"Learning and working as a tribe can strongly influence the culture of your organization to prepare it for rapid changes and disruption." - Joanna Tivig
Agile Made My Team a Learning Tribe
Organizations today are confronted with rapidly changing technology, new competitors, and a diversified workforce. In order to succeed, they have to do things differently, find new ways to build performing teams, and get work done well. Becoming a learning culture is part of the story organizations are starting to write for themselves.
Building a learning culture
When I led a team of developers and project management practitioners, my focus was on them. I knew that if we built a high performing team, we would be very successful in what we were doing. One way of keeping the team motivated and engaged was through lots of practical training that was customized for their needs. When we started working in Agile development- a different way of working that complements project management and helps projects deliver value to the customer- training was mandatory. Having the team trained as early as possible in our transition to Agile meant that they all learned the same concepts and methods, and decided together which ones to adopt first.
They learned how to work as a team and, most importantly, how to rely on each other, take action, and make and own decisions for their tasks. The fact that they knew they had options and budget for training was very important to them, and I always encouraged them to sign up for any development opportunity. It brought the best out of them, and created a learning culture that fostered innovative and productive ideas.
The right training for your organization
Project teams have become small learning organizations, and the ability to create teams who learn is the goal for every business leader. Agile training focuses on values, principles, and practices, therefore bringing learning to a more applicable level. You need to find the type of training that brings the most return on investment for your team, without feeling you need to make any sacrifices. As your organization gets more competitive, and the focus to create growth occupies most of our times as leaders, we forget we need to allow time for training. Putting training time in everyone’s calendar is part of the commitment to learning.
Top trends agile has created
Technology is a powerful driving force in our society and culture. The complexity of new technology models created a need for better and leaner delivery approaches, so Agile was born. Agile practices have created some trends in the working space that cannot be ignored:
Genuine Agile teams operate in safe environments where new ideas are welcome, people are highly engaged, experimentation is mandatory, and failure is not sanctioned. The safe space encourages transparency and collaboration at all levels of the organization, making people more aware of their strengths and weaknesses.
People work better and achieve more together, rather than at the individual level. Group training is always more powerful than one-on-one training because of interactions, shared vision, and positive competition. Learning and working as a tribe can strongly influence the culture of your organization to prepare it for rapid changes and disruption.
Coaching provides an external perspective on your organization and makes you more prepared to learn, and receive guidance and advice. Organizations tend to stop learning when they get stuck in typicality and status quo. The coach can provide active awareness of a team to keep the focus on behaviours and practices that help achieve collective greatness.
The future of Agile
Agile implementations are driven by two forces: inspection and adaptation. That means the team will adapt their practices based on the learnings they accumulate while performing work. Agile is building an environment for learning and continuous improvement, and rarely does training needs to be enforced. The team decides on when and how they need training, and sometimes they are willing to pay for it because they want to learn more.
My perspective on the future of Agile is around the team. Agile teams will continue to grow and mature much faster than traditional teams. We will see more agile teams wanting to work in environments that are transparent and open, that are focused on results and making value for customers, and less focused on waste and politics. Mature teams grow into self-organizing, predictable mini-companies, with the right blend of leadership skills, focus, and autonomy. These powerful teams will help organizations succeed in executing their strategies. Spotify is the best example, where these teams exist in the form of Squads, Tribes, Chapters, or Guilds.
Build a learning organization
Peter Senge, founding chair of the Society for Organizational Learning (SoL) and MIT Sloan senior lecturer, argues that learning organizations require changes in leadership practices. The traditional leader who used to set direction, make key decisions, and energize the troops, is now seen as operating from an individualistic perspective. This leadership model is based on assumptions that people lack personal vision, are unable to master change, and have no power to make things happen; deficits that can only be remedied by great leaders.
In learning organizations, leaders are designers, coaches, and teachers. They are responsible for building organizations where people continuously expand their capabilities and understand complexity. Building a learning culture will foster a mentality of mastery, productivity, and creativity. That is “generative learning”: learning enhanced by the people’s own desire to store the information and apply the knowledge to different situations. The fact that people become owners of their actions toward learning, and sharing that learning with the rest of the organization, is a recipe for success.
Learning gets to the heart of what we are as humans. We become able to re-invent ourselves and therefore re-invent the organizations we work for.
Joanna Tivig facilitates Project Management and Agile Project Management in our Corporate Training Program. She is a Senior Leader with more than 10 years of experience delivering major projects, mostly in the Financial Services industry. Currently, Joanna is AVP, Digital Channels, at Investors Group, and previously held numerous senior leadership roles at Scotiabank, most recently Director of Development - B2E Mobile Solutions. She has strong change management skills, influencing organisations to implement new technologies that lead to high efficiency and productivity. Joanna also acquired international business experience across different countries and industries in Europe, Latin America, Mexico, and the Caribbean.