Is it Time to Evolve Beyond the Agile Manifesto?

The colorful wall posters are ubiquitous in organizations small and large. If you’ve used the word Agile at least one time in your company, then I bet you’re keenly aware of the 2001 Agile Manifesto, which expresses the 4 value statements and 12 principles of Agile software development. Sometimes compared to the Declaration of Independence, many cherish it as the timeless artifact that ultimately spawned the Agile transformation movement. Over the years, I’ve relentlessly referred to it and have respectfully challenged organizations to learn from 15+ years of wisdom embedded within the Manifesto.

From 2001 to 2016 – Where are we now?

Fast forward to 2016 and you’ll see that we’re in a much different place than 2001. The pursuit toward Enterprise Agile and scaling is an industry buzzword and was a major theme at this year’s Agile Alliance conference. With Agile2016’s attendance at 2,500 strong, the learning and cross-industry collaboration is at an all-time high.

As a conference participant, I used the week as an opportunity to exchange learnings and experiences with Enterprise Coaching peers, as well as other leaders and practitioners across this vast space of “Agile”. Through various conversations during the week, the following two themes emerged for me:

  1. Large Enterprises continue to share many of the same opportunities & challenges.
  2. We agree that a principles-first approach toward Enterprise Agile is essential for the most effective adoption of processes, practices and tools.

In short, a guiding set of organizational principles helps adapt processes and practices in an organization’s context while successfully moving the Agile needle in a meaningful direction.

That said, I invite us to ponder the following question:

Are the principles in the 2001 Agile Manifesto still relevant in 2016?

The mid-week keynote seemed to offer a compelling answer to the question. Joshua Kerievsky’s talk on Modern Agile focused on the evolution of Agile and our need to keep pace via an adapted set of guiding principles. Here is a picture showing the 4 broad principles from the 2001 Agile Manifesto (left) and the proposed 4 principles for Modern Agile (right):

 

 

In his keynote, Kerievsky postulated that the Agile Manifesto was relevant when drafted in 2001, but in present-day, Agile has evolved far beyond its original intentions…rendering the original principles as outdated. What do you think?

This keynote article summarizes Kerievsky’s message better than I can, so I invite all of us to learn and draw our own conclusions. For those who weren’t at Agile2016, this amazing visual summary captured the essence of his talk (credit: Lynne Cazaly):

 

 

How do you make Modern Agile real in your organization?

Like the original Manifesto, there is a vast body of knowledge under the covers – including theory & science, thinking tools, practices and skills that must be understood, adopted and mastered in your organization’s context. I would also offer that, for the most part, the 4 principles of Modern Agile are easy to understand …. but extremely difficult to master – especially at the size and scale of our largest global enterprises.

How long have we been asking this question?

This question has been posed for a number of years now, most recently at last month’s Agile Europe panel discussion, and dating back to Steve Denning’s May 2011 Forbes article entitled: Applying “Inspect & Adapt” To The Agile Manifesto. Even The Scrum Guide eats its own dog food by publishing carefully-crafted revisions every few years. But it was intriguing and provocative to see this question reinvigorated yet again on the big stage of Agile2016. So, what’s next?

I’m not smart or wise enough to predict the future of the Agile movement, but I do feel that now is the time for many larger organizations to figure this out if they want to continuously deliver valuable outcomes and effectively compete in their industries.

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Is it time to host a well-earned retirement party for the Agile Manifesto and align toward Modern Agile? Where should Lean principles be considered? I invite all of us to engage with this post by sharing your views in the comments section below.

 

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What Does it Mean to be Authentic?

Brené Brown’s latest post on authenticity captivated me early this morning. In this short read, she responded courageously to Adam Grant’s recent New York Times piece entitled: Unless You’re Oprah, ‘Be Yourself’ Is Terrible Advice.

So, what does it mean to be authentic? And is it acceptable to bring authenticity into the workplace? Rather than having an opinion, I instead draw directly from Brené Brown’s research and conclusions – after all, she studies authenticity for a living.

