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Module 6 : Scaling Leadership Building High Performing, Shared-Responsibility Teams. Agile Release Train. Lean. Scaling L eadership. Scaling Agile. Agile. Scrum. About Dean Leffingwell. “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”.

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Agile Release Train




Scaling Agile



about dean leffingwell
About Dean Leffingwell

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

foundation management support

The Goal: Value

Sustainable shortest lead time. Best quality and value (to people and society). Most customer delight, lowest cost, high morale, safety.

Foundation: Management Support
  • Pillar 1: Respect for People
  • don’t trouble your customer
  • develop people-then build products
  • no wasteful work
  • teams and individuals evolve their own practices and improvements
  • build partners with stable relationships, trust and coaching lean thinking
  • develop teams
  • Pillar 2: Continuous Improvement
  • Go See
  • kaizen
  • spread knowledge
  • small, relentless,
  • retrospectives
  • 5 whys
  • eyes for waste variability, overburden, NVA, (handoff, WIP, info scatter delay, multitasking, defects, wishful thinking…)
  • perfection challenge
  • Work to flow

Product Development Flow

Take an economic view

Actively manage queues

Understand/exploit variability

Reduce batch size

Apply WIP Constraints

Flow with uncertainty Cadence and Synchronization

Apply fast feedback

Decentralize control

Foundation: Management Support

Management applies and teaches lean thinking, bases decisions on this long-term philosophy

Derived from: Toyota Production System (2004)

Larman and Vodde (2009)

Reinertsen (2009)

lean thinking manager teachers
Lean-Thinking Manager-Teachers

Source: Larman and Vodde, 2009

  • Develop People. They will develop products.
  • Management is trained in lean thinking – bases decisions on this long term philosophy
  • Management is trained in the practices and tools of continuous improvement (kaizen)
    • Applies them routinely … teaches employees how to use them
  • GenchiGenbutsu (Go See) – managers are expected to “go see with their own eyes”
    • You can’t come up with a useful improvement sitting at your desk
    • Go see what’s happening in the workplace
    • “Don’t look with your eyes, look with your feet….people who only look at the numbers are the worst of all

– quotes from lean leaders

the new new product development game
The New New Product Development Game

“The… ‘relay race’ approach to product development…may conflict with the goals of maximum speed and flexibility. Instead a holistic or ‘rugby’ approach – where a team tries to go the distance as a unit, passing the ball back and forth – may better serve today’s competitive requirements.”

̶ HirotakaTakeuchi and IkujiroNonaka,“The New New Product Development Game” Harvard Business Review, January 1986.


Built in instability

Self-organizing project teams

Overlapping development phases


Organizational transfer of learning

Subtle control

1 built in instability
1. Built-in Instability

Management provides general goal and strategic direction – a strong vision

Little-minimal-no specific work or project plans

Challenging requirements

High degree of freedom as to how teams meet requirements

2 self organizing project teams
2. Self-Organizing Project teams
  • Autonomy
    • Top management seldom intervenes
    • Teams have freedom to take unconventional steps
  • Self-transcendence
    • Teams set own intermediate goals
    • Challenge norms of development
    • Daily, incremental improvements
  • Cross-fertilization
    • Team members from hardware design, software development, procurement, production
3 overlapping development phases
3. Overlapping Development Phases

Sequential (A) vs. overlapping (B and C) phases of development

Type A








Type B








Type C








overlapping development phases
Overlapping Development Phases

Type C








  • Sequential: move from one phase to the next, only after requirements of prior phase are satisfied
    • Bottleneck at any phase slows entire process, introducing delays in the value stream
    • Experience tells us there will be bottlenecks: therefore inevitable delays
  • Overlapping:
    • Greater speed and flexibility
    • Shared responsibility and cooperation
    • Encourages initiative taking
    • Requires cooperation, contingency planning, set-based engineering
4 multilearning
4. Multilearning
  • Multilevel
    • Company wide support for new methods and practices
    • Guidance, not specifics
    • Foundation: lean-thinking managers as teacher-coaches
    • Individual learning through peer pressure
  • Multifunctional
    • Cross disciplinary
    • Cross department
    • Shared ownership and shared responsibility

Multilevel, multifunctional learning is a corporate objective.

