This is a case study, a story, of how one organization changed their delivery culture and used Agile training as a cultural intervention to level up their delivery leads and their teams.
The Delivery Culture That Wasn’t
A mid-sized tech development company who was growing fast and experiencing the consequence of growth pains. They were what they called ‘practicing agile’, and yet they were struggling with team cohesion, decision making and delivery.
Teams did not feel heard.
Teams felt like they were getting stepped on.
Ideas from younger team members weren’t taken seriously by older team members.
The attitude around meetings was ‘Why would I bother coming to a meeting where you’re going to ask me my opinion, but you’ve already got a solution figured out? Why don’t you just tell me what to do, and I’ll go do it? Don’t waste my time.’
Team leaders were frustrated by on-going team resistance. They struggled to get their teams on board with new ideas or changes in the direction that the leaders knew needed to happen.
Teams would revisit topics that had already been discussed and decided, because, in fact, they hadn’t really been decided.
This lack of team cohesion and the constant resistance to ideas and change impacted product development and delivery. The process impeded creativity and efficiency. It caused frustration for everyone involved.
None of this is good for a growing tech company looking to break through the market and survive long-term.
This company was growing quickly and knew they needed to be more adaptable in their execution. They had laid down the core principles of agile. They thought they knew agile well.
But why were they still not seeing the results they needed? They had spent thousands of dollars in agile training, but they were not seeing the improvement results they expected or needed from this effort.
What was going on? How could this be fixed?
The Pitfalls Before Delivery Culture Change
The world of work is becoming more adaptive. No longer do we create five-year strategic plans or twelve-month project plans and expect them to be relevant past the end of the week. Markets and needs change quickly.
1 We need businesses who understand agility and adaptability at a core DNA level. Training is just one component.
2 We need leaders who can guide the process internally. Agility does not happen in big movements; it happens in small decisions that get made at a moment in time. The point where a leader says: I’m going to choose emergence over knowing all the answers upfront. Or I’m going to trust that the team will produce value, even if I don’t quite understand exactly how it will happen at a level that would make me comfortable.
3 The problem is viewed as a knowledge gap rather than a systemic issue. Sometimes in the case of facilitation, yes, it is a knowledge gap, but it’s also so much more. Just acquiring the new knowledge will not solve the systemic challenge in an organization that has a culture of leaders showing up late to meetings, refusing to hold themselves accountable to working agreements like ‘no technology’ during the meeting
4 No internal champion or sponsor. Training is procured by a vendor or even developed in house. Intervention and culture change at this level requires someone with seniority and gravitas inside the organization to be an ongoing champion
5 Training staff in the practices of agile without skills in how to help teams implement them – beyond the “what”, ensures that your teams spend their whole day in meetings without the skills to make them effective. It also makes everyone hate meetings.
6 Helping teams, scrum masters and agile coaches make some of the key mindset-shifts needed for agile, but failing to engage middle management and executive leaders or provide them a path for their own leadership growth.
7 Keys To Success of Delivery Culture Change
Today, this company is thriving!
Teams are high-performing, and the delivery leads are equipped to handle challenges as they come. Newer team members have more senior delivery leads they can lean on to help mentor them through tough team dynamics.
These are the reasons of how they got there:
- Laid down the foundations of agile – mindset, practices, key principles. They know why agile is important. They understand why you’re doing it.
- Effective collaboration and facilitation skills are table stakes for agile transformation. Facilitation is not optional. Everyone in an organization needs to understand what makes meetings effective. We need to wage a war on ineffective meetings that waste time and just repeat the same conversation over and over again.
- Used a competency model for agile coaching – scrum masters and agile coaches are being asked to lead teams in different ways. We are leaving behind the days of telling people what to do, putting everything in a project schedule and managing to the schedule. Effective meetings and collaboration are at the heart of agility.
- Developed the skills of facilitation and coaching throughout the organization – at all levels. Patrick Lencioni in his book “The Advantage” said “there is no greater way to change the culture of an organization than by starting with how they meet.”
- Leaders went first. Leadership must model and support this – not contradict it. Leaders hold power and privilege over those learning. The fastest way to frustrate someone who has just learned a set of skills that light them up is to not support it. Mid and senior level leaders in the organization need to develop their own leadership.
- Setup systems that support and reinforce what people are learning. When the skills of facilitation and coaching are not supported by the organizational structures they will not stick. Training in large organizations we often hear, “When will my boss go through this training?”
- Built the competence of facilitation and coaching. Facilitation and coaching are professional bodies of knowledge. To become certified in either one requires hours of learning and practice, which helped to embed these skills through competency development programs.
- Competency cohort with certification
- Learning circles
- Coaching circles
- Work with a professional coach
- Get mentoring and supervision from a professional facilitator
You Can Facilitate Delivery Culture Change Too!
Training programs CAN be one component of a successful intervention. If you want to change the culture, start by changing the way you meet. Management must get on board. Agile as a culture starts at the top. The leadership team must lead by example to create real cultural change. Companies who are willing to invest in this change can have real, lasting impact on employee morale, creativity, efficiency, future change and pivots.
An agile culture leads to greater productivity in less time, tapping fully into the creative and intellectual capabilities of the entire team; making employees feel valued, heard and a part of something bigger than themselves.
We Are The Team To Help Your Company!
We at TeamCatapult are a team of passionate, caring agile coaches who want to help your team transform, find your path and flourish. We want to help you get unstuck. We want to help you find true collaboration, creative process and team efficiency.
We believe deeply in the principles of Agile.
- Able to bring clarity to complex situations
- Growing in Capacity and Capability
- Conversations are fundamental
- Performance is directly tied to leadership effectiveness
- Organizations are perfectly designed to get the results they get
- Challenges are addressed from a whole new system view
In research and real-world application.