Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Build collective intelligence for excellence

Team members in effective agile teams can excel thanks to each other’s alertness, such as the football players of Barcelona with their tikkie-takkie football, the jazz musicians in their joint improvisation and the management team at Sri developing business models. Collective intelligence is an important predictor of team performance in the future with sensitive team members who interact mindfully with each other. These capabilities are key for excellence in teams at all levels. Interacting team members are in a permanent learning process creating so-called collective meaning structures. This requires intensive interactions in action and in after-action reviews. Agile meetings can be used to build collective intelligence. Managers should facilitate and agile learning advisors support.

I start my argument on what has been studied in the area of group intelligence, and then I would like to go to bat for the concept of collective meaning structures. Is collective intelligence (CI) able to adequately predict the performance of a team? The answer is yes. According to Woolley & Pentland (2010) it appears that general collective intelligence explains a group’s performance on a wide variety of tasks. It is not correlated with the average or maximum individual intelligence of group members (IQ): 1 + 1 = 3. A football team with star players is not just a top team. It is no coincidence that just an inventor introduced the concept of Collective Intelligence: Doug Engelbart with the computer mouse. It is also no coincidence that the building of collective intelligence is a priority in research of MIT.

The usual definition is:
Collective intelligence (CI) is the ability of a group to perform a wide variety of tasks, to collaborate and effectively coordinate a number of tasks, which in turn are predictive of the performance of the group in the future. 
This definition raises questions:
1. How does a team with a high collective intelligence (CI) develop?
Teams with a high collective intelligence show a constant improvement in performance and they seem to better internalize information and apply it to work over time.

2. How sensitive is CI for the communication between the team members?
Very. Woolley (2015) states that collective is closely correlated to the amount of communication, to an equal contribution in the interaction and to the degree of social sensitivity of group members. Social sensitivity is about the ability to read in the eyes of the other how things are going with the other person; it is about the ability to 'read' between the lines what someone says.
For excelling you need sensitive team members 
The number of women in a team is not surprisingly also a significant predictor, the more women the better and that could be related to sensitivity ... Some diversity between the team members is important and that also determines the quality of interaction between team members (Woolley, 2015).
Do you want to excel as a team? Invite women to your team ... 
3. Do top-down and bottom-up measures affect the CI of a team?
CI is affected by both. Top-down is about structures, norms and routines in which collective behaviour is organized in such a way that it increases the quality of coordination and collaboration. In the study by Woolley (2015) it was perhaps surprising that CI in well functioning groups is not predicted by bottom-up processes in the field of group satisfaction, social cohesion or psychological safety. CI is therefore slightly different from a measurement about the quality of relationships in a group. Besides, large differences in age within the team have a negative effect on collective intelligence (hierarchy), while it has a positive effect on the level of satisfaction (the mentor).

4. Is the definition culture-related?
According to Engel (2015) not. The cultures of America, Japan and Germany are all equally susceptible to it. Cultural diversity within a team promotes collective intelligence.

5. Should you be able to see each other?
It is striking that CI also applies to people who can not see each other (telephone conversation, video conferencing, etc.).

In a team with a high degree of collective intelligence, team members show corresponding facial expressions: non-verbally they sub-consciously tune into each other. So-called physiological synchronicity is an indicator of CI (Kim, et al, 2017)

Organizations will increasingly ask themselves how to raise their IQ together with learning computers or with the use of artificial intelligence. The organization IQ will increasingly be determined by the human-machine interaction and by human x machine intelligence. Artificial intelligence and learning computers gives the concept of collective intelligence an extra dimension with opportunities. Collective intelligence is also concerned with the question:
How can people and computers (machines) be connected, so that they can operate collectively, more intelligently than any person, group or computer did before? 
Recently I contributed to the  publication of Sogeti: AI (artificial intelligence) first; learn from the machine.

Collective meaning structure (CMS) 
So far Collective intelligence for now. I would like to say below that we may be better able to speak of collective meaning structures. These structures arise from group interactions, which are unique to the team and are the result of a joint interaction. They can include ideas, concepts, argumentations as well as behavioural patterns, styles and problem solutions. From social constructivism it is assumed that a kind of mutually cognitive contamination process starts in groups where the diversity of perspectives, knowledge and experience of the participants become interrelated. The team process leads to the creation of Collective meaning structures. Interpersonal skills are not a luxury but a bitter necessity.

A CMS mainly develops when there is so-called task dependence (interdependence): team members need each other to achieve something. You see it well with project teams, where team members need each other to handle the complex reality. This also means that managers with support from the Agile Learning adviser will try to promote the interdependence between team members as much as possible.

Each team member brings his or her own capabilities and skills, combined with his own assessment of the situation. This assessment is based on his own image of that collective reality and his or her assessment of which action best contributes to the realization and maintenance of the collective field of meaning. It is also unlikely that one person has the total collection of collective meaning fields in his head. It is precisely the variety of images that makes it possible to respond flexibly to environmental variations. A system, a team, is indeed viable as long as it is able to handle that external variety (Beer, 1972). And the handling capacity is the greatest where the variety comes in, according to Beer, must the outside world(management) therefore rely on the team(trust), you should not disturb a breeding chicken and you should not want to disturb a collective meaning structure. Interaction between teams, on the other hand, might require smart intervention of management.

Shared reality construction 
In 1983, Weick & Roberts presented the collective mind model for group intelligence. They argue that group intelligence arises and manifests itself in the collective behaviours and interactions of the team members, from which a global structure emerges. The emergence of group intelligence is a process in which the group comes to a so-called 'shared reality construction', a CMS. Group intelligence arises through and in the behaviour itself. An engaged or mindful interaction stimulates a rich set of individual images and contributes to the richness of images that can be brought to the table and processed in the collective sense field. The collective sense field is always linked to a specific social context that is unique to that context. It is that specific combination of people who activate cognitions together in a certain situation, which ensures that a collective image of reality arises. She is unique to the team and can not be transferred to another team. The emergence of group intelligence is a process in which team members interact with each other and with the phenomena or problems that people are working on, through different stages before arriving at a shared reality construction.;

Below I give a number of examples of a collective meaning structure.

Personnel on an aircraft carrier
On an aircraft carrier many people are involved in placing aircraft on deck before departure, landing and 'storage' below decks. It is clear that a small mistake can have disastrous consequences, the loss of an expensive plane speaks for itself. Also a delay of a few seconds is out of the question. It is crucial in such situations that all actors are alert and very well-tuned to each other; that they have a collective meaning structure (Weick 1983).

Tikkie takkie football from Barcelona
It is quite clear that players in a football team need each other to score. Interestingly, the example of Barcelona's tikkie takkie football is that a player at the moment of the ball shooting to a fellow player, immediately changes position. With every shot, the situation actually changes and is responded to. 

Jazz musicians
A group of jazz musicians does the same, when playing every note, one anticipates the contribution of the others. The question is how a jazz orchestra from an unknown music score creates a meaningful piece of music. Of course by playing the score a couple of times and gradually forming a picture together of what the end result should be. This is the process of organizing on which Weick wants to get an intellectual grip. He asks himself with a certain sense of wonder how it is possible that people discover meaning in their chaotic reality together (Weick 1983, Schön ....). Part of the answer must lie in the concentrated attention with which one creates an CMS together.

Theatre group
A theatre performance requires the utmost concentration of all involved. You can do this during rehearsals by carefully following the rehearsals of your fellow actors, even in scenes where you are not involved. Just then the play can become a whole and bring the purpose to live.

Medical Team around the operating table
Medical surgery requires teamwork. It is precisely in more complicated surgeries that mindful communication with all those involved is literally vital, and everyone involved will have to respond incredibly well. Hierarchy can frustrate and hinder listening and cooperation for collective intelligence and equal and balanced communication is crucial.

