The concepts of improving agility and adapting a product driven mindset are not new. Yet many companies struggle to make any meaningful change. Why do they struggle? In short, they invest in Agile training and focus on processes but fail to address culture, roles, and talent skills. They slap new labels onto old roles without changing organizational structure.
Below are five adjustments companies can make to have success changing to a product-driven model with measurable results:
Form stable cross functional teams. A stable cross functional team is made up of people from different areas within the company (IT, business, operations…etc.). This is a shift away from functional silos where resources are farmed out to various projects. Allocating resources to projects follows the outdated Taylorism philosophy that people are replaceable.
Within cross functional teams, experts work together to achieve a common goal. Over time the team develops synergy and becomes high performing. The team synergy exceeds the productivity of individual efforts.
Work is brought to teams instead of “bringing people to work”. Teams that stay intact allow for expertise and relationships to build over time, improving velocity and moral.
The picture below represents the product team model made popular by Spotify. The squads are teams, and the chapters represent skillsets.
Hold business and technology organizations accountable. Agile delivery is not only an IT practice. The business needs to be committed and held accountable for the success of product outcomes. In a recent study conducted by Deloitte of companies that implemented Agile methods, they found that 31% of the business still did not understand Agile. The business must have skin in the game, and they must go through Agile training.
Hire and train for emotional intelligence. Tech skills are essential, but interpersonal skills and business knowledge are more critical than ever. Since the product driven model is team based, team members need to be able to collaborate. This is all dependent how well the team can harmonize, which requires emotional intelligence or EQ.
When a team is made up of people with high IQ and EQ, the team has a strong group IQ. Group IQ is the sum of the talents and skills on the team. In Daniel Goleman’s book “Emotional Intelligence”, he writes: “The single most important element in group intelligence, it turns out, is not the average IQ in the academic sense, but rather in terms of emotional intelligence. The key to a high group IQ is social harmony.”
Managers need to empower and coach, not command and control. In a product model there is a shift away from command and control towards trusting teams to make decisions. This removes the organizational bottleneck of decision making and enables work to get done faster. Management hold teams accountable for results, but teams are empowered to make decisions.
Agile training can help managers understand their role in an agile product-driven organization. They will learn how to let go of control and start coaching. Sir John Whitmore, author of coaching for performance, defines coaching as “unlocking people’s potential to maximize their own performance” (Whitmore, J, 2017).
Develop technical acumen for business leaders. Business leaders today must have technical acumen, this is the new normal. Business and technology work together as one. Technology leaders also need to have strong business acumen. More and more we are seeing the need for technology leaders to step up and lead beyond their role in IT. Leaders with strong technical and business acumen are best positioned to lead their organization towards increased agility.
There has never been a greater need for agility than our current era of digital transformation. By shifting to a product-oriented approach, companies can stay competitive and deliver value early and often to their customers.
About the Author: Mike MacIsaac is a principal IT consultant for MacIsaac Consulting, providing IT Agile and cyber security consulting.