We often talk about high-performing teams and trying to find recipes of success. In this context, it is important to look beyond short-term gains and work with establishing a platform for lasting success. At Hive17 Consulting, we like to look at different drivers for change:
How can we establish a solid human connection?
One important element of establishing healthy relationships is trust - an understanding that we can rely on each other. Trust is typically between two individuals. In order to cultivate trust within a group of people we need to create a safe environment. We then want to look at what is psychological safety and how to establish such a place. And there is no easy path to achieve this.
First of all, how is it not done. During my advisory and coaching activities, I have observed a number of teams and supported them to create a positive, collaborative environment. With one group of people, I observed something interesting. When the regular group was meeting, they had a open, respectful conversation and were easily able to bring issues on the table and then solve them. Then, a new person joined these conversations and immediately that openness was gone; the original group was not comfortable to speak up. This shows that each individual in a group is contributing to that safe space. And one thing is clear: stating that this is a safe space is not creating psychological safety!
Laura Delizonna, from Stanford University, shares here how we can increase psychological safety in our team:
In order to creating lasting success, you need your team to be creative, you need them to feel comfortable to experiment and possibly "fail" (learn is the better word). Removing negative barriers created by lack of safety allows to build on the knowledge, experience and intelligence from everyone in the room.
How are you building a high-performing team?
Source: High-Performing Teams Need Psychological Safety. Here’s How to Create It, Harvard Business Review, August 2017
Resistance during a transformation journey can build up at any time, at any part of your organisation. Two elements are vital to overcome barriers: keep positive engagement high and develop the right skills. Both elements will increase confidence and therefore smoothen the path to the future state.
Hi, when we start a transformation program, we are pretty excited about what is coming. How excited are the adopters? Often, they don't feel ready and well equipped for their upcoming change. How can be then accelerate the confidence and the capabilities in our adopters?
In this series, we introduced the four knowledge areas of the CPC change management methodology. These themes guide us on what to consider in our change activities.
My name is Tim Wieringa and I am a change management practitioner here in Singapore.
Today, we talk about engagement and enabling. This knowledge area is targeted at two things: the motivation and the ability of the adopters; the people we want to guide to the future state.
Let me illustrate this with an example. About a year ago, I was supporting several teams in an agile transformation. They conducted regular pulse surveys and unfortunately, the psychological safety score was pretty low. One specific leader shared with me that the motivation was very low and the team members' behaviour was very reactive. We addressed this with a small self-organization program which was very impactful to drive ownership, priority setting and proactive behaviour; essential qualities for an agile team.
With this case study, we understand that the change journey is individual, and we need to feel the pulse of the adopters on where resistance is building up. And address them at the root. This might be a simple skills program or the broader aspects of the transformation.
Thank you for listening and click on the link below to learn more about how to become a Certified Associated in Change Management, and stay tuned for the next episode.
There is a lot of things we have experienced and learned in the last eighteen months. And one is becoming clear: using our six senses is much better than using one or two in the virtual world. We need the physical world - at least sometimes. And my friend put it in a very nice quote:
Thank you Daniel Benes for sharing!
The imagination of the future state is guiding the adopters during the change journey. When we formulate this impact as a collective activity, we can create a better understanding among a wider group of people. And as a result, achieve a stronger impact in people's daily work.
Hi, do you sometimes feel that you are very clear about the impact of your change; and all you get are empty faces and no concrete actions? How can you establish a collective idea of a meaningful and desirable impact of your change initiative?
In this series, we want to introduce the four knowledge areas of the CPC change management methodology. These themes are guiding you on what to focus on in your change activities.
My name is Tim Wieringa and I'm a change management practitioner here in Singapore.
Today, we talk about impact, and impact is more than a generic purpose. Here it is important that the individuals are understanding on what this is all about. We need to find a story that fits the different audiences.
A few years back, I supported this regional leadership team and they wanted to embed a new strategy. The reporting senior managers understood the general concepts of this strategy but were a little bit amiss on how does it impact their daily work. We then organised a workshop, where we took these senior managers in different teams and allowed them to think about, to reformulate the strategy in their own words, in the context of their responsibility. And we also encouraged them to define their own objectives. The quality and the practicality of the results, really impressed the regional leadership team.
