Category Archives: Change Management

SAFe Invitations – Part 2/3 – Management Workshop and Vote-of-confidence-driven open space in QuickStart

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

In part 1 of this series about inviting Invitations into the implementation approach for the Scaled Agile Framework I described the issue I have with Mandates and started to describe the Invitational style focusing on inviting groups to go SAFe but not forcing them to.

Local leaders Mandating the Direction once they’re convinced of it

  • Once a leader decides that it is the right timing to consider SAFe for his group I typically recommend she run a “management workshop” where she basically invites leadership team to learn more about SAFe together (using the “Leading SAFe” as the content).
  • They then decide if/how to actually go about implementing it rather than mandating SAFe based on his decision. This is her involving her leadership team in the decision whether to mandate the direction or in other words create a Commander’s Intent around SAFe for the group. They discuss implementation details but but leave lots of them open. They’re avoiding mandating the practices to their people. 
  • In other cases where a leader wants to start using agile or scale it and is not sure about the approach I would still recommend she go through a “management workshop” but in this case that workshop would look at the various alternatives/options and help the leadership team choose the best fit for their context whether it is one framework or a mix of practices from a couple of frameworks or case studies.

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SAFe Invitations – Part 1/3 – Pull-based Change

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

As I wrote before, there’s a lot to like about SAFe™(The Scaled Agile Framework™). One of those things is the way some pro-level facilitation techniques are weaved into ceremonies such as the PI Planning and Inspect and Adapt workshops. SAFe™also leverages one of my favorite change management patterns which is starting with leaders.

Two areas for potential improvement (On top of my earlier ideas) based on my experience with enterprise-level agile transformations are:

  • How to go about convincing people in the organization to start using SAFe.
  • How to go about deciding about the details for what aspects of SAFe to use and how.

For both of these aspects there is a pretty strong default approach in the market today – The Mandate/Push approach:

  • This is the “Easy” way where a central group decides for people both when they will “Board” the SAFe train as well as exactly how their train should look like.
  • “Easy” because it might seem to be faster, require less of those “softer” discussions with people, and come up with a better solution because you as the SAFe Program Consultant (internal or external in this case) took the longer class and know best what to do.

I don’t think SAFe™advocates this approach explicitly but it is simply the common way most agile transformations (or change initiatives in general for that matter) happen. See and for some more details about my issues with this common approach and my suggestions for alternatives.

I’m just one voice in a growing community of concerned agilists that have seen too many of those mandated agile transformations fail to deliver real agility over the long run. Daniel Sloan wrote recently: “Any organizational transformation must be fueled by a collective sense of urgency for change”. Or go to one of the fathers of agile, Martin Fowler, who wrote in 2006 in an article called The Agile Imposition “…Imposing an agile process from the outside strips the team of the self-determination which is at the heart of agile thinking.”. Or Mike Cottemeyer on the topic of Can you mandate an agile transformation:
If you view agile as a set of practices, or as a way of performing your day-to-day activities, or as a set of ceremonies and artifacts and roles that people are required to perform… I’d suggest that, while probably not impossible to mandate, at best you’ll get malicious compliance if you try. (Note: If you’ll read Mike’s post you’ll see he actually believes the overall transformation CAN and SHOULD be mandated but that the PRACTICES should not. I agree. Wait for parts 2 and 3…)

I use a different approach in most of my enterprise scaled agile engagements. In this first part of a 3-part blog series I will focus on the “When” decision where I prefer Pull over Push. Or Invitation over Mandate. What does it mean exactly?

  • Based on some trigger like successful pilots, conviction, mandate from a client, Organizational leadership together with probably a central change agents group decide upon Scaled Agile as a strategic transformation direction. We can say they are Mandating the Direction or providing a “Commander’s Intent” to use Maneuvering Warfare terms.
  • They DON’T specify who should transform when and they don’t specify nitty gritty details of the how. They mandate the direction AND invite people to choose that direction and find their way there.
  • Some of the leaders in charge of what can become Agile Release Trains  then accept the invitation and pull the change (rather than be pushed or forced to run through a mandated change at a mandated time that fits the “Gantt” for the overall transformation)
  • Note this doesn’t mean the central agent is passive. It means she is pro-actively marketing/selling the change but not forcing it.
  • The timing for the “buy/pull” should be the group’s timing not the change agent’s timing.
  • Marketing/Selling can involve things the SAFe implementation best practices already recommend like running SPC/Leading SAFe classes internally or providing the opportunity for possible candidates to join a public class sponsored by the change champion’s budget.
  • It can mean publishing internal case studies/success stories from early adopters. (I provide some more ideas and details in my several talks on the subject. Go here for a pull-based-change-management index).

