Top 10 Agile conferences to attend in 2022

Every year I speak at many conferences and based on my experience I recommend some places to go for inspiration. It’s not my intention to cover them all, I’m sharing places where I like to return. Inspiring places with interaction, high energy, and great speakers.

  1. Business Agility Institute organizes several high-quality content conferences every year, bringing the best Executive, Thought-Leader, and Practitioner speakers to NYC to share their experiences and insights with you. No tracks, just the best stories, concisely told in 20-minutes. Join us in the NYC on Mar, 23-24, 2022.
  2. LeSS Conference is for practitioners. Since 2016, LeSS Conferences is where LeSS Practitioners share their LeSS experience and learn from new experiments. Join this year conference in Berlin on Sep 22-23, 2022.
  3. AgilePrague Conference is planning to create two days of experience face to face this year on Sep 19-20, 2022.
  4. XPDays Benelux XP Days Benelux is a conference made for, and by, the Agile Community. It focuses on practical knowledge, real-world experience, and the active participation of everyone. There is no date yet, but the plan is to make the 2022 mini edition a physical gathering, in Belgium! Stay tuned.
  5. Global Scrum Gathering is back in Denver, Colorado this year. Reconnect with the community and join this outstanding event on Jun 5-8, 2022.
  6. AgileTestingDays is another great event happening for many years in Potsdam, Germany. Join Europe’s greaTEST Agile Testing Festival on Nov 21-24, 2022. There are always great speakers and a friendly atmosphere.
  7. ScanAgile is one of my favourite conferences. Planning started 🙂 But no details yet.
  8. Agile2022 conference brings Agile communities together year after year to share experiences and make new connections. Join passionate Agilists from around the world to learn about the latest practices, ideas, and strategies in Agile software development from the world’s leading experts, change agents, and innovators. This year it’s on July 18-22, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee.
  9. XP 2022 is the premier Agile software development conference to combine both research and practice. It is a unique forum where Agile researchers, practitioners, thought leaders, coaches, and trainers get together to present and discuss their most recent innovations and research results. The theme for XP 2022 is Agile in the Era of Hybrid Work. The conference is planned entirely as a physical event in Copenhagen on Jun 13-17, 2022.
  10. Finally, if you want to experience something different, joinRegional Scrum Gathering Tokyo. It’s organized by an enthusiastic agile community in Japan. The purpose is to provide a “Ba” (place) where practitioners share ideas among Scrum practitioners having a great diversity. Regional Gatherings provides a unique experience and even if you don’t speak Japanese, there are some talks in English and other translated. Join the local community on January 5-7, 2022.

The selection is based on my personal preference and experiences from those events.

Other conferences to consider this year

There are many great events that didn’t make it to this list, so please share your suggestions with us and we add them to the following list.

Being an Agile Leader

The article was originally published by Emergence Journal (Sep 2021). 

Four times a year, Emergence Journal brings together a curated selection of exclusive stories by great thinkers and practitioners from around the globe about business agility.

Subscribe for Emergence Journal and get a 10% discount using "agileprague" promo code. Read more about Emergence Journal.

References

Zuzana Sochova (2021) The Agile Leader: Leveraging the Power of Influence

Over the past two decades the world has become increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous – in other words, unpredictable and sort of ugly. The time where organizations could pretend change wasn’t necessary and that all they needed to do was improve their planning process is over. Once businesses accept that they are dealing with VUCA challenges, they realize that Agility at the organizational level is necessary to succeed in such an environment.

“Don’t DO agile, BE agile.”

Such organizations have reached a point on their agile journey far beyond team level frameworks and scaling approaches. Those are well described, and not that hard to apply when there is a strong sense of urgency and desire for change. The real challenge lies in embracing business agility and changing how the organization is structured and designed. People need to stop seeing agile as just another project management practice, and reconnect to the fundamental agile values and principles. It’s not about “doing agile” but “being agile”.

