The Rock Cycle and Lean-Agile Leadership

“I just want to get everything that’s in her brain…into mine.” The determined–newbie-Agile leader said. “I want that knowledge.”

“No, you don’t.” I set a small piece of granite on the table between us.

He picked up the rock, unimpressed, à la McKayla Maroney. “Why not?”

“You want the experiences and learning in leading Agile and Lean that give you knowledge.”

“Well, fine, I want those experiences.” He firmly put the rock on the table, uninterested. “What does a rock have to do with it, anyway?”


Image compliments of Lokelani, grade 4.

I smiled. This client had a taste of Agile-Lean goodness, and wanted more. This was good. Actually, it was great. Yet, this leader’s approach to gain Agile knowledge as if it’s a product, something to pull off a shelf, was misguided.

Gaining the experiences and learning from your Agile and Lean transformation takes time. Easy to say, hard to do, when you have pressure to adopt, sustain, and succeed, right? Those of you with the battle scars and war stories of Agile and Lean transformation agree. No wonder we have blogs about why managers hate Agile. It is a ton of difficult work.

We are pushed and pulled, often facing extreme heat and pressure, and then we are changed. We might have to be weathered and eroded down to our core before we begin to reap the benefits of transforming ourselves. We might even have a few meltdowns of our own in the process. Yet when we visit those vulnerable places over and over again, we begin to build up, to slowly strengthen, and then hold. In the end, we are not the same person; we think differently and we lead differently.

Rock cycle compliments of Lokelani, grade 4.

Image compliments of Lokelani, grade 4.

So how to begin your journey? You don’t have to jump right into the magma, although it will feel like that at times. As your virtual transformation coach, I offer you some smaller chunks of activity to begin collecting meaningful experiences that can give you the knowledge you’re hungry for.

First, be mindful. This means putting down your device whenever you can to actually think about what it is you want. A lofty concept, but within Lean leader standard work, it’s completely within your reach as reflection. There is personal reflection, and there is team reflection. A good coach, and lots of practice can help you through this.

Be patient. Give yourself a healthy approach to learning, by including continuous improvement in your strategy. This isn’t a game show, where you go home when you’re wrong. Well, you could, but that’s not the way you roll. You have resilience! Besides, when you make it safe for yourself, you are doing the same for your teams

Be bold. Books like Daring Greatly are fine ways to begin. Then, you must go farther, if you are to truly change. The real flavor of boldness I’m talking about is being an Agile leader when you’re under intense heat and pressure. It’s so easy to fall back to your old ways of leading during these times. They are all there for you, like a comfy sofa.  Be bold and resist them.

You don’t have to go after what someone else has. It’s all inside you to be the best Agile leader you can be.

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