A leader is like a farmer, who doesn’t grow crops by pulling them but instead creates the perfect environment for the crops to grow and thrive
We live in uncertain times created by the move from the age of mass production to the digital or software age. Traditional management and leadership practices were developed to manage work, to build the process, and to provide the intelligence for work to be done. We are moving to a world where, by necessity, teams have to be empowered to respond to their environment. Agility is turning the world upside down. Agile leadership is the future.
But how do you create this thriving environment for self-managing teams? How do you facilitate teams in such a way that they take real ownership? How do you create enough structure to prevent chaos but also avoid falling back into micromanagement? Is your role as a leader to sit on your hands and trust the autonomy of the teams?
This book is the result of a three-year search for these answers. The results are practical and concrete tools and examples for your specific situation. It gives you the ability to create an environment in which your teams
- Focus on the goal,
- take ownership,
- learn quickly from the customers,
- and together improve the culture.
Nobody wants to lead people who are unmotivated, deliver low-quality products, and do not collaborate with other teams, nor do they want to lead where highly talented people leave. Unfortunately, there are too many companies that struggle with at least a few of these bad things. Scrum, Less, and other agile methodologies promise motived, collaborative, and highperforming teams. In numerous cases I’ve seen these teams. They are truly empowering, energetic, and contagious, and customers are enthusiastic about the quality and speed of the improvements they make. But getting teams to this level of performance is not easy. Every team, department, product, and customer base is so unique that there is no recipe or “7 steps to success” to be found. But luckily, there are several practical tools that you can use to create the tailor-made environment for your teams and your customer base. My passion is to share these tools with you so that you can create a working environment in which people like their jobs and grow as people in their skills and self-confidence.
Audience—Who Is This Book For?
This book is intended for leaders in an agile environment. They have recently become or already are responsible for people in agile teams, for several agile teams, complete agile departments, or even agile companies. These leaders are already convinced of the benefits and necessity of agile and are searching for ways to improve. They are globally familiar with Scrum and other frameworks. In addition, they already have experience with managing teams in general, and now they are looking for practical tools, handy metrics, and new methods to create an inspiring environment for their self-managing teams. Last but not least, their company is active in a competitive market. This means customer satisfaction, innovation, digitization, and quality are king.
Responsibility of an Agile Leader
Agile leaders lead their teams in a totally new way. They lead because they create precisely the environment that the teams need to grow and improve. Within this environment, the teams optimize the processes themselves, increase their own effectiveness and efficiency, and make all kinds of decisions on a daily basis. That makes these teams self-managing. They organize their own work and they have all the skills to do so. These agile teams are agile in and of themselves because they can respond quickly to new technologies, threats from competitors, and the ever-changing expectations of their customers. They don’t have to wait for official approval, management decisions, or top-down strategic changes. Because they have a short feedback loop with their customers and users, they can continuously experiment with new ideas, improve their products and services, and align with other selfmanaging teams.
The agile leader is the architect of this environment—just as a farmer doesn’t grow crops by pulling them but instead creates the perfect environment for the crops to grow and thrive. When the crops don’t grow, he doesn’t blame the crops; rather, he sees it as feedback on the environment he created. The same goes for an agile leader. He takes the humble responsibility to create this environment for his people and teams. When the teams don’t flourish, when things go wrong, or when customers are not satisfied, the new leader doesn’t punish his people for doing wrong things; he sees it as feedback of the environment he created. He asks for feedback and help from his employees to find improvement, and together they adapt and improve the environment.
Toolkit for Agile Leaders
The toolkit of the agile leader is divided into four parts, which together describe the environment that self-managing teams need to thrive. The agile leader has the following practical tasks:
- Co-create goals
- Facilitate ownership
- Learn faster
- Design healthy habits
Successful agile leaders provide their teams with the support they need by successfully mastering each of these four parts. They can make better decisions based on the clear goal, create perseverance and energy with ownership, and respond quickly based on fast learning ability, all in an inspiring culture with healthy habits. Each part of this toolkit is described in one section of the book. Each consists of two practical tools and a concrete skill of the agile leader—in total, eight tools and four skills. The skills are put into practice in the last section of each part, and they are explained in such a way that leaders can immediately start working with them. Each tool can be successfully used separately, but each tool reinforces the other tools in an additive way.
You can order the book on Pearson (http://www.informit.com/store/agile-leadership-toolkit-learning-to-thrive-with-self-0135225779).
Want to know more about the book, see the relating website: https://tval.nl
Peter Koning is Professional Scrum Trainer and senior leadership consultant at Prowareness. He coaches, trains and advices leadershipteams of larger organizations. He started with agile working in 2004 and has been an agile leader for many years. He is father of two kids, happily maried, lives in the Netherlands and loves board-games, speedcycling and Formula 1.