“Trust is a prerequisite for agility, transparency is an enabler, but purpose is the true driving force of agile”

Agile organizations are formed as a network of small autonomous teams. When an organization is not ready for such a level of agility and autonomy, changing processes and structures to build these new autonomous networks only creates chaos. Having the right culture and mindset is essential.

The first step towards an agile mindset is to build trust. It looks simple, but takes time. People need to invest time into building relationships with each other. They must come to know their colleagues outside the work tasks, and see others as people, not just roles. To form team spirit, team members need to experience something significant together.

How can this be achieved? First, start small and don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Create a space where team members can share interesting moments from their history, or unusual (but not uncomfortable) facts about themselves. Later, once they are comfortable being open or even exposed, they can discuss their failures, weaknesses, and fears. Eventually they’ll be able to share embarrassing moments, which creates vulnerability.

Second, invest in diverse and accessible forms of teambuilding. There are no limits. Be flexible. Some teambuilding activities can be as simple as lunch together or a videocall. Other times, teams can go out together for a beer, go on a hiking trip, go bowling or boating, join a cooking class, and so on. Be creative when it comes to choosing teambuilding activities. The more diverse activities you do, the more you get to know each other.

Team members should also take some time to reflect on what they know about their colleagues. What are they great at? What are they passionate about? What are their hobbies? How do they behave outside their jobs? And so on. On the other side, team members should ask what people around them are afraid of and how they can help their colleagues feel more self-confident. Great teams are not afraid of conflicts. Once they reach the vulnerability trust level it becomes clear that conflicts are healthy, and that disagreement is a natural element of interaction. This is all useful for achieving productive dialogue, rich with varying perspectives and constructive arguments.

The second ingredient for creating an agile mindset is transparency. Being transparent about what needs to be done, what success looks like, and what to avoid is crucial for any environment, but in agile spaces we often go one step further. Great agile teams create radical transparency where everything is visible to everyone.

It’s true that radical transparency is scary at first. For some people, transparency is a threat as they have built their power and authority around hiding information. Lack of transparency is a weapon which can eventually kill agility as it makes collaboration and self-organization almost impossible. It’s a great friend of hierarchical structures supported by fear and politics. “If I’m the only one who has the information, no one can jeopardize my position.”

In addition, transparency creates anxiety for many people. Naturally, they’ll try to avoid it by brainstorming all the possible reasons why radical transparency is a bad idea. “People will feel overwhelmed by that much information! They don’t need to know everything!” they say.

To start with transparency, people must first have the courage to discuss their situations honestly, be prepared for difficult feedback, and trust that people will help them. People learn by doing, and team members must understand that perfection is not required. Instead, agile is about learning from small failures. Failure is a good thing as it allows people to improve. As such, creating a safe-to-fail environment is critical for agile organizations.

The third ingredient in the mix is purpose. Autonomy without a guiding purpose only creates chaos. The higher the autonomy, the stronger the purpose needs to be to glue it together. This gives everyone the same goal, belonging, identity, the reason for why they are there and where they are heading to.

 “Being an Agile leader is not about positional power, but your ability to leverage the power of influence.”

On their agile journey, organizations inevitably realize that to change the culture, change in leadership is also essential. Agile organizations are collaborative, creative, and adaptive networks. They are like living organisms, operating on different principles. They naturally flatten the hierarchical structure, rendering the hierarchical org chart unimportant. They are based on autonomy, self-organization, and empowerment, leveraging the power of self-organization. Instead of hierarchical leadership, they rely on emergent leadership which is not tied to any position but can emerge from different situations and needs on the fly. In Agile organizations, everyone is a leader. Everyone can step up and lead an initiative. If that initiative gains the interest of others, they form a team and support it. Being an Agile leader is not about positional power, but your ability to leverage the power of influence.

“Excellent Agile Leaders have four core competencies: Ability to define the vision, motivate, gain feedback, and ability to influence through themselves, others, and systems.”

