What should an agile leader do in the first 12 weeks of their appointment to a new department or organization?

What should an agile leader do in the first 12 weeks of their appointment to a new department or organization?

For me, I would advise them to assess the real appetite for change, and to invest time and effort in understanding the real problems that exist in the environment. Really getting to the root cause(s) of what is preventing the team or organization from achieving their objectives.

You want to be clear on what is happening, why it is happening, and what is preventing resolution of these impediments or problems.

Psychological Safety.

In most command-and-control environments, scrum values like trust, respect, honesty, openness, and respect are not welcome or rewarded. Instead, they are often punished.

People get demoted, derailed, or even fired for speaking truth to power.

Things like obedience, conformity, and diligence are expected and rewarded. So, it can be difficult to get people to talk to you about what the real problems are, and revealing the skeletons in the closet that are preventing the team from achieving their goals.

You need to focus on your direct reports first. In the first 12 weeks, you need to create psychological safety. An environment where people can speak the truth, reveal problems, make suggestions, or pitch ideas for improvement.

You want these people to trust you, and you want them to buy into your vision for the future.

Appetite for change.

Something you often witness in an organization is resistance to change from the people working at the coalface.

An agile leader wins the opportunity, but almost immediately their efforts are hamstrung by a team of people who don’t want to change how they work. Don’t want to tackle the problems that are preventing the organization from achieving its objectives.

A great agile leader needs to evaluate the real appetite for change in the environment, from the team level to the organizational level, to formulate a strategy that will overcome obstacles and build momentum.

There could be a great deal of lip service, but very little follow through on those commitments.

One of your challenges as a leader is to understand whether you have the right people on the bus. Do you have the right team in place and are they best suited to help you overcome the challenges that lay ahead.

If your team consist of saboteurs and dead weight, you are going to need to identify them and take the appropriate action. Leaving things as they are only ensuring that your future initiatives and efforts are sabotaged, bogged down, and frustrated to the point of failure.

Bear in mind, there is nothing bad or sinister about people objecting to change.

If they have a valid line of reasoning, and sound arguments for why change may not be appropriate in this space or time, it is worth listening to their professional and expert opinion. It is worth taking the time to understand why change may not be appropriate and understanding what needs to happen before you can make the changes you seek.

You need to discern the wood from the trees.

Do some forensics on the back channels, the political environment, the history of the department or team environment, and really develop a strong understanding of what you are up against and where you might find support for change.

So, using the analogy from Jim Collins in his book ‘Good to Great’, make sure you have the right people on the bus and make sure they are in the right seats.

Some people may need to move to a different bus because they aren’t interested in the destination you are headed, and others need support in helping them make the transition to agile ways of working, thinking, and a culture of excellence.

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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Agile Leadership,Executive Agility
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