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?
Since about a decade, we talked about a business environment that is constantly changing, complex and exposing our company to disruption. The year 2020 showed us, how real this can be for any business and for our entire life. Over the last five years, I have developed a framework which I think allows us, our teams, and our company to create a platform for lasting success. A conversation yesterday motivated me to share this here again.
The volatile business environment we are in, requires an important revelation: if we continue doing the same thing, we will be getting the same results. So, we need to try new things. Then, the main question is: who should define these experiments? Who should be in control of bringing our business forward? As a change management practitioner, I suggest two dimensions which are highly important to our leadership.
Direction - How often do we define a new strategy and after some time realise that our business is still running in the same way? In my experience, the bottleneck is not the understanding of what the strategy is; rather, there is a lack of understanding and persistence on how this new strategy is impacting everybody's daily work. Here we need alignment and transparency to define and implement the collective dream.
Acceleration - In a next step, there are more barriers for success: who is coming up with the crazy ideas? Only big bets will make us move forward over time. And, implementing big bets seems to be a daunting endeavour like climbing the Mount Everest. Here we need experimentation, focus, safe working environment, cross-silo collaboration, etc in order to innovate and to excel.
How are you able to trigger the change in your company culture to achieve this platform for lasting success? Please reach out to me to exchange thoughts.
You start your day and in your calendar you only see this large brick wall of back-to-back meetings. The expression, "Sorry guys, have to drop for the next meeting" is only getting too familiar. On a Monday evening you feel that you have already exhausted your week's energy. Work life feels like rushing from pole to pole, and the target is not to drown - at least not too deep.
What is the result of that? We feel we are running on a treadmill and not getting anywhere. We lose sight of the big picture, of the purpose that we intended to achieve. We are less capable of being empathic and compassionate. And there seems to be no time to grow the people around us and ourselves.
Growth means innovation, and innovation can only happen with creativity. For this we need a mind that is receptive for new impulses. And for this we need space - physical and mental space. We need to slow down.
The speed comes then with new focus on doing the right things, minimising wasted efforts, and combining different ideas to new solutions. We suddenly can identify barriers that we never identified as such. And we can create a more positive, meaningful, and enjoyable environment.
This Wall Street Journal article - How Being More Productive Starts With Doing Nothing - gives some ideas how to take a break and create mental space.
What are your ways to slowing down? How do you experience the speeding up?
After about 12 months of working from home, we finally open up more to go back to work in the office. In fact, I observe more and more managers and companies demanding their employees to come back. They want their teams to be more accessible, easy to reach.
This reminded me of studies from the late naughts around the financial crisis that highlighted that one of the biggest cause of stress at work are distractions - a instant message popping up, the e-mail notifications, and the boss asking important questions. All the while you were trying to focus on designing a new solution for your customer (here a summary). Not much has changed since then. Distractions are preventing us from being productive and deliver high quality work.
This study from ETHZ in Switzerland confirms this in a 2020 study: Workplace interruptions lead to physical stress. The people that got interrupted tested with twice as much cortisol than the other group. It is time to rethink how we are productive in our job.
A few weeks back, a friend of mine, Sebastian, shared with me his future office ideas. Their new office will be very simple and serve two functions. A social space for people to connect informally, share a cup of coffee and ideas, and host small functions after work for networking. A collaborative area will be dedicated to working together on projects, host client workshops, and connect people to brainstorm and be creative. "I can't image my people to be back in the office to send e-mails or write reports", he said.
This approach resonates with me a lot: different activities in our job require different environments. Sometimes we want to collaborate and meet people; sometimes, we want to focus and be free of interruptions. One is best when we physically meet in an office; the other can easily be done at home (or another quiet place). And who is best to make the decision where to work? As leaders, let's give people the choice where and when to work.
How does this resonate to you? What does it take to give your employees control over where and when they work? Are they mature enough to decide when it is best to work in the office?
