10 Things Agile Executives Need To Do Differently

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Agile development expert Kelly Waters provides his insights on ten things that can make a huge difference in improving your productivity and achieving more success.

agile executives

Agile adoption is sometimes driven from the top by courageous executives boldly declaring, “We’re going agile!” They see a vision of a better, happier place, where development is better, faster, cheaper, and they want it. That’s understandable, of course. But some don’t realize the implications. When moving to agile methods, it’s not just teams that need to change. Executives need to change, too.

Here are 10 things agile executives need to do differently:

  1. Do Less – limit work in progress at portfolio level, eliminate waste, create focus, do less in parallel, keep things simple.
  2. Explore & Adapt – rather than follow a plan.
  3. Learn Fast – short feedback loops, tolerate mistakes, value learning, and continuous improvement.
  4. One Team, One Goal – avoid silos by setting up product oriented, co-located, multi-disciplined teams with shared purpose; squash politics.
  5. Focus On Value – focus on value over cost, deliver value earlier/incrementally, concentrate on building the right product.
  6. Empower Teams – inspire and engage, provide opportunity for intrinsic motivators: autonomy, mastery and purpose.
  7. Accept Hard Truths – be open, accept difficult messages, support the team in resolving them; agile doesn’t solve your problems, it highlights them.
  8. Think Big, Start Small – have the big vision, but deliver it in small bite-sized pieces.
  9. Collaborate – play nicely, be supportive, give your people time, actively participate in projects.
  10. Lead By Example – be agile yourself, use agile techniques, exhibit agile principles, adopt a servant leadership style.

If you want your teams to be truly agile, take a hard look at yourself and your executive colleagues. Are you agile, too? Are you setting agile up for success? Are your behaviors creating an environment where agile can flourish? This is very important if you want your teams to succeed. If you ask for agile, but your own behavior is inconsistent with agile principles, your teams won’t be able to change fully, even if they want to, and you’ll only get a fraction of the benefits you could otherwise achieve.

Are you an Agile Executive?


Kelly WatersKelly Waters is an agile development expert and the award-winning author of the blog All About Agile. He has 27 years experience in the software development industry, with over 10 years at executive level, and is currently executive consultant and transformation practice lead for ThoughtWorks Australia.


Editor’s note: This is a guest post from agile development expert and award-winning blogger Kelly Waters, Executive Consultant and Transformation Practice Lead for ThoughtWorks Australia. It was originally published on his blog, All About Agile.