Beyond Transition: Establishing An Agile Office

Agile transition takes time; it is not a discrete event. When transitioning to agility it is important to put in place structures that will ensure that agile survives long after the initial transition period. One way to create such a structure is to establish an Agile Office (and I’m not referring to furniture or desk layout). However, an Agile Office is not the same thing as an Agile PMO (more on that another time).

We established an Agile Office in our Business Unit in September 2010. Our Agile Office is responsible for the organization’s ongoing agile adoption and continuous improvement through agile practices and lean thinking. We accomplish this through direct engagement with the organization’s senior leadership, management, and product teams.

Agile Office at Agile 2011

I will be talking about the concept of an Agile Office, and our experiences, at this year’s Agile 2011 conference in Salt Lake City. My talk (Wednesday August 10th at 10:00 am) is part of the Insights Stage and describes the experiences of Cisco’s Unified Communications Business Unit in establishing an Agile Office. I’ll describe the history behind establishing the Agile Office, the governance model, where it fits in the organization structure, engagement model, primary activities, challenges faced, and the stakeholders with whom we operate.

There is an accompanying paper too, that will be published as part of the conference proceedings. I was very fortunate to have Johanna Rothman as my shepherd for the paper. Working with her, and benefitting from her guidance, was a fantastic experience for which I am extremely grateful.

If you’re in Salt Lake City, come along and say hello. I’d love to share experiences and discuss how other organizations are dealing with the challenges of sustaining agility and leanness after the initial transition period. What support structures are you putting in place?

 

 

International Conference on Lean Enterprise Software and Systems (LESS 2011)

Marketed as the only Agile and Lean Leadership conference in Europe, the International Conference on Lean Enterprise Software and Systems (LESS) began in Helsinki last year with the first conference in the series, LESS 2010. This year the journey continues in Stockholm with LESS 2011, from Sunday October 30th through to Wednesday November 2nd. The LESS conferences bring together diverse communities and influences, including Agile, Lean, Complexity, Systems Thinking, Organization Transformation and Beyond Budgeting. Last year’s conference in Helsinki was a great experience. The range of sessions and topics was amazing, as was the quality of the speakers and the general organization of the conference as a whole. They set a high bar. I’m very much looking forward to Stockholm this year.

Organization Transformation Track

I am this year’s Chair for the Organization Transformation track. This is a topic close to my heart (and my day job). We’re planning to put together an exciting full-day program that showcases some of the great work in industry and research. We’re interested in case studies, success stories, challenges, lessons learned, practices, models, techniques, and topics generally related to the theme of organization transformation. Cases where the desired transformation did not work out are also valuable and welcome. This track will be of real benefit to anyone undertaking agile and/or lean adoption in their own organizations, or to those guiding the transformation of other organizations.

Call for Papers

The Call for Papers is open until Monday August 15th. You can submit regular talks (50 minutes), workshop proposals (50 + 50), research reports (20 minutes) or scientific papers (20 minutes).

If there is a short topic you are particularly passionate about but is not long enough for a full talk, then consider submitting a 10-minute lightening talk proposal. Lightening talks are a great way to inform and inspire other people, and can be a great catalyst for hallway conversations or Open Space sessions.

You can submit talks here: http://less2011.leanssc.org/call-for-papers/

Tracks and Themes

There are four tracks at this year’s conference. From the conference Web site:

  • Lean and Agile Product Development – A growing community with active researchers and practitioners world-wide
  • Complexity and Systems Thinking – A variety of topics that bring a completely different perspective into the world of business and management. Cutting edge ideas that the community is starting to apply to daily work
  • Beyond Budgeting – A novel approach to company management and strategy. Because the world changes constantly, companies, not just projects, must adapt to the new conditions
  • Transforming Organizations – Agile and Lean adoption leads to changes in our organizations. How to support the needed organization transformation? What is the state of the art when it comes to supporting and encouraging transformation?

Registration

You can register to attend here http://less2011.leanssc.org/register/ and it is still early enough to avail of the very generous early bird discount. I hope to see lots of you there!

Refactoring the Organization Design – LESS2010

I was fortunate to be invited to speak at the First International Conference on Lean Enterprise Software and Systems, 2010, in Helsinki last week. I presented on the topic of organization change, as part of the Scaling Agile to Lead track. More specifically, on the type of change that is implied when an organization decides to adopt agile and/or lean.

