LifeWorks Today Podcast → 09 Why Agile Transformations Fail

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Episode Title:  Why Agile Transformations Fail

“I submit that there must be a commitment to, practice of, and execution of professional common behaviors and the presence of highly communicated, standardized organizational expectations – without which there are no supports upon which the Agile bar can be confidently raised.”

Jim Rosa, Enterprise Agile Consultant, Icon Agility

Overview: Agile is a mindset and a set of organizing and productivity practices that’s growing in popularity. Those who realize the power of agile, what’s at stake in choosing to adopt it, and what’s needed to create success, are those in the trenches who participate as agile strategists, coaches, consultants and trainers. They also recognize that if an organization has a dysfunctional workplace culture, it will not be able to leverage the benefits in an agile transformation and they will lose their investments of time and money.

Savvy business leaders also know the value of agile and recognize that to leverage the benefits of it they must nurture certain kinds of people within a culture system. This is more important than usual within an agile environment because Agile initiatives are related to managing complexity and growth that cannot be otherwise managed and progress.

What’s occurred generally is that they’re resistant to the well-intentioned but discouraging methods imposed on them in an effort to gain their participation. Leaders must change tactics and make the effective transfer of responsibility a top priority. Self-management, initiative and accountability are key and depend heavily on intrinsic motivators – psychological rewards people get from self-management. The four intrinsic motivators are a sense of meaningfulness, choice, competence and progress.

This episode is focused as a response to a market segment we find has a high need for the culture transformation model we provide. It is the agile and DevOps market, whether an this is being adopted across an entire enterprise or leveraged within various digital transformation / software engineering projects. I want to say upfront that while I’ll give you a little bit of information on agile and DevOps, I will be asking questions of an expert in this field. And the first question is going to be his version of what agile and DevOps are and why they matter. Like LifeWork Systems, the agile shift and transformation process is relevant today and requires that people understand the models and what makes them work and succeed as well as what makes them fail.

Questions to Ponder:

  1. Who are the people adopting agile?
  2. What is agile and DevOps and what are their value to all businesses?
  3. Why do so many agile transformations fail?
  4. What are the traits and strengths crucial to develop in individuals and teams using agile?
  5. What must leaders (executives, managers, supervisors – all leaders) understand and align with to create a successful agile transformation context?

Episode Guest: Don White

My guest today is Don White, an agile and DevOps strategist, consultant, trainer and coach for the past 6 years. That was born out of his software quality assurance background the previous 15 years. Sustainability is huge focus for Don. Don’s experience spans: banking, insurance, investment management, global retail, Virtual Reality education, health care, digital marketing, and domain name registrar spaces. He knows first-hand the power of agile/DevOps transformations as he has been key to helping organizations adopt an agile mindset and system. He also has deep insights into why too many agile transformations fail which is how Don and I came to choose this topic for today’s podcast: Why Agile Transformations Fail. In our conversation, Don and I agreed that the following questions are likely the most important for those of you listening today. Don has been married for 23 years and has one son who’s a junior in college. Along with his love of family, environmental sustainability and a triple bottom line mindset is a shared passion of Don and his son.

  1. Who are the people adopting agile? As CEO of LifeWork Systems, a performance management and culture transformation company, we are drawn to the agile market because those who embrace agile frequently exhibit a unique combination of 5 psychographics that make agile thinkers and adopters compatible with our responsibility-based culture model. These leadership qualities are that:
    • They have awareness. They know what the future holds and they are aware of the important factors they need to keep top of mind, including the speed of change, the level of complexity in the workplace and regarding technology, and the need to be able to quickly pivot to meet the existing and future needs in a rapidly-transforming marketplace. They tend to be people that value research of thought leadership and innovation, what’s happening in business development and what improvements they need for their business to meet growth goals they face in next years to come.
    • They also have and recognize need. They do profit/loss analysis on their business practices. They may be bleeding out through high turnover of employees, low staff engagement and productivity, inability to stay competitive, that all lead to current or future failure. They know specifically what their needs are costing them financially.
    • They also have passion and conviction about preserving the viability and value of their organization. These are people who feel compelled to seek excellence no matter what is required of them. They are intentional about what they know and need and are highly motivated to find solutions and commit to them to keep their organization moving forward into a successful future.
    • They are also trend-forward and innovative thinkers/leaders? I can’t tell you how often we have met with people whose organization exhibit great need – some of them are losing millions. In spite of this, they are apathetic to their pain because they are fearful of anything new or different. They are risk averse to considering needed change even if their organization is leaking profitability like the titanic. So this psychographic is about having innovative, trend-forward leaders at the helm who take reasonable risks because they know they will otherwise be left behind.
    • They also have and are willing to invest time and money into transformation. They are aware and passionate enough about moving forward that they willingly invest time and money into change processes that are needed.
  2. What is agile and DevOps and what are their value to all businesses?
    • Agile is a mindset and set of organizing principles that impact the role people that enables each to co– create efficiencies, successes and deep collaboration, innovation and engagement.
    • Many organizations are recognizing the value of an agile framework but are not sure why their investments into it are not always delivering on the promised advantages.
    • Without an agile philosophy and model, most businesses will become extinct.
  3. Why do so many agile transformations fail?
    • You have to get the culture right for it to stick; there is not a comprehensive systems approach to the needed culture model
    • Too much is put on the shoulders of just a few people, which then creates an unhealthy dependence on larger-than-life heroes (often the consultants) which is not sustainable in the long-term.
    • The CEO and all members of the senior team rarely understand and support the agile transformation mindset and processes. Then they inadvertently sabotage the agile mindset and practices.
    • Leaders try to shift too many things simultaneously. They don’t realize the important needs of people for a persistent team that is context-specific and why it matters.
  4. What are the traits and strengths crucial to develop in individuals and teams using agile/DevOps?
    • A lack of such traits and strengths becomes highly apparent in an agile transformation.
    • Managing complexity, uncertainty, and increasing technological advancements require a significant amount of social and emotional intelligence and consistent behavioral guidelines.
    • All stakeholders in the organization need to be on the same page about people development and what kinds of conditions are required to foster them.
    • Leaders must help their staff become personally responsible and self-motivated. To do so, leaders must dismantle control tactics and transfer responsibility to all people in the organization. This eliminates dependency on the few and creates self-governance.
    • Every person needs to be masterful in developing new habits they remember and draw upon regularly no matter who in the organization comes and goes.
    • Teams cannot be high-performing because too often, the people in them are treated with those who resort to command-and-control tactics.
  5. What must leaders understand and align with to create a successful agile transformation context?
    • Without understanding the agile mindset and practices, leaders inadvertently sabotage the agile transformation process and set back progress.
    • They don’t know how to create the type of relationships needed to keep people happy. They treat people as resources not as problem-solvers. They treat them like game pieces without regard to their wants, needs and ideas.
    • Too many are worried they could lose their identity, relevance and job.
    • They fear change and then self-protect. They are afraid of their own loss of job.
    • In technology, the average time a technologist is at an organization is 1.5 years. Without a healthy culture, they leave sooner rather than stay and grow.
    • Risks: Losing valuable talent and losing business and market opportunities because you don’t have a culture that takes the business objectives forward rapidly which puts you at risk of losing customers to other competitors.