Top kitchen
The kitchen in a top restaurant is also a working environment where it is crucial that people are well attuned to each other. Joris Bijdendijk, the top chef of Rijks restaurant, sees the kitchen team as a family that constantly helps each other: "the bond created by working together in a kitchen is immensely intense". Dependence is of great value, you have to be able to trust each other blindly. 

Value creation and development of business models with weekly pizza sessions
The history of SRI shows a good example of working with a CMS. Curtis Carlson, former CEO of SRI, the developer of Siri that was finally sold to Apple, was aware that the top company SRI was not clear about its value proposition. He put a (MT) team of about 15 people together with the requested skills, values and credibility. Every Monday evening they organized a pizza session for 1.5 years (!) In a session, usually a team member presented a short value proposition and then the discussion started. It was a great learning process and the first 18 months there was not much progress, he says retrospectively. Under water, however, much happened: Carlson and his team were working hard to develop a collective meaning structure, with an intensity whereby members crept into the client's needs and gradually started to interact very mindfully with each other; team members became very skilful at throwing the ball in each other’s courts. A salient detail is that Carlson managed to keep the urge to develop something on hold for 18 months.
It is clear that team members cannot constantly perform at the top of their ability, you cannot be mindful or alert all the time, you have to make an effort and it falls under system 2 of Kahneman. One is really not practicing 8 hours a day with coming and going of fighter aircrafts on an aircraft carrier. The football players of Barcelona may play 2 matches a week and the jazz musician may play a few times a week. In the kitchen of a top chef top performance is asked for every day. Of course a lot is practiced on the aircraft carrier and every extensive exercise is discussed intensely, on the football training and the follow-up discussion after the game, the jazz musician who drinks a beer after the concert and back at home, so to speak, replays the session but now on his own. It may be clear that a management team does not build collective intelligence with the half-yearly awayday in a conference venue.

According to Weick & Roberts, the collective meaning structure evolves organically. It is not there as such, but is always being reconstructed. Group members view a situation, measure it against the collective field of meaning and then take action, with everyone complementing each other and anticipating each other. This also means that team members will have to maintain it; after a holiday the football team or the MT may have lost part of its meaning structure; it is no longer in the foreground and the antennas are less sharp.

Be mindful and becoming aware for ecollective intelligence
In a group behaviour feeds the collective meaning structure. Attentive or mindful interaction is a crucial condition for the emergence of group intelligence (Weick & Roberts, 1983). The team members should be motivated to invest time and energy in understanding each other. Noteworthy interaction means that the team members have dedication and involvement for other team members, monitor critically and alertly what is happening and are attentive to what the other members say and do. By paying close attention to each other, they gradually discover which group images translated into behaviour are in line with each other. Subsequently one can add to each other's behaviour by observing at what is happening and who does what and what not in the context of the collective sense field. It is precisely the combination of the shared collective meaning field, looking at and complementing each other when reality does not match the collective sense field (behavioural pattern), that teams are capable of carrying out complex and flexible behavioural patterns: on the football field, in the boardroom and in the jazz orchestra. Communication with each other develops a complex breeding ground that is better able to deal with complex situations than smart but isolated individuals. Attention is important for top football players, artists, excelling teams and it appeals to mindfulness or mindful awareness (Varela, 2003). Attention to the other is finally linked with attention for yourself, alertness starts with becoming aware. Social perceptiveness in the (work) process focuses on the intimate connection between activities and their consequences; that means less attention for the plan and much more attention to the activities in the now.

Whether the potential of teams is fully exploited depends on the interaction between team processes, collective meaning structure and quality of leadership / holding environment (Klimoski and Mohammed, 1994).
As far as team potential is concerned, it is illustrative to quote Johan Cruijff: the difference between a good and bad football team is in technique, discipline and character (Winsemius, 2017). It is about individual and team technique or the skill of the team game; not for nothing Agile uses so many rules. It is also about team discipline, the other team members must be able to count on you to perform agreed tasks (see the strict structure of scrum) and that you jumps in when someone else needs help (value cooperation). And the final piece is team character (resilience); you do what you need to do, you remain calm and steadfast, even if you are behind with nil to one score ten minutes before closing time.

Agile and collective intelligence 
In an agile working environment, the ingredients are present through which teams can develop a collective meaning structure. The interdependence between team members is strengthened especially by the daily stand-ups and also by the two weekly retro and review meetings. During a sprint meeting something can happen collectively; team members will become more and more conversant and intuitive in passing the ball to each other and will respond to each other better and more mindfully. The daily collaboration between people from different disciplines and the anticipation of customer demands reinforces the collective meaning structure. Programming in pairs at Menlo Innovations is a good example of this. For example, through day-to-day collaboration, people from customer service will better understand the IT dilemmas and vice versa. It is not yet the case that one is able react immediately in the action, like in a football match or during a jazz concert and yet it comes close.  

Mindful interaction
In a pleasant learning and interaction climate, conversations will increasingly develop from the third dialogue phase to conversations with 'presencing', in which a generative joint flow arises. You could also call it team flow.
Figure 1 Socratic conversation phases supplemented by Scharmer
In the fourth phase of the conversation, the subconscious can become aware with a chance that teams build up collective intelligence or meaning structures. It may be clear that you use a different language with football players or maybe do not communicate, but you are looking mindful for the team flow. Of course, team flow does not just happen, you work with each other to develop it and the agile learning advisor supports it. It is useful that team members, for example, experience the precensing or theory-U methodology and gain insight into what it can deliver. When there is a lot of attention at team level for mindful interaction with each other and team members are familiar with a few useful methods, this will have an effect on the other (informal) interaction moments between team members. During the follow-up discussion at the end of the meeting, you discuss with each other whether there were opportunities for a 'presencing' conversation or if the team missed these opportunities and what the reason was. When something of precensing and 'flow' arose, it is useful to discuss how it went, how the 'presencing' conversation could be fed even more, what disturbances there were and how to avoid it next time.

Mindful preparation and evaluation 
For a collective meaning structure, it is crucial that people talk to each other before and after the high impact event. On an aircraft carrier you cannot write an extensive reflection message when the planes arrive, the footballers at Barcelona cannot take a time-out. Jazz musicians will not take a break in a separate room to have a try and the medical surgery in the hospital cannot be stopped for several hours. And this also means that the two-weekly retrospective sprint team meeting must take place in peace and with intense attention for good conversation. All actors then trust that everyone is fully aware that nobody is distracted. All actors are therefore so attuned to each other that the smallest non-verbal signal is often enough for the other person to anticipate.

In the army or in a professional sports team, preparing and evaluating the exercise or competition is high on the agenda. In the kitchen of the top chef, thorough preparation is also very important. It requires a lot of practice, guidance and team discussions to achieve that top performance. Important matches are to a large extent won on the training ground, emphasized Johan Cruijff (Winsemius, 2017). Creativity is a matter of hard work, dedication, enthusiasm, tenacity and perseverance (Csikzentmihalyi, 1996). Picasso made also many dozens of sketches and trial paintings for his master piece Guernica. You see this working practice less in many work contexts; such as after a huge disruption in the factory or after an important negotiation of the team with an external party. Often a performance is barely prepared, the coaching of employees is limited and team meetings rarely discuss the way of playing and the team process. Often you may observe that after the high impact meeting a project team members immediately rush on to a next appointment, or all disappear with a firm step to their own car or flee to all those messages on their smartphone. This is a shame, because immediately after the high impact event, all the antennas are still out, everything is still in the foreground and then it takes much less effort to become aware. Where there is a lot of room in the sport for personal development, training, learning from each other and looking back on delivered performances, there often seems to be little time for this in work, it is just what you choose.
When it is about life and death(army) and when a team is in the spotlight (sport), we take the conditions of excellence seriously. When it comes to work, it seems less important ......... How come?

Collective intelligence is built up in action with each other. It requires discipline, intimacy and it also takes time for nothing (slack time). This can be organized. For excellence, you constantly create situations in which collective intelligence can grow in teams at all levels. The agile learning advisor seizes every opportunity and managers facilitate it. Social perceptiveness is of decisive importance for the building of collective intelligence. That means paying attention to small crucial signals of your discussion partner; becoming aware is an art and you can practice that. And then do something with it, a mindful interaction is important. In addition, pay a lot of attention to the after-action review. You need an adequate and tailor-made organizational structure through which collective intelligence can grow, use for example the agile meetings through which a collective meaning structure and a new mindset of mindful work will develop. This increases the chance of team flow and collective creativity.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Purpose-driven work using an Agile Mindset in Municipalities

Is Scrum and agile only for IT companies and IT departments? Not only, it is also something for municipalities where we call it purpose-driven work using an agile mindset. The agile mindset offers the municipality a perspective to anticipate and act responsibly to the needs and wishes of inhabitants and civil society organizations. This is a huge task; you can rightly speak of a transformation. In terms of values and desirable culture, municipalities aiming to work with purpose have similarities with agile front runners in business. With values like trust, cooperation, empowerment of employees, autonomous teams and leadership that serves. A municipality is of course something different from a company.
In the municipality of Ede(113.000 inhabitants) we started to work with purpose using an agile mindset. We started with four teams in the social domain and one team in the physical domain. By working and learning we develop an approach that fits the municipality of Ede.
The society is changing enormously, becoming increasingly complex - also for municipalities. Municipalities wish to realize social effects and so focus is required. They wish to get away from those long lead times with little results. Municipalities realize that departments thinking and working in silos often result in confusion, with all the consequences.

More and more municipalities are aware that they can only achieve results in partnership with partner organizations and inhabitants. Using their position in the network they will have an added value. Inhabitants increasingly know how to make their voice heard. They expect the municipality and its partners to quickly anticipate their questions and needs and they ask for a flexible municipality dealing with their goals and priorities. In short, inhabitants ask for an outward-looking organization, which calls for staff of the municipality and its partners to be able to operate effectively and flexibly. 

In the social domain, the biggest change process takes place in decades in The Netherlands: decentralization from the government to the municipalities in youth, welfare and participation & inclusion. In addition to this transformation, digitization and working with data within municipalities plays an increasingly important role. Unfortunately the decentralization also means a budget cutback. Organizations have to work together to cope with these challenges, otherwise their services will not be as desired. Of course, this is also the government’s appeal to the municipalities: work smart with impact and accelerated learning is exactly what the agile mindset means ...

The answer of municipalities to all these developments is summarized with the word purpose-driven work using an agile mindset, with the scrum rules and meetings organized in sprints. ... Purpose-driven work with an agile mindset means:
  • More vigour and more impact 
  • Working together with partner organizations and inhabitants: from outside to inside 
  • Focus and prioritize (stop activities that do not have an impact on society) 
  • More and better results through cooperation 
  • Working in multidisciplinary teams (including IT and data analysts) 
  • That the policy and implementation departments work closely together 
  • An internal structure and process for external cooperation 
  • A structure and rules of play tailored to purpose-driven work 
  • That management manages by milestones and progress results 
  • The City council and the executive board adjust its role with the teams working with purpose 
  • The City council and the executive board are actively anticipating requests that go beyond the financial framework
New perspective by scrum/agile or cyclic project management
 Most municipalities work increasingly with project management and embrace program management. The scrum / agile or cyclic project management approach presents an alternative to these classical waterfall project approaches.

In large scale projects with a clear 'scope', the 'traditional' waterfall project approach is obvious. When the product requirements cannot be clearly specified and the project leader expects that there will be a lot of scope changes, in interaction with inhabitants and then project planning is difficult. In this case the cyclic project approach or scrum methodology is a better alternative. The scrum method with sprints is suitable for situations where it is desirable to present a quick workable (intermediate) result to the customer in the municipality. The teams make sure that they constantly involve the customer/ inhabitant in the progress of activities and they respond directly to the wishes of customers presented in the review meetings. The scrum methodology is suited for complex issues and for creative processes, and this often characterizes the context within municipalities. This certainly applies to the three areas of decentralization in the social domain. Activities with known actions and procedures do not fit in purpose-driven work; like the department of permits, granting a decision to help households or civil affairs.
Why does agile spread so quickly? (Henrik Kniberg, 2017)

Specific challenges in municipalities 
 The context of a municipality is of course somewhat different from the commercial sector. To begin with, a Dutch municipality operates within the framework of the municipal law. To be able to carry out the tasks assigned to the municipality and to make its own policy, there is a municipal council that takes decisions. In line with the municipal council, the executive board members fulfil their own role in a democratic manner. The city council has mainly executive and supervisory duties and the executive board has administrative and executive duties. Within the framework of the municipal council, the executive board manages the municipality. The city council supervises the way the executive board carries out its duties. The municipality also carries out all kinds of legal tasks such as enforcement and it ensures that legitimacy for inhabitants is guaranteed, for example regarding access, licensing, etc.

What makes a municipality fundamentally different from commercial companies is its local monopoly; it does not have to survive in the arena with competitors. You could also say that the monopoly is relative; all the activities of the municipality are under the magnifying glass. There are also more and more municipalities inviting inhabitants to consider the magnifying glass; these are municipalities taking transparency seriously, involving inhabitants constantly in activities and tasks.

Values and culture
In purpose driven municipalities, core values often match with those from enterprises implementing an agile work environment: empowerment of inhabitants and employees, trust in employees and partners and a lot of cooperation at all levels. Empowerment means that municipalities invest much effort in engaged employees to be a people- and results oriented organization.

Employees working in multidisciplinary teams work with sprints or iterations. Self-management and autonomy of teams are highly important. These teams operate again in a network of teams. Working in autonomous teams raises the level of engagement and it also raises questions about the alignment between teams (team-of-teams) and management (strategy). Purpose-driven work means focus at all levels; through the intention and the Why in the longer term, which has been translated into the multi-year city council program. This is the framework in which purpose-teams operate.

Purpose-teams get the trust of management and directors. And trust is not something for free, because the board should create trust in practice and everybody knows: trust arrives on foot and leaves by horseback. It means that executive board members are not tempted by the pressure of politics to ask for everything from employees in the short term because they know that teams are busy with activities that are of great importance. Trust also means a (psychologically) safe working environment and this is not easy to secure in political organizations. Trust and autonomous teams demand servant or supportive leadership from management and department managers.

You only get this together when management and the executive board have a clear vision with shared values and communicate these values to employees and partner organizations. This calls for a courageous and inspiring city manager who easily switches between the executive board and the organization. Purpose teams work with a lot of initiatives and start experiments in the field. That also means that making mistakes is visible to everyone and that makes workers vulnerable. First, as management and municipal executive board members, you are behind the team. Then it is not appropriate that opposition parties in the city council, in collaboration with the local press, shout out blame about the mistakes. Purpose-driven work means that purpose-teams deal differently with mistakes; errors are instantly restored, and also visible for everyone. Anyone learns from mistakes. It is important that the entire city council is considered in the new approach and is talking with the purpose-teams about the prioritized customer stories and the agile process. The city council outlines the policy framework and what does this mean when policy and implementation go together in purpose-teams? You simply cannot afford that a new situation first requires a policy paper that needs to be discussed with the city council members and perhaps along the executive board members. In a next sprint, purpose-teams should be able to anticipate immediately the new situations. And both the city council, the executive board and the management must learn to deal with a purpose(product)-owner who is responsible for the prioritization of customer stories.

In an agile mindset, work is one big learning process. If you want to be flexible, you will work in a learning way. Teams work in experimental labs and with purpose-driven work they learn constantly. Teams get started and by doing, learning and reflecting they develop their working methods. And similar to the transitions in business; purpose-driven work does not take you over in one night. Teams will have to work for at least some years before the puzzle pieces are in place and employees of the municipality and partners are into the new process. And in the meanwhile, the municipality shop is open .......

