The Agile Leadership C-Suite

This is a summary of the HBR article May-June 2020 Issue. The article talks about what it truly takes for an organization to have business agility. The article also mention that agile teams often cite leadership and culture as the greatest barriers to the successful scaling of agile. Most leaders are not against agile. They simply haven’t understood how it applies to their roles or how to perform those roles in ways that enhance business agility.

Here are some talking points from the article:

  • To create a truly agile enterprise, the top officers—most, if not all, of the C-suite—must embrace agile principles too.
  • The difference in how leadership roles spend their time after embracing agile transformation:
    • The leaders had quadrupled the time spent on strategy (from 10% to 40%)
    • Reduced the time spent on operations management by more than half (from 60% to 25%)
    • The time spent managing talent had risen slightly (from 30% to 35%)
  • Agile, in short, requires humility from leaders in order to accelerates learning and bolsters the confidence of every team member. Agile leaders understand that good ideas can come from anyone, not just from those with the highest rank.
  • Example of how agile mindset can be implemented in leadership teams:
    • Rapid feedback everywhere. As the team is doing 15 min stand up, the result and impediments discussed in the team is brought up to the middle layer at their daily 15 min stand up (that happens directly afterwards). Thus impediments occurred at the team level that the team cannot solve, will be helped immediately by management. There are daily stand ups on all levels to actively remove impediments.
    • From commanding to coaching. Changing leadership style from one way communication to two way discussion, from creating PowerPoint presentation to reusing what we currently have.
    • From meetings to work sessions. Removing as many meetings as possible. Change from meetings to problem solving sessions. Pull people together so decisions can be made in hours rather than weeks. Meetings become “constructive conflicts” rather than passive participation.
  •  Finding balance while working on agile transformation is key to a successful agile enterprise transformation.
  • Leadership team have an agile leadership manifesto which serves as a north star to help them keep on track, to guide their own behaviors and policies, and prevent backsliding to their old way of interactions with the team.
The Agile ManifestoAn Agile Leadership Manifesto
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • We set a clear ambition (“what” and “why”) and metrics for success but delegate the “how” to the team.
  • We empower teams and believe that the right answer lies not with us but within the team.
Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • We strive for “good enough” working solutions rather than demanding perfection.
  • We protect teams so that they can focus; we rapidly unblock key impediments.
  • We support teams in breaking down complex problems and frequently iterating in order to rapidly deliver solutions.
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • We encourage teams to seek feedback from a diverse set of customers and promote a culture of rapid adaptation to feedback.
  • We believe that things can always be improved.
Responding to change over following a plan
  • We celebrate learning and create a safe environment for teams to take prudent risks and test unconventional hypotheses.
  • We embrace ruthless and constant prioritization and stop activities that are not yielding results within the defined time frame.

References:

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