5 organizational transfer of learning
5. Organizational Transfer of Learning

Caution: Do not take institutionalization too far, lest it become the residue of past innovation efforts!

Continue learning.

Project members encouraged, permitted to share learnings outside their groups

Team members moved from team to team as projects complete

Convert effective practices to standard practices

6 subtle control
6. Subtle Control

Although project teams are largely on their own, they are not without controls…..

Selecting the right people for the project teams

Setting clear vision, goals and objectives

Rewarding the group, rather than the individual

Anticipating and tolerating mistakes

Involving suppliers, partners and customers

Creating an open working environment, total transparency and visibility


Agility is “the new master skill of leadership.” In today’s turbulent business environment, it determines a manager’s effectiveness in tapping all their knowledge, experience, and skill as a leader.

̶ Jim Kouzes, bestselling leadership expert

Agile Leadership

leadership styles
Leadership Styles


Recommended Reading: Managing for Excellence

̶ David Bradford and Allan Cohen

Leader as Expert

Leader as Conductor

Leader as Developer

traditional leadership styles
Traditional Leadership Styles
  • Leader as Expert
    • The technician or master craftsman
    • Technically focused on the job at hand
    • Problem solver, the one people go to for answers
    • Promoted because they were the best at their job

Source: Managing for Excellence, David Bradford and Allan Cohen

leader as expert
Leader as Expert

Source: Managing for Excellence, David Bradford and Allan Cohen

  • Effective when…
    • Manager has greater knowledge than direct reports
    • Direct reports work is relatively autonomous and coordination is minimal
    • Emergency problems within manager’s area of expertise
  • Concerns
    • Often technology has moved beyond their learning
    • Limits learning and growth of direct reports
    • Focus on technical problems to the detriment of human factors
  • Behaviors
    • “Work” is when people leave them alone
    • They love their field of work
traditional leadership styles1
Traditional Leadership Styles
  • Leader as Conductor
    • The central decision maker, nerve center, and coordinator of activities
    • Orchestrates all individual parts of the organization into a harmonious whole
    • Subtle and indirect manipulation to their solution

Source: Managing for Excellence, David Bradford and Allan Cohen

leader as conductor
Leader as Conductor

Source: Managing for Excellence, David Bradford and Allan Cohen

  • Effective when…
    • Situations are more complex
    • There are many direct reports with interdependent work
    • Coordination is a prerequisite for maximum performance
    • Organization is very political and requires maneuvering
  • Concerns
    • Narrows the focus of direct reports to their own areas
    • Conflict tends to push upward looking for the boss to fix
    • Limits overall performance of the organization
    • Emphasis on control is self fulfilling, continually requiring more
  • Behaviors
    • Use systems and procedures to control organizational work
    • Work harder and harder, without realizing full team potential
good leader myths
Good Leader Myths

The leader knows at all times what is going on in the department

The leader should have more technical expertise than any direct report

The leader should be able to solve any problem that comes up (or at least solve it before the direct report does)

The leader should be the primary (if not only) person responsible for how the department is working

responsibility cycle trap
Responsibility Cycle (Trap)

Leader feels overresponsible

for coordination

for answers

for overall unit goals

direct reports feel overcontrolled

direct reports feel blocked, underused

direct reports feel committed only to own subgoals

Direct reports feel lower commitment and sense of responsibility

Source: Managing for Excellence, David Bradford and Allan Cohen

Negative reinforcing cycle

Fails to make full use of the knowledge and competencies of direct reports

Produces narrow and self-interest direct reports

agile leadership example
Agile Leadership Example
  • Review the article “Leadership as a Task, Rather than an Identity, provided in the appendix
  • Underline any sentences that you find interesting or thought provoking
  • Be ready to share your thoughts