Customers and ecosystem
Purpose-driven work demands a transformation of the municipal organization in interaction with social partners and inhabitants. Actors in the municipality increasingly operate as a learning platform or ecosystem that seeks cooperation between inhabitants and so-called social innovators, civil society organizations, companies, universities / high schools and the municipal organization.
Labgov: government of commons
Together they can bring potential to blossom. The actors invest in the generation of value with visible society effects and create a cooperative ecosystem that promotes creativity, knowledge and trust. And since you can only be agile by learning from each other, you can speak of a learning ecosystem. What do you hold back to invite a crucial social partner in your purpose-team? It is quite often said that the municipality is in charge. However, in a network or in an ecosystem there is no coordinator and you are talking about customer-supplier relationships. In nature there is no coordinator or supervisor, neither in business, is there a network coordinator in municipalities? The municipality often takes the lead in the network to develop a joint vision and to collaborate. This calls for a different kind of direction, whereby the municipality does not operate as all overlooked, omniscient, commissioning party who thinks it's the way to organise.

The linear relationship of the municipal organization with inhabitants and civil society organizations is no longer sustainable. Within a purpose there is a dynamism between the purpose-team, the network of inhabitants and social organizations and the management of the municipal organization, the executive board and the municipal council.

The customer (inhabitants, social organizations, companies, etc.) is the focus of purpose-driven (agile) work. The municipal organization serves the public interest; that's the 'intention' or the Why and Steve Denning calls it 'customer delight'. Flipping the municipal organization for customer or inhabitant delight is a topic of debate in the public arena and the agile mindset might be a promising perspective. In the scrum working method, everything starts with customer (inhabitants) stories and the purpose(product)-owner of the purpose-team is responsible for collecting and prioritizing customer stories (backlog). The purpose-owner and purpose-team members are constantly in touch with customers and other actors involved in the purpose. Customers / inhabitants have of course no unambiguous wishes / needs and requirements, hence the purpose-owner makes a consideration within the framework of the council program. At the end of the sprint (say after 2 weeks), the sprint result is presented to the customer (representation of inhabitants), facilitated by the organisation coach. During these meetings, feedback is collected and the information collected serves as input for the next purpose-sprint.

Purpose-driven work means working from the outside to in, which also means that social partners and inhabitants (in neighbourhoods) and other stakeholders in the municipality join the decision-making process on the choice of the purpose and reflect on the focus in the purpose. For example you might invite key partners to join the purpose-team. It is the responsibility of the purpose (product)-owner to assess priorities with regard to customer stories and this does not mean following requests blindly. When you act as a purpose-team in the ecosystem with partners and inhabitants, where decisions are also taken within the financial frameworks, what would be the appropriate role of the city council or executive board? They are not the customer of a purpose-team, that is just not the intention. Within the framework of the municipal council, the executive board governs the municipality and the city council supervises the way the executive board carries out its duties. What does this mean for purpose-driven work, with an outward-looking approach? Which questions should we ask ourselves? What needs to be done to fine-tune the interaction between the purpose-owner, the purpose-team with the city council, the responsible executive board members and the management. This requires the joint development of a vision, working methods, determine the duties and responsibilities of each actor, etc. The collaboration and regular interaction between the purpose-owner and the executive board member is important, delicate and is carefully build up. For example you may invite the executive board member to listen in the review sprint meeting.

A complicating factor is that the municipality often acts as an employer; it is then up to contractors to implement policies. It is the question whether you can cope with words like employer and contractor in purpose-driven work, when partners and inhabitants participate in the choice and frame of the purpose, the inhabitants and partners are the client ... In the social domain, such a separation between the client and the contractor is less desirable. In purpose-driven work, the policy development and implementation department work closely together. For traffic or construction projects, there will often be a client-contractor relationship and a project management approach might be preferred.

Purpose hackathon
You want to have the voice of inhabitants in all its diversity represented as close as possible in your team. How would you be able to arrange this in municipalities? What can the purpose-owner do that makes the voice of inhabitants in neighbourhoods be heard by the concerned purpose-team? How can you ensure that primary education and youth care are recognized in the youth purpose-team?

The purpose-owner and organizational coach might organize meetings with all stakeholders; also called hackathons. It is the very moment that managers, management and executive board members meet with inhabitants and partner organizations involved in the purpose. As a thought of mind; would the (committee) meetings of the council in preparation for the council meeting not be a good opportunity for this? Such meetings are facilitated by the organization (agile) coaches. Purpose-owners include the output of the hackathon in their worklog (backlog) and planning meetings. Such networking meetings have the function to involving everyone in a purpose, strengthening support and facilitating contacts between actors. It is up to the owners and purpose-teams to listen mindfully and benefit from it, to better serve the public interest, to retrieve new customer stories and to get more feedback on developed products at the end of a sprint. After the hackathon meeting participants will be able to find each other much easier.

Purpose-driven work with an agile mind-set provides an attractive perspective for a municipality that takes inhabitant delight seriously and wants to serve the public interest effectively. If you look at the agile frontrunners worldwide, you see that they tackle the transformation rigorously. When a department at INGbank transforms from 400 managers to 13 managers, you can imagine that the agile transformation to purpose-driven work with an agile mind-set is a drastic and convincing choice. In municipalities teams do not only deal with management; there are also city council members and there is an executive board. And everyone will need to contribute. So not only do purpose-teams have to start experimenting and learning, it applies equally to management, city council members and the municipal executive board members. There is no time for communicating endlessly with each other and tuning how to set up purpose-oriented work, that's just the pitfall. Purpose-driven work means to act decisively. The municipal management shapes the new structure and thereafter the new working method and structure is shaped together by doing and learning. And all this begins with a convincing, visionary and courageous management.

In the next article we will describe how to implement purpose-based work, using the municipality of Ede as a case. Topics such as the different roles in a purpose-team, the management, the finances and team-of-teams will be discussed. In a third article we will talk about the change approach and our experiences in the municipality of Ede.

Kas Burger – Agile learning consultant                       
Ido van der Meulen – Manager policy Social Domain

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Opgavegericht werken in gemeenten vanuit een agile mindset !!

Scrum en agile is toch iets voor IT-bedrijven en IT-afdelingen? Jazeker en het is ook iets voor gemeenten onder de noemer van opgavegericht of opgavegestuurd werken. De agile werkwijze en mindset bieden de gemeente een perspectief om wendbaar en daadkrachtig te anticiperen op vragen van burgers en maatschappelijke organisaties. Dat vraagt anders organiseren en een gepaste structuur vanuit de bedoeling, waarbij medewerkers centraal staan. Dit is een opgave, je kunt met recht spreken van een transformatie. Qua waarden en gewenste cultuur hebben gemeenten die opgavegericht willen werken overeenkomsten met agile voorlopers in het bedrijfsleven. Het gaat dan over vertrouwen, samenwerken, empowerment van medewerkers, autonome teams en dienend leiderschap. Al is een gemeente natuurlijk wel wat anders dan een bedrijf.
In de gemeente Ede zijn we gestart met opgavegericht werken waarin we ook gebruik maken van de agile mindset. We zijn begonnen met vier teams in het sociale domein en één team in het fysieke domein. Al werkende en lerende ontwikkelen we met elkaar een aanpak die de gemeente Ede past. 
De samenleving is enorm in verandering en wordt steeds complexer. Dat geldt ook voor gemeenten en gemeentelijke organisaties. Gemeenten willen maatschappelijke effecten realiseren en daarvoor is focus nodig. Zij willen af van lange doorlooptijden met weinig resultaat. Zij beseffen zich dat het denken en werken in sectoren vaak verkokering tot gevolg heeft, met alle consequenties van dien. Steeds meer dringt het besef door dat gemeenten enkel in het samenspel met partners en burgers gewenste maatschappelijke resultaten kunnen halen. Dat zij vanuit hun positie in het netwerk toegevoegde waarde leveren aan maatschappelijke opgaves. Burgers weten steeds beter hun stem te laten horen. Zij verwachten dat de gemeente en haar partners snel anticiperen op hun vragen en behoeften en dat de gemeente flexibel (wendbaar) omgaat met haar doelen en prioriteiten. Kortom: inwoners vragen om een organisatie die van buiten naar binnen gericht is en dat vraagt vervolgens weer dat medewerkers van de gemeente en haar partners daadkrachtig en flexibel kunnen opereren.

