9 posts categorized "Agile Transformation"

What's the root cause?

-Karthik Gurumurthy

I am fortunate to work with young adults in helping them in Prep for SAT/ACT / MCAT tests.  I am also work with organizations in their Agile transformation efforts as an Enterprise Agile Coach. Even though the work involved is totally different, I see a parallel in both the roles.

Sometimes when the results are different from what's expected, we pause and find out what is the root cause of the issue?

Why don’t people perform? It is almost always for one of these reasons:

1. They don’t know what to do.

2. They don’t know how to do it.

3. They don’t want to do it.

4. They can’t do it.

Expectation without proper education equals frustration. Good leaders have the ability to assess abilities. An effective leader knows both what a person is capable of and what training and the education they need to succeed.

But training and development aren’t a panacea. If you’ve got the right person in the wrong role they won’t succeed.

Specifically, it is a matter of fit. The person fits the role. It isn’t an exact science, an either/or. However, when someone who is conscientious struggles performing even after they’ve receive the necessary training, it is likely a fit problem.

Are the right students in the right classrooms and even in the right seats? Are you assuming a student is a poor performer when in reality, her or she is just in the wrong classroom?

Willingness and ability aren’t the same thing. Understanding the nuances of people and performance are an important skill for leaders.

Graceful Entry, Graceful Exit

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Work in silence and leave in silence. Success didn't necessarily need to make any noise. Feeling successful is a mindset and not an external acknowledgment. High performers work for themselves and do not expect anything in return. They leave. They will be missed. Graceful entry, graceful exit.

Product owner: Mindset preparation

-Karthik Gurumurthy

As a Product Owner your 5 min. before starting the daily stand-up:

Think about:

1. What role you want to play in the meeting?
2. What to avoid discussing in the meeting?
3. What’s the one thing you want the team to take away?
4. What do you want people to “feel” by the end of the meeting?

The emotion you send them with determine the amount of energy your team is willing to spend.

Choose carefully.

Agile Transformation

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Change is not a one time thing. It’s a repetitive process because the first implementation will almost always not be 100% perfect. You need a few iterations with minor tweaks here and there and that’s where agile comes in. Short implementation cycles coupled with feedback loops allow organizations or teams or projects to find what works best for them. There is no one cookbook recipe type solution for agile transformation- This is where the mindset change & behavioral change (to constantly push forward and be better , leaner , faster etc) come into play. Most companies take many years before they are truly agile while the rest send a few people for scrum master & agile coach certifications that can be gotten over a weekend and then declare they’re agile. The second group is always the one that’s complaining that agile doesn’t work because they haven’t even tried being Agile. it’s a long game - no quick wins.

Thought for today: Understanding people

-Karthik Gurumurthy

" Every problem is a people problem. Someone made it, Someone is upset of it, Someone is enjoying it, Someone is  not acting on it and it is someone in someway. Understanding people is an essential skill to run life. If we give importance  to improve our ability to understand people without getting influenced by the situation, we will see the growth. Leadership is all about understanding people and making their life better."

Needs Hierarchy and the relationship with change

-Karthik Gurumurthy

It wouldn't be simple to figure out how to manage the system if it was the only system. In addition to the survival system, humans have a built-in seeking system. Abraham Maslow introduce a hierarchy of human needs in 1943 in his work of theory of human motivation. At the base of the pyramid of needs, Maslow listed physiological needs that encompass food, shelter, sleep, or anything else that we might need for our bodies to function correctly. These needs are followed by safety needs. Safety includes both emotional and physical aspects. Safety is a domain of the survival system. Since it's so close to the base, it's critical to our well-being. We wouldn't be able to progress through the pyramid without making sure we're safe first. As we move through the Maslow's hierarchy, we visit the layer of love and belonging, esteem, and finally reach self-actualization, which tops the list. We satisfy self-actualization by figuring out our purpose. The purpose looks different for different people. Fortunately or unfortunately, we're not born with a manual. So we have to figure out what we're meant to do through discovery and exploration. For this exact reason, we have a built-in seeking system to help us look for change, which equals discovery. It's a paradox of human condition. We are wired to interpret changes and threat and also seek it out. Jaak Panksepp led the research in the domain of affective neuroscience. He discovered seven primary emotional systems, which include the seeking in a survival system. When the seeking system is activated and we follow up on the urge, our brain releases dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is linked to pleasure. The more we explore, the more pleasure we feel. This explains why learning and experimentation make us feel motivated and zestful. The seeking system was a stark contrast of the survival system. Both systems play two very distinct roles. Their relationship is what makes our relationship with change so complicated.

