Embracing Agile Principles
3 May 2016
What business wouldn't want to reduce waste, build a culture of knowledge, minimize risk, maximize the delivered business value, and be able to swiftly adopt to changing business needs or economic conditions?
It would follow that businesses would adopt Agile principles and espouse Lean thinking, right? Then why do some organizations accept so much waste? Why do they pretend to count every penny while money is leaked? Why are projects so often distended, and boondoggle is promoted among the teams? Why do so many organizations create an environment in which teams are set up for failure?
In the cases that I have observed, the failures were attributed mainly to the absolute lack of trust between the business and IT. As a result, development services were often asked to do ridiculous things and were frequently disturbed by political turmoil among various individuals involved in power fights. How can one be productive if he or she is in a constant state of discomposure?
To me, trust is the foundation of agility. Lack of trust frequently drives a culture of blame, which leads to situations in which the main focus of teams is placed on covering their tracks. They compete in an unhealthy manner rather than working together and aiming to achieve a shared goal. Instead, collaboration is replaced by noxious contention. This results in face-to-face discussions that are replaced by written communication because everything must be documented. Those practices get in the way of team members' interactions and their relationships, all of which makes them generally less effective.
Many managers still believe that to stay in charge they must know as much as they can up front, and thus plans are created. To not lose control, the smallest deviation from the plan is seen as a mortal sin. Why put The Plan ahead of The Reality? Why does a detailed plan give so much comfort to some, even though we know from experience that a majority of projects do not run according to plans? Too often everything needs to be planned well in advance, down to the smallest detail, and team performance is measured against the plan. So the importance is placed on the team's adherence to what was planned, even if value is lost on the way.
I have also observed, throughout my professional career, some situations in which KPIs were manipulated to support a selected story. The problem starts from the lack of awareness of the manipulation and builds on it, but this doesn't reflect the true state. The gap between what's true and what's created for PR purposes gets bigger and bigger. Others become disillusioned about the whole progress or the productivity of the teams.
Another common problem is the disconnect between management and their staff. This disconnect creates animosity, poor morale, and a frustration that stems from an inability to get things done efficiently and efficaciously. Decisions are made far from the center of the action and often are not the best choices under the circumstances, as the decision makers are not well informed.
Let's work together. Let's empower the teams so that they can self-organize and deliver more value to the business. Let's stop micromanaging them and let them work. As former Apple CEO (Steve Jobs) famously said, "It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do." He also pointed out, "Technology is nothing. What's important is that you have a faith in people, that they're basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they'll do wonderful things with them."
As Raymond Albert Kroc says, "You're only as good as the people you hire," so let them impress you. Truly listen to your team. Remember that your teams were hired to think. Consider their feedback, and ask questions to genuinely understand the situation.
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