In het sociale domein vindt het grootste veranderproces sinds decennia plaats: de decentralisaties op het gebied van jeugd, welzijn(WMO) en participatie. Naast deze transities speelt de digitalisering en het werken met data binnen gemeenten een steeds belangrijker rol. Lastig is dat de decentralisaties ook gepaard gaan met een bezuiniging. Gemeenten zullen voor het sociale domein dus slimmer moeten (samen)werken, anders krijgen zij hun dienstverlening niet op orde. Dat was natuurlijk ook het appel dat het rijk op gemeenten deed. Slim werken met maatschappelijk effect en versneld leren is nu precies wat de agile mindset betekent.

Het antwoord van gemeenten op al deze ontwikkelingen wordt samengevat met het woord opgavegericht of opgavegestuurd werken. Gemeenten gaan hierbij met een agile mindset werken.
Agile is een beweging die in 2001 startte als een set van waarden en principes die zijn vastgelegd in het Agile manifest, zoals: individuen en interacties zijn belangrijker dan processen en instrumenten. Het leveren van continu waarde aan klanten is in de agile mindset het belangrijkste doel van werk. Het omhelst iteratieve, incrementele benaderingen (sprints) in kleine teams en richt zich op organisatie brede wendbaarheid (agility) door als een netwerk te opereren. Scrum is de belangrijkste agile methodologie. Scrum maakt gebruik van een cross-functionele team aanpak met specifieke rollen voor de opgave eigenaar (productowner) en de organisatiecoach (scrummaster). Het team waardeert de individuele bijdrage en bouwt voort op verantwoording, intense interpersoonlijke relaties, samenwerking en teamwerk. Managers zijn geen bazen meer, maar coaches die hindernissen verwijderen en de weg vrijmaken voor teams om gefocust waarde te geven aan hun klanten en creatief te zijn (Steve Denning).
De agile mindset met de scrum methodologie zou wel eens een prachtige kapstok kunnen zijn om aan de slag te gaan met de gekantelde organisatie en met de bedoeling. Handig is dat er in het bedrijfsleven op een aantal plaatsen veel ervaring met agile implementatie is opgedaan en het wiel niet geheel uitgevonden hoeft te worden. Het is een ontdekkingsreis hoe agile in te zetten bij gemeenten. Opgavegericht werken met een agile mindset betekent :
  • Daadkracht en realisatiekracht 
  • Samen met partners en inwoners: van buiten naar binnen 
  • Focus en prioriteren (stoppen met activiteiten die geen maatschappelijk effect hebben) 
  • Werken in multidisciplinaire teams (integraal werken met IT en data) 
  • Dat beleid en uitvoering samen optrekken 
  • Een interne werkwijze ten dienste van externe samenwerking 
  • Een structuur met rollen (opgave eigenaar, organisatiecoach), bijeenkomsten en spelregels afgestemd op opgavegericht werken 
  • Dat de directie stuurt op mijlpalen, voortgang en tussentijdse resultaten 
  • Dat de gemeenteraad en college haar kader stellende rol met de opgaveteams afstemt 
  • Dat de gemeenteraad en college daadkrachtig anticiperen op (klant)wensen buiten de financiële kaders
Nieuw perspectief van Scrum/agile of cyclisch projectmanagement 
De meeste gemeenten werken in toenemende mate projectmatig en omarmen programmamanagement. De scrum/agile of cyclische projectmanagement aanpak presenteert een alternatief voor deze zogenaamde waterval projectsystematiek.

Projectmatig werken en programmamanagement (waterval)
Opgave gericht werken met agile mindset

Oplevering einde project
Sprint oplevering, getest door gebruiker
Plan van aanpak
Adaptieve planning
Plan van aanpak is leidend
Stap terug is mogelijk
Hiërarchische projectleider
Geen hiërarchische projectleider, wel een organisatie coach en opgave eigenaar
Projectleider neemt besluiten
(Klein) Team neemt besluiten
Projectleider verantwoordelijk
Opgaveteam verantwoordelijk
Helder budget
Geen dichtgetimmerd budget
Inschatten tijd is moeilijk
Bekend bij opdrachtgevers - verticaal
Nieuw voor opdrachtgevers - horizontaal
Klant bij start en eind
Actieve betrokkenheid gebruikers/klant
Organisatie kan dit goed ondersteunen
Rest organisatie vaak nog niet op ingespeeld
Spanning in afstemming tussen lijn en programma’s/projecten
Lijn en programma’s/projecten smelten samen in opgave teams

Bij grote omvangrijke projecten met een vooraf redelijk duidelijke ‘scope’, is de ‘traditionele’ waterval projectsystematiek een voor de hand liggende aanpak. Wanneer het lastig is om een projectplanning te maken, de producteisen niet duidelijk gespecificeerd kunnen worden en de projectleider verwacht dat er nog veel scopewijzigingen zich zullen aandienen, in interactie met de klant, dan is de cyclische projectaanpak of scrum methodiek een voor de hand liggend alternatief. De scrum methodiek met sprints is geschikt voor situaties waarbij het wenselijk is een snel werkbaar (tussen)resultaat aan de klant te presenteren. Het opgaveteam betrekt de klant constant bij de voortgang van activiteiten en zij speelt direct in op wensen van klanten die onder andere tijdens de review bijeenkomsten naar voren komen. De scrum methodiek wordt ingezet voor complexe vraagstukken en voor creatieve processen en dat typeert vaak de context binnen gemeenten, zoals bijvoorbeeld de drie decentralisaties in het sociale domein. Werkzaamheden met bekende handelingen en procedures passen daar niet in; denk aan de afdeling vergunningen, het verlenen van een beschikking voor hulp bij huishouden of burgerzaken.
Figuur 1.  Waarom verspreidt agile zich zo snel? (Henrik Kniberg, 2017)
Specifieke uitdagingen binnen gemeentes 
De context van een gemeente is natuurlijk wel wat anders dan de commerciële sector. Om te beginnen opereert een gemeente binnen de kaders van de Gemeentewet en de Wet dualisering van het gemeentebestuur. Om als gemeente de opgedragen taken te kunnen uitvoeren en eigen beleid te kunnen maken is er een gemeentebestuur dat besluiten neemt. In lijn met de Gemeentewet vervullen de raadsleden en leden van het college van B&W hun eigen rol op democratische wijze. Met de Wet dualisering gemeentebestuur ontvlecht de overheid de gemeenteraad en het college van B&W. De gemeenteraad heeft vooral kader stellende en controlerende taken en het college van B&W heeft bestuurlijke en uitvoerende taken. Binnen de door de gemeenteraad gestelde kaders bestuurt het college van B&W de gemeente en de gemeenteraad controleert de wijze waarop het college zijn taken uitvoert. De gemeente voert ook allerlei wettelijke taken uit zoals handhaving en zij zorgt ervoor dat rechtmatigheid voor inwoners wordt bewaakt, bijvoorbeeld met betrekking tot toegang, vergunningverlening, etc.

