16 Questions for Setting Up a Coaching Alliance.

As I have begun building a coaching alliance with the CEO and executive team of my clients in the past, I have found a very broad disparity of awareness, maturity of practice and level of depth in coaching needs.  So, I’d like to share some questions that I may begin conversations with, whoever may be engaging my services.  This kind of Fierce Leadership Conversation (please see the book by the same title) is most useful when it is completed earlier than later in a business transformation consulting engagement.
1. Does the Enterprise Agile Coach’s activities include executive coaching?
2. Who does coach the executives?
3. How do the executives shift their mindset to become agile?
4. In what way do the executives go first in agile, to serve their constituents?
5. How do the executives continuously and publicly express their sense of passion and responsibility about the agile transformation?
6. How does each executive visually and transparently communicate to the workforce which structural impediments she is accountable for removing, has removed, won’t remove and can’t remove? (Do they commit to reading and responding in writing to the  Open Space Proceedings within 48 hours of publication?)
7. How does the executive know how effective they are in their attempts to inspire, support, guide, empower and collaborate with and innovate with the agile work force?
8. Jay W. Forrester says the Policies determine the behavior of the system.  How aware is the executive about the dynamics currently influencing the system, and how frequently do executives revised/updated the work system, organizational structure or culture?
9. How do executives continuously improve themselves and stay engaged in life-long learning?
10. How does the executive demonstrate to the agile workforce the value and positive career impact of heightened engagement in life-long learning inside the organization?
11. How active a role does the executive play in the Agile Community of Practice?
12. What are the aspiration goals of the executive to reach their next level in leadership agility?
13. Exactly which of the 6 Types of agile coach do you hope I will be?  What are you willing to commit to, in service to my fulfilling on the role of Enterprise Agile Coach, to enable me to accomplish this level of coaching?
14. What’s at stake in this transformation?  How large are the potential upsides to its success, and down-sides to failure?
15. What makes you think you need to go outside the company, to get coaching for this?
16. How soon do you think it may take for a truly exceptional Enterprise Agile Coach to mentor up his replacement?


Size Matters! Duration Too!

If you’re reading this on my blog, then it’s safe to say I didn’t spam you.  Let’s face the facts: we live in an age where impersonations of the President of the United States start with pursed lips, hands apart mouthing “YUGE” [all caps added] with a silent ‘h’ thank you.
McDonalds sells the Giga Big Mac with 4 all beef patties, and Costco shoppers nation-wide give a whole new meaning to the Conehead phrase, “let us now consume mass quantities.”  AT&T and even kids know bigger is better.
So what’s up with Big Visible Charts buried deep beneath small screens, in small cubes, in small distributed offices, in small teams?  Now is no time you want to be small, in any way, shape or form. Go big, or go home…as they say.

A client of mine who was not particularly fluent in agile ideas, or developing software products was not seeing the merits of building wall-sized paper Kanban boards or having large meetings in big rooms with lots of people having long conversations about whatever they wish.

I tried explaining that we hang big clocks (as opposed to relying on puny watches) on walls because it keeps us mindful of the time, continuously through-out the day, and reads at a glance for everyone.  Likewise, it is public for everyone to agree on.  Big visible charts become a kind of gathering place, similar to how tribes gather around a campfire, to reflect on the day, or lay plans for the new one that is starting.  As military strategists encircle a table while they gaze down at a map, they raise concerns, ask questions, request help and hypothesize on many scenarios.
Trying to find middle ground with my generation Y client, I proposed using both electronic and paper tools to visual the work, via. a Kanban board.  “That wouldn’t be efficient.  Besides, the paper wouldn’t travel well.  It’s not mobile.”   They are a remote team and travel occasionally.  Having spent a few weeks with my uncle before he passed, I have experience with taking all the stickies off the wall where I work, placing them in my pocket, driving across 3 states, and putting them up on a wall in a nearby coffee shop where I continued working while staying with my uncle.  How cumbersome could that possibly be?  “Efficiency must not come at the cost of effectiveness…” I reasoned with her.

