Evan Leybourn, Cofounder and Head of Thought-Leadership & Advocacy
- 🌎 Evan Leybourn on LinkedIn
- 🌎 Business Agiity Institute
- 📖 2022 Business Agility Report: Business in the New Normal
Martin Foster, Consultant at Teamform
About this podcast episode
The drive to business agility never ends, but there are inflection points ⤵️
Evan Leybourn and Martin Foster review the changes, trends, predictive indicators, and insight that form a global view of organizations’ business agility journey.
In this podcast, you will learn the following:
✅ The purpose and design of the Business Agility report
✅ Global trends in business agility
✅ Predictive indicators
✅ Time to benefit
✅ Challenges in achieving sustainable business agility
🔭 Changes we see on the horizon
(transcripts are auto-generated, so please excuse the brevity)
Bill Raymond: I don’t know if this is an internationally-known term, the red tape, the things that kind of slow things down comes back again. Of course we don’t want to run people through the ringer like we had to in the pandemic, But we do want to keep that excitement going regularly adding value for our customers.
Martin Foster: That’s a hundred percent what came through in the Long Form Commentary in 2020.
Martin Foster: And then in 2021 what we like started feeling is this going to be a lasting change? So we asked that specific question. Do you think this mechanism will hold? And at that point in time, people were telling us like, yep,
Martin Foster: We can move faster than we did beforehand and we believe this change is going to be long-lasting. In other words, it won’t snap back.
Speaker: Welcome to the Agile in Action Podcast with Bill Raymond. Bill will explore how business disruptors are adopting agile techniques to gain a competitive advantage in this fast-paced technology driven market.
Bill Raymond: Hi and welcome to the podcast. Today, I’m joined by Evan Leybourn, co-founder and CEO of the Business Agility Institute and Martin Foster, consultant at Team Form.
Business Agility Report 2022
Bill Raymond: And we’re going to be talking about the Business Agility Report 2022. And why are we in 2023 talking about it?
Bill Raymond: Because the Business Agility Report comes out at the end of 2022, so we have a lot of learnings over the last year.
Bill Raymond: Hi Evan. Hi Martin. How are you today?
Martin Foster: Very good. Thanks, Bill.
Bill Raymond: Wonderful. Great, so let’s go ahead and get started.
Bill Raymond: I’d like you to introduce yourselves. Evan, can we start with you?
Evan Leybourn: All right, well, good morning, good afternoon, good evening, wherever you happen to be, wherever you’re listening. I am Evan Leybourn. I, as Bill kindly said, I am the co-founder CEO of the Business Agility Institute. I have been doing this little thing called Business Agility now for, oh, what are we talking now? 15 odd years. Agile, it’s almost 20 years since 2003. So I have some little experience in this space and I’ve been a team leader, I’ve been an executive, I’ve been a consultant and now I run a global research and advocacy organization and I love every minute of my work that I do the work that I do. It’s fantastic.
Bill Raymond: Yeah, and you were on last year as well when we talked about the Business Agility Report, so I really appreciate you coming back and joining us.
Evan Leybourn: For you, all the time.
Bill Raymond: Thank you so much. I appreciate that.
Bill Raymond: And Martin, can you share a little bit about yourself?
Martin Foster: Well, yeah, so Consultant doesn’t tell you much. What I do day to day is dive in with, like various customers to be larger organizations. And they’re really not happy with the way work is being done. And part of that I think lends to like structure, you know, the way where they were mostly, it’s about doing projects in the past and now they want to get like cross-functional teams going, which aligns, you know, better to value streams the company’s doing. Something we’ll talk about shortly. Yeah, so help them just understand the teams, how people get in there and I guess we found ourselves a little niche that if you’re going to have hundreds of teams across your organization, you need to give a little bit of thought about how you’re going to change them, why, what sort of work is flowing into them, how the parts connect.
Martin Foster: And that’s very much where I specialize these days. That’s it. I get a lot of questions of like, Hey, what’s the benefit behind, like nimbler ways of working agility and all that. That’s why about five years ago, just through happenstance, I met Evan and he was talking about this report, and hence we’ve been collaborating and on it ever since.
