Although we have been failing for over a decade, I have seen a significant increase in teeth gnashing, nail biting, and all out exasperation from people in recent months regarding their failing with their Agile, DevOps, and DevSecOps adoptions and transformations. Why? Because more individuals and their organizations are realizing they need to evolve, modernize, or transform in order to survive and compete in today’s world. It does not matter what industry you are in, where your geographically located, how your organization operates, you, your team, and your organization must become more dynamic…
Today there is a lot of noise and marketing hype about evolving and transforming. Unfortunately, the noise has become so loud, and sending so many mixed messages, that the result is mass confusion. The answer to finding your calm, a clear path forward, switching gears from “what” to “how,” can be found by simply looking into a mirror. Ask yourself and reflect on these four (4) areas:
- Is your leadership focused on the “how” or the “what”?
Today, around 70% of the seats of power in an organization are held by a transactional-based leader. However, in 2015, our workforce demographics shifted so that a majority of the workforce is transformational-based. So, what is the significance? To start with transactional and transformational are like oil and water, they do not mix because they have opposing value and belief sets. The different value and belief set drives different thinking and behavior. The result is dysfunction and conflict between the leaders and a majority of the workforce. Transactional leader’s philosophy and mannerisms, how they deal with others is based on transactions. An example of this is how leaders lead the transactions across the siloes of a siloed organization. Transformational leader’s philosophy and mannerisms, how they deal with others is based on making the vision a reality. An example of this is how leaders empower and act as a servant to their worker’s requests for achieving the vision.
From these ways of leading, what I am seeing occur is that transactional leaders and organizations who are transactional-based, think, and do based on the “what.” Meaning the focus or the emphasis is based on what is going to be done when, what feature is next, what widget needs to be created, to name a few. However, transformational leaders and organizations who are transformational-based, think, and do based on the “how.” Meaning the focus or emphasis is based on how can we best flow value to our customer, how can we accept new requirements, how can we work directly with our customer to name a few.
The reason why this topic is so important is because the most successful individuals, leaders, and organizations I experience having the most success with their Agile, DevOps, DevSecOps adoptions and transformations, have been able to change how they think and do from “what” to “how.” I think the most impactful way to describe this is simply that the people are empowered, everyone trusts in the process, and understands that the “what” will come from their focusing on the “how.” An example of this is in a transactional environment, features, services, or widgets are defined, implemented, or created by focusing on what is going to be delivered or done by a date or series of dates. In a transformational environment, features, services, or widgets are defined, implemented, or created by focusing on how the team works in a two- or three-week cycles (iterations). At the start of every cycle (iteration), goals are set, work is done, and at the end of the cycle (iteration) a retrospective is done by the team focused on how can they improve how they worked. What they produce is a result of how well they worked together. Each cycle (iteration), as the team improves their “how,” they increase the “what.” Over time, consistence in forecasting and expectations occurs.
- Does your organization work iteratively in small batches or by milestones and gates?
As foreshadowed by the previous topic, the challenge most organizations face is that their leadership, organizational structure, culture, mindset, people, process, and tools have been built upon a history of thinking in terms of projects and programs, being cost driven or cost based. There is a good amount of management or management type behaviors in place, to keep everything on track, provide help and oversite when or were needed. Milestones, gates, cost-based goals, incentives, and much more are focused around “making a date” or having something done by a certain date.
Have you heard of today being a VUC2A (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Conflicted, Ambiguous) world? This is a common industry term used in today’s coaching, leadership courses and certifications to bring awareness about how much the world is changing. Not only in the amount or volume of changes occurring around us, but also the frequency or number of changes occurring within a period of time. Because the VUC2A world has and is continuing to increase the amount of change in the environment around us, individuals, and their organizations, need a way to absorb these impacts, adjust, in some cases pivot, and find a way forward.
Today, the most successful individuals and organizations dealing with a VUC2A world are those who can re-imagine their world, to be able to think and do in iterations in small batches of work. The focus is on cycle times, accomplishing or achieving something within an iteration. The rally call or focus point for aligning everyone is about flowing value to the customer. The small batches of work, combined with a short cycle time, provide individuals and their organizations what they need to take in the new change, adjust, and move forward in a timely manner. They are not held hostage to having to make a date to achieve something which is now made not as relevant due to the impacts of a VUC2A world.
