As a leader, how do you create an environment that is nimble enough to thrive in an era of digital disruption?
Certainly not through “Command and Control,” which has been the prevailing management model for decades. Nothing limits creativity or the growth of new leadership quite like an “I know best” attitude. So what’s a better alternative?
Enter Lean-Agile Leadership, the first of the five core competencies within The Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®). To drive and sustain organizational change and operational excellence, leaders need to start by altering their traditional mindsets and practicing new behaviors, including:
- Prioritizing business value (not outputs)
- Backing off and giving others a chance to lead
- Communicating a higher vision, a “why”
- Leading by example and demonstrating purpose
- Showing self-awareness
So...how do change your mindset so that these behaviors become natural? The following six videos portray Lean-Agile Leadership concepts in easy-to-understand and creative ways. They offer tips, tricks, and models to help you become a true Lean-Agile Leader.
If you are looking for ways to influence your executive team, we recommend downloading the PDF version of this article, which also includes BONUS videos. Start by sharing one link per week with the team in preparation for a SAFe or Lean-Agile transformation.
“Knowledge IS NOT understanding.”
Change is hard, and everyone in the organization will have to change the way they work, act and think. For your SAFe or Agile transformation to succeed, you will need to unlearn the old ways of working to fully embrace the new Lean-Agile mindset.
This video demonstrates the difficulty of shifting your paradigm on riding a bicycle. You should obtain some understanding of the dedication it will take for you and your colleagues to change the way you work and think.
The Takeaway: Once you know Lean-Agile concepts, you may think you understand them. But to truly embrace and embody the Lean-Agile way of working, you must practice it every day until it’s hardwired in your brain. It will result in unbelievable returns—greater productivity, as well as increased employee collaboration and goodwill. But to get these results, you have to put in the time.
Daniel Moody | Length: 1 min. 59 sec.
“Velocity is a tool used for one thing and one thing only: to plan future sprints. It is not a measure of output, nor is it a measure of productivity.”
Velocity is the key metric in Scrum and represents the amount of work a Team can accomplish in a single Sprint. When adopting Scrum, it is common for managers to become overly concerned with velocity, especially “increasing velocity.”
In this video, sizing cooking stories is used as an example to show how velocity ultimately doesn’t matter.
The Takeaway: You can maintain the same velocity and still be more productive! Want to be a Lean-Agile leader? Focus on prioritizing business value and forget about what the teams are doing.
David Marquet | Length: 9 min. 48 sec.
“Move the authority to where the information is. ‘You mean the software engineer should decide whether we ship the software?’ ...Uh, yeah!”
Want to know the secret to creating great and engaged leaders within your organization? Hint: it’s not telling your workers what to do.
In this video adapted from Captain Marquet's talk on Greatness and his book Turn the Ship Around!, Marquet shares his Lean-Agile philosophy of intent-based leadership and decentralized decision making (SAFe principle #9).
The Takeaway: The vast majority of decision making has no strategic importance. Allow workers to think, decide, and act for themselves so that they can develop their own leadership skills. Letting go of control can be a scary thing, but don’t forget—the workers are the ones with the local context and probably know best!
Simon Sinek | Length: 18 min. 34 sec.
“People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.”
Apple Inc. has accumulated an unbelievable number of engaged customers who believe in their products. So what sets them apart from the competition?
In this TED Talk, Simon Sinek presents a simple but powerful model called “The Golden Circle,” which explains why some companies and leaders are able to inspire action where others cannot. The differentiator is knowing your purpose—why you do what you do—and then leading with your purpose in mind.
The Takeaway: As a Lean-Agile leader, it is up to you to reinforce alignment within your organization by constantly communicating the vision (ie, the WHY) and checking for understanding.
Dan Pink | Length: 10 min. 47 sec.
“If we start treating people like people, and not assuming that they’re simply horses...we can actually build organizations and work lives that make us better off.”
Is money our key motivator at work? Why is it that sometimes higher incentives lead to worse performance?
In this video, adapted from Dan Pink's talk at the RSA Animate and his book Drive, Pink reveals the three factors that motivate us to do our best work: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. When our work requires conceptual and creative thinking, the best results come from being purpose-driven rather than profit-driven.
The Takeaway: Traditional mindsets handicap agility. If you want increased employee engagement, then you as a Lean-Agile Leader must reinforce autonomy, mastery, and purpose to unlock the intrinsic motivation of your knowledge workers. This will ultimately lead to better personal and team performance.
The Conscious Leadership Group | Length: 3 min. 35 sec.
“At any moment, all leaders and all people are either above the line or below the line...if we’re above the line, we are open, curious and committed to learning. If we are below the line, we are closed, defensive, and committed to being right.”
Why is it so easy to gossip, blame and shame? And what can we do to distance ourselves from these harmful behaviors?
This video offers a solid, black line and encourages leaders to ask, "Am I above the line? Or below the line?" It’s common to find yourself below—a threat to our ego is experienced similarly in the brain as a threat to our survival; thus, humans are biologically hard-wired to “go below the line.” By being consciously aware of where you are relative to that black line, you can take control to climb above the line.
The Takeaway: To foster a culture of collaboration, innovation, and connection, Lean-Agile leaders need conscious awareness of their mental and emotional state. By taking responsibility for their thoughts and actions, they will be supporting a better work environment and truly leading by example.
Lean-Agile Leadership is crucial to SAFe success! For other important considerations, view our list of essentials for your SAFe Transformation.
Written by Alyssa Hamilton & Susan Strain
Alyssa served as ICON's receptionist for a few summers during college and returned ten years later to spearhead the company's marketing efforts. Her roles include creating email campaigns and special offers, editing the blog and other written content, and collaborating with partners and coaches. Alyssa is a former chef who spends much of her free time cooking and reading about food.
Susan Strain is an Agile Transformation Coach who works with clients implementing Agile practices that span the enterprise. She coaches and trains Agile principles and methodologies, including Enterprise Business Agility Strategy, Scrum, Kanban, and SAFe®. She has experience with clients in a wide variety of industries including banking, financial, government, hospitality, insurance, investments, manufacturing, military, publishing, and retail. Over the course of her career, she has been a soldier, computer nerd (she went to Steve Jobs house to see his first Lisa computer!), journalist, and Agile coach.