Agile leaders are guides for the organization on its agile journey. Everything starts with a dream. Having a passion for something helps create energy. The ability to clearly formulate an appealing vision is the engine of change. The vision is not necessarily linked to a product or business but should be focused on the organization and its purpose.

Before chasing a vision and upending the status quo through organizational change, people should ask: what do we need to achieve? Why is it important? What major differences would it make if we achieved the change? These questions can help determine whether the vision is strong enough to leverage the discomfort caused by changing the status quo. As a test of whether team members are truly invested in the vision, they might ask: if I won the lottery tomorrow, would I still turn up at work to help my team make this vision into a reality? The stronger the vision, the higher the chance of achieving success.

You are a leader, no matter what official position you have right now. Leadership is a state of mind. Share a vision of how different your organization needs to be, and why it is important. Create a sense of urgency. Without it, no change will ever happen.

Agile Leader WheelThe second competency is the ability to motivate and give energy, which is closely related to the vision. If your team has a good vision, they will likely be self-motivated. The ‘carrot and stick’ model doesn’t work in complex environments. Instead, agile leadership builds on intrinsic motivation.

Agile leaders need to create an environment full of joy, where people can grow, and have enough autonomy to influence things. This allows them to co-create something they believe in and can be proud of. Doing something meaningful is the best motivation you can get.

The third competency of great Agile leaders is feedback – both giving and receiving. While many leaders understand how to give feedback which people can understand and use to improve themselves, great leaders are also open to hearing system-level feedback and learning from it. Giving feedback is hard, but receiving feedback is even harder. How many times have you rejected feedback from your peers, or disqualified their opinions by saying things like: “they don’t understand it”, “They don’t know all the details“, “I know better”. It’s easier that way, isn’t it?

In a VUCA world, where most of the problems involve volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, we need to build different skills. Individuals often struggle to deal with complexity or react to unpredictable and unstable business environments. To solve these issues, we need a higher level of creativity and the sorts of innovative solutions that only a team can accomplish. That’s where the ability to listen to feedback and learn from it is crucial.

The last competency is the art of influencing complex environments: specifically, to change systems, habits, support and consolidate culture. Agile leadership begins with a change of self, your judgments, values, behaviors, and style of work. Great leaders start with themselves as a role model. They change the way they show up, how they interact with others, and how they can inspire people around them to collaborate, create a team spirit, and become leaders. They can work with the entire system and influence the whole organization and its culture.

They are catalysts, creating an engaging environment with high transparency, trust and autonomy. They are good at forming teams and collaborative networks, not just working with individuals. They are efficient when dealing with complex situations and seek out different perspectives from diverse employee demographics when in search of solutions. They create inclusive environments that enhance innovations and creativity. They build trust, are not afraid to be vulnerable, and create safe-to-fail environments. Along their journey they make sure to invest in system coaching, large group facilitation skills, and agile leadership development. They help others to grow.

On top of the four competencies, Agile leaders must balance collaboration with decision-making. Even in an agile world you sometimes need to make a decision. While that’s not surprising to most managers, it’s often something which agile coaches struggle with. On the other hand, managers often struggle to collaborate and participate, while agile coaches are usually much better at it.

In an agile environment you need both decision-making and collaboration. Making decisions isn’t hard once you have a clear vision and purpose. Without that clear vision, leaders can become paralyzed by having too many options to choose from. The nature of a complex world makes many of those options look appealing. In truth, they’re all okay, but it’s impossible to know which option is the correct one without trying, inspecting, and adapting.

Again, the ability to hear feedback and learn from it is critically needed as in a VUCA world we can’t know which option is right for our team without experimenting and learning from failures. Agile leaders are also relying on two soft-skills: coaching and facilitation. Both require practice as well as the readiness and humility to step back and accept the fact that you are not an all-knowing expert. Instead, humble leaders use coaching and facilitation to help other people reflect, discuss, and decide what to do. In a complex world, a team is always faster at figuring things out, and coaching and facilitation skills will boost vital team collaboration.

