Do you happen to have an agile model that fits my company?

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Agile Coach at Agile Coaching AR
Life lover and learner. Enterprise agile coach. Casual gamer. Creative Change Agent.
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Latest posts by Carolina (see all)

It’s really hard to copy another actor and be successful. In fact, that’s usually the reason people are not good, because they’re copying something they’ve seen, but, for some reason with their face and their body, it doesn’t work. Jesse Eisenberg

Some clients call me: “hey, I need to implement agile” because they have been told it really works. Many believe “agile” will solve all their problems magically; and they are surprised because my first response usually is: “let’s have a conversation and see what I can help you with”. As we are chatting and they tell me how they are working, about the issues they want to overcome, improvement points and so on; they realize at that moment that the transformation will not be immediate: it has nothing to do with going to a mall, putting it all in the cart, paying and enjoying.

It won’t happen overnight, we have to make it happen, work for it.

Spotify to go, please

Spotify is famous for their successful kaizen culture. Another case is ING (financial services), which has implemented “the Spotify model”, with specialized tribes which turn business objectives into reality and squads teams guided by an agile coach.

That is why many companies want to clone Spotify methods and its model.

Ok, but it works, right? Why not replicate it?

Some time ago I heard: “if you don’t sell music in the internet the Spotify model is not for you” Copy and pasting models is like trying the Cinderella’s shoe on. You might be lucky enough for it to fit you; one in a million chances. The rest of us mortals have to try on several pairs of shoes before we find the one that fits perfectly.
Replicating a work system exactly as they do it in another part of the world (generally) won’t suit your needs, because your company is unique, the people which work in your organization are unique, their values, their culture, their motivations and interests are unique. Of course, you can share and investigate about similar issues they had and how they solved them that can give you an idea about how to work out your own unique and particular problem. You can also extrapolate the basics as a map to follow a similar trail and design experiments to enable a smart failure, put ideas to test, correct and repeat.

So the question should be: how did Spotify make it? They took their time for researching, failing and successfully rethinking their processes until they came up with this model that works perfectly for them and continues to evolve, it is dynamic and adapts to the market, company scaling and the people who work there.
How did Spotify scale agile within their organization? Three words: inspect and adapt. They started with Scrum, then they realized they needed to tailor some practices to scale this model to the whole company as it was organically growing up. This was also thanks to the help of coaches like Henrik Kniberg, who fostered the changes within the company, and are still exploring and developing new techniques and practices.

Surfing the change curve

If you want agile to work for you in your company, you have to add your personal touch, tailor and shape it to the people you have and go over on your own ideas, transform. Adopting a methodology (copy & paste “by the book”) represents a burden for everybody in the organization. On the other hand, evolving is soft, light and progressive.
Sure, you have to start somehow, and the most common approach is to walk through the Shu Ha Ri stages until the transformation and internalization of the process has been completed and mastered. Many of us (myself included) have applied the theory directly at first, getting some headaches in the way, and setting the bases for the agile thinking and learning mindset from where we built up our experience.
You have to be aware that this change is a project itself: it requires analysis, experiment’s design, execution, revision and adaptation of the strategies. You can start with one or several teams at the same time, and continue iterating until the desired stated has been reached. (And continue growing, of course!)
 change curve


During the project you will be surfing the Change Curve through five stages that will affect the morale and trust of your people:
  1. Stagnation (Paralysis)
  2. Preparation
  3. Implementation
  4. Determination
  5. Fruition

This change curve will also be presented in an agile way, the first stages will be specially highlighted in the first iteration, and we will use them as the base for the next revolutionary steps.

In stages 1 and 2, Stagnation and Preparation, we listen to and observe their reactions to change without judgment. We simply let the people involved express their feelings, complaints, purge their emotions into catharsis; not for so long, though. Resistance is inevitable and you have to be aware and alert to prevent a negative state to be contagious to the rest of the teams. We can use our coaching skills to neutralize the arguments and turn tables to focus on the benefits this change will have once the whole company is transformed.

From the beginning make a clear statement: things will change around here, explain the future and desired state and the boons to be expected from this transformation. You can also describe these stages, without going into too much detail so as not to generate false expectations, because every organization has their own way and time to transcend their boundaries.

Particularly during the Preparation we will model and reframe the actual conditions into an agile mindset to establish the basics for the next phase. I like to make some games and simulations during this lap to enable the mind openness to new ideas, paradigms and rethinking their environment.

In phase 3, Implementation, we start the evolution through iterations. We go deeper into the roles, processes, tools and we cocreate little improvement experiments to be tested. We start with a couple of teams and brainstorm, design new experiences and form the teams.

In stage 4, Determination, we measure the results, inspect and solve conflicts, analyze the failures and success produced by these exploration labs.

In the final lap of the iteration, Fruition, we capture all the lessons learned and recycle them as components for new experiments, we reflect about the changes and keep on innovating. We celebrate our conquests as a team and as an organization, and codesign the plans for the next iteration.

During this whole process you will notice how every person goes thru these phases at their own pace. We can take this opportunity to empower the individuals who are more advanced in some aspects of the process to help the others, and cultivate the brotherhood spirit together. There will be some people who feels they are losing control of the situation, or losing power, prestige, trust, value; and it is our responsibility as coaches to help them be part of the process and collaborate towards a healthy teamwork culture. Everybody has to be an starring actor of the change.

This post was first published in my blog in Spanish:

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