Micro Agile Revisited

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

– Lao Tzu

After more than 15 months of global and personal uncertainty, I recently reflected on a blog post called Micro Agile I wrote over 2 years ago. As I reviewed the post, 3 ideas stood out for me in the midst of our new and uncertain reality.

  1. Celebrating small steps over big ceremonial leaps.
  2. The virtue of being an assiduous ant over a raging bull
  3. The value of starting over the hope of finishing

While helping people and organizations with Agile ways of working under COVID-19 restrictions, I’ve come to appreciate and apply Micro Agile thinking more so now than ever before.

The lack of physicality combined with the flat, two dimensional nature of our communications has rendered everything in slow motion. Slow can be negative or it can be positive depending on your intent.

Watching events unfold frame by frame can be agonizing when you’re trying desperately to get something done.

However, it can also be enlightening when you’re trying to fix something. Taking time to scan each frame until you isolate the exact moment when things went awry.

Such was the case with an Agile change initiative I was supporting. One of my favourite approaches for anchoring organizational change is nominally called a Transformation Team (TT). The introduction and mobilization of a home-grown TT made up of de facto leaders within the organization. What John Kotter refers to as a “Guiding Coalition” (GC) or what Mike Cohn refers to an “Enterprise Transition Community” (ETC).

Only this time, it wasn’t working. I was unable to gain any traction with the TT members. As I replayed and scanned the situation, I could see why.

  1. The Agile change initiative was subservient to a larger change program
  2. The TT members were already seconded to support the larger change program
  3. The 2 change efforts could be construed to be at cross purposes with each other

So, rather than push through with a single, monolithic and centralized TT, it was time to step back, review the smaller changes that were working and do more of the same.

This led me to consider multiple, small and distributed TTs. Each TT to be purpose-built to achieve the objectives and goals of the larger change program.

How will I know whether this approach will work? What tests might I use?

As I share the concept, the early qualitative indicators such as initial reactions to the idea, have been positive. Hints of alignment rather than friction.

What quantitative indicators could I use?

  • Leading indicators could include the number or percentage of new change elements sustained.
  • Lagging indicators could include the number or percentage of program business goals achieved.

On the other hand, how could this approach fail?

  • Insufficient visibility or transparency within the larger change program?
  • An insufficient number of opportunities to use agility practices?
  • A level of change resistance that remains high?
  • No or low investment of time to learn and experiment?
  • Inadequate support from leadership and key stakeholders?
  • The agility aspirations for change are perceived to be in conflict or not aligned with the larger change program aspirations?

So, rather than thrash and pout like a raging bull, I’m going to start by taking small steps forward like the assiduous ant.

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