Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Coaching the Frozen Middle to be Agile

This is an article which presents some quick fire ideas for agile coaching the “Frozen Middle”.

The “Frozen Middle” is a term used for middle-management who do not wish to become Agile. They want to avoid this situation at all costs. This is because unless there are incentives, there is nothing in it for them except massive risk. That is their perception anyway.

It becomes a problem as it is middle management who really support and lead real cultural change within an organisation. We need them to be Agile or an Agile transformation will fail.

Some approaches for dealing with the problem of the “Frozen Middle” look at work around process or removal techniques [1]. But this does not deal with the systemic existence of that mindset. The change for the change agents has not really happened.

The problem therefore remains under the surface and is often the reason why a lot of Agile Transformations fail to evolve. They are moderately successful but then hit a ceiling and freeze with no thaw.

The solution is one of culture change [2]. To create a new cultural mindset within middle-management. One technique or approach is not enough. There is not a one size fits all. If only!

As with so, many coaching situations it depends upon the details of the situation. This can become frustrating as there is no clear answer, but we can look at some options that together may help us progress a cultural change. Which ones are useful then?

Before coaching can commence though, we actually need to train people in the basics of Agile and also Lean techniques. Often leaders are great at leadership, but have not had exposure to the fundamentals of a topic. Thus they do not know it. However rather than express this as sometimes people can feel this is a weakness, they avoid it. Becoming in denial. They need a starter point as they are Shu [3].

This could take the form of training upon Agile Fundamentals [4] and also the Cost of Delay [5]. Fundamentals explains what Agile is to them and Cost of Delay is nice starter of why they need it. Then we can move onto the "Coaching" and look for Ha and "Mentoring" for the Ri.
ShuHaRi [4]
After which we can provide:
  • Coaching on immediate Goals.
  • Coaching on organisational structure.
  • Coaching on adding Business value.
  • Coach them to learn all by themselves.
  • And many other topics as they arise [5].
    We need to be curious when coaching them.
One major caveat that should be in place beforehand is that there must already be an Agile Transformation vision being endorsed and championed by the senior leadership. If Agile has to bubble up, it will fail as it is not seen as addressing the wishes of executive. You always need to "feed the machine".

The end result is that we can help middle management change themselves faster 
through coaching and thus treat them with respect by following the…….

Agile Link:
Agile Manifesto where it states:
“Individuals and interactions over processes and tools” [6]
Processes and tools can help but as they are Individuals too, this is why we need through interactions Coach the Frozen Middle to be Agile.
This is also evident on my Agile Poster as Value of Respect [7].

[2] Galvanize the “Frozen Middle”: http://lithespeed.com/lean-pmo-galvanize-middle/
[4] Agile Fundamentals training: https://icagile.com/icagile-certified-professional
[8] Agile Manifesto: