Helping Managers Become Personally Agile

This post originally appeared on 5 October 2011. I thought it fitting to repost this as I go into the next Agile Coach Camp.

I held a session at Agile Coach Camp for folks to discuss how to get management to become agile on a personal level as a means to help them understand at least some of the aspects of being Agile as a team.  This was based on my experience of using Personal Kanban and the Pomodoro technique. ( See http://agilescout.com/how-to-be-agile-now-with-tomatoes/ )

I was interested in not only spreading this ‘gospel’ so that those coaches that worked with management could begin utilizing these techniques ‘with management coaching’, but also in finding other techniques I coudl use.  The following is a summary of my session:

We explored some things to consider:

  • mid-level management may be more open to adopting various techniques than senior management
  • start with helping managers understand what the last responsible moment is
  • encourage face-to-face communication overe email and other written forms
  • set-up regular standing management meetings (preferably as stand-ups)

The first big highlight for me was using a timebox for the meeting and using a Meeting Kanban for managing the agenda items discussion.  Have every manager place items in the ‘to be discussed column as they come in’; late? You don’t get to add to the agenda. As the items are discussed, they go into the ‘being discussed’ column and then finally to the ‘discussed’ column. (This column has a WIP limit of 1.)  A separate action items Kanban is where action items go. Undiscussed items roll to the next meeting to go in the the ‘to be discussed’ column again.  This gets updated at the next meeting. I’ve done this now twice with my boss and once at our weekly Branch meeting.  It seemed to move us along more efficiently.  Thanks to@topsurf for this suggestion.

We brainstormed a little about how to ask the questions around identifying the last responsible moment.  Do we have to make that decision now?  Do we know enough to responisbly make that decision now? What if wait on making that decision?

Another item we discussed was playing the Elimination of Waste game to help create the understanding of a win-win.  The idea is time saved on wasteful activities is usually demoralizing to team members and costs the organization money.

Back to meetings…

Use a speaking token? Use it for granting someone the opportunity to speak on a subject, but not a something to force someone to speak (at least most of the time).  The idea is that everyone has an opinion, but not the same one; help those opinions be heard.

Also encourage the use of idea cards, question cards, topic cards at meetings as ways to get information and opinions out in the open.  Dot voting encourages group participation.  Perhaps do this on-line?  That way no one can see how the boss votes ( Seehttp://www.dotpoll.info )

We discussed around some question on what Agile may need in order to succeed and be sustained in the organization. The real reason why we care that management picks this up…

We concluded that without both top down support and grass roots motivation, Agile will not succeed in the organization.

We concluded the session with some othe quick hit items that we discussed around helping Agile succeed:

  • adopt the terms of the organization and not force those of Agile (or a particular approach)
  • perhaps try out some of the Agile strategy mapping Dave Sharrock discussed in a prior session

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