About two years ago, I stumbled across #slowdowntospeedup and this tag line represented a few things that I stand for. Today, this slogan is more relevant than ever. I observe people around me burning out, many peers feel huge pressure to deliver, and many organisations stopped their strategic planning cycles. Just yesterday, a person shared with me that they wished to find 3 hours in their calendar to focus on some work. Does that sound familiar?
This WIRED article - How Slack ruined work - illustrates how the always-on culture is destroying the flow in our work. The various messaging tools we are using, combined with the a high expectation to immediately respond, has created a constant source of distraction. This leads to stress and a feeling of being overwhelmed. It is time to stop - to slow down.
Why do I think slowing down will speed us up? Here three thoughts:
Ok, great - I want to slow down. How can I start? First of all, this is a journey and will take a while. A journey during which we will learn a lot. Keeping this in mind, I suggest create a weekly block in your calendar of 2-3 hours. This big rock is for yourself - for activities outside of your daily work. Enjoy this time off.
What else can you do to slow down and balance your life?
For the people that know me, I like to promote the concept of People Excellence - driving operational excellence through our people.
This recent article in the Bangkok Post by Arinya Talerngsri also emphasises the people in the transformation work. We are in an age where many thought leaders are talking about how we can robotise our workforce and create fantastic efficiencies. Arinya shares my conviction that lasting success will come by cultivating a workforce of engaged critical thinkers.
Here my key points I took out of this article:
This article also shows that we have great thought leaders in Southeast Asia. Based on the cultural backgrounds within this diverse region, we are able to build on a strong habits that focus on building relationships and putting people at the centre. This is a fantastic opportunity - also for the rest of the world.
What is your story in shifting your focus from technology to people?
Source: Driving digital transformation through people transformation
"How do I motivate my staff?" This is a common question and an exciting one for me. This week I started to bring it in relation with resistance to change. I think these two topics are two sides of the same coin.
How do I motivate? How do I remove the resistance to change? The answer in my eyes is "simple" and from the start, I admit it is not easy to actually do it - let's get later to this.
If you impose change on people, they will resist. This is basically wired in our brains. When you provide the space to people to define their own change, they are excited about the things that will come. They are motivated to start their change journey. This means, true motivation and change comes from within.
As a leader, what do I need to do? Something many people don't feel comfortable to do: let go of control. In their respective scope, allow teams to define what they want to achieve and how they want to get there. This means give them the necessary decision-making power and resources. This freedom is exciting and unleashes a huge potential.
OK, I get that... How do I get started?
Letting go of control is scary. So, let's start with something small, an area where risk is small and where your teams and you as a leader can try out, how the delegation of control works in your environment. In this case study, you can find an example in a factory. Another example is giving ownership of the office coffee area. Recently, I am also suggesting to give your people control over where and when they work. Why not?
One last question: how did you feel when you took responsibility over a certain area?
Agility is often mentioned to be the accelerator for performance. And yes, when introduced in the right way, agile working methods can deliver solutions that are closer to what customers need within a shorter time frame. At the same time, I observe that these benefits are not so easily reached. One crucial component is how we are planning with agility.
Oh, are we still planning in agile? Yes, we do - and in a smarter way. Let me walk you through some steps which are essential for success. In my eyes and also outlined in this McKinsey article: Planning in an Agile Organisation.
In a first step, we as a team want to get guidance, a direction where to head to. And with team here, I am referring to any size; this can be a regional leadership team, a functional department, a project team, a smaller operational team, etc. And this guidance is typically expressed in strategic priorities, or as I like to call it meaningful purpose statements or a collective dream. Important for these priorities is that we limit ourselves to five strategic priorities at a time - more will be distracting and the focus will be lost.
These meaningful purpose statements are then translated into clear and specific goals for the different teams. And this translation is an effort conducted with the entire team. This allows that the insights from all team members are considered, facilitates the adoption of the goals, and significantly improves motivation and drive.
The strategic priorities combined with the specific team goals act then as a clear foundation to make decisions on the team level. The team should be in control how they achieve their goals; this allows them to become independent and self-sufficient. For sure, they will still consider the larger ecosystem they are embedded in. This delegation of control further stimulates the drive and engagement of the team.
