Looking into the crystal ball and predicting 2023 is as reliable as looking into a pool of mud. Through working with our current clients, we believe the following are top trends for 2023.
Leader-led will differentiate transformations
Organisations with a leader-led approach to agile transformation are more likely to succeed. By leader-led we mean where senior executives are passionately hands-on, hold each other accountable and model the best-of-breed behaviours between themselves and the people they lead.
Whilst they may not always hit the targets they set for themselves, these organisations will undoubtedly have forward momentum, augment the organisation's culture with their best-of-breed behaviours, and be better off than if they maintained the status quo.
Because employees tend to model behaviours of their leadership, whether good or bad, organisations with leaders who don't model the best-of-breed behaviours are likely to be less successful–losing momentum and frustrating their people and the organisation as a whole.
One of the best-of-breed behaviours is building and maintaining trust (the kind of trust you have with a rope bound to your feet when bungee jumping into an open void).
Trust is more important than choosing the operating model or framework to use. Executives who take the time and care to build their trust bank account with individuals and teams across the organisation are more likely to be inspiring transformational leaders, capable of leading the organisation into uncharted areas.
"The quality of your life ultimately depends on the quality of your relationships. "
Four core agile values (transparency, alignment, quality and execution) are foundational to building trust.
Executives who actively model the behaviours necessary for successful transformation believe in these four core values. They embody these behaviours, not when it is safe, but openly for the whole organisation to see. They lead the use of these behaviours, and their people will model these behaviours too.
Trend analytics will shape transformations
An agile transformation is more than implementing a few ceremonies, updating a few job profiles and changing a few team structures. At its core, agile transformation shortens the gap between action and feedback.
Asking questions 'What are we optimising for?' and 'What are we making more efficient with new beliefs and behaviours?' serves as the north star for any agile transformation.
Answering these questions helps identify the gaps between where you are and where you want to be, and is critical to any successful agile transformation. After that, you need to routinely check the gaps to assess if they are widening or shrinking using Trend Analytics.
Innovation is unpredictable–you'll have never done it before in the same context. You and your teams may have been innovative in the past, but the people, environment and challenges will have been different. Innovation requires knowledge work from knowledge workers. Knowledge work is thus emergent, inspiring the thought that transformative organisations that innovate are not factories. They are living entities with their own biorhythm. Understanding an organisation's biorhythm is much like understanding and being conscious of one's breath.
Whilst the innovative work that passes through your organisation might be unpredictable, your organisation's biorhythm need not be. Understanding it and routinely looking at your Trend Analytics brings certainty.
One of the main differences between waterfall and agile is Empirical Process Control: evidence-based, data-led decision-making. Which begs the question, how has the introduction of agile ways of working truly, at an empirical level, shifted value delivery in your organisation?
Creating, moving, and closing cards on a board produces a literal goldmine of data and insights–which few organisations tap into. Regularly looking at this data to find meaning in these insights is one of the best ways to adjust your agile transformation's trajectory.
Organisations that routinely inspect their ways of working data (Trend Analytics) with as much rigour as they do their revenue and costs will be in a better position to make their transformations meaningful and worthwhile.
Much like we approach value delivery from an iterative, incremental approach, we should approach our agile journeys in a similar manner–changing iteratively and incrementally based on our ways of working data.
"Agile is not a destination. Agile is the way."
Professional execution will catapult transformations
Just as top executives and professional athletes actively engage with their coaching teams, so should high-performing teams in the delivery space.
Often, organisations expect teams to operate as 'high-performing', especially if they are agile. However, there is rarely an accurate view of their blind spots and poorly executed behaviours. It's one thing to know the correct behaviours; it's another thing to do them.
One typical poor behaviour is falling into the trap where agile becomes the tyranny of urgent iteration after iteration, coupled with pushing teams to the upper limit of their capacity iteration after iteration.
There's an art and fine balancing act to finding a team's sweet spot when it comes to effective capacity utilisation, and this sweet spot will differ from team to team. The key is finding the point between having too much slack and pushing a team beyond the burnout point through the relentless chasing of the next set of highest priorities iteration after iteration.
There is one surefire way to create an efficient and effective environment: a product ownership capability that operates at a professional level.
The world over, organisations are under pressure. Teams are getting smaller whilst demands are increasing. In a digital age, where customers' wants, needs and desires change more rapidly, there will likely be an imbalance between high demand and constrained delivery, regardless of your team's size.
Irrespective of a team's capacity, the relentless prioritisation and re-prioritisation (systemic of a weak product ownership capability) is the primary ingredient to teams working on the wrong thing at the wrong time. And re-prioritisation is one of the fastest ways to impact delivery predictability and team stability negatively. As one of our longest-standing clients said, "We don't have a capacity problem, we have a prioritisation problem."
This is where formal role-based training, consciously paired with on-the-job coaching, comes in.
People in critical roles learn the first principles of their role in an agile organisation, along with working with someone to bridge the gap between classroom theory and applying the newly acquired knowledge in the actual workplace with all its complexity and constraints. Roles like Product Owners are prime for this approach, which will lead to the ongoing development and refinement of professional agile behaviours embedded in the overall organisation.
"Knowledge without practice is useless. Practice without knowledge is dangerous."
About the authors
Stephen de Villiers Graaff: Enterprise Agile Coach Transformational Lead, Trainer, Public Speaker
Michelle Neilson: Enterprise Agile Coach, Transformational Lead, Project and Programme Professional
Attila Bernariusz: Enterprise Agile Coach Transformational Lead, Trainer
If you'd like to chat about these trends and how they can make a difference to your business, get in touch.
"We don't see agile as a destination, but rather a state of being to achieve a set of outcomes or objectives. We exist to create client value versus driving our revenue pipeline, and don't arrive with a pre-determined solution."