Episode 140

Marc Lustig - What is actually changing in an agile transformation?

Posted on: 27 Jun 2024

Marc Lustig is the Transformation Leadership Coach at the professional training & coaching firm Scaled Intent Leadership.

In this episode, we explore what is actually changing in a true agile transformation, beginning with Marc sharing his own experience with agile. We discuss the concept of the learning organization and the responsibilities of leaders, and then Marc shares his recipe for driving meaningful, sustainable transformation.


Links & mentions:


If a leader is becoming a sponsor for a change, a program, they need to look very clearly into the mirror and ask themselves questions. Who am I? What are my personal values?

Welcome to the Agile Digital Transformation podcast, where we explore different aspects of digital transformation and digital experience with your host, Tim Butara, content and community manager at Agiledrop.

Tim Butara: Hello everyone. Thanks for tuning in. I'm joined today by Marc Lustig, Transformation Leadership Coach at Scaled Intent Leadership. In today's episode, we'll be discussing what real adult transformation actually looks like and how it can drive actual meaningful change for a business or for an organization. Mark, welcome to the podcast.

We're happy to have you here. Anything you'd like to add before we jump in?

Marc Lustig: Hi Tim. I am very happy to join this conversation.

Tim Butara: Awesome. So let's just get started and to set the stage and to kind of initiate the whole conversation. I'm interested in your own personal Agile journey. Can you tell us more about that?

About your history with Agile and what your most important takeaways or learnings were from this journey?

Marc Lustig: Absolutely, Tim, it's a pleasure to share my point of view. So I started to adopt agile engineering practices back in 2003. So it's, uh, over 20 years ago. And this was actually, uh, one of my key experiences.

I worked as a software engineer, a full stack software. engineer for a small company based in Germany, and, uh, they were close to bankruptcy. And so they have built up a monolith. And this piece of software was hardly maintainable anymore. So the CTO, he decided we need to start adopting agile engineering practices.

And so I experienced how the adoption of agile engineering practices translated into the survival. Of the whole company so this was very important experience to me because it was not only some kind of change it was actually a very meaningful experience. And then in 2008, I had the chance to serve three years in a large agile transformation in the insurance industry.

And, uh, I helped like 16 teams to adopt continuous integration, CI, CD, build pipeline. And also I had them to introduce, um, test automation strategy. So. Again, this was a major shift in the culture of this organization, and I experienced my passion and my joy when I helped teams to step deeper into their own sense of responsibility.

So I like to bring teams and individuals deeper into their personal sense of responsibility. Yeah. And what else to add? So I worked as a freelancer all my career. And so I experienced a lot of what doesn't work. So I was hired for agile transformations and I was asked to make sure that the new agile process is properly wrote out.

Yeah, this was at the end of the day how the success of the endeavor was measured. Yeah, of course they said, ah, we need also to change the culture. We need to change the mindset, but the thing is The, the sponsors, they frequently did not buy in, into starting with themselves rather than, um, delegating this transformation topic to their teams.

And this is something that has shaped the agile transformation industry. And I don't believe or I, I cannot relate to this kind of change because it's not sustainable and it's not actually beneficial for the enterprise. Yeah.

Tim Butara: So for an agile transformation to be successful, it needs to be both sustainable.

And beneficial and can you tell us a little bit more about what like successful real agile transformation should look like according to your experiences and your journey

Marc Lustig: Fine. Yeah, so I already Have mentioned my experience Experience with the project in the insurance industry. I want to tell you one more story.

It was 2012 to until 2015. I worked, uh, as an agile coach in, in the automotive industry. And uh, this was a very innovative product actually. So we had the goal to. work clearly in a product based approach inside of an organization, which was totally driven by project management. Yeah. So what did they do?

They actually hired a lot of external people and they put them all in a place outside of the corporate facilities. Yeah. And so it was like an isolated space and, um, This helped a lot to create a culture that does not bring the legacy of the core company. Yeah. And so what we achieved there, we achieved a very high quality standard.

And so we were five teams where we were working in five teams and we were integrating the product on a biweekly basis. And we had very meaningful sprint review meetings and the key stake Holders. were very actively participating in the sprint FQL view. And, uh, it was also a very meaningful feedback that they provided.

