I’ve found most executives genuinely want to know, “How do I help our Agile transformation?” Becoming an agile company is new for leaders and teams. Yet, leaders are often left out while teams get the lion’s share of the attention from Agile coaches.
As a fellow leader, I feel for them. It’s crucial for leaders to be on board with any type of transformation. Equally crucial is a team that supports their leaders and helps them stay engaged in the process. In this article, we’ll outline the ways leaders can show their own investment by leveraging their Agile transformation partners (ie. the partner they choose to provide Agile coaches or Agile consultants).
What Leaders Should Expect To Learn From Their Transformation Partners
1. Answer “Why”
Prior to an Agile transformation, every leader should answer the big “why” question: Why are we going through this pain and dealing with the disruptiveness that comes during an Agile transformation?
A transformation partner should recognize the need for a “why” statement and help leaders define the need for change. It’s important to clearly articulate this need to teams as they adopt new models, change processes, and go through transformational pain.
Leaders who remind everyone why the company is going through change offer meaningful support to their teams. The most common why statements we’ve heard at Agile Velocity include the following:
- Growing market share
- Increasing revenue
- Getting faster customer feedback
- Improving time-to-market
- Beating the competition.
When leaders can effectively convey their compelling reasons for change to their colleagues and teams, they can lay the foundation for lasting, positive change.
2. Thought Partnership With Powerful Change Leaders
A transformation partner should help leaders build a powerful coalition of fellow leaders.
Company-wide change does not happen in a silo, and fractured relationships will doom an Agile transformation. We know firsthand that Agile transformations only works when companies build teams of leaders at high enough levels to make the transformation stick. It’s incumbent upon leaders to build and nurture a guiding coalition of fellow leaders that can help ensure change practices become standard daily procedures.
It’s absolutely pivotal that the right transformation partner is on board to help achieve this goal. As leaders drive changes through their organizations, they’ll wrestle with an array of new issues and problems. They’re going to need someone they trust with an objective point of view to talk through their options. Ideally, this is your transformation partner.
3. There’s A Plan, Right?
Transformations are more than smart people doing smart things. We believe leaders should have a concrete transformation framework to help lead their companies through change. (Ours is called The Path to Agility™.)
A framework helps leaders identify exactly where they are in the change process. They also help organizations recognize what’s coming next, what’s working, and which areas still need attention.
Companies who don’t undertake change with such a framework in place are leaving things to chance and hope–which isn’t a great strategy. A leader should expect their Agile coaches or Agile consultants to provide them with an approach that reduces that risk.
4. Respond, Don’t React
In 1995 a leader told me, “Erik, I don’t mind problems but I hate surprises. I mean, I really hate them. Never call me with a surprise. But, you can always call with problems.” A good transformation partner identifies their teams’ change stages and communicates what’s coming next.
Agile Velocity’s Path to AgilityTM makes it easy for leaders to look around the corner to see what’s coming. Together with leaders, we can anticipate the next set of problems and challenges so they are prepared and ready in advance. Leaders who hear of issues from their teams with no forewarning (surprise!) often fall into “action mode” to solve problems. This typically reinforces the problem. Leaders who are prepared can support their teams’ efforts to solve their own problems.
5. Delegate (Smart) Decision-Making With Confidence
A core tenant of Agile is to empower teams. Why? These are typically the people with the best understanding of the problems they’re facing. Agility equips team members with the skills to make confident decisions. As a result, Agile leaders should be able to trust the decisions being made—but that’s a very foreign concept for most leaders.
There’s often a misconception that leaders are giving up power in this process. However, they should still inspect decisions to ensure the right ones are being made at the point of challenge or failure. The question is: How do leaders lead empowered teams versus managing, directing, and controlling them? As the leader, it’s a hard transition to make on your own.
It’s crucial that leaders have their transformation partner on hand to observe interactions with their teams in order to provide reflection about helpful habits (as well as to root out unhelpful or negative habits). The partner also should be in the room during key moments to watch the leader in action so that he or she can provide insight and guidance.
6. Still A Leader, New Approach
Leaders still lead. But how do they lead an Agile organization?
We often refer to that as servant leadership. Servant leaders help their teams grow, thrive, and find immense pride in the valuable work they are doing. The basic notion is harnessing collective brainpower over that of just one person.
Servant leaders still ask hard questions, and they let teams fail in safe ways. This way leaders foster an increased understanding that helps team members make sound judgment calls.
More on servant leadership here, 3 Ways To Use Servant Leadership In Your Organization.
Being a leader is hard work. However, all leaders are entitled to a little help. Knowing what to expect from those who are meant to support you can make a world of difference. We hope these 6 points help you to maximize the value of your Agile transformation partner. For more information about Agile Velocity, we welcome you to reach out.
If you’re looking to learn more about preparing for an Agile transformation, check out our white paper, 8 Common Pitfalls of An Agile Transformation.