The client was not convinced.  I relented.  I’m open to observing how speed-talking through daily sit-downs (not Stand-ups) gazing at screens (not faces) works out for them. Time will tell.

When it comes to change, especially culture change at scale (enterprise-wide) I see OpenSpace Agility making a difference, with a Market Place filled with conversation topics.  -The Market Place that covers the wall is a testament to the sense of Passion and Responsibility of the people who do the work, the problem solving, the ideation…explorers of the “How” in the organization.  The record of the proceedings are compiled and printed on paper for the Sponsor to review, highlight, and harvest action items from.  In fact, the Proceedings call out D.A.R.E. (Decisions, Agreements, Requests, and Experiments) for the Sponsor to respond to.  That Sponsor would be wise to create a Big Visible Chart of the Requests for Action, in priority (or ROI) order with completion dates and target dates, to uphold his/her side of the bargain.

These artifacts (the Market Place, Proceedings, Prioritized Action Lists, Kanban boards, Task stickies, etc.) are the PAT answer: 1) Persistent, 2) Apparent, and 3) Triggering.  What do I mean by that?  I mean they hang around in your face, get up in your grill, reminding you “what’s next?” and give you a dopamine kick “PAT on the back” when you cross the line, move them to done, serving as trophies which commemorate your victory as a larger team.  Zeros and ones floating in the ether just don’t do that.

The bigger the group, the greater the diversity of thought.  The longer the conversation, the deeper it goes, and the stronger the cultural bond, alignment and resilience.  It takes big rooms to serve as a container for all the bodies.  This should go without saying, but apparently we need reminding.  So, if you are someone who thinks that collaborating freely does not require much space, time or paper, please think again. I do.


When Open Space Pulls

A year or so ago I had a very heated discussion about what are the defining characteristics of Open Space Technology and how to leverage it for Agile Transformation in product development teams, technology, or the enterprise in general.  Much to my chagrin I found that the harder a looked for rules, practices and procedures, the more elusive it became to grok it.  I was prone to overlook opportunities to leverage the greater Laws of Open Space and miss out on its contributions toward feeding the human Spirit; the fuel to burn brightly: Communitas.

My attempts to codify what constitutes Open Space gave false rigidity to what I understood to be necessary conditions that give rise to its effects, and my colleague grew more and more frustrated with each question (or conjecture) that I posed. I was drifting further and further from the mark.  Sullen, I vowed to stop seeking for boundaries, hallmarks and guideposts to help me identify it the wild, and to never again attempt to tutor others on what gives rise to it in the field of group relations.  I later had many poignant experiences making me keenly aware of what Open Space is not.

Then today, on site with a client, completely oblivious to what was about to happen, I witnessed a surprise appearance of Open Space in the most brilliant form I have experienced.  The CEO of my client company, had created a tradition: an Open Invitation to all employees who wished to attend, a public Declaration of Kudos Awards from one employee to another, for “performance of valuable work above and beyond the call of duty.”

The meeting began as what seemed just like any instance of the weekly gathering.  From the 40 employees there were about 20 Kudos Cards written out beforehand, with each presenter reading aloud to everyone in the Circle the brief story of the works of Greatness deserving public acknowledgement and applause.

Then something new started.  The CEO held the space for any acknowledgement of anyone who had done something worthy of note.  About a half dozen spontaneous mentions of individual contributions were called out, and followed by applause again.

Finally the CEO invited anyone to share News to announce to the Circle.  One after another the workers began sharing News of a spouse graduating from nursing school, newly expectant mothers, or wedding engagements, and in turn received congratulatory recognition or amusing quips from friends.

Finally a young man stepped forward from the Circle, with a trembling voice in halting cadence he first offered an apology,  “I’m sorry…to spoil the festive mood that’s been building here just now.”  (A company Birthday lunch banquet had been prepared in the next room over.)
A few voices emerged from the Circle, “That’s alright. Go on and say it, bro.”  A familiar  arm from behind him reaches forward and squeezes his shoulder.”

