Snips and Snails, and Puppy Dog Tails, is that what Agile Leadership is made of?

Let’s face it, we are all doomed. But it’ll take some time before this madness ends. And during that time the world is becoming increasingly complex. The speed of change is faster than ever and more and more is demanded from the leaders. Managing actions and expecting results won’t get you there. Leaders who affect on experiences and beliefs are creating culture that welcomes change. It is quite easy to change those in present and in the future. Have an open mind, search for positive exceptions and find positive explanations. You will create more positive culture for learning and creativity. And by using techniques from NLP it is possible to even change the meanings of one’s experiences and beliefs in the past.
And this is why Agile Leadership is needed. These are some of the topics we went through on our two and a half day course of Certified Agile Leadership by Agile42.

Cynefin – Embrace the Suck

complexity-cynefin.jpgI’d like to return on one word from the past chapter: complex. It is the most interesting domains of the Cynefin Framework. The field of unknown unknowns is where one can


deduce cause and effect only in retrospect. There are no right answers. Thus we as leaders need to create safe to fail experiments. We cannot solve complex problems with best practices. Software development is very much in the complex domain. Agile offers many tools for solving problems in that domain: reflection and improving, collaboration and continuous delivery. If you’re good, you will push many problems to complicated or even obvious domain for example by utilizing automation. Welcome the complex and do some magic!

Giving Your Team the AMP up

Motivating your team is sometimes difficult. Relying on extrinsic motivators such as money or using the good-old carrot and stick approach does not work when your tasks call for even rudimentary cognitive skill. And even when they do work – the mechanical tasks – you are using a shrinking pie. Offering teams the AMP – Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose – utilizes intrinsic motivators. And they do work! And yet again Agile has tricks for this one too. It introduces pull and self-organization for autonomy. It offers collaboration, feedback, and trial & error for mastery. And it gives you holistic responsibility for purpose. And there are many factors in this growing pie of motivators. Listen to your team and you will learn what will make them tick!

All Hands on DECK!

Self-Organization is extremely important. The more responsibility the team has the more flexible, robust and innovative the team will be. As a leader one should make sure that the teams has a right direction and suitable environment. Removing unnecessary constraints is equally vital. The team will increase it’s own knowledge base as it goes on. And this will speed up the development. Aiming to Self-Designing Teams should be a standard in any agile organization. This means for example that team itself designs who belongs to the team and who does not. Of course those teams also manage their progress and process. And execute their tasks.

When Your Heart and Brain Are Happy Together

To be a successful leader in an agile context one needs to have emotional intelligence. It falls into self- and social oriented parts. It also splits into how aware one is of oneself and how one handles things. So, emotional intelligence consists of self and social awareness, self management and social skills. Does things like self-confidence, empathy, self-control, initiative, visionary and good communication skills sound like the qualities of a great leader? Another wonderful thing is that one can develop each of these attributes.

Agile Meets Antifragile

Let’s step onwards from the team level to consider the whole organization. We should think more on what happens to the organization when risks realize or some crisis emerge. A fragile organization worries nothing and acts in a naive way. In an emergency it breaks, even in a catastrophic way. A robust organization can resist known stressors, and it should be a minimal level for any company. In a contrast, a resilient system reforms itself during disturbances. Finally it retains the same identity than before. Antifragile systems are the sovereign champions in the organizational map. They can increase their capabilities and grow stronger in response to stress. They are the truest of agile and learning organizations!

To achieve this, there are some things one could experiment. Engage people more. Be empirical and apply local validation. Introduce teams to iterative & incremental development. Have some defined metrics. Create emergent standardization when you can. And this is basically what Agile Leadership is made of.

But Wait! There’s More!

Ok, say that you agree on all the above. But to shine and thrive as an agile leader you need good knowledge and understanding of agile values and principles. You need to deal less with things that are going wrong and help things go right more. Systems thinking will be useful. You should:
“Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.”
You should know at least three different leadership styles and be able to choose the right one for each occasion. Practice Benjamin Franklin’s Thirteen Virtues. Follow simple advice of Michelle Eileen McNamara “It’s chaos. Be kind.”


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