Part 3 of 5
Previously I wrote an article titled “Five Common Pitfall When Scaling Agile”. These pitfalls are:
- Not Having a Clear WHY
- Not Seeing This as Organizational Change
- Not Being Principles Based
- Not Keeping All Levels of the Organization Aligned
- Not Measuring What is Important to the Organization
This article is part three of five and will provide remedies to overcome the third common pitfall, “Not Being Principles Based”. The subsequent articles will provide remedies for each of the remaining pitfalls.
NOT BEING PRINCIPLES BASED
The Pitfall (from Five Common Pitfalls)
- Principles are long lasting, stabilizing, and value based.
- The direction will shift to the next best thing if they are not employed.
When an organization bases its transformation on principles, these can be a guiding light when posed with how or what to do. They should reflect the values important to the organization. If an organization promotes face to face communication, then walking over to see the person or having a video call should be the norm versus sending emails. This sounds simple but the value of face to face is building relationships and trust easier which in turn allows work to get done faster and better.
Let us first start with the definition of a principle. A fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning. The key here is to create an environment of stable change. One that is based upon the organization’s values and all know as a guide to “ways of working”.
The first sign is no one can tell you what principles are practiced. They are missing. This sign reflects there is not a clear operating model based upon values the organization has. There may be talk of why the organization does not need these or other things are what matters.
The second sign is not having a clear understanding as to the principles you have and why they are important. You will hear people saying only certain principles are important or some do not apply. They may be able to recite them however their behavior (actions) reflect they do not apply them. An example stated in above was valuing face to face conversations, but common practice is sending emails. The value of the principle is not understood so the benefit is less. One way communication can be misinterpreted more easily than face to face communication. This jeopardizes building trust.
The third sign is people gravitating to the next new thing without understanding how this relates to their principles. The guiding light is not in focus. When you look at large scale efforts that take time to implement, such as a transformation or other strategic initiatives, focus can be difficult over time. New ways emerge and people will stress that is the way to go. Guardrails are not in place to stay on the path. This does not mean to be closed to change but rather the opposite. Embrace the changes that are in alignment within the organization’s values and principles.
How to Overcome
These signs reveal when principles are either totally missing, not understood, or not practiced. So how can we overcome this?
First, the leadership in the organization needs to evaluate what values are important and then create and articulate the principles and benefits that are foundational to scaling agile. Secondly, a governance mechanism needs to be in place to reflect on how well these principles are applied and if any changes need to be made. That is the base to build upon and to establish the guiding light that everyone can focus on. To reflect on and practice. This is about what behaviors, actions, and mindset are in play. If you reflect on these, would they embrace the principles.
Not every organization needs to have the same principles, but these principles need to demonstrate what values the organization deems important. If you look at implementing frameworks, as an example one relating to Enterprise Architecture, you start with establishing principles. I have seen where an organization did not value establishing the principles and the result was changing direction often which turned this into a winding road versus a straight path. This means there needs to be knowledgeable resources, either within the leadership or through consultancy, to ensure that principles are not just nice but foundational.
Principles provide the foundation of stability and governance provides the reflection needed to establish the guardrails to staying on a clear path. Leadership establishes these and all need to embrace them through their behavior, actions, and mindset. When in place there can be a heightened sense of purpose and direction. Everyone can have a broader understanding of how we can all work together. This leads us to the subject of my next article in this series, organizational alignment.