Lead from the Top

Lead from the Top

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Conceptually, shifting from a traditional to a Lean strategy is simple and straightforward. The problem is that it is very hard to do.

For Agile to work at the strategic level, everyone needs to think and act in a new way. This new way involves teamwork and thinking in terms of what is good for the company and the customers instead of protecting one’s turf.

The only way to navigate these pressures is through strong leadership. The CEO must lead by example and consistently guide everyone back to the Lean fundamentals. The CEO must break up kingdoms and get everyone rowing in the same direction.

It can only happen if a strongly determined leader with a clear set of goals (vision) is actively driving the change.

I’m sorry for those who think that Agile adoptions are based on volunteering. Agile adoptions work first top down and then bottom up. The initial strategy, sense of urgency, reorganization and adoption of lean and agile principles and practices comes from the top. It is not optional.

Yes, you can impose change. It is the paradox of the change agent. Using command-and-control to create a self-organized and decentralized environment. Embrace this paradox, and work with it, and stop bullshitting about happiness and volunteering.

Do you “force” your kids to go to school, eat vegetables or do sport? Or, do you ask them to volunteer? It is for their good, even if they don’t understand or don’t want to.

Many people have taken the agile principle “Individuals and interactions, over processes and tools” too far away. Scrum is an imposition, limiting WIP in Kanban is an imposition, SAFe is an imposition, so, relax an accept reality. If you, as a leader, believe Lean is going to let your company grow, reduce costs and make workers happier, just do it.

You will face resistance, no matter what you do.

Next up, It’s All About People.

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