In summary, leadership is a state of mind. All a leader needs to initiate a change in their organization is to have a vision. Positional power isn’t necessary because agile leaders are leveraging the power of influence. They enhance collaboration and build environments full of trust and transparency. They are catalysts. They are good at working with teams and networks, and they encourage people to take responsibility and ownership and become leaders.

When it comes to change, leaders need to change first. In time, the organization will follow.

Collaborative Environment

Speaking of creating the right environment – even in the agile world you sometimes need to make a decision. While that’s not surprising to most managers, it’s often something that agile coaches struggle with. On the other hand, managers often struggle to collaborate and participate, while agile coaches are usually much better at it. All over in an agile environment, you need them both. Decision-making and collaboration.

Agile Leader Wheel

Decision-making is not that hard once you have a clear purpose of what you like to achieve. But without a clear vision, there are so many options to choose from and the nature of the complex world makes many of them looking good, they all are ok, but it’s impossible to know which one of the right ones, without trying, inspecting, and adapting. And again, the ability to hear feedback and learn from it is critically needed. As in a VUCA world we can’t know which option is the right one, all we can do about it is to experiment and learn from failures. Fail fast, learn fast. There are environments where people react well to what I’ve just said. They understand that it’s better to know you are not going in the right direction sooner than later, they work in short iterations, experiments and get open and honest feedback regularly. They know it’s better to return after a week than when the entire delivery is done in a year from now. Those environments are already agile, they have high trust and are neither afraid of transparency nor failure.

But there are environments where people react with frustration on my sentence. “What do you mean by failing?” they ask. “We can’t fail here!” they say and you can sense the fear and stress growing in the space. “We would be fired if we fail.”.  And I’m not surprised. They are living in a different mindset, where they still believe the world is predictable and the business problems can be analyzed, planned, and solutions delivered accordingly. They try to pretend that unpredictability doesn’t exist and that the world is not complex. Just analyze, plan, and do it. That’s it. And all the difficulty is in how to manage it. That’s a traditional mindset and if you like to change it, and increase the agility in a space, you need to start with increasing trust and transparency. Without it there is no real collaboration happening.

In collaborative environments, there are two soft skills needed – coaching and facilitation. You might never be as good at them as professional coaches and professional facilitators are, but be able to use them and help people to raise their awareness about the situation and have an effective conversation and collaborate better is always useful.

Finally agile is a change. Change of the way of working, change of culture and mindset. You can address it at three different levels – changing yourself, through your own behaviors and habits. Becoming a role model. In my mind, this is the most powerful change. Leaders need to change first, the organization will follow. Secondly, you can change the way we work by implementing different frameworks and practices. Thirdly, you can influence the organization and the system level and change the culture and social system.

Agile Journey

Agile is a journey. In the beginning, people think it’s about different tools, new processes, new names. They keep comparing it to what they know and they are frustrated that the new way of working doesn’t fit the world they know. They still try to analyze, plan, estimate, and track delivery. The problem with that is that they are changing to agile not because there is a new improved method, but because their current way of working is not as successful as it used to be. There is a strong need for significant change. The traditional way of working was effective in solving predictable problems, not in dealing with complexity. In the current world, organizations need to be more flexible, innovative, and creative to address VUCA challenges. Agile brings new paradigms, a new mindset, a new way of working. It’s not comparable anyhow to the traditional ways of managing and delivering work.

Once they pass the initial phase, stop comparing and start looking for understanding, people often fall into a trap of taking all agile as a ‘religion’. Just follow the process, implement tools, do scrum according to the Scrum Guide! This phase is not much fun either. But they are on a journey, not fighting with any strong resistance anymore, and deepening their knowledge about various practices. People are interested, they want to understand it, do it well, however they are usually asking fundamentally wrong questions, looking for the best practices, believing they can copy & paste practices.