In my research I found that the core of authenticity is the courage to be imperfect, vulnerable, and to set boundaries.

As noted in her post, her research and books, authenticity doesn’t mean that we just say what we feel to anyone and everyone at any moment. It requires a fine-tuned sense of self-awareness and a keen eye to the situation at hand.

I strive to be fully courageous and authentic in the workplace – each and every day. That said, I have much room for improvement. For example, I sometimes struggle to recognize and throttle my high-energy native wiring within context. Courageous moments evoke strong internal emotions – however, I feel that expressing one’s emotions with compassion is key to authentic workplace interactions.

That said, my working assumption is that compassion is best shown once a bond has been formed (which takes time). This is another area of growth for me, since I have a strong desire to help others — perhaps a bit too soon though. There is much nuance behind empathy, compassion, authenticity and sincerity.

This is part of what Brown means by ‘setting boundaries’. Know your audience, know your imperfections, set boundaries — and then just “be yourself”.

Why is this so important? This is how Brown sees it:

“Vulnerability is courage and also the birthplace of trust, innovation, learning, risk-taking, and having tough conversations.”

To enrich this further, tough & authentic conversations promote transparency, and I have found that responsible transparency leads to better workplace decisions in the face of complexity – think Lean, Agile, Scrum, Large Scrum, SAFe, etc. Without transparency, all of these scaling approaches tend to lead to sub-optimal business outcomes.

I see much depth in her words and conclusions.

What does it mean to be authentic? Is is okay to bring your whole self into the workplace? Consider sharing your experience and views in the comments section below.

 

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The 5 Traits of Real Workplace Leadership

Inspiring Lessons From the Life Journey of Mr. Warrick Dunn

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As many of us prepare for the big college football rivalry weekend, let’s take a moment to learn about leadership from Warrick Dunn, retired USA football star with a storied career in college and the National Football League. Although there is much to celebrate from his sporting success, Mr. Dunn’s real impact is now on full display through his inspiring and selfless service to society in present day.

His life journey inspires me to become a better person and leader. My hope is that his story will do the same for you.

For those who might not know of Mr. Dunn, his non-profit (Warrick Dunn Charities) is dedicated to giving the gift of homes to struggling single parents across the United States. A few weeks ago, his organization reached a heartwarming milestone by giving the 144th gift of homeownership to another single-parent family. Kudos to Mr. Dunn for making a difference in so many lives around the country.

The deepest part of human nature is that which urges people to rise above our present circumstances and to *transcend* our common nature. ~ Stephen R. Covey

Mr. Dunn first made an impact on me over 22 years ago, when…

…as a University of Florida graduate, I had a chance to experience Mr. Dunn at our annual rivalry game against Florida State in November 1993. With the game on the line and the odds stacked against his team, Dunn and the Florida State Seminoles broke my Florida Gator-faithful heart with this jaw dropping 80-yard touchdown reception that can be experienced through the YouTube replay of this classic game (starting at 3:09:19).

If you look closely enough, I think you can actually see me (and 80,000 other Florida Gator fans) shedding tears during this heart-wrenching moment. As I watched him race down the sideline for the game winning score, I remember thinking:

Wow, this guy is something special.

As we’ll learn in a moment, special is a gross understatement. I struggle to find words to describe Mr. Dunn’s humble servant-leadership and the impact he is making in our world today.

This is what makes Warrick Dunn such an inspirational leader

Sure, college football fans love ‘the game’ and yes, I was disappointed to watch my team lose that day. At the time, however, Mr. Dunn was dealing with unimaginable heartbreak and responsibilities off the field.

Earlier that year (in January 1993), his Mom (Betty Smothers, a single parent) was ambushed and killed while serving as an off-duty police officer. This terrible family tragedy put Warrick, at only 18 years of age, into the role of head of household by assuming the responsibility of raising his two siblings. As much as I try to empathize, I am unable to comprehend how difficult it was for Warrick and his family.

