Agile Leadership in Practice

Posted on

October 29, 2019

I had a great day at Agile Tour London and was humbled to have been asked to present “Agile Leadership in Practice” in the Leadership track of the conference. Drawing from my own experiences of leading Fimatix and client deliveries, I’ve distilled what I’ve learnt (so far)

I believe Leadership in 2019 is about inspiring, motivating and developing people to achieve their goals and in turn the  goals of the organisation. To achieve this, leadership distills out into four main leadership activities that lead to four outcomes.

Purpose leading to motivation

Motivation is crucial to organisational success as motivated people are more productive. All the research says that people are most motivated by a sense of purpose i.e. what they are doing is valuable to others in non-financial ways.  Vision/mission statements have their place but they are subsidiary to purpose in motivating people.

Feedback leading to growth

This has two aspects; the organisation needs feedback from the marketplace to identify new opportunities and improvements to existing services.  Also the organisation needs people to be the best they can. Constructive and positive, timely, feedback enables people to grow and stay motivated.

Delegation leading to empowerment

The people closest to the customer or citizen are the people best able to understand user needs and react promptly to addressing them.  The best way to do this is to give them empowerment, including financial responsibility. To do so, however, an Agile/Adaptive Leader has to make sure that the team is mature enough to accept the responsibility. The way to do this is using one of the delegation models such as Kenneth Blanchard’s situational leadership.

Organisational design leading to culture

Motivation, growth and empowerment are all aspects for getting the right culture for your organisation to thrive.   To enable this to be embedded and sustained all the structures of the organisation, from job descriptions and performance management to corporate governance, align to authentically support and encourage the right behaviours. These structures don’t emerge, they need to be designed and iterated.  If you don’t redesign, the old ways will re-assert themselves.

The last point, in particular, is likely to be controversial in Agile circles that strongly promote “self-organising teams”.  My view is that self-organisation is a useful concept for competent, stable, mature teams where the delegation has clearly been completed.  In most other scenarios it is risky and could exclude many people who like or need clear structure.

For more detail see the slide deck Agile Leadership in Practice or get in touch.