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The IATF Quadrants

The creation of the IATF came from an awareness, a “seeing,” of how marrying Integral and Agile together can make transformation possible. Integral is used in many different fields of study—from medicine to art to psychology to business and leadership—so the model needs to draw your attention to what is most important in an organizational change context. Figure 8.1 shows the four quadrant names with this Agile Transformation focus. In this section, we make the quadrant perspectives real by detailing both the subject matter and the relevant methods for each quadrant at the organizational, program, and team levels. We also provide examples of typical methods used in Agile implementations and explore how they map to the quadrant perspectives. In Chapter 9, we will look at how things develop within each quadrant—that is, the movement from less complex to more complex altitudes.


Figure 8.1

The Integral Agile Transformation Framework: organizational level

Leadership and Mindset (I Quadrant)

As we’ve discussed at length, for organizational transformation success, nothing is more important than leadership. Leaders cannot delegate this level of change; they must actually lead it. Recall that the I quadrant is about our intentions, values, beliefs, feelings, emotions, and, more generally, mindset and overall internal experiences as a person.

When we are assessing our organization from the point of view of the Leadership and Mindset quadrant, we might ask questions like these: What is the belief of the Agile sponsors about why they are doing an Agile Transformation? What was the wake-up call for them that spurred the change? How open are leaders to new information and perspectives that will impact the transformation? What emotions are present in individuals when speaking of the change?

In our Agile initiatives, we often pay most attention to competencies, skills, training, and similar aspects. All of these are IT quadrant perspectives and part of what we call the “Outer Game.” The I quadrant is about the “Inner Game”: how people make meaning of their world, their self-identity, how they feel about the Agile Transformation effort, and so on.

Common approaches to Agile that highlight the I quadrant include the distinction between being Agile and doing Agile. The being side emphasizes our inspiration, our motivation, and our inner experience of—and integrity with—the Agile principles and values. We see that this “being” distinction comes from an I quadrant perspective. The being side can be known by each person only as an inner experience. Yes, it can be talked about and shared, but ultimately it can be experienced and known only from within our individual experience—something not directly accessible to others. We cannot expect people to “take on an Agile mindset,” because change cannot be imposed on someone. Transformational change is an inside-out practice. Another I example—being a servant leader—is largely an issue of our inner motivation for leading (consider how different it is to be motivated by achieving status or power versus serving people and the greater good) and our sense of self-sufficiency (our ability to feel as if we are enough rather than as if we are deficient, and our ability to develop ourselves in an internal way that allows us to access such motivations and capabilities). Other I-oriented approaches include the following:

  • Bill Joiner’s Leadership Agility

  • Bob Anderson’s Leadership Circle

  • Professional coaching (Coaching is not limited to the I quadrant, but most practitioners’ use of such skills tends to overemphasize this perspective.)

Insight to Action: Leadership and Mindset Success Factors

Several factors from this quadrant perspective affect the success of an Agile enterprise transformation and should be considered for assessment and intervention. Here are some examples of “Leadership and Mindset” questions that you might reflect upon:

  • Assess the maturity and adaptability of leadership at all levels. The maturity or complexity of a given person’s leadership includes their internal capacity around emotional intelligence (EQ), their LOS’s meaning-making capacity (Reactive to Creative to Integral), and (especially at a team level) the depth of commitment felt by individual contributors to craftsman’s pride. Unless outcome-creating leadership is activated, the Agile values will simply not be achievable.

  • Evaluate the extent to which leadership is engaged, committed, and actually leading the transformation rather than delegating the effort. (This is the focus of forming a change team and designing the change initiative, topics addressed in Chapter 10.)

  • Assess the level and quality of employee engagement. This is a mindset issue for the individual, which then becomes a cultural issue. Unengaged employees may be the single largest source of unfulfilled potential in organizations in our time. This factor may already be assessed by human resources personnel on an ongoing basis, but it could also be addressed in your transformation effort.

  • Evaluate the alignment (experienced internally) between people’s values and the Agile values, and how this plays out as they participate on teams and in organizational activities.

  • Assess the extent to which people are able to speak their truth. Embracing Agile means embracing transparency, visibility, accountability, feedback, and courageous authenticity. If the culture of an organization stifles the voices in the organizational system, and if it contributes to people feeling the need to put on a “corporate professional mask,” you will only achieve the status quo—you will not see transformational change.