Looking back on that day, I am ashamed at myself for being so upset over the outcome of a college football game, especially while Mr. Dunn was dealing with real struggles that actually matter in life. If I could hit the rewind button, I would have responded very differently. Instead of tears of despair, I would’ve shed tears of joy for a young man who deserved that timeless highlight for the benefit of his family, his football team and his proud institution.

Just imagine the level of courage this young man showed as he faced the loss of his only parent and the tremendous responsibilities he had to assume as the Father figure for his family. Throughout that ordeal, he still found a way to continue his studies at Florida State and prepare for the upcoming football season. And it doesn’t end there — as fate would have it, he went on to help lead Florida State to its first National Championship that season.

Warrick Dunn’s relentless focus, purpose and selfless leadership have since elevated his life journey to inspiring levels of success, including:

  • A successful 12-year career in the NFL.
  • Founder of the Homes for the Holidays program, which has made home ownership a reality for over 144 single parents and their families since 1997.
  • Expansion of his mission into Warrick Dunn Charities. Since 2002, his organization has awarded millions in home furnishings, food and other donations to single-parent families and children across the nation.

All I can say is … wow.

What can Warrick Dunn teach us about real workplace leadership?

Within organizations small and large, there are many people who have a job title proclaiming themselves as leaders, but real leadership has nothing to do with our place in an organizational boss-subordinate hierarchy or a powerful job title.

Warrick Dunn is a living example of real leadership, and I encourage all of us to learn from him.

My professional journey continues to reinforce a powerful insight:

We need more REAL leaders in the workplace, especially in the Fortune 500 space.

To be clear, there are many great leaders on display in these big companies now. It’s wonderful and inspirational when I get the chance to witness the emergence of real leadership within the challenging corporate cultures that still exist within many Fortune 500-esque companies today.

However………I believe there is an opportunity to encourage even more REAL leaders in the workplace; leaders who are:

1. Selfless

Let’s all learn from Mr. Dunn’s leadership and what it means to give away a personal ego for a larger purpose. Despite making millions in the NFL, Mr. Dunn has chosen to invest his good fortune into others…lifting struggling single parents to new heights. What does it take for each of us to give away our personal egos at work, so we can mentor and grow others to become better than us?

2. Courageous

Imagine the level of courage Mr. Dunn showed in 1993 as he faced the loss of his only parent. His newfound Father figure responsibilities would’ve overwhelmed almost anyone, but not Warrick Dunn. He faced the moment with the courage to move forward, and look at where that took his life journey.

Workplace courage pales in comparison, but it’s still an essential element of real leadership in an organization. Exemplifying courage allows you to create conditions where your teammates can speak freely when it matters most. What challenges do you face at work? Are there certain situations where you feel scared to tell the truth? Courage is your ability to confront those fears directly, so you can lead your organization toward its larger goals on a daily basis.

3. Focused

Great leaders inspire others, but this inspiration is razor-focused on a shared purpose – which is the vision & mission of the organization. One look at Mr. Dunn’s charity website and you’ll feel the purpose that it serves. In your organization, great leaders understand how to translate the vision & mission into a focused set of business objectives that people achieve…not because they have to, but because they WANT to.

4. Humble

Mr. Dunn does not garner the spotlight. He celebrates the continued success of his work by deflecting the praise toward his charity’s Board of Directors (who are also quite inspiring people). This is a profound trait of great leaders; the ability to melt behind the scenes as others are celebrated for their success.

5. Masters of Their Craft

Great leaders bring a deep level of skills, knowledge and experience in an organization. Like Mr. Dunn, real leaders have lived in the arena (and might still play in the arena), and they use their knowledge and experience to thoughtfully mentor and grow others toward their full potential.

 

 

What does it take to become a *real* Leader?

What makes Warrick Dunn an inspiring leader to you? What other lessons can we learn from Mr. Dunn’s life journey? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below so we can all learn from each other.

