Practical, Proven Tools for Leading andEmpowering High-Performing Agile TeamsA leader is like a farmer, who doesn’t grow crops by pullingthem but instead creates the perfect environment for thecrops to grow and thrive.If you lead in organizations that have adopted agilemethods, you know it’s crucial to create the rightenvironment for your agile teams. Traditional tools suchas Gantt charts, detailed plans, and internal KPIs aren’tadequate for complex and fast-changing markets, butmerely trusting employees and teams to self-manage isinsufficient as well.ORDER & SAVESave 35% When You Orderfrom and enter thecode INFOQ during checkoutIn Agile Leadership Toolkit, longtime agile leader PeterKoning provides a practical and invaluable steeringwheel for agile leaders and their teams. Drawing on hisextensive experience helping leaders drive more valuefrom agile, Koning offers a comprehensive toolkit forcontinuously improving your environment, includingstructures, metrics, meeting techniques, and governancefor creating thriving teams that build disruptive productsand services. Koning thoughtfully explains how to leadagile teams at large scale and how team members fit intoboth the team and the wider organization. Architect environments that help teams learn, grow,and flourish for the long term Get timely feedback everyone can use to improveMajor eBook FormatsOnly InformIT offers PDF, EPUB, &MOBI together for one price Co-create goals focused on the customer, not theinternal organization Help teams brainstorm and visualize the value of theirwork to the customerOTHER AVAILABILITY Through O’Reilly Online Learning(Safari) subscription serviceFacilitate team ownership and accelerate teamlearning Support culture change, and design healthier teamhabits Make bigger changes fasterFREE US SHIPPING on print booksBooksellers and online retailersincluding Amazon/Kindle store andBarnes & Noble bn.comThis actionable guide is for leaders at all levels–whetheryou’re supervising your first agile team, responsible formultiple teams, or lead the entire company.Discount code INFOQ confers a 35% discount off the list price on only.Discount may not be combined with any other offer, including the book eBook “Best Value”bundle, and is subject to change.*

Agile LeadershipToolkitLearning to Thrive withSelf-Managing TeamsPeter KoningBoston Columbus New York San Francisco Amsterdam Cape TownDubai London Madrid Milan Munich Paris Montreal Toronto Delhi Mexico CitySão Paulo Sydney Hong Kong Seoul Singapore Taipei Tokyo9780135224960 print.indb iii24/07/19 6:27 PM

ForewordWe live in uncertain times created by the move from the age of massproduction to the digital or software age. Traditional management andleadership practices were developed to manage work, to build the process,and to provide the intelligence for work to be done. Workers were cogs,resources to be applied along with other assets such as tools and capital to getwork done. The management was the king, directing and leading the work.That is all changing. We are moving to a world where, by necessity, teamshave to be empowered to respond to their environment. Agility is turning theworld upside down with traditional hierarchical, Taylorism management,which is being replaced with something new. Agile leadership is the future.But what does an agile leader do?There have been many books written about what agile leadership is. Theydescribe the change to servant leadership, the role of organization, and evenbehaviors that we expect from these new leaders. But they do not provide youwith tools you need to work as an agile leader. In this book, Peter hasprovided an integrated toolkit for agile leadership. He has provided a set oftools that ask the right questions, provide focus, raise transparency, and allowadaption. They can be thought of as a set of tools that provide a foundationxi9780135224960 print.indb xi24/07/19 6:27 PM

Forewordfor agile leadership. That does not mean that if you use the tools you will be“agile.” The path to building the right environment for agility to thrive is ahard one. But this is a great place to start.To thrive in the digital age requires a step change, not just in terms of theadoption of new technology, team practices, or process but also theenvironment those “things” are brought into. Leadership needs to change,and the framework that Peter describes not only provides practical tools butalso focuses the leader on the right things. Ownership, time to learn, buildingthe right habits, and setting the right goals are the fundamental elementsfor agility.—Dave WestDave West is the CEO and Product Owner at He is a frequent keynote speaker atmajor industry conferences and is a widely published author of articles and research reports.He led the development of the Rational Unified Process (RUP) for IBM/Rational. After IBM/Rational, West returned to consulting and managed Ivar Jacobson Consulting for NorthAmerica. Next, he served as VP and research director at Forrester, where he ran the softwaredevelopment and delivery practice. Prior to joining, he was Chief Product Officer atTasktop where he was responsible for product management, engineering, and architecture.xii9780135224960 print.indb xii24/07/19 6:27 PM

PrefaceA leader is like a farmer, who doesn’t grow crops by pulling them butinstead creates the perfect environment for the crops to grow and thrive.xiii9780135224960 print.indb xiii24/07/19 6:27 PM

PrefaceI ntroductionHow do you create this thriving environment for self-managing teams? Howdo you facilitate teams in such a way that they take real ownership? How doyou create enough structure to prevent chaos but also avoid falling back intomicromanagement? Is your role as a leader to sit on your hands and trust theautonomy of the teams? These and similar questions are ones I’ve been askedand also have asked myself for the past decade.Take for example David, a manager of several software development teams. Icoached David over a period of months, and together we discovered severaltools. After testing these tools in other companies and situations, I repeatedlysaw the proof that these tools really build this thriving environment for selfmanaging teams.Let’s go back a few years for an explanation of the situation David was in. Hehad been managing these teams for just over three months and was thinkingabout what he had to do next. The first weeks in his new role were fantastic.There was real energy and passion in the department. Most team memberswere interested in the new way of working and were happy that they couldfinally start working in an agile way as well. In order to beat the competitorsand to become a market leader again, they needed to become more agile as acompany. They needed to accelerate and get product improvements to themarket faster. They recently had been overtaken by rivals who had been ableto rapidly gain market share by responding quickly to new opportunities;they needed to change direction to regain market leadership.David did not doubt his choice to become a manager. This new way ofmanaging fit well with his passion. He really wanted to create an environmentin which his teams could flourish, improve, innovate, and thrive—anenvironment of trust, inspiration, and focus on the customer. But he wasmissing the answers to a few important questions. We met at his company. Icould see the pride and passion he felt toward his teams but also the doubt andstruggle for the next step. The night before our meeting, as he lay awake, hewrote down the things that haunted him. His most important questions werexiv9780135224960 print.indb xiv24/07/19 6:27 PM

Preface1. What are proper goals that focus on the customer instead of the internalorganization?2. How can my teams flourish and thrive in the long run?3. Which metrics or signals are indicating that my teams are doing the rightthings?4. What do I have to do to create a culture of continuous improvement?He knew that analyzing the situation, drawing up plans, setting individualgoals, and managing budgets were not the answer to his questions. Hissituation was far too complex for this analytical approach. The unpredictablemarkets, the customer expectations, and the dynamics in his teams were justtoo complex for a straightforward plan. He felt he needed a totally differentapproach. His million-dollar question to me was: how do I create the rightenvironment for my teams so they can thrive? David explained that he didn’twant to be the leader who always has to give the answer to these questions.He trusted his teams to answer these questions in a much better way. But howcould he create an environment in which the answers to these questions couldbe explored and discovered? I promised to help him find these answers, eventhough back in those days, I didn’t have the answers yet either. But togetherwe tried, failed, learned, and improved.This book is the result of a three-year search for these answers. The resultsare practical and concrete tools and examples for your specific situation. Itgives you the ability to create an environment in which your teams focuson the goal, take ownership, learn quickly from the customers, and improvethe culture.Nobody wants to lead people who are unmotivated, deliver low-qualityproducts, and do not collaborate with other teams, nor do they want to leadwhere highly talented people leave. Unfortunately, there are too manycompanies that struggle with at least a few of these bad things. Scrum, Less,and other agile methodologies promise motived, collaborative, and highperforming teams. In numerous cases I’ve seen these teams. They are trulyempowering, energetic, and contagious, and customers are enthusiastic aboutthe quality and speed of the improvements they make. But getting teams tothis level of performance is not easy. Every team, department, product, andxv9780135224960 print.indb xv24/07/19 6:27 PM