When they experiment, fail, and learn from failures enough, they start realizing the real agility, which is not in practices and tools, but in a different culture, mindset, and approach to things. They start realizing the organization and leadership need to change in order to finish the transformation and allow the agility to be successful. Agile becomes the way you not only organize the work but the way you live. It will bring different values and different perspectives.

 

Top 5 Books You Have To Read Building Agile Organization

People are always asking me what to read. I created the three lists recommending books ScrumMasters shall read, books Product Owners shall read, and books agile leaders shall read. And recently I got some great books from my friends, so I thought I will write one update page referring to them. This list is intended to help people on their agile journey who want to deepen their understanding of what Agile organizations are about and how leadership needs to change.

top 5 books Agile organization

#1: Johanna Rothman – Modern Management Made Easy

The first recommendation is a trilogy Modern Management Made Easy from Johanna Rothman. The books are full of stories and practical examples. Here are few quotes from the three books so you can choose which one is the most interesting for you.

1. Practical Ways to Manage Yourself is focusing on you as a leader. Modern management requires we first manage ourselves—and that might be the most challenging part of management.

“When we exercise our personal integrity, it’s true, we might lose our job or a specific role. However, even I have never immediately lost a job. Very few managers lose their jobs if they say, ‘No,’ to a management request that lacks integrity.”

2. Practical Ways to Lead and Serve (Manage) Others is looking on how to work with other people. Great managers create an environment where people can do their best work.

“Many first-line managers see themselves as the expert, as the sole source of knowledge for their group. You may have started as the expert. However, as soon as you become a manager, start moving out of that expert’s seat. You can’t be the expert for the team.”

3. and finally the Practical Ways to Lead an Innovative Organization are looking at organization as a whole. Learn to create an environment where people can innovate.

“Great managers solve culture problems. And, culture problems are big, messy, systemic problems. You’ll address something over here and something over there will break. You’ll never run out of problems to solve. Maintaining a culture of integrity might be the most challenging job a manager can do.”

All over, the three books bring a nice overview of modern management practices, are easy to read, and give practical examples of how to change your leadership style. Each book covers several myths which help you to reflect on your current practices and change the way you work.

#2: Michael Spayd, Michele Madore – Agile Transformation

Another book I recently got is Agile Transformation: Using the Integral Agile Transformation Framework™ to Think and Lead Differently. It’s looking at agile transformation

“Becoming a transformational leader challenges us to make room for our own deep passion for change, coming up against the personal limitations in us that prevent this change from occurring through us.”

In the world we live in, which is complex and unpredictable, we need to re-think how we are thinking about organizations, leadership, and transformation. How can you work with other leaders, what kind of leadership is required to successfully lead transformational change, and what is realistically required for agile transformation?

#3: Zuzi Sochova – Agile Leader

The third on the recommendation list is my new book The Agile Leader: Leveraging the Power of Influence. It continues where the Great ScrumMaster book finished and is focusing on how to change the organizations and leadership in the agile space. It will help you to unleash your agile leadership potential and guide your entire organization toward agility. It’s a great overview of concepts for managers, directors, executives, and entrepreneurs―anyone, regardless of position, who’s ready to take ownership, challenge the status quo, and become a true agile leader.

“Having a critical mass of agile leaders is the key factor to organizational success in the VUCA world. Supporting agile leadership and growing agile leaders is one of the most important tasks on your agile journey.”

#4: Heidi Helfand – Dynamic Reteaming

The fourth recommended book is looking at evolutions of teams. Dynamic Reteaming: The Art and Wisdom of Changing Teams got recently it’s second edition and it’s a great book for all people interested in the team dynamic.

“Whether you like it or not, your teams are going to change. People will join your team and people will leave your team. You can grow your organization with dynamic reteaming in mind so that you have a resilient and flexible structure, or you can adjust your existing organizations to enable dynamic reteaming.”

