As the world is getting more complex, organizations has to change to keep competitive. They must become more flexible, team oriented, self-organized. And as a consequence, the leaders shall adopt another approach to motivate people and lead the organizations to keep up the speed. Agile Leadership concept was created to help the leaders to understand the nature of the change which is happening in the business right now, and be able to react to the challenges which modern organizations brought in its all complexity. Agile Leadership concept is not about how to implement Agile, Scrum, Kanban, Extreme Programming, or Lean. You have people in your organization who can do that. The Leadership model is here for leaders, managers, directors, entrepreneurs, and owners to help them to sustain the change and be able to create Agile organization or become effective in it.
Organization is a complex system by itself as it deals with people and their behavior. There is no clear link between cause and effect. It’s a network of interdependent elements. It’s not predictable so the traditional approaches which expect predictability and consistency fail. It all worked until about 1970 as the world had been only complicated at that time. Nonetheless, a lot changed from that time. Globalization and Internet allows businesses to grow fast so the density of nowadays businesses is so huge and communication so fast that they involve each other all the time and cause doesn’t link to any predictable effect anymore.
The first step of the Agile Leadership model is “Get Awareness”. Awareness of the current reality, understanding of what’s happening around us, be mindful about the surrounding. Organization is a system which constantly sends signals. All we have to do is to be aware of them, notice them, and listen to them. The second step is “Embrace It”. It helps us to accept whatever is happening in the system without the urge to evaluate. Who knows what is good and what is bad. Our self-power is coming from our ability to gain enough clarity so it builds trust in the whole system. The third step is “Act Upon”. It uses the power gained in the previous step to influence things and change the system behavior.
To make it simple, in our Agile Leadership Program we guide you through those steps. Every change is difficult, and the change of ourselves is usually the toughest. However, the result will definitely pay off.
User Story is one of the most common formats how to write Product Backlog Item. It has specific format which forces people to focus on business value.
As a [user | role| persona] I want to get [functionality] So that I get [business value]
As an example of such User Story for my online beer store called “Berrer” we can write the following:
As Jon (busy manager with no time) I want to get beers selected by “Beerer” So that I can impress my friends by variety of rare brands.
It shall give us three different information – Who, What, and Why – which must fit together and once you read it to someone it shall create consistent story together. As you may have noticed the User Story looks at the functionality from the business perspective and is customer centric (note that customers are all user, stakeholders, other teams, … ). We never define how exactly it shall be solved, but describe the business impact we want to achieve.
Write Acceptance criteria was never good idea
Having that definition, companies are often missing the place where to write the exact specification. But there is none. It’s all about conversation. It should fit a small index card. Having said that, teams are still fighting and try to keep it as close as possible to the traditional detailed specification. One way how keep it close is to add detail as Acceptance criteria. It usually looks as checklist of all possible details you shall/shall not implement. It seems to be useful for teams who have limited understanding of business and product but it’s not. To give you an example of such Acceptance Criteria for the above defined User Story, it can look like this:
Beers from all continents
At least one beer from Belgium
Several small local breweries
One light, dark, Ale, Pils
As a result of it development team is not involved in the story definition anymore. They just take those points one by one and implement it. If it’s not working as we missed something, it’s not their fault but the Product Owners’. He shall have made the missing piece part of the Acceptance criteria. So let’s have a look to better solution.
Define Conditions of Satisfaction instead
As we said before, User Story is about conversation. It shall be simple, clear, and easy to remember. If you write well so it is small enough, there is no need for any additional information at the back side of the card. However sometimes you might find it useful to stress certain expected behavior / impact. In such case we turn the User Story card and write the Conditions of satisfaction. For the above defined story it might be:
Jon can impress his friends by selection of all different tastes of beer selected from micro-breweries across the world.
As a result of this the team is focusing on solving user problem instead of implementing what was defined before. The implementation usually starts with conversation. How can we deliver the more value with less effort? What is the minimal functionality we have to deliver? How can we address his needs? We need everyone involved, everyone interested, and everyone understand the overall business, personas, their needs and their dreams.
It may take bit longer at the beginning, but it’s worth investing the effort as the committed team which is living by the product can always come up with better solution then one Product Owner.
Writing Acceptance criteria is our legacy from traditional world, while defining Conditions of satisfaction is very Agile. Agile and Scrum is mindset. If you have it, it doesn’t matter how you write your User Stories because you already understand the fundamental difference. It’s about value to be delivered to the customer, instead effort, items delivery, and velocity. If you don’t, changing only the label won’t help. You would have to significantly change the way you think about Backlog items and that might be very painful and long process where User Story format with Conditions of satisfaction will help. I went through that change with several companies during Agile Coaching and it was always worth of the effort. If you want to get bit more practice, I also teach it at CSPO – Certified Scrum Product Owner class.