Martin Foster: Prior to being in this field, I was doing product management, and then way, way, way back in the telco engineering space. I have to say, I really enjoy like just working with people, watching organizations get more fluid, people get happier at work. It’s all really, really gratifying.
Bill Raymond: Yeah, and it’s a great community. So let’s go ahead and get started.
The Purpose of the Business Agility Report
Bill Raymond: Before we dig into this report, maybe you could share the purpose of the Business Agility Report with us a little bit, Evan.
Evan Leybourn: We didn’t actually start out being a research organization. The very first thing we did was a conference. In fact, the conference actually predates the institute. It was the success of that first conference that gave myself and Ahmed Sidky the inspiration and the confidence to build something.
Evan Leybourn: But about six months after we started, I was in India speaking at Agile India. And one of my heroes, Linda Rising, was there giving her talk, giving her keynote, and she said the words the plural of anecdote is not data. Which is a deliberate misquote, but her point was our entire industry is based on, if it works for me here, it’ll work for you there.
Evan Leybourn: Which kind of falls apart when it, these are complex adaptive systems, companies, organizations, it’s not a simple matter of, oh this organizational structure that works for a 3000 person Scandinavian music tech company, well that’s going to be the perfect operating model for my 500,000, 50,000 person bank. A hundred year old, 200 year old bank. And obviously, you see all those kind of issues and problems. So that inspired us to kick off the, basically a research arm. Because we don’t do consulting, we don’t do training, so we’re independent. And that independence puts us perfectly aligned to undertaking a research, which is good.
Evan Leybourn: And the Business Agility Report being an industry trend study is, well, was the very first thing that we tackled really taking a look at what exactly were people and organizations doing, and what did it look like? And this is now, what are we talking like six years later? So we must be doing something right.
The methodology behind the report
Bill Raymond: It’s an interesting report. It’s about 30 pages, it’s all very visual and, and easy to take in and it covers a pretty vast number of areas. But I’m curious, what is the methodology behind the design of that report, Martin?
Martin Foster: Yeah, the report is basically a really broad survey of what’s going on in the industry based on the respondents. And it’s mostly like, over half of the people responding are from organizations with over a thousand people. And the broad survey component is, we’re basically asking a question of how are you doing in this measure?
Martin Foster: And there’s like about 26 measures that we’re trying to triangulate around. Sort of a scale of like one, really poorly, nine really well. And averaging that all over the end gives us a business agility maturity score. And we use that to base high performers from like mid-range, understand trends from it.
Martin Foster: We rate high performers as people that score an average of seven or more on the scale. So when we say things later on today in the conversation about like, this is a thing that high performers tend to do, that’s what we mean. It’s like that top cohort. We also ask a set of a few long form questions and these are about like, hey, what is the benefit that you observe?
Martin Foster: So we’re only asking people to tell us about one. And what is the biggest challenge you’re having in your like, business agility journey? We then do some qualitative analysis around all this, which means we read a lot. And that tends to give us two things. It gives us that broad feel. Okay, so what are the different challenges that come through? And those have been shifting around through the years. But people also inject in their, like, I guess the flavor of the year. When Covid hit in 2020, there’s this big inflection point after that about how organizations had to change.
Martin Foster: 2021 was still very much like, how have we pulled through that? And a lot of the commentary this year, which is why we have a secondary survey on all these things, it was about some difficulties with attracting and retaining staff and what that meant for them.
Bill Raymond: One of the things that we’ve learned since the beginning of this is the way that you study an industry is very different to the way that you study an individual organization. One of the things that we’ve had to look at is we’ve had to go very deeply into specific companies and understand what’s the shape of agility inside that organization.
Evan Leybourn: And when we talk about that, we talk about some of the principles.
Evan Leybourn: Principle number one, agility is a continuum, not a state. There’s no magic point where an organization has agility.
