AGILE HYBRID WORK FRAMEWORK
5 KEYS

3. Network of Agile Teams

NETWORK SQUADS TO WORK AUTONOMOUSLY TOGETHER
Agile Teams are designed to maximize autonomy while fully attuned to organizational true north.

The ability to ‘self-organize’ and work interdependently, understanding, trusting and actualizing the expertise and contributions of each individual yields a sum far greater than its parts.

Prerequisites for Agile Teams include

  • A] A clear and shared understanding of true north [established through your principles], and
  • B] Crystal clarity of the necessary outcomes [prioritized through your OKRs].


The inherent structure of self-organized teams is optimal in these remote conditions.

Migrate together to the necessary outcomes pulling in the subject matter experts at the right time for the right duration to accomplish the objectives and key results that deliver immediate benefit to your customers. We’ll guide you in how to organizationally support this different way of working.

The third key in developing a digital remote culture is facilitating the conditions for networked autonomous teams to thrive. What are “networked Agile teams?” It’s simpler than you think.

To illustrate the idea, a story:

X-Factory manufactures hard goods and ships them to customers. Prior to hitting the shop floor, orders need to be entered, planned, proofed back to the customer (each order is customized to some degree), scheduled and then delivered to the shop floor.

This process can take up to 26 days. Once hitting the floor, there is a 2-6 week lead time to manufacture and ship. That might sound excessive to you, but it was the case at X-Factory, and it was a problem because 90% of the company’s business rested upon 2 major customers, and one of them was fed up with the lead times and threatening to leave.

Clare entered orders. Will planned and assembled the bill of materials (BOM) that accompanied the job through the shop. Grant created the spec drawing that detailed all the aspects of the job for customer approval. Each functioned within their departments, located in disparate parts of the office. Typically an order would process sequentially through those steps refluxing upstream 3 or 4 times throughout the process for clarifications and rework. For 26 days.

To get to the point, one day Clare approached Will and Grant with a request to experiment. Her hypothesis was that they could reduce the lead time and re-work by working together simultaneously enter, plan, and proof an order.

With a bit of persuasion, Will and Grant reluctantly agreed. This wasn’t the way they were accustomed to working, and their concession came with a litany of ways this would never work. Nevertheless, they found a place where they could sit and work together, and they started the clock. They sat side by side, working autonomously together. While Clare entered the order, Will assembled the bill of materials and Grant prepared the specification drawing. Predictably, questions arose. {These questions would previously result in anonymously dropping the ‘job jacket’ back into an inbox for rework. Jobs queued up in inboxes: the constant shuffle obfuscating visibility and exacerbating delays.} To make a long story short, with a cooperative effort focused on an outcome, the job was entered, planned, proofed and back out to the customer. In twenty minutes.

In this scenario, all three team members happened to be physically co- located. Geography notwithstanding,

Their criteria for successful autonomous team play oriented around: aligning around the objective, planning the experiment and overcoming a reluctance to break status quo and get ‘uncomfortable’ in service to a better outcome.

Given that pre-work, the experiment could have just as easily (potentially much more cost-effectively) been carried out remotely as a digital team.

Unwittingly, Clare, Will and Grant networked cross-functionally to form an Agile team, reducing the order-entry lead time from 26 days to 20 minutes. It’s a true story. X-factory was not a “Lean” or “Agile” organization.

Clare, Will and Grant worked in typical painful silo conditions separately for over a decade before the emboldened experiment.

Why?

Because the organization was designed for siloed, sequential, waterfall behaviors. The departments were actually incentivized to optimize performance locally: each department was focused on its individual output, and none were attuned to the overall outcome. The patterns, habits and SOPs myopically reinforced the conditions and elaborate, unproductive feedback loops that created an average 26 day lead-time.

In short, the organization was perfectly designed to get the result it got. None of the three actors in this change were told (much less encouraged) to work together, they each reported to different functional managers. When they finally put the customer/ user first, knowing the organization could lose 50% of its revenue if they didn’t, they found an exponentially better path forward, and the client (conditioned for a 26 day turn time) was blown away.

A strong, overarching sense of purpose or objective enables a team to self- organize with an inherent sense of responsibility for the necessary and desired shared outcome.

Experimentation is required to innovate the existing ways of working, and in order to outperform status quo, some metric(s) must be known, agreed upon and worked against. The autonomous actors must be free to engage with different methodologies and have the ability to influence one another and overall outcomes. The team embodies the full skillset required to perform the work, and a high ability to trust, respect and communicate with one another through the practice of radical candor. Visual management of the end to end process supports continuous improvement toward outcomes and objectives.

"These are the characteristics of self-organized, autonomous, cross- functionally networked teams that leaders must nurture and facilitate"

A leader’s role in creating the conditions for self-organized, autonomous, networked Agile teams is not to direct, decide and tell. It is to help team members adopt a mission that transcends the outcome. To develop teams of leaders. To facilitate trust and foster a healthy acceptance of challenge. It is to restructure rewards for overall outcomes versus individual outputs and emphasize not what you’re going to do, but what you’re going to achieve. A leader’s role in developing networked, self- organized, autonomous teams is to engage in and support radical candor and transparency in the spirit of growing as a team and accomplishing the organization’s aspirational goals.

In the upcoming keys, we’ll talk about how the pulse- the organizational “drumbeat” propels an initiative to team. And in key 5, we offer up some engaging tools for highly effective (and fun!) digital teaming during remote work.

BOOK RECOMMENDATION

The ActioGlobal team recommends you to read “Team Topologies: Organizing Business and Technology Teams for Fast Flow” by Matthew Skelton and Manuel Pais.

New business challenges, unprecedented business perspectives.

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