Agile Prague Conference, which I organize in Prague every year, has already been here for 6 years. We are sold-out again (the only way how to get to Agile Prague 2016 is to attend LeSS workshop). This time we were already sold-out one month before the event, which is going to be 12-13 Sep 2016 this year. But don’t worry. We don’t want to make it bigger next year. Our mission is to offer the best of the best speakers with hands on experience on Agile, Scrum, Kanban, XP practices, but also share experiences from leaders of Agile organizations with their transformation, Scaling, etc. We don’t want to grow, as the biggest part of the conference learning is hidden in conversation you can have with other participants and our creative thinkers – the speakers. In order to make it possible, we can’t be too big. I’m attending several huge events every year (Agile 20xx with over 2500 participants and Global Scrum Gatherings with over 1200) and compare the learning and experience I got there with small local events I’ve been speaking at (Big Apple Scrum Day (NYC), Scan-Agile, AgileSlovenia, ACE, … ). I like the smaller events better. It’s compact, easier to approach speakers, easier to reach into people again and build on top of the conversation we started before we all run to another session.
Every year we try to attract the best international speakers and bring their ideas and experiences to the Czech Republic. We are small country so it is very unique opportunity for our local Agile community to look at Agile in wider context. As the program is high quality and our conference is getting great references from past year audience and speakers, we attract more and more participants from Europe and other countries.
So if you’ve never been to Prague you can already mark the next year date into your calendars – it’s going to be Sep 11-12, 2017. We do our best to attract wonderful speakers for you again. If you are a speaker and you or your family never got a time to go for holiday to Prague, submit your talk next year and we give you awesome opportunity to combine conference and sightseeing all together. We offer a private guide to our speakers and their families (so they have a program with us while you are at the conference). You will not only have an opportunity to speak at one of the best Central European events but also can enjoy history, and local atmosphere with us.
Organizations are constantly evolving. In the 1970’s the most common organizational structure was the pyramid structure. It was deep, hierarchical, and full of power. Companies got strong bosses who lead such structure. Internally their approach was full of command and control, bureaucracy, and standardization.
Those pyramid hierarchical structures were not wrong in any way. They were the perfect solution to world industrialization and to the dynamics of business at that time. Most of the companies followed the best practices for a simple world, where problems can be classified as obvious, and applied a simple structure to address it. And it worked. Bosses got results. Companies started growing and became more successful.
The most common management tool was a carrot and a stick, because organizations believed that their employees are lazy slackers who can’t work without it. Most of the people were in a mood of tribal leadership 2 where the motto is “my life sucks”. Complaining all the time. Not happy, not motivated. Their only motivation to do something was driven by getting some bonus – a carrot, or because they were forced to – a stick.
Twenty years later, Organization 2.0 was here addressing the difficulty of the business world focusing on specialization, processes, and structure. Companies realized that the world is not simple any more, and the majority of problems can be classified as complicated.
As a result, they adopted complicated processes, focused on deep analysis, and invested in experts.
The belief in Organization 2.0 is that complicated problems need experienced individuals and detailed analysis. As a result, companies invested in learning and specialization. They began to grow. The work which used to be done by one person, now needed specific and dedicated positions. We’ve got a specialized department to deal with java, database, testing, architecture, analysis, documentation, customers, accounts, plans, and chair purchases.
Organizations are trying to create a process to describe everything, to have every possibility thought over. Companies create career paths and talk about motivation. They have spent months describing KPIs, but the more processes and specializations they had, the less responsibility and goal driven individuals they had. They were starving. They tried to cut on expenses, but that did not bring any long term success either.
So they dream about the previous stage, where it was much easier to manage resources. At that time, managers had real power. They could make decisions. They could force people to work. They could use the carrot and the stick. It was so simple – no need for committees, no need to call a meeting for every single detail. At that time, allocation of individual resources did not cost most of their time.
The pressure on individuals to make themselves more successful, better, and smarter than others was huge. “What if my colleague is be better in the performance review?” “What if I am not promoted in two years?” It leads to a culture that emphasizes own goals over the organizational ones. Most of the managers and experts live in the third level of the tribal leadership model, where they believe that “I’m great, but you are not.” So they treat their employees and colleagues with little respect or trust. This leads to the leadership style of “leader-follower”, where the managers decide, and the people below them just do the job. No initiative is expected. People just follow the process and do what is ordered.