Prefacecustomer base is so unique that there is no recipe or “7 steps to success” to befound. But luckily, there are several practical tools that you can use to createthe tailor-made environment for your teams and your customer base.My passion is to share these tools with you so that you can create a workingenvironment in which people like their jobs and grow as people in their skillsand self-confidence.Au die nc e —Who I s Thi s B ook For ?This book is intended for leaders in an agile environment. They have recentlybecome or already are responsible for people in agile teams, for several agileteams, complete agile departments, or even agile companies. These leadersare already convinced of the benefits and necessity of agile and are searchingfor ways to improve. They are globally familiar with Scrum and otherframeworks. In addition, they already have experience with managing teamsin general, and now they are looking for practical tools, handy metrics, andnew methods to create an inspiring environment for their self-managingteams. Last but not least, their company is active in a competitive market.This means customer satisfaction, innovation, digitization, and qualityare king.R e s pon sibilit y of an Agile L e a de rAgile leaders lead their teams in a totally new way. They lead because theycreate precisely the environment that the teams need to grow and improve.Within this environment, the teams optimize the processes themselves,increase their own effectiveness and efficiency, and make all kinds of decisionson a daily basis. That makes these teams self-managing. They organize theirown work and they have all the skills to do so. These agile teams are agile inand of themselves because they can respond quickly to new technologies,threats from competitors, and the ever-changing expectations of theircustomers. They don’t have to wait for official approval, managementxvi9780135224960 print.indb xvi24/07/19 6:27 PM

Prefacedecisions, or top-down strategic changes. Because they have a short feedbackloop with their customers and users, they can continuously experiment withnew ideas, improve their products and services, and align with other selfmanaging teams.The agile leader is the architect of this environment—just as a farmer doesn’tgrow crops by pulling them but instead creates the perfect environment forthe crops to grow and thrive. When the crops don’t grow, he doesn’t blamethe crops; rather, he sees it as feedback on the environment he created. Thesame goes for an agile leader. He takes the humble responsibility to create thisenvironment for his people and teams. When the teams don’t flourish, whenthings go wrong, or when customers are not satisfied, the new leader doesn’tpunish his people for doing wrong things; he sees it as feedback of theenvironment he created. He asks for feedback and help from his employees tofind improvement, and together they adapt and improve the environment.Agile L e ade r ship ToolkitAgile leaders provide an inspiring environment for their agile teams to thrive.But how do they create such an engaging environment? This requires not onlya new mindset but a lot of new skills, unlearning the old and learning thenew ones. People learn not by only reading a book but by a lot of doing.Therefore, the tools in this book are very practical. Take, for example, a chef.He becomes a master cook because he spends hours and hours in the kitchenpracticing with knives, pans, ingredients, and all kinds of other tools. Thesame goes for agile leaders. They become masters in leading inspiringenvironments because they practice a lot. To help agile leaders, this bookprovides practical tools, workshops, metrics, and examples to putimmediately into practice. And by applying them, the underlying skills neededto become an agile leader can grow and develop.The tools, workshops, metrics, and examples form a cohesive toolkit for theagile leader. The toolkit is the new steering wheel to redefine how today’sorganizations could be led. See Figure P.1 for the visualization of the toolkit.xvii9780135224960 print.indb xvii24/07/19 6:27 PM

PrefaceFigure P.1 The toolkitThe toolkit of the agile leader is divided into four parts, which togetherdescribe the environment that self-managing teams need to thrive. The agileleader has the following practical tasks:1. Co-create goals2. Facilitate ownershipxviii9780135224960 print.indb xviii24/07/19 6:27 PM

Preface3. Learn faster4. Design healthy habitsSuccessful agile leaders provide their teams with the support they need bysuccessfully mastering each of these four parts. They can make betterdecisions based on the clear goal, create perseverance and energy withownership, and respond quickly based on fast learning ability, all in aninspiring culture with healthy habits. Each part of this toolkit is described inone section of the book. Each consists of two practical tools and a concreteskill of the agile leader—in total, eight tools and four skills. The skills are putinto practice in the last section of each part, and they are explained in such away that leaders can immediately start working with them. Each tool can besuccessfully used separately, but each tool reinforces the other tools in anadditive way.The eight toolkit tools are as follows:1. Key Value Indicator (KVI). The KVI is for the teams and is the mostimportant indication that they deliver value.2. Impact Ladder. The Impact Ladder is used for brainstorming andvisualizing the customer impact. This supports teams in continuouslyimproving products and services to increase the benefit for the users.3. Ownership Model. The Ownership Model visualizes what teams need totake ownership.4. Freedom Matrix. The Freedom Matrix visualizes the freedoms andresponsibilities of the team.5. Time to Learn (T2L). T2L measures the speed of learning. It is acalculation of the time it takes from when it is built until the team learnsfrom actual usage by customers.6. Validated Learning Board (VLB). A VLB is used to visualize the learningflow of the team.7. Habit Matrix. The Habit Matrix supports culture change and the designingof new habits.8. TO-GRIP. This tool supports the agile leader in making big changes andimprovements in the environment.xix9780135224960 print.indb xix24/07/19 6:27 PM

