Be the cracked pot!

Be the cracked pot!

 Agile architecture and the behavioural side of transformation

Consider a woman who makes a daily trek to fetch water armed with two pots. One pot is unblemished, consistently delivering a whole portion of water, while its companion, adorned with a crack, manages only a half portion. This cracked pot, weighed down by its perceived inadequacy, considers itself a failure.

In her wisdom, the woman draws the pot's attention to the path they tread daily — the side of the cracked pot is lined with blossoming flowers. "I've sowed flower seeds along your side. As we return each day, you water them. It is you that brings this beauty into our lives."

The role of change agents

This parable mirrors the role of a successful change agent in an agile setting. But before going there, let’s first frame what successful change is.

The value of organizational change and transformation lies in its ability to drive positive changes toward an organization better equipped to achieve its strategic ambitions. Sometimes described as the ability to bring strategy into execution.

In contrast to a more traditional setting, agile is one where change is constant, continuous value delivery is critical, and the autonomy of the teams is essential to increase the pace and quality of the decisions.

Making strategic changes to the organization in such an environment can only work well if the teams are equipped and understand what does and doesn’t align with the strategy.

Architects and transformational leaders play a crucial role in enabling teams; failing to do so may halt the ability to deliver value or overly increase the mental load.

A shift in leadership style

Our role should shift from decision-making ( dominant in a more traditional setting) to a more supportive approach for teams to support the journey. Providing the teams with the resources and insights to make strategic decisions independently.

This shift often requires a metamorphosis of leadership style— from being the decision-maker to becoming a facilitator of the team’s success.

Be aware that people and teams may resist your leadership style change, but more on that in a future article.

Enable teams

How does an architect or transformation leader initiate this journey? Although there are many routes, the destination remains constant: empowering teams to make decisions aligned with organizational strategic objectives.

Based on experience and observation, there are a couple of practical approaches to take:

  • Allocate time to mentor teams in decision-making, familiarizing them with the trade-offs your organization frequently makes.
  • Provide clear and digestible insights into strategic decisions, where the team evaluates if it is or isn’t digestible.
  • Frequently schedule demonstrations of new architectures and organizational roadmaps for teams.
  • Provide teams with decision-making aids such as decision trees or default options when they grapple with independent decision-making.

… and if you can only implement one practice, make it a continuous feedback loop. Ask the teams regularly if they prefer other approaches or need better enablement, and act upon their feedback.

To sum it up, be the cracked pot in your organization! Seek opportunities to catalyze growth, foster beauty in unforeseen corners, and form a team of change agents.

Want to gain more insights?

Stay tuned for upcoming articles in our — Navigating a New Paradigm: Agile Architecture and the Behavioural Side of Transformation — series, where we delve further into the practical and human aspects of agile architecture, enriched with case studies, scientific insights, and actionable strategies for success.

Let's continue the conversation

Eager for more? Please share your experiences and challenges with agile architecture. Your stories fuel our following insights.

In your organizational transformation journey, embracing an agile mindset — both in architecture and behavior — can be the game-changer. Keep learning, stay agile, and, most importantly, be ready to transform.

Written by Christophe Windelen, contributions by Erik Coopman