Changing is no longer an option; it’s a prerequisite. And wham! In our fast-changing organizations, it is likely that you’ve heard this maxim at least once! If changing is no longer an option, how to change is one. But still, one has to know how!
Beyond multiple more or less magical recipes nowadays available on the market, a conscious approach to change is reflected in the willingness to go on a journey, the desire to set off, much more than reaching a final destination quickly and cheaply. It takes root in a profound intention, it is fed on generative listening, and it flourishes in an emerging future.
Here is a three-step approach that we are proposing to our clients when coaching them during their transition to greater Agility.
The power of intention
The first step consists in setting the intention that is motivating the organization to start a transition to Agility. This is the time for the reasons why. And answers like “to deliver more quickly, to improve the quality of deliverables, because it’s in our time” are only an introduction. The intention is way deeper, in the depths of the reason why it is important to deliver more rapidly, why it is important to allow teams to self-organize.
This questioning requires courage and transparency. The answers cannot do without total opening, without listening to what the others have to say as well as what we have to say. The voices of judgment, cynicism, and fear must become murmurs to eventually fade out, blend into the ambient mental hubbub. Emerging future needs space and silence more than words, dialogs, or debates.
When intention crystallizes (i.e., takes shape), it can be expressed at different levels:
- Order and structure—The objective is to foster stability using rigorous processes; the organization is controlling the “what” as well as the “how”. The future is characterized by the repetition of the past. It is an Agility based on traditions.
- Performance—The organization wishes to outperform competition. To do so, they promote innovation. In fact, they wish to control the “what” while giving a certain liberty regarding the “how”. Agility is then based on results.
- Communication and collaboration—By giving greater accountability, the organization is seeking maximum employee motivation. They can question themselves regarding their “being” and be at the service of their clients in order to increase their satisfaction. Teams generally begin to self-organize and are naturally seeking collaboration. At this level, Agility is based on people.
- Systemic vision—Teams are now fully self-organizing. Roles have been defined according to the needs and are fluid. Information is shared transparently at all levels in order to foster collective intelligence. Decisions are based on a consultative process. Agility is then based on adaptation.
Unlike one might be thinking, these levels are not hierarchical; none is superior or better than the other. They solely depend on the intention. That is why when the organization wants to switch to a different level, they must change their intent beforehand or else the transition effort will simply miss its target!
Listening and talking to find out where we stand
This second step allows to assess the organization’s current Agility level. With a diagnostics based on specific and structured questions, it is possible to unveil a “picture” of the existent. Each question helps define the maturity level according to three distinct schemes:
- The dimension—That is the individual (the Product Owner, Scrum Master, manager, etc.), the team, and the organization.
- The quadrant—That is one of the four areas of intervention available: identity and culture (social skills) on one side; practices and processes (know-how) on the other.
- The development axis—For example, vision and leadership (identity), collaboration and transparency (culture), measures and software engineering practices (practices), or organizational structure and physical environment (processes).
The answers to the questions contained in the diagnostic generate radar charts that are indicating, for each axis, the Agile maturity level of the teams and organization. These results allow to view the image projected by the organization, to verify if the latest recognizes itself, and to maintain rich conversations.
A bridge between what is existing and what is desired
Based on the diagnostic and the discussions it fostered, it is now possible to establish an intervention plan. The main purpose of the activities, which are based on the development axes, is to allow the organization to go from the current position (diagnostic results) to the desired state (intention). It is then possible to progress iteratively and incrementally by prioritizing the axes that add the highest value or that represents a challenge that is particularly difficult to overcome.
This 3-step approach to transition to Agility allows the intention to be expressed out loud, the listening to be generative, and each individual to adopt a participatory attitude. When these three forces combine, teams can begin to act from an unsuspected field of possibilities. In fact, they are no longer creating from the past, but from an emerging future. And the ability to support this change is the essence of today’s leadership.