There was a time when enterprises acted as if they knew best—forcing products on the market that didn’t genuinely fix the customer’s problems. Then, if you can call being late and over budget delivered, they would deliver these products with massive projects that took months, if not years to complete. (If this feels like I am telling your life story, please drop us a note.)
Then, some of the teams started doing agile, and it began to make things better. Not massively, but the direction of travel was positive.
One day, an insightful leader, let’s call her Sally, wanted to make things better and understand why her organisation hadn’t reached the promised land yet.
Sally wanted to understand the Why of agile and lean practices. Yes, she was one of those children parents ‘adore’ because she asked ‘why?’ far too many times!
She discovered that powerful effects came from the ritualistic behaviours she saw the organisation doing within the mystical ways of agile and modern-day product management.
She read about task significance. Research showed the ‘simple’ act of explaining why we are doing what we are doing and the value it brings people, the more valuable the outcome. This reminded her of the user stories the teams kept talking about, with their ‘so that’ statement and the portfolio’s epic hypothesis statements, which felt like an elevator pitch for doing something more significant.
Sally also read about a study that showed that customer feedback increased by exposing the delivery teams to the customer and allowing them to see the product being used. She realised the personas that her product management had been producing and the get-out-the-building events she sponsored had enabled this.
Understanding the power and reason these activities worked, she vowed to ensure everyone in her organisation had access to these superpowers. So she made sure everyone was trained and had coaches help them improve their new skills.
The old guard put up a good fight, fearing change, fearing giving up their seats of power. Sally worked with them, demonstrating the benefits to the business, including the risks if it didn’t improve and how their roles would evolve for the better. Sally was able to win them around.
Within not a long time, these behaviours and understanding why they are so powerful became endemic in her enterprise. Team members enjoyed their jobs more as they understood their purpose, customers received better products, and shareholder value followed.
It isn’t enough for leaders to just tell the organisation, “let’s do agile”. Instead, leaders must inspire the organisation, understand the change they want to have, and guide the organisation on the journey to improve.
If you would like to be more like Sally, I’ve included some references for you to read that she found helpful. Should this whet your appetite, please reach out to discuss what being more like Sally means for you and your organisation. Helping people be more like Sally is what we do, as every organisation deserves a Sally.
- Task Significance, https://www.inc.com/ben-fanning/wharton-research-reveals-the-ultimate-5-minute-str.html
- Transparency of the customer creates value, https://hbr.org/2014/11/cooks-make-tastier-food-when-they-can-see-their-customers
N.B. Sally may be a fictitious leader, but your successful future and that of your organisation can be a reality.