Today’s episode of the APH Interview Series features an interview by AgileCxO’s Chief Evangelist and videocast host, Jeff Dalton, with Andrew Welsh, APH Instructor and APH Assessor with Qlarant. Andrew talks about how his organization is using the APH, and the opportunity to help Qlarant’s clients be more agile with the APH. Enjoy the video here (or click the graphic). To read the transcript, please scroll down.
AgileCxO: Andrew, a couple of months ago, Qlarant, led by you and some others, became an AgileCxO partner. Tell us about your thinking behind that.
Andrew: Sure. AgileCxO like I said, just previously, a lot of times companies will instill agility in a project team levels, development teams, just IT and PMO. But then a lot of ways that’s where companies start just to kind of get the immediate effect. You can put something in this small project team. They may see immediate benefits in the project team level, but as you move up you kind of find that agility stops there. Agile really thrives in companies where agility is supported from the top down. A lot of times when you speak to people about the difficulties of adopting Agile, they’ll note that when agility doesn’t come from the top down, that’s one of the significant impediments and roadblocks for them to continue to release this culture throughout the organization.
AgileCxO: How does the partnership with AgileCxO help you there?
Andrew: For us, a partnership with AgileCxO is crucial to that sort of idea because what it does is it provides us a model that shows us how to really implement Agile from the top down and allow the agility from the bottom to grow up as it grows down from the top.
AgileCxO: You were seeing the Agile Performance Holarchy, the APH model that AgileCxO has, as sort of a manual or a guidebook for senior management to help generate agility at all levels?
Andrew: That’s it exactly. The APH model is something that we’re hopeful to use to really generate an interest in providing the tools and the environment that the teams below the C-suite would need to be successful in creating and nurturing and really growing the agility at our organization.
AgileCxO: Do you see your senior management participating in assessments of their own performance using the APH to verify and help them improve performance at the senior level?
Andrew: Absolutely. The APH model itself is all about adapting behavior. If we go to the executive team and we say, these are the things that we’re all doing really well. Here’s some areas that we think we can really improve. Let’s talk about how we can change how we’re doing, what we’re doing, and see if we can really bring us to a new level of agility.
AgileCxO: How do you think this will work with your customers? You work with a lot of government agencies. A lot of them are talking about Agile right now, especially over at CMS where you’re doing a lot of work. Do you see this playing in their space at all? Do you see them being interested in how you’re doing this? What’s your strategy for using the APH with your customers?
Andrew: I really like to hope that, in that region, we’ll see a lot of interest. I think that Agile itself is sort of becoming more than a buzzword as it’s been for a long time and people are really starting to see the observable benefits of Agile in a larger scale.
AgileCxO: Your company has developed some tools to help with this kind of large-scale implementation. Can you tell us what you’re using from a tool standpoint?
Andrew: We do use both Jira and Confluence. For us, it’s sort of the right tool for the right job kind of thing. But there’s tons of tools and plugins that you can use to really help manage the processes and really ensure that all of the information that you can glean from an Agile process set that helps you improve over time is captured and readily available to you. We also have a new in-house product, that we’re calling River, that is a conflict resolution tool that helps identify areas where we’re in need of improvement or doing well, but also provides us solutions and gives us insight into how we can become better.
AgileCxO: Do you see the use of any particular Agile metrics or anything that is consistently using the Agile world for metrics to determine whether you’re actually meeting the goals that you set out for yourself?
Andrew: We can set metrics in any way that we’d like, especially with that tool. We can do common assessments of smaller areas of specific performance circles around our own office. We can look and see, based on our previous recorded assessments, how we’re improving and make sure that any of the actions that we had set for ourselves to take an improving our behaviors, based on our previous assessments have been taken.
We’re hoping that in the future as we move forward with AgileCxO we’ll be able to really show how small changes in our environment here really affect the greater ecosystem at Qlarant.
AgileCxO: I should have mentioned this when I introduced to you, but you are an APH Assessor and an APH Instructor, is that right?
Andrew: Yes, I am.
AgileCxO: Will you be conducting internal APH assessments with your company, and will you be doing it outside of the company as well?