Evan Leybourn: Principle number two is that there’s a range of agility inside an organization. You’ve got highs and lows, so the lived experiences of any individual person is not and will never be representative of the entire organization. And even inside a single team, they’ll be good in some behaviors, say psychological safety, and weaker in other behaviors, say adaptive planning. And it means that when we are studying a company, we have to go deep and broad inside the individual organization.
Evan Leybourn: But for this report, because this is an industry trend, one of the things that we’re able to do is, yes we may only have 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 data points for a single company depending on how many people take the survey, but because we’re not saying how good that company is, we’re just saying what is, what’s the shape in general? We find that we get those organization, once we have enough data points, we actually have a fairly good representative sample because we might get someone who sees the high parts of an organization rates that highly, but we’ll see another who sees the low parts or sees different parts.
Evan Leybourn: So overall, the trend comes out relatively correct. Which is obviously a good thing when you’re trying to do a study.
Meaning of agility
Bill Raymond: Sure, and I do think this would probably be a good moment to just check in with you and ask what you mean by agility, because right here on this podcast, I can’t imagine how many times the word SCRUMs come up when you say agility. So are you implementing SCRUM? This is not what you’re talking about, you’re not just talking about framework implementations. Maybe you could just kind of give a more global perspective of what you mean.
Evan Leybourn: That’s a really good question. All right, so let me start with our definition of business agility or just agility. The behaviors, capabilities and ways of working, not practices, not principles, not frameworks. It’s not what you do, rather it’s how you act. Is these capabilities and ways of working that affords an organization, your organization, the freedom, the flexibility and resilience to achieve your purpose, to serve your customer.
Evan Leybourn: And in the magic six words, no matter what the future brings you may have a product market fit and you may have a way of working that serves the customers you have today, but are you able to handle whatever the next thing the world throws at you? A lot of organizations really struggled. And so when we are looking at business agility, I want to be very clear, Agile with a capital A, the Agile Manifesto so the values and principles of the manifesto, the practices and frameworks of SCRUM or SAFe or LESS, or Kanban, these are our heritage. They are a tool. They are enablers towards some elements of business agility, but they are insufficient in their own right and inappropriate in others.
Evan Leybourn: The third principle, is that there are thousands of ways of achieving agility.
Evan Leybourn: And the fourth principle for reference is that the only way to achieve lasting change is through cultural and behavioral change. You change behaviors. Processes and frameworks can help to change behaviors, but they’re not the only way nor are they sometimes the best.
Evan Leybourn: With agile being our heritage and our focus being on all of those thousands of ways and ways that we’ve never heard of to achieve agility, that’s one of the reasons we do focus on behaviors more broadly, because it doesn’t matter to me whether you are doing SAFe or SCRUM beyond budgeting or throughput accounting.
Evan Leybourn: It doesn’t matter to me whether you’ve got agile or something happening in HR. If the organization, if people across the organization behave, act with agility, they have agility, no matter what you’re doing in order to serve your customer.
What are the overall global trends that you saw when you developed this report?
Bill Raymond: I have a number of questions that I guess either of you can answer. The first one is we talked about global trends, so what are the overall global trends that you saw when you finally developed this report?
Martin Foster: In the past five years we have been seeing like the average maturity score of respondents increase, right? So it’s showing like, first people are getting better at what they’re doing and we’re also seeing the number of high performers grow.
Martin Foster: So we’re seeing like good industry directions, I think some really nice inflection points over the past few years. Again, COVID being a big instigator for that. So it’s, I guess overall like a very positive thing. A couple of other indicators that are like neat to bring to the fore is we see having leadership engagement is super important to the success of anyone trying to improve and change the ways of working.
Martin Foster: If the board or the C-suite says, hey, there’s a problem here and we really want to address it and improve our nimbleness, That tends to generate better results. So your higher performers tend to have a lead happening higher up in the organization.
Martin Foster: It’s not to say that you can’t do something in your local area or business unit. It’s just like for broader, longer lasting success, it tends to have to like percolate up and be led by the board. We also see, and we’ll talk about it a little bit, there’s some time to benefit realization that’s coming through globally.
