Blog : Transformation Tales

Is Lean methodology a Panacea? (24-May-2021)

The quest for better models to help improved delivery of software solutions continues. I am seeing a lot of interest in adopting lean principles to software development. I like this kind of cross pollination of ideas and thinking from other fields of engineering to permeate into software development.

However, there are a few basic differences between software engineering and other fields like production engineering. In production engineering most of the thinking and planning happens before and then the tasks are executed. In software engineering, the thinking and execution must happen together. This is because of the progressive elaboration - which is a unique aspect of software development. In this situation, it is very difficult to define the efforts required for completing development tasks. Add to this, many other variables related to business, technology, platform, environment and the skill levels of the engineers. This is why most of the techniques of estimation have failed consistently. When we add dynamic changes the scene becomes chaotic.

The fundamental assumption of lean principles is that each task takes a pre-defined amount of time and the time spent on production and waste can be identified and segregated. This is very difficult to achieve in software engineering. It is also very difficult to capture the individual time spent on each task, when the developer is shifting from one to another. Most importantly, when I am thinking about a task and take a break, does it count for waste or productive time?

When the work is not physical and is more cognitive and thinking related, it does not make sense to adapt some models. If a developer tries a piece of code, fails, and keeps changing the code to find what works, can we segregate which is waste and which is productive?

Whether we use Value Stream Mapping or any other tool to identify waste, the effectiveness will be limited due to limited applicability.

Yes, there are some glaring time wasters which can be identified related to code migration or some manual tasks. But it cant help beyond that.

There is no panacea which would solve the challenges of software development, except improved skills and an open , agile mindset, which is continuously learning and evolving. This must be understood by all stakeholders.

Why teams are frustrated with Agile and Scrum? (08-May-2021)

There is something not right with the way teams are implementing agility.

Talk to any developer, any scrum master or any product owner. You will get the same response , in most of the cases. Talk to any top management leader about agile. You will only get a politically correct answer. Talk to any customer and you will here most of the time that the objectives of going agile are not fully being realized.

I see both sides of the coin when I interact with senior professionals who have been implementing Agile/Scrum for more than a decade. They understand what needs to happen. They also understand why everything is not happening. They seem to know the reasons as well. But many are struggling for a solution.

What is not working, in spite of all the talent, all the efforts and all the right intentions? The missing link is Influence.

What I have understood over the past few weeks is that all these people are looking for that single solution, a silver bullet, which, when adapted and implemented, would resolve all the issues. But intuitively, we know that there is no such thing. However, most of the organizations and teams are approaching Enterprise Agility exactly that way. As one of my senior consultant friends said, it is like a kid wearing the pants of daddy to look mature.

I have struggled with teams trying to adopt models and frameworks. I tried to help them by showing what was not working. I tried to educate them by sharing the benefits and the possibilities of better future. I encouraged them not to blindly implement the models and frameworks without understanding the rationale behind them. I got only partial results. After the initial euphoria, things are back to the original state within a few months. What else can a coach do to help his teams?

I found that solution - no that toolkit which can help. The missing link is influence. Yes, we are only telling people why they should do agile, how they should do agile and what to do for the same. Not enough!

We are not being inclusive. We are not considering the teams' and individuals' points of view. There is no buy-in from them. They are going through the motions as told to them. The best example is your Daily Scrum. How many of you are finding it really effective? Yes, there are a few organizations and teams which are able to pull it off and are excelling in becoming agile. They are experiencing exponential growth because they prepared for the same. They made themselves ready for the journey.

That is possible for all the individuals, all the teams and every organization implementing agile. We need to bring in the aspect of influence. The key to change is influence. I found this amazing set of tools and techniques from Enterprise Agility University. These proven tools and techniques based on decades of research and testing, can empower you to be an influencer to help your organization adapt and transform. Your teams will be equipped to handle the exponential challenges of today and tomorrow.

This is a toolkit, which needs to be deployed only after understanding the specific organizational context. It is not a "one size fits all" solution.

Would you like to change the way change happens? Please get in touch for more information.

Why unconscious competency is a barrier during change? ( 06-May-2021)

When we want change, why are we protecting the status quo?

One of the most neglected strategies to drive change is restructuring. While companies use it to some extent during M&A, mainly to pacify the senior management team of the acquired company, we don't see restructuring as a regular ingredient of a change recipe. This could be because the management considers it a major disruption to work flow and does not want to rock the boat too much.

