Building an Agile Organisation: lessons learned from Lean Agile Scotland 2016

I was lucky enough to attend Lean Agile Scotland last month, a 3-day conference in Edinburgh crammed full of fantastic key notes, talks and workshops covering all things Agile: from Value Streams to Cynefin, from TDD and BDD to Neuro-diversity, and from meeting culture to dark collaboration – #LAScot16 had it all.

Trying to summarise in one blog post all the lessons and thinking I took away has been tough, so I’ve focused on some interesting ideas from the conference which can help organisations build/maintain their Agile culture:

The role of management in an Agile organisation

The subject of management was touched upon by several speakers during the 3 days, including Marc Burgauer’s Eupsychian  Manager talk and Julia Wester’s Let’s (Not) Get Rid of Managers talk.

Marc Burgauer introduced many of the conference attendees to the idea of Maslow’s Eupsycian Manager (pronounced “you-sigh-key-un”), human-oriented management generated by self-actualised people (Eupsychian is defined as having or moving towards a good mind/soul). Marc highlighted that in age where most organisations strive for conformity and “same-ness”, there is not one right way to manage everyone. Each employee needs to be managed specifically to their needs in the moment and in a way fitting of their current context – in Eupsychian Management, one size definitely does not fit all.

Eupsychian managers make it easy for their employees to say No to them – this allows your employees to make you aware of anything you may currently be blind to in your organisation and so learn valuable information.

Euphysian managers also ask their employees, “What can I do to help you do your job better?”. This question clearly sets out from the beginning how the relationship between manager and employee will function.

Mirroring many of the sentiments of Marc’s talk, Julia Wester thoughtfully discussed how as more teams move to an Agile way of working (self-organising, no hierarchy), the traditional role of managers must move too. We still need managers in Agile environments but Agile management should focus on ignoring hierarchy and having managers just be part of the team – being seen as “one of the team” encourages feedback from your team members.

In an Agile environment, we should value individuals and interactions over processes and tools, therefore managers should treat their team as people, not just resources. One example of an organisation moving away from seeing their people as just resources is Google – they have renamed their Human Resources department to People Ops. When you value your people, you foster cognitive safety and create relationships based on trust which allows you not to micromanage.

Julia finished her talk with this important quote from Peter F. Drucker:

“Management is about human beings. Its task is to make people capable of joint performance, to make their strengths effective and their weaknesses irrelevant.”

The importance of Communities of Practice in an Agile (any!) Organisation

At Emily Webber’s Communities of Practice, The Missing Piece of Your Agile Organisation talk, highlighting the importance & value of having communities of practice in your organisation, I found myself nodding along in agreement at everything she said. Fortunately, Sopra Steria already recognises the importance of Communities of Practice, demonstrated by our adoption of a Community model earlier this year with communities ranging from Agile to Architecture.

So what makes a good community? Having Membership and Influence, while providing a Fulfilment of Needs and Emotional Connection. And why are they essential? People need to feel supported in their roles. We learn better when we learn together. Collaboration creates collective intelligence which is greater than individual intelligence.

When thinking about how you can get the most from your Community of Practice, use it as an opportunity to get together and:

  • Give presentations to one another and/or invite external speakers in to present on new thinking/innovation in your area
  • Practice new skills in a safe environment
  • Visit other organisations, if possible, with similar challenges and share learning

Many more lessons can be learned from Lean Agile Scotland 2016 and if you would like to learn more then all talks from the 3 days will be made available online – follow @LeanAgileScotland on Twitter or check www.leanagile.scot for updates.

If you have any thoughts on these topics, please leave a reply blow or contact me by email.

Published by

Lorna MacRae

Scrum Master for Sopra Steria, currently delivering digital projects for Student Loans Company in Glasgow.

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