Alignment is created with the direction. The second important element is transparency. This we will achieve with monthly and quarterly reviews which intend to allocate critical resources based on the achievements, priorities and the goals.
As a leader in an agile environment, we are left to focus on two critical activities: guide the teams and develop a clear direction; facilitate experimentation and allocate the right resources. This results in a very different, self-organised path of planning which results in more velocity and value creation.
How are you planning in your teams today?
Yesterday, I talked with a friend about the fact that we tripled the amount of meetings since we enjoyed more freedom of working at home - compared to 2019 where we already complained about too many meetings. The main point we contemplated is that now, we even need to schedule a random chat with our friends. Something went wrong.
Let's face it; most meetings are inefficient and lack purpose and results. Yes, it is great to connect with our peers; at the same time it creates a lot of stress and pressure. When is the last time you had five meetings back-to-back? I guess your answer is 'yesterday'. How can we get out of this vicious cycle?
Since a while I am sharing these simple principles for effective meetings. At the core is the shift away from one-way communication meetings. Who is a culprit to conduct information briefing sessions? Yes, we fall into this trap. Here my core principles for all participant to create a good and fruitful conversation during your meetings:
The other day, I came across this article by Steven Rogelberg: What the Science Says about Meeting Agendas May Surprise You. Here what I take out of it to enhance the above principles:
And let's not forget one thing: let's enjoy these meetings, let's laugh and smile, let's focus on the connection between people. And that might also mean to schedule less meetings.
Which point do you want to try out in your next meeting?
Over the last decade, I could collect many examples where teams and entire organisations tried to accomplish too many things at the same time - with the result that they are advancing very slowly. I observed this in manufacturing environments, corporate functions, product development teams, etc. And I am sure, many of you agree to this. And still, there are so many important topics; how to choose?
Last year, a team approached me to support them to improve their productivity. They organised themselves in a very typical manner: each team member got a topic assigned and worked on it individually. During my observations I discovered two main obstacles. First, the team members felt that they were not in a good position to help each other. Second, the team was not able to accelerate urgent topics fast. That's why we tried a new approach.
How often do you observe similar situations in your organisation?
In this team, we tried to follow the principle: let's minimise the topics we are working on in parallel. We started with selecting one focus topic per cycle - a two weeks period in their case. At the beginning we had a deep dive into the topic to get everyone familiar with the topic. Then, they discussed what are the tasks to bring this topic forward and continued to work together on these activities. With this sequential approach, the team didn't have to select important topics to reduce the number of projects on their plate. There is always the next cycle, where the next important focus topic will be progressed. This gave the team the confidence to spend very little time on the other topics.
During the reflection after the first cycle, the team expressed how they enjoyed to work closer together; this was a great team bonding. In addition, they were able to significantly accelerate the delivery for the focus topic. At the same time, the team struggled with a steep learning curve during the deep dive and shared that they had to find a new balance between working in a group and focus on individual tasks. We agreed that both points will become much easier over the course of the next cycles. Overall, they all agreed the benefits outweigh these drawbacks. The team highly appreciated the switch to a more parallel approach of delivery.
Where do you see areas to implement this way of working?
Many companies are in the process to define the annual performance goals and in this context, we often talk about accountability. Harvard Business Review was recently sharing some interesting insights, how these goals are set; for example, 21% of the employees feel that they can control their goals and 69% of employees feel that they don't perform up to their potential. How are you creating motivation and ownership during these goal-setting conversations?
At Hive17 Consulting, we are conducting Vision-to-Action programs that translate your strategy into changes in people's daily work. In this program, we create an environment where the teams, the employees, are defining their objectives themselves. As a result, we have observed that these teams are taking more ownership of the outcome, are collaborating closer together, and the delivery quality improved.
What are the key points that drive engagement during the goal setting period?
How do you feel about giving away control?
Source: How to Actually Encourage Employee Accountability
Tim is a change practitioner in the area of innovation and excellence. He is working with teams to accelerate innovation, collaboration and agility.