Keywords:  agile, agility, agile transformation

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Interview Transcript

[Music] Welcome To Life Works today this podcast is provided so that together we can create a world in which all people love their lives our current human systems aren’t working the way of superior versus inferior or management versus employee or adult versus child we need a powerful positive and sustainable transformation this podcast is for you who seek to be happy fulfilled and peaceful so that your Abundant Life Works today so welcome everyone to Life Works today this podcast series is designed to bring you hope and new ideas to apply in your personal and professional life this show is about human systems which are simply how we think speak feel and act and how this is directly tied to a specific cultural structure and system that expands human potential the system I’m talking about is a responsibility based culture and some of you who may not have heard my former podcasts may be wondering what’s a responsibility based culture so I just want to go over that for a second and remind you that a responsibility based culture is one where you have Buy in from everyone at every level only then do your people show up strong only then does everyone work together collaboratively and embracing a common Mission so the environment is supportive and inclusive and work gets done quickly and efficiently your organization then thrives and you see rewards everywhere and the reason that’s so is that the number one competitive Advantage for the organizations of Tomorrow is when an organization invests in a human system that creates a new kind of team where people are motivated from within and those organizations that are doing that have developed a responsibility based culture so what you learn in each of our podcast episodes will be an offer to you of insights and tools that are applicable in your life whether it’s at home or at work or in the larger community and that’s because we consider today’s challenges and Trends and we really connect the dots between what’s required of us as individuals and as communities when we consider today’s Trends and those of the future so the these would include things like globalization diversity and inclusion digital transformation artificial intelligence gig economy complexity and the trend we’re going to be focusing on today which is agile so this podcast episode is focused as a response to a market segment that we find has a high need for the culture transformation model that we provide it’s the agile and devops Market whether that market is happening within an entire Enterprise or it’s being leveraged within various digital transformation and software engineering projects so this podcast is about why so many agile Transformations fail whether this is being adopted across an entire Enterprise or company or whether it’s being leveraged within various digital transformation and software engineering projects I want to say upfront that while I’ll give you a little bit more information on agile I’ll be asking questions of an expert in this field and the first question is going to be his version of what agile and devops are and why they matter so like life work systems the agile shift and the transformation process is relevant today and requires that people understand the agile models and what makes them work and how to succeed in them as well as what makes them fail so here’s just a little overview that I’m bringing to this agile is a mindset and it’s a set of organizing and productivity practices that’s really growing in popularity and those who realize the power of agile what’s at stake in choosing to adopt it and what’s needed to create success are those people in the trenches who participate as agile strategists coaches consultants and trainers they recognize that if an organiz ation has a dysfunctional workplace culture it won’t be able to leverage the benefits of an agile transformation and then they lose their Investments of time and money so Savvy Business Leaders know the value of agile and they’re now beginning to recognize that to leverage the benefits of agile they must nurture certain kinds of people within a culture system and this is more important than usual within an agile environment because agile initiatives are related to managing complexity and speed of change and growth that can’t be otherwise managed or able to progress so what we look for is who are the people that are adopting this this agile approach this agile mindset so as CEO of Life work systems of Performance Management and culture transformation company we’re drawn to the agile Market because the people who Embrace agile frequently exhibit a number of what we call Psycho graphics and that make agile thinkers and adapters compatible with the responsibility based culture model that we provide so some of these qualities are things like agile people tend to have awareness whether they’re inside of a company or bringing the agile skills to the company they know what the future holds they’re looking at the important factors that they need to keep top of Mind those things that I just mentioned the speed of change the level of complexity in the workplace and the level of change happening in technology and the need to be able to quickly pivot to meet the existing and future needs of a rapidly changing Marketplace they tend to be the people that value research thought leadership and Innovation and pay attention to what’s happening in business development and the improvements that they may need to make for their business to meet their growth goals and be prepared for what’s coming in the future so they have awareness that’s number one the second thing they have is they recognize their own need they’re paying attention to profit and loss on their business practices they could be bleeding out through high turnover of their employees or experiencing low staff engagement or low productivity or they’re noticing that they’re not staying competitive and so because they’re paying attention to that need they’re really ready to address those and they’re paying attention to what it costs them and what they gain if they correct if they course correct so the third quality that agile thinkers and practitioners have is they have passion and conviction about preserving the viability and the value of their organization so these are people who feel compelled to seek Excellence they’re intentional about what they know and need and are highly motivated to find Solutions and commit to those Solutions in order to keep the organization moving forward so we know companies that we’ve encountered that they have very recognizable needs that are you know defined in even terms of financial losses but they’re apathetic about what they’re going to do about it so really a lot of the agile people they’re really passionate about preserving the U viability of their company the fourth quality they have is that there are people that are to a large degree Trend forward and Innovative thinkers and leaders so when we meet with organizations that are more apathetic a lot of times it’s that they’re afraid of trying anything new or different and they become very risk averse to considering needed change even if the organization is leaking profitability like the Titanic so this psychographic is about having Innovative Trend forward leaders at the helm who also believe in Sharing power with their employees and helping them become developed into leaders within the organization they’re the ones that are going to take reasonable risks because they know already that if they don’t stay on top of this this Innovative future they’re going to be left behind and then the fifth quality that we really see in the agile mindset are people that are willing to invest their time and money into the transformation process of their culture and part of it that they’ve already invested in the agile skills training and transformation process in parts of