PrefaceThe four skills are as follows:1. Co-create. The ability to co-create the vision and the direction in which togo. Together with the agile teams, the leader creates the focus on deliveringvalue for the customers and company.2. Facilitate. The ability to facilitate ownership not by enforcing it but byfacilitating the process of continuously improving ownership.3. Experiment. The ability to create a safe environment in which teams runexperiments. This is not an environment in which teams are blamed fortheir mistakes but one in which the leader mentors the teams so theycontinuously learn from customers and improve.4. Lead the culture. The ability to create a healthy culture and lead people notby telling them what to do but by leading the culture.With this toolkit, agile leaders can create the desired environment,continuously improve, and make adjustments where necessary. Agile teamstherefore have an inspiring goal, a great deal of ownership, a high learningspeed, and a good culture. This is the ideal environment for teams to besuccessful. It makes them agile at high speed.Wh y Thi s B ook?Since 2015, I have actively looked for concrete tools that support the agileleaders in their responsibilities. My experience with Scrum taught me thattools help teams to become agile, and that the best way to improve is to startworking in the new way. Agile leaders also need practical tools, metrics, andmeetings to help them start working in a new way, and by doing so to becomeincreasingly better agile leaders. Together with several different companies, inmany different contexts, I’ve developed these tools into this toolkit. Thisbook shares what I have learned.xx9780135224960 print.indb xx24/07/19 6:27 PM

PrefaceR e a ding G uideEach part of this book can be read separately and used individually. Thenumerous examples are often based on my experiences at various companieswith a wide variety of different managers and leaders, as well as my ownexperiences as a manager. Because not all examples are positive, I have chosento anonymize them; any resemblance to a specific company or situation ispurely coincidental. In addition, I use the masculine “he” to refer to the agileleader simply because it seems less awkward than “he or she.” Obviously, thisis not intended to make a statement about whether men or women are betteragile leaders.Because I wanted to write a very practical book with tools, step-by-step plans,and workshops, the titles of many sections are based on concrete questionsthat agile leaders have asked me in recent years. In order to make the book asself-contained as possible, there are only a few references in this book toexternal research or sources. The toolkit is also not partial to Scrum or anyother particular agile framework; it can be used with any agile approach. Thefocus is on practical tips and tools, examples, and anecdotes that illustrate thetoolkit. Extra examples and templates of the various tools in this book areavailable on the search for these tools, the image of a sailboat in uncharted watershelped me to find the tools and make them concrete. The ship has to sail overunknown and unpredictable waters, and the sailors want to get to theirdestination as quickly as possible. What makes them successful? They need acompass to navigate and check their bearings. They need a lot of wind tomove and be faster. The sailboat must be agile at high speed, able to respondquickly when something happens, and capable of learning continuously. Thecrew prefer to sail through a beautiful environment. The first part of thetoolkit, “Co-create Goals,” inspires the target for the compass. Facilitatingownership provides the speed. The third part, “Learn Faster,” improves thereaction speed and agility. And the culture and habits make it all a beautifulenvironment.xxi9780135224960 print.indb xxi24/07/19 6:27 PM

PrefaceA fte r R e ading This BookBy reading this book and learning how to apply the described tools and tips,agile leaders are better able to shape the new organization. They have concrete tools and tips to improve the environment, know what self-managing teams need to thrive, have, themselves, grown in their role as agile leaders, know better what their role is at specific moments, are able to keep the hard side and soft side of continuous improvement inbalance, and can really thrive when leading agile teams.Register your copy of Agile Leadership Toolkit on the InformIT site forconvenient access to updates and/or corrections as they become available.To start the registration process, go to and log in orcreate an account. Enter the product ISBN (9780135224960) and clickSubmit. Look on the Registered Products tab for an Access Bonus Contentlink next to this product, and follow that link to access any availablebonus materials. If you would like to be notified of exclusive offers onnew editions and updates, please check the box to receive email from us.xxii9780135224960 print.indb xxii24/07/19 6:27 PM

