Kokoro: Mastering the Transformation Basics is Simple, it’s just not Easy!

09 Sept 2020 … I got some really great feedback from Alistair, so I’m integrating that into this post … thanks Alistair!

Watching the leadership of organizations make the same mistakes, over-and-over again is, well, definitely not encouraging. One of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over-and-over again, yet expecting different results the next time around. I believe it was Einstein that made that observation; and, it’s still true today.

One of the biggest “transformation” mistakes is when the leaders believe that they can “delegate” the transformation of the organization to the team level, thus (in their minds) avoiding the hard work that they must do in order to transform themselves, first. If the leadership is only talking-the-talk, and not walking-the-talk, then they quickly lose critical mass and credibility. And, they will waste their investments in what they believe to be “transformation.”

Leaders need to join their teams in the transformational journey. Failure to do this simple step will result in not achieving the desired outcomes. Simple is not easy. It takes discipline and hard work to achieve the vision for the change.

Recently had a discussion with a colleague that is attempting to recruit a small army of Agile Coaches for an organization that wants to transform itself (this organization has recognized that if it doesn’t transform, then a failure to do that is an existential threat to its very survival).

Here are just a few of challenges when recruiting a bunch of coaches:

  • If we use the Agile Coaching Institute’s Coaching Competency Framework, then there are at least 23 combinations of the four areas & eight skills required to be a competent coach.
  • If we add in Alistair Cockburn’s idea (borrowed from the martial arts) of Shu-Ha-Ri (essentially: beginners, competent, masters) to the 23 combinations that result from the Agile Coaching institute picture further down in this post, then this means that we have a very wide range of maturity levels (just under 70 combos) for the Agile Coaches that we need to synchronize and lead.
  • Since each of the Coaches will have a wide range of skills, experience and leadership competencies, then that makes it very difficult for the individual tasked with leading a transformation – herding cats is the image that comes to my mind.

Here’s a picture of Alistair’s model (Shu-Ha-Ri with Kokoro – Kokoro can be roughly translated “just master the basics” -and- it can also be translated “heart”):

Here’s the picture for the Agile Coaching Competency Framework (courtesy of Dandy People and the Agile Coaching Institute). We should add Shu-Ha-Ri to all eight areas in this picture (to add another dimension for Agile Coaching maturity in each of the eight areas):

Getting a person up to a Ri-level in all eight areas above could take a lifetime to achieve (if it’s even possible to become “Ri” in all eight competences pictured above – which I don’t believe is actually possible – maybe seven of the eight is achievable since it would be a rare combination of having someone at the Ri level in both Business Mastery and Technical Mastery). This takes time, dedication and discipline on everyone’s part to help the Coaches achieve “Ri.”

Applying Kokoro to the above picture would entail focusing on just a few basics for each of the eight Agile Coaching competence areas; and, eliminating everything else. Which is interesting since this aligns with the Agile Principle of “Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.”

Btw, a competent Agile Coach does everything a great Scrum Master does; plus almost everything else listed in the Agile Coach picture above. Many companies with which I have worked have mistakenly thought that Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches are the same thing. But, that simply is not the case, as can be seen by the skill sets in the image above.

Growing people into competent coaches takes a lot of time (some of these competencies take longer than the others to acquire):

The follow image is some Quick Wins and Longer Time Horizons for an Agile Coach’s journey:

If you think you can bring someone up the Agile Coaching curve in six months, well … my experience has been that it takes time to build a great coach with the skills, values and battle scars needed to survive the politics and friction that are present in all organizations. This is a longer term investment and commitment to the journey your Agile Coaches are taking.

So, by combining Alistair’s picture with the Agile Coaching picture, it doesn’t take to much effort to realize that leveraging the outcomes delivered by a small army of Agile Coaches will quickly move (most likely the wrong direction) through the various levels of the Stacey Diagram or Cynefin Diagram (simple, complicated, complex and chaos) and the organization will end up with Chaos in many cases, rather than obtaining the expected outcomes.

The picture above becomes multi-dimensional by the time we add-in competencies and maturity levels as well. I have observed many times where a company believes it can hire a bunch of coaches, throw them together and voila – we are now agile. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. You need a really good leadership framework around which you can rally your Organization’s Leaders, Agile Coaches, Scrum Masters, Product Owners and Teams.

Further, if the transformation is only focused on the team and individual levels (or worse, they’re trying to Scale Agile way too soon), then the odds for failure increases exponentially. It is incumbent upon the leadership to have a clear Vision for the transformational change they want to achieve (and communicate that 10 times more than they think they need to do).

Merely delegating the transformation down to the Program, team or individual levels simply doesn’t work. Organizations that try to do that will limp along (they may still be breathing, but they are probably already dead – they just don’t realize it yet).

Delegating transformation downward hasn’t worked in the past. It will not work in the future.

As Alistair points out, at the Kokoro level you return to the idea of “mastering the basics.” You return to the “simple.” You return to the “heart.” And, simple is NOT easy. Management Consultants earn their very high consulting rates by taking the Chaotic, Complex and Complicated and Distilling it down to the Simple. That, is being a true “Kokoro.”

And, this this ability to simplify also aligns with the Agile Principle of “Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.” Enterprise Agile Coaches that also master the (Management Consulting) ability to simplify will add tremendous value to any organization with they work.

Flow infinity hand drawn 2020

If you want to get to the heart of the matter and increase your odds of success, then let’s keep the conversation Flowing – feel free to reach out to me on www.andrewkallman.com.