The main theme of my talk was in support of applying concepts from Stakeholder Management to support agile and lean adoption. I used the concept of refactoring to talk about some of the changes that can be made to organizations, and showed some examples of how Martin Fowler’s classic Refactorings can be re-purposed to talk about organization design rather than software design.

The main topics of my talk were:

  • Using Dan Pink’s Motivation 3.0 Type-I toolkit for intrinsic motivation as a guide for what we should be refactoring towards
  • Refactoring applied to Organization Design
  • Agile transition journeys
  • Designing a process: core framework versus toolbox
  • Refactoring toolshed
  • Stakeholder Management
  • Stakeholder Mapping applied to Scrum teams
  • Stakeholder Management and the challenges of Product Ownership for large organizations
  • Stakeholder Management and the role of manager
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • The power of metaphors for organizational learning
  • Jazz improvisation as a metaphor for organizational learning and stakeholder engagement
  • Artful Making as a metaphor for software development and stakeholder engagement
  • Organization Patterns

Paper Abstract

The following is from the abstract of my paper that was published in the conference proceedings:

Every organization has a design. As an organization grows, that design evolves. A decision to embrace agile and lean methods can expose weaknesses in the design. The concept of refactoring as applied to software design helps to improve the overall structure of the product or system. Principles of refactoring can also be applied to organization design. As with software design, the design of our organization can benefit from deliberate improvement efforts, but those efforts must have a purpose, and must serve the broad community of stakeholders that affect, or are affected by, the organization. Refactoring to agile and lean organizations demands that we have a shared vision of what the refactoring needs to achieve, and that we optimize the organization around the people doing the work.

The full conference proceedings are available form Springer.

Presentation slides

My presentation slides are here:

Refactoring the Design of the Organization

Every organization has a design. As the organization evolves, the design may or may not evolve to support the needs of the organization’s stakeholders (including the agile teams, managers, executives, customers, etc.). Sometimes we may wish we had the opportunity to start again with our organization design, and may even have some solid ideas about what we would do differently. However, few of us have the luxury of actually starting again, unless perhaps we build a new company.

Motivation

Organizations that decide to ‘go agile’ or adopt ‘lean development’ are often not prepared for the sort of organizational issues that are implied by such a decision. Even those organizations that, with the greatest of intentions, tell their teams to “go, be agile”, do not set their teams up for success unless they provide the right organization support structures that create the right environment for their teams to be successful. Sometimes, fundamental is required.

For established companies with an established design, if we want to change something, then we need to refactor the design of the organization.

Managers, executives and other leaders have a crucial role to play as designers of the organization.

Open Jam at Agile2010

I’ll be speaking in greater detail on this topic later this year at LESS2010.

This Open Jam session at Agile 2010 will explore a number of questions, e.g.:

  • What refactorings would you apply?
  • What are we refactoring towards?
  • What is our measure of success?
  • How do we make sure we don’t break the organization while refactoring?
  • Should we be refactoring towards yet another fixed structure, or should the new structure accomodate, expect, and support ongoing change?
  • What structures do we need so that we build teams that are truly whole, cross-functional, and empowered to build the right thing?
  • What tests can we apply to ensure the refactorings are successful?
  • How do principles of coupling and cohesion apply to organization design?
  • Who are the key stakeholders in the organization design?
  • How does the current organization design serve it’s stakeholders, and how will the new organization design change that?
  • Do we really need to change anything? Can’t we just patch the current organization design?
  • What about skill specializations? Can communities of practice within our organizations replace functional silos?
  • What about HR issues? Reward structures? Compensation?
  • How can we build more autonomy into the organization?
  • What’s the relationship between organization vision and organization structure?
  • What are the implications for decision making?
  • How can we apply the Type I Toolkit for Organizations, so that we create an environment where intrinsic motivation can thrive?
  • Anything you want to talk about…

Format

Using whiteboard, flip chart paper, markers and stickies, we will work together to understand how we might go about refactoring an organization.

We can take an example of a typical, large matrix organization with functional silos and discuss what refactorings we would like to apply.

Where and when

Open Jam session at Agile 2010 on Thursday August 12th at 12:30 in the Genie Open Jam area.