#5: 97 Things Every Scrum Practitioner Should Know: Collective Wisdom from the Experts

Finally, there is a fifth recommendation for a very interesting book collected and edited by Gunther Verheyen. This book is a collection of short essays from 97 thought leaders (97 Things Every Scrum Practitioner Should Know: Collective Wisdom from the Experts) who share their insights from their agile journey about transformation, product value delivery, collaboration, people, development practices, ScrumMastery, organizational design, and Scrum.

“Bring the agile values to the organizational level. Address the system in its whole complexity and turn it into a self-organizing network of great teams. At this stage, you can see your organization as a living organism. Being a ScrumMaster is a never-ending journey. The #ScrumMasterWay concept can guide them.”

Emergent Leadership

Agile organizations are collaborative, creative, and adaptive networks. They are like living organisms, operating on different principles. They naturally flatten the hierarchical structure, making the Org chart quite unimportant. They are based on autonomy, self-organization, and empowerment, leveraging the power of self-organization and instead of hierarchical leadership, they rely on emergent leadership which is not tight to any position but can emerge from different situations and needs on the fly. In Agile organization everyone is a leader. Everyone can take a step and take over an initiative. If that initiative gains the interest of others, they form a team and support it. The radical transparency takes care of feedback and corrects any ideas which are not supporting the overall purpose we are all trying to achieve.

And here is the reason why traditional organizations are generally afraid of loosening the fixed positional power structures and giving teams autonomy. They are often scared of emergent leadership and I’m not surprised by that. In order to make it work you need to have a collaborative culture with high trust, transparency and safety, and strong evolutionary purpose which creates alignment among different parts of your organization so they are heading towards the same direction. Without a clear purpose, everything might look like a good idea worth of trying and higher autonomy usually only creates chaos, while strong purpose helps people to test their ideas by asking a simple question “If we do that, how does it going to help to get closer to the desired state defined by the purpose?” and if it doesn’t we don’t do it and figure out something else which will help us to get there. Radical transparency will allow any initiative to be tested by the crowd and filter weak ideas already before they start. The safe to fail environment encourages people to take over the responsibility and come up with their own ideas. Finally, the collaborative environment will support good ideas. In an agile organization, nothing is fixed. Sometimes I came up with an idea and others form a team around it, next time I join the initiative as a team member. Leadership is emergent and structure liquid.

Now, do you need it? That’s up to you to decide. It all depends on the overall business environment and the challenges you need to work on. Are they predictable and repetitive? A fixed structure will help you to be faster. Are they unpredictable and hard to plan? Are you regularly facing the VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) challenges? Then more flexible structures with emergent leadership will be necessary to crack the challenges and be successful in nowadays constantly changing world.

Agile Transformation Metrics

It’s very common that people ask me how they shall measure the success of their Agile transformation. It’s a hard question because there is no meaningful metrics unless you know why you decided to start the agile transformation at the first place at all. Agile is not your goal, it’s just a way how to achieve some of your more strategic goals i.e. address complexity better, be more change responsive, shorten time to market, be more flexible, … And once you know why you are starting your agile journey, then those reasons are exactly the metrics you are going to measure at the organizational level. All are business-oriented and value-driven  (outcome), so there is no velocity, no story points as those are focusing on output.

Team Measures

If you want to have a fast culture check on how far you have moved towards the agile mindset, you may look into how many experiments the teams are running, what are their actions from the retrospectives, and how they help them to deliver more value, how likely your teams take failure as learning vs. blaming opportunity, how close are they to customers, and how they collaborate vs. work individually or in silos. As a follow-up, you can have a look to your positions (are they rather broad supporting cross-functional teams than detail task-oriented), recruiting (are we hiring for approach and personality over the hard skills), performance review (team-oriented based on peer feedback over the individual), goals and objectives (team-based focused on purpose and outcome over tactical and individual KPIs focused on output), … and I can continue.

