Agile Leadership – an Executive Briefing (1 day)


Like the emergence of ‘Lean Production’ in the 80/90’s in the manufacturing sphere, ‘Agile’ has more recently revolutionised software development with radical increases in the speed, quality, predictability and effectiveness. Yet the majority of agile implementations either fail completely, or deliver a fraction of their promise. Why so?

Most organisations and their leadership teams still follow prescriptive, efficiency based management paradigms, developed throughout the 19th and 20th centuries in a simpler, slower moving, more predictable world. Modern business, and software development in particular, must now deal with a level of complexity which refuses to play nice with traditional management approaches. Many organisations struggle because agile is simply viewed as an iterative and incremental way of implementing an already known master-plan. They fail to understand the deep and broad changes in organisational structure, culture, information and power distribution involved.

Todays product development organisations are more akin to complex adaptive systems, which, by definition, implies the answer cannot be “figured out” in advance. No amount of analysis, design or planning our projects will allow us predict how they will unfold, what they will (or should) deliver, or the value they will create.

The complexity of software development today presents three significant challenges to our traditional management approaches:

  • We can’t predict exact future behaviour – it is a non-deterministic world where the product we build, how we build it and the resources needed will unfold as we do the work
  • The system cannot be reduced to the sum of its components – system behaviour is emergent, depending on the interactions between components such as people, designs and tools, as much as the components themselves
  • Small changes to one aspect of a system may lead to disproportionally large changes elsewhere – these environments are non-linear. For example, a minor usability change can influence if an app reaches the tipping point of mass viral adoption or flounders in obscurity.

So if we can’t predict how the future will unfold, how can we as leaders create plans, assign responsibilities, measure performance, make commitments to stakeholders?

Agile Leadership is about building resilient organisations – organisations that can adjust structure and reconfigure resources dynamically based on emerging challenges. Such organisations cannot be built on static, power based hierarchies. Information and decision-making authority must be deployed dynamically to where it is needed at a point in time.

Building such an organisation requires some fundamental changes to our management approach. In this one day introductory session, we explore the new leadership challenges in IT based organisations, the nature of complexity itself, how we can transform as an organisation to deal with it, and the evolving role of leadership in delivering enterprise agility.

Target Audience:

An understanding of the ‘Big Picture’ is essential to all those considering adoption of agile and lean in their softeware development organisations: CEOs, CIOs, IT managers, Project Managers, Transformation Agents, Senior Management,  Senior Technical Leaders, Developers, Analysts, Testers. Many of the principles and benefits also apply to product and service development in general.


Some of the topics we’ll cover during this intensive one day session include:

  • What got us here won’t get us there: the nature of complexity and how it defies traditional plan-based, centralised ‘command and control’ management
  • The emergence of Lean and Agile – a little history and an overview of Scrum
  • The nature of management and leadership – and how its changing
  • The organisation as an ‘organism’ rather than a machine – alignment, empowerment and accountability in a team based enterprise
  • The ability to set strategic direction or intent (what and why), while not committing to detailed plans (how)
  • Leveraging the power of self-organisation by nurturing a shared common purpose, distributing power and developing leadership at all levels (“Eyes on, Hands off”)
  • Building professional competence and a common doctrine across team members resulting in mutual confidence and trust in others leading to speed and effectiveness.
  • Aligning personal, team and organisational incentives thereby avoiding conflicts and even subversion of intent.
  • Designing organisational structures optimised for complex environments – organising for interaction and flow
  • Agile Finance and Contracts: Moving from CAPEX/OPEX to rolling budgeting, from fixed scope to value centric delivery
  • Leading an Agile Transformation: Understanding Organisational Culture and Evolutionary Change

For further details of our services in Lean/Agile software development methods contact We specialize in embedded coaching and training in Scrum, Kanban and Lean.

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