their company and they recognize we’re going to lose that investment if we don’t make sure that all of the conditions are in place to make sure that the Investments we’re making are going to really pay off and so that’s what I’m ex I’m excited about introducing you to Our Guest today because he embodies all of these qualities he is a person that recognizes what’s going on in the world and has strong awareness he’s passionate about what doing and what he’s learning and how he’s moving forward and growing he’s an innovator he’s a thought leader and he’s in the trenches and so he has been willing to invest time into his own growth into his own experience but also even into learning about what kind of culture is needed so that there are less agile Transformations failing so as you all know that have been listening to this podcast for a while I generally open with a quote and somewhere in the early part of the podcast and also end with a quote so today’s quote actually came from another expert agile consultant and I just love this quote because it’s really a clear view into what some of the agile Consultants are facing on the front lines and he says this I submit that there must be a commitment to a practice of and the execution of professional common behav behaviors and the presence of Highly communicated standardized organizational expectations without which there are no supports upon which the agile bar can be confidently raised that’s a big quote that’s a big sentence there and yet it’s so important for us to realize that today’s change pace and the importance of managing consistency requires that there are a set of guidelines that are so clear and a set of Concepts and tools that are so clear in order for this agile bar to be confidently raised so I just wanted to share that with you from a real life second consultant so now I’m going to introduce you to our guest for today who is an expert who lives and breathes and leads and researches in this field so my guest today is Don White and agile and devop strategist consultant trainer and coach for the past six years and that work was born out of his software quality assurance background that he was involved in the previous 15 years Don’s experience spans banking Insurance Investment Management Global retail virtual reality education healthc care digital marketing and domain name regist spaces so he knows firsthand the power of ad devops Transformations as he’s been key to helping organizations adopt an agile mindset and systems he also has deep insights into why too many agile Transformations fail which is how Don and I came to choose this topic for today’s podcast why agile Transformations fail in our conversation Don and I agreed that the following four questions are likely to be the most important for those of you listening today but before I get into those questions I just want to let you know a little bit more about Don on a personal level he’s been married for 23 years he has a son who’s a junior in college and along with his love of his family environmental sustainability and a triple bottomline mindset is a shared passion of Don and his son so I just really appreciate him not only for his technical his business Acumen his many years of experience but for who he is is a person person and it’s been so great for me to know his value system and know him both professionally and even on that personal level of shared values so the four questions that Don and I have prepared for you are this so I’m going to name them now and then I’m GNA ask Don to go over each of them with you so first before I do that Don welcome to the program thank you uh Judy I am so excited about this opportunity and uh I share the same sentiments getting to know you and the life work systems especially how I can actually apply it Beyond just my career but within my family and those types of things too yes I’m so glad we can kind of have that common it’s a holistic approach and you’re and you’re seeing that too so I’m really grateful for that so so don the first question we wanted to be able to explain to the audiences what is agile because not everybody knows what agile is and they don’t know what devops is and what are the value of these mindsets and practices to all businesses so that’s one I’m going to just name all these questions first then we’ll come back to them so the second question is why do so many agile Transformations fail the third question is what are the traits and the strengths that are crucial to develop in individuals and teams that are using agile and then the fourth question is what must leaders and by leaders we mean Executives managers supervisors anyone in a leadership position what must they understand and align with to create a successful agile transformation context so let’s go ahead and start at the beginning Don what is agile and devops and what are their value to all businesses well you did a really good job uh given some some background on it but I’m going to add quite a bit from that perspective for starters agile uh arrived on the scene in the 1990s and it was uh emerged from uh the development Community um having a massive frustration with waterfall outcomes and what I mean by that is in the software development industry uh the the those folks take a a ton of Pride and all the things that they development it’s it’s like their art it’s their babies and here’s the thing is in a waterfall development uh scenario it’s a you have massive requirements and uh all of uh to to develop a massive development effort that may take a quarter even up to a year to develop and so these developers would spend all this time developing this massive thing while those requirements uh when you have a massive thing of requirements there’s a there’s a lot of assumptions that can be made and they’re all mostly unvalidated assumptions and sometimes those assumptions impact other assumptions and if you have something wrong you can have a real cascading mess and the other thing to keep in mind is there’s a big lag time from when the thing actually gets developed to when the actual end users and customers actually see it and and and can uh provide any kind of feedback on it and what the frustration was is these developers would be spending all this time uh developing these things by the time it got into the hands of their customers and their end users their business needs and things evolved and it and the requirements needed to change it wasn’t it turns out what they actually delivered isn’t what they wanted or needed and so the larger the effort the more risk rework and waste go up because there was no feedback in that big lag time and so these these thought leaders and the development space came up with this thing called that agile Manifesto and I’m going to read it to you real quick this is the manifesto for agile software development and you can go to Agile manifesto. org and these thought leaders came up with a real simplistic way to look at these things we are and this is this is uh and quotes we are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it through this work we have come to Value individuals and interactions over process and tools working software over comprehensive documentation customer collaboration over contract negotiation responding to change over following a plan and then underneath it says while there is value on the items on the right we value the items on the left more I’ll let our listeners know that we’ll post that in the the the details of this podcast so that if somebody wants to go back and say now what was that website you know we’ve got it captured within our podcast um notes for everybody awesome very good thanks the other thing is I can’t help but notice that the very problems that occurred in the waterfall model for developing software are the same problems that happen with people a lot of assumptions a lot of time before anybody deals with anything and then you have a disaster so it’s kind of amazing so you’re basically saying