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.