Agile for Executives

I have been working more and more with Executives recently both from within IT and external to IT; CIOs, Executive Directors, Directors, and Senior Managers.

In these sessions curiosity about agile has been piqued, which has led to wanting to learn more.

In these information sessions I have found both the Agile Manifesto and the Declaration of Interdependence do not resonate.

In the main this has been due to their focus on software and delivery, not to say these aren’t good focal points, but that they do not seem to resonate with those at the top of the organisation, and certainly not with those outside of IT.

Inspired by the work of David Anderson, I have used (in addition to the manifesto and declaration) a new set of principles that provoke executive thought.

On the left side I state the principle, on the right pose alternative questions if we choose to keep the status quo.

I’m not suggesting we need “yet another manifesto” or more dogma, but I have found this resonates with executives, challenges them and gets them thinking.

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11 thoughts on “Agile for Executives

  1. Aren’t these rather suggested practices? I’m not seeing a “Why” anywhere, i.e. why should they do all these things? Is the goal just to be Agile? Knowing you (albeit not well) I’m guessing not. Perhaps you can add a third column that expresses the value of each. Without that, I can see this just becoming another compliance document.

    • The “Why” comes through discussions with the execs instead of being explicitly stated. In my experience the “Why” differs per context. The goal certainly isn’t to “be agile” or to “go agile” etc

      • Yes, dialog is always better. So why have this document at all? It does smack of YAM (yet another manifesto). Whenever things are written in this way they are likely to be touted as gospel. “Hey, look what I brought down from the mount, now listen up, you heathens…”

  2. Excellent post. I too have noticed that Agile Software development stops being useful the further away you move from software development, but talking to managers about mindsets and models and “alternative” management thinkers also has its limits. Here you present a fairly concrete list of starting points that managers will actually respond to. Great job. I will have to remember to jot down some ideas to take with me to the Stoos stampede.

  3. Thanks David. I like the proposed right side questions as it states the status quo which I think often people don’t realise what they are effectively doing by ignoring the principle.

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  5. Hi David

    I think it is an excellent tool you created, I have in the past used similar ones to drive home the point that chosing to not act can have or create consquences just like acting. Unfortunately many executive fail to realize that. Any tool that help get people at the upper levels to start thinking more about the future is useful in my opinion, to many of them spend more time spinning yesterday’s results.

  6. David J and I had a similar concept around 1,2, and 4. And I have used just those points with incredible success with execs, the agile manifesto just comes off as motherhood whenever I talk to the non believer, others may have a different experience.

    I built a whole deck around it, and use it every time I need to introduce Lean/ Agile I use those points. The why comes as past of the conversation…

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  8. Hi David, A late comment to his post;
    I find the last one a bit less useful than some of the others because the complexity of knowledge work is a relative concept and related to the work Director X does, many other knowledge workers jobs may well seem simple.

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