they apply anywhere you deal with complex systems and processes within an organization. Other parts of an organization, such as HR, marketing, and operations, are adopting many of the same practices we’ve been using in technology organizations for years. The need for greater visibility and predictability empowered teams, and a continuous improvement mindset has been identified across all departments.
However, Agile will need some translation when applied outside of IT. It’s not enough to mimic the practices of technology organizations. As always, we recommend being very clear about why the organization is implementing Agile.
Agile Trends From Here On Out
Agile continues to grow through whole-organization Agile transformations, Agile scaling frameworks, and Agile implementations outside of technology. Companies are drastically transforming and are highly responsive to market demands as a result.
Our industry’s challenge now is to avoid repeating mistakes of the past so that a decade from now we don’t end up with a lot of bad SAFe® and bad business-unit agility. Companies that don’t figure out how to get unstuck and achieve their outcomes are in danger of having their business models disrupted by organizations that get it—and 2019 will be no exception.
Agile Velocity’s Path To Agility® describes the activities and outcomes of implementing Agile and their impact on culture and business goals. We have taken repeatable patterns we have seen with our clients and combined them with organizational change models as seen in the Path to Agility® video below.
Align – A critical first step, alignment occurs when leaders in an organization understand the business objectives that will be achieved with the transformation and communicates those objectives to the entire organization in a clear way.
Learn – Through training and guided practice via Agile transformation coaching, teams and leadership are equipped with new techniques and an understanding of how Agile works. Ownership of processes are transferred to an empowered team, and a culture of continuous improvement is put in place.
Predict – Teams solidify these newly learned practices and become more disciplined in applying them. This allows them to begin working in a predictable and iterative manner, enabling leaders to better forecast and to make informed business decisions.
Accelerate – Once the teams become disciplined and predictable, focus is shifted to organizational improvements to optimize across the full delivery cycle and shorten time-to-market.
Adapt – Agile begins to permeate throughout the organization. Teams are empowered, and leadership is able to respond to ever-changing market demands. During this stage, the organization achieves true business agility.
Getting Started On Your Organization’s Path to Agility®
Before embarking on an Agile transformation, it’s often helpful for leadership and sponsors to meet with experts to assess their “readiness” for an Agile transformation. For example, before any engagement, an Agile Velocity Coach meets with leaders within an organization to answer the following questions:
1. What is the organization struggling with specifically?
2. What business outcomes does the organization hope to achieve?
3. Do you have the talent and knowledge to implement Agile successfully?
4. How will you measure the success of the transformation?