Flow Leadership Manifesto

It was a number of years ago (back in February of 2015) that I originally proposed the idea of an “Agile Governance Manifesto” at the following link: https://pmobrothers.wordpress.com/2015/02/27/manifesto-for-agile-governance/ The reality is that we need, once again, something that takes us beyond the concepts of Agile (and/or Business Agile) and into the realm of Flow Leadership. My proposal for the The Manifesto for Flow Leadership reads as follows:

Flow Manifesto

Flow Manifesto principles

Flow plugs the leadership gaps inherent in all Agile and Traditional methodologies. If you want to increase your odds of success, then let’s keep the conversation Flowing and feel free to reach out to me on www.andrewkallman.com.

Agile, Lean & Exceptional Value Delivered in Sweden

During the past twenty years, I’ve had the honor and privilege to work with some amazing teams in Sweden (was based there around 8 of those 20 years). So, it is no surprise to me that frameworks and methodologies that emphasize collaboration, cooperation and consensus work so well here in Sweden, for example:
  • Scrum – Jeff Sutherland, Ken Schwaber
  • Scaled Agile – Dean Leffingwell, Ken Schwaber, Jeff Sutherland
  • Lean – most trace the origins of Lean to Henry Ford (and his visit to the Butcher shop) and some even to Ransom E Olds (who patented the production line first)
To me, what is fascinating is that these frameworks work well, regardless of national culture, not just in Sweden but also in the Americas, Asia and the rest of Europe. Since the national culture in Sweden has collaboration, cooperation and consensus, agreed-upon values at its core, my Swedish colleagues have a natural head-start over many other regions when using Agile, Scrum and Lean. When a framework demonstrates that it is useful (and is duplicatable and works) in a local context, then as a business person (that is focused on enabling teams to add the highest possible, sustainable value in each and every assignment) I find that compelling and worthy of additional investigation. During 2014 – 2019, when I was based in Stockholm, Sweden, I put together this mini-case study during the middle of that time on the results achieved by the AI (Artificial Intelligence) teams using Flow. Once again, my Swedish team members demonstrated that they are among some of the best in the world at creating not just great business value, but truly remarkable (and sustainable) results. It was an honor to be one small part of these teams. The reason that I was included on these teams was that one of the senior team members was both an FCP and FCT (Flow Certified Professional and Flow Certified Trainer). In other words, he was very well versed in Agile, Lean as well as the principles of Flow. Back in 2015 he reached out to me to see if I would be willing to support the AI teams in their Agile journey(s) with additional training, coaching and mentoring in Flow. After a number of discussions, I joined the AI team to encourage and guide them along the way to achieving sustainable high-performance. Here is an overview of what these amazing Swedish team members achieved during these past few years: AI Sweden Cases The teams were struggling to use Agile to deliver pilots for AI (Artificial Intelligence) “digital co-workers.” When I arrived and started working with the teams, it took them around eight (8) months with 7-8 people (full time) to deliver a pilot AI project. But, they felt that they could achieve even better results. As can be seen from the picture above, by the end of my time with them (training, coaching and mentoring the team members), the teams were able to deliver more than two times faster with three times less people (8 months –> 4 months, 7.5 people –> 2-3 people). Btw, using Flow by the teams resulted in a cost savings of almost 90% to the customer per pilot. That works out to an amount in excess of US $1 million saved for the customer (for each pilot implemented). Well done and kudos to the teams! During the team’s journey (since not all of the team members had been trained yet in Agile, Lean or Scrum when I arrived) we started with the basics; and, trained almost all of the them in Scrum and Agile (through the lens of Flow). In the picture above you can get a feel for when they were trained in Scrum, then Flow-based Scrum and then to the FCP level (the horizontal lines. Also, there were two FCTs (Flow Certified Trainers) working with the teams (PJ and AK). From that point forward, with everyone on the same page in Scrum (as well as having the learned the basics of Flow), this helped the teams move from “Performing” to a sustainable “High-Performing” level in the Aha! Curve:

Aha hand drawn 2020

The timeless principles taught in Flow also cut across cultures (both national and business), just like Scrum, SAFe and Lean: Flow in a nutshell hand drawn 2020 Each of the following builds on the mindset delivered by Flow:
  • Flow-based Agile & Scrum Master Training (Individual and Team)
  • Flow-based Product Owner Training (Team and Product)
  • Agile Coach and Enterprise Agile Coach (note: The Flow Certified Professional applies to all four areas: Individual, Team, Product and Organizational, but it is optimized for those that want to become an ultimate Enterprise Agile Coach)
When I facilitate courses in the above areas, they are taught through the lens of Flow. As a previous Swedish participant summed it up, “Flow helps everyone (Scrum, Kanban, Scrumban, XP, Agile, SAFe, LeSS, Nexus, etc.) play nice together!” In the Flow breakfast seminars I that I have previously facilitated in Stockholm during 2018-2019, I shared that an Enterprise Agile Coach needs to also be a competent Management Consultant (that understands how to mitigate and/or eliminate politics). Flow (and Flow-based training) gives you the tools you need in your coaching and consulting toolkits to be great at both: Flow infinity hand drawn 2020 Flow enables Enterprise and Executive Agile Coaches to effectively support Leaders and Executives and leaders in creating the ecosystem and culture that will turbocharge the organization’s teams and stakeholders in their journey up the Aha! Curve. If you want to increase your odds of success, then let’s keep the conversation Flowing and feel free to reach out to me on www.andrewkallman.com.