In last month’s newsletter, Beginning an Agile Transformation, I introduced you to several techniques from the Systems Entry Process that I like to use when beginning an agile transformation. It’s important that you understand this process before delving into this month’s material. So, if you haven’t read last month’s newsletter, I would encourage you to do so before going any further.
Last month, we covered the first two steps of the Organizational Development Process: Urge for Change (Business Case) and Who is the Client? Today, we will take a deep dive into steps three and four: Organizational Assessment (Readiness) and the Feedback Meeting.
Figure 1 - Organizational Development Process
As you may remember, and I hope you do, last month I walked you through the steps for creating personas for all the key members of the leadership team. We also discussed the necessity of obtaining an accurate organizational chart when analyzing organizational structure. If any of this is a little bit fuzzy, please go back and reread last month’s newsletter. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.
While the personas tell us about the individuals in the leadership, the organizational structure shows us how work flows, or should flow, through the organization. There are various types of organizational structures: the following figure shows just a few examples:
Figure 2 - Organization Structure Examples
The information in the next figure is based on the work of Frederic Laloux as found in his book “Reinventing Organizations,” as well as in the works of Dr. Michael Hamman, Michael Spayd, and Lyssa Adkins of Collective Edge.
Figure 3 - Evolution of Complexity/Consciousness
Now that we have the organizational structure, personas, and the additional information we previously discovered (see last month’s article), we can look at how all these pieces fit into the integral altitudes, shown in the above figure as:
- Evolutionary/Purpose-driven (Teal)
- Pluralistic/Relationship-drive (Green)
- Achievement/Results-driven (Orange)
- Conformist/Role-driven (Amber)
- Impulsive (Red)
- A Pluralistic/Relationship driven (Green) behavior is demonstrated when people in the organization, as a whole, are concerned about relationships and culture and want to make sure that new employees are a good fit for their culture.
- Whereas an Achievement/Results driven (Orange) behavior indicates that they are driven to achieve better results and feel that better technology is the only way to make the customers happy.
This information is invaluable to you when you are formulating your approach to helping the organization in their transformation. The information obtained from the Leadership Circle Profile and the Collective Leadership Assessment, mentioned in last month’s article, will also help identify any potential culture shifts to consider.
Keep in mind that changing an organization’s culture and structure will in many cases be met with a great deal of resistance. Remember, you are the change agent, so any backlash from that resistance may be projected on to you. Changing an organization’s culture and structure is, in my opinion, one of the most difficult parts of an agile transformation. It’s much easier to help people learn to improve the way they work than it is to try to get them to change their culture.
At this stage in the game, you may not know if there is a technical skills problem. It would be irresponsible to even consider making technical practices recommendations at this time without knowing anything about the existing technical practices and how they are working.
I would take the teams through the Drexler/Sibbet Team Performance model, as described in my virtual Agile Coach certification course, as well as in my YouTube video: Coaching Agile Teams. Using this model, you can quickly identify the specific dynamics of the team, their understanding of their roles, as well as the skills that the team members have.
Before recommending any type of technical practices, I would fully evaluate the team’s current technical capabilities and practices to see if that is an area the team is willing to consider improving. This is where you need to have real technical skills and knowledge. Being able to discuss the benefits of things like TDD, pair programming, and continuous integration shows the team that you, yourself, possess the requisite technical skills and knowledge and can engender trust not only in you, but in your assessment. This, in turn, will help the team more fully embrace the areas you feel need to be improved upon.
If you don’t have a background in technical skills, I highly recommend you find someone that is, so they can help you. The quickest way to lose trust is to misrepresent your skills and actual experience.
Another aspect of the Organization Assessment (Readiness) that I like to use is the Integral Agile Roadmap that was initially created by Lyssa Adkins, and then improved by her and Michael Spayd.
Figure 4 - Integral Agile Roadmap
To use the Integral Agile Roadmap, you follow the Case Consultation Process, reviewed below:
- Create a safe environment where individuals can freely express their feelings in a respectful manner. Be mindful that some people express themselves using non-verbal communication; therefore, be aware of body expressions. By sharing the non-verbal communication you are observing, you will enable the team to work through blocks that they may not have realized existed.
- Help guide the leadership and the team in correctly using the quadrants to provide an accurate description of what is going on within the team
- Encourage them to ask clarifying, open-ended questions. Make sure they don‘t get stuck over analyzing or attempting to solve the problems.
- Ask open-ended questions, ensuring that all perspectives are heard and acknowledged. Make sure that no specific person or small group of people become the focal point of the conversation. Encourage everyone to respond. Help them understand the importance of everyone’s input.
- Finally, close the session by asking the participants to express what they got out of it and how they believe they may have been affected.
Below are some of the questions I ask myself as part of the Integral Agile Roadmap activity:
- What is the mindset of the individuals?
- What extent do they show leadership?
- What do they value?
- How and when do they express their “I” perspective?
- What Agile practices does the team perform?
- What is their level of competence of the practices? (descriptions, not evaluation)
- What does the team produce each iteration or sprint?
- How happy are the customers with the team’s work?
- What is the physical environment of the team like?
- How are the relationships between the team members?
- What is the general mood or tone in the team?
- What is the mood or tone in meetings?
- How does the team handle conflict?
- How does the team hold each other accountable?
- Where are the team members located?
- Are the team members dedicated 100% to their current project and team, or are they supporting other teams as well?
- How is the organizational culture in alignment with Agile?
- How does the leadership support/oppose Agile?
- How do organizational policies effect the team?
Keep in mind that many of the above questions can be answered by your keen observation skills while you are working with the leaders and team members.
Now that we have completed the Organization Assessment (Readiness) section it’s time to look at providing Feedback to the client on your observations.
During the feedback session I want to:
- Have a common understanding of all of our expectations.
- Review my observations and assumptions about the system.
- Ensure that all of our mutual needs are being met.
- Ensure that we are openly, and honestly giving feedback to one another.
- Update the change plan based on our common understanding.
- Agree on ways to determine if my work is being valuable.
- Agree on a schedule to determine how my work is being valuable.
In my next article we will wrap up the Organization Development Process by going over the Change Plan and the Coaching Contract.
Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or comments.
Stay healthy and safe.