Leading SAFe: It’s all in your head. – PART 2

There are absolutely no one-size fits all, just-tick-the-box solutions in an agile environment. Instead, leaders who want to manage with the Lean-Agile mindset need to learn to organize safe environments so that others – through engagement – can come to the next steps of effective action.


In this two-part blog, Janse gives his expert perspectives on the challenges – and rewards – of expanding your mind and becoming a SAFe Agilist. This is the second part of the blog series.

Read the previous Part 1 here.


Controlling uncertainty = Creating clear frameworks

What is absolutely clear to most Agile managers, administrators and controllers is that it is their job to create clear frameworks, a vision for transition, so that their teams can work autonomously and effectively.  But in today’s brave new world, how can they accomplish this? “We’re talking about moving away from a top-down system in which the leader is literally responsible for everything, to a bottom-up model in which knowledge workers become both the head and the hands for their particular project or responsibility,” says Abram Janse. In this new scenario, your leadership – and the success of the enterprise –  means creating new systems and letting teams have the power.


Janse points to Deming, who said in his classic management book ‘Out of the Crisis’ (MIT Press 1982): “The system that people work in and the interaction with people may account for 90 or 95 percent of performance.” In other words, management must find the root cause in the system set-up instead of looking to reduce symptoms by blaming, or teaching people the processes.


“Leaders find themselves in a very chaotic world because they don’t know what their role is in these Agile new surroundings in which there isn’t so much to do anymore, and where those they used to lead are actually leading themselves,” says Janse. The enormous challenge for those managing the transition is finding – or perhaps, re-inventing – their own role in this decentralized, trust-based world. “Perhaps you are experiencing less control, and are doubtful of how to tackle the administration and take responsibility” of your organization’s Agile  transition? That is one of the issues addressed in the recent Gladwell Academy White Paper ‘Control: Precondition for sustainable Agile success’.


Instability creates the (Agile) leader

One of the key benefits of taking a 2-day intensive course is the combination of freedom and focus it allows IT managers and leaders, and particularly the opportunity to experience the mind-expanding ability to move forward (and even lead) along an unstable and unsure path. “This kind of leadership is a whole new area, and they have to come and experience it,” says Janse. “While it may come naturally for most managers to only start once the path is clear, in an Agile environment it is best practice to start walking, experimenting and learning on the go,” he says.


Whether organizations are large multinationals or SMEs, they and their strategic (IT) management will find that the Gladwell Academy’s Leading SAFe 2-day course, which leads to the SA certification, will expand the mindset and accelerate appropriate adaptation, of Agile throughout an enterprise.  And participants begin to align with  a new vision of leadership : it’s a from-the-bottom-up approach in which your job as a leader is to make space, and to hold a place of trust, for the many people and teams you manage through the unpredictable twists, turns, ups and downs of the Agile journey.

“How comfortable are you with instability?” asks Janse. “That is the dance we are doing in this training, preparing leaders to make that (Agile) move.”


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