When you impose your strategy from the top, it is almost natural to get resistance. In order to have success, you need to allow each individual to digest and translate the impact, the formulation of the impact in their own words. What is essentially in the end, is the end result; that your new direction is embedded in people's daily work.
Thank you for listening. Please click on the link below to learn more on how you can become a Certified Associate in Change Management. And stay tuned for the next episode.
Hello everyone, the last few days we had a lot of rain here in Singapore, and yesterday, finally my host Tim Wieringa brought me out to explore Singapore. Wow, this was impressive!
Our first trip, we went to the city centre and discovered some of the old buildings from the British colony times. My first impression: wow, here is so much green! it makes me feel good. And looking at these buildings I also realised that the Singaporeans moved on to a new, modern way of living. Great job!
As Charlie, the Change Bear, I also observed all the transformation that happened. An old stable is a hotel now (Raffles Hotel), the city hall building turned into a museum (National Gallery), a busy harbour turned into a serene riverside (Boat Quay), and the open ocean was transformed into a entertainment and recreation area (Marina Bay Sands & Gardens by the Bay). Amazing.
How were people able to do all this? Where they using a structured change management approach? Where they forcing the change on the people or allowing it to happen? What are the next big changes that are coming to this island?
But now, back to work! I need to prepare the workshop for Certified Associates for Change Management in this fine city on 23 & 24 September.
In change management, we want to guide or lead the people that are impacted by the new solution from where they are today to the new future state. We call this the knowledge are 'Leadership'. Learn more what that means in practice!
Hi, do sometimes feel that change is a burden on one person's shoulder. It doesn't need to be like that. And how can we build a support organisation for our change activities?
In this series, we want to talk about the four knowledge areas of the CPC Change Management methodology. These themes are guiding us in what to consider in our change efforts.
My name is Tim Wieringa and I am a change management practitioner here in Singapore.
Today, we want to talk about leadership. And, with leadership we don't mean the senior leaders and sponsors. Leadership here represents the group of people which are leading the adaptors from where they are today to the future state. It's a lot more than the sponsors and the change team.
Let me explain leadership with an example. A few years back, I was supporting a global chemicals company in introducing an SAP module for new product introductions. Here, we took a novel approach; we introduced about 20 communities, which were responsible to guide and engage with the relevant people that were impacted by the project. This allowed us to identify the change agents and influencers and easily reach out to over 300 people.
Successful change happens on an individual, personal level. And that's why we need to have a larger group of influencers and change agents. They are able to address the individual needs of the adaptors, and they are supporting the change team and the sponsors. These groups of people together are forming the leadership in a transformation journey.
Thank you for listening. Please click on the link below to learn more on how to become a Certified Associate in Change Management. And stay tuned for the next episode.
Last week I was sharing some thoughts with a friend about leadership and how we can bring the best out of our team members and peers. In this conversation, we thought about a new quality of a good leaders: being malleable - able to be changed and to adjust.
Around us we can observe managers that want to give direction and give guidance to their team members. They are confident with the experience they have and want the people around them to learn from them. This almost sound like a good thing, right? Though, in my experience there are a few side-effects which I would prefer to avoid. One is that with a rigid mindset, we are limiting the people's autonomy and creating frustration. Another is that we encourage the people around us to listen instead of applying their critical thinking capabilities. And a last - and in my eyes crucial - element is that we are limiting the creativity, innovation and development of the team.
What can leaders do instead? Ok, let me introduce another fancy word: impermanence. Things around us are in a continuous cycle; they are changing all the time and nothing is really permanent. Once we acknowledge that the ecosystem we are in has the qualities of impermanence, we also come to realise that we need an open and curious mind to absorb this ecosystem and to be able to thrive in it. With this we are able to adjust to the permanent change around us. How can you apply this in practice?
These are some initial thoughts around the quality of being malleable. What do you think about it? Where do you see this to be applicable and important?
Hello Singapore! I am finally out of quarantine and got a great welcome here in Singapore. Oh, yes, my name is Charlie, I am the Change Bear! Originally, I am from Germany and I have been sharing my change management experience in Beijing and Shanghai for the last few years!