agile started because of the needs of what was happening in software engineering exactly because uh uh the outcomes they were not getting the outcomes that they were hoping you know these these and here’s the thing is I I have not experienced a teams of developers that don’t take a ton of pride in what they’re doing and when they put time energy and effort into these babies and it’s it’s not valued or needed and and it’s and they assumed wrong that’s a huge frustration for them yeah they don’t they don’t feel like they can contribute yeah and then then then people are looking down at them and they feel they get blamed and it just creates all kinds of bad stuff right yeah so I know you’re you’re talking about the origin of agile how did it develop into something that supplied Enterprise wide because that’s like a whole different animal yeah and well so then eventually what happens and that was the start of agile is it’s a change of mind is basically a paradigm shift right from a business functional experience the the huge value is that you greatly reduce the risk rework and waste when you’re developing solutions for your Market your your customers so tell me how that would how would that be give me an example of how that would look outside of software engineering how how is Enterprise agile applied in a non-technology way because I people need to realize this isn’t only about software engineering I’m glad I’m glad that you pointed that out Judy you’re absolutely right these agile Frameworks can be applied to anything like uh Learning and Development developing curriculum and things of that nature it’s also used for scient ific Discovery and those types of things so don in in terms of departments that are uh consistent across organizations like sales and HR and are those able to be implemented in an agile Manner and what is the value if they are what I’m asking is how does a regular everyday company that yes has technology because every business is a technology business but how does any normal company also recognize how an Enterprise agile approach prepares them to be ready to Pivot quickly to the market because that’s what I understand that you’ve told me Enterprise agile does it’s so much bigger than software development it’s a way of even organizing the company to be able to shift just like this pandemic where you you have to shift the way that you’re doing meetings the way that you’re doing your HR the way you’re doing your billing there’s probably a whole lot of things that can use agile principles and practices that are Beyond even software engineering you’re absolutely right it it’s a because you’re getting that continuous uh feedback you’re inspecting and adapting how you’re developing things and you’re continuously learning that’s called organizational learning and the more you take that organizational learning and you can apply it to the next time you deliver well each time you deliver that the the chances of risk and rework or or waste keeps going down over time whereas the old way you wait so long to be able to get anything in the hands of your end users and customers it’s a linear relationship the longer you wait to get any kind of feedback and any kind of organizational learning that you can apply to whatever you’re developing that’s that those are the outcomes that you’re going to experience is okay what you’re trying to deliver to the marketplace is it going to meet what the customer wants and needs and furthermore because you’re delivering it incrementally as things change you can factor that into how you’re developing and you can pivot you can switch what you’re developing on whereas the old way you have to De develop this massive thing and you don’t have there’s no way to make a change to it’s almost imposs there’s no course there’s no course correcting along the way it’s hard to yeah you can’t course correct this agile gives you that ability to completely course correct that’s just one of many of the things but then and it’s that organizational learning where the the teams are learning the the business stakeholders are learning and and not just learning from their interactions from with each other but also from the marketplace and how things are evolving externally um that external learning can be applied in that Journey so I remember you telling me Don that the ultimate result is that the people at all different levels and in all different roles are able to co-create new efficiencies new successes deeper collaboration new Innovations and engage people more fully is that would you say that that is still how you categorize the outcomes to a business yes that’s that’s the ultimate goal but I want to back up a step here uh on on uh how agile has evolved to being uh look looked at from a cultural perspective because agile originally wasn’t uh was focused so much on the development community and and that’s why they were able to make make some strides within that Community but over time if the culture isn’t supportive of what the the teams and development Community is trying to do the their efforts would get crushed by the culture so what happened is agile evolved now in now we’re going to fast forward to 2015 and that’s where devop starts coming into play where agile moved Beyond like the development Community to where they looked at you already said this uh Judy that every business whether they want to admit it or not is a technology business and accepting that reality people started asking these types of questions because they look at the big technologist like the the Googles the Amazon and those folks well they’re they’re deploying software into the production environment multiple times per day so now the organizations who were who went from waterfall to Agile and are are delivering somewhat incrementally maybe every two weeks maybe every week well now that they’re asking for in devops what they’re asking is we want to deliver software to the and keep in mind devops is specific Bally for technology I want to make that clear whereas agile is more than you can apply it to other things besides technology devops is really specifically about technology and software development and devops is asking that question is what does it take for us to deliver software to the production envir environment once per day per developer now that’s really incremental delivery devops created all these engineering practi practices and mindsets to automate all of that to make it so that they do could do things real fast but not only automate have all this monitoring built in as well so they always knew where they’re at let me see if I can sum up the answer to this question agile is a set of organizing principles mindset and uh way of operating so that you have Inc incremental co-creation that benefits the organization in ways that they can grow change and pivot quickly so that’s the bigger answer to what’s the value of agile it’s more than software development it’s the whole Enterprise could be designed with those principles in mind and those ways of co-creating and we would even say Don I’m pretty sure you would agree with this life work systems responsibility based model is very much an agile model it just happens to be focused more exclusively on the the human systems the people systems and Dev Dev Ops you’re saying that devops is a way to even strengthen those principles in an even shorter timeline to make sure that the Train the uh technology components are even more efficient more successful more aligned and more quickly communicated is that how I’m am I understanding that all correctly you are you’re doing a a really awesome job of making it real concise uh Judy I I really appreciate that and um one of the things I wanted to point out though about the evolution to devops is because it broadened uh the interactions between from the developers with the operations teams now they’re starting to look at it from a cultural perspective this is a cultural thing this is an organizational thing that’s exactly why I brought up the psychographics of people that are directly involved in agile like yourself because you and I when we talked it was like shorthand because you’re already in the trenches is recognizing that if we don’t get this culture part right we’re going to be in trouble and that it’s going to be an impossible thing to maintain and sustain and and so there we have come together because there’s a mutual recognition that this is so much bigger than software engineering absolutely absolutely so why do so many of these transformation which are becoming very popular agile Transformations and the devops they’re becoming way way more popular all the time but why do so many of them disappoint and fail well um the culture piece is huge that um you know uh consultants and coaches can come in and they can have some real make some major progress on the folks that they’re interacting with but the surrounding culture the other parts of the organization that have that impact can just over time crushed them and and they endend up reverting back to their old ways because that culture isn’t supportive of those new ways of working uh to be really high level from that perspective does that answer your question Judy it does and it’s really interesting because I remember when you and I talked about this question that your reasons for focusing on the culture are the same as ours but the difference is that when you’re in an agile transformation there’s a deeper commitment to managing complexity and managing change and and therefore it’s even more urgent that the awareness about culture is discovered quickly and responded to quickly and so what I’m hearing you say is if we don’t have that culture right especially in agile Transformations it bogs everything down really quickly is that yeah to kind of give you more examples is you know um and many types of Transformations you’ll have like uh the CTO is on board and really wants everyone to go agile right everybody in the CTO org now he to that particular leader has impact within those that domain anybody in under his area that doesn’t include the business stakeholders who people in his area are developing stuff for so if and and sometimes there’s competition between those sweet sweet folks and to get that culture right to to to have success everyone has to be on the same page because the people in the technology org interact with the folks in the business side of things and the marketing folks and those folks and that’s why that culture needs to to to be in place so that it’s expected to be engaged with these folks that are doing lean agile and devops types Transformations and they can they would see the value of their engagement how the outcomes that would be better because of their engagement rather than seeing these things that they don’t want or need because they’re not engaged by being engaged they are contributing and and their their their mindset uh shifts from those are those Solutions are things that the development teams deliver to us to oh these are our Solutions because we are continuous informing their evolution what I hear you saying with that is if we don’t have highly communicated standardized organizational expectations that’s from Jim Rose’s quote if we don’t have them at all levels of the organization what what happens is that there’s inadvertent sabotage maybe people aren’t intending it but the very fact that they’re speaking different languages focusing on different mindsets uh believing in different kinds of practices becomes its own set of challenges is that what I’m understanding bottom line is is not on the same page you’re not on the same page you got the CTO org on this agile page where everybody else is on the business as usual page and it’s hard to have that be successful and then the other thing is is sometimes you have the seite uh leaders on board and then you have like leaders of team members on board but then the middle all the middle management in between are completely left out of the journey and so then that’s another potential reason where you’re running into some some difficulty yeah it’s just not having everybody you know even in our culture transformation process step number one is make sure the CEO and the Senior Team all get and understand the transformation process what are we transforming from into and that they become responsible to make sure that that’s filtering down through all levels of leadership so that’s really been a missing piece for a lot of people bringing in and you know like a CTO like you said that brings in a model it’s now becoming more understandable or more recognizable that if you have people still doing things the old way and then groups of people doing them in a new way it’s automatically causing clashes and undoing of things but we also you and I also talked a little bit about how it ends up being that certain people in an organization carry the responsibility and they become Larger than Life Heroes but that that that doesn’t NE necessarily translate into a system that is sustainable no matter who comes and goes within it can you talk a little bit about your experience with that like you told me yourself you remember you know being in projects where you were successful but you didn’t feel like it could hold after a while after you left what is it about having a culture model like you know how you and I have talked about the life work systems culture model how does that prevent a transformation from failing maybe that’s a better way to explain it because what I see happening even in companies that aren’t agile sometimes there’ll be a lucky circumstance that a leader will come in and they just happen to be really effective at creating good teamwork good you know relationships between people good collaboration And yet when they leave nobody else knows how to do that so it just all goes back to what it was so when you’re looking at this through the lens of agile you guys are sometimes the Larger than Life Heroes right you come in and you’re helping get everybody organized and doing things properly why is that not sustainable so I I just want to hear your perspective on oh my gosh that’s when you need a blah blah blah because what I’m hearing you say is that you know how to come in and do really well with your teams but I want them to see ultimately all agile Transformations fail because there’s no clear consistent framework that everybody’s expected to be practicing and using and applying on an ongoing basis so that if you leave or someone from the team leaves it doesn’t fall apart I have a good way to answer that is okay is there is consistent Frameworks bottom line is if the organizations follow the Frameworks as they are documented and and and they’re not real complicated the problem is is we get into these engagements and they always want to try to make it their make it like their own and and and and then they go against what the framework really want you know you can go ahead and do that but you’re just going to be that much you’re going to be less effective if you if you you don’t adopt it the way the framework says you should you know what I’m saying yeah so you’re saying one of the reasons that the Transformations fail is that somebody starts messing with the system you’ve brought in exactly and the thing is is the benefit of agile in the Frameworks is the roles the responsibilities all that stuff is applicable across any company so that makes it so it’s easy to bring somebody else in because they may have been exposed to it already and they have a good sense of what we’re trying to accomplish from that perspective but where they where where failure comes in is when the organization tries to change those types of things and really bastardize them they basically try to do the old way using the new terms so the leaders don’t have the understanding that they need about the relevance of the framework so then they end up sort of disqualifying them and changing them back and now you’ve lost all the ground you’ve gained by bringing in the newer system and having everybody learn it I want to take a minute to remind our listeners that life work systems specializes in Performance Management through healthy culture transformation so I invite you to go to our website to learn more about life work systems and how to get involved with us including how to access information related to today’s episode you can find us at Lifeworks so it’s Lifeworks the more I dig dig into life work systems like wow you know the the way to make uh uh an engagement a agile devops transformation engagement to be successful is get that culture model right and all the things that life work systems has available to an organization is’s a way to do that and there’s all all kinds of tools and way to track your progress It’s just amazing I appreciate those kind words it’s kind of the answer to our next question so maybe you could talk a little bit more about this what are the traits and the strengths that need to be developed in individuals and in teams that are not always being de you know developed in them and you know what what would you say if you had to list the traits and strengths that need to be crucial what would they be well um psychological safety is hugely important and not being afraid to fail and looking at failure as organizational learning a learning opportunity uh for growth um that’s a huge important thing and and that’s uh all all levels within the organization yes another really important thing from a leader perspective is changing their mindset from being uh a command and control uh mindset to a catalytic leader who can step back and let your people figure out how to solve problems and come up with Innovations and just be available to help if they they run into an impediment that is outside of their control then they can reach out to you to help them from that perspective and if they need skills or tools or something like that that’s where the leaders can help and in that regard the other thing is from a catalytic leader perspective is you can monitor how your teams are are going I think I hear you talking about the role of the leaders as being this catalytic leader who has faith in their people helps their people to start believing in their own Innovations their own Solutions their own initiatives and is there for rather than managing everything exactly not worrying about how much time one person is uh contributing to an effort to another because bottom line is it’s going to be unequal and you really can’t compare because each team is going to be different right right so you’re so you’re referring to the traits of the leaders should be a certain way but I would want to just um I just want to ask you if you see these things that I’m going to name as compatible I believe that any organizational initiative whether it’s agile or if it’s you know something else the traits and strengths that are missing a lot of the time are emotional intelligence you talked about psychological safety but most people don’t know how to get there I remember one time a client saying to me well why can’t we just teach everybody to be transparent and I said if you don’t have any guidelines and you don’t have any skills or tools transparency can become a blood bath so there are traits and strengths that every person in organization needs so that everybody’s starting at a Level Playing Field about how what kind of conditions are we going to create to have a psychologically safe environment from both the leaders and the Frontline staff right absolutely absolutely I couldn’t have said it better than what you just did I think you recognize it because when you’re taking our you know our program you’re saying oh my gosh I’m becoming so much more aware of myself I’m becoming so much more aware of how to manage things in my own life that I didn’t even wasn’t even looking at when consultants and coaches come into an organization we assume things about the culture that may not be there right yes and there may be dysfunctions that we have to overcome and there’s ways that we can do that and we’ve some of us can have more success than others but that’s not something that we typically dig into and what life work systems is does is it provides all kinds of tools and and mindsets to to help uh the organization have that all in place before uh transformation even starts right and and so so they have those those mindsets and skills that enable a lean agile uh in devops transformation to be successful and stick there’s all kinds of different things that can ca uh that to change like disrupting the team team completely are dissolve in all those team members go somewhere else well then how does that value of that of all that learning that that team is is is almost lost what’s interesting about it is if you look at the traits and the strengths as being a foundational set of um people skills it’s kind of like we wouldn’t come to a job without knowing how to read we wouldn’t come to a job without knowing how to do basic math no matter what our job is like there’s always going to be times we’re going to need to draw on our language or our reading skills or our math skills so those are Basics that everybody needs to function in a workplace what I’m seeing in in our conversations is that people that are in agile and devop projects it becomes apparent that some of those traits are things like am I self-governing do I own my tasks are we able to help each other pick up responsibility for what belongs to you know like if if it’s your responsibility how can I support you in picking it up no matter if you’re a leader or just a colleague and and how do we become an environment of encouraging and creating certain experiences for one another those are kind of Basics like Reading Writing and arithmetic yeah and I’m glad you you put it in those in that context because I like to use metaphors as well because I in addition to coaching uh in my career I’ve also coached Sports I’ve coached basketball I’ve coached football and I even coach the LEGO League uh robotics teams and the bottom line is this is before you can do complicated like for example in basketball before you can have a complicated triangle offense on a basketball team your players need to be able to dribble your players need to be able to do the fundamentals and get down in the proper defensive stance know how to do post and deny defense well I look at life work systems as those fundamentals from a people perspective you have to have those fundamentals in place before you can do the things like the devops and that type of thing exactly I think that’s a beautiful metaphor because when you’re talking about fundamentals now you’re looking at what system needs to be put in place but when you’re talking about well the leaders need to be catalytic you know we forget well what do the followers need to be and do they all need to be leaders too and so when everybody has some agreed upon fundamentals now we’re playing on a Level Playing Field because we’re we’re not reacting to or neglecting or viol a in the fundamentals because we all know what they are that’s why I said to that person you can’t just bring in an idea like transparency if you don’t have any fundamentals in place because then it’s just kind of up in the air what’s going to happen with that and I think that’s what you’re seeing when you’re in the front trenches with agile and devops is that if we don’t have those Basics covered we can’t get to that next more level of complexity just like you used in the basketball example well and then here’s here’s the other thing and this in the people systems is it’s it’s really about forming mutually beneficial relationships and and uh and what I loved about life work systems is how leaders become have opportunity to be followers and and and those folks who are normally uh followers can be leaders and getting that mindset of everybody in the organization will be be a leader at some sometime is hugely awesome especially in a cross functional team that’s exactly what you have when you have a cross functional team you have all these different skills and various levels of skills and one time one of the persons on the team needs to lead the effort because they have the the the most needed skill for that particular time well next time another team member needs to have that lead the conversation and that type of thing and yes and if there’s too much fear and inferiority complex going on and worry about what’s the rules in this setting you know it inhibits creativity and forward movement and moving quickly and all those things that agile is designed to do yeah and you know what I have observed is um when the culture isn’t right when the leaders in is present uh when teams are having a disagreement or trying to solve something all of a sudden that collaboration just stops when that leader is present and they start looking at that leader to solve the problem yeah so so don can you see why I insist that every level of leadership is in the same group as every level of Frontline staff absolutely those are patriarchal um separations and hierarchy that are on their way out just like waterfall is on its way out or it’s on it’s going out you know and so it’s those understandings of how to stay inside of the new rules of we’re not doing command and control that requires that people not only dismantle the old but know what to replace it with yeah and um in addition to command and control is an expert mindset where where the leader is is an expert and because this person is an expert everything has to be done that way right rather than getting other people to contribute or evolve it into something even more uh Innovative yes It Isn’t So rigid if you develop a a sense of curiosity and a sense of um everybody can lead or follow and nobody’s uh opinion is more important than another person’s opinion and that’s that requires a certain amount of skills and emotional intelligence and team agreements about many many things otherwise you don’t have that psychological safety and you don’t have that level of maturity so let me just ask you the next question you’ve touched on this a lot but what are some of the things the leaders need to understand and align with to have a context done in their purpose and values kind set the table for everything and that enables alignment uh so that everybody within the organization can align their purpose and values with the broader organization that’s a huge part of being able to get everybody speaking the same language and being being excited about why they’re why they’re there looking at things bigger than just the widgets that they’re developing or a service that they’re developing but the whole why are we developing it and that type of thing that that’s that that’s the that’s that purpose and the values that’s definitely something that they need to understand in our view they also need to understand what is the agile mindset what are the agile practices so that they don’t inadvertently sabotage the agile transformation process we see it all the time in our model because people don’t realize that our culture mindset and practices are not aligned with the old four control models they’re aligned with how do we uh become mentors and and develop up people’s self-directedness and their their personal task ownership so if if the leaders don’t understand the mindset and the practices they’re going to inadvertently go back and sabotage what the agile coaches and Consultants are trying to bring in you’re your spot on on that and that’s why um just like within life work systems and you have uh the ideal situations you can come in vertically and and work with the top leaders the middle management and everyone all the way down throughout so everyone within that vertical slice is all on the same page that’s the same type of what uh what works best from an agile perspective because many times the middle management folks are left out of the journey and they don’t really understand their role and and and why a cat catalytic leadership is so vitally important yes so that’s a that’s an example of what I was saying there so if they don’t know also how to create a certain type of relationship that keeps people happy that becomes a problem because I know you said something to me about how sometimes leaders can start treating their people like they’re just resources which feels very transactional like you use the word they treat them like game pieces can you talk a little bit about what you think they need to shift in order to create successful agile Transformations yeah and that that’s going back to that project versus product mindset and understanding the value of a team being able to learn and grow together so they truly get a great understanding of their customers and end users and all that organizational learning is a collective organizational learning within that product team and um the longer you keep that together the more value and the the the the faster they can turn things around and delight and surprise the the their end users and their customers I like to call teams like a superhuman because they all are independent are interdependent of one another and they accentuate and yeah accentuate each other and uh enables them to be high performers that’s why when we first start with the company or even in our very first podcast in this series we started by saying if you if you don’t align with a responsibility based culture you’re automatically going to align with the control models which are then going to activate people’s inferiority complexes so it sounds like agile has the same set of mindsets and behaviors for the leaders that they need to understand what conditions and conversations will help people to continuously feel encouraged supported and promoted rather than feel inferior and worried about their success and worried that they don’t have adequate skills or belonging and so that’s what I’m hearing under your description is the result is people just don’t feel important they feel like they’re just resources exactly and so they then they have the pressure to outperform their peers rather than to help their peers grow and evolve and collectively grow and evolve it’s it’s about hey I need to be better than my my colleague so that I I don’t get I’m not the one that they let go when they have right so it’s all coming from Fear and limited thinking and insecurity and competitiveness and so the leaders have to align with collaboration being more important than competition they have to align with developing people over managing and controlling and dominating and judging people right and so those are the things that leaders have to align with for any successful transformation yeah and looking at the outcomes of these teams is and nurturing them to grow and learn and collectively over time basically nurturing that that as as a team rather than nurturing nurturing the individuals on the teams per se you’re nurturing behaviors that make that team become High performers essentially is what it boils down to but you’re looking at the the outcomes of the teams whereas the old way is to really just look at the individuals and how they’re competing and how they stack in how I would be taking in what you’re saying is if you don’t have the understanding in the alignment with things like we’re all going to be driven by purpose and values we’re all going to be focused on what we’re causing one another we’re all going to be focused on how do we see team as not just achieving a goal but helping each other be wildly successful along the way those are the kinds of things leaders need to understand and alignment with and they particularly need to in an agile transformation because the whole goal of an agile transformation is to manage rapid change and complexity and you can’t if you’re playing by a set of rules that causes comparison and competition and feeling threatened and feeling like you have to win at the cost of someone else exactly so I appreciate you answering these questions because you’re the one that gets in there on that front line and you’re able to help people with a certain amount of new thinking new behaviors but you’re also kind of always working against this underlying sort of dysfunctional way of doing the people behaviors and even if you can model good emotional intelligence and good communication skills you’re still stuck with how do I get everybody in the organization to make those things important yeah and and quite frankly I can apply some of these things within the the the folks that I’m engaging with but I people outside of the those folks I can’t I can’t I don’t have control over that right and those folks are the ones that can have an impact on the folks that I’m impacting their Journey they can crush them right so it’s kind of unless you have a system for how people are to behave with one another it’s kind of Hit or Miss if it goes well or not exactly so what I hear you saying is the leaders need to understand and align with not only the agile principles and the agile practices but what are good human system best practices and habits and mindset and one without the other just doesn’t cut it and I would happen to say that while we are sing singing from the same choir book meaning life workk systems and agile practitioners the common place that we meet is that if we don’t get the people part right it’s a mess exactly for sure and what I love about the life work systems approach is the all the the tools and all the different touch points they they can take individual mod modules then they do group discussions on what they’ve learned uh there’s mentoring involved and there’s assessments along the way it gets everybody on the same page and it it reinforces the learning on on a regular basis in fact quite frankly I would like to take the way the life work systems are set up and do something similar from an agile lean devops perspective yeah you and I kind of talked about how everybody would love to be able to have a consistent scalable process but not everybody knows how to build one of those exactly and so you as an agile practitioner are learning and growing and evolving just like every one of us and you’re finding that the gifts you get to bring are even waking up or organizations to the importance of how they treat one another as people that’s what I heard you say that you want people to feel important and that they’re being considered yeah exactly and bottom line is I’m always wanting to do things in the most effective way possible right I’m always looking that’s like the ultimate dream that striving for Utopia right is is in order Contin trying to learn and grow and find more effective ways to do do things and interact with people to achieve our dreams and our outcomes and life workk system is the blocking and the tackling and the rebounding and and dribbling and uh agile is the triangle offense and devops is uh zone offense or you know those metaphors that’s great I love it when you can kind of tie it to something that people can relate to so is there anything else you want to say before we sign off here I just really appreciate the opportunity to have this conversation and hopefully what we discussed is going to be helpful for other people because that that’s why I do this that’s uh when I see lights click on in people’s faces and I see happiness because of they’re seeing themselves in new ways and they’re figuring out ways to grow uh and be happier and then have their customers and and end users happy as well that makes me just love going to work yeah so in other words you’re very aligned with life work systems Mission which is to create a world where people love their lives absolutely yeah I’m really grateful that you came on this program and I know that there are people listening right now that are shaking their head like yep been there yep get what he’s talking about or wow no wonder why our project isn’t working or no wonder why this is harder than it needs to be so I really appreciate you shedding light for those people out there that are either thinking about agile or are already involved with agile projects or agile initiatives or agile mindset and just needed to see a little bit more into you know what it’s like to be in the trenches so thank you for that before I finalize here I just wanted to give you our ending quote and it’s by an author named John nbit who is he’s kind of a futurist and he is the author of the book on megat Trends some of you may have read this or heard of this book and his quote is that the most exciting breakthroughs of the 21st century will not occur because of the technology but because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human and I would have to say that in the conversation I’ve had with Don White I think that’s what he is concluding and many of the the experts and specialists in agile are concluding that we need to make sure we’re clearly identifying and serving what it means to be human in order for us to have the breakthroughs that we all desire prior to learning about life work systems I was seeking out Avenues to grow my emotional intelligence and ways to help others grow their emotional intelligence and I was excited about how that’s a huge part of what life work systems does and um especially with this day and age uh emotional intelligence is so vitally important to have uh a very collaborative open transparent high- performing team yes and I’m I appreciate that you recognize that and that you are also committed to creating that in yourself just for those who are listening because I know we’ve covered this another podcast emotional intelligence is simply being self-aware and then choosing to manage ourself and then being aware of what is going on in relationships with other people and then decisively learning how to manage those relationships and once you’ve achieved those competencies it’s almost like it just it corrects so many of the the problems because now the people systems is not a problem it’s off the table and you can focus on other things like technology or advancements or that sort of thing so I appreciate you understanding the relevance of emotional intelligence thank you I will say that was kind of what made me dig into Life Works a little more is is that aspect of it and then we had that conversation about sustainability and I was like holy smokes this is this is the whole enchilada here I need to dig into this more we’re both stronger together than we are apart aren’t we absolutely abolutely because I couldn’t do any of this you know training and Consulting and coaching on all the in-depth knowledge you have on agile and devops but because I have my own set of gifts and talents together we can be more helpful to all kinds of different people and that’s exciting yeah that’s real exciting well thank you so much Don I really really really appreciate you so much for doing this with me I’m just I really really appreciate having the opportunity to do it and and I’m growing Leaps and Bounds from the cultural aspect an area that I wanted to grow for for my career so I want so glad so just like Don and I kind of can see our deep alignment we invite you as the listeners to this podcast to join us in creating a world where all people love their lives and where you can grow masterful in making sure that your life works today bye-bye for [Music] now thank you for listening to Life Works today this podcast has been brought to you by life work system CEO and host Judy Ryan the intent of this podcast is to provide you with hope and new ideas for Greater Joy in your life and work for more information on our organization and earlier podcast episodes related articles videos and more please visit visit our website at Lifeworks be sure to subscribe to our podcast and mailing list we invite you to join us in creating a world in which all people love their lives and where your life works


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