Is Lack of Role Clarity Affecting Your Organizations Predictability?

Recently I transitioned from being a Lean-Agile Coach / Consultant, working with many clients, to now being a Lead Agile Program Manager for one company.  It’s nice to be off the road after 4 years of travel.  I’m also enjoying the perspective that you only get being part of a team / company, once you begin to grasp the culture and the political / social model at play in the organization.

Currently I’m engaged with my team in Agile Program Management and an external Agile Coach to examine a hypothesis that there may be a lack of role clarity in the organization and that it may contribute to delivery predictability not being where we’d like it to be.  I plan on this effort resulting in series of blog entries chronicling  our exploration and experimentation around this topic.

Our initial exploration has begun with building a survey to assess the perception of who does / owns the common activities in the lean-agile software product  development work system.  In this case the system is for growing and maintaining a SaaS offering.  We’re also surveying what people actually do during a given iteration within the current work system.

Based on my past experience, and applying a bit of systems thinking, I would hypothesize that the lack of predictability in delivery is less related to role clarity and more to the lack of explicit policies that enforce some important, basic, lean-agile principles in the work system:

1. Make all work visible

2. Limiting work in process

In fact, the currently perceived risk of lack of role clarity risk may actually be teams engaging in self-organization.  Of course autonomy with out clear purpose to focus a team can be detrimental to minimizing waste on a team.

Lots of things to explore so this series should be interesting.


About Mike DePaoli

Mike DePaoli has been contributing to the IT community for over two decades and practicing agile and lean approaches to software development since 1996 in roles from programmer to CTO. His evolved approach to crafting successful lean-agile software development organizations was forged by the meaningful challenges he undertook at prior employers and as an Agile Coach at companies such as eBay, Adobe Systems, AOL, NetApp, Disney, Boeing, EMC, and Trizetto. Mike’s area of expertise is helping organizations craft strategic change initiatives that educate on and establish agile and lean values, principles and practices at every tier of the organization. Mike applies systematic thinking with a multi-discipline approach to his work. Mike is a Certified SAFe Agilist, Certified Scrum Professional, Certified Scrum Master (CSM) and Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO). He is a highly-regarded speaker in the Agile community having spoken at Agile conferences in North America, South America and Europe. He is currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

3 Responses to “Is Lack of Role Clarity Affecting Your Organizations Predictability?”

  1. I imagine that defining ownership of responsibilities might be useful insofar as it clarifies the existing reality. Defining roles as aspirational targets would become prescriptive, stifling, and counterproductive while encouraging worker-centric thinking (as opposed to flow-centric) with emphases on resource utilization and serialized hand-offs of work product.

    • Thanks for the comment Erik. I would agree. Applying constraints to a system only leads to future bottlenecks.

      An interesting thought is if the concept of role is abstracted for the work system. Defined at a level so as to enable preservation of the dynamic tension that can be beneficial in terms of innovation and proper value and quality checks an balances in a product development work system.

  2. The clarification of roles (and of their hierarchical relationships) in a way that allows people to move between them as needed while also surfacing the tensions between and needs of those roles sounds a lot like the very little I know about Holacracy.

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Lean-Agile Leadership - Exploring the Creation of Fertile Environments and Culture for Lean-Agile Software Development


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The Agile Horizon

Lean-Agile Leadership - Exploring the Creation of Fertile Environments and Culture for Lean-Agile Software Development

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