He continues, “This is very difficult for me to talk about.  I have a sister who’s been worried for a long time about the baby she’s carried just 6 months.  It was born a few days ago, and we thought we might lose the baby.  Immediately after delivery they began surgery to try to save her.  We’re still worried and don’t know what will happen.  They could use some help if anyone can…”

A flood of tears ensued, followed by many hugs from empathetic friends in the Circle.  A woman finished his sentence for him, “I’ll send out an email with a link to a donations page.”  From that point, words were no longer needed.  Everything that could be said was expressed in the moment by silent presence and compassionate countenances.

I don’t remember the last time I’ve ever felt more a part of something.  This is Communitas.  This is the product of Open Space.  From a Clearing of people, anything is possible, especially Greatness.  It burns brighter than the tallest flame, and warmer than the noon-day sun.  The greatest human experience, springing from a Circle of co-workers gathering to celebrate life and triumph amidst adversity.

I wish I could give just a glimpse of it to the people that I really care about, and those whom I’ve never met, who are looking for the tell-tales of what it means to “Hold Space“, as I was.  But, there is no substitute or proxy.  My charge to you is to keep searching, and someday Open Space will find you first, pull you in by surprise, and show you another side of itself that’s still a secret story hidden to all the rest of us; until you feel the Clearing pull for the sharing of it.

The Team = Product Board

teamistheproductWhen you’re blessed with a good client who made their career by building great teams, you’ll immediately find that they are easier to work with, for an external agile coach.  They just “get it.”  -No coaxing or convincing is required…even if they don’t know any more about agile than “I’m pretty sure it’s a four letter word!”  (Yeah, he really said it straight up like that.)

When setting the Metrics and Milestones for the agile Transformation engagement, the good client is not preoccupied with hitting some arbitrary sprint velocity number across their organization.  Rather, they want their team members to individually and collectively focus on Value.

Why? Because it creates profit.  If reliably delivering value to customers isn’t generating profits for them, then there are deeper issues to fix, which are much simpler than learning about agile, or even being agile.  Successful business owners have already figured out that the end game is all about setting the team up for extreme Value creation.  They optimize for it.  All.  The.  Time.

So, the good client/business owner wants to see a “Before” and “After” picture to compare and contrast in terms of Customer Value, and Business Value.  There is a certain amount of delta (or stark contrast) which the good client/business owner wants to see in the Definition of Done for the Transformation of the enterprise.  The Metrics and Milestones they want to see derive from incremental Steps and Scoring which attest to a clearly perceptible triangulation towards Done.

The client I’m serving in an agile Transformation using Open Space Agility (OSA) as a substrate, instinctively set the incremental metric: Number of agile Teams formed, pulling in work, and improving their process.   To that inspired request, my response was simply, “I’m Willing, sir.”

It’s a good Metric.  The Milestones are a little tougher.
M1 The teams are voluntarily “Playing” with agile.
M2 The teams have seriously “Adopted” agile, as their default behavior.
M3 The teams are continuously customizing agile to their context, and furthering the science.

[The above words are his words exactly.  I’m not joking.  All of this from a man who thinks that “Shu Ha Ri” is either a Japanese brand of beer, or a National Holiday in India…perhaps both.]

But what will shock you even more: We’re making it happen in 10 weeks.  -Not months!  Not years!  10 weeks, flat.

So, my Co-Coach, Harold Shinsato, and I set about our work with 2 main visualizations.
1. The Transformation Kanban
2. The Team = Product Board

Inside the Transformation Kanban Board we simply track the progress of our Coaching Backlog from “To Do” state, to “Doing Today” state, to “Done” state.  We have 3 kinds of activities in our Transformation Kanban Board.  1) Workshops 2) Conversations 3) Events

Most of the workshops are experiential learning curriculum we formulate on-the-fly, tailored to the needs of the specific people, we -the coaches are focusing on assisting at the moment.  We start out 1 team at a time.  They are the Product of our labors.

