The 'ONLY' thing that matters in Agile Transformation?

If you have children (or if not, if you ever were a child ;-)), at one point in time you may have experienced a child that did not want to clean their room.

One option as a parent/guardian is to educate the child on the benefits of a clean room.  Another is to offer inducements/incentives to motivate a child to clean their room.  However, in the end, without the threat of compulsion, education and inducements will only succeed some of the time with some of the people.

According to the 'Rogers Innovation Adoption Curve' (, 16% of the population will resist change strongly enough to be classified as "laggards".

Laggards are defined as:
"Traditional people, caring for the "old ways", are critical towards new ideas and will only accept it if the new idea has become mainstream or even tradition".   

In Agile Transformation, if "laggards" are in a position of power, and there is not someone at a higher level of power to correct/minimize/check them, they can wreak havoc.

A recent client was almost 2 years into their "transformation" but teams still could not accomplish the most basic maturity level (for example:  even with 70+ sprints under their belt consistently could not meet their sprint goal commitment).  When command and control managers force unreasonable commitments on teams that they can not possibly accomplish, teams become dis-engaged and sometimes even toxic.

Jeff Sutherland, co-creator of Scrum and Agile Manifesto signatory, put it this way in a recent Harvard Business Review article "Embracing Agile":

But a serious impediment exists. When we ask executives what they know about agile, the response is usually an uneasy smile and a quip such as “Just enough to be dangerous.” They may throw around agile-related terms (“sprints,” “time boxes”) and claim that their companies are becoming more and more nimble. But because they haven’t gone through training, they don’t really understand the approach. Consequently, they unwittingly continue to manage in ways that run counter to agile principles and practices, undermining the effectiveness of agile teams in units that report to them.
·      These executives launch countless initiatives with urgent deadlines rather than assign the highest priority to two or three.
·      They spread themselves and their best people across too many projects.
·      They schedule frequent meetings with members of agile teams, forcing them to skip working sessions or send substitutes.
·      Many of them become overly involved in the work of individual teams.
·      They talk more than listen.
·      They promote marginal ideas that a team has previously considered and back-burnered.
·      They routinely overturn team decisions and add review layers and controls to ensure that mistakes aren’t repeated.

·      With the best of intentions, they erode the benefits that agile innovation can deliver.

So if you are thinking of Agile Transformation at your organization, or are struggling with getting at least "twice the work in half the time", the key limiting factor to how far and how fast agility comes is often management - typically middle management - likely with the best of intentions - struggling to become servant leaders - and enabled by executives hesitant to take effective corrective action.

If that is the case, could correcting that behavior be the only thing that really matters in your Agile Transformation?

"The measure of intelligence is the ability to change."  - Albert Einstein

"Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change." - Stephen Hawking

I welcome your thoughts...



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