Source: Harvard Business Review article "Leaderships Online Labs" - May 2008 by Byron Reeves, Thomas W. Malone, and Tony O’Driscoll

leader as developer of people
Leader as Developer of People
  • Post-heroic leadership style
  • Change in orientation
    • Direct report-centric, rather than manager-centric
  • Behaviors
    • Creates a team jointly responsible for success
    • Asks “How can each problem be solved in a way that further develops my direct reports’ commitment and capabilities?”
    • Allows leader to spend more time managing laterally and upward
profound shift
Profound Shift

Leaders who work most effectively, never say 'I.’ They don't think 'I.' They think 'we'; they think 'team.' They understand their job is to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don't sidestep it, but 'we' gets the credit... This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done.

̶ Peter Drucker, Management Expert

Moving from a manager-centric view to a team-centric view is similar to Copernicus presenting a sun-centric world

Agile leaders revolve around the team

danger of language
Danger of Language

how decisions are madeandhow responsibility is shared

“95% of American managers say the right thing. 5% actually do it.”

– James O’Toole

Isn’t this just empowerment and participatory management?

It’s not the language – what matters is

post heroic leadership benefits
Post-Heroic Leadership Benefits
  • Increased direct report responsibility
    • “Softer” and more ambiguous problems drive increased ownership and responsibility
  • Increased direct report motivation
    • Challenging jobs with responsibility are highly satisfying
    • Opportunities for learning and sharing success drive increased participation
  • Increased quality solutions
    • Cross-functional collaboration bring better solutions to the forefront
    • A sense of responsibility and motivation for the whole
leadership style characteristics
Leadership Style Characteristics

Source: Power Up, David Bradford and Allan Cohen

applying leadership styles
Applying Leadership Styles

On the next page are a listing of various individual characteristics and the appropriate leadership style required to manage effectively.

In the “My Team” column, enter an “X” if the characteristic applies to those you manage.

heroic leadership models leader as expert
Heroic Leadership Models: Leader as Expert
  • The expert or master craftsman - technically focused on the job at hand
  • Problem solver, the one people go to for answers
  • Promoted because they were the best at their job
  • Think of “work” is what they do when people leave them alone
heroic leadership models leader as conductor
Heroic Leadership Models: Leader as Conductor
  • The central decision maker, nerve center, and coordinator of activities
  • Orchestrates all individual parts of the organization into a harmonious whole
  • Subtle and indirect manipulation to their solution
  • Use systems and procedures to control organizational work
drive the puzzling puzzles of harry harlow
Drive: The Puzzling Puzzles of Harry Harlow

“It appears that the performance of the task provides its own intrinsic reward…. this drive ..may be as basic as the others…. “

Source: Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates US. -- Daniel Pink

  • Unprompted by any external motivation, the monkeys solved the puzzles on their own
  • This was an interesting, and not understood phenomenon
  • As a motivator, raisins were added as rewards for solving the problems
  • Result: the monkeys made more errors and solved the problems less frequently


  • Eight rhesus monkeys for a two week experiment on motivation and learning
  • Puzzles were placed in their cages

The 1949 Experiment

the surprising truth about what motivates us
The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us




getting engagement
Getting Engagement
  • Tangible Purpose
  • Vision
  • Shared Responsibility
  • Mutual Influence


  • Five Dysfunctions
  • Coaching with Powerful Questions
  • Self-Assessment
  • Inspect and Adapt



  • Tangible Purpose
  • Vision
  • Shared Responsibility
  • Mutual Influence


  • Five Dysfunctions
  • Coaching with Powerful Questions
  • Self-Assessment
  • Inspect and Adapt



tangible purpose
Tangible Purpose
  • What is your team’s
    • Purposeful paradox – elusive yet tangible
    • Direction to follow, but no final destination
    • Required at every level of the organization
  • How
    • Engage the entire team
    • Connects to the team’s activities
    • Seek compatibility with the wider organization’s vision
  • Why
    • Used to inspire, coordinate, and align people
    • Decisions made every day by the team require a boundary to assure proper alignment
exercise tangible purpose
Exercise – Tangible Purpose

Describe a tangible purpose for your team, right now.