Nowadays, when the world is not complicated anymore, neither Organization 1.0 nor Organization 2.0 can address its full complexity. We have realized that such complexity needs a very different approach that can keep up with business dynamics. The Agile environment brings Organization, 3.0 which builds on teams instead of individuals, on different styles of leadership, and on intensive collaboration through the dynamic network structure. We need to completely change the leadership style, create partnerships, enforce self-organization, enforce real responsibility and ownership, enforce trust and transparency, and build the organization as a network structure which is flexible enough so that it can effectively respond to change. Decentralization is taking over, and is bringing a certain level of autonomy to self-organized systems.
Instead of being a huge tanker, you can imagine the Organization 3.0 as a flotilla of smaller boats, going into the same direction, living in the same context, having the same values, but making some decisions differently based on the situation.
The Organization 3.0 is a true Agile organization. In order to build it, you need to apply a different leadership style of “leader-leader”, which supports growth of people, instead of “leader-follower” which is so common in Organization 1.0 and Organization 2.0. Hand in hand with this new leadership style, you need to create a culture of tribal leadership “We are great!” where the focus is not on the individuals but on the systems and teams.
Organizations are complex, as they have to deal with people’s behavior. People are not predictable. Every time we tried to make them behave in a predictable way, we failed. A modern Agile organization is built from people. It is a collaborative, creative, and adaptive network. It’s a sphere built from autonomous systems which are connected to each other, so they influence themselves but still keep consistent. Such a change of mindset is a huge mental challenge for most organizations.
So how to start?
– Help all people to become better leaders by applying the “leader-leader” leadership style, and build a culture of tribal leadership: “We are great!”
– Decentralize, build networks and communities.
– Allow autonomy in a well-defined context.
– Read my book The Great ScrumMaster, which is a guidebook not only for ScrumMasters, but also for leaders of any organization who want to become an Organization 3.0.
You can see my talk Agile Organization – Organization 3.0 at AGILEEE Conference 2016:
I’ve got a unique opportunity to be co-chair of the global Scrum Gathering Prague. It’s an event for all Agile and Scrum enthusiasts around the globe – the European Gathering usually got around 600 people.
The theme was structured around the five senses to challenge agile mindset and support the Scrum Alliance’s goal of “Transforming the World of Work”. The unofficial theme was how to address complexity and how companies need to change in order to address such change and sustain the market expectations.
I especially enjoyed the opening keynote from Niels Pflaeging (if you are looking for a keynote, he is definitely part of my top#10 suggestions). He’s been talking about change in the management over past few decades. He explained that Taylorism is dead. That traditional management is not applicable for current extremely dynamic and global world. The world, which is not complicated, as it used to be, but it is complex and brings us surprises every day. You can’t respond by new process or standardization. It changes so fast so it’s not possible anymore. To answer complexity you have to use new tools like System Thinking or Organization and Relationship Systems Coaching.
Another surprise was lightning talks. They’ve been selected by audience using dot voting (very agile way, huh?) during the first day and they’ve been all great. Add finally I very much enjoyed Pecha Kucha format. If you never seen it it’s 20 slides auto forwarding after 20 seconds. Very nice format. Enjoyable. It forces speakers to speak to the subject and keep rhythm. And/but you have to be great speaker to make it.
The last day we’ve got an openspace. It’s always full of people, and engaging, but this time I was very much amazed by how many people attended Stuart’s illustration session. He’s been running a workshop on drawing and visual facilitation techniques and he’s got more than 150 people at this openspace session. If you missed it, don’t worry we are going to invite Stuart to Agile Prague Conference 12-13Sep 2016 so you have second chance :).
Recently I passed extensive training on ORSC – Organization and Relationship Systems Coaching. Not sure if you know ORSC, so let me introduce it first. ORSC is a coaching model where we focus not on the individuals but systems and the relationships in it. System – for your understanding – could be anything like pair, group of people, team, department or organization. The latter mentioned are exactly what makes me interested and curious. Coaching teams is something each Scrum Master is doing so let’s get some different framework which can help here. Coaching organizations as an entity could move Agile transformation to the next level and give Agile Coaches another tools how to make it happen. So I was in.
The whole program was divided into five classes – Fundamentals, Intelligence, Geography, Path, and System Integration. I passed the first ORSC class in London and the rest in Toronto. It’s always great to combine work and holiday and Canada was just awesome 🙂 In between of classes I’ve got some time to try individual concepts at my clients and got used to the new models, terminology and approaches.
I’m going to share a couple of my favorite concepts which I found easy applicable in Agile environment.
