In 2017, I co-authored the 9 Principles of Agile leadership on behalf of the Agile Business Consortium. You can review the high-level description of these principles here. In this blog, I describe how these principles came about and in subsequent posts will describe the principles in more detail along with why I think they are important for organisational leaders.
But first, let me give you a background as to how these principles came about.
DSDM Evolves …
DSDM (Dynamic Systems Development Methodology) was the first of the Agile methodologies created back in 1993. It focused on running projects in Agile ways and was considered by many an antidote to the then-popular Prince-2 Project Management method. As well as working on the pilot version of DSDM Atern (which was rolled out at Rolls-Royce in 2007) I had the honour of contributing to the 2014 version of the handbook. DSDM was then evolved further still into the Framework for Business Agility.
In the process of creating and evolving the Framework for Business Agility (FBA) our work was split into a number of streams, one of which was the Leadership and Culture stream. I was part of this initial team who was charged with extending the methodology to include these aspects of business agility.
The Framework for Business Agility (FBA)
How many principles are too many?
Our esteemed team leader, Katie Taylor, a director at the consortium tasked me with coming up with the initial set of principles. These principles were contextualised as being the starting point for our thinking on how culture is, or at least should be, approached by leadership. I was given complete carte blanche as to what they should be with only one proviso: don’t create too many of them.
That one particular objective did become a bit of an issue for me I sought to reduce the number of principles down to a “better” number. My friend and colleague Andrew Craddock, also a director at the consortium suggested that seven was to optimal number as “we already have the 8 principles of DSDM”. So better was defined as one being less than the 8 principles of DSDM! Rather arbitrary I know, but there you have it.
In true Agile fashion we reviewed the 9 principles with a wide audience over a number of breakfasts and that was one of the questions that we asked: is 9 principles too many? By and large people thought that while 9 seemed a bit top heavy, they felt that the priciples themselves and the supporting literature were useful. It didn’t appear that we could lose any of them because some value would be lost. Hence 9 becase the magic number … I’m sure Nikola Tesla would be very proud, being that the number 9 held special energetic significance for him.
Why should anyone follow you?
This was a task I relished as it gave me a reason to apply my learnings and experiences of over 30 years from leadership. Truth be told, the perspective I took was that of my experiences as a follower, more than those as a leader. While I had led many teams up until that point I had never led an executive team (although I have coached many).
So the principles that you see today are in large part what I considered to make a leader worthy of my followership. I had been inspired by the title of the book “Why should anyone follow you?” ( I will get around to reading the one someday!) This I felt was a question that all leaders should ask themselves and if they did maybe these would be the principles they would aspire to.
Coming soon …
In the next post, I will go into more detail on the first principle and give a little more insight into why its no accident why I made this one the first principle:
ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS