The Starting Problem Series - Fifth installment - Is innovation and reward important in agile transformation?

Mar 17, 2014 4:39:30 AM / by Naeem Hussain

Naeem Hussain

Inspired at @gwu @uchicago

I recently was a judge at the Annual GWU SEAS R&D showcase where young talented engineers displayed their latest work. Three impressions that I walked away were: 1) the boundless creativity and imagination displayed by students and 2) how much I learned about their projects in that short interaction and 3) the most important one - the pride each student felt when s/he presented their work.

In one moment, I time traveled to my days in engineering school as a student and then the transformation as a young adult working for large corporations. Once in the corporate world, that receptiveness to new ideas from diverse set of talents was not as much nurtured. Unless of course, you had the good fortune to inherit a manager who really cared or work for a company whose DNA is sequenced for teams and innovations. However, this is fabled manager seems to be the exception rather than the rule.

In my personal journey as a student of solution development and agile software delivery methodologies and as leader or follower of organizational transformations, one repeated pattern emerged, and that is when organizations transformed some how, people became engaged, new ideas flowed, information was shared and innovation broke out.

Here is what I think are some intrinsic reasons why innovation breaks out in agile organizations:

1) People feel pride in their work because agile organizations recognize teams and individuals continuously delivering (every sprint and release)

2) People build on diverse ideas because agile organizations break down silos and allow humans to interact, to build on each other’s ideas, to grow intellectually, and really experience collective problem solving

3) People influence others to join them to solve complex problems because agile organizations foster leadership by influencing others to join their cause.

4) People feel a sense of accomplishment because agile organizations deliver something their customers actually use

5) People feel they have contributed because agile organizations allow individuals to exhibit their expertise and craftsmanship

As you design your organization for agile transformation, ask the key questions:

1) Are individuals allowed to display their expertise?

2) Are they delivering continuous business value to get the shot of fulfillment?

3) Are team members empowered to make decisions and lead without significant permissions?

4) Are delivery-distracting team member politics minimized (i.e., managers, needing permission, etc.)

5) Does your reward system support both team and individuals?

It is critical that organizations hire the best talent and then create the environment that utilizes the passion and entrepreneurial spirit of these people to allow innovation to break out. We all know innovation is key for business growth today. Let's ensure that as these young grads join the workforce, their ideas and passions are guided to create great value. Go Boundless Creativity!



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Topics: Starting Problem Series, Agile, Agile Organizational Design, Continuous Business Value Delivery, AgiLEAD

Written by Naeem Hussain

Naeem Hussain is the COO of CirrusLabs. In this role, he focuses on advisory services for the leadership team of respective organizations for enterprise transformation, scaling agile adoption across the enterprise, creating in-sourcing strategies, and implementing DevOps practices. During his consulting career, Mr. Hussain has worked with large corporate clients such as Capital One Bank, Angie's List, Urban Outfitters, Pointroll, General Services Administration, Anthem Health and Transamerica.With an MBA from the University of Chicago and an M.S. degree from the George Washington University, Mr. Hussain has held various leadership and executive positions with Siemens, ING DIRECT, Capital, COO of MGRM Holdings and Co-founder and CFO of AgileTrailblazers . Mr. Hussain also serves as a member of the George Washington University School of Engineering & Applied Sciences National Advisory Council.

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