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If my writings resonate with you, please consider spreading this message so we can energize and inspire the entire professional world together. I invite you to ‘Follow’ my professional journey through LinkedIn. I am also on Twitter.

6 Tips For Mastering Workplace Courage

Have you ever been in a situation where you were afraid to share a difficult, but truthful statement? Was “the obvious” in the room the whole time, but no one would speak up and talk about it? If so, then the time has come for your organization’s leadership to embrace the importance of workplace courage.

Organizations that appear Agile and responsive on the outside usually have inspiring leadership dynamics on the inside. One essential behavior is when senior leaders support the role of courageous communicators. These emerging workplace leaders bring a mastery of skills and emotions to bear when circumstances are difficult and will surface the “hard truth” that is necessary for the success (or perhaps survival) of the organization.

For a culture of courage to thrive, however, an organization’s senior leadership must be supportive of open and honest behavior in the workplace.

What do you think of this courageous situation?

What if a software company ships a broken feature to your smartphone prematurely and it causes you (the customer) a big headache. Application Developers might have known that the quality was suspect, but perhaps they felt management pressure to ship it because of a competitive threat or a customer obligation. Or even worse, maybe the Developers have a financial bonus that will only be awarded if they ship the feature immediately.

If you were a Team Member in this situation, consider the answers to these questions:

How would this management pressure make you feel?

How would your fellow Team members feel about all of this?

What is important to both the Team *and* Management in this situation?

How can you be truthful to management without getting in trouble, losing your bonus, or getting fired?

This situation can be avoided with Courageous Communication. Perhaps someone would respectfully and calmly step up to senior management and say something like:

I feel like the management approach is forcing us to do something that could be damaging to our customers and our company’s reputation. This feature doesn’t meet our mutually-agreed standards of quality and completeness. If it isn’t “done”, what will happen if we ship it now?

What is Courage?

Courage is a profound value of great leadership, but it requires skillful communication, emotional awareness and a degree of professional safety to be effective in the workplace. Let’s use an abbreviated definition from Wikipedia to dive a bit deeper:

Courage – the ability and willingness to confront fear, pain, uncertainty or intimidation.

I’ve seen many great moments of courage unfold in the workplace, especially in organizations that experience a breakthrough moment in the pursuit of higher performance. Someone steps up and makes a truthful (and possibly painful) statement, but at the same time, this person fosters alignment from everyone and creates a better outcome for all. Have you ever seen this play out in your organization?

Try practicing with this situation

Okay — let’s try this one out:

Imagine you’re invited by a Team to observe a critical lessons-learned meeting at the end of a 3-week software delivery effort. This meeting, called a Retrospective, is part of The Scrum Framework – it’s where a Scrum Team inspects its own ‘ways of working’ and examines its performance for improvement opportunities. It can be a powerful learning event if the conditions are healthy, but sometimes, it becomes another wasteful meeting where nothing is accomplished. In a productive Retrospective, Courageous Communication is critical.

As you are observing as a fly-on-the-wall, the servant-leader of the group (called a Scrum Master) intentionally breaks (or bends?) an important rule of this event & invites senior technology managers to participate, so that the Team’s performance can be “evaluated”. You sense that the environment is uncomfortable for the Team, so when it’s time for the Team to examine its own challenges, the room becomes eerily silent – you could drop a pin on the floor. The managers break the silence with feedback: “We have evaluated each Developer’s performance and here’s where you all can improve ….”

<silence gripping the room>

Now what? Where’s the real leadership in the room?

Out of nowhere, a leadership moment emerges from one of the Team Members that sounds like:

I feel like we all understand the importance of this work and the impact it will have on our company’s success. However, I am afraid to admit that none of us understands how The Scrum Framework is really supposed to work. To be successful, we must acknowledge this and commit to a better understanding of Scrum and how we can all work together for a great outcome.

