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Since the first visit of our most important client, a lot has happened. We have already delivered two versions of the product well before we thought possible. The client is already seeing a return on his investment and is very satisfied with our work and the positive feedback from its users. This success has led us to start other Agile projects in the organization. We chose a phased approach to implement Agility in other projects. We will introduce it one project at a time. Once the team reaches a certain velocity and maturity level, we will move on to the next project. I’m really happy and relieved. Clients are satisfied and employees are much more motivated and stimulated by their work.

In terms of project management, we had difficulties to manage multiple projects simultaneously. Our resources were dispersed which affected our ability to deliver. Carole, our organizational coach, suggested that we manage our project portfolio as a product backlog (i.e., based on business value). This means that the next project to carry out is the one with the highest business value and that no other project can get started before completing the ladder. This keeps the team focused and we are sure to deploy our efforts in the right place.

Carole helped us with the implementation of a matrix for decision-making based on the projects’ business value and risk level. I love the Kanban board for presenting the project portfolio. At a glance, it gives an overview of the various projects’ progress. The implementation of a Kanban project board required many internal changes. Now, the projects that are carried out are those that bring the highest business value and not those of the leaders who have the most formal or informal influence.

Also, the measures for our Agile projects allow us to know the percentage of remaining effort and business value it will create. Therefore, we are able to make the decision to stop a project and start another one in the portfolio that will generate more value. It’s great to have this vision of the situation. Our decisions are informed ones and they are aligned with the business strategy.

With the success of the Agile project teams, my position with them has changed. Before, I was seeing myself as a visionary manager who pushed my teams to achieve the goals that I was setting. My role consisted in orienting their work, implementing control elements, and motivating them to achieve the goals. Now, I see myself as a servant leader. My role has changed. First, I let the team self-organize. They decide how they organize their sprints and how they solve the problems they are facing. If problems arise from factors outside of the team (e.g. organizational process problems, policy issues related to dependencies with other teams or individuals), I work with them to see how I can help and do everything to resolve the problems.

I am now using a continuous improvement approach. We give ourselves the right to make mistakes. In fact, we implemented retrospectives and are accepting that sometimes we can change our minds. Finally, I try to protect the teams by making sure they have all the resources required to deliver value and ensuring that the projects’ goal and vision are clear.

All in all, I no longer manage people; I manage the system by working as a servant leader. I love this new role, which is challenging and rewarding for me and the teams. This does not mean that my own adaptation was easy… On some occasions, I felt unsecure. I asked myself what my role was going to be if I no longer managed people.
If we really want to achieve the benefits of Agility, whether at the business or efficiency level, the leaders of the company must also adopt new ways of being and doing.

This is the last major change to overcome. In retrospect, I think we should have started with this step. That would have made the Agile transformation path easier. If our leaders stay with a command and control approach only focused on results, we won’t get the benefits of continuous improvement approaches. Carole will establish an Agile development program for our leaders. I talked about it to management, and they are very interested in this program.

Well, I think I’ll go celebrate with my teams and my colleagues from Pyxis to highlight how far we’ve come together as well as the results we obtained, client satisfaction, and employee engagement. After the celebration, maybe we’ll have a retrospective on how we celebrate our victories! What? There’s always room for improvement.

 

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Paul

Meet Paul. He is director in a large high tech company. At work, Paul is responsible for major projects, and the decisions he is making impact the entire organization. He has heard of Agility, but he is not certain to be ready to take the plunge.

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