  • Notice the emotions present in people who are part of the change, as well as in the individuals who are being impacted by the change. Leadership, mindset, and engagement point us to the most easily overlooked areas in a transformation and urge us to focus on these needs. If we think of Agile as just a set of software development practices to be competent in and trained on, then we will have missed the point (this is perhaps Achievement-Orange thinking). Instead, from an evolutionary development point of view, in addition to learning new knowledge and skills, we must develop our internal capacity to enact and embody the Agile values and principles (i.e., develop the Inner Game). This is true whether at the team level or the leadership level.

Practices and Behavior (IT Quadrant)

In the last 25 years, owing to enormous technological advances, products have become much more intelligent. Today, there are more types of users, more types of organizations, and different perspectives on “value.” With these changes occurring at an accelerating pace and with increasing complexity, product design now has to include more than just economic and user values for the given organization; that is, it has to account for an increasingly wide range of social and economic values for the industry and even for society as a whole. This complexity of product innovation requires us to adopt even more perspectives outside of the Agile delivery team, to the organization, and even outside the organization. The practices we use to develop products are obviously central to Agile. Agile practices are brought into organizations for the very purpose of changing the way people work together and how they create the desired business results and innovative value. Recognizing the importance of this factor, we made Practices and Behavior the primary focus of the IATF’s IT quadrant. Ultimately, organizational agility will come about only through the use of progressive practices that optimize collaboration and cross-boundary synergy. Likewise, successful practices will come about from a combination of the right behavior (IT) with the right intention (I). If we merely go through the motions (behavior without intention), we will be unlikely to achieve the results we expect.

A common Agile approach that emphasizes the IT quadrant occurs when we focus primarily on specific Agile behaviors and practices, breaking down the details of the practices, observing whether they are going well, and teaching and mentoring people how to engage in them. This is the strategy adopted in many Agile implementations and is often a strength of Agile practitioners; however, when it becomes the singular focus, it reduces transformational change to merely “installing” Agile practices rather than producing the desired organizational agility. Behaviors and practices have the virtue of being observable from the outside, objectively, including any artifacts created by the practices (e.g., a software build history, the number of bugs, observing or recording the stand-up meeting, the documented results of a retrospective). This is useful when we wish to measure and make objective assessments of where we are at—hence, its appeal in a business results and scientific measurement context. However, this approach does not capture the intentions of the people engaged in the practices (the I quadrant perspective), so we’re in danger of missing important information if we do not also look there. Practice = behavior + intention; without the underlying intention (belief or value) of the practice, the value is lost. In general, Agile process frameworks are often IT-oriented descriptions, often being described as empirical process frameworks.

Insight to Action: Practices and Behavior Success Factors

Several key factors from this quadrant should be assessed and considered for intervention in your Agile enterprise implementation. Here are a few reflection questions for you to consider as you look at your current Agile practices and behaviors:

  • Evaluate the actual practices used to create products, involve customers and other voices, and measure success to determine the level of product innovation occurring at present in relationship to the organizational agility goal.

  • Evaluate the alignment between how the practices are carried out (behavior) and the intention they were created from, to identify instances of just “going through the motions.” This gap—for instance, a Green customer-centric practice that is enacted with an Orange intention of selling more to a captive customer audience—creates tensions between delivery teams and product owners or management.

  • Assess the maturity of collaborative and relationship competencies, within teams, and also across organizational boundaries (e.g., across horizontal and vertical levels, between departments or functions, between geographic regions, including external stakeholder groups). The gaps identified are a potential target for interventions to increase boundary-spanning competency, enabling a more cross-organizational collaborative culture capable of operating with the agility needed to respond to the complexity and pace of change, and to disrupt the market with innovative products.

  • Assess the consistency of your practice of software craftsmanship and modern Agile engineering practices (your actual behavior, not just what you say that you value) to evaluate the maturity level of technical practices. The state of these practices will greatly determine the agility of your products and the ability to make future changes, impacting the total cost of ownership.

  • Look at the extent to which the organization considers its impact on society and the planet. This level of vision may be beyond what most organizations can currently do in a serious way, but it will become increasingly important (the COVID-19 pandemic has made this abundantly clear). Overall, when assessing our organization from the point of view of the “Practices and Behavior” quadrant, we want to ask questions like these: How aligned are the organization’s current practices to Agile practices? How is the customer involved in product development? What metrics are captured at the team level and how are they meaningful to business leaders? How can we meet the organization where it is and help it evolve its practices and behaviors to a more organization-centric level, including all voices in the system, aligned around a shared unified vision and the organization’s brand and purpose?