Martin Foster: So we can talk about just what that means and over what horizons, when people start to see benefits coming through.
Martin Foster: The survey does collect some demographic data and we see some geographic feedback coming through on this. So we can overall say that, hey, what we’re talking about like holds for North America, it holds for Europe, it holds for Asia, holds for Oceania. And we’re getting like deeper levels of interest, just globally, like Africa is showing up, South America is showing up, whereas we didn’t have that many responds in the early years about this.
Martin Foster: So we can very much see it’s a global trend connecting through.
Evan Leybourn: Well, and one thing just on the global trends, this has actually been changing over the last few years. We had some really, I’ll say unusual, unusual shifts where North America dropped quite substantially during the pandemic. So average maturity was out of 10, 4.9, dropping down to just around four and rising back up to like 4.8 this year.
Evan Leybourn: And so there did seem to be in 2021 this malaise, this frustration with all sort of continuous change. Oceania Australia, where Martin and I are, we moved backwards and so during 2021 we rose up, we went from about 5 to about 5.6 and now down to about 4.7. And so there’s this like Covid 2020, 2021 had this really disruptive effect on how different organizations responded.
Evan Leybourn: So it’s been interesting seeing those trends over the years.
Martin Foster: One last trend that’s probably worth mentioning, is we’ve been tracking the average maturity score of organizations and comparing it against their size. So when we started off, I guess it’s almost like this intuitive thing that like smaller organizations with less people, you know, probably more nimble, like it’s just easier, there’s less people to communicate and coordinate with.
Martin Foster: So we saw this inflection point for the first couple years where as an organization got larger until about 150 people, which tends to be like people’s interpersonal communication limits, they would be very, very nimble. And then as it got bigger, beyond 150, so like size 1000, size 10000, their average maturity scores would drop down.
Martin Foster: But as the pandemic hit and exited it like 2021 and then this year, that curve of like bigger organization, less nimble, is basically flattening out. And that’s a very big change, right? And it’s also one, I guess we’re happy to see.
Martin Foster: So it’ll be interesting to see if it continues on, but the reasoning behind it from some of the long form commentary, seems to be that the bigger organizations had a uh-oh moment as part of the pandemic, and I guess invested a lot more in their practices and their way of working and just their ability to respond or else perhaps they weren’t there anymore to answer the survey in following years because it was a big shift.
Martin Foster: it’s this super interesting thing to see that the leveling of this curve is happening. So we’re really going to keep an eye on that coming reports.
Evan Leybourn: We just spoke with the CIO of Mono County here in California and he was talking about the fact that one of their biggest value adds to the pandemic was they were able to quickly respond to things that maybe took a lot longer to respond to before. And one of the things that he’s worried about is the fact that we had this ability to work very quickly, to respond to customer needs more quickly. And the concern of course is that, I don’t know if this is an internationally-known term, but you know, the red tape, the things that kind of slow things down kind of comes back again. And I think a lot of people are worried that, you know, of course we don’t want to run people through the ringer like we had to in the pandemic, that wasn’t sustainable to constantly just have people working 24/7 to change systems. But we do want to keep that excitement going and that constant change and regularly adding value to our systems for our companies, for our customers.
Martin Foster: That’s a hundred percent what came through in the Long Form Commentary in 2020. Organizations said we had to change overnight. Roadblocks got out of the way. And you know what, we’d like this, right? We’d like this ability to just be able to get through, decide like the priority was all of a sudden clear, you could line everybody up behind it.
Martin Foster: It’s like the bureaucracy vanished because the communication, the why, like just really came through. And then in 2021 what we like started feeling is this going to be a lasting change? So we asked that specific question. Do you think this mechanism will hold? And at that point in time, people were telling us like, yep, we’re still having, you know, at that point, 12 to 18 months in, we still have a lot more clarity, vision.
Martin Foster: We can move faster than we did beforehand and we believe this change is going to be long-lasting. In other words, it won’t snap back because people like what they see. But it’s a really good point. Like it, I think in the next few years we’ll have to keep on like probing at this a little bit. Did the organization snap back now that the urgency dropped, and if it did, what was behind that?