How would you go about creating one with your full team?

vision and roadmap
Vision and Roadmap

Leadership Responsibility


Vision drives stories at Release planning

Roadmap drives Vision for next Release

Team Responsibility

Shared Responsibility

Story 1

Just-in-Time Elaboration





Story 2


Story 3

Release planning updates the Roadmap

exercise vision and roadmap
Exercise – Vision and Roadmap

How do you communicate the vision and roadmap now?

How will you communicate them going forward?

  • Shared Responsibility
  • Mutual Influence


  • Management provides general goal and strategic direction – a strong vision
  • Little-minimal-no specific work or project plans
  • Challenging requirements
  • High degree of freedom as to how teams meet requirements
  • ̶ New, New Product Development Game
autonomy self organization in complex adaptive systems
Autonomy:Self Organization in Complex, Adaptive Systems

̶ Jeff Sutherland

Co-creator of Scrum

  • Self organization
    • Central planning will kill it
  • No single point of control
    • Command and control will crush it
  • Interdisciplinary teams
    • Isolated activities and lack of transparency will hinder it
  • Emergent behavior
    • Failure to remove impediments ensures mediocrity
  • Outcomes emerge in context
    • Empirical process requires inspect and adapt
autonomy sustainable pace with innovation
AutonomySustainable Pace with Innovation

8 Weeks

Release Candidate


Release Planning

2 weeks

2 weeks

2 weeks

1 weeks

1 weeks






development iteration

development iteration

development iteration

hardening iteration


An advanced agile release cadence with an innovation “hackathon”

Innovation is an intrinsic skill of most knowledge workers

Innovation comes from collaboration

Innovation comes from time to think!

build shared responsibility teams
Build Shared Responsibility Teams
  • Sharing responsibility
    • Empowers the team with the authorities it needs to make decisions
    • Provides exemplary behaviors for the team
  • Share
    • Some expert responsibilities
    • Some conductor responsibilities
    • Some leadership responsibilities
    • Process and continuing improvement responsibilities
exercise sharing responsibility
Exercise – Sharing Responsibility
  • Write each responsibility you do as a manager on a separate note card (including things you wish you could do but don’t have time)
  • Separate into piles
    • Share responsibility with my team
    • Keep doing myself
  • What do you think about the two piles?
create an environment of mutual influence
Create an Environment of Mutual Influence

There is no finite limit on the power to get things done!

  • Encourage subordinates
    • To disagree where appropriate
    • To push for their own needs
    • To enter into joint problem solving
    • To negotiate, compromise, agree (rather than simply carry out orders or exhibit passive resistance)
  • Result 1: Subordinate will have increased power to get things done
  • Result 2: Frees the leader to be more powerful, too.
exercise mutual influence
Exercise – Mutual Influence
  • Partner with someone at your table.
  • Think of an example where you showed mutual influence, and one where you could have done better.
  • Discuss with your partner for 5 minutes. Switch roles after 5 minutes
  • Tangible Purpose
  • Vision
  • Shared Responsibility
  • Mutual Influence


  • Five Dysfunctions
  • Coaching with Powerful Questions
  • Self-Assessment
  • Inspect and Adapt



mastery hyper productive teams
Mastery: Hyper-Productive Teams

Sustained History of Dev. Delivery

  • Average Server Release:3 to 4 Months
  • Adapter Update: 2 to 4 weeks
  • Slips ~ 3 slips/ 100 Releases

The 3% Memo

extreme productivity requires quality
Extreme Productivity Requires Quality

If you can’t go faster than the competition, not much else may matter.

You can’t go fast without high quality.

Applying quality processes to a non-lean implementation will usually make it go slower.

