An Agile Transformation Consultant who wants to lead a successful Transformation is going to need more than a deep understanding of Agile. Simply knowing the methodologies and teaching them to other people is insufficient.
In a recent blog post, we discussed the various types of Agile Transformation Coaches needed to run a sustainable Transformation. In that post, we discussed the different roles and responsibilities your coaches should have, and we asserted that it takes more than just a couple Agile Transformation Consultants teaching people Scrum to affect change. Rather, it takes a team of consultants performing their duties at multiple levels of the organization.
In this post, we’ll look at the attributes this team of people should possess and how these attributes tend to manifest for Agile Transformation Consultants based on their level of professional maturity.
Agile Transformation Consultant: Team Attributes
We’ve spent the last several years investing time and effort into uncovering the attributes listed below. Over time, and through much trial and error, we were able to learn a ton about what it takes for consultants to successfully lead a Transformation effort, remain happy, continue to grow, and thrive no matter their role.
So, without further ado, here are the attributes of a successful team of Agile Transformation Consultants.
The most obvious of the attributes, having the right skills to do the job is paramount. The skills we’re talking about here are the ones that can be identified, enumerated, and tested, and interviewed for.
Anyone who is performing the role of Agile Transformation Consultant must also be steeped in Agile literature and well-versed in all the methodologies so that they not only understand the topic but so that they can also teach it to others.
Second to skills, an Agile Transformation Consultant must possess the experience it takes to be successful. You might assume that experience would be an easy thing to measure, but in the world of Transformation, that would be a poor assumption.
Just because someone has experience installing Agile or leading change, doesn’t always mean they can do it anywhere. The dynamics of your organization are almost certainly different than other organizations, so what someone has done before may not work at the new enterprise.
We’ve found that the most successful Agile Transformation Consultants have a background in which they’ve solved a plethora of different problems and have learned how to overcome a wide variety of potential impediments.
Whoever is on the Transformation team will need to work well within the organization and be able to adapt their consulting style to the unique environment of the company they’re helping.
That said, regardless of the culture, there are certain traits that every Agile Transformation Consultant should exemplify no matter the culture. Honesty and transparency are crucial. Remaining honest and transparent enables you to convey the truth in a way people can receive it. Doing this builds trust. And trust is the currency of change.
Your Transformation team needs to be on message, collaborative, thoughtful, have a strong point of view, and remain adaptable.
Ideally, your Transformation team members are active in their community: speaking at conferences, sharing what they know through blogs and podcasts, and are continuously learning.
Agile Transformation Consultants tend to fall into one of four camps when it comes to what they believe about leading change.
Some believe that change begins at the team level and grows within the organization. And some believe that change begins at the organizational level but that it’s still crowdsourced, and people-driven.
Most believe that focusing on installing team-level practices and take a small-scale delivery focus approach to leading change. Others believe that it’s a systemic issue and want to attack the root of the problem by taking a Chief Architect type approach to solving the problem and leading others forward.
What people believe about change is important. Each team of Agile Transformation Consultants needs a Transformation Hypothesis, and the belief system of your team needs to reflect and support that hypothesis.
Understanding how people will behave when they’re in the middle of a Transformation change initiative is also crucial to the long-term success of a Transformation team. There are some very knowledgeable people who will tend to go and hide when their ideas are challenged. Often, these are the same people who get their feelings hurt and will take a long time to reengage. Not ideal for the team or for the client.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are people who are full of energy but turn into bullies when trying to get others to do new things and adopt new ideas. We haven’t seen one instance where a client has responded positively to bully tactics.
So, we need to avoid these types of behaviors and to do this we use a behavior analysis tool called PeopleDNA. But there are other options out there, too. By using this type of behavior analysis, we have a ton of data on what contributes to long-term success. More on this later in the post…
LeadingAgile uses IQ as an indicator of a Transformation team member’s ability to dynamically build new solutions, based upon the synthesis of experience and their library of knowledge.