ContentsForewordPrefaceAcknowledgmentsAbout the AuthorPart 1xixiiixxiiixxvCo-Create Goals11.1How Do You Set the Right Goals?Traditional versus New GoalsTool 1: Key Value Indicator3681.2How Do You Find the Right KVIs?What Is a Good KVI?In Three Steps to a First KVIHow Do I Know We Have an Inspiring KVI?The 5 I for Inspirational KVIsPitfalls When Choosing and Using KVIsHow Do I Give Inspiring Goals?131515191920211.3How to Visualize the Customer Impact?Complex Customer ImpactTool 2: Impact Ladder232828vii9780135224960 print.indb vii24/07/19 6:27 PM

ContentsPart 2Summary of Part 1—Co-Create GoalsThe Agile Leader as a Co-Creator of Inspiring GoalsConcrete Actions313334Facilitate Ownership372.1When Do Teams Take Ownership?What Is Ownership?Why Ownership?How Do Teams Deal with Ownership?The Agile Leader as a Facilitator39434344452.2When Is Intervening the Best Strategy, and When Is Letting Go Better?Tool 3: Ownership ModelHorizontal Axis: Maturity on Achieving GoalsVertical Axis: FreedomTwo Bad ZonesGood ZoneStaircase495252535455562.3How Mature Is My Team?Stages in MaturityOther Indicators5759612.4How Do Typical Teams Grow?Stage 0, StartStage 1, OutputStage 2, QualityStage 3, ScalingStage 4, ImpactAfter That?636566666767682.5How Can the Borders Be Aligned with the Maturity?Concretely Expanding the BordersTool 4: Freedom Matrix6971722.6When Does the Ownership Model Work and When Does It Not?Teams Need a Single Concrete, Shared GoalTeams Should Be Able to Give Open Feedback to the Leader toMaintain Ownership777979viii9780135224960 print.indb viii24/07/19 6:27 PM

ContentsPart 3Teams Need to Focus on Working SmarterQuick Customer AppreciationAgile Leaders Need to Escape the Yearly Employee Feedback RitualResilienceSummary of Part 2—Facilitate OwnershipThe Agile Leader’s Responsibility to Facilitate Ownership in HisTeam(s)Tangible Actions8283Learn Faster893.1How Do You Know Your Teams Are Doing the Right Things?Control Over ActivitiesWhat Is the Learning Loop?The Agile Leader as an Experimentor919496983.2How Quickly Do My Teams Learn from Users?Tool 5: T2LHigher Agility through Shorter T2LT2L in PracticeFour Additional Benefits of a Better T2L1011031051051063.3How Can the Learning Loop Be Put into Practice?Tool 6: VLBThe Card on the BoardHow Detailed Should the VLB Be?Common Place, Close to the TeamStakeholders and Customers MeetingPower of the Validated Learning Board1091111121131131141153.4How Can Teams Implement Big Ideas in Small Steps?117Split into Target Group and Situations, Not into Parts and Functionality 120Pitfalls When Shortening the T2L1223.5127130131132132Minimize the Blast RadiusIf All Changes Are Successful, Insufficient Innovation Will Take PlaceSummary of Part 3—Learn FasterThe Agile Leader as an ExperimentorConcrete Actions7980808081ix9780135224960 print.indb ix24/07/19 6:27 PM

ContentsPart 4Design Healthy Habits1374.1How Do You Stimulate an Agile Culture?How Do You Improve the Culture?What Is an Agile Culture?Why Did the Existing Habits Block the New Culture?What Are Habits?How Do Habits Change?1391431451461471484.2How Do You Design Healthy Habits?Healthy and Unhealthy HabitsTool 7: Habit MatrixRecognizing Underlying Habits—Two ExamplesRole of the Agile Leader1531551581601634.3Can You Anchor the Cultural Improvement?Who Are the Heroes of an Agile Culture?A Few People Define the Culture for ManyHow Do You Anchor the Cultural Improvement?165167169169What Is a Healthy Habit to Implement Improvements?Enabling ImprovementsTool 8: TO-GRIPSummary of Part 4—Design Healthy HabitsThe Agile Leader as Culture LeaderConcrete Questions1711731751871891894.4After Reading This BookWhy a New Toolkit?Agile Leadership ToolkitIndex193194195199x9780135224960 print.indb x24/07/19 6:27 PM