Applying lean principles will make quality go up while simultaneously making velocity even faster.

̶ Jeff Sutherland

Co-Creator of Scrum


"It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.."

– Harry Truman

basic truths about teams
Basic Truths About Teams

Teams are far more productive than the same number of individuals

Face-to-face communication is most efficient

Teams work best when not interrupted

Teams with cross-functional skills build better products

When teams themselves make a commitment, they will probably figure out how to meet it

Changes in team composition can impact productivity

Peer pressure is the best individual motivator

five dysfunctions of a team
Five Dysfunctions of a Team




Teamwork is the ultimatecompetitiveadvantage.

But, many teams aredysfunctional

Avoidance of


Lack of


Fear of


Absence of


Source: Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni

identifying trust
Identifying Trust
  • Conceal weaknesses and mistakes from one another
  • Hesitate to ask for help or offer help outside their area of responsibility
  • Jump to conclusions about the intentions and aptitudes of others without attempting to clarify them
  • Waste time and energy on managing behaviors for effect
  • Dread meetings and find reasons to avoid spending time together

Teams with an absence of Trust

  • Admit weaknesses and mistakes
  • Ask for help and accept questions and input about their area of responsibility
  • Give one another the benefit of the doubt before arriving at a negative conclusion
  • Focus time and energy on important issues, not politics
  • Look forward to working as a group
  • Take risks on offering feedback

Trusting Teams

Source: Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni

building trust
Building Trust
  • Human Resources approach
    • Personal history exercise
    • Team effectiveness exercise
    • Personality profiles
    • 360-Degree feedback
    • Experiential team exercises
  • OR, commit to short focused goals where you focus on results and build trust through work
    • Also, as a leader, support and show vulnerability
identifying conflict
Identifying Conflict
  • Have boring meetings
  • Create environments where back-channel politics and personal attacks thrive
  • Ignore controversial topics that are critical to team success
  • Fail to tap into all the opinions and perspectives of team members
  • Waste time and energy with posturing and interpersonal risk management

Teams that fear conflict…

  • Have lively, interesting meetings
  • Minimize politics
  • Put critical topics on the table for discussion
  • Extract and exploit the ideas of all team members
  • Solve real problems quickly

Teams that engage in conflict…

Source: Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni

fear of conflict
Fear of Conflict
  • Separate ideological from personal conflict
    • Focus on concepts and ideas, not people and personalities
  • Purpose is to create the best possible solution in the shortest period of time
  • Acknowledge that conflict is productive
    • Rather than allow issue to continually resurface
  • Leader must mine for conflict and draw it out
  • Leader must create environment that supports healthy disagreements
identifying commitment
Identifying Commitment
  • Creates ambiguity among the team about the direction and priorities
  • Watches windows of opportunity close due to excessive analysis and unnecessary delay
  • Breeds lack of confidence and fear of failure
  • Revisits discussions and decisions again and again
  • Encourages second-guessing among team members

A Team that fails to commit…

  • Creates clarity around direction and priorities
  • Takes advantage of opportunities before competitors do
  • Aligns the entire team around common objectives
  • Develops an ability to learn from mistakes
  • Moves forward or changes direction without hesitation or guilt

A Team that commits…

Source: Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni

causes for lack of commitment
Causes for Lack of Commitment
  • Lack of Consensus
    • Leaders and teams don’t routinely seek consensus
    • May be confusion between consensus and unanimous decision
    • Need: Teams must support any final decision, without ambiguity
  • Lack of Clarity
    • Dysfunctional teams hedge their bets and delay important decisions
    • Conflict underlies willingness to commit without perfect information
    • Better to make a decision boldly and be wrong, than to delay or waffle
gaining commitment
Gaining Commitment
  • Review key decisions made in meetings
  • State decisions with clarity
  • Ask for consensus
  • Use deadlines
  • Contingency planning
    • What is the result of a missed commitment?
  • Allow for, and review failure
  • Practice!
identifying accountability
Identifying Accountability
  • Creates resentment among team members who have different standards of performance
  • Encourages mediocrity
  • Misses deadlines and key deliverables
  • Places an undue burden on the team leader as the sole source of discipline

