Leading Agile

Leading Agile: Laying the Foundation for Success

While Agile offers myriad benefits to an organization, the fact is: adoption and subsequent success of software development projects across the board could be better long-term. Why, when we have a system that has proven to work for countless organizations in various verticals, do initiatives still fail, or else the whole Agile endeavor peters out after a few months or years?

While there are many reasons why Agile approaches can fail, inadequate Agile leadership can be a large contributing factor. Note that it’s not necessarily inadequate leadership, because you can have the most stellar executive leader, but if she doesn’t know how to lead and support an Agile team, she can put it at great disadvantage.

Why Coaches and Consultants Can’t Save Your Organization 

Organizations spend millions on Agile coaches and consultants, then point the finger when, a few months down the road, the “whole Agile thing” has gone off the rails. Is it really the fault of these Agile professionals?

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Doing vs. Being Agile

Doing vs. Being Agile

While there’s a whole slew of barriers to successful Agile adoption, I think most of them boil down to one major one: is the team doing Agile or being Agile?

 

Seems a subtle difference, but there are miles between the two. I can’t tell you how many organizations I know of (including some I’ve worked with) who, after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to establish Agile processes through training and coaching, have abandoned Agile completely for more familiar territory just a few months or years later.

 

Here are some of the quintessential differences between doing and being Agile. Maybe defining the two will help other organizations not fall victim to the same fate.

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Life is the Art of Drawing Without an Eraser

 "Life is the Art of Drawing without an Eraser."

I saw this quote one morning as I entered my local gym. There is a guy at my gym that posts inspirational quotes each day; this one struck me. It reminds me of Yoda’s wise words about the commitment life takes to move forward.

“Do or do not...there is no try”

Time does not provide an “undo.” Everything we do is done. It is recorded, in a sense, in time. And while we may “undo” by erasing or going back, that is also done in time.

Yoda’s message to “do or do not” is thinking about life without an eraser. Everything I “DO” is done. Everything I “DO NOT” is not done. There is no in between. If we “TRY” we are actually “DOING” something.

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Agile Fitness Assessment? NO!

I recently received an Agile Project Fit Assessment Scorecard from one of my clients divisions (client to remain nameless).

While I have nothing against evaluation criteria for which one might determine if an Agile approach is appropriate for them, this particular tool is so far removed from common understanding, experience and practice, I feel like I need to share it and help others learn from it as well. 

This particular tool, I have to believe, was created from significant Agile project failure based on ill-formed Agile practices. If not, I am even more concerned because that means the education of what Agile is, why it's necessary, and how to properly apply it is completely missing in many organizations.

OK. Enough lead up, let's get to the tool and dive in...

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Book Review: The Coach’s Casebook

This article describes my own surprising relationship and discovery from reading The Coach's Casebook by Geoff Watts and Kim Morgan. I hope you enjoy the journey as much as I have...

As an Agile coach for the past 10 years, and one that has taken on the responsibility for defining, measuring and certifying other Agile coaches through the Certified Scrum Coach (CSC) Program for the Scrum Alliance, the question of what an Agile coach is and how do they differ from other coaches, consultants, ScrumMasters, and organizational leaders comes up frequently. 

While a classic dictionary definition of "coaching" is training someone learning or improving a specific skill, a more modern definition in an organizational perspective from the International Coaching Federation (ICF) is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. Looking at delta between two definitions, one can see a vast potential and pitfall. A potential in the opportunities abounding Agile coaches in the variety of services and focus they could provide. A pitfall of slippery slope on either side of this divide.

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The Nineteenth Century Agile Leader by Mary Parker Follett

Mary Parker Follett, a late nineteenth and early twentieth century scholar, was a century ahead of her time in terms of organizational understanding, development and leadership. I came upon her work thanks to the insight by my friend and colleague Martin Kearns in reading a summary of her work through the book The Essential Mary Parker Follett by Françoi Héon, etal

If Mary were in today's leadership discussions, likely she would be a part of the agile community. Speaking on difference, conflict, unity, integration and more, Follett espouses post-heroic and agile leadership principles. One of the key mindset shifts of agile leadership is moving from a competitive thought process to a collaborative one, from "or" thinking to "and" thinking, to enable organizational possibility, creativity and innovation. Her deep dive into some key leadership qualities and characteristics is incredibly powerful, as an example on her focus on unity vs. uniformity...

“Unity, not uniformity, must be our aim. We attain unity only through variety. Differences must be integrated, not annihilated, nor absorbed.” pg. 31

Furthermore, her agile mindfulness is also adept, in this articulation of unity vs. unifying as a distinction of a final state vs. a state of being...