Andrew: Yes, we will. We have our first, internal assessment at Qlarant for the APH model, scheduled before the end of the year. Once we have all of that done, everybody on the team will have performed a full assessment, and then we can start Qlarant’s journey towards becoming a much more Agile at the top end.
AgileCxO: That’s great. Has your leadership been receptive to the assessment process?
Andrew: Oh, yes. Everybody has a really great excitement level about other potential use for this here, just to see what we can do to become better, as we always try to do.
AgileCxO: One of the things I’ve noticed about your company and your leadership is you all seem almost hungry for improvement, for getting better and really being a great company. You don’t see that as much as I would like to see that with a lot of Agile organization that kind of bristle at the notion of being assessed. Why do you think some Agile organizations don’t like being assessed?
Andrew: I think that a lot of companies really view assessments as an opportunity to be told what they’re doing wrong versus an opportunity to be told how they can improve. Here at Qlarant, we’re very passionate about everything that we do. The years that we’ve spent in quality of data analysis and providing solutions, and in my time here as a business analyst and a project manager, I have witnessed firsthand the immediate benefits that agility and product development can bring. Whether it’s turning out higher quality products or refining or bettering a process or planning a roadmap, we can take the things that we’ve learned, take the self-reflection, take the findings of something not so good, and turn it into something very good so long as we approach it in that manner.
AgileCxO: What kind of advice would you give a company that’s on the fence? I talked to a lot of CEOs that say, “Yeah, I’d like to do this, but I’m not really sure if I can get everybody on board.” What’s some advice you have for started jumping into this assessment continuous improvement process in the Agile world?
Andrew: I would say: Just try it. Like I was saying before, a lot of companies that jump into Agile and they just start out by putting it into their project teams. If you have a fear of Agile, try it. Put it into a small place, see how it works, you know, try to ensure that it’s being run the right way, but then see the benefits from it. Observe it yourself. See the proof in that pudding, and try to think about how you can use it elsewhere.
AgileCxO: Yeah, that’s great. You mentioned earlier or something, I just wanted to kind of wrap up with your thoughts on this as you talked about leadership and how important that was to a successful Agile implementation. I have worked with a lot of companies that are doing Scrum. They’re running their ceremonies, but management doesn’t seem to be on board at all, and they insist that things are going well and that Agile is doing well in their company. What are they missing? What’s going on there?
Andrew: Normally companies who want to build and sustain like a large scale agility implementation, they really start by putting it in the IT departments and the PMOs and the development teams and the like. But that’s it. It’s much easier there because there are really well documented methodologies of Agile approaches such as Scrum and Kanban and things of that nature. They’re really tried and true. But there’s not really any kind of supporting model or anything for an organization from the top down. Project level adoption is only one of the initial stepping stones towards transforming an organization’s agility as a whole. That being said, you know, project level adoption is particularly successful and it thrives in an organization where the conditions are that of support of Agile adoption and things like that.
I think the AgileCxO APH, the Agile Performance Holarchy, is more of a holistic model and it helps put a spotlight on the measure of support at the executive leadership level, and it provides a means of instilling agility in the leadership culture through the adapting of behaviors. Really, it helps position the C-suite to effectively nurture and grow agility within an organization from above by providing the right tools and environments to really strengthen the company’s capabilities through an Agile approach. Most importantly, it really allows the self organizing teams and in an Agile environment to take responsibility for the work that they’ve assigned themselves too. They hold themselves accountable. It really helps to leadership to be free, to do more of what they’re intended to do by leading more.
AgileCxO: Well, that sounds great. It sounds like it’s filling an important gap for you and is going to really be helpful for the entire company, not just the development teams.
Andrew: Yeah, absolutely. We’re really excited at the prospect of it.
AgileCxO: Cool. Well, Andrew, I appreciate you joining us today for the show and I’d like to just leave the last minute for you to say anything you want to our listeners and our viewers and say anything you’d like about Qlarant or yourself to leave us and then we’ll be done.
Andrew: It’s just been a pleasure being on the call. Like I said here at Qlarant, we’re just very passionate folks who are just trying to make everything better. We thrive in quality and we strive for improvement. We hope to see anybody who’s interested to give us a contact and discuss what we can do to help you.
Qlarant, an AgileCxO Transformation Partner, can be reached at http://www.qlarant.com.