Using Net-Map to become more agile

Ok, I wrote about how a different sector (e.g. international development) could use agile philosophies to improve their work and become more relevant and adaptive. But we also looked at it from the opposite direction: Is there something I could offer the coaches to improve their work. At the Agile Coach Camp I did two Net-Map sessions (and then some impromptu lunch break ones for those who couldn’t attend the “real” ones), and there we talked a lot about what Net-Map could do for Agile.

If you come to an organization (as internal or external Agile coach) and you want to implement Agile, this is not like saying: “We are going to use this new product now… but we will keep on working the way we did before”. It’s a radical change in what the organization does and how it does it. And as we know, the core reason for forming an organization is to organize chaos, provide stability and predictability. So typically organizations have a strong inherent force toward doing things “how we always did them” and are allergic against change. A lot of organizations are sort of ok with changing what they do (e.g. producing new products to follow market development) but changing how things are done is the scariest thing, because that attacks the glue that holds an organization together.

And that is the main reason why introducing Agile is not a technical as much as an organizational change task and why the Agile coaches got so excited when trying out Net-Map. Typically they are brought into the organization by someone who thinks Agile is a great idea and is looking for a partner in implementing it in the organization. The coaches should, however, not fall for the illusion that “the organization” wants to become agile. It’s always more complex than that. You will have people who fear loosing their power as experts or clearing houses as the new way of doing things is introduced, you will have others who don’t agree that you can trust people to deliver instead of micromanaging and controling every breath they take, some (maybe in the leadership) will wake up one day and realize that they underestimated the depth of change that they invited into their organization and get very nervous about it, because they actually just wanted an increase in productivity without a revolution in work flow organization or organizational culture.

As a coach you come into this situation and see all these people just as “the organization”, a mass of faces, having no idea where the secret and open supporters and saboteurs sit and how this specific change process fits into the history of this organization. In our Net-Mapping session, participants mapped out their own perception of specific organizational constellations they have to deal with and developed a deeper understanding of the core stumbling blocks and coalitions. That is a great first step. But imagine how powerful it would become if you started to use it with the people driving and impacted by the change. Interviewing your first point of contact / the person who initiated the Agile implementation would be a first step to understand the lay of the land. Then, in individual or group interviews you would talk with people who have very different perspectives on this, making sure that you are respectful to everyone, no matter what their stand is. So instead of saying: “These people are for or against Agile (the good and the bad people)” you would have to frame both perspectives positively, for example by saying that they are for stability or for change… Apart from getting a very fast in-depth understanding of the positive and negative, formal and informal power networks, you would also have a great way of understanding the root causes for people’s hesitations and allowing all of them to feel like they are part of this development within their organization, instead of feeling like this is something leadership is doing to them.

Some of the coaches were really excited about the idea of including initial Net-Map sessions into their approaches, so maybe I can soon write about how this actually worked.

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