The importance of Agile Leadership for successful digital transformations

With the rapidly changing technology landscape towards easier, less inert, more flexible and less siloed IT environments, IT practitioners are learning new ways to cooperate, develop and release applications and operate the infrastructure.

And it goes beyond learning technical skills like using infrastructure-as-code tools, learn to work with Git and to build and use development pipelines. Much work has been done to transform development and system engineering teams towards agile ways of work, be it Scrum, Kanban or any of the other popular frameworks.

These teams have learned the value of breaking up work in a steady flow of smaller tasks, know how to remove waste from their value stream, reducing variation and complexity along the way. They’ve built a high-trust culture of continuous feedback cycles to improve their processes and output quality and are in a mode of continual learning and experimenting, putting themselves in a perpetual ‘stretch’ zone.

On a more technical level, they’re standardizing processes into pipelines, an automated process of work that removes variation and turns one-offs into a repeatable, dependable factory that removes toil, prevents human mistakes and is extensible, adding or improving steps and tests after every cycle.

While this practice was first formalized in the development side of the house, many system engineering (or Ops) have started using these ways of work for the operational side of the house, too. This means that more and more IT professionals are using Agile ways of work to accomplish their goals.

But what about their leadership? Are they able to embrace the same principles of flow, small units of work and removing waste, variation and complexity? Do they use feedback as a way of achieving their goals? Do they experiment? Often, directors and senior management are bound by yearly and quarterly cycles, budgets and separation of roles into different departments. The old adagio of ‘command and control’ still very much apply to the higher levels of organizations. Letting go of that, even with a willing participant, is not easy. It will create friction between the different modes of operation.

For many, it’s simply a matter of awareness. Knowing the tricks of the Agile way is the basis to start learning; a good way of learning is to attend a training or workshop on Agile Leadership.

Most of these trainings will dive into the delta between the current command ‘n’ control methodologies and the agile mindset, showcasing the differences in decision making, autonomy and trust.

Amazic spoke to Judith Knuiman, Agile trainer within the Accenture Academy. She has first-hand experience in helping managers and directors to learn about the agile approach.
“One of the first things that become apparent is the fundamental change in trust. Managers must learn how to move decision making from the management layer down into teams that take ownership over a certain functional or technical domain. A common eye-opener is that decision should be taken as late as possible, instead of as early as possible.”, said Judith.

And it’s many of these practical realizations that help to move them closer towards the Agile mindset, by letting go of responsibility, no matter how difficult or scary: it’s a transition many are willing to make.

Judith shared a personal touch on the subject, explaining how the current generation that are now in school learn Agile, Kanban and Scrum as part of their curriculum. For this future workforce, there’s no other reality than Agile. That will change the way organizations interact with the workforce in a tremendous way.

Organizations around the world recognize the need for change and are taking steps in changing their management paradigms. There are many frameworks and methodologies regarding Agile and DevOps ways of working. One of the most widely used such frameworks is the Scaled Agile Framework, (SAFe), which was specifically developed scaling agile within enterprise organizations. SAFe is based on the Lean principles, systems thinking, Agile/Scrum development flow and DevOps.

SAFe helps organizations and their leaders transform to drive change and innovation, create high-performing teams and give the tools for supporting and executing planning events and multiple release trains and value streams.

Want to learn more on training? Visit Amazic Knowledge and browse Accenture’s training courses.