What brings me to Singapore? I heard that the program for the 'Certified Associate in Change Management' will be launched here in September and maybe my support is valuable... (for sure it will be!)
First things first! My host here, Tim, promised to show me around Singapore. I heard it is tropical here, lots of green and lots of culture. And, lots of great food. I am excited to play tourist for a bit! I will share more soon...
After that, we bring a fun and joyful spirit to our certification programs - I can't wait for that!
Oh, if you want to learn more about me, check this out.
This week the CFOConneX network has launched the first workshop series and I am delighted to be part of this event! Thank you David Newton and the entire team!
The entire workshops series is about how CFOs can take a new spin to business intelligence; reflecting on how we are doing business planning, budgeting and forecasting. The first session was giving an overview of what this topic entails.
As a change management practitioner, for sure I am looking at the people side of these activities. As a leader we should always think about the why! What is the purpose of financial planning & analysis? In the end we need to make decisions that are pushing our business forward.
Here is an extract of the workshop covering this topic. Enjoy!
In my presentation I have covered three key aspects:
How do you engage as a CFO with the business and contribute to the overall business success?
The SkillsFuture organisation is doing an excellent job, supporting the development of the workforce in Singapore. They have recently launched a set of Critical Core Skills that are vital for all of us to thrive in a business environment that is rapidly changing in terms of technology and human interaction.
The sixteen competencies are grouped in the following three areas:
As a change management practitioner, I am delivering programs that are developing and embedding skills that allow change initiatives to succeed. Are you simply installing a change? How can you ensure that you realise the expected benefits of the transformation program? With this background, I want to share here how change management skills are supporting the critical skills above.
At the core of change is the human side of doing business; how we interact with others. We want to understand the people around us; only then can we overcome resistance and make the new solutions work for them. This is the foundation to make transformation initiatives a success. We learn to understand how people react, how we can influence and engage people. And most importantly, how we can create value in the ecosystem.
Change management frameworks provide a simple structure that allows us connecting the dots and to think critically. Who is impacted by the change program? Who can be an influencer? Change frameworks enable us to collaborate and discover new insights. With these inspirations we can derive innovative solutions that fit into the larger ecosystem.
When we learn about transformations, we also discover that change journeys are about continuous change. The business ecosystem is constantly moving forward and we need to keep moving within it - stay relevant. With this, we develop behaviours and mindsets that is not only open to change; we discover how we can thrive in change.
How can you get started? Become a Certified Associate in Change Management with our hybrid program that is credible, holistic and hands-on.
Source: Critical Core Skills, Skillsfuture Singapore
Did you know that about 26% of the change initiatives are failing? Most probably you did. And this statistic is quite sobering. And you might very well be deep in a transformative initiative and things take too long, and the impacted people are not sharing the same enthusiasm as you. Yes, this is normal.
The good news is, there are clear ways how to improve your odds to over 70%! How? With a clear and structured change management practice in your organisation. Key success factors are:
Curious to learn more about a structured and hands-on approach to change management? We have launched a program for Certified Associates in Change Management.
Hive17 Consulting is excited to announce the partnership between CPC Consulting and TUV Rheinland to bring a new change management certification to Singapore and Southeast Asia. These two partners have been offering the programs in Germany and China and now decided to expand their regional reach.
Change is a constant in today's times - we are all on journeys to capture new markets and innovating our value proposition to our customers. How successful are your transformation initiatives? Do you have the feeling that the adoption takes too much time? What is your recipe against low motivation and high resistance?
The certification program designed by CPC Consulting is successfully combining a broad view across different methodologies and distilling these into their own clearly structured and hands-on approach. Hive17 Consulting is endorsing the CPC methodology not only based on its simplicity; we also support the hybrid learning path: the program is structured in three tiers, as a combination of asynchronous online learning and synchronous classroom workshops.
What do you think about these programs? Who in your organisation network might be interested as well? Please spread out the exciting news to interested friends.
A few weeks back, I shared some views how you can let go of control. Why would you want to do that? Because the people at the front know how to create value to our customers; and they need to be able act fast without barriers - control from the top. Have a look at the previous post: Letting Go of Control - Made Easy?
