Boosting agility through Invitations

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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”.

In Agile Boost Camp workshop this week I actually heard from a group of Scrum Masters something along these lines: “We see things are broken and we have some ideas but the teams are simply not willing to play along. They are resisting any change/experimentation“. This prompted me to introduce the concept of Invitations, Pull-based change, and Open-space Agility. This resonated with people so much that it was the strongest epiphany/takeaway they mentioned in the workshop summary.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of Invitation – basically the idea is that people are much more inclined to play along with any change if you’re inviting them to play rather than forcing them to play. (I’m using the term play on purpose – the more change is like a game the more engagement we will get. See Mezick’s Culture Game or an interview on InfoQ for a deeper discussion/explanation)

I started with pull-based change inviting groups to go agile instead of mandating an organizational-wide agile transformation a couple of years ago. I talked about this in several conferences including an interactive workshop sharing some tools and techniques. But I’ve only recently started to go the full range and explore the power of open space with the whole group in driving this pull-based change deeper.

For example – Last week I introduced the same Invitations/Open Space Agility approach to a management team that was looking to refresh/tune their agility after a big change in their product focus and organizational situation – namely the need for more teams to work together on a single bigger product area to provide more business agility. Next week we are running a combination of short introduction to a couple of key concepts (If you’re interested – it is a mix of “Large Scale Scrum”, MMFs and tiny stories, No estimates at the story level, Cycle time instead of tracking tasks/invested effort, Tech Safety/Autonomy/Mastery/Purpose focus and ScrumBan Flow) and later on a mini-open-space event to see which of those topics resonate, which other issues/ideas/challenges come to mind in face of the new business agility requirement the group is facing.

PS If you are in Agile 2015 this week try to find Erez Tatcher AgileSparks CEO to talk about our experiences boosting agility…