A Team that avoids accountability…

  • Ensures that poor performers feel pressure to improve
  • Identifies potential problems quickly by questioning one another’s approaches without hesitation
  • Establishes respect among team members who are help to the same high standards
  • Avoids excessive bureaucracy around performance management and corrective action

A Team that is accountable to each other…

Source: Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni

gaining accountability
Gaining Accountability
  • Most effect way to gain accountability is through peer pressure
  • Create peer pressure through…
    • Publication of goals and standards
    • Simple and regular progress reviews
    • Team rewards
  • Management controlled accountability is a negative re-enforcing loop
identifying results
Identifying Results
  • Stagnates and fails to grow
  • Rarely defeats competitors
  • Loses achievement-oriented employees
  • Encourages team members to focus on their own careers and individual goals
  • Is easily distracted

A Team not focused on results…

  • Enjoys success and suffers failure acutely
  • Retains achievement-oriented employees
  • Minimizes individualistic behavior
  • Benefits from individuals who subjugate their own goals/interest for the good of the team
  • Avoids distractions

A Team focused on results…

Source: Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni

achieving results
Achieving Results
  • Leader must set the tone − always focus on results
    • Always review results
    • Publicly declare results
    • Create rewards for results
  • Avoid comparing teams or individuals
    • Distracts the team away from their primary goal
    • Causes counterproductive behaviors (internal, negative competition)
    • Status is only the information necessary to support meeting the goal
scrum helps the five dysfunctions
Scrum Helps the Five Dysfunctions

Inattention to Results

Results empirically reviewed at end of every sprint and release.

Team retrospectives drive continuous improvement.

Avoidance of Accountability

Stakeholders, peer pressure, review of results drives accountability.

Lack of Commitment

Teams make shared commitments to each other and to the external stakeholders.

Fear of conflict

Scrum creates safe environment for conflict; ScrumMaster encourages discussion of disagreements.

Shared commitment avoids individual conflict that occurs when objectives not aligned.

Absence of Trust

Safe environment. Team commitment, shared goals, hyper-transparency, retrospectives.


Introduce your team to the book Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

Sit down with your team, and perform a self-assessment of using the template in the appendix.

Brainstorm one or two actions based on what you learned.

team self assessment
Team Self-Assessment
  • There is a simple 25 pt. team-based assessment template can be used to determine how the team feels they are doing with Scrum.
  • There is a much deeper, 60 pt. assessment, also covering software engineering practices, that teams can use for a more comprehensive view of their agile practices
  • Both assessments can be found on my blog at

Agile teams constantly inspect and adapt. It’s part of the manifesto.

Encourage your teams to use quantitative self-assessments periodically to measure and improve.

example self assessment results
Example Self-Assessment Results

Scrum 5x5 Quick Assessment

Comprehensive Agile Software Engineering Assessment

Product Ownership








Development Practices/Infrastructure

Release Planning and Tracking

Iteration Planning and Tracking

Testing Practices


coaching with powerful questions
Coaching with Powerful Questions

“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”

̶ Albert Einstein

use powerful questions to
Use Powerful Questions to:


Catalyzing Insight, Innovation, and Action

by Eric E. Vogt, Juanita Brown, and David Isaacs

Generate curiosity in the listener

Stimulate reflective conversation

Be thought-provoking

Surface underlying assumptions

Invite creativity and new possibilities

Generate energy and forward movement

Channel attention and focuses inquiry

Stays with participants

Touch a deep meaning

Evoke more questions

powerful questions
Powerful Questions


Catalyzing Insight, Innovation, and Action

by Eric E. Vogt, Juanita Brown, and David Isaacs

Focus Collective Attention

What’s important to you about this situation, and why do you care?

What draws you/us to this inquiry?