Once you let yourself guide by others, how do you get up along the U?
That's a valid question I received after sharing the last post. Here are some thoughts around the right side of the U. Before we climb up, let me share more about the left side and the valley. With the steps on the left side, you can imagine that you are going down a hill. In the moment you think that you let yourself be guided by others, you realise that hill turns into a cliff and you need to climb further down. And most probably it feels like you are walking in a fog; there is no view of the other side of the valley. It feels like going through a tunnel or crossing the sea. I like this analogy because in problem solving you often want to immerse yourself in the current situation like an anthropologist and thoughts around possible solutions should be far away - early solution ideas might only lead you into a wrong direction.
Only when you really let go and you are in that opaque place, the magic can happen. Ok, not real magic, though it might feel like this. When we are drifting (not consciously seeking anything) then suddenly things will get clear, the new journey will appear right there. This might sound very esoteric but it is not. People who practice design thinking might be able to share similar experiences when they get inspired by empathising with the people they are creating value for.
Long prologue... So now, how does that journey up the hill look like?
Reflecting on the entire journey along the (theory) U, I think the right side might be more familiar. The big part of letting go of control happens on the left. Letting go of judgment, ego and power are essential for this new leadership. It starts with difficulties on the path down (left), and it continuous inspired on the path up (right). It does feel like a freedom once we don't need to control anymore.
How did you apply these steps into your leadership role?
End of last year, in the context of an agile transformation in a global financial institution, we delivered a series of design thinking trainings to a global audience. The sessions introduced the people-centric problem solving methodology, shared some case studies, and allowed the participants to practice some of the tools. After the program, we checked in with the teams and observed that they didn't take up design thinking in their practice.
How often did you observe that your training efforts have little impact on people's daily work? What can we add to bring the excitement from the training back to work? In my experience, this is an essential step for success.
At the bank, we selected a few teams that were excited about design thinking and willing to explore ways how they can overcome barriers and adopt the new principles and tools in their daily work. Typical barriers were a strong focus on delivery, very limited perceived time for other activities, a feeling that there was not much room for creativity. On top of this, the team also needed to build confidence with the methodology itself.
So, the journey began. Two important things we laid down from the start: everyone in the team is committed; what we are doing is relevant for daily work. We reviewed the deliverables for the quarter and based on that, the team identified areas where the team required a better understanding what the customers needed. Based on this, we started an iterative process to identify the best ways bring design thinking into people's daily work. Here are some of the lessons learnt:
One way we reduced the number of tools was the way we looked at the journey map. This became the key canvas to collect information during the inspiration phase. The map included the personas, the process steps, the needs and tools required, and the insights via a mood curve. These journey maps started with a broad scope and later we narrowed them down to a small scope which reflected the current activities. We used them first to collect information from within the extended team and then showed them to groups of customers (internal stakeholders) to validate assumptions and gain further insights.
While it took time to find a good way to bring design thinking methods into people's daily work, the team appreciated that we have cultivated a customer-centric mindset and provided a path to regularly interact with the customers. This allowed the teams to build deliverables that are much closer to the need of the customers and create more value. Now the initial efforts are shared to other teams and the seed is passed along.
What is your experience to cultivate customer-centricity in your teams?
Image source: Ideo U.
Back when I was working in Europe, I had my tradition to be in the office over Christmas. Undistracted and focussed working time - that is what I was seeking. And I experienced in these weeks that I was able to complete a lot more work in the 5-6 hours at my desk. And here I am reading the scientific evidence of that:
“Research indicates that five hours is about the maximum that most of us can concentrate hard on something,” says Alex Pang, founder of Silicon Valley consultancy Strategy and Rest.
Some companies have tried to reduce their working time down to 5 or 6 hours a day and saw productivity improvements. And the employees enjoyed the additional free time. A perfect balance. And yes, when we focus on work and remove distractions, we able to find a flow that allows us to get more done in less time. My experience is confirming this; when I am blocking 2 hours for a specific task, I am able to create a lot more results than if I am forced to split that into several 30 minutes slots.
