Visibility of Leadership

Photo by Fr. Dougal McGuire

Photo by Fr. Dougal McGuire

I've been thinking about how visible the leadership of an organization needs to be in an Agile Transformation.  What does it mean for an executive to delegate the transformation to his direct reports or a PMO?  Esther Derby pointed out years ago that:

The dictionary definition for delegate is “to commit or entrust to another.” Every time a manager delegates, there’s the possibility to build commitment and trust or erode trust and engagement.

Managers—because they are human—won’t do it perfectly every time. When that happens, managers can maintain trust by owning the part of the miscommunication that’s theirs. 

But how are managers and above recognizing their missteps as they are learning their new roles in the organization?  We often focus on agility at the development teams because it's easier to understand what needs to change, but managers may not receive feedback as regularly as team members.  Agility does not happen only at the development team level.  Or only in IT, for that matter.

I love the idea of trusting others and allowing decisions to be made at the lowest levels of the organization as possible--these are good things to see in an Agile organization.  But leaders need to be visible in order for employees to understand the culture change going on around them.  Change can be scary, and it doesn't help when those at the highest ranks of the organization are like the Wizard of Oz--rarely seen but often talked about and quite mysterious.  The Wizard of Oz is just a man, and while Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tinman, and the Lion all possessed what they had been seeking all along, it was recognition from the Wizard that helped make it real to them.

Culture change cannot be delegated, and it requires courage to move past "prescriptive agility."  Leaders can do a lot to remove fear and instill courage just by being more visible to employees.

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.