Platform Action has made a strong decision to take every one of its consultants through Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) training. A couple of weeks ago then, I found myself on the Leading SAFe course and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I’ve been working with Agile methodologies at some level or other for nearly fifteen years. Typically these were home-baked versions of Agile – a bit of this, a touch of that; whatever works best for the organisation, and constantly evolving and improving as you go. So I was really interested to study a framework in detail and gain a formal qualification.

I’m not alone at Platform Action. Agile has been a way of life for most of the team for a good portion of their careers, so the decision to back SAFe in particular as a framework and then go onto become a silver partner was not taken lightly. Also, I was not involved in the decision, so I will leave the reasons for choosing SAFe to another blog entry and another author!

 

However, during the course I was particularly struck by the influence of one man and in particular one quote from him. W Edwards Deming was a leading management thinker in the field of quality. You can Google him, apparently. The quote, attributed to him, that struck a chord with me was, “Come yourself, or send no one.

 

The quote is used to underline the point that managers who wish to effect organisational change cannot delegate this responsibility. They must lead from the front, showing commitment to the change by becoming part of it. Implementing Agile in a business is tough, but a framework like SAFe gives a clear set of rules to follow and enforce. A leader that shows up, points at the rules and walks away leaving others to implement the new regime will create doubt about the commitment of the organisation to that regime. A leader who is regularly there, resolving disputes by pointing back at the dogma will succeed.

In my own field of Customer Experience, the same is true. I have worked with leaders who talk the talk – “We intend to build a great experience for our customers, as that will ultimately drive them to remain as customers and tell others about us,” – but do not walk the walk. Their teams are left prioritising the implementation of the latest features over the delivery of best possible experience in the ones they have. They believe that to please their management they must prove to be productive by delivering feature after feature, as if this will magically bring the customers. It won’t.

These ‘all talk’ leaders are absent from conversations on the ground about experience. They believe that having expressed an opinion about the importance of CX, it has been heard and that now they can ask for new features, trusting others to deliver great experiences around them. They will wonder why business is going to competitors and may conclude that even more features will fix the problem.

I have previously expressed the importance of measuring your customer experience. I firmly believe this can be done by looking at the enabling processes and methodologies inside the company as well as by talking to customers. Funnily enough, one of the measures we use at Platform Action is whether the leadership team come themselves, or send someone else!