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Organizing to Execute in Agile Environments
Today’s global state of rising volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity compels businesses and organizations, from multinational enterprises to governments and militaries, to innovate, adapt, and respond to changes in increasingly effective ways. Research in cognitive and social sciences, academia, and organizations across industries shows that the work of high-performing teams far surpasses the work of even the brightest individuals. The significance of this emergent cognition is that organizations today increasingly structure themselves to build and deliver solutions through teams. Typically, such restructuring takes the form of an adoption of an agile system, methodology, or framework such as the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), Scrum, Lean/Kanban, eXtreme Programming (XP), or others. Yet organizations attempting to transform their traditional engineering and delivery practices into agile systems often succeed solely in reorganizing into team- or group-based work; the foundational benefits which agile systems are intended to deliver, such as increased productivity, responsiveness, adaptability, quality, and reduced costs of production, remain unrealized. Many organizations therefore achieve some degree of structural shift, but fail to achieve the organizational benefits which agile systems are expected to deliver. The challenges organizations face in transforming to team-based processes occur across three main axes: process training, team and social skills training, and what we refer to as Environment changes. Having studied areas of industrial-organizational psychology, complexity sciences, management and leadership theory, and drawing from significant experience working with high-performing teams in military and governmental applications from tactical to strategic levels around the world, we have developed frameworks and models for identifying those Environmental factors which organizations must address in order to enable teams to perform and produce. We have implemented strategies to evidence the usefulness of these models at both enterprise and startup companies in industries such as technology, manufacturing, labor, military, energy, and healthcare. We have observed that individuals, teams, and organizations are able to learn and adapt to process changes at shallow levels efficiently. Training and adoption of social and teamwork skills requires a significantly greater investment in terms of training duration and adoption rate. Environment factors can heavily impact the rate of adoption and practice of these teamwork skills, which in turn directly affects the productivity of teams. Humans, and the organizations which they create, are complex, adaptive systems. This means that we are simultaneously both creating the system in which we are working, and the way in which the system is evolving similarly affects our interaction with it. As such, the Environment in which teams work – those organizational factors, modulators, and actors outside the team which have effects on the team – are critical determinants of success in systems of team-based work. However, aside from attempting to implement process change within organizations, most “agile transformations” fail to address necessary changes to the Environment, despite their being vital to enabling teams to succeed in the ways in which the organization requires.
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Christopher Alexander (Primary Presenter,Co-Author), AGLX Consulting, LLC, firstname.lastname@example.org;
Chris Alexander is a former F-14 Tomcat RIO & instructor, and co-founder of AGLX Consulting, where he co-developed High-Performance Teaming – a training methodology focused on teaching individuals and teams the social, interactive skills necessary to help them achieve high-performance. He is a certified agile coach and currently works at Qumulo, Inc. in Seattle, Washington.
Brian Rivera (Co-Presenter,Co-Author), AGLX Consulting, LLC, email@example.com;
Brian “Ponch” Rivera is a recovering naval aviator, co-founder of AGLX Consulting, LLC, and co-creator of High-Performance Teaming™ – an evidence-based, human systems solution to rapidly build and develop high-performing teams and organizations.