Agile Creates a Focus on Results and Accountability for their Delivery
by Shauna Acker
I attended the recent Atlanta Global Scrum Gathering May 7-9 and was very impressed by the keynote, Creating a Focus on Results and Accountabilty for their Delivery. The address was given by Tanner Corbridge of Partners in Leadership, a training and consulting company and authors of The Oz Principle. I always loved the Wizard of Oz as a kid, so I was intrigued to see how this story applied to the business world. The story of the Wizard of Oz is used to discuss a business philosophy aimed at individuals and organizations to overcome bad circumstances and achieve desired results.
Just like Dorothy's search for the Wizard of Oz for the enlightenment and wisdom to "get back home", individuals and organizations also "seek out the wizard" to save them from problems in the workplace. The truth is that the wizard is just a distraction, a hum-bug, a little old man, hiding behind a curtain. This allegory applies to business in that we often embrace business philosophies that will only create a layer on top of the ugly reality that needs to be dealt with. When the core is not addressed, problems will resurface and the business is stuck in the muck. The question really needs to be...what is at the root of this and how can I contribute to a better work place? The truth is found in our own actions, and in a word we often don't choose to embrace...accountability!!
Americans often have a victim mentality and are content to blame outside forces for our failures. This mentality is permeating the workplace and contributes to a destructive effect on results. When a company suffers from unsatisfactory outcomes, individuals often start the "blame game", deflecting and suggesting that the events are completely out of their control -- it's always something or someone else's fault, never me. The first step to accountability is recognizing the problem and being courageous enough to admit that you are stuck in a difficult situation and want to do something to change it.
Success is not complicated, but we know it's also not so simple to achieve and that there is a thin line separating success from failure. Corbridge suggests we can choose to "Live above the Line": “see it” (recognize my internal barriers to success), “own it” (admit personal responsibility for failure), “solve it” (create solutions that I can implement), and “do it” (follow through with actions that bring positive results). If we don't, we continue "living below the line" -- making excuses, blaming others, confusion, an attitude of helplessness. These actions get us stuck, we lose our spirit, and eventually feel powerless. Corbridge suggests that “people hold inside themselves the power to rise above their circumstances and get the results they want”. The Cowardly Lion found the courage he needed, the Tin Man really did have a heart, the Scarecrow has a good brain but just hadn't figured it out yet...and eventually, Dorothy made it back home!
The story of Dominos Pizza is a remarkable case study highlighting how these principles help a company turn around. Market results showed that Dominos customers had gone away from the product for a variety of good reasons: market feedback and word on the street was horrible -- " the pizza sauce has a ketchup-like taste and consistency", "the crust tastes like cardboard", "frozen pizza is superior". The negative customer feedback was severe and the stock price showed the ugly truth of the situation. As difficult as it must have been, instead of hiding from the truth and results, Dominos President Patrick Doyle launched an ad campaign and said, "There comes a time when you know you've got to make a change." The TV campaign revealed the facts and even included customers making a series of highly negative comments about Dominos...in other words, the president saw the problem and owned it, and he was accountable. The commercial closes with a link to PizzaTurnaround.com, showing what they were going to do to fix the problem. They scratched their original recipe and came up with a superior product, and the market responded in an overwhelmingly positive way, with stock up over 50% in the months following the ad campaign.
Our ability to succeed in business, and more importantly overall in life, requires us to live above the line and exhibit several key behaviors. Jeff Sutherland, one of the founders of Agile, states, "These (agile) inspect-and-adapt cycles work well only when team members exhibit several key behaviors:
- Respect for the worth of every person
- Truth in every communication
- Transparency of all data, actions, and decisions
- Trust that each person will support the team
- Commitment to the team and to the team’s goals
To foster these types of behavior, Sutherland says, "agile management must provide a supportive environment, team coaches must facilitate their inclusion, and team members must exhibit them. Only then can teams, and ultimately the business achieve their full potential. Moving toward these types of behavior is more difficult than it might appear." As we've discussed, individuals and teams avoid truth, transparency, and trust because they've been burned in the past, by negative experiences from conflict that was generated by honest communications. Sutherland goes on to say, "Commitment to work together happens only when people agree on common goals and then struggle to improve both personally and as a team." So when individuals and teams are committed they feel accountable for delivering high value, which is the bottom line for software development teams, for building great business results and in general, for living a life you can feel great about!
So put on those ruby red slippers, click your heels three times and repeat after me..."there's no place like home".