February 10, 2013

Enterprise Agility needs Leaders!

The economic downturn has forced many organizations to think of new ways to grow and sustain. Going Agile is one of the best ways to evolve and is proving to be successful for many. We have seen many projects being delivered with an exceptionally higher level of customer satisfaction. But how many of us have seen the implementation of Agile at the entire organization level? I believe the roaring answer would be “Not many!”

Let’s take a closer look at some of the terminologies being used in agile methodologies like Scrum, XP, and Kanban and compare it with best practices of Leadership as explained by thought leaders.
  1. Shared Vision 
  2. Facilitate 
  3. Help 
  4. Transparent 
  5. Reflect 
  6. Commitment 
  7. Proactive 
  8. Prioritize 
  9. Collaborative 
  10. Responsible 

Comparison of Agile and Leadership

Now let’s look at what Kouzes and Posner say about Leadership in their book “The leadership challenge”.

Challenging the process

According to the book, a leader should be able to challenge the current process and find better ways of doing things and should be able to identify new ideas and opportunities for success and growth. These ideas mainly come from within the team and the employees of the organization. A true leader will be able to inspire the team to come up with such ideas which lead to organizational growth and development.

Implementing Agile in an organization also required a similar skill set of going out of the traditional ways to deliver quality products/services. One has to sense the opportunity and nurture the team towards innovation and success. Managers will have to leave the ego behind and should be willing to accept the ideas and suggestions given by the team members and be willing to change(true agility). Existing processes are bound to change and a leader will have to challenge the processes with new and improved processes and customs which will lead the team towards a positive direction and a common vision.

Inspire a shared vision

To share a vision one has to envision the future or the result of the activities or things that we are doing. One has to believe embrace the cause and believe in the future. A person can’t be a leader if the person can’t see the destination or goal. Without a destination or goal, the person is sailing on the open ocean without anywhere to go and will be lost in the waters. Similarly, the leader will be lost during the journey. The second important part of being a leader is getting followers. A person is not a leader if the person doesn’t have followers. The leader should be able to inspire others to see a common future or goal and should enable others to act towards it.

Agile also emphasizes a shared vision to enable the team to work towards a common goal of customer satisfaction and quality product/service. A person can only be a manager by imposing tasks or activities on team members. Agility (flexibility) can’t be achieved in constraints. The leader should be willing to give power to the team members and empower them to take decisions. The leaders should be willing to understand the basic concept of team dynamics i.e. Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing. Once the team is formed, impediments are bound to arise and it’s the responsibility of the leader to resolve the impediments so as to settle the team and motivate the team to act and perform towards a common vision or goal.

Till now organizations have cultured managers who are used to enforce law and order in organizations and deliver a product or service. Not many organizations have nurtured or created leaders in large numbers. Now with the embracement of agile organizations will have to nurture or create leaders with such a high level of qualities which had been in the talk even before the term Agile software development was coined.

There are other leadership skills like enabling others to act, modeling the way, and encouraging the heart mentioned in the book “The leadership challenge” which resonates to a great extent with the modern terminologies of Agile Enterprises. Stay tuned for the next part of the blog “Enterprise Agility needs Leaders!”

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