Though, it is not all sunshine with the 5-hour workday idea. The increase in productivity will not lead to additional output overall. The new productivity level will not translate into an 8-hour workday. Some managers might wish so. Companies also observed that the stress levels increased. Employees felt pressured to squeeze everything they have done in eight hours before in their new five hour period. This is not always easy and creates tension.
And, in the long run companies observed that connections between the employees and relationships started to deteriorate. There is no time for a joint coffee or lunch break. That's how I felt in my empty office during the Christmas break: great to get things done; though, now I need to discuss my ideas with my peers and get inspired by them.
This leads to another element that is essential for lasting success in a complex ecosystem: randomness. We need time to ponder and tinker; these watercooler conversations often spark new ideas. Idle time is one key ingredient to creativity. That is how we are solving problems.
One final question: do we need to tell people how long and when they are working? I prefer to give people freedom and autonomy to choose their time for work. Instead, let's focus on the achievements which we aspire in our group:
It is great to know that our productive time is limited to five hours a day. Let's use this fact to reduce the pressure from people. Let them choose their preferred ideal working time. And let's start to focus on what really matters.
How will you use these ideas in your team?
Source: The perfect number of hours to work every day? Five, WIRED, June 2021
About three years ago, I started to run design thinking workshops and brought the topic closer to people in various companies and functions. As a change management practitioner, I immediately realised the attraction and the synergies between the two stream of thoughts.
Let's look at two of the traditional barriers to innovation and leadership: lack of speed in decision-making and lack of creativity. Both barriers are behavioural. While these are typical barriers to innovation, they are also holding up most change initiatives. And design thinking is a method to address both barriers in simple ways.
Speed - in design thinking we encourage to try things out; the focus is on learning by making mistakes. When we present prototypes early to the customer, we get early feedback on how we can get closer to create value for them. This early feedback facilitates decision-making. Design thinking also promotes to spend a significant amount on identifying the right problem; and still, this time is well invested and allows the team to create the right value for customers in a short period of time.
Creativity - here, design thinking brings many activities that allow people to use their inert creativity. The immersion into the customer's environment creates exposure to gain and pain points that trigger inspiration and critical thinking. During all my workshops we are spending time to prototype - to make the solution ideas tangible. With this activity, we are activating the creative brain and further facilitates the discover of new ideas and solutions. And finally, when we converge and digest the information by using gallery walks and journey maps, we extract the essence of the challenge which triggers further inspiration.
In addition to these two barriers, here are four points how I see design thinking is supporting your change initiatives:
How did you adopt design thinking for your change project?
Source: Why Design Thinking Works, Harvard Business Review, October 2018
About a year ago, I was introduced to the term 'antifragility' - a new word that intends to describe the opposite of being fragile. This term is about going beyond robustness and resilience - we want to thrive in chaos, not only survive.
Nassim Taleb introduced the term antifragility with his book "Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder". Today, I want to take a quote from the book and explain some simple principles how we can deal with difficult, complex ecosystems and how we can establish new behaviours that make us successful in a substantial way - no shortcuts.
"Antifragility (thanks to the asymmetry effects of trial and error) supersedes intelligence. But some intelligence is needed."
What does Taleb mean by that? In the book, he introduces the concept of optionality. If we have different options and we choose options that have a small, limited downside plus a big, unlimited upside, then we will over time be more successful. Randomness (as it appears in complex environments) will drive us towards the upside. Eventual losses will be small. Interestingly, identifying and creating these options doesn't take a lot of intelligence - it's more about courage. Where we need intelligence is in choosing the right options. And this is much easier than designing the perfect path (option) with intelligence.
Where do these options come from? I suggest two sources. First, when we do our business and are observing our customers, we will automatically discover possible ways to improve the value for customers. Simple shadowing, conversations and immersion will surface new things we can try. This leads me to point two: experimentation. Exploring small changes how we deliver our value to customers will create observations and will lead to more options. Small steps will lead eventually to more value and more success. The small steps also avoid to fail big and jeopardise our business.
