How important is executive agility in the Kanplexity model?
Agile leadership, complexity, and flow are the 3 pillars that support the agile framework.
We need to optimize flow throughout the system.
We are looking to optimize the delivery of value to customers and product stakeholders, and so we are focused on effectiveness as well as flow efficiency.
Kanban is masterful at managing flow. It is a powerful, agile framework that allows you to visualise the flow of work throughout the system and make decisions that improve the flow of work from conceptualization to customer delivery.
We need to understand complexity, and we need guides that help us with decision-making and optimizing the environment for teams to work effectively in pursuit of value delivery to clients.
In a complex environment, we don’t know what we don’t know. There are too many variables involved and since we’ve never built the solution or solved the problem before, there is no clear formula or path to success.
We must discover it. We must create it.
Kanplexity uses the Cynefin framework to help leaders navigate complexity and know what to do, what the best next step is, in any given circumstance. In kanplexity, we have a guide who is responsible for understanding and navigating complexity in a way that empowers agile leaders and executives to make the best decisions possible despite uncertainty and complexity.
The kanplexity guide could be a product leader, a product manager, or a highly skilled project manager that understands the challenges of navigating complexity. Ideally, the kanplexity guide becomes the primary agile leader in the environment, supported by leadership teams.
The kanplexity guide provides clear guidance on what behaviours produce the best outcomes, and how to orient and organise around value creation and delivery in complex environments.
There is a big section in Kanplexity that is dedicated to leadership, specifically agile leadership.
There are only so many things that can be addressed without executive and leadership support. There are a great deal of variables that lie outside of the control and influence of the kanplexity team, and so we need leaders to actively champion agility within the organization.
We can adopt kanplexity at the team level, and teach mid-level to senior managers Kanplexity, but if the executives in the organization are still operating from a traditional command-and-control, industrial era style of management, we are going to battle to achieve organizational agility.
Traditional executives and leadership teams tend to focus exclusively on resource efficiency and productivity rather than effectiveness and flow efficiency, which can hamstring the organization’s ability to achieve true agility.
Command-and-control and traditional management structures work fine in complicated spaces such as civil engineering because we know what needs to be done, we know exactly how to do it best, and we are guaranteed an outcome if we simply follow the formula.
In complex environments, we have never solved the problem or build the solution before, and so we don’t know what we don’t know. We need to navigate that uncertainty and complexity in a completely different way to how we traditionally manage and lead.
Lack of agile evolution in leadership.
I was recently asked why leadership and executive teams have failed to become more agile over the years, despite the presence of agile frameworks such as scrum for almost 25 years.
Many people anticipated that by now, many of the junior and mid-level managers who were a part of the early agile adoptions would have evolved into fully-fledged, agile leaders and executives.
How come we aren’t seeing agile behaviour and practices above the product development team level?
In my opinion, I think it’s because executives have been asking the wrong questions.
I don’t think they have embraced the training, coaching and consulting opportunities that have been available to them, nor has their organizations rewarded a transition to agile values and principles.
We really ought to have seen the impact of agile in executive teams by now.
Sure, there are some great start-ups that have heavily disrupted giants in the industry, but we don’t often see a transition from an old, command-and-control executive team to an agile executive team in many organizations or industries.
In my opinion, things aren’t going to get better or easier for organizations until executive and leadership teams embrace agile values, principles, and philosophies.
We need support from the top down, from the bottom up, and from the sides for agile to truly make it’s mark on traditional organizations. That’s suppliers, partners, teams, and leadership teams all pulling in the same direction and working from the same core values and principles.
For an organization to start the transition, they would simply need to start embracing agile behaviours and slowly work through the transformation of existing command-and-control structures into more dynamic, fluid structures that enable agility.
It is a challenging journey, but it is a proven, valuable journey in the long-term.
About John Coleman
John Coleman has deep experience and expertise working with executives, #leadership teams and product development teams to achieve increased #organizationalagility and create environments where creativity and collaboration produce high-performance teams.
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