Looking to technical practices, you can check how your software teams implemented Extreme Programming practices i.e. Continuous Integration (even one-minute old code is old code), TDD – Test Driven Development (and overall attest automation), if they use pair programming or mob-programming to collaborate, having strong Definition of Done, focusing on one story at a time, and are ready for Continuous Delivery.

All over Agile is about team collaboration, customer-centered value-driven way of working, and short feedback loops. The rest are just practices, processes, and tools which might support your journey or not. The most important is not what exactly you are measuring, but what you are going to change based on that metric. If the metrics is helping you to improve and change your way of working, it’s a good metric. Measuring something just so you have it, or so you can draw a chart is a waste of your time.

Scaling Success

Companies are not scaling Agile or Scrum, they are scaling success. At our agile journey, we were often wondering how to start, what practices, tools, and processes shall we use. What I learned on my journey is that we don’t need another method. None of these are silver bullets anyway. They are all great for the beginning to change the way you work and to change the mindset. But the most important part of your journey is success. Can you share a success story? Using your own language, describing how your own environment changed, showing the impact the different ways of working created? If yes, people start picking up and trying to achieve a similar impact. The most successful agile transformations I’ve seen started exactly like it. With a small team experimenting with practices, and sharing the impact with others and depending on the starting point, sharing the various different success stories, i.e. 5 times less bugs reported by customers, 3 times more value delivered by the given time (which is not the same as more functionality but quite the opposite), significantly faster time to market, higher motivation and engagement score, more innovations which result in higher customer satisfaction, … the impact varies depending on the environment. For us a few years back it was higher flexibility, faster learning, and higher customer satisfaction.

Sharing success is not anything new in change management. It’s one of the Eight steps for successful change by John Kotter which for some reason are still not widely known in an agile community, so I thought I remind you about them here:

  1. Create a sense of urgency – Unless you know why you are changing the way you work (to be more agile, Scrum, or Kanban), then don’t do it. Neither Agile, Scrum, or Kanban is your goal. They are just ‘walking sticks’ helping you on your journey to success. You need to have a higher purpose defined which will be stronger than their individual goals and therefore unify people.
  2. Build a guiding coalition – You can never change the organization alone. You need to find supporters (agile enthusiasts in this case) who will create a team that will help you change the system. So, at the minimum two additional people who are true agile believers, as three are the smallest team possible. The rest will join you in seeing the results.
  3. Form a strategic vision & initiatives – Sometimes having a purpose is not enough as people don’t see a way how to get there and the whole change is too abstract. That’s a space where frameworks, methods, and practices are useful.
  4. Enlist a volunteer army – Finally, it’s a time to make it bigger. Make it a movement, not just another project. Get buy-in from larger crowds. Get them involved. Again, if you skip some of the previous steps, there is no way it’s going to scale.
  5. Enable action by removing barriers – Now, once you have the energy by your side, you need to help it and remove barriers (hierarchy, silos, detailed positions, individual KPIs, … ), otherwise, all the initial enthusiasm is gone before you realize it.
  6. Generate short-term wins – Show the success early and often, make it visible to everyone. Share stories talk about improvements, celebrate even small steps. Success is a strong engine for change. Accelerate, multiply success. Without it, any change will die.
  7. Sustain acceleration – You can celebrate, but you can’t stop pushing after the first win, being too satisfied with your progress. There is always a better way. Find another challenge, discover a better way of working until the vision of the new way of working defined by the original purpose becomes true.
  8. Institute change – Finally by creating connections between the new way of working and success you keep the change stick. It’s the final glue that prevents the environment from flowing back to the old way of working again.

Agile is a change, and without driving it as a change you can hardly be successful. So don’t forget the define how success looks like, celebrate it, and make it better over time.

