It is highly regarded among many in the Agile community that:
- One of the most common causes of Agile transformational failure is due to either the lack of focus on or lack of effective change of the middle management layer.
- One of the more common successes of Agile transformations is when small, incremental or evolutionary change is encouraged (rather than what I have termed “legion” style transformation which includes massive roll-outs of training and sparse support).
But I wonder if there is a better way, a way that combines these two points together for more successful, albeit slower and less Agile Coaching consultative heavy model -
Rather than trying to teach Agile inside of an organisation day 1, instead work with the middle management layer to re-introduce learning as one of their key practices.
If middle managers spent one to two days a week learning what do you think that would do to the organisation? I think it might kick start the organisation in all sorts of unbelievable ways. I think middle managers, rather than being forced to have these new approaches thrust upon them, would instead be the most passionate advocates for them. They might not choose to try Agile, they may want to try something else, but at least they are experimenting and thinking wider than just the day to day firefighting.
I know some managers already do this, but it is the exception and not the rule. But why is this? Do managers stop learning because they think it ends at university? Do they stop learning because they think it ends when they finally get into a leadership position? Or is it because they no longer have time anymore? Always in meetings or always fighting a fire?
Maybe the only way that managers will have the time to create a learning culture is if they limit their work in progress and begin to trust and empower their staff more? Now if managers start to trust and empower their staff more because they have to limit their work in order to learn, it is sounding like a win-win to me.
What do you think?