2.2 WHEN IS INTERVENINGTHE BEST STRATEGY, ANDWHEN IS LETTING GOBETTER?To let go or not to let go,that is the question.9780135224960 print.indb 4924/07/19 6:27 PM

Introduction Questions1. Which teams provide a real example in takingownership? What behaviors do they demonstrate?o2. Do you tend to intervene too quickly or let go toomuch? How do you know how best to interact?509780135224960 print.indb 5024/07/19 6:27 PM

2.2 When Is Intervening the Best Strategy, and When Is Letting Go Better?If the manager properly balances his interventions and does nothing (sittingon his hands, not intervening), the teams will take ownership. However, it’shard to always know exactly what to do. If the team delivers a low-qualityresult, should you act? Should you intervene when a team does not come upwith solutions on its own? And what if talented employees leave the team? Orif customers or stakeholders complain about the results? Should you intervenewhen you think the team is about to make a major mistake? When should youdo nothing? How do you give teams the space to learn and grow?Whether or not it’s wise to intervene depends on the maturity of the team.A highly mature team can independently organize their work and achieve greatresults, but a team just starting still needs a lot of help, guidance, and support. Ifthe team is very mature and the agile leader gives little freedom and oftenintervenes, the team will become frustrated and passive; they will no longer comeup with solutions themselves. Good people will leave, and if they don’t, they willjust passively do what they are told to do. Low quality and high risk will result.The team actually needs more space, and the manager should let go a lot more.On the other hand, it also does not work if a newly formed team still figuringout how to collaborate (a starting team) gets too much freedom from themanager. The team feels lost; they do not know exactly what they have to do,and they can’t assess the risks themselves. The team itself cannot come up withsolutions on their own because they lack sufficient knowledge. This, too, resultsin good people leaving. The people who stay experience frustration from thelack of clarity, and they slip into passivity, also resulting in low quality and highrisk. Although the results are the same, the team needs less space, and themanager must intervene by increasing the borders and offering concrete help.To know when to let go and when to step in is a daunting challenge. Basedpurely on signals of passivity, low quality, employees who leave, and lack ofimprovement, the agile leader can’t know whether intervention or letting go isbest; he must first know the maturity of the team to know how much freedomthey need in order to take ownership. But the big question is: how do youknow the maturity of the team? Can the team members decide that forthemselves? How can the manager know for certain? Experience has shownthat the answer can only be found by talking about it together. TheOwnership Model helps to facilitate this discussion, making it clear whetherintervention is necessary or whether to let go is the better option.519780135224960 print.indb 5124/07/19 6:27 PM

Part 2Facilitate OwnershipTool 3: Ownership ModelThe Ownership Model visualizes the relationship between the freedom andthe maturity of the team. It consists of two axes, two bad zones, a good zone,and a staircase. Only when the freedom and maturity of the teams are inbalance can the teams take ownership (see Figure 2.1).Figure 2.1 The Ownership ModelHorizontal Axis: Maturity on Achieving GoalsMaturity indicates the extent to which a team is independently capable oforganizing their work to deliver valuable products and services to customers,and the extent to which the team can self-organize their customer impact.529780135224960 print.indb 5224/07/19 6:27 PM

2.2 When Is Intervening the Best Strategy, and When Is Letting Go Better?A highly mature team can Plan and align their own work Deliver quality products and services to their customer(s) Continuously improve their own processes Get feedback from customers to increase their impact Collaborate autonomously with the rest of the organization Give each other feedback to increase their own craftsmanship and competenceContrast this with a low-maturity team who still needs help from their agileleader to achieve these same results. A low-maturity team will still need theagile leader to guide them in matters such as planning and aligning theirwork, making team agreements, arranging the holiday schedule, giving eachother feedback, and managing the stakeholders.Vertical A xis: FreedomFreedom describes the degree of independence from the agile leader that theteams exhibit. With a low level of freedom, they need alignment and approvalfor many issues, and they are given many details upfront. With a high level offreedom, they

Agile leadership is the future. But what does an agile leader do? There have been many books written about what agile leadership is. They describe the change to servant leadership, the role of organization, and even behaviors that we expect from these new leaders. But they do not provide you with tools you need to work as an agile leader.