A platonic dialogue on agile leadership
We have a fundamental change upcoming (like the move to more agility or the introduction of a system-wide Definition of Done).
What do we do?
Agile Leader: What if we get everyone in a big room & come up with a vision and steps for this to together?
Traditional Leader: Ouch! Imagine all the billable hours of the people just talking! I think we need to make a clear proposal in a small group and ask everyone in the company meeting, if they have any objections.
Agile Leader: Hm, but then not everyone will have spent effort in defining the steps. They will not own it. Consider this piece of wisdom:
.. But my rose, all on her own, is more important than all of you together, since she’s the one I’ve watered. Since she’s the one I put under glass, since she’s the one I sheltered behind the screen. Since she’s the one for whom I killed the caterpillars (except the two or three butterflies). Since she’s the one I listened to when she complained, or when she boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing at all. Since she’s my rose.
Le pètit prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Will we sustain our change like we would water and care for our rose together, if leadership had just presented a solution in the company meeting?
Traditional Leader: Ok, I see your point. Would be nice to try. However I have one more objection:
Traditional Leader: Can large groups converge or are they only good for divergence? I hate all those futile discussions in groups.
Agile Leader: This question has been driving facilitators for decades. Divergence is the airing of different perspectives and options. Convergence is the integration of some, elimination of others in the service of one next idea everyone supports.
Between divergence and convergence the gods have put the groan zone. Yes it’s painful. But getting people together will just get the real pain out faster, provided we do converge and don’t get stuck. Groups need help and good facilitation to get over the groan-zone and into convergence and action.
See Samuel Kaner: „Facilitator’s Guide To Participatory Decision Making„.
New communication patterns to help group convergence have been showing up since the 60s. Today these are hitting the mainstream and are being implemented in the companies that will disrupt tomorrow.
Look into Open Space Technology or the newer Liberating Structures. Also check out Systemisches Konsensieren – a method originating in Germany and finding more and more followers.
Go check your local MeetUp Directory. Having experienced one of these might give you a new perspective.
Traditional Leader: Don’t let yourself be interrupted. You’re sounding beautiful..
The double diamond
Agile Leader: There is still one more point regarding the diamond of divergence & convergence in groups, that Design Thinking has to offer to us.
We will get much better results if we invite groups to diverge and converge separately on the problem and solution space.
Consider: Most complex changes are ambiguous in both spaces (E.g. What do we want to achieve next year – time2market down? quality up?, adaptivity up? – and what should we try next quarter to get there (Start implementing proper Kanban? Deepen our crappy scrum in one or two teams?, try LeSS for 4 teams? Gradually migrate 4 teams to feature-teams?)
Designers speak about the double diamond.
First diverge on the exact question, then converge on a question/problem to solve.
Then diverge on solution approaches. Finally converge on those. Finally move to action and validate in cycles. It looks like this:
Traditional Leader: I admire your eloquence you beautiful one.. I have to run. Got the next board meeting coming up..
Agile Leader: As an intermediate organizational development step we could converge on the problem definition in a small strategic circle and invite a large group to own the solution space. What do you think?
Traditional Leader (one the way to next meeting): Sure. You’re great. Keep you’re ideas flowing..