Indicators used in building the report.
Martin Foster: And this is one of your predictive indicators, aren’t they? I think you listed as a culture of relentless improvement, but there’s some other indicators that you use in building this report. Can you talk through those?
Martin Foster: There are three key predictive indicators to business agility. So this is the survey asks around 26 factors and what we found is that high performers consistently scored really well, or really highly in three of these indicators. We did a little bit of statistical analysis to make sure they were independent.
Martin Foster: And then I guess from 2019 through to the latest report, so four years running these indicators persevered. So what are they? It’s having a culture of relentless improvement, right? So in other words, it’s possible to have a little break, go back, revisit and think about what you did and then choose like something to do better next time.
Martin Foster: And just having that available as a mechanism, culturally, I don’t really care how you pull it off, it’s just that there’s openness to have it. That’s one of those big driving forces. The other one is structuring against value streams so that people organized clear line of site towards the customer.
Martin Foster: And they’re organized around like some key capability product there that the organization is delivering. So it’s like a structural thing. And I guess it’s kind of like the antithesis of being structured around business units or silos that have to interchange between each other. Here we’re talking about a clear value stream, but all the different skills are all like present and together.
Martin Foster: And the last one is having adaptive funding models. Funding is a crazy thing. This is about like, I have my budget but I can change it, I can move things around to respond to you know, needs of the customer or external forces or even just like this really fantastic idea that we’ve had. We’re not set in stone.
Martin Foster: So yeah, those are those three key predictive indicators. And again, what we’ve found is that yeah, high performers tend to score really highly in these three points, which leads to a suggestion that if you were like, what do I do to improve, most likely investing in one of these three things and improving one of these three behaviors is going to get the better results.
Evan Leybourn: So one of the things that I’ll add there is again, for your audience, the irony is that agile is not one of them. It’s not even in the top 10. So just because an organization is doing SCRUM, SAFe, LESS, Kanban, whatever. There’s no strong correlation between doing agile and business agility or the key indicators of business agility.
Evan Leybourn: Now obviously, there are elements there, for example, the retrospective that drive elements of indicators like relentless improvement, but agile is very much something that is an enabler to a lot of these things, but it’s not enough. And I think this is where a lot of organizations have historically failed with their transformations because they’ve invested heavily in agile. Transformation is funded out of technology or product. They hire all of these amazing coaches. They embed them and they create these new ways of working. And those teams that are being coached and the teams with new processes feel like they achieve good outcomes and they feel better, but they’re planning, for example, like a, a, a two year transformation program. But they release almost like the maximum potential benefit of agility within six months because the constraints to agility.
Evan Leybourn: Theory of constraints or with apologies to Eliyahu Goldratt, Theory of Agile Constraints. An organization can only be as agile as at least agile function and that’s not technology anymore. So those coaches have made these teams better, but the constraint, the limitation, the bottleneck to greater agility moves.
Evan Leybourn: Maybe it’s the PMO, maybe it’s operations, maybe it’s HR or finance. But once the constraint moves, the coaches don’t. The coaches and the transformation stays focused in this one particular area and they just, they keep optimizing. They keep hyper optimizing in this one space but the actual systemic benefits aren’t being realized, because those systemic benefits require the system, right, the constraint to be released somewhere else in the system, for example, HR.
Evan Leybourn: And this kind of tension leads to organizations; either: one, going oh this agile thing doesn’t work, we didn’t get the benefits we were promised. Which is just because you’re not focusing in the right area anymore. It was right six months ago, 12 months ago but it’s not right now.
Evan Leybourn: Or two, they say, oh, we’re done. Now, we’ve achieved all the agility we can achieve. Again, it’s misleading because yeah, you’re not going to achieve any greater agility in those teams. You have to maintain the agility that you’ve created.
Evan Leybourn: But the rest of the organizational systems, and as will say, those other organizational systems are almost sometimes hostile to agility. So they’re going to keep pushing back. So once those coaches go, right, if you just get rid of all the coaches, you’re going to lose everything that you’ve got because you haven’t reached a sort of a sustainable point. And that sustainability is kind of key.