“The most important thing to remember about unity is that there is no such thing. There is only unifying. You cannot get unity and expect it to last a day or five minutes… [This is] neither of subordination nor of domination, but of each man learning to fit his work into that of every other in spirit of co-operation.” pg. 168

Her agile leadership wisdom continues...

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Leading/Coaching Agile Organizations Workshop – June 16-17, 2015

I am excited to share with you that we are running another Leading/Coaching Agile Organizations Workshop this year! Thanks to VersionOne for hosting this workshop, we are able to offer a limited capacity class this special, one-time offer.



This workshop is for anyone in an internal or external leadership position guiding growth in organizational agility.

 

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Travel Sprint (creative Scrum)

This story was send to me from one of my creative clients. I thought it fun to share...



Our services Integration system team needed to conduct a short Sprint when our flight was cancelled from Columbus Ohio to Albany ...

 

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How to complement Scrum?

What practices can development teams use with Scrum to be more effective? Scrumhub.com posed this question to a number of agile guides, including our own Pete Behrens. See how they address this question… (Source Youtube)

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#1 Agile Principle

What is the number one principle of agile? Scrumhub.com posed this question to a number of agile guides, including our own Pete Behrens. See how they address this question… (Source Youtube)

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Webinar: Agile Leadership for the Enterprise

Webinar: Agile Leadership for the Enterprise
October 8, 2013
Pete Behrens

This talk was hosted by VersionOne and moderated by David Rubinstein of SD Times Magazine. It focuses on the current state of agility, why many companies are struggling to adopt agile, 3 companies who are thriving on agility, and the agile leadership approach needed to do so.

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Stop DOING Scrum – BE agile

May 2013 @ Mile High Agile 2013, Denver, CO

Too many organizations are following the Scrum framework AND fail to learn, grow and achieve their desired results. Many continuously thrash by tweaking Scrum or their organization but rarely see significant positive impact or change. Others may achieve pilot success only to stagnate trying to replicate that success at the enterprise level. To achieve and sustain organizational agility, a completely different approach must be taken – it must be LED from the inside-out.

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Culture Model: Schneider to the Competing Values Framework

If you are reading this blog, you are likely aware of my focus on organizational culture and agile adoption. Over the past 5 years, I have been leveraging William Schneider's culture model as introduced and researched for the book "The Reengineering Alternative". In 2012, I was introduced to similar cultural model - The Competing Values Framework, and during the last 6 months, I have been in the process of converting all of my cultural assessment, teaching and coaching from William Schneider's culture model to the Competing Values Framework (CVF). 

Why?

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Culture: #1 Barrier to Agile Adoption

VersionOne has released their most recent state of agile survey. And while there are a number of revealing indicators of the growth and expansion of agility within the enterprise, the one that remains troubling is the difficulty of adoption in many deeply established organizations. Looking at the barriers to adoption, the top items include a lack of ability to change the organizational culture, general resistance to change, trying to fit agile into a non-agile framework and management support. Why is culture so hard?

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Updated Logo and Website

If you are viewing this on our website, you probably notice a few changes. I would like to share with you some of what we've done and more importantly why we have done it. We are in our 8th year consulting and figured it was time to freshen up and re-focus our message.

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ICAgile Enterprise Agile Coach

Many of you know that I have been maniacally focused on the agile coaching discipline since 2005 when I started this practice. I joined the Scrum Alliance, not because it had the best training and coaching programs, but because it had the best focus and framework. during my time in the Scrum Alliance, I have been focused on creating a world-class coaching association which parallels the training institution that I became a part of over 6 years ago. What I am referring to is my work, and the work of my peers, in building and growing the Certified Scrum Coaching (CSC) organization from the ground up. At this time, we have the most comprehensive and complete definition of enterprise agile coach in the industry. But that is not all...

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Essential Scrum

Essential Scrum

Essential Scrum by Kenneth Rubin – As a Scrum Trainer and Coach, I often find myself navigating between the theory and practice of Scrum. The theory of Scrum is easy to grasp yet implementing Scrum is quite challenging. Putting ...

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Book Review: Essential Scrum

Essential Scrum

Essential Scrum by Kenneth Rubin - As a Scrum Trainer and Coach, I often find myself navigating between the theory and practice of Scrum. The theory of Scrum is easy to grasp yet implementing Scrum is quite challenging. Putting Scrum to work effectively in an organizational context requires years of practice, experience, and trial-and-error. In reading the title of the book, I made the mistake of reading "Essential" as the bare essentials of the Scrum framework. In fact, this is a similar story that Ron Jeffries tells in the forward - dumbfounded that an "Essential" book on Scrum is over 400 pages! 