However, every major change requires people to think and do things differently. Why would that mindset set in, when they don't see themselves in a different setting? If II am sitting in the same office or at the same work station, but am expected to follow a different set of steps and processes, it is difficult to do so. This happens because when we are in the same setting, we tend to follow the steps using the unconscious competency acquired over a period of time of practice, doing things in the old ways.

What needs to be disrupted then? We need to force our mind to start looking at things and surroundings differently. have you observed that when you change your work location at home, while working from home, your thinking process changes in a subtle manner? Do you observe that you are able to generate new ideas and do new things? This can happen because you have disrupted your thinking patterns.

One of the best ways to disrupt thinking patterns is by changing physical location, reporting structure, change of department , change of role, change of job content etc. Most of the time , we don't experience any major change of job content. We are told to do things differently, b adding additional tasks.

Do you see this happening in agile implementation? A developer continues to be a developer but he is asked to attend a few ceremonies like daily standup, sprint planning etc. What is the additional value he sees in them? When he sees them as rituals because scrum prescribes them, he just goes through those motions without really adopting the mindset change required. How to bring in this change, without which the agile adoption becomes half baked?

Imagine a reshuffle of team with a new scrum master and PO. What happens here? And most importantly, if the team does not find the regular manager around, what would be the impact? Many organizations make this mistake of retaining the old reporting structures while superimposing the scrum team structures. Why do we need a PM in an Agile environment?

When we want change, why are we protecting the status quo? It is highly recommended that organizations should change their internal reporting structures as a part of their change initiatives.

In the next article we will discus the need for social reorientation within the organization.

Why 70% of change initiatives fail? ( 05-May-2021)

Surprised? It is true, as per studies of Mckinsey and Company. This series of articles focuses on the reasons for failure and possible remedies.

As most of the change leaders have experienced, technology plays only a small part in any change initiative, even if it is about rolling out a technology solution. The larger concerns and barriers are with people, their mindset, insecurities, relationships and power equations. Add a change of strategy to the mix, it becomes more confusing. Bring in the necessary restructuring, all hell breaks lose. Heavy bargaining and political parlaying will take off. Solution?

A change leaders, we need to first understand and acknowledge that there is a lot to be done above and beyond training the users.

Why the change is necessary? What are the intended benefits? These things are usually talked about. But have you ever heard of a change of business strategy as a part of change program? You may say that your strategy is in place and this change enables that strategy implementation. That was true thirty years ago.

Today, the world is changing as we speak. The markets and technology are growing and changing exponentially. The world has become VUCA and the shelf life of your strategy has reduced dramatically. Can you afford not to change your strategy in response to the market needs? That is the gap we see today. Management teams are struggling to keep pace with the everchanging and highly demanding markets and in their struggle to keep the ship afloat, they are not looking at the map, which itself is changing dramatically, along with currents, winds and depth of waters.

A constant reorientation of strategy is necessary which we call Outcomes Agility. If you are not doing this you are missing something. If your change program is not considering and leveraging this as one of the key inputs and critical success factors, then your transformation initiative wont deliver its promise.

In the next article, we will talk about restructuring. Stay safe.

CIO alone cant drive enterprise agile transformations. (04-May-2021)

Leaders understand that Technology by itself does not bring about enterprise agility and it is just an enabler.

I was in a discussion with some senior scrum masters and agile coaches yesterday. During the discussion a question came up about the role of CIO in driving enterprise agility. While people may think that agility is CIO's responsibility, in reality CIO can contribute only up to 15% to 20%. Because it is not about just technology interventions. Worldwide, we have enough examples of failed ERP implementations to prove this point. Many companies are also struggling with agile implementations for this reason.

Stop looking at your CIO for driving agility.

Enterprise Agility transformation needs a multi-pronged approach. It also needs a strong foundation of mental agility and social agility to address the fears, concerns, apprehensions and assumptions which become barriers to change in the minds of all the employees. For enterprise agility, every employee and every department must be involved. All the employees must be aligned both individually and then collectively to bring them together into the change journey.

We need neuroscience based tools and techniques here.

The next steps are to bring in the outcomes agility and related structural agility. You may say that, without clear outcomes, how can we start the process. You are correct. But the reality is that the vision and objectives with which you may have started the transformation journey may become redundant along the way, due to the exponential changes happening in the markets. How can one cope up with that, without embracing outcomes agility and constantly realigning the strategy, goals and objectives?

Even this is not adequate. With every change, one more major underlying change which is warranted is structural in nature. How do you bring all the people involved together? How can we break the organizational silos? This is where a flexible and agile org structure is necessary. Apple has done a great job here. That is one of their sources of agility and excellence.

Only when we address all these layers, technical agility can take roots and enable the organizations to become truly agile.

Existing frameworks are not helping. We need a different set of tools and a comprehensive approach.

Interested in knowing more and learning how to do this? Explore the "Certified Change Consultant" program in the courses offered.

Please contact me for any further queries through

Why top-down communications do not work to drive change? (03-May-2021)

“people do not resist change. They resist being changed” – Peter Senge.

The resistance to change happens at the individual level. And there are 5 levels of resistance. The job of a change leader is to help people go through these steps. These steps are related to the level of threat perceived, level of involvement, level of skills and level of team dynamics. A typical top-down approach of communication is necessary but not sufficient. Therefore, the typical change communication fails. People are doing what they can rather than what is necessary.

ADKAR model helps to some extent but we need specific tools and techniques to convert resistance to willingness. This is not going to happen by merely communicating change vision, benefits etc. It is also not going to work by doing workshops and training programs to enable teams with skills and tools necessary to implement change.

The higher the perceived threat, the higher is the resistance and the higher is the time required to align that person to change. Unlike a product launch in the market, we cannot depend on the adoption curve model hoping to find some early adopters. A few powerful people with enough influence can derail a change program. The change leader must engage with people individually and as a group to elicit these internal barriers driven by their own mental agility and mental models (facts, perceptions, emotions and values). We need to use a few tools and techniques driven by neuroscience. please see below.

It is impossible for any change leader to do all this by himself. He needs a team of well trained change consultants who understand these techniques and who can help him with the program. At Enterprise Agility University, we have developed well researched processes to get such teams ready. Feel free to connect if you need further inputs. Stay safe.

The Only Leadership Skill you need

The only meaningful skill for a leader is the ability to drive sustainable change. All other skills and competencies are enablers which wont help in isolation. Without that vision and mission towards a better future and execution towards the same, all these skills don't mean much.

Leaders themselves must become driven so that they start walking the path and start rallying the followers willing to join the journey towards change. The most important thing here is that everyone has their own definition of the end state based on their own expected outcomes. It is nearly impossible for any leader to ensure that everyone's needs are satisfied.

However, can the leader create an environment where that can happen? Can he provide enough flexibility for people to be able to realize their own individual dreams and aspirations by accomplishing the change? This is where mindset comes into play. Connect with me if you wish to change the way you are driving change

Leaders redefine the way change happens

Leaders change the way change is adopted and make it contextual to every stakeholder.

The biggest problem with enterprise change is that people don't connect with it personally. They think that the change is the latest fad, idea of the day or flavour of the month. Most of them think that this too shall pass and don't do anything to adopt, hoping it to go away or die its own natural death. Why does this happen?

Most of the leaders and managers fail to connect the change to the individual team members and teams. When the team members ask why, the stock answer is that top management wants it done. This confuses the team members and they don't commit themselves or do so half heartedly.

How do you ensure this connect at the individual level? This is a critical success factor and without changing the mental models and the way people connect to change. Feel free to connect with me to discuss how we can make your change initiative effective.

Leaders are Change Agents

Leaders are change agents who create sustainable change which would outlast them.

Having worked with multiple models, standards and frameworks for three decades, I realized that there has always been this missing ingredient in every change initiative. The focus was more on the milestone like getting certified or complete the training. The business results were expected to happen magically.

Organizational change does not happen that way. It is about helping people realize personal and professional growth and related benefits through the change, so that they stick to the new way of doing things and enhance the same. But very rarely you see a framework talking about changing the employee mindset.

Would you like to know more about bringing that mindset change so that your change program starts really delivering business results?

Leaders are OK with baby steps

Leaders understand and accept that every journey starts with baby steps and wont be perfect; and don't let that become a barrier.

During my weekly conversations, my coachee told me that he has not started one of the action items as he felt that he was not yet ready. Over the conversation, we could recognize this pattern where a few other actions were also postponed for the same reasons that he would not be able to get them right.

When I pointed out this, he suddenly saw that it became a barrier for him, stopping him and delaying his actions and progress. He agreed to start those actions immediately.

Many times, we wait for the perfect result, the right time, the right tools, the right level of skills etc. That would never happen as something or the other will always be missing. The best way to progress is to start with what you have. It wont be perfect, It wont be great. It wont be face book worthy. So be it. Just go ahead and do it. You will start building that skill and within a few months, you will see better results. Start today. Feel free to contact me if you need support