From Agile Team to Lean Company

I keep meeting development teams frustrated by the hierarchical organisation around them. Some realise their predicament, others blame. There’s nothing they can do about it alone; generations of hierarchies have developed a strong sense of self preservation. But when there’s a will to change, that goes deep, wide and high enough, we have an opportunity. What can we do with it?

Is this an option?

A community of truly cross-functional, autonomous teams consisting of engineers, designers and relationship builders who are engaged in a meaningful purpose and create knowledge by continuous delivery of experimental functionality. They continually share what they learn, and improve their capability by focusing on what’s really valuable to their users and taking the time to remove what isn’t by optimising the whole.

A truly cross-functional team is a diverse mix of people with knowledge, experience, imagination, creativity and a combined capability to go from “concept to cash“. I see development teams that lack the product design skills that we need to find new solutions to old problems. It doesn’t matter who has these skills, it might be a specialist or a combination of T shaped generalists, but without a passion and a product design mindset  we’re just reinventing the wheel.

What’s a relationship builder? These are the people on the team who connect people. Users, Customers, Designers Engineers need to connect and there are people such as ScrumMasters,Account Managers or Developers who love to build the relationships that can help with that.

If we’re to know what’s valuable we need something to focus on; a purpose. Something that inspires and challenges us. A problem we believe is worthwhile solving. Is there a common purpose we all care about?

If we have the answers when we start the problem it doesn’t need solving. Even if we think we have the answers, we need to test our assumptions. For this we need an experimental approach. Gather, Hypothesise, Test, Refine, there are many options but pretending we’re always right isn’t one of them

Openness lives at the heart of our learning organisation. Effectively sharing, challenging and improving on the things we discover accelerates our learning. Inter and cross team, everyday.

Now we’re really working together we can see all the pieces that make up the whole. An awareness of our interdependency gives us the opportunity to make choices that bring us closer to our common purpose, beyond our functional purpose. No more thrashing around niggling over “UsAndThemIsms”.

Is this fantasy? I’m working with people who are close enough to smell it. With open minds and determination we’ll soon taste it.

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