This person goes on to share the issues with an individual-driven performance evaluation process and how it is putting the Team on the defensive. Suddenly, the other Team members come out of their shells and nod their heads in agreement. This person even admitted a fear of being fired right on the spot for honesty, but felt that it was the right thing to do for the organization.

Wow … I mean … Whoa.

That incredible moment of courage shattered the current reality for the managers, but it opened the door for a shared understanding of the real problem (judging individuals), so they could move forward in the right way (empowering and trusting the Team). It changed everything for this Scrum Team’s performance and the relationship with senior management.

 

6 Tips For Mastering Workplace Courage

This type of communication isn’t easy, but with practice, you can elevate your own leadership ability and exemplify courage to benefit yourself and others around you. Here are a few tips to consider as you examine your own capacity for courage:

1 – Establish a mutual purpose with everyone.

When you’re presented with a fearful situation, first communicate the purpose or goal that’s driving your need for honesty. For example, if we all care about delivering an outstanding customer experience, then we should be willing to accept your thoughts and views (no matter how difficult the truth might be to accept). In addition, if you confirm mutual purpose with an open-ended question, then it encourages open dialogue from others. Silence can also be quite telling, because it could mean that someone does not share the same purpose that you do (e.g., someone’s upcoming job promotion might be more important to them than delivering quality Product to customers).

I’ll sometimes start a difficult conversation with something like: “Since the quality of the Product is of urgency to us and our customers, then I feel that I must share the <reality>. How do others see this?”.

2 – Be open and honest about your own fears.

Courage requires a leader to be vulnerable in front of others. If there is something about the situation that scares you, be honest and say it — respectfully. If you do this, you will help others feel safe to speak their own views in an honest and open manner.

3 – Do not judge.

Read through the example above (again). Notice that the person did not point fingers or verbally attack anyone. Rather, this individual took a non-judgmental stance and did not blame the stakeholders. Point a finger at an issue and not at a person. If it’s a sensitive conversation with your manager, point a finger at your fears and the behaviors that are making you feel that way. Then, seek a common purpose between both of you (see Tip #1), so you can open the door to a fruitful dialogue.

4 – Stay calm.

Don’t let emotions get the best of you. I have seen many situations where someone tried to show courage in the workplace, but emotions were out of control and everyone tuned out. A Courageous Communicator can state “the obvious” in a calm and seasoned manner that helps everyone accept the reality and move forward.

5 – Don’t wait.

The worst thing you can do is go silent and wait until later. If a situation has escalated and the “hard truth” needs to be understood by all, then a great leader will step in on the spot and communicate the truth and foster alignment. The time is now, not later. Just make sure your skills and emotions are in check first.

6 – Encourage and celebrate moments of courage from others.

Courageous Communicators are influential leaders that live in all levels of an organization. Be on the lookout for well-timed and skilled moments of courage, and if you witness courage in action, show some appreciation and praise it! This is a demonstration of your own leadership when you celebrate and encourage others to be courageous in the right way.

 

Are you a senior leader who just read this post?

If so, then Courageous Communication starts with your willingness to lead by example. If you embody this value within your organization, then you will encourage a healthy environment of professional safety where people are completely comfortable to be open and honest when it matters most. If you don’t, then you will hear what you want to hear, but it might not be the truth that you need to make effective business decisions. Agile leaders constantly reflect the mirror on themselves in an effort to continuously learn & improve. Are *you* a Courageous Communicator? Are you fostering a culture where courage is valued?

Have you witnessed Courageous Communication in action recently? What was it like? I invite you to share your experience in the comments section below.

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If my writings resonate with you, please consider spreading this message so we can energize and inspire the entire professional world together. I invite you to ‘Follow’ my professional journey through LinkedIn. I am also on Twitter.

Bring “Empathy in the Air” in 2015

Is 2015 the year for you to expand into a leadership role? Are you focused on becoming a better leader this year? As you head back to the office, consider adding “Develop a sense of empathy” to your list of New Year’s Resolutions.

