Waterfall-Teamwork vs Agile-Teamwork: Part 3

Agility Consulting |

By Mike Richardson, Team Agility Practice Leader 

In an increasingly 
VUCA world, waterfall teamwork doesn’t work! What’s “waterfall”? Review parts 1 and 2 of this article:

In Part 1 we looked at how the future of agile-teamwork is already here, in the field of agile-software-development. Yet many leaders, teams and organizations are still stuck in waterfall-teamwork.

In Part 2 we looked at the major contrasts between waterfall and agile, as two fundamentally different modes of teamwork, and how we encounter waterfall thinking way too much in business.

More and more leaders are realizing that waterfall-teamwork doesn’t work in an increasingly VUCA world and are transitioning to the flow of agile-teamwork. Here are a two:

  • Alan Mulally: the recently retired ex CEO of Ford, who turned the company around when it was in worse shape than General Motors & Chrysler (both of whom took the government bailout and went bankrupt) – he immediately instigated a weekly BPR (Business Plan Review) meeting of his global team, every Thursday morning. A little while later he realized that weekly wasn’t frequently enough and he moved to a daily SAR (Special Attention Review) meeting of as much of his global team he could muster within a reasonable time-zone. Prior to Ford, he had used exactly the same approach in turning around the commercial airplane division of Boeing post 9/11, which was on its knees.   As reported in the book, “American Icon – Alan Mulally and the Fight to save Ford Motor Company” (Bryce Hoffman, 2012) weekly and daily meetings were the central algorithm of his whole turnaround approach. He created the real-time communication, coordination and collaboration to win, moving from waterfall-teamwork to agile-teamwork.
  • General Stanley McChrystal: appointed commander of special-forces in the early 2000s war against AQI (Al-Qaeda in Iraq) which we were losing, he realized that our world-class maneuver-warfare machine was losing to an enemy that had moved on to a new paradigm, of network warfare. To win, we would have to beat the enemy at their own game of network warfare. But that required a shift of information-sharing paradigm from the need-to-know secrecy of maneuver warfare to everybody-knows-everything-all-the-time for network warfare. He instigated a daily O&I (Operations & Intelligence) Meeting, initially in his command center and then increasingly technology enabled for a wider and wider network of operatives and intelligence parties to wire into, from Washington DC to the field. In his book, “Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World” (General Stanley McChrystal) he tells the story of how the meeting grew to more than 7000 people participating on a daily basis. It was the central cog in the wheel, tipping the balance to winning the war. It created the real-time communication, coordination and collaboration to win, moving from waterfall-teamwork to agile-teamwork.

Alan Mulally and General Stanley McChrystal understood the central role of meetings for the real-time communication, coordination and collaboration as an agile-team. An essential flow of conversation to be:

  • Anticipating Change
  • Generating Confidence
  • Initiating Action
  • Liberating Thinking
  • Evaluating Results

If you want to win, that is what is required. Agile-meetings are at the heart of your enterprise-agility to move from waterfall-teamwork to agile-teamwork, whether you are in war-fighting business or the automotive business. So much so, we call it “The C2C of AGILE Teamwork (from Conversation-Flow 2 Cash-Flow)”

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