How can we be intelligent in choosing the right options? There we need direction and a yardstick; base again two sources. First is customer value - again; when we do understand what our customers appreciate, what is important to them, then we collect one part of our northstar. The second source to decide on the right options is our shared vision, our purpose. This gives us meaning and a clear measure on what we want to achieve, what upside means to use, and which option will be the right one for us. The purpose also includes the collective experience on how to be successful in the ecosystem we are running our business.
One last element I would like to mention here. In our business world today, we can observe a lot of transactional behaviour; we try to model each process, find causality and theoretical explanations. The randomness mentioned by Taleb also indicates that we should rely less on these transactional, theoretical approaches. When we are connecting with people in a more human-centric way, it will be easier for us to experiment, build our collective dream, interact with customers and better understand the ecosystem we are in.
How do you experience fragility in your work? What works for you to overcome these stressors?
Photo credit: Leiduowen
At Hive17 Consulting we took our experience and evolved a model that identifies key ingredients that make teams successful in an environment that is ever-changing and complex - in short chaotic. We call these the four pillars of the wheel of antifragility: purpose, customer value, experimentation and relationships.
Each of these include important goals that support success. Though these goals can be contradicting; for example, if the team members have a singular focus on pleasing the customers, then the team spirit might be jeopardised. There is no set of actions that simply improve all four goals at the same time. Therefore, it is important to advance the four pillars in a balanced way. For example, focus on creating value for the customers based on strong team bonds.
While the pillars are based on solid research, our model is created through empiric knowledge. And, we continuously benchmark it to other concepts, thoughts and research, to make sure we are on the right track and further evolve our practice. The other day, I was reading this article "So What is Agile Really About?", in my eyes a great summary of the key principles for agility (which are in itself based on continuous innovation). Here are these 7 principles and how I see them supporting antifragility.
Where do you see the key elements of an agile organisation? What have you observed that makes teams successful in an uncertain and complex environment?
Source: So What is Agile Really About?, Barry Overeem, Scrum.org
In one of the projects I am supporting, we are going through regular activities to define and review objectives and key results. In this context, the difference between output and outcome is emphasised. Outputs are defined as features the team can develop, like a information dashboard. Outcomes are defined as business value the teams can impact, for example customer insights. In this context, the teams should focus more on the business outcome; they create more meaning for the customers and also for the team members themselves.
While this distinction as a concept is good, I feel that in practice it is sometimes difficult to grasp that distinction. In the example above, we can argue that customer insights are an output, and the outcome is the new solutions we can create based on the insight. That's why, I want to suggest that we are going deeper in discovering and defining our goals.
In problem solving, I often apply the method of the Five Whys to better understand and comprehend an issue, a challenge, an opportunity at hand. Based on the these whys, we can discover root causes and explore a wider range of reasons how we can address the problem. This helps us to find better solutions and opportunities that were not obvious at the beginning.
I think, we can apply the same method for goals, objectives and key results. We want to better understand why we are creating a specific feature. And if we are not going far enough with that understanding, we are limiting our solution horizon and constraining the meaning and purpose for the teams. On the other hand, we want to motivate and engage ourselves and the people around us.
The next time we are defining our goals and OKRs, let's ask the team what is the outcome that comes next - 5 times. For example: more customer insights > new solutions that create more customer value > more co-creation together with the customer > better solutions for the larger ecosystem.
The benefits of the Five Whys for goals are a) identify better solutions, b) create meaning & purpose, and c) cultivate more team engagement.
How do you see you can apply the five whys for your objectives?
During my career I conducted many workshops to develop capabilities. And, I also participated in excellent training workshops. Of extremely high quality. And all of them had one thing in common: the change that occurs to our own daily work after the workshops is minimal.
Since a few years, I also had the honour to coach - guiding people to discover themselves and to apply new routines to their work lives. This is the change we want to see in people. Though, coaching is highly intensive and simply not scalable.
Last year, I started to work with a few teams here in Singapore to develop solutions that are closer to what their customers want. We started with design thinking training sessions which - no surprise - resulted in no change in their daily work. Then we started to play around with different interventions - as a team, as individuals. Slowly we can observe that new habits are forming and the mindsets are shifting.