We have to build this airplane mid-flight, so there’s no luxury of running 2-day training. We’ve got 1 hour to deliver the learning, Just In Time (JIT).  It’s a LEAN thing. We put the challenge to our Workshop participants to “pay it forward” by delivering the workshop some day to their co-workers.  A little aggressive, but at least they can engage in the Workshop at that higher level of intensity.  As the JIT training facilitator, we have to be Uber-Intentional that we deliver Just Enough, and put them back to work practicing what they’ve just learned, for real-world reinforcement, before they start to forget.  Customers must not be inconvenienced or kept waiting.  Build in-flight.

The 1:1 coaching conversations we have with individual team members are: t < 1hr.
The OST-n events are: t < 3 hrs.

The Team = Product Board
The client didn’t know he was lifting this straight out of “Dynamics of Software Development” by Jim McCarthy, nor was he aware of Conway’s Law.  But, since it was our metric, we made the ScoreBoard: The Team = Product Board, which bears a strong resemblance to yet another Kanban.  Imagine that the yellow sticky with a circle in it, indicates how far each agile team has evolved along their adoption journey.

Team Members Team Named Chartered WIP EVAL Success Story
Jim, Jerry, Jon, Justin Customer A             O
Sean, Steve, Sue, Sam Java Dev          O
Mike, Mary, Marv, Mildred Happiness           O
Chris, Cameron, Carry, Corey Operations           O
Bob, Brian, Bill, Berry Help Desk           O
Tim, Tom, Terry, Trent Customer B           O
Fred, Frank, Phil, Ferris Customer C           O
Kristen, Kyle, Kirk, Kathy          O

Even though each team has covered an entire wall with their Kanban, throughout the building, the business owner could not possibly have the same level of exposure and granular information about how well the each team, and team member is progressing.

Just after OST-2, my Co-Coach and I take the business owner into our Den, where the posters used in the Circle from Open Space adorn the walls between our Transformation Kanban and the Team = Product Board.  We tell the Impactful Narrative of Data Stories recounting the feats, failures, accomplishments and exploits of each team.  As 1 team reaches the right column, they pull the chain of trailing teams along with them via. the Impactful Narratives they generate at the summit.  Each team incrementally does the same, for the following teams.  It’s like pulling a string of potatoes up out of the ground.

He soaks it in, while riffing about “I remember when they just started out…” or “The way they were being about it before was…”  and he builds the Backstory of the team members for us; long before we’d come on site.  He drifts into Origin Story of The Enterprise: Genesis.  Our understanding of the context grows.  We muse together with the business owner on the possibilities that now open up before us.  He sees a new Vision and begins authoring the next chapter.  Generative dialog, sheer power.  He’s rehearsing his Leadership StoryTelling.

M2 -Done.

/Run M3


The “Right Framework” and Right Organizational Structure

I had a conversation with a group of managers and executives who had formed a committee to research and identify the organizational structure that would accommodate the continued adoption of “Agile | Scrum.”

Resisting the temptation to launch into a conversation about what flavors of Scrum would not be agile, I asked them what their current situation was, and what their intention is.

They explained that they had 1 team that had been doing Scrum for a couple of years, and was decent at doing it, but they wanted to gradually launch an additional 1 or 2 Scrum teams, before the end of the year, but they did not have any new Product Owner or Scrum Master to belong to these new teams, and they were hesitant to have Managers fill those roles, as they were inclined to previously, and felt violated the key principles of Scrum.

This line of reasoning led them to a new question for me which was, “What kind of role does the Manager have in an agile | Scrum organization, if any?  They still think they are responsible for the outcome of the projects.”  I told them that I have a professional opinion on the topic, but wanted to delay offering my professional opinion, until after I have given them some counter-intuitive information about the topic of discussion, which might influence how they frame the question they are asking me, and how they approach getting an answer to this question.
best-90-degree-right-angle-clamp-font-b-clip-b-font-corner-font-b-glass-bSo, I asked the group, “What do you think of letting the people who do the work decide how they will adopt agile | Scrum?”  A voice on the phone said that they had considered doing that in the past, but they were confident that if left to their own normal way of doing things, the workers would get bogged down in thinking about the best approach, get distracted with the current project work at hand, and never really get started with the change.  They reasoned: there needs to be an official leader with authority to require the workers to take specific steps on certain deadlines, and to deliver working software within a reasonable cadence of about 2 weeks, like Scrum says.

