What is the Structure of a Leadership Program in an Agile Transformation?
The success or failure of a Lean-Agile transformations is directly related to the level of active engagement from Leadership. To be blunt, the 2020 “14th Annual State of Agile Survey” reports that 46% of organizations struggle with “not enough leadership participation.”
Organization that go through a Lean-Agile transformation are asking their people to make significant changes in the way the work, the way they think, their culture, and their mindset. It is not enough for leadership to simply say to their organization that “you should be Lean-Agile”. Leadership must actively participate. They must lead-by-example. They must not only say that this transformation important; it must also be seen in every action they take.
Most importantly, they must allocate the time to develop a deep understanding of the new principles, the new practices, and the way their behavior effects the system of delivery.
The Leadership Development Program is designed to help Leadership develop the necessary understanding and skills in an environment where the time available is limited and precious. The outcomes of a successful Leadership Development Program are Leaders who:
- Deeply understand and teach Lean and Agile principles, practices, and behaviors
- Base their day-to-day decisions on this long-term philosophy
- Develop their people, while their people focus on developing solutions
- Are trained in the practices and tools of continuous improvement and teach employees problem-solving and corrective action skills
- Are hands-on in the new process, and take personal responsibility for Lean-Agile success
The Leadership Development Program is jointly developed between the Transformation Coach and the Leadership Team and will typically consist of a combination of the following elements:
- Leadership Training. For SAFe shops, “Leading SAFe” forms the basis of the training. Other organizations will have different courses around “Adaptive Leadership” and “Leading by Example”. The training is aimed at providing an understanding of the total transformation from the perspective of Leadership, as well as address the role of Leadership and the changes expected of Leadership.
- “Leadership as a Team” Workshop. Lean-Agile Transformations are all about establishing true Teams, and the Leadership Team is no exception. Often Leadership Teams are made up of Department or Organization Heads, where the primary concern is running the Department or Organization resulting in limited collaboration and poor alignment. The Leadership Development Program works to ensure that the Leadership Team operates as a true Team, focused on aligned efforts, working collaboratively to maximize business outcomes, and improving their overall performance.
- Small Group Workshops. As the Lean-Agile Transformation progresses, specific problems or opportunities will arise. Small group workshops are short, specific, often purpose built workshops that allow the Leadership Team to learn and practice new principles, practices, and behaviors in a psychologically safe environment so they can address these specific problems in an organization. Sample subjects (previous engagements) include:
- Intent based leadership
- Servant leader behaviors
- Increasing organizational focus on outcomes instead of outputs
- Improving customer and other stakeholder engagement
- Establishing a more transparent organizational impediment process
- Improve individual decision-making based on improved system awareness
- Measuring and improving your organizational culture
- Establishing innovation through a portfolio of bets
- And so on
- One-on-One Coaching Sessions. As Leadership learns and applies specific principles, practices, or behaviors it is sometimes useful to bounce ideas off the Coach or discuss the feedback and results from a specific activity in order to further improve. One-on-One sessions between the individual Leader and the Coach provide a space for this discussion.
- Back-channel Support. Most Leadership Teams have some method whereby they do ad-hoc communication. This might be a text message group, a Slack channel, or a WhatsApp chat group. The Coach uses this media to follow-up on items from training and workshops and supports the Leadership Team as they work issues.