#1 DTA – Design team alliance
I apparently knew this concept for a few years as it has been introduced at Agile Coaching Institute class: ‘Moving to the Next Level’, which was created together with ORSC leaders. However, it took me some time before I fully understood the importance of such agreement. What is it about? Seems to be simple – let team agree how they would like to be together, what makes them great team, and what are they going to do if things go difficult. Actually it’s quite similar to the retrospective with exception of the fact that you do it up front. You might link it to the futurespective, as that is a kind of similar as it looks forward, but it’s still something else. With DTA we focus on relationships and not so much on the particular potential problems and solutions. You need to coach the team to stay out of those concrete solutions. Because even if they brainstorm a lot, they never come up with every possible future issue. So we are looking to the system from the top, trying to straighten its connections to survive any potential difficulties. Don’t forget we are not solving or preventing potential issues, but agreeing on the way how we are going to solve such situations in the future.
#2 Everyone is right but only partially
When you start to look at the group of people as a system, which you can imagine as looking down on the team from few kilometers / 10 thousand feet high distance, the particular issues and problems are not so important from that point of view. You are focusing on the linkage among the people instead of individual persons or their problems. From such viewpoint this System Rule – Everyone is right but only partially – is extremely helpful. It helps you to coach system and don’t let yourself to take sides. Moreover, every system is intelligent by itself. It will tell you if there is something wrong. And your entire job as System Coach is to listen for those signals and reveal them back to the system so that the system can react and possibly solve the issue or improve itself. You are not here to solve it for them, you shall only help them to straighten their relationship, and let the relationship to fix it.
#3 Importance of Appreciation and Positivity
We, Europeans, are never using so much of an appreciation as our US colleagues. And it’s been a challenge for me and also for one German girl during the class. However, despite on how silly it feels, it works. So I’m going to appreciate more. Even if it is painful.
The second concept which is actually quite connected to the appreciation is positivity. Especially for always complaining Czech society it’s extremely useful :). Did you know that good teams have its positivity: negativity ration at least 5:1? And how is it for your team? Positivity will not just happen, you must garden it, search for it, help it to become an integral part of your system.
#4 Toxins or so called Horsemen
There are four toxin behaviors which team should avoid. Defensiveness, Blame, Stonewalling, Contempt. Everyone does bit of it from time to time, however just educate on them would limit their dominance. So my learning point here is to educate teams on toxins, and coach them to understand the impact of them to the team health. I believe the awareness by itself will help team to be better.
#5 Three Levels of Reality
Finally, there is a concept which made my day. At the beginning, it had been completely incomprehensible. I was lost. Our trainers mentioned we may only get it at the end of the module. But I was completely desperate. What the hell it means? But sometime during the last day of the module it got to me all at once. And I realized that understanding this concept is a key factor for thousands of situations I’ve been trying to improve in my Agile Coach work.
And here is my challenge with it. It took me full three days to get it, so how am I going to arrange such experience to my clients in much shorter time? I guess using the ORSC coaching framework. But still, it’s a challenge.
What is it about? That there are three levels of reality. Sentient Essence Level, Dreaming Level, and Consensus Reality Level. And you often need all three to succeed. And me as a System Coach can help to navigate individuals, teams and organization through essence to start dreaming and through that understand or change their consensus reality. It’s very powerful. And if you feel like ‘too fluffy’ or ‘what the hell is interesting there?’ just note I’ve been struggling a lot with it at the first time as well.
Finally, would I recommend you passing ORSC training? It cost quite some money so it’s better to ask, right? I would say it’s been one of my best decisions. However, I believe you need some Coaching education and experiences before you go on and sign up. For that background I would recommend you start with Agile Coaching Teams and Agile Facilitation class – both classes are from Agile Coaching Institute. And then go on with ORSC – which I would recommend to all Scrum Masters who want to move their role to the next level and focus more on the organization and systems then individual Agile practices. And to all Agile Coaches, because without it you are not true Agile Coach.
Agile Prague Conference 2015 – Sep 14-15, 2015 got awesome speakers for this year. We were able to get unique experts from all different areas of Agile and Scrum. We have talks on Agile Product Management, Scaling Scrum, DevOps, Test Driven Development – TDD, Behavior Driven Development – BDD, change and improvements.
This year we continue with 2 full conference days – every day we plan for 2 parallel tracks and one additional workshop/game/open space track in the afternoons at open area.