I proposed, “Why not let the Agile Manifesto do all your lifting for you?”  I proceeded to read aloud Principle 3 of the Agile Manifesto to them directly from the website.

“Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.”

So, if you have someone who has official authority in your organization, providing “Handrails” giving a wide berth for the teams to experiment within, they will find something that might work, and then stand behind it because it was “all their idea.”  If YOU tell them both WHAT to do, and HOW to do it, in Scrum…you’ve smothered the empirical cycle of developing the product, and iterating on it is utterly meaningless.  Agile is by definition an iterative, incremental approach to delivering working software.

A voice on the other side of the phone says, “Show Jon the slides we made for the future organizational structure.”  The email with PowerPoint attachment arrived at my In-Box, and upon opening it, I found 5 slides of about 7 identical Scrum Teams, bundled together into a program.  “It resembles something like Scaled Agile Framework in the Enterprise.” I said.

“What’s that?  Could you say that slower, Jon?” Then another voice says, “It’s SAFe.  Jon broke out the acronym for you.”  I reluctantly let the cat out of the bag: I’ve heard that a majority of the Fortune 500 companies have implemented SAFe somewhere in their organization, to date.  The irony is that the corporate sponsors of adopting SAFe in their organization quite frequently don’t remember hearing from Dean Leffingwell (it’s inventor) or any Scaled Agile training, that all of the practices introduced in SAFe are meant to be carefully considered, experimented with, pruned or adapted to fit the work context.

Inspect & Adapt is the mantra of SAFe, and yet many people think it is an immutable pattern to be cookie-cutter implemented everywhere, for everything.  They’ve lost the forest for the trees.  The same is said of any flavor or variety of agile methodologies: Enterprise Scrum, Kanban, Scrum, XP, Mob Programming, FAST, GROWS™ Method,   Scaled Professional Scrum,  LeSS, Scrum@Scale  or otherwise.

So, what I’m proposing is to hold space for the teams to use the Wisdom of Crowds, in an empirical way, to figure out HOW to be agile in their work context, by iterating and incrementing along as they go.  Just give them the WHAT (agile, please!) and let them empirically discover the HOW.

The first Scrum team has already proven inside your work context that this is perfectly reliable: you play Planning Poker to have the people who do the work, carefully and collaboratively interact, inside a light-weight structure, to understand WHAT the market wants.  Only the people on the team who are saying they are Willing to do the work of building the product, are the ones who should be involved in estimating the amount of work it will take to make it, and they collaborate (Wisdom of Crowds again!) with the Product Owner to order their Product Backlog (essentially a build sequence) and Sprint Backlog, adjusting the Product Backlog order, as feedback from a customer proxy emerges.

So, what if we transpose that product development paradigm to the question of HOW to build “The Right” work system for the entire organization?  If we Open up (rather than Shut down) the conversation about work systems and frameworks, to the people who will occupy those work systems, describing WHAT it should be like when we’re “Done” defining it, the people who are curious, passionate and responsible will show up to talk in that Space.

So, optionally inviting (rather than forcing) everyone in the organization to this Open Space will be the way of filtering out those who are NOT curious, passionate or ready to experiment, because only they were free to self-select into or out of it.  When only the Willing show up, they are automatically super-engaged and naturally collaborate with each other.  They are self-enrolling.  And THAT is who you want to work with.  It’s just so little drag on the system.  They will play within your Hand Rails.

They’ll boldly take calculated risks with experiments, and resiliently rebound from setbacks.  They’ll proudly trumpet their triumphs telling impactful narratives about their successful experiments.  Those tales enroll the previous fence-sitters, who form the next wave of emboldened Willing volunteers.  (Incrementally delivering you a more and more transformed organization.)  Each round of Open Space conversations and experiments is a new iteration.  Sounds agile, right?   Yeah, agile about Practices like you’ve been agile about the Product.

The voices over the phone pause.  I start imagining crickets reaching for some micro-violins.  Wait for it…wait for it:  “Yeah!  I get it.  That’s what I was talking about.”  They are eating out of my hand at this point.