We find that people with lower IQ profiles will tend to be anchored on one way that they know and will be hesitant to change when presented with new information. Higher IQ profiles are often more open to change and can process new information in real-time to solve problems.
In a nutshell, emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to read what another person is thinking, feeling, and experiencing. It’s an ability to see the world from another person’s emotional point of view.
Change is scary, and people going through change are often afraid. Sometimes having the right answer isn’t enough. It’s communicating that answer in a way that creates safety, builds trust, and demonstrates empathy. Getting people to do new things and behave in new ways is seldom a purely intellectual exercise.
Pattern recognition is the ability to see the order in chaos. It’s the ability to recognize what’s truly important and move forward, possibly despite conflicting information—or barriers—that appear to be in your way. It’s being able to see the Mona Lisa on a blank canvas. It’s the ability to see Venus in a block of marble. It’s the ability to see the pirate ship in the Stereogram. Being able to see what is possible and lead others toward that vision is key for senior team members.
Systems thinking is the ability to see the whole and to envision how making changes to one part of the system creates ripples through the rest of the system. The design of large-scale organizations is a systems problem. Orchestrating large-scale organizational change is a systems problem as well.
Building a Team with the Right Skill Set Mix
In this section, we’ll talk about the skill set mix required at each level of the organization and take a deeper look into some of the behaviors that the people at each level should display, how they can develop them, and/or apply them in their daily roles.
Junior Team Members
These people are more likely to perform the role of an analyst or an Agile practiced coaching role. In all cases, you want to optimize for IQ and EQ. You’ll want to find people who score as high as possible in these two categories. These two areas are hard to develop and will take time, so you want someone with high marks off the bat.
The desired behaviors qualities are high energy, goal-oriented, outcome-focused, thick skin, and resilience. We’ve found that these behaviors and qualities make for the best change agents. They should also have high respect for authority, pay attention to detail, and have strong follow-through.
Your junior team members will need to maintain a strong point of view while remaining open, flexible, and coachable. They’ll need mentorship, the opportunity to try out new skills on a regular basis, and time to engage with the community.
As they improve, you should see an increase in the areas of pattern recognition and systems thinking.
Senior Team Members
Senior team members are more likely to take on more advanced, strategic roles. Roles such as Expedition Lead, Program Coach, or Technical Coach.
The behaviors and need for high marks in IQ and EQ don’t shift much from junior to senior team members. Instead, the areas of emphasis are different. It’s less important that senior team members respect authority, pay attention to detail, and have a strong tendency to follow through. The reason they don’t need to is that they’re often operating on a more thematic level.
What these people do need is an expert-level understanding of Agile and Agile methodologies. And they need to be able to apply these ideas in situationally specific ways, tailoring them to the needs of their organization. They must be knowledgeable at all levels of scale and know-how to build and design systems.
Executive Team Members
These team members will play the highest-level roles and have the most influence in the overall Transformation strategy. They often fill the role of Transformation Lead, or maybe they’re sponsoring an executive or an Account Lead.
These people need to be held to the highest standard when it comes to IQ and EQ. They’ll have to play a broad leadership role, solve problems, build consensus, and navigate the political dynamics of the organization.
The behavior profile at this level shifts even further away from the behaviors that help junior team members succeed. Instead, executive-level team members need to have the capability to influence and must possess high resilience. Balancing the needs of the Transformation and the organization is an art, therefore, these people’s behavior must be incredibly aware, nuanced, and applied in a way that will achieve the desired business outcomes the organization wants to achieve.
What’s critical is that each executive-level Agile Transformation Consultant understands organizational dynamics, politics, change patterns, change management, pattern recognition, and systems thinking and awareness. After all, these are the people that will be creating the space necessary for the Transformation to occur.
As an industry, we need to stop simply inserting a few coaches into an organization and expecting change to happen. Change is more than just an implementation of Agile methodology. It requires executive buy-in. It requires demonstrable progress. It requires refactoring old technology. And, of course, it requires teaching people a new way to work.
But all that requires work to be done inside, outside, and around the IT department. And you’re going to need a team similar to the one we’ve described above to get it done.