Top 5 Agile change tips #3 - Let them change how they work

Posted by Marcus Hammarberg on October 10, 2012
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This is the third post on my top 5 ways of making sure that your agile change initiative succeeds.

This is the list - in order of importance:

  1. Get a great "Or else"-reason for doing this change
  2. Sit together
  3. Let them change how they work (this post)
  4. Support the initiative 
  5. Use visualised data to improve


This is the third post on my top 5 ways of making sure that your agile change initiative succeeds.

This is the list - in order of importance:

  1. Get a great "Or else"-reason for doing this change
  2. Sit together
  3. Let them change how they work (this post)
  4. Support the initiative 
  5. Use visualised data to improve

#3 Let them change how they work

You need to open up and let go off the wheel. An agile transformation is, if anything, a culture shift. Towards autonomy and from top level steering. This should go into the agile transformation too. In effect this mean, in the words of all agile coaches, to take it to the team

The guys that are going to live in this environment - they are the ones best equipped to know what to do about it. Hey - they are there right now. They probably even knows what doesn't work too. Trust them - support them. But do not tell them a better way. 

This goes even when they ask for it, I would say. I have been asked to give teams tools so many times. 
Just tell us what to do 
How do people normally go about this?
Nothing wrong with stealing from others but the main thing here is to create a culture of ever improving, ever learning and ever changing. In our efforts to get something that works, out there, fast we do some really stupid things. Just looking a tooling and not looking at the thoughts behind this is one of them. Stupid stuff.

Here's a story from a world that you might not be to familiar with that I often tell to explain this:
I'm a member of the Salvation army, a christian church. One of the more successful christian churches of all times is probably the Willow Creek Community Church, founded and led by Bill Hybels. They went from just four members to over 20.000 members, and counting. Needless to say they was the role model and inspiration for many other churches all over the world.
It was quite common for people from other congregations to visit the Willow Creek Community Church to see what and how they managed to be so successful.
After one meeting reverend Bill Hybles saw such a group, but they were acting strange. They crawled around on the floor way in the back of the church. Bill went down there and asked what they did:
"We are so impressed with what you have accomplished! We want to copy that. We want to be as successful as you."
Bill answered: "That's all good but what are you doing here on the floor"
"Well, right now we are measuring the distance from the back wall to the last bench. We want to build our church exactly like yours, to be successful like you"

See - we do stupid stuff in the belief that we can copy WHAT and HOW people does what they do to be successful - without thinking about the WHY.

This is probably why many lean or agile change initiatives fails. We try to paste on a HOW without having to thinking about the WHY.

Finally this also connects back to my first point - get an "or else"-reason that explains WHY. And then let people create their own solutions from that. If that's agile, or lean or whatever doesn't matter much. As long as we're improving.

Summary

This was the third post of my top 5 list to succeed with agile transformation projects:

  1. Get a great "Or else"-reason for doing this change
  2. Sit together
  3. Let them change how they work (this post)
  4. Support the initiative 
  5. Use visualised data to improve



Published by Marcus Hammarberg on Last updated