And this, I mean, it was a proper large scale scrum implementation. And so from the cultural point of view, I experienced that the teams This really stepped in from self organization into self managing and even self governance approach. So this, uh, there are the three levels of autonomy in a team, and this is very strong a core concept for an auto agile organism.

Self organization. So we need to understand when we refer to self organization, what do we really mean? So self organization in most companies mean that the manager provides like a set of tasks to the team or maybe the product owner, they create the user story and then they hand it over to the team and say, okay, now you are self organized.

Accomplish this task in a self-organized way, but really this is only the very first level of autonomy. If we want to create an agile organization, we need to support the autonomy of the teams. Elevate, actually, from pure accomplishing tasks in a self organized way to becoming a self managing team and even self governing team.

So what does this mean? It means, after all, it's like a company inside of the company. company. So in a typical organization, you have different departments like testing department, software engineering, of course you have HR, you have compliance, you have maybe architecture, and then you have of course sales and marketing.

So in a fully agile teams, you have all these activities. inside of the team and you provide this team the space to organize, to accomplish everything that is required to actually ship, not only ship the product, but also to learn from the experience of the users of the product and integrated again into the product backlog.

Yeah. Okay.

Tim Butara: And that makes sense for sustainability, right? That it's kind of this, this full circle process where you, it's not just about releasing products and, and having successful projects, but also incorporating the feedback and the learnings that you get from them to optimize your future processes and future projects and future products.

Marc Lustig: Yeah. Yeah. So it was when I started my university studies in the beginning of the 1990s, I had an internship and with the HR department and, uh, they were rolling out, a cultural change program to, to become a learning organization. So the topic of the learning organization has been very popular even back in the 1980s.

And when you look at the The first article where Scrum as a framework has been mentioned, it was in 1986, uh, it's called the New New Product Development Game. Then, You see that it's the concept of the learning organization plays a very prominent role. So for me, it's really fascinating to see that in today's world, it seems to be very, very hard to implement the most basic key concepts of the learning organization.

And, and these concepts of the learning organization, they relate very tightly to the agile values and the five values which are outlined in the scrum framework.

Tim Butara: Can we talk a little bit more about these five values for those who don't know and how they relate to the concept of the learning organization?

Marc Lustig: Yeah, so of course we can, actually we should talk about the Scrum values. So these are courage, focus, commitment, respect, and openness. So these are like really the key ingredients. for a culture of agility and a culture of creating meaning in an organization. So the key thing here, when we, when we talk about the values is, and this is really very important for me, um, so you can talk about values.

That's one thing, yeah, you can promote certain values in your, uh, Agile or whatever transformation endeavor. You can hang like posters on the floor. Or you can ask HR to implement a learning program for the Agile. Employees and to require employees to perform a test to document that they have like understood the values.

Yeah. And this, I have seen this on a frequent basis also. Yeah. So, but this is. This will not lead to any cultural change in my experience, so I have put my focus Of course. On leadership development for a reason because in my understanding any change starts with the leadership eating their own dog food.

So if a leader is becoming a sponsor for a change, a program, they need to look very clearly into the mirror. and ask themselves, who am I? What are my personal values? And to be really honest and sincere. So it's very handy to work with a coach to understand yourself, how your self image is aligned with how your Employees view you.

Yeah. So ideally there should be no gap between how a leader, I mean between the image, uh, between the self image of a leader and the like foreign image of his colleagues and his subordinates. Yeah.

Tim Butara: Mm-Hmm. , that makes a lot of sense. So, so basically. In order for, you know, for an agile transformation to really be sustainable, to, to bring the most value, to be successful and to be repeatable, it should happen in a kind of top down fashion, you know, leaders should also be on board and they should also develop themselves.

Marc Lustig: That's a nice question. Actually, I have learned a lot from the large scale Scrum framework and one of the three adoption principles in LESS is to apply Both top down and bottom up approach at the same time. And actually, I believe this should be evident based on what I already said before. I mean, we clearly need a top down approach, but not that should not mean to delegate the transformation, but rather to lead by example.

All right. And not even to lead by example. So, I mean, Yeah, you could maybe see it in three stages. So in three stages of transformation leadership, the first stage is like if you delegate the transformation to your teams or maybe to some change agents like scrum master, HR coaches, and Head of agile. Yeah.

It's also very popular concept these days. And the second stage is to lead by example. Yeah. So the leader, the sponsor of the transformation, they look in the mirror and they, uh, create consistency between the transformation goals and their personal values. And they work on themselves on a daily basis to embody and to incorporate the change that they want to see in the organization.

