Track: EMPOWER: (Leadership & Coaching)

Duration: 45 minute talk

Talk Level: Intermediate


An in depth look at how leadership principles and practices affect the adoption of Agile Software Development in an organisation.
While the Agile manifesto does not actually mention the word “leadership”, the wording and underlying principles correlate with leadership practices.
“Individuals and interactions over processes and tools” and in the 12 principles we find concepts such as trust, sustainable, face to face, environment and support.
The speaker is busy with a PhD through Wits University that will complete a qualitative study (using Grounded Theory) of leadership and Agile adoption considering the following

  • Hierarchical organisations may understand the value of Agile SE and set out to adopt it (as the “right thing to do”) but their structural nature could be limiting the real value of this effort. Does the immune system of large organisations see the Agile approach as a threat because it appears more adaptable to a changing world than the hierarchy itself?
  • Theories of leadership are wide, varied and have been around in different forms for more than 150 years. Agile as a methodology of managing IT knowledge workers is relatively new, the Agile Manifesto only being developed in 2001 although there were methodologies aligned with this approach even before then. Is there enough analysis from the Agile perspective, into the theories and history of leadership to determine if a better understanding of leadership theory might benefit Agile?
  • The so-called politics of a large organisation are often difficult barriers to success for even the best software development teams. Senior business managers are not trained or qualified to oversee IT projects yet many failures are due to inadequate trust and lack of cohesion between IT and business. If Agile is being positioned as a new way of delivering IT projects, do we also need a new lens through which senior business leaders can see and understand how Agile works so that we can attempt to fix the problem of politics at the same time?
  • Agile is a people centric methodology and leadership is self-evidently focused on people but do we understand how well (or if?) these two are mutually inclusive?
  • How does Agile influence and educate senior IT managers who are not so adaptive or familiar with Agile and who may also be under pressure even for previous methodologies that still haven’t delivered.

Bio of Peter Alkema:

Peter AlkemaPeter is the CIO of Business Banking at FNB which is part of the FirstRand Group, a financial services provider in South Africa. He has spent 15 years in IT both in consulting and banking where he has led large IT implementations and operational teams. He has spoken at industry conferences in Frankfurt, Philadelphia, Amsterdam, Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg. Peter is busy with his PhD at Wits University researching the impact of senior leadership on Agile software development teams.