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Do you travel for your job? Extensive travel is a must in my profession, so like some of you, I spend a good deal of time in the skies. Over the years as a “road warrior”, I have found flying to provide a powerful source of continuous learning and professional growth. Think about some of the most interesting people you’ve met on flights and what you learned from them?

So, let’s board my last flight of 2014, so we can better understand the capacity for empathy and how it differs from sympathy. As you experience this flight with me, think about how you can leverage a sense of empathy to improve your own leadership in the workplace.

Empathy – to share or recognize emotions experienced by another…one may need to have a certain amount of empathy before being able to experience accurate compassion.

Sympathy – the feeling or expression of pity or sorrow for the pain or distress of somebody else.

An Upgrade from Coach Class to the Coaching Class Cabin

Earlier this week, I was quietly settling into a routine flight home for the holiday when the gentleman to my left offered a conversation-starter:

“Great evening to fly…”

And with that simple invitation, we started a conversation.

As we took flight and climbed to cruising altitude, our conversation emerged into a meaningful dialogue for the bulk of the journey. It turned out that this gentleman (15 years my senior) was a seasoned and successful business leader who graciously allowed our conversation to transform so I could tap into his wisdom and reflect on my own performance as an Agile Team and Leadership coach. I then realized that I had been unexpectedly upgraded from the Coach Class cabin into the “Coaching” class cabin.

Throughout our dialogue, he demonstrated an uncanny ability to understand and relate to personal and professional motivators, the feelings of success and failure, and how those emotions influence my own professional behavior. It created a conversational environment of trust and safety that allowed our discussion to dig deep for learning moments and improvement opportunities. By the time we landed and approached the gate, he had helped me generate new ideas for my own coaching toolkit to carry into the New Year. The conversation felt genuine and a connection had been made.

That conversation is an example of how great business leaders use empathy to elevate the performance of people, teams and organizations.

I’ll help us explore this powerful capacity further into the New Year, but for now, consider watching this brief, but eloquent message as a starting point for developing your own sense of empathy. As you’ll experience in this clip, empathy and sympathy generate strikingly different responses – and it’s important to understand the difference as you expand your own leadership potential:

 

As a leader, are you looking to fuel connections, or drive disconnections? How will you inspire your organization to reach new heights of success in 2015?

What is your sense of empathy?

So, as we wrapped up our conversation and the plane stopped at the gate, a sudden scream for help startled the cabin. After some scuffling and head-turning, one of the crew members announced with urgency:

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a passenger medical emergency. Please stay in your seats until further notice.

After a few minutes of waiting at the gate, passengers behaved in different ways. Some stayed silent. Others reassured the rest of the crew and provided support. Some muttered statements like: “Must be an anxiety attack.” … “Hope it’s not too serious.” I even watched one passenger look at a crew member and ask, “The emergency is behind me. Why can’t I just leave the plane now?” Most passengers, however, showed a genuine look of concern in their eyes, didn’t really know what to say, but clearly understood their role to stay put.

Which responses showed empathy, sympathy, or even a lack of empathy all together? How would you have responded?

As several emergency personnel worked their way into the cabin, it became clear that the situation was potentially serious. The passenger in distress was a small child, and as this child was carefully carried off and connected to medical gear, one passenger decided to exit immediately behind the child’s upset mother while the rest of the passengers remained in their seats and waited patiently for the crew’s instructions. As this one passenger rushed off the plane, he muttered, “Gosh, that’s so sad.”

The passenger to my right, who had not been a part of my “in-flight” dialogue, looked at me and said sarcastically:

Empathetic, huh?

Before you return to the workplace this New Year, consider testing your own sense of empathy. What would an empathetic vs. sympathetic response feel like to you, and how can you translate those feelings into effective leadership behaviors in your organization?

What insights do you have to share? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below so we can all learn from each other.

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If my writings resonate with you, please consider spreading this message so we can energize and inspire the entire professional world together. I invite you to ‘Follow’ my professional journey through LinkedIn. I am also on Twitter.