What to tell the Executives?
To be successful with Agile, sooner or later we want to engage the Executives. Or, sometimes, they are already engaged, but we feel we need to talk to them. To have them understand more or do something differently.
So, first, be patient and be hopeful. Too many of us (agile advocates) start the conversation feeling helpless and defeated. Do not; they will understand eventually. And often more quickly than you might think. (I am of course speaking to an agile advocate, whom I am imagining as not a Manager or Executive, and not too familiar with what their world is like.)
To a Manager or Executive who is approaching Agile-Scrum for the first time: Welcome! Agile is actually going to be great for you, much better! ….
Make sure someone takes the time to explain it to you. And, please, accept that it will be harder to really understand than you expect. It is simple, but hard. In some ways, very simple, in some ways complex. But how do you explain to your 18 year old how to be successful in life? Ah, as you see, not so simple anymore. … OK, you might prefer a tennis metaphor or a golf metaphor. Key: It’s a big change. Give yourself time to fully work through it. And accept that you will mis-understand a lot at first. For the first 2 years. It’s not your fault, it’s not Scrum’s fault. It’s just hard.
“Some people, if they don’t already know it, you can’t explain it to them.” (Yogi Berra) (I am talking now, again, to the agile advocate.) So, find what they already know, and build on that. And they always know something ‘agile’ already. (And they have also been indoctrinated in the opposite of agile for 10+ years almost always too.)
So, I have to do a session with Executives next week. Roughly 30 in the room, including the CEO. What should we say to them?
Here is what I have decided to say today. (I may learn by tomorrow.) I am focusing on these 8 key ideas or issues:
- We have knowledge workers. As soon as we recognize that they are knowledge workers, it changes things.
- Minimize WIP. Simple version: Only one project per Team. Forget keeping all these other projects ‘in-flight’.
- A Team learns. Establish the Team, and appreciate the Team as a learning unit. Help them become a great Team.
- Self-organization. Allow them, within some basic constraints, to self-manage and self-direct.
- “Random carbon units.” Accept the uniqueness of each person. They are no longer ‘resources’ (plug-replaceable things). Treat them like real people, with all the good and bad that means.
- Subtle control. Use it, and do not use ‘power’ control. Includes ‘control by love’ as Takeuchi and Nonaka say.
- “Failure is good.” Small failures where we learn and improve lead to real innovation. Embrace it.
- “The bad news does not get better with age”. We build quality in from the beginning. Which leads to “You have to slow down to go fast.” Which is very obvious if you understand, but an enigma within a paradox if you do not.
To be honest, it is probably 3 too many for the ‘first’ time. People can only absorb a little at a time. Step by step.
Comments please! Or send me an email.
Here is the slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/jhlittle