Agile and congruent leadership

You’re a leader in your organization, and you want to improve efficiency. You think you want an “agile transformation”, because you heard others have been successful with it.

Then remember this:
Agile is not just a label you just put on the development department. Agile is a behavior and should affect everything you do.

So if you’re still up for the “agile transformation”, then it’s your job, as a leader, to do whatever is in your power to pave the way for every team, project or department, so that they can carry on with their agile transformation.

Start by truly understanding how agile works and how it affects the organization. Be congruent in actions and words. Ask for elements that are in harmony with agile. Don’t ask for reports, estimates or commitments from a bygone era, just so your way of reporting upwards in the organization is easier. Take that fight yourself. Show that you have confidence in your people. Give honest feedback.

Agile transformation is more than words, it’s behavior, and it affects the entire organization. Start by changing your own behavior.

One word: Feedback

With all the different management models out there, chances are you’ve come across a model that can help you solve or improve a particular problem. From a bird’s perspective, they might look simple, but to fully grasp how to apply them in your organization, you need a deeper understanding than you can get from only reading a book. You need hands-on experience.

This triggers a question: How do you apply a generic model you don’t even understand the complete extent of, to a specific situation of high complexity?

Normally, when you get a question like this, you know you won’t get an answer in just one sentence. But the answer can be rather simple, actually just a single word: Feedback.

It doesn’t matter what the model is for and what it is designed to solve, but once you decide to give it a try, remember this: Get the feedback you need, as fast as you can, so that you’re able to take corrective actions. The more complex the situation is, the faster you need feedback.

No feedback is synonymous with failure, and the model certainly won’t do you any good. You need hands-on experience and you need feedback, that’s how you truly understand how to apply the model.

Kanban for portfolio management

Yesterday, I published a blog post about using Kanban for portfolio management on my company’s blog.

It’s in Norwegian, so here’s a brief summary for my English speaking audience.

I work closely with my customer’s project department, and I believe they could benefit from using Kanban for project portfolio management. Here’s an example of a project portfolio board.

They could start by adding two simple steps (in addition to what they’re already doing):
1) Map current process to a Kanban board
2) Meet regularily for stand-ups

By visualizing the process and meet face-to-face more often, all people involved get a deeper understanding of how their process works. Bottlenecks gets exposed more easily, and this could plant a seed, nurturing continuous improvement.

I also suggest adding a WIP limit for ongoing projects, based on their current capacity. This could be a tool to manage individual workload and reduce stress, and could be used as an input for overall staffing questions.

Anyhow, I stress the fact that this is an evolutionary process, don’t try changing all at once. Start by visualizing the process and introducing stand-ups.