Okay. That's the second stage. And the third stage of transformation leadership is when the sponsor is promoting. Leadership throughout his entire team. So this follows the idea, the basic concept from this very popular guy named Simon Sinek from the US Leaders create leaders. Okay? Leaders. So, in the second stage of transformational leadership, uh, the leaders create followers.

Okay? And now the third stage. Leaders create leaders. And ultimately, this could possibly mean that the sponsor will render himself obsolete. So if the team and every individual employee, they're fully stepping in, into their own sense of responsibility. So they, when they wake up in the morning, they can't wait to get started.

Yeah. And they have completely abandoned the concept of a work life balance. I mean, this is another topic. It's not like black and white. We can go that deeper, but it's like, if you come to work to make the money, so that you can live your true values in your private sphere, then this is not an agile organization.

Agile organization means that each individual employee is invited to relate their personal values to the goals and the corporate values.

So, uh, with this consistency comes not only motivation, but it comes holistic responsibility for delivering value. Okay. And so when we have achieved this kind of thing, then we have Somehow arrived in an agile organization.

Tim Butara: Some really good points here. It really, it really ties back to the beginning of our conversation where you said that one of the biggest things that you that you saw was this need for to have teams develop this sense of responsibility.

And from what I gather, this sense of responsibility goes hand in hand or is kind of prerequisite. for effective self governance, which is the kind of final stage of autonomy in an agile process.

Marc Lustig: Yeah, I can give you maybe one more example. So in this project, which I mentioned before in the automotive industry, I experienced how a team solve a particular challenge with a team member.

I mean, this is a normal process in Scrum that should happen in the future. But here it was. Perspective. Yeah, so if there are tensions in the team, uh, you have to create the emotional safety to name Actually the topic. Yeah, you have to create the safety And this is absolutely crucial in order for team to self regulate the integrity of the team.

And also I experienced how the team requested a new full stack. Product the developer and so they organized the hiring process with some external support and they fully were in charge to select the right person for them. So I have seen a lot that, uh, new people have been dropped into teams from outside, but with such kind of teams, you never go beyond the.

Nomming, the storming and nomming phases,

Tim Butara: yeah. Okay, so Mark, based on everything that we've discussed so far and based on your 20 plus years of experiences, do you have some kind of recipe for creating meaningful, sustainable change? And can you share that with us here?

Marc Lustig: Well, it depends a bit in which role you are.

If you ask me about a general recipe, I would recommend to focus on understanding and incorporating your personal values. And stop to be driven by foreign values, stop, follow some agile thing, follow yourself.

Tim Butara: That's a really great piece of advice. Yeah. So especially if your own personal values are in some kind of clash, maybe, maybe with the values that you're supposed to be following, that just sounds like a recipe for disaster actually.


Marc Lustig: Yeah. Yeah. I have talked to a lot of, uh, HR coaches and other HR change agents. And, uh, they tell me very often that, yeah, I, I'm completely aligned with the HR values and, uh, and, um, yeah, I'm fine. But when I asked them, okay. So what kind of change do you observe in your organization as a result of your activities?

They typically say, well, it takes time. It's going slowly and, but we, we have to be patient. So I have observed that a lot of people find their comfort Um, in not getting there where they pretend to be so, I mean, I don't want to sound judgmental here. That's, that's really, that's really not the point, but well, maybe that's a story for another conversation.

It goes too deep. It goes too deep. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Tim Butara: Okay. I think, you know, since there's a lot more to discuss, but we've covered a lot, I think that this is a good place to, to finish this particular conversation on Mark, but I'm sure that a lot of our listeners will want to connect with you, or we want to learn more about your experiences and your tips directly from you.

So for those listeners, so where can they connect with you and reach out to you and learn more about you?

Marc Lustig: Yes, so you can find me on linkedin and my email is ml at marklustig. com and my website is scaledintent. com

Tim Butara: Okay, we'll make sure to put everything in the show notes for easy access for our listeners and Mark, thanks again for being our guest today and for sharing your your insights and your lessons with us today.

Marc Lustig: Yeah, thank you. It was a pleasure.

Tim Butara: Likewise, Marc. And to our listeners, that's all for this episode. Have a great day, everyone, and stay safe.

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