Wat een gemeente fundamenteel doet verschillen van commerciële bedrijven is dat zij lokaal een monopolie heeft; zij hoeft niet te overleven in de arena met concurrenten. Het monopolie van gemeenten is ook betrekkelijk; alle activiteiten van de gemeente liggen namelijk onder een vergrootglas. Er zijn ook steeds meer gemeenten die inwoners uitnodigen om in het vergrootglas te komen kijken; het zijn gemeenten die transparantie serieus nemen. Dan is er dus ook een aanpak nodig die transparantie in de hand werkt, waarbij burgers en partners constant bij activiteiten en opgaves betrokken worden.

Waarden en cultuur 
In opgavegerichte gemeenten komen de kernwaarden vaak overeen met die van agile koplopers in het bedrijfsleven: empowerment van burgers en medewerkers, vertrouwen hebben in medewerkers en partners en veel samenwerken op alle niveaus. Empowerment betekent dat de gemeente er alles aan doet, waardoor medewerkers met veel plezier en energie productief aan het werk zijn: zij wil een mens- en resultaatgerichte organisatie zijn.
Figuur 2: Waarden, cultuur en structuur (bron Spotify)
Medewerkers werken in multidisciplinaire teams, waarbij zelfsturing en autonomie van teams hoog in het vaandel staan. Teams opereren weer in een netwerk van teams (afdeling). Werken in autonome opgaveteams roept met het woord “autonomie” spanning op. Afstemming (‘alignment’) tussen het team en de strategie van de directie is namelijk van belang. Het collegeprogramma is het kader waarbinnen opgaveteams aan de slag kunnen.

Opgaveteams krijgen het vertrouwen van directie en bestuurders. En vertrouwen is niet iets gratuit, daarvoor zullen de directie en het college hun nek uit moeten steken en iedereen weet: vertrouwen komt te voet en gaat te paard. Het betekent dat bestuurders zich door de hectiek van de politiek niet laten verleiden van alles van medewerkers op korte termijn te vragen omdat zij weten dat opgaveteams met zaken bezig zijn die van groot belang zijn. Vertrouwen betekent ook een (psychologisch) veilig werkklimaat. Dat is trouwens niet makkelijk te borgen in snel politiserende organisaties. Vertrouwen en autonome teams vraagt dienstbaar leiderschap van directie, afdelingsmanagers en bestuurders.

Dit vraagt van de directie en bestuur een heldere visie met gedeelde waarden, die zij weten te communiceren naar medewerkers en partnerorganisaties. Dit vraagt ook een moedige en inspirerende directie die makkelijk schakelt tussen de bestuurders en de organisatie. Werken met een agile mindset betekent dat opgaveteams volop initiatieven ontplooien en experimenten in het veld starten. Dat betekent ook dat er fouten gemaakt worden, zichtbaar voor iedereen en dat maakt kwetsbaar. Om te beginnen staan de directie en bestuurders vierkant achter de opgaveteams. Dan past het niet dat oppositiepartijen in de gemeenteraad, in samenwerking met de lokale pers, schande over fouten van de daken schreeuwen. Opgavegericht werken betekent dat opgaveteams anders met fouten omgaan: fouten herstel je meteen, ook zichtbaar voor iedereen. Fouten zijn er om van te leren, ook weer door iedereen. Het is belangrijk dat de gehele gemeenteraad meegenomen wordt in de nieuwe aanpak; dat zij in gesprek is met de opgaveteams over de geprioriteerde klantverhalen en over de agile werkwijze. De gemeenteraad gaat over de contouren van het beleid. Wat betekent dit wanneer beleid en uitvoering samen optrekken in opgaveteams in interactie met inwoners en partners? In ieder geval niet dat voor een nieuwe situatie eerst een beleidsnota wordt opgesteld, die langs de bestuurder moet en misschien ook wel langs de raad. In een volgende sprint wordt namelijk meteen geanticipeerd op nieuwe situaties. En zowel de gemeenteraad als het college en de directie moeten leren omgaan met een opgave eigenaar die over de prioritering van klantverhalen gaat.

In een agile mindset is het werk één groot leerproces. Wendbaarheid vraagt om een lerende manier van werken. In de decentralisaties ging men werken in proeftuinen en met opgavegericht werken gaat de gehele gemeente daarmee door. Opgave teamleden gaan met elkaar aan de slag en al lerend, reflecterend geven zij vorm aan de nieuwe werkwijze. En vergelijkbaar met de transities in het bedrijfsleven; met opgavegericht werken gaat de gemeente niet over één nacht ijs. Zij is minstens een aantal jaar bezig alvorens de puzzelstukjes op hun plaats vallen en medewerkers van de gemeente en partners de nieuwe werkwijze eigen hebben gemaakt. En ondertussen blijft de gemeentewinkel wel open…
Labgov. Government of commons

Klanten en ecosysteem 
Opgavegericht werken vraagt een transformatie van de gemeentelijke organisatie in interactie met maatschappelijke partners en inwoners. Actoren in de gemeente opereren in toenemende mate als een lerend platform of ecosysteem waarbij samenwerking wordt gezocht tussen burgers en zogenaamde sociale innovators, civil society organisaties, bedrijven, universiteiten/hoge scholen en de gemeentelijke organisatie waardoor het potentieel tot bloei kan komen. De actoren investeren in het genereren van waarde met zichtbare maatschappelijke effecten en creëren een samenwerkend ecosysteem dat creativiteit, kennis en vertrouwen bevordert. En aangezien mensen enkel wendbaar kunnen zijn door aldoor van en met elkaar te leren, is het een lerend ecosysteem. Wat weerhoudt een opgaveteam dan nog om een cruciale maatschappelijke partner uit te nodigen in haar team? Nogal eens wordt gesteld dat de gemeente de regie voert. In een netwerk of in een ecosysteem is er echter geen sprake van een regisseur en gaat het over keten of klant-leverancier relaties. In de natuur is er geen regisseur, in het bedrijfsleven ook niet, is er dan wel een regisseur in gemeenten? De gemeente neemt in het netwerk vaak wel het voortouw om een gezamenlijke visie vorm te geven en samen te werken. Dat vraagt om een ander soort regie, waarbij de gemeente niet opereert als alles overziende, alwetende, opdracht gevende partij die de boel denkt te kunnen regelen.

De lineaire relatie van de gemeentelijke organisatie met inwoners en maatschappelijke organisaties is niet langer houdbaar. Binnen een opgave is er een dynamiek tussen het opgaveteam, het netwerk van inwoners en maatschappelijke organisaties en de directie van de gemeentelijke organisatie, het college en de gemeenteraad.
De klant (inwoners, maatschappelijke organisaties, bedrijven, …) is speerpunt bij opgavegericht (agile) werken. De gemeentelijke organisatie dient het publieke belang; dat is nu eenmaal de ‘bedoeling’ en de agile ‘thought leader’ Steve Denning noemt het ‘customer delight’. In de scrum werkwijze begint alles bij klant(burger)verhalen en de opgave eigenaar van het opgaveteam is verantwoordelijk voor het verzamelen, vastleggen en prioriteren van klantverhalen (backlog). De opgave eigenaar en opgave teamleden zijn constant in gesprek met klanten en andere actoren betrokken bij de opgave. Klanten/inwoners hebben natuurlijk geen eenduidige wensen/behoeften en eisen. Vandaar dat de opgave eigenaar een afweging binnen de kaders van het collegeprogramma maakt. Aan het eind van de sprint (zeg na 2 weken) wordt het sprintresultaat aan en bij de klant (vertegenwoordiging van inwoners) gepresenteerd. Tijdens die bijeenkomsten wordt feedback verzameld en de verzamelde informatie dient weer als input voor de volgende opgavesprint.

