Home » Agile » Becoming an Agile Leader, Part 1: Define Your Why

About Johanna Rothman

Johanna consults, speaks, and writes about managing product development. She helps managers and leaders do reasonable things that work. You can read more of her writings at jrothman.com.

Becoming an Agile Leader, Part 1: Define Your Why

Your agile transformation isn’t proceeding the way you thought. People use the right agile words, but they’re not changing how they work. Teams aren’t collaborating, managers still talk about “resources,” and the projects aren’t delivering finished value. Your agile transformation is stuck.

Maybe it’s time to return to your why. Why is your organization moving to agile? Do you know?

Ask the people who wanted agile these questions:

  • What is valuable to us?
  • How will we measure what is valuable?
  • What is the first deliverable we can achieve to provide value?

When you ask these questions,  people start to remember why they wanted agile in the first place. I’ve heard answers like these:

  • We want to release something more often than once a year (or longer).
  • We want to increase the quality of our products.
  • We don’t want to hear customer complaints as often, for releasing or bug reports.
  • We want to have fun.
  • I want to master this code base.
  • I want to learn how to automate which tests.
  • I want to feel as if I’ve done a great job.

Managers often want to see revenue increases, customer happiness, and a decrease in the cost of providing customer support and project cost. Teams often want more satisfaction with their work and a feeling they have done right by the customers.

If you are an agile leader, you can develop measurements to help both sides see what they’re aiming for and how to get there. These measurements help people see why they are changing and if they are accomplishing the change—the why. But, first you have to know the why. (And, don’t be surprised if everyone has a different why!)

In my next post, I’ll address how you define who to talk to. It might not be obvious.

I’m writing this series of posts so you might consider joining us at the next Influential Agile Leader, May 9-10, 2017 in Toronto.

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