Primordial Survival Systems: Understanding Change

This is basically a biological decoder for all incoming environmental signals. Humans have survived for thousands of years on this planet. We're an incredibly resilient species in our brain has evolved to increase our odds of survival. There are three elements that comprise our survival system.

  • The first one is the amygdala. It is a small region of the brain responsible for processing threats, fear, and anxiety. It has helped us survive, learn, and adapt through the millennia. The amygdala activates a fight or flight response before we have conscious awareness of a threat. It makes sense. The medulla shortcuts our intellectual processing, interpret stimuli and triggers If physiological response. It sends a signal to deploy a chemical cocktail spiked with a hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, which makes us physically stronger and faster. Those milliseconds of additional speed are critical, especially if there's a tiger running towards us. The amygdala is also responsible for processing anxiety. Anxiety is different from fear. Anxiety is a form of dread about a potential fret. It's not activated by the presence of physical danger, but rather by our thoughts. Thoughts are as real to our brain as the actual physical threat. That's why thoughts of an upcoming change trigger anxiety in so many of us.
  • The second element of our survival system is the process of assigning meaning. Our brain likes to assign meaning to things if the mean is not immediately apparent. After all, we need to understand if a particular event has the potential to cause us harm. We know what the tiger staring at us means, but we don't always know what pending change will mean to us. In that case, the neurological design of our brain triggers the process of filling in the blanks for the missing information about the meaning of a particular change. That type of information that gets filled is largely dependent on the frame of mind, previous experiences in our psychological health across all spheres of life. But that's not all.
  • The third element of a survival system is the negativity bias. In a nutshell, negativity bias is our predisposition to focus on and lean towards negative thoughts. Because the meaning of situation can determine whether we live or die, negativity bias ways our thoughts toward the negative. If we're filling in the blanks, we typically do it with negative or worrisome thoughts. We assume the worst case scenario.

Remember, our goal here is to survive. In my experience working with organizations, one thing is clear. Organizations today are over-saturated with changes. In even the smallest ones activate the survival system and employees. Why? Because the meaning of changes is not transparent and also because employees have lives. So changes at work create the compound negative effect. The first question employees typically ask is, what does this mean for me? With no explanation, they assume the worst. Something like my job will be eliminated or I will be forced out. The meaning of work-related change will deteriorate even faster if a person is going through hard times in other areas of life. Such circumstances outside of work intensify anxiety and create overwhelm for the individual. Even though our survival system is designed to help us stay alive, too many changes can create paralysis, which may even lead to depression. As leaders, we should not fold ourselves in others for being fearful or overwhelmed by change. We should recognize change over saturation as a constant and help ourselves and others disempower fear and anxiety. We do this by communicating the meaning of any change in the clear, detail and transparent way. So our survival system has time to reset.


-Karthik Gurumurthy

Possibly the best definition of Accountability I have come across anywhere.

“I think that without owning something, over an extended period of time, like a few years, where one has a chance to take responsibility for one’s recommendations, where one has to see all recommendations through all action stages and accumulate scar tissues for the mistakes and pick oneself off the ground, dust oneself off, one just learns a fraction of what one can. Coming in and making recommendations and not owning the results, not owning the implementation, I think is a fraction of the value and a fraction of the opportunity of learning to get better.”

- Steve Jobs, addressing the students of MIT Sloan School of Management in the spring of 1992.