So far you can be looking forward to the following keynote speakers:
– Jurgen Appelo | selected by Inc. “100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference”
– David Hussman | author of the Dude’s Law
– Joshua Kerievsky | protect people by engineering anzen (“safety” in Japanese) into workspaces and code bases
– Bas Vodde | creator of Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS), a framework for scaling agile development
and talks from:
– Vasco Duarte | improving estimates for software with #NoEstimates
– Andrea Provaglio | speaking at AgilePrague for the 5th time
– Jutta Eckstein | enabling Agile development on the organizational level
– Senta Jakobsen | enables distributed development
– Cliff Hazell | at Spotify we aim to build shared views and models to reduce unnecessary ambiguity
– Oded Tamir | DevOps is taking the Agile to the next level
– Pawel Brodzinski | the missing bit is almost never a tool or a method but sort of myth
and that’s indeed not all.
Those wonderful speakers are just beginning of our list. In addition you can be looking forward to games, workshops, case-studies, and last but not least an Open Jam session – believe it or not, for most of conference attendees the open space is the most valuable part of every conference. How it works? Bring your idea/question/theme to discuss and run a session yourselves. Or join any group where you are interested in the subject and share your experiences and hints. Or just listen. It’s an awesome opportunity to get insights from each other.
When you ask this question in the companies, you find out that about 30% of teams believe that he or she is not. If you ask why not, you find out that they feel their Product Owners are far away from them, they don’t help them, and they don’t understand them. And I’m not talking about physical distance now. So where is the problem? In many companies, at the beginning of their Agile transformation, they simply move team to Scrum and the Product Managers to Product Owners. What happens? They don’t have a time to be Product Owners as they are responsible for several huge products. Luckily they understand the product, but they have no time to share their understanding at any higher granularity than general ideas or epics. And that’s indeed not enough. Such teams are having a Product Owner Proxy, or Tactical Product Owner who is in reality acting like real Product Owner and don’t miss their business Product Owner. Why is that usually not good? We are missing the “one PO voice” and we are losing the business driven approach in favor of technical point of view. In such environments we are as well missing the push to “maximize work not done”, which is one of the Agile Manifesto principles. That is indeed not good for either team or product.
Then we have about 50% of companies where they believe the Product Owner is part of the team, but he is not responsible for writing User Stories. Why not? Usually because he or she doesn’t understand the technical aspects, so how can he possibly do that? They usually don’t invite him or her to the retrospective either, because… well… he is a team, but retrospective is for development team only. So it’s kind of unclear.
The remaining 20% take their Product Owner as their member. They invite him to the retrospective, they trust each other. If that’s possible, they sit together. If not, they speak with each other often. Such Product Owner relationship is very helpful. Not only for your team, but the product as well.
A few weeks ago we’ve been hosting a board meeting of Agile Alliance here at Prague. And the last question at the local community event with board members was the future of Agile. You can have a look at what they said here:
I would say that I fully agree with what they said. In the future, we will not use any Agile or Scrum any more. It will be already overcome, but until that time, Agile and Scrum are the best methods we know and they are very useful. From nowadays perspective, Agile and Scrum is a Ferrari car or Lamborghini, TGV train, or an A380 airplane – depending on your preferences. Nevertheless, in the long run we would be looking at Agile as Scrum the same way as most of us feel about traveling on horse wagon. With some feeling of nostalgia, but pretty much happy it’s already gone. And the new method would have another cool name like “Queguer” or any other you can imagine and will be much better. But that’s a problem with evolution, you need many, many years to understand the backbone principles, do research, inspect, and adapt. It can’t be made faster.
I believe “Queguer” will be very much change responsive. It will be even more collaborative, going out from the specialization of an individual person to the team sharing knowhow. It will be focused on fast learning and very good at adaptation of whatever is around. But it will not be an ideal method. It will again create lot of pain while Agile teams would be passing through the “Queguer” transformation. It will not be any easy. And last but not least, sooner or later there will be another method which would overcome the “Queguer” and the evolution will continue. But until that time, let’s enjoy using Agile and Scrum.
It’s time to invite you to the 4th year of Agile Prague Conference. . It is in September and we have wonderful speakers this year. You can have a look at the full program, but if it’s too long to read it through, here is my personal recommendation:
Linda Rising is the person I like; no matter what the topic is it’s always one of the best talks. This time she starts a conference with a keynote The Power of the Agile Mindset.
Are you bored or struggling with estimates? Then Vasco Duarte will share with you his thoughts about #NoEstimates.
This year we have several speakers talking about scaling Agile and Scrum. One of the keynotes are from Dean Leffingwell and Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe).
We have speakers talking about Agile Architecture, Kevlin Henney is having a pre-conference tutorial on that topic. We have several speakers sharing their experiences about development, testing and practical case-studies.
And last but not least, we have several short workshops in the afternoons, for example my workshop – Coaching starter for Scrum Masters, a networking party where you can discuss and meet other people and an open jam session where you can share ideas.