Many Agile efforts, while focusing on this quadrant perspective, lose sight of the need to focus on practices at a multiple-holon level—not just within teams but also across the organization. Moreover, when Agile practices are “installed” within the organization, the deep intention designed into the practices is often lost, along with the benefits. The result is what people often refer to as doing Agile but not being Agile; both are required. In other words, rather than introducing a practice with an appropriately corresponding intention (as is possible with Evolutionary-Teal development), we are re-creating the existing practices and their way of thinking (Achievement-Orange).

Organizational Architecture (ITS Quadrant)

The structures and environments we create may either enable or limit our culture and mindset. They may enable or limit how adaptive the organization can be in making significant changes or achieving significant organizational agility. Likewise, they either enable or limit innovation. Transformational leaders need the ability to see the “whole” system and the environment to realize the organization’s vision around transformation. Indeed, “seeing systems” is a critical competency for a transformational leader.

For agility to be possible, organizations must architect their structures and systems so that value creation and flow of value are optimized. An inflexible structure will limit the likelihood of achieving this outcome and make responding to changing market conditions almost impossible. Since this ability is paramount to organizational agility, we have chosen to name the ITS quadrant dealing with these concerns Organizational Architecture.

The “Organizational Architecture” quadrant reminds us to look at the overall social system and environment of the company and its work and to “see” things like organizational policies, organizational charts, systems, workflows, and emergent effects (hence, the criticality of systems thinking). It includes not only an organization’s structure but also how teams are set up and staffed, the style and focus of performance management/metrics, the financial systems and structures, governance (at the project, program, and corporate levels), corporate policies, business process systems (including scaled frameworks), and external realities like government regulation, industry groups, and competitive pressures. Organizational architecture can be seen as an expression of the WE culture but in concrete, observable, and tangible forms.

When we assess our organization from the point of view of the “Organizational Architecture” quadrant, we might ask questions like these: How is the organization designed to support and give visibility to product flow? How Lean are current processes, and how will that impact agility? How will the organization’s approach to governance impact the transformation?

In our Agile Transformation experience, organizations often recognize that there is a gap between their existing structure and one that supports agility; we notice that many organizations attempt to bridge this gap by implementing a scaled framework. Scaled frameworks most often, in our experience, re-create the current thinking about structure (a functional matrix) rather than offer a new, adaptive type of structure—one that, for example, flexes with changing market conditions and business needs and is not tied to the normal political hierarchy. In other words, rather than introducing a new way of thinking (as we will see in our later discussion of Evolutionary-Teal development), we are re-creating the existing functional matrix way of thinking (Achievement-Orange).

A popular Agile approach mainly from an ITS perspective is the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe; both are trademarks of Leffingwell, LLC). SAFe focuses not only on individual processes but also on a process system that unites different levels: from the team level, with a product owner and a backlog; to the program level, with a roadmap and a program backlog, and roles such as release train engineer, product management, and release management; to the portfolio or organizational level, with a portfolio backlog, investment themes, and business and architectural epics. When examining any single process in the SAFe framework, we could look at it from an IT perspective. However, for the process system—with its interrelationships and synergies, as well as the policies and organizational roles it entails—it is more fitting to see SAFe (or scaled frameworks generally) from a systems point of view (ITS). While SAFe makes references to leadership and culture (I and WE), it does not use the same level of formalization, nor are there specific, implementable “human technologies” (methodologies) that the process system references. The bottom line: Organizations seem to embrace SAFe for the ITS benefits it embodies (scaling an Agile process to an organizational level with role and structural implications) rather than the I or WE practices or methods. Other common approaches incorporating an ITS orientation include Holocracy, Beyond Budgeting, and the theory of constraints.

Insight to Action: Organizational Architecture Success Factors

Several key factors from the ITS quadrant impact a successful Agile enterprise implementation and should be considered for assessment and intervention. Here are a few questions you can reflect on from the ITS quadrant lens view:

  • Does the organization structure fit with an Agile philosophy? For instance, does it align around value streams? If not, what is the organizing principle?

  • In adopting Agile, what organizational systems and policies will be affected? If they are heavily Amber or Orange—along with the corresponding leadership mindset—what could make change possible?

  • How does the organizational structure enable (or constrain) the flow of value? Can the bottlenecks be seen or visualized? What altitude level of thinking did the structure arise from? What issue or perspective does the existing organizational structure create as a point of focus (e.g., political power or manager bonuses rather than value creation)?

  • If you want to have an adaptive organization, what organizational structures will enable you to flexibly re-deploy your teams and other assets to adapt to changing market conditions and business strategies? What organizational design options are even available to you?

  • How are roles and responsibilities, as well as employee career paths and personal development goals, considered as part of the change effort?

  • How does the organization approach scaling Agile?

Organizational leaders inherently know they must scale Agile for agility, yet it is mostly done in a transactional way, through the implementation of an Agile scaled framework, rather than a conscious change initiative that includes both human and business agility aspects of change.

Organizational Culture and Relationships (WE Quadrant)

Fundamental principles of Agile include collaboration, sharing, transparency, and accountability. In turn, it stands to reason that relationships—and how we show up in them—will strongly influence the success of any transformation. The massive shift that needs to take place when moving from a non-Agile environment to an Agile environment usually asks that we change the very DNA of our organization, that our culture undergo a fundamental shift. Transformational leaders must understand how collective beliefs create relationships, culture, and systems (the reverse is also true). They must also understand how people are feeling, and how central emotions are to building the right culture. Thus, the focus of our WE quadrant is Organizational Culture and Relationships.

The view from the WE quadrant is of shared meaning, shared values, our experiences of our relationships, and, more generally, organizational culture. In the IATF, this fundamentally includes the altitude of the culture within a team, program, business unit, or organization. Culture in WE is the equivalent to mindset in the I quadrant, but it involves a different type of consciousness—that is, systemic consciousness. Looking from this quadrant, we see whether we have a collaborative and empowering culture, or a predictive, control-oriented one, or a superiority-focused, achievement-driven one. This perspective includes the overall organizational culture as well as the leadership culture (the behaviors and attitudes deemed desirable in leaders). Further, it includes the values we hold together and how we live them (or don’t live them), our relationship systems (from the “inside,” or how we experience them), and the many nested system configurations of relationships.

What we frequently see in Agile Transformations is a fundamental mismatch between the existing organizational culture (typically Achievement-Orange) and the type of culture where Agile can thrive. Addressing this gap requires focused attention on development of the organization’s underlying collective belief structure in a systematic way in the direction of Evolutionary-Teal development.

When we are assessing our organization from the point of view of the “Organizational Culture and Relationships” quadrant, we might ask questions like these: Is the leadership modeling the behavior of the culture we desire? What politics are at play, and how is that showing up in the environment? Who are the collective people who are highly influencing this effort? In what ways does the existing culture align with Agile values? Are people more transactional or more people-oriented in their relationships?

A common Agile approach that incorporates the WE perspective is William Schneider’s (1994) culture typology. It distinguishes four culture types:

  • Control

  • Competence

  • Collaboration

  • Cultivation

This is fundamentally a WE quadrant perspective (though it also has clear ITS implications), enumerating our shared understanding, beliefs, and approaches to organizational culture, to “how we do things around here in order to succeed” (Schneider’s definition of culture). An organization’s culture type reflects what people believe together, their shared understanding. For example, in a control-oriented culture, we believe that we must get and keep control if we are to succeed; in a competence-focused culture, we believe that we must be the best in the world at what we do; and in a collaboration-oriented culture, we believe we will only succeed together as a team, not separately. These shared beliefs and mental models then show up in the way we lead (I quadrant), the characteristics of our process (IT quadrant), and our organizational structure and policies (ITS). Other WE approaches include systems coaching (ORSC), systemic constellations, Virginia Satir’s change model, and Dave Logan’s Tribal Leadership. Figure 8.2 summarizes these common Agile methods for all four quadrants.


Figure 8.2

Methods used in Agile Transformations mapped to quadrants

Insight to Action: Culture and Relationship Success Factors

Several key factors from the “Organizational Culture and Relationships” quadrant influence the success of Agile enterprise implementation. Here are some reflection questions to ponder as you think about your current organization’s culture and the quality of relationships:

  • What is the fit between the existing culture and the kind of culture conducive to Agile and organizational agility? How is this culture “carried” (e.g., in the actions and role modeling of leaders, in the permanent structures)?

  • What is the level of resiliency of relationships across the organization? More human, people-oriented relationships make for a more Agile environment than do transactional ones. Are relationships even something that can be talked about to make them better? How are relationships different at different holon levels: Between team members? Between middle management? Between senior leaders? Across levels?

  • What is the ability to work across organizational boundaries (boundary spanning), moving from an “us versus them” mindset to a shared “we” mindset, achieving synergistic results, and getting beyond the typical “silo wars”?

  • Are there transformational leaders who are taking responsibility for designing and helping shift the culture, in part by modeling behaviors consistent with the desired culture?

We will go through each quadrant again, in more depth, as we explore the developmental lines and how evolution or development occurs within each quadrant in Chapter 9 on the Integral Disciplines.

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