I slow down my narrative, and sharpen my rhetoric, “Well, that sounds nice and all, but you still haven’t answered your question about the Manager’s role.  And neither have I.”  There are all kinds of workers with all kinds of comfort levels around change, and managers are no different.  I can say what I think the managers can do to add value, but then it would just be my truth.  No solitary person has cornered the market on truth.  We all have our piece of it, which describes a few limited aspects of it, but people tend to think their piece is the “Right Piece” of the truth.  So, spoon-feeding them what to think just doesn’t work.

What’s worse: folks won’t necessarily tell you when they’re fed up with your forced feeding them.  If they think the political climate is conducive for their minority view that agile is bad for them, or your approach to agile is flawed, they will NOT air their grievances, and just take their resistance underground.  Nothing stings and disrupts as absolutely as subversive resistance.  Avoid creating it like you avoid spreading the plague.

If you focus on only working with the Willing, then you’re effectively leaving the Unwittingly-Future-Willing, alone.  They might sound like a “No!” to your agile transformation right now, but give them some time.  As they see the Fence-sitters, turn into the newly Willing, then turn into the Advocates, they’ll turn into the “Go-Along-To-Get-Alongs.”  And that’s all you need.  -In fact, it’s all you can handle, after all.  You’re doing an incremental transformation, not a Big-Bang, monolithic transformation, right?

“Yeah!  That’s right! Big-Bang sucks…it’s too risky.” they chime in.  -My point exactly.

So, here’s how you do a micro-filter litmus test on just the Managers: invite them to an informal table conversation around coffee.  –Lean Coffee.  Give them a topic like, “How could we see how agile might work around here?”  Then, get out of the way, shut up and listen!  -No!  I mean: watch.   Just watch who does what.   Nevermind whatever comes out of their mouth.  Blah, blah, blah…It doesn’t mean anything.

Just look to see which Managers engage in the conversations.  -The ones who really pull it into them.  They reach out for the sharpies and stickies.  They walk over to the board or table.  They waive their hands wildly and look up dreamfully into the ceiling.  -These are your Willing managers, who you want to work with.   Don’t hassle the rest.  Help them feel heard, if they want to, and let them walk off with impunity if they want to.   Nobody is a slave or a drone here.  Nobody drives this conversation; it’s lightly facilitated.   The same goes for the big All-Hands Open Space event.  -Facilitated under the auspices of your executive sponsor.

“Jon, as a next step, could you please put together a proposal with some pricing for us?  Just to facilitate these kinds of conversations?”   Of course I can.  I do it all the time.  Thanks for calling me.  I’ll be in touch.  Click.

My cell is: 949-922-4050

Back To Square 1.0

Looking at the topic of Addicted Behavior, in the working world, and specifically in regards to organizations hoping to be Agile, I read an Article by Daniel Mezick.
It’s funny (the tone and puns) and it smarts a lot more when I look at the date he published it, and Jeff Sutherland’s very positive reaction to it.

I look inward and ask myself a ‘Why?’ question: Why am I only now getting into this, so many years into my life, so many years into agile, so many years into Core Protocols, organizational transformation, improv, coaching, facilitation, experiential learning, Open Space Technology, Prime/OS and OSA…I’m coming to a realization.  -I didn’t want to see.

I didn’t want to know what I was doing, that was giving me what I have, and who I have been being.  The way I’ve been being with people, is a function of what’s been missing, and what I’ve been avoiding.  Acceptance of self, and acceptance of ending, is what I’ve been avoiding, and the way it affects people is that I’m not inviting them, and I’m not engaging them, and there’s a lot less of “us” in the world as a result.

So, going Back to Square 1:

1. Accept self & ending (early and often via. grief-work, including celebration)
2. Invite everyone to interact in games, collaborate, express, co-author, experiment, learn, etc.
3. Work with the willing (those who respond to invites with passion & responsibility)
4. Tell the Data-Story to everyone, which inspires, excites, unsettles and moves them to action.
5. Return to Square 1 above.

