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Linnea Zetterström: Agile brings people together and creates an “us against the problem” mindset

Published in People, Agile

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May 8, 2023 · 3 min read time

Linnéa Zetterström is one of Nitor’s Lean-Agile coaches who grew up with agile and immersed herself in agile principles and mindset from an early age. During her years of working and studying, she has focused on organisational processes and how to improve ways of working. In this article, Linnéa shares three critical learnings on how to succeed in creating an agile environment.

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

A strong interest in how organisations work led Linnéa Zetterström to study Leadership Quality Management and Improvement. She focused on how to improve organisations and processes. As Linnea always believed that "people who work together can achieve far greater things than they would do alone," this was the right place for her.

Before joining Nitor, she worked as a consultant mapping and analysing value streams, leading an agile transformation, and becoming a certified SAFe SPC, among other things. In this article, she shares three key learnings that have led her forward in creating agile environments.  

1. Openness and being willing to experiment are key

Linnéa’s time as a production leader in the Swedish armed forces offered her valuable experience in changing the way of working from a traditional waterfall method to product-focused development and agile. Initially, the backlog and expected deliveries were not visible. Different teams were starting multiple projects without finishing them, which led to much parallel, ongoing work with little or no value delivered. Everyone was driving their own agenda without consideration of dependencies or the capacity of critical functions. 

To turn this around, change needed to happen in small steps. Slowly, deliveries started to be planned in increments. Transparency increased, making bottlenecks visible. People began to see the value in this new way of working together. They openly experimented with new things, which helped in moving towards the set goals. 

However, in an organisation with a history of strong traditions, it required much persistence to create the necessary understanding for the management on why the change was necessary. The key to success was complete openness toward the management team and the people in the organisation. 

To move forward, I needed to be humble and admit that I don’t have all the answers, but I would like us to try this new approach.

Open communication created trust between her and the management and allowed the team to experiment with new ways of working. 

2. Knowing the next step is enough

Testing new things and experimenting with an open mind led the transformation forward. Even though Linnéa could not see the whole transformation journey beforehand, it became clear that knowing the next step was enough. Once you start to proceed one step at a time, the path becomes more and more visible. 

The challenge, though, is to get everyone on board for this journey. She approached this topic by ensuring transparent and frequent communication and inviting people along to define the next step together. 

Asking people involved, “If we want to reach an end goal, what do we need to do next?” gave people ownership, honoured their expertise, and involved them in a completely new way. 

3. Always put people first

Often the most challenging part is having patience with the transformation. It’s essential to remember that there will be surprises, and things don’t always go as expected. The importance of patience and humility cannot be stressed enough, even when needing fast results. In the end, it’s respect for people that will create a sustainable change that will last. 

When working with people, we need to go people first - to create a understanding why we are doing these things.

The rewarding thing about agile ways of working is the sense of togetherness it creates among the employees. An “us against the problem” -attitude can be created, which brings many opportunities for the future. 

Since her time at the university, Linnéa has grown her expertise in agile ways of working and Lean manufacturing, as they also formed a large part of her study program. What she realised during her studies was confirmed during the work assignments she faced afterward: 

Lean and agile principles help us discover and bring forward the true potential in people with the side effect of making the enterprise more profitable. Most importantly, the agile principles enable us to work together. 

The focus is not on what we are making - the power of the organisation is in its people.

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