Upon reading Essential Scrum, I have redefined my interpretation of the title "Essential" as meaning everyone MUST READ this book before and during your implementation of Scrum. Ken has packaged decades of applied learning and teaching in this book and it will save you months (if not years) of Scrum thrashing, navigating between the theory and practice of Scrum.

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Agile Culture vs. Behaviors

The following is a cross-posting from Eric Engleman's Blog post on GeoVoices, the conversation at Geonetric, one of our clients who adopted agile as a process in 2007, and have continued their road toward organizational agility for the past 5 years. He describes the key difference between "doing" agile and "being" agile...

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Client Video – Culture @ UPMC TDC

UPMC Technical Development Center (TDC), a client of Trail Ridge Consulting, is building the next generation mobile, imaging, natural language processing and other new technologies for the healthcare industry. They leverage agility to engage their partners in co-development of new technologies and solutions in bringing them to market more quickly and with better results. Check out this video of their organization, and their agile-influenced culture...

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Leading Agility “Inside-Out”

May 2012 @ RallyOn 2012 in Boulder, CO

Agility is most often led "Outside-In". Starting with a process like Scrum or Kanban, they expose the impediments or bottlenecks from within the organization. Then they work deeper inside the organization to fix the "problems". Through this approach, changes often don't stick and agility plateaus or degrades over time.

Leading agility "Inside-Out" builds, sustains and grows agility. It starts with the values of agility and why their important to the organization, then focuses on the organizational structures to support agility. This session introduces an "inside-out" approach and highlights two companies highly successful agile companies who have leveraged it: Salesforce.com and McKinsey & Co.

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Agile Portfolio Planning with Kanban

This webinar covers a very important, but commonly rushed, initial phases of an Agile (or non-Agile) Project. Presented by Sally Elatta, Agile Expert for PMI's Learning and Education Community of Practice, she walks through Idea Qualification and Project Initiation where we take the business idea through several activities to justify the project value, define clear measures for completion, determine alternative solutions and evaluate if the project is really worth proceeding with or not.

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The Culture of Agility

August 2011 @ Agile 2011 (updated from presentation in May 2011 @ Agile Denver Talk)

Agility as a process is well understood today in feedback generating iterations or as a flow. Agility as a structure is becoming better understood through cross-functional teams working collaboratively. However, Agility as a culture has very little exposure - yet culture impacts every attempt at agility.

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Book Review: Leadership Agility

Leadership Agility

In this book, Bill Joiner and Stephen Josephs discuss current research that indicates leaders who are successful in turbulent organizational environments are known to exhibit a specific set of competencies. The leaders who are able to operate at the highest levels of agility deliver the best results, but few leaders (only around 10%) are able to master the ideal level of agility necessary for consistent effectiveness. 

Joiner and Josephs present a new leadership model focused on expanding personal and professional agility and present a personal guide to leadership agility. The authors illustrate the concepts with real-life stories and examples to deliver a clearly defined road map for bringing the necessary competencies to a new level for sustained success in today’s fast-paced business environment. This book confirms your best management instincts and introduces readers to new leadership practices currently achieved by only a small percentage of highly agile, highly successful, leaders.

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Coaching with the Brain in Mind

Coaching with the Brain in Mind

Coaching with the Brain in Mind by David Rock – Coaching is a challenging and multi-disciplined practice. It takes years of learning and practice to become effective. And while there are a number of useful references on coaching, ...

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Kanban

Kanban

Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change for Your Technology Business by David Anderson – David is the source and principle advocate of software development kanban. Similarly, David has been a strong denouncer of Scrum indicating ...

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Book Review: The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management

Leader's Guide to Radical Management

In this book, Steve Denning warns leaders that traditional management styles have not been able to resolve fundamental business problems or adapt to the way business is done in the 21st century. The balance of power has essentially shifted from the sales force and landed squarely on the customer/consumer. In a knowledge economy, where everyone has the ability create, evaluate, and trade knowledge, non agile businesses don’t stand a chance. 

To counter the problem, Denning describes seven inter-locking principles of continuous innovation, which is essential to a thriving business today. These principles comprise the new guiding force for an entire organization and they are 100% focused on empowering your teams and delighting your customers. When put together, the principles comprise a new radical model for management.

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Leading/Coaching Agile Organizations Master Workshop

As many of you know, my work for the past decade has focused entirely on client success through organizational and leadership agility, and the leadership and coaching competencies required to drive it. Today, I’m excited to introduce a new master workshop which brings these two areas in focus for leaders and coaches. But first, let me tell you a little about how it developed.

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Applying to Become a CSC

As many of you already know, I am the program lead for the Certified Scrum Coaching (CSC) Program with the Scrum Alliance. As the program lead, it is my responsibility to facilitate the review process, review teams, and review application. While a relatively new program founded in 2007, our numbers are growing each year with now almost 50 Certified Coaches. However, we believe our potential and need in the industry is 10x that number. This article provides some understanding of the CSC Program and guidance for those who wish to apply.

