Luis Goncalves
Last updated on | Organisational Change

Do You Know How to Manage Organizational Impediments?

by Luís Gonçalves
Organizational Impediments

DO YOU KNOW HOW TO MANAGE ORGANIZATIONAL IMPEDIMENTS

Hi guys, this week I want to talk about Organizational Impediments.

Those who follow my work know that I have spent several months developing a framework that I believe will make a huge difference. It is my hope that this framework will allow organizations to become “learning organizations”.

The framework is divided into four different parts:

  1. Agile Portfolio Management.
  2. Agile Teams.
  3. Organizational Community of Practices.
  4. Organization Improvement Board (The topic of this blog post).

The whole framework can be found below.

 

organizational impediments

Organisation Improvement Board – How to manage Organizational Impediments

organizational impediments

I believe the Organizational Improvement Board will be an essential part of any organization that is serious about learning and improving.

Going even further, I think this tool will solve one of the most common problems that companies face in their transition toward Agile companies: “What is the job of the managers in Agile?“.

We all know that middle managers are the ones who suffer the most when companies move toward Agile. Why?

The answer is simple. Agile does not have a specific role for them, or at least nothing incredibly obvious; therefore, they become very insecure and they try to grab every piece of work they can find. Most of us know this is not good news.

There are certainly many definitions of what an Agile Manager should do. I define them as:

Organizational Change Artist – the manager, should be one of the persons guiding the organization toward Agile.

Boundary Keeper – the manager should reinforce boundaries both within the team and between the team and the rest of the organization.

Value Maximizer – the manager should be one of the persons managing the portfolio of projects. He/she is a product owner, but on a bigger scale and always asking, “What is the highest business value project in the organization?”

Lean Manager – the manager will use lean thinking to improve organizational flow so that the value that teams deliver can be delivered without delay.

Organizational Impediments Remover – the manager will navigate through the organization and remove all of the impediments that are blocking teams from delivering value to customers.

Team Champion – the manager, will coach agile teams, helping them to achieve fantastic results.

You can find more information here:

What is an Agile Manager

But what does this all mean? What kinds of tools and processes are at their service to allow them to do a great job? Unfortunately, most of the organizations where I worked previously do not have an answer for this.

What if we could have a tool that would enable middle managers to collect all of the organization impediments and their job would be to “solve the obstacles”? I believe this would help them to find a lot of meaning in their daily job.

The company where I am working now, “HolidayCheck“, is ramping up the organization improvement board. As part of this process, we will have what we call the Agile Improvement Backlog.

This backlog will contain improvement topics that are blocking the organization, or simply improvement ideas that will help the company to become faster and more innovative.

The Agile Managers will be responsible for tackling those improvements and solving them one by one. Do not think this is simple! Many of these improvements will demand profound changes within the organization, but this is the only way to become a truly Agile company.

We believe that organizations are full of potential improvements, but they lack a way to make those improvements transparent. This board will enable teams and individuals within the organization to come up with possible improvements and find ways to improve the whole company.

Hypothesis Kanban Board

As you can see from the picture, the board contains six different columns. They are:

  • Hypothesis: In this column, we will have the possible improvements for “HolidayCheck”. These improvements will be written in the form of a hypothesis. Everything we do starts with a hypothesis. We never know if what we want to implement will cause the desired outcome; therefore, everything should initially be treated as a hypothesis. The format of a hypothesis is presented below: 

We hypothesize by <implementing this change>

We will <solve this problem>


Which will have <these benefits>

As measured by <this measurement>

  • Options: Every hypothesis has a different possible “way” to be implemented. We should always try to figure out an option that is easy to implement with a big return on investment.
  • Selected: The option that was selected for each hypothesis.
  • Ongoing: The option that is currently under implementation.
  • Review: In the column we review, was the improvement implemented successfully and if so, did it cause the desired result?
  • Done:  The improvement was implemented with success.

Team Members

As I explained above, the owners of this board will be mainly the Agile Managers, but they are not alone. Senior Management is part of this team as well. In our case, the COO is the “uber” Scrum Master; this is extremely important.

Having the Executive Management as part of this process will allow everyone to be empowered to improve the organization.

Another small tip that I would like to provide: the person who raises the issue (most often the Scrum Master) will be part of the discussion since he/she is the one who knows all of the details of how the problem affects him/her and the team.

Process

The idea is to implement everything in a very Agile way. Every second week, the team gets together. They review what was achieved, and they plan what will be tackled during the upcoming weeks.

Every month, the team gets together to run an Agile Retrospective to analyse how they can improve.

HC_Improvement_Process

How are the topics coming to the board?

Manage this as an average product backlog. In a standard Agile team, you would talk with the product owner and use the same approach.

Figure out which person can help you write your hypothesis and add it to the backlog. Make sure that you have a transparent process that allows you to get feedback about the status of your hypothesis.

How will we treat learnings?

Find a place where you will store the results that you take from the experiments. These results are very important for future organization decisions; treat them with high importance!

Communications

To keep the whole organization informed, make sure that you send a monthly email that will cover the following:

  1. Improvements implemented (achievements)
  2. Metrics
  3. Results: “What did we learn with this improvement?”

Make the board visible

Make the board public. Everyone inside of the organization should be able to access the board and see which different improvements and initiatives are ongoing, which ones were solved, and which ones are coming in the future.

I believe this idea can cause a tremendous impact in organizations. It’s a great tool to enable:

  1. Transparency
  2. Continuous Improvement
  3. Helping managers to finally work within the company system
  4. And of course, starting the creation of a learning organization

I really hope that you enjoyed this blog post! If the instructions on this blog were not sufficient, please feel free to contact me. I will provide you with all the information.

If you´d like to seek consultation on the best approach, strategy, or solution for your company, feel free to contact me.

Working with Me Or Evolution4all

I have developed the Organisational Mastery” product. The aim of this product is to create a coalition that drives change and internal innovation alongside shared knowledge throughout the organisation. It’s extremely suitable for companies that want drastically improve the alignment between executive leadership and delivery teams.

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Luís Gonçalves

About Luís Gonçalves

https://plus.google.com/u/0/+LuisGonçalves1979

Luis Gonçalves is an Entrepreneur, International Author & Keynote Speaker. As a Management Consultant he works with Senior Executives to implement his ‘Organisational Mastery’ system so they can greatly increase the effectiveness and efficiency of their organisations; enabling them to become recognised and highly rewarded Leaders. Previously much of his career has been spent assisting various organisations become more Agile and better at what they do. Luis and his consultancy has now moved beyond Agile.

Comments

Share your point of view

  1. Nice post Luis. I like your approach on using a hypothesis and options for improvement. This resonates with my series of blog post on handling impediments at http://www.benlinders.com/2015/handling-impediments-why-it-matters/.

    However, I’m not a fan of an improvement backlog. You need to do improvement actions in stead of managing a backlog. I prefer to go for the minimum, focus on the vital few actions http://www.benlinders.com/2014/retrospective-exercise-vital-few-actions/. Taking small steps to improve continuously.

  2. Good post Luis, I’m curious if this approach is different than lean change from Jason Little? I just scan the post and it seems to be very similar approach.

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