In our work, we are supporting teams to strengthen their agility in their daily work; and the start of that journey is not simply to become agile - or faster, rushing. The starting point is that teams and companies are facing uncertainty and complexity - and fighting is not a successful approach in the long run. In this context I came across this article in Forbes written by Steven Denning: The 12 Stages Of The Agile Transformation Journey. Here are my key inspirations.
What do we want to achieve with agile transformation journeys? “The ability of an organization to renew itself, adapt, change quickly, and succeed in a rapidly changing, ambiguous, turbulent environment” as well as “the ability to quickly reconfigure strategy, structure, processes, people, and technology toward value-creating and value-protecting opportunities.”
Can any person in the organisation start working in an agile way? Yes, the principles of agility are applicable for small team as for large companies. Any team can be successful with that. At the same time, the higher in the hierarchy this is started, the better the results.
For the leadership team it is important to acknowledge that establishing an agile mindset and mode of working is a never-ending journey; definitely an initiative or simple project that can be finished soon. Strengthening agility in your organisation is a great learning and development opportunity.
Starting the agility journey should start with a team that represents the diversity of the organisation. Team members should come from different functions and from different hierarchical levels. At the same time, this squad is not about implementing technology. They key focus for this team is improving the business.
Once the first team has shown success, then the journey can grow organically. New teams are inspired to experiment with the new way of working and deliver more success stories. And, in times of failure, stay true to the path you have started; treat those as learning opportunities.
The journey towards agility is not about implementing a structure, new processes, and using different tools. They might simply be means for a new mindset and behaviours. It is important to continuously evolve the idea of being agile for your organisation.
How can I support this journey as a leader? How do I need to evolve my leadership style? As a start, command & control is the antidote to agility. You need to be able to coach and inspire your teams. And agility is based on the delegation of decision-making and ownership.
Maturity in this journey means to master strategic agility; being able to continuously identifying and redefining market success areas - for learning and development.
How did you start your journey towards agility?
In our world, uncertainty and complexity is accelerating - especially in the current situation. At times, we don't even know how the world will look like in 2 months. Some leaders are trying to control and reduce this complexity and uncertainty; is this possible and the right approach? Successful teams, instead, are trying to plunge and thrive in these challenges, and respond with agility.
In my experience, one key barrier for agility is the environment cultivated by the leaders. Are we enabling our teams to experiment and create value within a defined strategic direction? McKinsey created a summary of these leadership challenges. Here is how I would summarise, what leaders have been doing great to achieve success:
a) establishing a clear vision and direction with a focus on results
b) empowering & connecting teams and allocating resources with flexibility
c) embracing a new way of working that allows fast sensing & seizing of opportunities
On a personal level, there are three creative mindsets, we leaders need to embrace - for ourselves and as a role model for our teams:
1) discovery to drive innovation
2) partnership to smoothen collaboration
3) abundance to strengthen value creation
Where will you focus first?
Here the details from the article: Five Fifty: Agility at the Top
Introducing new products in an organisation is an exciting task - we can bring new, added value to our customers. In an industrial setting, this task can be daunting with complex value chains and regulatory hurdles. Yet, to win in today's competitive environment, new product introductions need to be fast.
This was the objective for this project in the textile chemicals space. Led by the global marketing director, the project team took up the challenge to nearly half the time-to-market for product launches. In the past, the company experiences inconsistency in the product lifecycle, top-down processes and system introductions were met by resistance. At the same time, the market and many regulatory changes required more agility. A huge alignment and engagement effort across 18 different functions was necessary.
As the change management practitioner of this project, I worked closely with the project manager on how we can engage the people. How can we involve as many people as possible? What is the best way to convey the business objectives and aspiration? How can we keep the people motivate over the long implementation period for the SAP module implementation?