As one of the founders of the program, I am passionate about clients being successful with Scrum. It is my experience that success with Scrum requires education and coaching. Most difficulties in Scrum don't arise from learning the Scrum framework, rather they arise in applying the framework on an existing organizational structure and culture. This requires hands-on experienced guidance, and not just at the team-level, but at the leadership and organizational-level.

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Your Brain at Work

Your Brain at Work

Your Brain at Work by David Rock – David is breaking new ground in a field called “NeuroLeadership”. He has written a number of books (some listed here) along with an institute pulling together Neuroscientists ...

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Scrum Coaching Retreat

I am excited to introduce a new opportunity to change the world of work! I am working with the Scrum Alliance and other Scrum Coaches to create a new approach in collaborating with coaching peers to solve complex organizational and coaching challenges - A Scrum Coaching Retreat. December 7-9, 2011 we are going to be piloting a new retreat approach using Scrum as our principle framework.

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Scrum & Gaming Addiction

There are few people in our Scrum Community who know personally the power of video games to engage people, and even create addictions to them. There are even some who have applied Scrum to creating those addictive online video games.

This article is not about applying Scrum to gaming applications; rather, it is about the similarities Scrum has to the gaming world in what makes them so addicting. Video gaming is one of the largest growing markets in the world at $50B this year and is on target to be three times the music industry by 2014. This year alone, there was $8B spent on virtual goods in online gaming systems - a true market indeed.

We can learn a tremendous amount from the viral and exponential growth of the video gaming industry. What makes these video games so interesting, engaging and addicting; and what can we learn about them in making our organizations more interesting, engaging, and even addicting?

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2009 State of Agility Results

Once again VersionOne has provided an excellent insight into the global state of agility with over 2,500 responses with a truly global reach of respondents from 88 countries. Here is a copy of the 4th Annual State of Agility Survey 2009. Overall, the most striking results from the survey were the broadness and distribution of adoption across varying company sizes, projects and numbers of teams. There does not appear to be a distinction any more regarding agile is for small companies/projects/teams - it is being effectively implemented across the board.

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Start with Why

Start with Why by Simon Sinek – Any organization can explain what it does, but it’s only the rare organization that can clearly articulate why it’s doing what it is doing from the top leaders down through all levels of employees. ...

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Succeeding with Agile

Succeeding with Agile

Succeeding with Agile by Mike Cohn – Mike brings his many years and breadth of practical experience in applying Scrum in “real world” organizations. He provides a comprehensive view of implementing and adapting Scrum ...

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The Goal

The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt is a great introductory book on a lean approach. While it is not related to software, it is a foundation on which the lean software initiative was built upon and Agile and Scrum execute.

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Whitepaper: User Story Primer

Check out the new White Paper: A User Story Primer – a collaboration with Dean Leffingwell, author of Scaling Software Agility: Best Practices for Large Enterprises. This whitepaper is an excerpt from his upcoming book, Agile ...

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Artful Making Authors at CU

Artful Making

To all local Colorado agile practitioners and colleagues, CU Boulder is sponsoring a talk by Lee Devin and Robert Austin, authors of "Artful Making". If you haven't read this book, I highly recommend it as a non-techie understanding of teamwork and agility. If you have, but have not had the pleasure of hearing them speak - you will not be disappointed. I have provided the details below...

The University of Colorado at Boulder

Department of Theatre and Dance
Graduate Committee on the Arts and Humanities, and
MBA Program, Leeds School of Business presents...

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The Leadership Agility 360(TM)

Trail Ridge Consulting is introducing a new service: The Leadership Agility 360™ Assessment

Leadership agility is now considered by many to be the “master competency” needed to make wise decisions and take effective action amid complex and rapidly changing conditions. The Leadership Agility 360, developed in partnership with ChangeWise and Cambria Consulting, is the first extensively researched online feedback tool to assess a manager’s level of leadership agility.

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Total Attorneys Culture Club

August 2009, Ed Scanlan, CEO of Total Attorneys

What is culture? One of our clients - Total Attorneys CEO Ed Scanlan doesn't bother defining it. And yet, he calls culture "the bedrock" of his business. Whatever it is, it's working; seven years after its founding, Total Attorneys
will crack $30 million in revenue. Take a close look at the video - see Scrum as a core element of his high-performing team culture.

Click the picture or play button to watch the video...

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Graebel Enterprise IT Blog

Graebel (a Trail Ridge client) has started an Enterprise Agile IT Blog discussing their agile transition, approach, architecture, development practices and more. Multiple roles within their organization are contributing to the blog ...

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