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From "Doing the Things Right" to "Doing the Right Things"

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Peter Jacobs, CIO of ING Netherlands, gave a talk at Agile India 2018 in which he explained how fostering and practicing an Agile approach has been helping the organization do things right, and the challenges they are currently facing to guarantee that they actually do the right things.

Recently, the idea that "practice leads to perfection" has been changing to "practice leads to perfection only if you're practicing the right thing". To the set of values of the Agile Manifesto, Jacobs added two more beliefs that are normally connected with an Agile Mindset: the idea of having no handovers between teams; and the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) or a quick go-to market approach. By fostering these thoughts throughout the organization, he observed that two out of the three elements of true human motivation were becoming part of the DNA of their teams, although there was a missing part.

In "Drive, The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us", Daniel Pink examines the three elements of true motivation — autonomy, mastery, and purpose — and offers smart and surprising techniques for putting these into action in a unique book that will change how we think and transform how we live.

Autonomy of the teams was already present at ING because that was part of the organizational foundations. They were inspired by the so-called Spotify Model, in which the teams are multidisciplinary, own their product and have minimal dependencies from others and are actually allowed to make their decisions and follow their options.

Mastery, renamed here to Craftsmanship, was fostered by a mindset in which engineers are the stars, they own their careers and shape them, taking into account what motivates them the most. Teams are producing value in the form of lines of code, and it is the delivery to production that means progress for a team. The management team works mainly as a support unit for the other teams to excel.

The need of having a Purpose, as per Jacobs talk, does not get improved with agile on its own due to the following facts:

Teams work in shorter term impact at the risk of innovation becoming incremental.
Agile focuses on doing the things right, not per se on doing the right things.

The way ING is currently chasing Purpose is structured in three main areas:

  • Quarterly Business Reviews in order to cascade their strategy. Speech is now focused on impacts and not on the abilities of the Product. Within this previously published article you may get additional insights from Kent McDonald's on the outputs versus the outcomes. 

  • Design Thinking — changing the mindset of continuously build, grow and improve to an approach in which teams need to diverge on the possibilities before converging into the solution. 

  • Obeya rooms, weekly meetings in a "physical room" where the four walls remind them every week what was their Purpose.

By nurturing these three vectors, Jacobs believes that organizations will be more close to:

Do the Right Things Right!

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