Skip to main content

You Said Transformation - what do you mean?

Do we mean the words we use - or do we just use them because everyone else does...  you know like the popular buzz word in corporate bingo?  Let's take the word Transformation, as in:

"Hi team, I will be you Agile Coach - let's all do the Agile Transformation thing together.  Out the other end of this transformation we will be a changed company."

Some definitions of Transformation:
  • a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance.
  • a metamorphosis during the life cycle of an animal.
  • (in physics) the induced or spontaneous change of one element into another by a nuclear process.
In an organizational context, a process of profound and radical change that orients an organization in a new direction and takes it to an entirely different level of effectiveness.

Some in the agile world are pulling against this trend... see Dan Mezick's The PUSH of Agile Causes "Trance Formations".
So stop that. And do these things, instead:
  1. Encourage executives and managers to refrain from making decisions for the teams that Scrum very clearly defines as belonging to those teams.
  2. And then, encourage teams to make the decisions that Scrum says are theirs (and theirs alone) to make.
Let's talk about the images this term, transformation creates.  A typical example is the metamorphosis that the caterpillar performs to become the butterfly.  To achieve this transformation the caterpillar spins a chrysalis and then digest itself into protein soup to fuel the development of the butterfly.  Imagine the energy required to perform this feat.  Is your company ready to spend 50% of it stored resources to perform a transformation?

Now let's talk about mental models.  What's the purpose of a mental model - to share it... in this sharing scientific experts have come to understand that the brain waves of the people synchronize into very similar patterns.  One area of research is emotional contagion. “During successful communication, speakers’ and listeners’ brains exhibit joint, temporally coupled, response patterns.” Speaker-listener neural coupling underlies successful communication, is a paper discussing this magic coupling of two people's mental models.

So what do you mean when you say Agile Transformation?  Are our brains in sync?  Do we have similar wave patterns setting up in our minds?  Perhaps not.

Sohota's Guide
What other words might we use to describe the phenomenon? 
  • Approbation
  • Conversion
  • Evolution
  • Exploration
  • Journey
  • Peregrination
  • Procession
  • Progression
  • Quest
  • Transition
  • Venture
  • Wayfaring

Another from of Transformation occurs for Uber - the Board mandates a transformation.
Uber Board Unanimously Approves All Holder Report Recommendations; Details Secret Until Tuesday

Here's a story of a company that said they wanted to be inclusive - yet have a difficult time behaving that way.  Antisocial Coding - My Year at GitHub by Coraline Ada Ehmke.

Post a Comment

Most Popular on Agile Complexification Inverter

Exercise:: Definition of Ready & Done

Assuming you are on a Scrum/Agile software development team, then one of the first 'working agreements' you have created with your team is a 'Definition of Done' - right?

Oh - you don't have a definition of what aspects a user story that is done will exhibit. Well then, you need to create a list of attributes of a done story. One way to do this would be to Google 'definition of done' ... here let me do that for you: Then you could just use someone else's definition - there DONE!

But that would be cheating -- right? It is not the artifact - the list of done criteria, that is important for your team - it is the act of doing it for themselves, it is that shared understanding of having a debate over some of the gray areas that create a true working agreement. If some of the team believes that a story being done means that there can be no bugs found in the code - but some believe that there can be some minor issues - well, …

Elements of an Effective Scrum Task Board

What are the individual elements that make a Scrum task board effective for the team and the leadership of the team?  There are a few basic elements that are quite obvious when you have seen a few good Scrum boards... but there are some other elements that appear to elude even the most servant of leaders of Scrum teams.

In general I'm referring to a physical Scrum board.  Although software applications will replicated may of the elements of a good Scrum board there will be affordances that are not easily replicated.  And software applications offer features not easily implemented in the physical domain also.

Scrum Info Radiator Checklist (PDF) Basic Elements
Board Framework - columns and rows laid out in bold colors (blue tape works well)
Attributes:  space for the total number of stickies that will need to belong in each cell of the matrix;  lines that are not easy eroded, but are also easy to replace;  see Orientation.

Columns (or Rows) - labeled
    To Do
    Work In P…

What belongs on the Task Board?

I wonder about these questions a lot - what types of task belong on the task board?  Does every task have to belong to a Story?  Are some tasks just too small?  Are some tasks too obvious?  Obviously some task are too larger, but when should it be decomposed?  How will we know a task is too large?

I answer these questions with a question.  What about a task board motivates us to get work done?  The answer is: T.A.S.K.S. to DONE!

Inherent in the acronym TASKS is the point of all tasks, to get to done.  That is the measure of if the task is the right size.  Does it motivate us to get the work done?  (see notes on Dan Pink's book: Drive - The surprising Truth about what motivates us) If we are forgetting to do some class of task then putting it on the board will help us remember.  If we think some small task is being done by someone else, then putting it on the board will validate that someone else is actually doing it.  If a task is obvious, then putting it on the board will take vi…

A T-Shaped 21st Century Knowledge Worker

Knowledge workers in the 21st Century must have many areas of deep knowledge, while also be capable of collaboration across multiple other domains with dissimilar T-shaped individuals.  This description of a person is a metaphor.  Compare it to the shape of the "I" in the classic saying there is no "I" in Team.

I first read about Scott Ambler's term "Generalizing Specialist" - but it's so hard to remember the proper order of the words... get it backwards and it has an inverted meaning... T-Shaped is easier to remember. 
A generalizing specialist is someone who:
Has one or more technical specialties (e.g. Java programming, Project Management, Database Administration, ...). Has at least a general knowledge of software development. Has at least a general knowledge of the business domain in which they work. Actively seeks to gain new skills in both their existing specialties as well as in other areas, including both technical and domain areas.  General…

David's notes on "Drive"

- "The Surprising Truth about what Motivates Us" by Dan Pink.

Amazon book order
What I notice first and really like is the subtle implication in the shadow of the "i" in Drive is a person taking one step in a running motion.  This brings to mind the old saying - "there is no I in TEAM".  There is however a ME in TEAM, and there is an I in DRIVE.  And when one talks about motivating a team or an individual - it all starts with - what's in it for me.


Pink starts with an early experiment with monkeys on problem solving.  Seems the monkeys were much better problem solver's than the scientist thought they should be.  This 1949 experiment is explained as the early understanding of motivation.  At the time there were two main drivers of motivation:  biological & external influences.  Harry F. Harlow defines the third drive in a novel theory:  "The performance of the task provided intrinsic reward" (p 3).  This is Dan Pink's M…