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So, that’s it, basically: accept, invite, work, tell, return.  Right under my nose, the pattern that works, and renews itself time and again.

Stepping Out of Inner Space: Stepping Into The Future

A friend in the Open Space Agility community recently asked me:
Hey all! So, I am having my second interview for an “agile catalyst” position at a bank in Pittsburgh – meeting with the Agile transformation team tomorrow afternoon. My plan, at some point, is to propose an OSA approach. Any tips? Brief info: the bank is at the early stages and is reportedly still in a very “fluid” state and open to ideas about training and approach, though some conversation has suggested that may not be the full story. Leadership is reportedly fully supportive. I don’t know how everyone else feels yet. Thanks

So, I responded:
How about having an “Inner Space Event?” -See if the executive leadership team is willing to gather together in Open Space to freely discuss “How Will We Improve The Way We Work?” for a few hours? Then see who, of these Executives, makes time to participate, feels passion and responsibility to ask questions, make some hypothesis, and run some experiments. Who is willing to support such an effort, and iterate on the Experiments, by removing impediments, and funding the investment to enable the experiments. -The most important of which will be: Larger Open Space Event: OST-1 where an Invitation to the people who do the work is sent to everyone in the organization….even the janitor, etc.

What we want to know is: who is passionate and responsible, and engaged in answering the big question, “How can we be Agile here?” There, Leadership StoryTelling comes from Executives about their Inner Space Event and experiments, and the Executive Sponsor supports the Willing workers to engage them in answering the question, by giving them what they request in the Proceedings from the breakout sessions of OST-1. (Maybe the Willing workers request Agile Training, Coaching, and Self-Organizing authorization?) Then OST-2 in 90 days to see how well it worked, and formulate the next improvement attempt, and perhaps Invite more fence-sitters/skeptics to join the newly forming teams. Get the pattern?

People, teams and departments can successfully step out of ways that they have traditionally worked, recognizing the achievements that preceded this stage of the enterprises expansion, pronouncing at once in cadence with valued colleagues a resounding and heart-felt “Yes And!” (an Improvisation Principle), reminiscing about the good times and bad as we move beyond them in the Griefwork Cycle, and emerge with a fresh hope, wonderment and a bit of optimism.  Willing people take a bold step forward with each business experiment.

Stepping into an experiment is like when we place a puzzle piece in an open space in the big picture of our future where it seems it might possibly fit, and reveal a broader understanding of how the enterprise delivers value to the market.  Turning the puzzle piece in a pivot might do the trick, or maybe flipping it over.   If it doesn’t match, no worries.  We carefully place it in the pile of “future use/key learnings” to narrow down what’s left to consider.

As we approach taking a big step, or giant leap into another experiment, we grow beholden to trepidation sometimes.  The natural reaction is to “stutter step” which is to reduce our stride by half.  Athletes in the high jump often do this on their approach to adjust their speed, correct their footing mid-flow, and keep the optimum distance for a big leap over their obstacle: a bar.  Reduce by half, then ask: Does it feel right?  If ‘No’ then reduce by half.  How about now? …etc.

Open Space Facilitators, Agile Coaches, Servant Leaders, Leadership Story Tellers, and the people who do the work and innovate the process through which we collaborate on the work, all serve in stewardship of a new ecology taking shape in this value creation garden. As learning grows, the emerging fruits of the stewards labor multiplies and enables the seeding of further experiments, of which some will set down root in the organization, in contrast to others that wither.

The organic nature of an emerging consensus of workers, where the Willingness and life-force of passion shared across the people who see themselves as not only the responsible players in the story, but the very authors of it, is what guides the entire enterprise reliably in the direction of self-renewal, prosperity, and growth.  When the entire organization sees itself as capable of organizing itself; directing funding, attention, effort and transparency toward areas with both potential to expand and a recent history of delivering value and currying interest from customers (the market), reaction latencies drop to sub-second levels, risks shrink, waste evaporates and the Shewart Cycles revs at speeds previously unheard and unimaginable.

In short, high performing teams sprout up, and thrive more resilient than weeds, and in abundance.