Tuesday, September 19, 2017

SPaMCast 456 Interview: What Guidelines Do You Recommend for Agile Leaders?

Jeff, If you were stopped on the street tomorrow afternoon by a CXO who said, "Hey, tell me two things that should be in a set of guidelines for someone leading," what would a couple of those be? ~ Tom Cagley, SPaMCast

[Editor's Note: Over the coming weeks, this CMMI Appraiser will be sharing excerpts from a recent conversation with Tom Cagley on the Software Process and Measurement Cast (SPaMCast) about leadership, and whether leadership is more or less important in today’s Agile world. Listen to the full interview at SPaMCast 456.]

Tom, I would say the biggest and most important set of guidelines to help people in leadership roles would be around self-organization. I think that’s the mystery that so many leaders are still scratching their heads over: “How do I get performance from a self-organizing team without riding them and without providing egregious oversight?”

That would be one set of guidelines: How to scale self-organization.

You know I’m a big fan of this. We talked about this in the past. There are some models out there that are starting to get some traction at the team level. For leaders, however, things are different.

Quick aside. This notion of leadership and self-organization is really interesting. I’ve noticed that the people that are really advocating pure self-organization are advocating no leadership.

I don’t think “no leadership” is the way to go. I think we need leaders to help manage the empowerment mechanisms. I’m not saying leaders should be granting empowerment because that’s counter-intuitive. However, there’s an infrastructure that has to be put in place to manage empowerment. Leaders need to transform themselves to become empowerment managers, or infrastructure managers, let’s call it. They need to help manage the organization’s values so that they can train their people how to become truly self-organized.

That would be the second major set of guidelines in a model that leaders could really benefit from: How to set strategic goals and strategic direction. 

See, most leaders really struggle with this notion of creating a strategic plan that leads a self-organizing company through the journey of self-organization and transformation, and leads them to strong profits and strong product delivery. They really struggle to understand what a strategic plan looks like for something like that. So it would be helpful to have guidelines around using open space technologies, for instance, to help them really step through strategic planning efforts, and the management of that strategic plan, long-term. 

Those are the two areas that I would focus on, followed very closely by enterprise leadership and craftsmanship. Now, craftsmanship is all the rage these days in Agile circles. In my opinion, this is a fantastic thing that developers at the organic level that have gotten together and decided that craftsmanship is important.

I am completely in support of them doing that. But the only thing I would change is the scope of this idea. Craftsmanship doesn’t begin and end with development. It applies to business analysis. It applies to project management. It applies to all levels of leadership.

There isn’t a movement in leadership, as there should be. That would be the third set of guidelines that I would encourage any leader to focus on.

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I hope my readers have enjoyed this segment of my interview with Tom Cagley on SPaMCast #456. We'll be talking more about leadership, and whether leadership is more or less important in today’s Agile world, in the next segment. Please check back soon.

For those interested in a deeper dive into learning about Agile Leadership, you are invited to join me and other Agile leaders at The 2017 Agile Leadership Summit, hosted by AgileCxO.org on September 22nd in Washington, DC. I look forward to meeting many of you in person for the first time!

Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, author and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff has taught thousands of students in CMMI training classes and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Visit www.broadswordsolutions.com for more information about engineering strategy, performance innovation, software process improvement and running a successful CMMI program.

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