Martin Foster: I think just to add to what Evan was saying, I’ve been up speaking to a lot of practitioners in the field and you very much see that incarnation of constraints, like an area of the organization gets better and then it’s like, whoa, why aren’t we improving anymore? Why can’t we act on the improvements we wanted to do next? It’s because, well, now you have to deal with a broader set of people and let’s go bring the next group into the tent. But it’s also why the one size fits all doesn’t work so well because every organization I’ve worked in that next constraint has been different.
Bill Raymond: Yeah, I can understand that. And I think that’s something we can all relate to, if we’ve been working in a company for any more than three months, probably. Project management office is a good example. I used to do a lot of consulting around helping organizations set up PMOs for things like a large ERP deployment or some big capital project and they work. Right?
Bill Raymond: But it’s interesting to see the differences of how people kind of accept that. There is those that say, well, thou shalt install a PMO, And therefore everyone has to figure out what that means. And you have to implement that and do that successfully and the success measures are in place.
Evan Leybourn: And then there’s the times when people say, just give me the PMO in a box. And we’ll just sort of highlight the areas that we want to use and then just train us on it. And that’s not going to be a long lasting project management office. And that’s the same thing that you’re saying here for business agility, you have to continue working on it and you have to continue investing in it. Yeah. And it is not just, you have to continue working on it and investing in it. It’s where that focus lies is going to move. And if your transformation is funded by technology, technology is going to be hesitant to move the coaches into HR, because that’s a different cost center. And so the transformation tends to wilt on the vine because the investment is in the wrong place.
Bill Raymond: Right. It needs to be something where you said, we’re investing in this team. This team has the people that are there to support them and we’re not just pulling from some pool of people that will be there occasionally, is what you’re saying?
Evan Leybourn: Absolutely. And this goes to the value streams. There are multiple domains, we talk about in terms of business ability, so organizational structure, the idea of being able to reorganize structures dynamically. So even going beyond stable, persistent teams into dynamic teaming, as a more advanced form of that. So there’s a lot of different capabilities. But it doesn’t matter if you’ve got agility in one function, like product. If it takes you four months to hire somebody, or it takes you nine months to get a budget change approved, or it takes you two months to go through the PMO approval process. Your agility is going to be constrained by those other business functions.
Martin Foster: I think we see indicators of that when we start to look at like What we wanted to see is, hey, how long does it take for this investment to yield results? Because there’s a change at stake, as we’ve been saying, you need leaders that are increasingly senior inside the organization.
Martin Foster: So it’s a career bet for them in many senses. So we wanted to understand, hey, as per respondents, how long are they seeing before they’ve got a noticeable step change for the improvement?
First inflection point
Martin Foster: And we want to get more tight on that of the past few years. What we saw is, hey, the longer you keep on doing this, to the point of like the continuous investment, the processes keep on going, the better the results for yourself.
Martin Foster: And there was a really clear marker at about the 8 year mark. Like, at that point you can say, yep, you know, you probably have executed the cultural change, the organization’s less likely to snap back and just like undo everything. But eight years is a long time. So where’s the other inflection point?
Martin Foster: Just like most people won’t be in the same company for eight years, right?
Second inflection point at two year mark
Martin Foster: We’ve been able to identify a second inflection point at about the two-year mark. And that’s actually a fairly supportive item, right? It’s like, we’re going to get some people on board, we’ll start practices maybe small, but it gives you enough time to scale things up, but also like reap the rewards for the investment.
Martin Foster: So yeah, at about two years there’s an inflection point. Then like a continuously improving scale as long as the organization’s still investing in it. And then like from the eight year mark, yep, it’s fantastic.
Martin Foster: But, yeah, just getting started at that 24 months line, which isn’t too bad because we find a lot of places like just selling the change, takes like 6 to 12 months anyways.
Martin Foster: So it’s not a bad realization.
Employee engagement feedback
Evan Leybourn: Well, I have to imagine though, that some of the people that you surveyed, they probably provided some level of feedback that gave you a sense as to whether they feel good about the direction of their company, right?