Opgavegericht werken betekent werken van buiten naar binnen en dat betekent ook dat maatschappelijke partners en burgers en andere belanghebbenden in de gemeente meebeslissen over de opgavekeuze en ook meedenken over de focus in de opgaves. Het is wel aan de opgave eigenaar om prioriteiten wat betreft klantverhalen aan te geven; het is niet: ‘u vraagt, wij draaien’. Wanneer het opgaveteam opereert in het ecosysteem met partners en burgers, waar tevens besluiten worden genomen binnen de financiële kaders, wat zou dan de gepaste rol van een wethouder of gemeenteraad zijn? Zij zijn niet de klant van een opgaveteam, dat is nu net niet de bedoeling. De gemeenteraad heeft vooral kader stellende en controlerende taken en het college van B&W heeft bestuurlijke en uitvoerende taken. Binnen de door de gemeenteraad gestelde kaders bestuurt het college van B&W de gemeente. Wat betekent dit bij opgavegericht werken, met een van buiten naar binnen ingerichte werkwijze? Welke vragen moeten we onszelf stellen? Wat spreken mensen met elkaar af en wat kunnen zij doen waardoor het goede gesprek tussen de opgave eigenaar en het opgaveteam met de raad, de verantwoordelijk wethouder(s) en de directie van de grond komt? Dit vraagt om het gezamenlijk ontwikkelen van een visie, werkwijze…

Een complicerende factor is dat de gemeente vaak als opdrachtgever fungeert; het is vervolgens aan opdrachtnemers om beleid uit te voeren. Het is de vraag of zij nog wel uit de voeten kan met de termen opdrachtgever en opdrachtnemer bij opgavegericht werken. Wanneer partners en inwoners participeren in de keuze en contouren van opgaves, dan zijn inwoners en partners opdrachtgever. In het sociale domein is in ieder geval een dergelijke scheiding tussen opdrachtgever en opdrachtnemer minder gewenst. Bij verkeer- of bouwprojecten zal er vaak nog wel sprake zijn van een opdrachtgever-opdrachtnemer relatie. Projecten in het ruimtelijk domein maken vaak ook onderdeel uit van complexe gebiedsontwikkeling, waarbij op onderdelen het sociale en ruimtelijke domein samenvloeien. En ook dan past opgavegericht werken.

Opgave hackathon 
Opgaveteams willen de stem van inwoners in al haar verscheidenheid zo dicht mogelijk bij hun team horen. Hoe zou de gemeente dat kunnen regelen? Wat kan de opgave eigenaar doen waardoor de stem van wijkteams doorklinkt in het betreffende opgaveteam? Hoe kan hij/zij bijvoorbeeld ervoor zorgen dat het basisonderwijs en jeugdzorg zich herkend in de opgave jeugd? Hoe zorg je er ook voor dat de raad betrokken en geïnformeerd is en haar toezichthoudende rol met gemak kan vervullen? Het opgaveteam zou bijvoorbeeld bijeenkomsten met alle stakeholders kunnen organiseren; hackathons worden dat ook wel genoemd. Dat is het moment bij uitstek dat bestuurders, directie en gemeenteraadsleden in gesprek gaan met inwoners en partnerorganisaties over de opgave. Als gedachtespinsel: zouden de (commissie)vergaderingen ter voorbereiding van de raadsvergadering hier niet een mooie gelegenheid voor zijn (zie bijvoorbeeld gemeente Almere)? Opgave eigenaren nemen de output mee in hun werkvoorraad(backlog) en planningsbijeenkomsten. Dergelijke netwerkbijeenkomsten hebben de functie om iedereen bij een opgave te betrekken, om draagvlak te versterken en om contacten tussen actoren te vergemakkelijken. Het is aan de opgave eigenaren en opgaveteams om aandachtig te luisteren en er hun voordeel mee te doen; om nieuwe klantverhalen op te halen en om nog beter het publieke belang te kunnen dienen.

Tot slot 
Opgavegericht werken met een agile mindset biedt een aantrekkelijk perspectief voor een gemeente die de bedoeling serieus neemt en het publiek belang daadkrachtig wil dienen. De agile koplopers wereldwijd pakken de transformatie rigoureus aan; een afdeling bij ING is bijvoorbeeld van 400 managers teruggegaan naar 13. De agile transformatie naar opgavegericht werken zal dan ook een overtuigde keuze moeten zijn. Bij de gemeente is er niet alleen een directie; er zijn ook bestuurders en een gemeenteraad. En iedereen zal haar steentje moeten bijdragen. Dus niet alleen de opgaveteams slaan volop aan het experimenteren en leren, dat geldt evenzo voor de directie, bestuurders en de gemeenteraad. Er is geen ruimte om eindeloos met elkaar te overleggen en af te stemmen hoe opgave gericht werken in te richten, dat is nu net de valkuil. Opgavegericht werken betekent daadkrachtig aan de slag gaan. De gemeente zet de nieuwe structuur in de steigers en vervolgens wordt al doende en lerende met elkaar de nieuwe werkwijze vormgegeven. En dit alles begint met een overtuigende, visionaire en moedige directie en bestuur.

In het volgende artikel zullen we uit de doeken doen hoe met opgavegericht werken aan de slag te gaan, waarbij we de gemeente Ede als casus gebruiken. Onderwerpen als de verschillende rollen in een opgaveteam, de bijeenkomsten in een sprint, de aansturing, de financiën en de rol van de afdeling (team-van-teams) komen dan aan bod. In een derde artikel vertellen we over de veranderaanpak en onze ervaringen in de gemeente Ede.

Kas Burger – Agile adviseur                                        
Ido van der Meulen – Manager Beleid Sociaal Domein

Friday, July 7, 2017

Strategic Agility with a top MT team and weekly pizza sessions

With agile, we often talk about operational agility, an approach and a mindset that will help you survive in a competitive and changing market. To be successful you need innovations that create markets. Carlson, the former CEO of SRI, points the way to strategic agility with a top team at MT level. This approach lets you build collective intelligence with each other; such as Barcelona's football team, a top chef team in the kitchen, the operational team on an aircraft carrier or a top jazz orchestra. Operational agile teams work with sprints and top agile MT-teams organize weekly an informal meeting, call it a pizza session, week in, week out, month in, month out. It's a mindful conversation about the business model, proposition and value creation, etc. And as you explore the unknown, you will occasionally use methods for sensing or becoming aware, which may help to for something new to emerge. Aligned with the agile mindset you involve the whole organization; after the review meeting with the customer, all teams organize a meeting about value creation. 

In my previous blog I wrote about 'customer delight' in an agile learning ecosystem. I wrote also about an agile work environment based on values and culture, where trust and autonomy of employees and teams are of paramount importance. In my second blogpost I wrote about the three leadership roles in teams. In the third blog I wrote about the so-called tribe leadership team (TL-team). In my last blogs I discussed leadership development and the role of HR in the transformation process and in an agile learning ecosystem.

Operational agility
So far, I have written about Operational Agility and that generates the ability to realize improvements of quality with more efficiency, faster. Operational Agility in the team or team-of-team level enables an organization to respond to the rapid changes in the market. Focusing on value-added work for customers and eliminating systematically impediments can lead to cost-effectiveness (efficiency). Providing all employees a clear view of the customer and working in small teams in short cycles can make continuous improvements in existing products and services (quality improvements) possible.

Figure 1 Carlson 

Nowadays, most (large) organizations are still learning how to manage operational agility in the team and in team-of-teams, as shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2. Denning 

The profit from operational agility can ensure short-term survival of the company in an increasingly competitive and fast-moving market. However, efficiency gains and quality improvement will not often lead to huge financial gains. To achieve that, companies need to look beyond their existing products and services and open up for new markets. This is also called strategic agility. Operational agility is just a part of the Agile story.
Figure 3. Denning 

Innovations that create new markets usually do not come from solving customer complaints or existing customers asking what they want. As Henry Ford once said, if he had asked the customers what they wanted they asked for a faster horse. Market-creating innovations come from imagining and delivering something like an unexpected treat for new groups of customers.

Strategic agility takes place in two ways:
1. As a by-product from operational agility;
2. As an explicit initiative to generate market creating innovations.