- Is your organization think and do “dynamically” or “traditionally” (serial, waterfall)?
What comes to mind when I say the word “traditional”? The most common answers are working a step by step or serial process also known as a waterfall process, working as we have been for many years, working in accordance to what has worked for us in the past.
What comes to mind when I say the word “dynamic”? The most common answers are working in parallel or multiple paths at the same time, not following the same process over and over again, ability to bring change into how I work and do what is best for the situation.
What are Agile, DevOps, and DevSecOps? If you said “mindsets,” then you would be correct. Most people think, and this is why we are failing at that +70 to 94% level depending your source, that tools and process are the answer. Nothing can be further from the truth.
In the previous topic we introduced the term VUC2A world, and inferred to the amount of changes occurring. But what is causing individuals and organizations an even greater amount of changes and disruption? Technology advancements. Technology, especially the use of software in the form of automating how we work, is wreaking havoc on industries and markets. Therefore, you must have a way to mitigate the risks and impacts caused by these disruptive forces.
The most successful individuals and organizations I am witnessing today, have figured out a way to move on from their traditional ways of thinking and doing, and consider themselves to be “dynamic.” Notice I am not saying the term Agile or bringing in DevOps or DevSecOps here, simply the word “dynamic.” This is because most individuals and organizations can envision or self-realize what or how they can think and do in a more “dynamic” way. Now let me ask, who is best suited to help you understand how to be more dynamic from your traditional ways. You guessed it, the person looking back at you from the mirror.
- Are you focused on your ability to produce or the product your producing?
Once you and your organization have worked out the path forward for the previous three (3) areas, you will have landed in a place where you have created new ways of producing or providing your products and services, focused on flowing value to the customer with your customer present as an active partner. As you grow and mature, with your customer actively involved in your teams, you will start to see a behavior change in your customer. They will start coming to you with not so much product or service needs, but requests of could you create this new thing for us. Another behavior will be you will be asked about your cycle rates like velocity or at what levels have you produced something over a certain number of weeks.
So, what, or more importantly why is there this type of change in your customer’s behavior?
The answer is simply that your ability to produce, deliver consistently, is what is providing value to your customer equal to or greater than the products or services you are delivering. The customer is trying to figure out if they decide to go in a certain direction, can you continue delivering at the same consistency. More importantly, what the customer is really doing is figuring out what their new trajectories are going to be because your ability to deliver consistently, has opened a whole new set of opportunities. It is your ability to produce which is enabling and the foundation for your customer to succeed, expand and scale.
Make no mistake about it, this is a sign of maturity and achieving true partnership, being a critical resource and embedded in the critical path for how your customer flows value to their customer. The end result is that your ability to consistently deliver is now considered the real value you are providing to your customer
So, what do you think? I am willing to bet the way we have walked through these four areas is not what you expected to read. The reason why is that the path forward for how to succeed with your Agile, DevOps, DevSecOps adoptions and transformations is no secret. There is no magic pill or short cut which can be taken. The reason why we have failed and continue to fail is because we start trying to change or evolve our tools and processes, while trying to keep some or most of the current culture, mindset, transactional leaders, traditions, and organizational structure in place. The simple fact is, the individuals and the organization have to change, and change as outlined in the four (4) areas above. A common theme between the four (4) areas above is they are focusing on the “how” instead of the “what.” The first step in the path forward is to get a culture and mindset in place which will support and empower the four (4) areas above. Your transformational empowering culture and mindset will attract the correct, “how” minded, or dynamic people. The dynamic “how” people will then identify what processes they will use to flow value to the customer, which then defines your tools.
If you have any questions, concerns or would like some help, no worries, we “The Catalyst Team” are here to help with our on-demand services. All you have to do is reach out to us and get some of our time and we will help you with your needs. It’s that simple, it’s that easy… we are here to help!
From John – This article was written from a TYIIR Part 1 – Individual & Part 2 – Team perspective. The corresponding “TYIIR Part 3 – Universal” perspective article titled “Are YOU focused on the “what” or the “how”?” can be found by clicking here. Let the Transformation Journey begin!
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