Bill Raymond: I think all of us here in this call we’re used to this, right? If we need to just quickly change on a dime, we will. We can quickly make those changes. If I were sitting in a bureaucratic environment and couldn’t get something done because I just have to wait three months for someone to approve it, that would not be a place that I would want to work.
Bill Raymond: And so I’m curious if you received any kind of input feedback from the survey on that.
Evan Leybourn: Yeah, so there’s a different piece of research that we did on employee engagement. Employee engagement is a difficult measure for a whole bunch of reasons, not least of which trying to do any kind of industry trend on employee engagement.
Evan Leybourn: You’ve got all these questions around how different organizations measure engagement, whether they’re going to publish their information, which they usually won’t, and all that kind of thing. So we looked at Glassdoor ratings as a proxy for employee engagement, and obviously an organization had to have more than five ratings, because that’s s gamified.
Evan Leybourn: But what we found was that there is a direct and measurable positive relationship between Glassdoor ratings and business agility capability or maturity, if you want to use that word, up to about 24% higher, depending on like how much they’ve invested towards business agility. And so these were organizations that rated well in this business agility report survey compared against those Glassdoor ratings.
Challenges and Benefits
Martin Foster: We’re coming up to the end of the podcast here. I’d like to talk a little bit about the section where you talk about the challenges and the benefits.
Martin Foster: Excellent. So like five years running, again, what comes behind this? We ask people, what is the biggest challenge you see and what is this the biggest benefit you get? And five years running, I guess the challenge is there’s two themes that are just like always there now.
Martin Foster: The first one is just resistance to change. And the second one is challenges with leadership and overall management capabilities.
Martin Foster: So what do you mean by that is like just people are saying, you know, generally the verbatims when I talk about resistance to change is people will say, Hey, we are asked to do something different but we’re not resourced up to do it. Or, I just don’t understand why. And that connects a lot to the leadership.
Martin Foster: Complaints about leadership are that the leaders are asking us to alter our behaviors, but I don’t see that from my own leaders, they’re not doing what they’re telling everybody else to say. So there’s some really interesting things to think about on this.
Martin Foster: I think in terms of overall messaging, like how do you overcome resistance to change? The communication of what’s changing and why, like, why are we doing this in the first place? Why are we asking you to further learn, relearn or whatever has to be a very strong message. And then that idea of supporting staff through the change, right?
Martin Foster: because it’s fundamentally change management.
Martin Foster: And I guess it’s just frequently forgotten.
Martin Foster: .
Martin Foster: And since technology is so deeply embedded in a lot of what businesses do these days, that’s like a, a very big concerning point.
Martin Foster: And then the last one, of course, funding and just how it’s done. So those four things come out loud and clear this year in terms of main challenges. Evan?
Evan Leybourn: The only thing I was going to add is these are the role of, even though leadership is a singular challenge here, the reality is that the role of leaders, their fingerprints are over every single one of these challenges, both in the challenge itself and the resolution of the challenge. So it’s something that I think a lot of organizations just need to be aware of that while grassroots change is very, very powerful, but requires buy-in and eventually needs to influence and change the leaders themselves.
Evan Leybourn: So change itself has to happen at all layers. At the end of the day, leaders themselves in the organization have to take some level of personal accountability for resolving some of these, not just the leadership capabilities, that second challenge that Martin was talking about but all of it.
Martin Foster: it’s interesting, I work with a lot of software development teams and they just get it because they’re just delivering and they sort of have a good process in place.
Bill Raymond: Many of them that I’ve worked with do. And then when you shift to another organizational business unit, or the further you’ll move away from the technology teams, you see a different way of working. And sometimes that different way of working is perfectly fine and good. But other times, this is where we see people saying, I wish we could be more agile, we could have more of this that you’re talking about today in this podcast.
Bill Raymond: And a lot of times it just comes down to understanding.