What’s our intention here?

What’s the deeper purpose (the big “why”) that is really worthy of our best effort?

What opportunities do you see?

What do we know so far/still need to learn about?

What are the dilemmas?

What assumptions do we need to test or challenge?

What are you hearing underneath the opinions being expressed?

powerful questions1
Powerful Questions


Catalyzing Insight, Innovation, and Action

by Eric E. Vogt, Juanita Brown, and David Isaacs

Connect Ideas, Find Deeper Insight

What new connections are you making?

What had real meaning for you from what you’ve heard?

What surprised you?

What challenged you?

What’s missing from this picture so far? What is it we’re not seeing?

What do we need more clarity about?

What’s been your/our major learning, insight, or discover so far?

What’s the next level of thinking we need to do?

powerful questions2
Powerful Questions


Catalyzing Insight, Innovation, and Action

by Eric E. Vogt, Juanita Brown, and David Isaacs

Create Forward Movements

What would it take to create change on this issue?

What’s possible and who cares?

What needs our immediate attention going forward?

If our success was guaranteed, what bold steps might we choose?

How can we support each other and take the next steps?

What unique contribution can we each make?

What challenges might come our way and how might we meet them?

What conversation, if begun today, could create new possibilities for the future?

What seed might we plant today that could make the most difference?

listening and powerful questioning
Listening and Powerful Questioning

Find a partner. One is the team member, one is the coach.

Team member states a project issue they are facing.

Coach can only respond in one of two ways:

Reflective Listening: “I hear you saying…”

Asking A Powerful Question

(use powerful questions for the first three questions)

Switch roles after 8 minutes

inspect and adapt
Inspect and Adapt

When big problems go unresolved, or at critical junctures, bring out the big gun - coach your teams through an Inspect and Adapt Workshop

inspect and adapt workshop
Inspect and Adapt Workshop
  • 1. Agree on the problem to solve

2. Do root cause analysis (+five whys)

3. Pareto chart possible causes

Insufficiently Reliable Release Commitments?

  • 4. Pick the biggest- restate the new problem.

5. Brainstorm solutions

  • 6. Implement a corrective action plan
  • Create new improvement stories
  • Establish accountability
  • Specify measurable results
  • Set achievable deadlines
  • Build improvement stories into release plans


architectural runway

  • See the Appendix for a structured Problem Solving Workshop Toolkit

Root Cause Analysis and Corrective Action

exercise running a kaizen event
Exercise: Running a Kaizen Event

Instructions: There is a self-explanatory workshop, complete with exercises for the participants, posted on my blog at

The particular scenario highlighted is designed to address the (not unlikely) problem of “Insufficiently Reliable Release Commitments” and is most often applied as part of the Inspect and Adapt retrospective at each PSI. This provides a cadence-based continuous improvement process at the program level. Programs that use this process improve dramatically over those who do not. But this technique can be applied to most any problem a software team faces.

Your assignment: Use this workshop sometime in the next 90 days, at a PSI boundary, or any other time, to help your team address some significant problem they are facing.

Once they understand it, the teams can then use this tool whenever they are “stumped” by the larger problems they face.


Because better software makes the world a better place.

the last exercise
The Last Exercise!

In the next page, there is an assessment designed to help you monitor your progress on your personal Lean|Agile leadership journey.

Sit down with your team periodically, and have a frank and open discussion of your leadership strengths and weaknesses using this assessment.

In so doing, you will be taking a giant step forward in improving your skills − and correspondingly − building an accountable, shared responsibility, high-performing team that has the unprecedented power to get things done!

Your Lean|Agile Leadership Journey

suggested readings
Suggested Readings

Takeuchi and Nonaka. 1986. The New New Product Development Game. Harvard Business Review.

Bradford and Cohen. 1997. Managing for Excellence

Lencioni, Patrick. 2002.The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

Lencioni, Patrick. 2005. Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Field Guide for Leaders, Managers, and Facilitators