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Simon Powers on Transitioning to Product Teams and Advice for New Managers

| Podcast with Simon Powers Follow 1 Followers by Shane Hastie Follow 30 Followers on Dec 03, 2018 |

In this podcast recorded at the Agile 2018 conference Shane Hastie, Lead Editor for Culture & Methods, spoke to Simon Powers of Adventures with Agile about helping organisations move from siloed groups to large product teams, he gave advice for new managers and discussed the trends he sees happening in large organisations.

Key Takeaways

  • The challenges of making businesses more successful through technology
  • Today the challenges are less technological and more cultural
  • The team is everyone who works on the product or service, working collaboratively to meet customer needs – this could be hundreds of people and they all need to have consistent goals
  • We are looking to create a structure that enables truly self-organizing teams at scale
  • The role of middle-tier leaders is to truly adopt a servant leadership mindset and help work out what the team can do to solve their own problems, rather than solving the problems for the team

Show Notes

  • 00:27 Introductions
  • 01:44 Working with very large organisations helping them move towards agile ways of working – to make businesses more successful through technology
  • 02:05 The changes that have happened in the agile industry over the last 13 years
  • 02:13 Initially the focus was on small teams and practices which helped them become more effective
  • 02:32 The technological problems of software delivery have largely been solved
  • 02:41 The real challenge now is removing impediments from large teams who have to work on a single product
  • 03:10 Today the challenges are less technological and more cultural
  • 03:28 How large teams function
  • 03:58 The challenge of building large-scale, complex products where up to 100, or more, people need to work on the problem collaboratively
  • 04:17 The value of having a sense of identity with the wider team rather than just with the nuclear 7 +-2 person two team
  • 04:21 The team is everyone who works on the product or service, working collaboratively to meet customer needs
  • 04:54 The organisation structure needs to change to support these types of teams
  • 05:40 This is hard to achieve and it does work; it needs the right support to enable it to happen
  • 05:45 Leaders have to go first – bottom up transformations are not sustainable in the long term
  • 05:57 Leadership buy in is needed for the large scale structural and cultural changes which are needed
  • 06:32 It’s about not focusing on agility, rather focus on the real challenges which leaders face in their organisations
  • 06:58 Leadership support is needed to change structure to create end-to-end cross-functional, collaborative teams who are responsible for complete products
  • 07:25 We are looking to create a structure that enables truly self-organizing teams at scale
  • 07:41 Implement agile in an agile way – iteratively and incrementally using small experiments
  • 08:20 Start by getting everybody involved with a product in a room and support their exploration of the way of working to identify small experiments
  • 08:58 The aim is to move towards self-organisation at scale to solve the real business problems that leadership faces
  • 09:34 Keys to success include being inclusive, encouraging diversity of opinions, attitudes and ways of thinking
  • 10:04 If we create the truly psychologically safe environment then the team can be empowered to run the experiments and make the changes
  • 10:42 The challenge with the big agile frameworks is that they perpetuate the “one person is the expert” thinking that takes away from self-organisation and empowerment
  • 10:54 Take ideas from the different frameworks and teach them as concepts, but empower the teams to design their own ways of working
  • 11:45 The role of middle-tier leaders is to truly adopt a servant leadership mindset and help work out what the team can do to solve their own problems, rather than solving the problems for the team
  • 12:24 The role becomes an enabler, helping the teams to become great
  • 12:52 Leading larger teams is very different and people moving into that area need to take the time to learn about management and leading people,
  • 13:03 Emphasize the creation of an environment such that people can be amazing
  • 13:18 Once you’ve created that environment, get out of the way and solve problems around the team
  • 13:55 The mistaken belief that management is something that people can just do – it takes learning and deliberate practice to become competent
  • 14:34 In order to learn the competencies needed managers should get involved in leadership community groups, and look to your peers to help and network
  • 15:12 Find an exemplar, a mentor whom you can trust to help you as you build your own competencies
  • 15:32 Different approaches to mentoring programmes in different organisations and industries
  • 16:10 People are always willing to give their opinions – be comfortable asking for help
  • 16:22 Mentoring is about more than telling someone what to do, it is about growing a person and giving them options so they can work out the solutions for themselves
  • 17:02 Trends that Simon is seeing in the large organisations he is working with
  • 17:04 Leadership as already discussed
  • 17:08 Moving away from agile as a technology solution towards true business agility
  • 17:21 The challenges caused by the bottom-up adoptions that have been prevalent – lots of enthusiasm at the lower levels in the hierarchy and a lack of understanding about complex adaptive problems at the more senior levels
  • 17:48 Include leadership and understand their problems in order to bring them along on the transformation journey
  • 18:27 The need to heal the organisational wound from the split between business and technology
  • 18:46 There is no difference between business and technology – we are all in this together
  • 18:58 Organisations need to restructure to create product and service-based teams
  • 19:15 HR practices and programmes are becoming much more human-friendly than they used to be
  • 19:52 In the technology space, the slow move of enterprise architecture from a design function into a risk management function
  • 20:22 Architects sitting in and with the teams so teams can solve architecture problems at the point of work
  • 21:14 Seeing a slow move in the way technology and teams are funded – moving away from funding projects towards funding capabilities
  • 21:56 This funding approach enables accountability for business return around backlog items
  • 22:20 The need for honest progress reporting and creating a trusting environment

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