Evan Leybourn: I was going to say, just think about those same technology teams 15, 20 years ago. my first career was in software development and then eventually business intelligence, data warehousing. And I’ll tell you that in 2003, the idea of bringing agile into these technology teams was an uphill cultural battle. Because they had these, there were a lot of people who wanted it, in much the same way that you work into a function, they go, oh, we want this agility thing. But they’d been working with these complex and bureaucratic software engineering processes, and they have entire roles, which have now long since disappeared. It used to be you’d have four different classes of architects, enterprise architects and solutions architects and systems architects and et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
Evan Leybourn: And now you tend to have only a few of those. You used to have entire dedicated testing teams. And now, while sometimes you may well still have some of that, a lot of that testing responsibility has been rolled into the developer. When was the last time you saw a business analyst? Right?
Evan Leybourn: And no offense to any business analysts the thing is because that’s a key skillset. But again, while the role has all but disappeared from many, many organizations, that skillset has been rolled into the skillset of those individuals in those teams. So yeah, today you’re entirely correct, those tech teams get it. It’s almost like you don’t need to put a whole bunch of coaches in. They may need to get better at specific practices, but culturally, what they’re learning, how they’re learning it, it’s all part, it’s been 20 years of inculcating this mindset. But just look back 15 years and I think you’ll find that those same, very same tech teams had the same kind of patterns of behavior as the other teams that you’re talking about.
Martin Foster: What’s really nice, is that because we can sort of point to all that work that was done 15 plus years ago, there’s that hunger in other business functions for the same thing. And I’ve had the privilege to sit down and work with corporate legal teams and you know, what’s this agility thing all about?
Martin Foster: Right? And if you just pivoted back to a change in way of working and approach, no one’s ever told us that this was kind of a choice, but they see it so it’s really neat to see the legal profession, I think at the Business Agility conference last year, we heard from lawyers picking it up and adopting it at scale, you know, inside big orgs.
Martin Foster: And also just working with various corporate funding or finance areas. It’s almost like the biggest aha moment is, hey, wait, we could stop and think, you know, is this process still fit for purpose? And it’s just that little aha of being able to go back and think about that improvement stage, that I think is the big unleash because I think there’s a hunger for it.
Martin Foster: People don’t want to be stuck in bad processes, they don’t want to inflict it on others just deliberately, there’s just a very positive thing about being able to just think, Hey, I can change this.
Bill Raymond: Evan and Martin, thank you so much for your time. Is there a way to reach out to you, Evan?
Evan Leybourn: Yes, if anyone wants to reach out to me, look me up on Linkedin, and otherwise businessagility.institute to check out all the things that we’re publishing and you can contact us through that way as well.
Bill Raymond: And is that how someone could read the Business Agility report?
Evan Leybourn: You can download directly from our website, all of our content, all of our research, we release it under Creative Commons. So feel free to download it, use it, adapt it, I think go nuts. It’s all there for everyone to use.
Martin Foster: It’s open research. We want people to consume it.
Bill Raymond: That’s fantastic. Yeah, it was really nice to see that you had published it and just go and click on a few links and get there as opposed to having to go through and answer every single question about my personal life before you could give it to me.
Evan Leybourn: Yes, you can download it without giving me your email address.
Bill Raymond: Thank you for that, Evan.
Bill Raymond: And Martin Foster, is there a way people can reach out to you?
Martin Foster: Yeah, absolutely. Linkedin works really well as first point contact but also via teamform.co.
Bill Raymond: Wonderful. And I will make sure that both of your contact information, including the links to this Business Agility Report, which is a great read and an easy read, I’ll make sure that those links are available on the agileinaction.com website. And of course,
Bill Raymond: I’ll just put that in the show notes description. Thank you.
Bill Raymond: Thank you for listening to the Agile and Action Podcast with Bill Raymond. Subscribe now to stay current on the latest trends in team, organization, and agile techniques. Please take a moment to rate and comment to help us grow our community. This podcast is produced in affiliation with Cambermast LLC, and our executive producer is Reama Dagasan.
Speaker: If there is a topic you would like Bill to cover, contact him directly at bill.Raymond@agileinaction.com.