Systems Thinking and SAFe – Supporting the Framework


Jesse Fewell: Hi everybody. Jesse Fewell here with a special edition of Morning Fewell. Here with Martin Olson at Scaled Agile Framework SPC class. I got to tell you, I’m having a blast. For the last few days, we’ve been talking about how do we take these agile ideas and deploy them at a large organization. We’re actually here in the classroom so you guys are getting a first view glimpse of things.


You brought a refreshingly, unexpected, additional perspective on this, that we have the safe model and it’s on its fourth iteration now here in early 2016. Which is excellent, right? It shows inspecting and adapting. You’re bringing an additional perspective on this with systems coaching. Tell us, what is systems coaching?


Martin Olson: The notion of systems coaching is that when you have a group of people that are working together, they’re dependent upon each other for whatever that deliver is. A baseball team is a system. A [inaudible 00:01:06] is a system. An organization is a system. That system has its own intelligence, its own energy, its own needs so when you’re bringing safe into an organization, you’re altering the system. You’re bringing practices. You’re bringing new learnings. You’re bringing new information into the system and as such, you need to be aware that you’re changing the system.


It’s not just the application of a bunch of practices and principals. It’s the application of a bunch of practices and principals in an existing system that will impact the system and you have to understand what that impact is. You also have to make sure that, that impact sustains the system. If it doesn’t, the systems smart, it’s going to reject it.


Jesse Fewell: How do we guide the system to accept these strange new practices. These strange new philosophies and mind sets?


Martin Olson: That’s just it. How strange are they? If the gaps too far, they can’t do it. You have to meet the system where it’s at and you have to say, “Hey, at the end of the day, this is really good stuff. We’ve got teams. We’ve got this program guidance and everything else.” We can do teams and we can do program guidance and that’s not going to be the full implementation of safe. That might be to the points of, we can’t, maybe, do [crosstalk 00:02:18].


Jesse Fewell: For that group that’s not ready for the full monty.


Martin Olson: Right.


Jesse Fewell: If they’re not ready for the full monty …


Martin Olson: You’ve got a journey. It’s not, “Hey, go do the training and now walk away and do this.” That is a model that can work if it fits culturally. There’s a couple of things here I want to be very clear about. One, doing the class is awesome. I enjoy it and, again, I would say that over the last four days, you’ve gotten a pretty good understanding and maybe new learnings on and the model. It’s not a flawed model. It works. Again, I think large scale [inaudible 00:02:50] will work. I’m not versed in those models. I think the models good.


Secondly, you can’t just go do this training if you don’t understand facilitation. If you don’t understand the challenges of change management and you try and implement this, you’re going to have a long day because, in its essence, you’re changing the system. Inherently in that, you’re changing the way people behave and you’re changing something that’s very near and dear to people. Their work, their environment. We’re wired that way. Our satisfaction, our identities are often tied to work.


Jesse Fewell: With that being said, what would you say would be the top one or two hacks or the top one or two recommendations as a coach that you would recommend to someone who wants to implement a scale agile framework safe. One or two or three hacks.


Martin Olson: There not even hacks, they’re called out. Leadership. You’ve got to get leadership that understands what they’re asking. Over manage and under led is the montra. It is. Organizationally, we’re structured the way that we are through mergers and acquisitions and happen stance and traditional … We have to have these silos because they’re easy ways to organize and manage but they’re terrible ways for work to flow.


You have to have a leadership that understands that, an executive leadership. If you don’t have buy-in, with any change initiative, it’s going to get to some level and die out because the people that I’ve asked to change, if they don’t understand what I’m asking to do number one and, number two, the value, the reason why, it’s going to be a challenge.


Jesse Fewell: Number one is leadership.


Martin Olson: Leadership.


Jesse Fewell: Number two, would be …


Martin Olson: Number two is having an understanding of where you are and where you want to go.


Jesse Fewell: Right. You’re as is. You’re too be and all of that.


Martin Olson: Exactly. Where you want to go is probably going to involve some level of safe. Right? If you are using that model or whatever the framework is. You have to understand how you’re organized today, where the system’s at. You have to meet the system where it is at and then, you have to stretch that. You want this change to be sustainable. Everybody wants to set themselves up for success, right? You have to know where the system’s at, you have to meet the system where it’s at and they you move to where you want it to be, eventually.


Jesse Fewell: This has been one of the critique that safe has suffered, which is you see this place mat and you’re just like “Everyone needs to go to that solution.” What you’re saying is, “No, design the end state that fits your specific context.”


Martin Olson: Again, the framework calls out. It’s got nine principals and they’re based on agile [inaudible 00:05:26].


Jesse Fewell: Right.


Martin Olson: Folks that want to poke at it and say that, “I think it’s a misunderstanding.” Again, I would ask you, “You came into the class with that belief that it might be too prescriptive. Do you still hold that?”


Jesse Fewell: No, no.


Martin Olson: Yeah.


Jesse Fewell: It’s been really eye opening especially hearing your voice as a systems coach talking about it. Number one, meet the system where it’s at because they might not be ready to make the big jump all the way over to a certain kind of scaled agile model.


Martin Olson: They may be. Maybe they want to.


Jesse Fewell: Maybe they are.


Martin Olson: If that’s the case, wow, that’s big.


Jesse Fewell: Number two, tailor the end state to the context you’re in.


Martin Olson: Yes.


Jesse Fewell: It’s visualized best in this new [crosstalk 00:06:09] where you collapse and entire layer.


Martin Olson: Yeah, if you don’t need it. If you don’t need it. You have to know where you’re going. You have to then support that. Hack number 3, don’t assume you send people to the world. Don’t assume you send people to a class and they’re immediately a process coach and they can do that on top of their job. You have to decide if they’re working in the system or they’re working on the system when you’re doing change management. You can have people that do both, right?


Jesse Fewell: Yeah.


Martin Olson: It’s a full time gig working on the system.


Jesse Fewell: It is. It really is.


Martin Olson: On that scale and that enterprise. When you’re changing the lives and the process that involves hundreds of people, each individual has to change.


Jesse Fewell: Wow.


Martin Olson: Each individual needs some level of support. There’s a lot of coaching that’s needed there.


Jesse Fewell: That’s a lot of work.


Martin Olson: Again, …


Jesse Fewell: That’s the other lesson that I’m getting that this is a lot of work.


Martin Olson: Any change is a lot of work.


Jesse Fewell: Yeah.


Martin Olson: It’s not the framework.


Jesse Fewell: Wow.


Martin Olson: Again, there’s the notion that, “Hey, we can just go implement it” and then you might. Absolutely. There are case studies out there where organizations did that. I would purpose the reasons why that worked is it fit the organizational culture. The model met the organization where it’s at and it was timely and it was ready to go.


Jesse Fewell: Other’s, it might be more evolutionary. It might be step by step. Martin, thank you so much.


Martin Olson: Hey, my pleasure.


Jesse Fewell: It’s been a blast and I’m glad that we got a chance to share to some people. Thank you guys for listening in. Tune in next time and hopefully we’ll talk to a couple more people from class.


Martin Olson: I’ll see.


Jesse Fewell: All right.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *