Back in my late 20’s a coworker suggested I read Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Little did I know what an impact that book would have on my life. The funny thing was that my first reading didn’t make all that much difference. It wasn’t until I read the book again in my early 30’s that it became life changing. Over the past ten years I have read the 7 Habits at least 5 times… probably more.

So often we find ourselves pushing up against walls that just won’t seem to move. We are trying to change things that we are powerless to change. At the end of the day we learn that the only person you can really change is yourself… that we can really only influence those we have earned the right to influence. The 7 Habits is a book about personal effectiveness… it’s about where you are now and how you get to where you’d like to be. I think that there are some powerful lessons here… and I am sure some of these ideas will become part of the fabric of our book.

Habit 1 – Be Proactive

Being proactive is about operating within your circle of influence. It’s about focusing your time and energy on the things you can directly impact… rather than getting frustrated over the stuff you can’t. Becoming effective where you have the most influence will result in your ability to influence more of your overall environment. Start your agile transformation where you can have the most impact and grow it from there.

Habit 2 – Begin With the End in Mind

What does your agile transformation look like when you are done? Sure… we need to get started but first we need to know what direction we are headed. We need to have some idea what the end state looks like. We need to understand our vision… our mission… our values and principles. We need to lead our organization toward that vision in a way that reinforces our desired outcomes.

Habit 3 – Put First Things First

What is the next most important thing I can work on? What are the next most important things to do that will lead me closer to where we need to be? There are many things in life that take time to make happen… things that can’t just be mandated or made to happen overnight. Putting first things first means that we are going to consistently choose to work on things that will bring us closer to our goal… grow our ability to influence the organization… and get us that much closer to realizing our vision.

Habit 4 – Think Win-Win

Agile adoption and scaling is not an end unto itself. We are in a quest to deliver more value… to be more productive… to make things better for the people we work with. To be successful… everyone has to have the opportunity to be successful. We need to understand what success looks like for everyone involved and seek out solutions that optimize value for as many people as possible. We certainly want to deliver value for our customers… but also our managers, team members… and yes… even Project Managers.

Habit 5 – Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood

It’s easy for a consultant to come in and make recommendations that are totally out of alignment with your current reality. We need to spend time understanding how our teams are currently working… what things they are currently struggling with… and which opportunities for improvement are going to maximize our desired outcomes. Only then can we craft situationally specific strategies that maximize our investment in change.

Habit 6 – Synergize

Synergy is when two things come together and form something greater than the sum of their parts. In personal relationships this might mean a couple coming together to make a family or two friends working together on some massive backyard project. For businesses, this might involve people from different parts of the business. People working together to improve the overall system rather than just optimizing their individual parts. The whole system working toward a common objective is much more powerful than any one of us going it alone.

Habit 7 – Sharpen the Saw

Personal effectiveness… organizational effectiveness… depends on staying healthy and focusing on improvement and renewal. Leading change is not a one time event and your agile transformation is never really complete. We are going to learn… we are going to inspect and adapt… we are going to respond to changing conditions and guide our organizations toward greater effectiveness and continuous improvement.

Habit 8 – Find your Voice

Several years after the publication of the 7 Habits… Stephen Covey published a book called the 8th Habit.  This is another book that took me several readings to fully get its impact.  The 8th Habit is about leadership… it is about empowering people… aligning people… respecting people and treating them like whole thinking… feeling… human beings. It’s about tapping into the untapped human potential that lies dormant in many of our organizations. I think that’s a pretty agile way of thinking about things…

I doubt Stephen Covey would consider himself an agilist in our sense of the word.  I don’t know if he ever managed an iterative software development project.  But to me… that is what is really cool about all this stuff we talk about… the values are transcendent… they apply in every problem domain. We are bringing universal truths to play in our work and making life better for everyone involved. I doubt these ideas will be directly referenced in the book… but they are a part of who I am… and I am sure they will become part of the fabric… part of the thinking framework.
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