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Topics: Agile, Innovation, Leadership
What's more effective? Driving Agility Organizationally ("Top Down") or through Individual Agility ("Bottom Up")? The best comments may feature at a major PM conference!
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PMI's Chennai Chapter's Sangamam (Confluence in Tamil) Project Management Conference with 400+ attendees has this as the topic of an exciting "Big Debate"
Please share your opinion, or experiences.
The best comments may be featured at this prestigious event!
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Like all transformations, Karthik, agility requires both top-down and bottom-up efforts. You can't ram a change down a team's throat as the team members need to want to change. Meanwhile, without the top down support, you won't overcome many of the common organizational impediments and blockers to increased agility. Senior leadership can also help to address mid-level management mindset issues by "walking the talk".

Kiron
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1 reply by Karthik Ramamurthy
Nov 14, 2019 12:20 PM
Karthik Ramamurthy
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@Kiron: Thanks a million for your perceptive insights. I broadly agree. Let's await responses from other members of this dynamic community.
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Nov 14, 2019 12:16 PM
Replying to Kiron Bondale
...
Like all transformations, Karthik, agility requires both top-down and bottom-up efforts. You can't ram a change down a team's throat as the team members need to want to change. Meanwhile, without the top down support, you won't overcome many of the common organizational impediments and blockers to increased agility. Senior leadership can also help to address mid-level management mindset issues by "walking the talk".

Kiron
@Kiron: Thanks a million for your perceptive insights. I broadly agree. Let's await responses from other members of this dynamic community.
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I agree with Kiron that we need both top down and bottom up approaches for agility. One without the another will not take the initiative to success
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Innovative ideas usually come from the bottom-up, not handed down from the mountaintop. Supporting the culture of innovation and agility however needs to come from the top-down.

Many great new ideas come from the work group level, as those are the people who are closest to the problems being solved, and most knowledgeable about the issues they encounter while solving them. Motivated employees may even become inventors on their own time to develop innovative ideas that make their jobs easier, more productive, etc. Some large companies create experimental labs for this very purpose.

For the efforts of the inventors to be effective, senior leadership must encouraging, support, and incentivize this sort of behavior. They are the ones who can set the priorities/policies, provide the funding/resources, ensure the cooperation of external organizations, and ensure that the efforts themselves are recognized and rewarded.
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Karthik

I believe driving Agility in an organization is a two way stream and should be a collaboration of both. The most important thing is that everyone is clear that Agility is a mindset, not a method or framework and if this is bought-in and adopted then driving Agility will likely succeed.

On another note, from my experience, driving Agility organizationally could be a bit smoother than if driven individually and when I say driven, I mean initiated because driving the organization can't drive in full speed without the co-drive (The Individuals).

Hope this makes sense.

RK
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Sorry to sound rude, but this debate has no sense for people that really undestand what agile is. I am saying this taken the risk about the comments I will receive (perhaps) but I can sustain that. Is the same that has no sense to talk about it when you like to implement Lean or any other type of things. Why? Because organization will fail if systemic theory, systemic conception, the basement of those theories is taken into account. Just go to the basement, search for the definitions and you will understand my answer. In fact, see how all intentions to make something to fix the problem like "Scale" agile-something do not work and they are a mess.
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When you change the mindset, you can change the organization/individual.
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Drive Agility Top Down , Bottom up and Side Ways
Create Agility Champions across the organisation that can be the change agents to "convey" the message from the top down and feedback the learning from the bottom up to the top .

Need sponsorship and support of senior management , need the support of the people doing the work and need the enthusiasm of change agents "driving" and "propelling" the change.

To provide context from mine and Kiron's favourite Author Malcolm Gladwell's book - "The Tipping Point". There need to be three ideas at play in order for Agility to be widely accepted :-

The Law of the Few, which contends that before widespread popularity can be attained, a few key types of people must champion an idea, concept, or product before it can reach the tipping point.

Stickiness Factor as the quality that compels people to pay close, sustained attention to a product, concept, or idea, in this case - to embrace agility. the people driving agility need to identify what this stickiness factor is , for groups of people, departments and the whole organisation and that can be immensely challenging.

The third is the Power of Context . The Power of Context is enormously important in determining whether a particular phenomenon will tip into widespread popularity. Small variations in social groups and minor changes in a neighborhood or community environment can cause a new idea to tip. So yes, small incremental changes at achieving agility can be powerful change agents.

And for the above concepts to thrive, there need to be three types of Change agents :-

1) Connectors are individuals who have ties in many different realms and act as conduits between them, helping to engender connections, relationships, and “cross-fertilization” that otherwise might not have ever occurred.

2) Mavens are people who have a strong compulsion to help other consumers by helping them make informed decisions.

3) Salesmen are people whose unusual charisma allows them to be extremely persuasive in inducing others’ buying decisions and behaviors.
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Any transformation is to be taken on as a collective partnership. No finger-pointing, no sit back and watch - as in a prescripted notion or allowance of change. Truly a partnership.
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Hello Karthik,
I agree with the previously said by Kiron and also by Sergio but I’m adding something else to the discussion.
In my opinion it’s always a two way stream because transformation and desired outcomes must be always driven by everyone in the team/organization. So the top down approach brings everyone together, but the bottom up adds important and detailed information to create a better outcome.
However, methodologies and mindsets apart, project management is about setting a controlled process to a specific outcome and it takes understanding and commitment from everyone otherwise the success can be compromised. Before thinking about agile waterfall or whatever, I think it’s important for a project manager to assure everyone understands the goal, the initial idea to make it happen and that he/she brings everyone on board. This would be the top-down approach, which sets the roadmap and that I think it’s better understood and monitored with waterfall.
Then, to detail the way things should happen to reach the goal it’s very important to take in consideration the requirements and constraints that the executors/specialists adds in. This would be the bottom up approach, which helps to build up and perfect the overall plan, using agile to keep the team focused on what to do on a short term.
The two streams compose a continuous improvement cycle during the project execution and even after the end of the project, on a second chance initiative for a similar goal that uses the same planning structure and lessons learned.
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