Strategic agility as a by-product 
In conversation with Steve Denning, Spotify reports that teams investigate if users really want the product proposal now, does this really solve their problem? And that goes beyond the review meeting at the end of every sprint. Then they make a story, which extends the benefits to the user extensively. The stories are then linked to the strategic goals of the organization. When the team has confidence, they build a minimum viable product to make an image of the story. This also means that you do not only formulate customer stories (stories) in the backlog based on customer conversations; it also offers teams the opportunity to add customer stories. In the review meeting, the team collects information and, based on the feedback, they modify the product.
This by-product approach has a number of disadvantages (thanks to Steve Denning):

  • Non-users do not come into view; 
  • You tend to add new features instead of removing some; 
  • You are less likely to threaten your own product (cannibalizing); 
  • Working on existing products is sometimes a solution that requires substantial technical innovation or financial investment; 
  • The approach to small profits can squeeze out slow-moving investments, which may even generate huge profits
Market creating innovations 
Curt Carlson, former CEO of SRI, the developer of Siri's personal assistant, sold to Apple, illustrates the customer focus dilemma. Looking back, Carlson admits that the management team of SRI had little understanding of innovation and value creation. Carlson understood that inventive ideas were not enough. It took him 2 years to make a good working hypothesis for the product and business model, without making a significant investment in technology. A million dollar investment has finally both conceptual and experience sides. If both of them are not experienced in practice, the results will lack depth. In order to take time, the CEO needs a lot of courage and stakeholders need to be confident that he/she is busy with the good things as a CEO. It helped Carlson to earn its traces from other companies. He was not in a hurry, it was crucial to have everyone on board, everyone had to agree that there was a need for change. It's a huge challenge to 'embed' your ideas and practices into your organization.

SRI comes up with four essential questions in its quest to realize as much customer value as possible and to present a value proposition for innovation:

  1. What are the important customer and market needs? 
  2. What is your approach to address this need? 
  3. What are the benefits that will convince your customer of your approach that goes with lower costs? 
  4. How do your benefits compare to those of your competitors and alternatives?
Carlson called the answers to these questions a value proposition; summarized: Need, Approach, Benefits per Cost and Competition (NABC). Indeed, this is about the basics of marketing! It seems so simple, he continues, it may be too simple, but it does deliver the required depth. It is fascinating that a top company like SRI has struggled with these questions for more than a year. Carlson introduces five disciplines to create what customers want. I have already described above the important needs and value creation. In addition to the importance of innovation champions, he still has two disciplines that we know from agile: innovation teams (trust and empowerment) and organization alignment.

Working method
He put together a smart team with the desired capabilities, values and credibility. Every Monday evening, he organized a pizza session with the core team of about 15 people, each evening a team member presented a value proposition and then the discussion began. It was a big learning process and the first 18 months did not really work out, he says in retrospect. Carlson was working hard to build collective intelligence with his team. You see a management team that tries to create the agile mind-set. For the major strategic issues it is obvious that also the management team will start and work with the agile mind-set.

You see something remarkable; in an agile approach, teams interact with their customers and at MT level they do the same but with major strategic issues. It is then crucial that management shares its experiences with the entire organization and retrieves information from the team’s interaction with customers. The SRI's MT was convinced that everyone should be involved in the business proposition development. And then you will see that the teams will also apply the NABC approach. This also means that the team, whether in team-of-team or not, is focused on market-creating innovations and teams share their experiences with the MT.

In my third blog I wrote about the tribal-lead and the tribal leadership team as a spider at the centre of a web the network of autonomous teams. This servant leadership is based on competence and not on hierarchy and Bakke's advisory process (see also Laloux) is leading. With strategic agility, there is an extra dimension in which the MT and the tribe leadership team play an important leading role.

All employees were invited to join, everyone is expected to be a champion. Earnings and passions were measured, not the position. Carlson set a good example as the CEO; he talked with all the teams in the organization and he ate in the canteen and interviewed all the staff. Throughout all, he was tested by employees whether he was serious about it, you would have to tell it many times, have a good listening attitude, and again and again. Finally, the entire organization was working on NABC and focused on value for customers. An essential principle in motivating the professionals was to build on existing expertise and values. He focused on early adopters or innovation champions within the organization; they bear the new principles and try it out, they become the role models.

Collective intelligence or collective meaning structure
The iteration or repetition of the pizza session on Monday evening offers the chance that the team will interact with each other; that team members can become increasingly sensitive and react more responsibly, sometimes speaking without words. The conversation in the informal setting offers such an intensity that members really feel the customer needs. Then something may develop, that you also see in top teams: collective intelligence (MIT) or a collective meaning structure (Weick, 1983). As if you were a team like the Barcelona football team with her tikkie-takkie football, a team in the kitchen of a top chef or an operational team on an aircraft carrier. You start with implementing certain interaction patterns and that's just what Carlson did at SRI too; every Monday evening, the pizza talk was about business propositions and value creation.

In sprints, teams meet regularly and especially in the review meeting they invest time into customer needs. Inspired by SRI, teams will be more focused on customer needs and benefits (NABC) and build a collective intelligence or meaning structure. The agile learning advisor creates a psychologically safe climate, which invites team members to pay attention to each other and to respond mindfully. The product owner has the exclusive task to collect information about customers. Together with the product owner the NABC discussion is prepared and the methodology is introduced. Also, with a review meeting of 1 hour, you usually have insufficient time; at last the pizza session of SRI also lasted longer than an hour.

Also ask yourself if you would conduct NABC conversations with or without customers. It may be justified to conduct such conversations without customers. In this case you have room to identify properly the customer needs and to give words to the business proposition. Also keep in mind that the product owner is responsible for prioritizing customer stories and with NABC all team members are intensely involved in the customer subject matter.

On becoming aware 
Such meetings also give the chance that the unknown can be perceived. Market-creating innovations often concern things you do not know yet, it's about exploring the unknown. Meanwhile, we also know that people are unaware of many things. In his book Presence, Peter Senge broke a lance for awareness, building on Varela's thoughts and concepts. He argued that you should prevent to be caught in your own system. Varela describes three key gestures of the process to become aware: suspension, redirecting and letting go and let emerge something new.

Figure 5. 3 Gestures Varela 

Otto Scharmer has highlighted for a wider public the core process of Varela by means of theory-U. Varela emphasizes that it is also a social process and that you will find yourself close to methodologies of building collective meaning structures. To confine Theory-U to mindfulness does not do justice to what on becoming aware is all about. I would suggest that you organize occasional theory-U sessions, to let the unknown emerge with an mindful open-ended reflection and also to reinforce mindful interaction between team members.

All this was only possible at SRI because Carlson had already proven that he could build a flourishing business; you need courage for waiting and waiting (and reassuring shareholders) until you are convinced of the right business proposition for customers. Carlson did everything in order to involve everyone and he himself set a good example. He visited all teams, made sure there was alignment and he was at the office every day, lunched in the canteen and talked with everyone. And at length his employees tested whether he was serious about it, indeed as CEO you should do that a thousand times. Language is crucial in such a process; he spoke about making a significant impact, working smarter and learning faster; in 2017 these are also the keywords that match the agile mind-set.

The transition to agile is difficult in companies where senior executives themselves are still learning to embrace and create the agile way of thinking. Too often senior executives consider agile merely as a set of tools and processes that are needed to control people in the IT department in the organization, rather than a mind-set that they must learn to understand, self-create and live on a daily basis. In the end, agile is a mind-set and strategic agility will only have a chance when the MT applies the agile working methods themselves.

For market creating innovations you need strategic agility. You also need time and dedication to let emergence a promising business model. This is at first work for the management team and it is crucial that management shares its experiences with the entire organization and retrieves information from the team’s interaction with customers. The clue is to organize iterative weekly sessions in an informal setting to give collective knowledge building a real chance. To explore the unknown and the three gestures described by Varela, known as the theory-U methodology, will strengthen the needed mindful interaction among team members.