Is agile leadership growing?

Today is day three of Agile2007 in Washington DC.

Agile2007 logoFor engineers, project managers, and developers there are lots of interesting sessions about engineering and development things. I'm interested in the 80% of engineering that isn't engineering but  might instead be called "humaneering" (I borrowed that word from my friend Jim Pepitone) or just plain "teamwork."

I'm sampling sessions about agile leadership, agile enterprise, and agile organization as my interest is in supporting executives interested in highly reliable, responsible, and agile organizations.

Here's what I've heard…

First thing this morning, fellow APLN Board Members Pollyanna Pixton, Todd Little, and Niel Nickolaisen offered a clear and simple framework for agile leadership. It integrates a purpose-based strategic alignment matrix (2×2, pitting Market Differentiation against Mission Critical) to prioritize the high-value initiatives, collaborative leadership to get things done well and fast, and a program management value matrix (also a 2×2 matrix pitting project uncertainty against complexity). 

What I like about this is the agile approach to business value embedded in the two matrices, and the integration of collaborative leadership to lubricate the business process.

Then I took in Jeff Sutherland's talk on Enterprise Scrum.  Jeff is one of the developers of Scrum which is a widely used project management method focused on iterative team processes. He says to simply use Scrum with the business leaders. The way to sell them on it is to show 400% productivity gains in development immediately upon implementing Scrum. When bringing in the project 75% ahead of schedule gets the attention of management, offer to show them how they can move more quickly too.

Lastly, I had the pleasure of sitting in an experience report session given by Joseph Thomas and Steven Baker who have been clients of mine at DTE Energy in Detroit the past three years. They shared their experience with using agile values in the business outside of the development organization by focusing on testing memes that stick. A meme is an idea and a basic building block of culture. For instance, they found that "incremental improvement" caught on in talking with other groups.

Thomas and Baker suggest finding culturally-relevant language to introduce the agile value, principle, or process you are attempting to promote. It will help you avoid instant rejection and  perhaps gain faster acceptance. 

There is much pain among the agile project community as agile grows and encounters slow, plodding, bureaucratic management processes in other parts of the business. Agile folks are sure they are on to something that could help all parts of the business. I think they—we—are right. Just like engineering may only be 20% engineering, marketing is only 20% marketing and 80% collaboration, and administration is only 20% administration, and legal is only 20% legal, and on and on.

Tomorrow I'm leading a 3.5 hour think tank on this topic here at the conference. Stay tuned. 




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