Klaus Leopold is an Author, Speaker, Kanban Trainer & Practitioner, System Thinker and a Traveller. It was our pleasure to converse with him about Agile Teams and Business Agility while interviewing him. As a special, you can get Klaus’ latest book Practical Kanban for only $9 instead of $24 by using this link: https://leanpub.com/practicalkanban/c/innovationroots
We discussed in detail about how Agile Teams can contribute towards Business Agility and if being Agile makes organisations future-ready. Let’s read;
Q1. Is Agile the perfect solution for making healthier and flexible organization? As per your experiences how can it help to deal with unrealistic development plans?
Klaus: Perfect – what’s perfect? However, I am convinced that an organisation needs to show a certain degree of Agility if it wants to survive in the market in the long term. It is important to me that the organization has to show this agility in terms of business Agility and this has very little to do with Agile teams.
Q2. Why do you say that Agile Teams has nothing to do with Business Agility? What is one most important thing, you think is missing in the Agile Teams to achieve the same?
Klaus: The basic idea of Agile teams is awesome: small, quick-witted cross-functional units that have everything on board so that they can deliver customer value. So much for theory. In practice, I have never seen a knowledge work organisation with more than 30 people where one team alone can generate 100% of the customer value. There are dependencies: other development teams, other products, business, marketing, lawyers, etc. The more dependencies there are, the longer the waiting times. I am an absolute fan of the idea of removing dependencies. But one thing is also clear: it doesn’t matter how you set up an organization, there will always be dependencies. Therefore, it is systemically seen substantially more important that the interactions between the teams are Agile, so that the organization can react rapidly on dependencies. It is rather secondary whether the work in teams is done with Agile methods. Agile infrastructure outside of the team boundaries is needed to Agilize the interactions of an organization. In the Flight Levels model (www.LEANability.com/en/flight-levels) we speak of Flight Level 2, which coordinates the work between the teams.
Q3. How can an Agile Team contribute towards Business Agility? Suggest 3 simple solutions.
Klaus: It only takes one thing: Think outside of your team box! Think business!!
A few examples:
– Whenever improvements are needed, we must first and foremost improve the generation of value for the customer and not organisational structures. I’m a Netflix customer. My request is simple: “Will watch film!” As a customer I don’t care about organizational structures like teams, no matter whether they are Agile or not. Surprisingly, it’s not your company that pays your salaries, but your customers.
– Velocity, throughput, cycle time, etc. are rather unexciting metrics from a business perspective. It is much more important to find out what value we have achieved for the customer and/or on the market. So the point is to change the team’s perspective from output to outcome.
– Work with cross-team, prioritized backlogs that clearly show business priorities and do stick to priorities. When you think this through, situations arise where specialist teams can’t work on their specialist topics. That’s a good thing! Support other teams in order to keep the business priority before you start new work where you have the knowledge on board but which has lower business priority.
Q4. Sometimes Scaling Agile is mistaken for adding more Agile Teams. How can it be addressed?
Klaus: Well, I believe that “more Agile teams” is a scaling approach that mainly helps the consulting companies but not the companies that are being consulted. As a consulting firm, it is quite a big contract to change 200 teams in a company to Agile. They all need training and initial support. That generates a lot of income. However, as we discussed earlier, Business Agility is all about Agile interactions between teams rather than how many Agile teams are running around in an organization.
Q5. When a business is undergoing Agile Transformation, the critical question to answer itself is ‘What it wants to change?’. What’s the Klaus’ way of finding answer to this question?
Klaus: Becoming Agile for the reason that you are Agile is rather unsexy. That is why I would ask an earlier question: What should improve in the company after all? When you know what needs to be improved in an organization, you can find a tailored way to achieve these goals. I’m not a fan of screwing any (Agile) methods into an organization and then look what happens. These changes usually last until the next chic method poster appears on the horizon, which is then screwed into the organization. Agile methods can be a very good source of inspiration, but I can only recommend against establishing methods with copy and paste in organizations.
Q6. In the era of human intellect, innovation and creativity, Talent Agility is something new being heard of. Help our readers understand the concept of Talent Agility.
Klaus:I am definitely not an expert in talent Agility. My understanding of it is that employees are not hired on the basis of their skills – such as e.g. “we need Cobol programmers”. We have to accept the idea that the skills we possess today will no longer be in demand in a few years’ time. If organizations want to be successful in the long term, they have to find those people who want to change as the world changes.
Q7. If a business is Agile today, does it become future-ready?
Klaus: Well, I would say Agility is the basis for an organization to be future-ready, but that alone is not enough. The organisation still needs to make the right strategic business decisions for long-term market success. For example, it would not have helped Blockbuster Video to have many Agile teams, if you rely on the business model “video rental” in a world of Netflix & Co. This is probably not the best strategic business decision.
Q8. Please share your mantra for sustainable Agility.
I don’t think an organization needs sustainable Agility. If an organization wants to survive in the market, it must be able to react in an Agile manner to changing conditions. It is absolutely important for a company to develop sensors, for what its customers need, what is happening on the market and what its competitors are doing. Agility is a means to an end in order to implement the findings.
Klaus Leopold is computer scientist and Kanban pioneer with many years of experience in helping organizations from different industries on their improvement journey with Lean and Kanban. He is author of the book “Practical Kanban” and co-author of the book “Kanban Change Leadership”. Klaus is one of the first Lean Kanban trainers and coaches worldwide. He was awarded with the Brickell Key Award for “outstanding achievement and leadership” within the Lean Kanban community in San Francisco, 2014. His main interest is establishing lean business agility by improving organizations beyond the team level, especially in large environments from 50 to 5000 people. Klaus speaks regularly at renowned Lean and Kanban conferences worldwide. Klaus is just finishing his new book “Rethinking Agile” which will be published on 1st Dec 2018. Check the website of the book to get updates: https://www.leanability.com/en/rethinkingagile