Training versus Coaching? With this short article, I want to suggest to take a hybrid approach and combine both practices. The aim is to develop new leadership capabilities and cultivate new routines that enable teams and individuals to create lasting success. We can join the benefits of both and add other elements to it. Here is what I suggest:
How do you see that we can combine different practices? What are your experiences with this hybrid approach?
The uncertain times we are living in made one thing clear: we need to innovate! In order to stay successful in our businesses we need to find new ways to create value to our customers, our operations face new challenges we need to address, and our employees require environments that keep them healthy, nimble and engaged. Small improvements will not suffice - in many areas we need to go back to the drawing board.
How can I, as a leader, deal with this accelerated necessity for change? How am I able to control innovation across all corners of our organisation? Let me pose another question: why do I need to control innovation from the centre? Successful, lasting solution might be better identified and implemented at the front - they will be achieved faster and create more value. Then the question is: how can I enable and facilitate innovation at the front?
Many people talk about innovation and how to achieve this. Though, there is one trait that is often overlooked and I see it as a essential foundation for innovation and a successful business: Critical Thinking - the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement. This will allow the organisation to identify where we can create value, to deeper understand the challenges, and to make better decision to explore the future.
Bruce Eckfeldt, in this Inc article Want to Improve Your Leadership Skills? Focus on Critical Thinking, introduces five levers to drive critical thinking. In my words:
These five elements give us leaders ideas on the mindsets and skills we want to develop in our people. Based on critical thinking, we will be able to delegate control to make decision, to experiment, to find solutions. Are you courageous enough?
Image credit: Getty Images
Yesterday we had a day off; and as so often I was heading into the forest. And every time I am amazed on the impact the dense green has on my mind and body. After an hour surrounded by trees, birds and monkeys, my body and my mind feels refreshed and energised.
This week, I came across this article - The fight for quiet in a world full of noise pollution - introducing a group of people on a quest to raise the awareness of noise pollution and certifying quiet parks. When is the last time you have been in a place that is void of human noise? The group is mentioning a series of positive impacts when enjoying time in quiet places: mental power, overall health, creativity, stress relief - to name a few.
It is weekend - let's go out and listen to the sound of nature!
Photo credit: Shawn Parkin, Wired UK
Here is a conviction of mine, I have been sharing before. In an environment that is complex and continuously changing (who is denying now that we are in this kind of world?), we need to understand how we can create value and we need to act fast.
Who knows best how we can create value? The people at the front. The sales people that talk to the customers, the people that are running through the process steps, the people that are delivering the packages to the doorstep.
How can we act faster? If we allow the people at the front make the decision that will make their work smoother, easier and then creating more value.
As a logic consequence, we leader should let go of control and handover decision making power to the people that are best equipped to control their (part of the) boat. And still, I can observe many leaders struggling with this. Struggling to let go.
One aspect: what else is my purpose of my role? This is answered very easily: provide direction, remove bottlenecks, allocate resources, and create a work environment that is motivating. This is already a lot of work when done properly. So, let's free up some time and give the controls to others.
How to let go? Are there any easy steps? Last week I was introduced to some of the backgrounds of Theory U - a concept that gives new insights how we can tap into collective capacities. When looking at the left side of the U, there are some clear steps that lead to letting go. Here they are in my own words:
Minimise judgement - judging actions as good or bad prevents us from seeing behind the actions and blocks the understanding of the Why people have done a certain activity. When we open our minds, we start to be curious and can see with fresh eyes.
Bring ourselves on the same level - if we think we are better than others, this will block the learning process (the same if you think you are worse than others). Stop critique and cynicism and come down from our high horses. Then we will be able to open our hearts and sense the environment around us.
Let us guide from others - as long as we still want to steer the ship by ourselves, we will not discover the potential in our peers. Let go of our fears and open our will, and totally new possibilities will be unleashed.
What holds you back from letting go? How did you feel when you actually achieved it?
We all heard about it - Agile Transformation! I have seen the term used in two situations. Either the organisation wants to introduce Agile Development and that is indeed a major transformation. Or, the organisation wants to drive change (innovation, market expansion, increased competition, etc.) and they decided to become more agile. I suggest to converge to the latter.