Coming up next in part 2 – Using the Management workshop and a twist on SAFe’s great “vote of confidence” technique to continue the invitation theme inside the group starting their SAFe journey. Part 3 closes the series with a discussion of Open Space Agility and how it can connected to SAFe

Open Space Agility Handbook Book Review

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

I’ve been playing and experimenting with the idea of pulling people into agile transformations instead of pushing them for several years. I find the idea holds great promise and these days I try to integrate it into my work as an enterprise lean/agile consultant whenever I can.
I found the Open Space Agility movement/framework headed by Daniel Mezick pretty useful as a way to structure/guide my way.

Daniel and a couple of colleagues just released a short and sweet handbook about Open Space Agility.

OpenSpace Agility Handbook on Amazon

Tho book provides very useful introduction and guidance for those interested to move from the Push/Mandate world to the Pull/Invitation/Opt-in/Consent world that is much more aligned with Lean/Agile thinking of “Respect People”, “Individuals and Interactions” and “Self-organized teams”.

Especially as this idea is disruptive to how agile transformations typically happen these days (as do other types of changes/transformations), having a “big picture” and a book, especially one so clear and instructive will help the idea “cross the chasm”.

If you’re already familiar with Open Space Technology you will find the “Open Space Agility” specific extensions coverage most interesting. If you’re new to Open Space Technology this handbook provides an “executive summary” of what you need to know if you’re considering inviting it into your organization.
Even as an early adopter and a follower of the Open Space Agility movement I found some illuminating details in this book so I highly recommend it for anyone considering launching a lean/agile initiative or is frustrated by the oppression and lack of energies around an existing initiative.

Here’s some of my previous materials around this theme:

Pull-based Change Management Blog Post

Lean Kanban France 2014 Interview around using Kanban/Pull as an enterprise change management approach

Boosting Agile through Invitations




Boosting agility through Invitations

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

As you probably notice boosting agility is a key theme in AgileSparks these days. We saw it as a key interest area for people in Agile Israel 2015. We are seeing lots of interest in our “Agile Boost Camp” workshops. And we are seeing more and more clients that come to us seeking help boosting their agility.

A repeating concern that came up in many of those situations is that the “spirit isn’t there”. People are running the “usual suspects” set of agile/scrum practices but it “doesn’t feel natural yet”. When looking deeper it seems like there’s a two-fold problem. The practices need to be tuned, some deeper practices need to be adopted to support agility. And when wondering why people don’t run engage into an “inspect & adapt” learning cycle it turns out that people are disengaged from this “agile thing”. Continue reading

A Minimally Valuable Agile Mindset (a.k.a Agile Mindset is more than one thing…)

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

Stickiness comes with Mindset

Today in our morning call the AgileSparks coaching team discussed what are some indications that a company/group has reached a stable level that they will continue to at least sustain and ideally improve from (which means we can sleep well at night knowing our mutual efforts are not going down the drain)

One of the indicators raised by my fellows was that everybody in the organization and especially the leaders are not just operating mechanically but also have an agile mindset and their de-facto decisions/actions show it. Examples that came up included “Letting Go/Stepping Back”, “Trusting the Team to pull”.

An Iterative/agile approach towards an Agile Mindset – It is NOT All or nothing

This brought up a discussion where I played the Devil’s advocate (Oh well, I didn’t play it) – saying it was a problematic indicator. Why? Isn’t agile mindset great? Yes it is. And examples such as the ones raised as well as “Fail Fast”, “Inspect and Adapt”, “Iterate”, “Accept incomplete information”, “Stop Starting Start Finishing”, “Treat inventory as waste”, “We can improve/grow” (a.k.a the agile/growth mindset) can all drive great decisions/actions. Continue reading