The other day I wrote about agile and change and why it is key to have an agile leadership, and create prerequisites for it. I argued that instead of changing organisational structures, you should put your money and effort in starting to develop an agile management and leadership for people on all levels. So, I thought I might take a bite on that sandwich.

The sandwich of agile management is a multifaceted one, with lots of layers of yummy stuff. And to chew the whole thing you can dig deep into Management 3.0 by Jurgen Appelo. I’m not going to describe it because he does that beautifully himself. No, I’m just going to stay with the bread and butter – of where to start…

What are the prerequisites for managers and the entire organisation to act and live an agile mindset? A couple of bright students yesterday posed the question. Actually, they used the term leaders but as they meant leaders with a formal mandate and managing role, let’s continue with the manager-term.

Well, why not start with a couple of questions “what are they being judged on”? And “why is a manager being promoted?”. And think about the answers to those questions. Do they support an agile mindset of transparency, trust, motivation, short cycles, etc.? If not, wherein lies des Pudels Kern? They’re judged on results of course. But how is that measured? Often, in keeping budgets and reaching strategic to operational goals or financial KPI: s distributed throughout the org.chart. Sure, it’s also important to have satisfied employees, but that always comes in second. Digging into that I would suggest you catch up on Beyond Budgeting and think about what is doing most damage in your current financial set-up and what small changes you can make without trashing the whole system all at once. Experiment!

Having done that; educate your managers about agile, not only scrum but really focus more on the values, principles, and mindset. (I’m sure everyone working agile can relate to the fact that we repeatedly throughout the day get the question; what is agile? Has it got anything to do with agility, you know, the dog sport?). Use games, role play, scenarios, anything that can spark insights. And try using some of the tools, as retrospectives on shorter cycles. Always a good way to learn.

At the same time you’re educating your managers, take a good, long look at your HR processes. What are their purpose? I argue that traditional HR-processes are being used as a tool to exert command & control rather than creating prerequisites for people development and awesomeness. There it is. Science, experience, common sense all tell us that traditional HR is not working. Use the same approach here; what is doing the most damage and what can you change without trashing the whole system at once. Experiment!

Taking a company that’s been around for a while and is being run as a traditional organisation and try turning that into an agile one is hard. It is in fact very hard. But, there is no going back. Something needs to be done. But please, by saying we’re going agile doesn’t mean you go from one fixed system to another. Being agile means adapting and being ready for change when change is needed. Agile is no recipe!

And don’t eat the whole sandwich all at once. Start small, change incrementally. Go for the pull-factor of change and be careful to push too big of a change on the organisation in one time.

I’m rooting for you and firmly believe that nothing is impossible, it just takes a bit of time.