So, how can a change management approach bring more agility in leadership, to the teams and to the success of your operations? Here are a few pointers from my practice, inspired as well from two articles linked below.
Mentioned many times, the North Star is key to make people excited about the change to come, gives them meaning. And it is also the anchor and the imagination for what we want to achieve. Without this, agility turns into chaos.
The people in the frontlines have access to the best knowledge and information on how to bring success with change. Delegating control to the people that can run the show, makes the teams nimble and they can act faster. People on the top might - often involuntary - act as bottlenecks.
Facilitating lasting success means, these teams need to be self-sufficient and self-organising. The team needs the right environment and the right skills to get there. And, for sure, they need to be aware that they are acting in a larger ecosystem, all striving for the same north star.
Achieving the north start mostly includes creating value for our customers. The teams should create structured routines that allow them to discover a clear view on how this value looks like and what the customers appreciate most.
At the core of each team is learning - this bring the individual, the team and the entire ecosystem forward. Experimentation enables continuous learning; and the leaders facilitate and contribute in this journey.
Planning for the next 12 to 18 months often leads to situation where a team is stuck in their course and unable to take the necessary changes to adapt to a new environment. Therefore, I suggest to create an imagination of the future state and of the path to get there. This provides direction and keeps the flexibility. Based on this, the team can plan what they want to achieve and learn now - typically in a horizon of three months.
Lastely, the agile teams work best in an environment that cultivates meaning and trust; as leaders we can create a platform for success and this requires a place where we can have open conversations, feel safe and find our work fulfilling.
In my eyes, agility is not about processes and organisational structures. Change management practices have shown how we can engage with a new leadership style that is universal on all levels of the organisation; a style that is inspiring and enabling people to be successful. This is how we can stay adaptive, nimble and jump ahead to new opportunities.
Where do you see the the link between change management and agility? How do you put these into practice?
An Agile Approach to Change Management, Harvard Business Review
Unleashing the power of small, independent teams, McKinsey Quarterly
While I am partnering with teams to allow them to become stronger, faster and successful in competitive, complex and ever-changing business environments, I often take out the tool of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). When implemented correctly, they allow teams to get aligned into a common direction, to focus on what needs to be done now, and to create transparency on where we are and where we want to shift resources. When handled carelessly, then the implementation can also lead to frustration and disengagement.
Where as a leader do I need to be careful with when implementing OKRs?
When I am implementing OKRs, I put a lot of focus on defining them with autonomy in the team. There are a number of external elements that give direction to the team, for example the company vision, market developments, customers' needs & insight and so on. Then, it is up to the team how they want to define and formulate the objectives they want to aim at in the long term. And, then identify the key results they want to achieve in the next three months. The team is in the driver seat and is in constant communication with their leaders to create alignment. In my observation, this process has proven to be highly motivating and meaningful to the teams.
We heard many times that goals need to be specific, and yes, for the short-term key results it is important to bring clarity on the work we want to engage in now. At the same time, making the objectives too specific can act as a barrier to exploring alternative ways to reach the north star.
Ambitious targets are a two-sided sword. And recently in my work I see that teams are simply exhausted and demotivated because they don't see how they can possibly achieve their OKRs. I often explain teams that they better travel light on their journey (with a smaller set of key results) and when these are completed, they can look a their backlog and "load" new key results. If their backpack is too heavy, it will slow them down. In this sense, it is good enough to aim at 70-80% achievement of the key results - something that I have read in the original description of OKRs (re:work).
People are inherently ambitious with the right purpose guiding them. Targets don't need to be ambitious.
Tracking and scoring OKRs is also a delicate path. Here the clear intention is creating transparency and input to decide where to allocate resources for the next month. This review step is intended to create breathing space and reflection on where we are on the journey. There needs to be a level of trust between the different parties to make the review process smooth. When no trust exists, this activity will end up in frustrating micromanagement.
Thanks to the Corporate Rebels to inspire this reflection with their article The Dark Side Of OKRs (And Why We Should Care).
What are the pitfalls you have been observing when introducing OKR?
Tim is a change practitioner in the area of innovation and excellence. He is working with teams to accelerate innovation, collaboration and agility.