How knowing our foundation is the seed for sustainable digital change & innovation.
It is often said that Agile is easy to understand, but hard to master. I have witnessed many companies doing Agile trainings over and over, thinking that it simply is a lack of training or understanding to fully start living it.
Agile is not just a tool.
First and foremost, it is a way of interacting and being. It calls us to communicate and collaborate in a different way that might be very contrary to the company culture. In the long run, to live and breathe agile, a culture change is needed to embrace digital change and fast innovation.
That is easier said than done.
A Corporate or Team Culture is developed over many years and cannot be undone overnight with a quick change in toolset. In addition, any sort of change, be it a usage of a new tool/method or change of culture always starts with people.
In order for change to be successful, we always have to go to the people level first and see what truly motivates them. We all have heard of the Maslow Pyramid for motivation which talks about the basic aspects that have to be met for us – food, water, shelter and security – before we can be motivated.
The truth is that the knowledge of human motivation has moved way beyond Maslow.
*Self-Determination Theory researchers point out three psychological needs that are universal for all humans regardless of individual experiences and across all cultures:
Autonomy = people need to perceive that they have choices and that the actions they take are in line with their own free will.
Relatedness = the need to care about and be cared about by others; to feel connected to others without concerns about ulterior motives; to share Values, Mental Models and Goals.
Competence = people need to feel effective at meeting everyday challenges and opportunities.
(*What Maslow’s Hierarchy Won’t Tell You About Motivation, HBR, 2014)
In many ways, I believe some IT departments are “stuck” in Maslow’s Hierarchy. It very much matches the Waterfall Project Thinking that was our bread and butter for so long.
Meeting milestones, following a clear structure, checking all the known boxes was the main motivator. With the change to Agile as a Method/Tool, the known structures and motivators are gone.
What motivates us when a new way has to be learnt and lived?
A different layer of motivation needs to come in which provides the three psychological needs described in the Self-Determination Theory (Deci & Ryan 2008).
If we look at the core values of the Agile Manifesto and match them to the measures of motivation in the Self Determination Theory, we find that all the boxes are checked.
If it’s all covered, then where is the gap?
Autonomy is a core principle of Agile, as well as Competence.
The gap not fully covered in many cases is Relatedness.
Even though it is a core value in the Agile Manifesto (individuals and interactions over process and tools), it remains multi layered. The simple, yet powerful statement covers culture, team interaction and individual behavior at its best. In the very factual driven world of IT, we understand methods, but how do we tackle our feelings and interactions?
If we break out the motivational factor of Relatedness into its individual components, we have:
- Feel connected and cared for
- Have common values
- A shared mental model
- Shared goal
Many individual pieces that all revolve around one thing as a baseline: Common Values
Why are values so important?
Values are our baseline as people and organizations. It defines our “Why” and helps us in finding direction on “How”. Studies have shown higher clarity on values to be linked to increased ethical behavior, motivation and creativity. It also positively impacts trust and collaboration in teams.
In a world that is ever changing, values for us personally and our organization are our true North star. Something that we can truly rely on as people and team. It is the baseline to develop shared goals, a shared mental model and feeling connected and cared for.
When we deal with many moving pieces in agile approaches and thus digital transformation as a whole, we need to have our basics in place.
- Common Values that as an Organization / Team we can identify with. Just writing them on paper will not be enough. Values need to be lived in order to truly serve us. They need to be integrated in our culture to interact, share, make decisions and collaborate.
- Agile Motivation refers to common Values in place, as well as Relatedness, Autonomy and Competence in action. Meaning, we are working in an environment where work can be completed in an efficient way. We practice the wisdom of the crowd. We operate around a shared mental model. We have the freedom to be creative and innovative.
- Agile Methods: With Common Values and Agile Motivation in place, Agile Methods can be implemented successfully. The four values of Agile as stated in the Agile Manifesto can be fully embraced.
- Digital Transformation: All three layers need to be in place to truly embrace digital transformation and make it a success.
The shown layered approach is not a linear journey. It is an ever-evolving cycle of change and a weaving of experiences and common growth.
That being said, the one thing, when established with clarity, will remain solid throughout this journey: Common Values. As we evolve as a team and organization, there may be changes in how we practice and integrate them, but these values will always offer us the steadiness needed in constant change.
Values do provide a guiding North Star for the IT Organization and its people, however it is equally important that a Partner supporting you on a journey of innovation and change is a good match. A clear alignment of Internal IT and External Partners on the baseline of common values can amplify the speed of change and innovation.
You might be one of the lucky ones to already know and actively integrate your organizational values into the team and work life. If that is the case: Congratulations! I would like to encourage you to go one level deeper and go beyond your team/organization.
Do the partners you work and engage with, match those values?
If so, great!
If not, or unsure (anything less than a 100% yes is telling), then what’s missing?
Identify, then find the right partner to speed up change and innovation.
P.S.: Intrigued by the concept of Agile and Values and want this shared with your executive team? Get in touch with our expert!
With 20 years of global IT experience working in Strategy, Innovation, and Implementation Projects, Barbara Wittmann understands the Zeitgeist of IT Trends and needs of CIOs & IT Leaders. As a trusted CIO Advisor, she makes IT simple, sage, and strategic among people, departments, and cultures. Through her Workshops and IT Coaching, she helps to mitigate risk, prioritize next steps and develop a shared mental model that drives innovation and digital change. She works with Suyati as a Strategic IT Advisor.