Barriers of Agility

In most of the surveys about barriers of agility in organizations, you learn that the top three places are culture, structure, and leadership. There is no surprise. Organizations were designed for a different world where you can analyze the situation, plan what you are going to do, cascade the goals through the organization, and deliver it accordingly with minimum change requests, simply for the predictable world. The problem is that in the last decades the world has become less predictable and changes were more frequent, the VUCA challenges overtake our everyday life reality and the organizations realized they are too slow to respond. Like dinosaurs thousands of years ago. Change is inevitable. Analyzing, planning, and following the plan is not an option anymore.

Innovations, creativity, and flexibility are new norm and organizations which can create environments where teams are self-organized, collaborate on maximizing the business value, and co-creating the organizational goals are taking over positions in the Fortune 100 list. Most of the big corporations are still in the cage of the old-world reality. They optimize for speed. But speed is not that important asset anymore as going fast in the wrong direction doesn’t lead anywhere. Instead, we need flexible environments optimized for creativity. Thinking about flexibility, the organizational structure needs to change to allow it. Departments focused on competences or components, not business value, is meaningless. They kill creativity. Hierarchy keeps responsibility by the managers and prevents people from taking ownership and decide themselves. Again, it kills creativity.

Culturally the traditional organizations are leaning towards competing over collaborating, and controlling over creating. The practices of detailed positions, reward systems, performance reviews, and individual goals and objectives are keeping the organizations in competing and controlling quadrants.

Finally, the leadership needs to change significantly. Traditional organizations were expecting leaders to be Experts or Achievers. Agile organizations need Catalysts. They need leaders who are visionary, purpose-driven, are able to see the business and organizations from different perspectives. They enhance collaboration and are good at building teams and networks. They search for win-win solutions, are good coaches, and helping others to grow. They support running experiments and use failure as learning.

All over we can say that Agile Organization needs different leaders, cultures, and structures. You don’t have to start with changing all of them at once, but sooner or later such change is inevitable. The fewer barriers you give agility on the way, the more likely the frameworks, methods, and practices make a difference and help you to be successful in the VUCA world.

Autonomy

Autonomy is a topic that is in my mind for a while. How come that in some environments it’s so simple to let it grow and some others are so much struggling with it. The more I think about it, the more I feel it’s about trust or fear of losing position, power, or comfort. And environments with no trust are not places where agile is much successful. In order to allow autonomy in even a small group as a development team, the trust must be there. I’ve seen the companies which were struggling to allow teams to choose their own name. “What if they choose something offending?” Like really? Now if you deal with such low trust, there is no way Scrum can work. I’ve seen organizations where they track when people are in the office and have so many restrictions that their computers become useless. “What if they don’t work and play games? Or not coming to work?” Isn’t that funny? The more restrictions you create, the more time people spend on breaking them or the more demotivated they are. Neither will help you to create successful products.

“Trust is prerequisite, transparency enabler, and purpose of the driving force for autonomy.”

Building trust takes time. Start small, don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Ask yourself what is the worth thing which can happen. Ask what are those people around you scared  and how can you help them to feel more confident. The second ingredient in the mix is transparency. Being transparent about what needs to be done, what the success looks like, and what are the things we want to avoid is crucial. People learn by doing. Be transparent with the feedback. Perfection is not useful, it’s all about learning from small failures. Finally, the third ingredient in the mix is a purpose. Autonomy without a purpose only creates chaos. The higher the autonomy, the stronger the purpose needs to be to glue it together. To give everyone the same goal, belonging, identity, the reason for why they are there.

Imagine a kid’s camp. The Red group is defending the castle, the Blues are trying the take it over. Kids are naturally forming small autonomous teams, making their own decisions on the fly. They share information as they move forward. They don’t need any detailed instructions, any KPIs, any manager to give them process. All they have is a strong purpose. Your organization is not any different. Trust is a prerequisite, transparency enabler, and purpose of the driving force for autonomy. Building such an environment requires a portion of agile leadership.