We decided for a novel approach. Typically, each function will send a few representative and in a large project team they will decide on how the project will be executed. This approach was not satisfactory as large project teams are not effective and still only engage a small percentage of the people involved. The alternative approach we took was creating communities. For each involved function and for each production site we have established one community and nominated a owner for these communities.
Each community owner was then responsible to establish a collaboration routine within their communities and work on assignments related to the global project. The global project team was then working only with the community owners; assigning new activities and collecting input, feedback and comments from the community. In this way, the project team indirectly engaged with about 300 people in a structured, regular fashion.
As a result, all relevant people were involved, engaged and motivated. We often repeated the business purpose of the project to make sure we are all aligned and cross-functional barriers are easily removed. The frequent dialogues established new routines and cultivated relationships across regions and functions. In the end, because so many people were involved in the blueprint design, data migration, user acceptance testing and training of the SAP module, the final go-live was surprisingly smooth and uneventful - a natural next step forward.
As project leaders, we need to be creative and human-centric - this will lead to success. And curious to experiment and try new ways.
How can you apply communities in your change programme?
In my experience when facilitating teams to accelerate their operational excellence, I like to talk about two things. And, they seem to be a contradiction.
"Sustainable change is effortless!" This is similar when you are fixing a screw and at the start it is hard; a simple correct alignment will do the trick and the job is much easier. Many transformation are getting launched with too large climbs and with methods that simply doesn't fit to the style of the people. Too much efforts during a change journey might often be a waste.
"If everything seems under control, you're not going fast enough. (Mario Andretti)" This means that a great challenge creates a lot of excitement and motivation. When we are too comfy, then we are not trying hard enough. Pushing our own limits is actually fun.
How does these two thoughts match? They are helping us to create a balance. Too much push - especially from outside - will drain our energy and is frustrating. Too little effort will make us slow down and kill the momentum. The balance in between will allow us to run at the edge effortlessly and for an infinite amount of time. This is essential to successful transformations.
Where do you find this balance?
Digital transformations are in everybody's mind and talk - the topic of the decade, I would almost call it. And multiple studies are quoted that 70% of them have failed. Is it because we set the wrong targets? Do these initiatives fail because leaders are not committed? Can we achieve success while applying the same processes and methods of the past?
On my side, I like to think of transformations in a different way. Instead of leading people from a situation A to a situation B, I suggest to enable the teams to define and achieve their own change - perpetually as a continuous journey. The based principle in my experience to achieve sustainable and fast success for transformations is intrinsic motivation - with two core elements.
Frame - the first key element provides two things to the team members: a direction and boundaries. There are many names and input for this frame: vision, dream, values, strategy, beliefs... All of them are contributing to ensure that our people are putting their efforts on the right things, established in a collective and positive way.
Empowerment - the second key element allows the people to act fast within the defined frame. The main goal of empowerment is to remove barriers and facilitate speed in achieving the collective dream. This is achieved by providing our people with an autonomy of responsibility which means allowing people to experiment, fail and learn. As a result, we will strengthen creativity and agility - contributing value in a short period of time.
This frame and empowerment is a structure which is best achieved by starting with small steps. First, creating a safe environment to get used to this new way of operating. Team members and leaders alike need to experience the benefits, define how this works best for them and enjoy the journey. Then we can expand this new operating model to more, bigger and exciting challenges.
Where do you see success in digital transformation?
My fellow transformation practitioner, Kamales Lardi, published an article sharing her views on the challenges that occur when executing a digital transformation strategy - Digital Transformation: How to develop strategy under uncertainty. A great list for leaders to understand how we can contribute to successful initiatives. And it made me thought, can we even give it another spin, make leaders bolder?
#1 Create a Confident Leadership Team
#2 Thrive in Uncertainty
#3 Create a Frame for Fast Results
#4 Create a Human-centric Organisation
#5 Implement a Structure that Strengthens Creativity and Agility
Am I the bottleneck to our business success?
How do you translate your vision into action?
Do I appreciate the creativity and insights of all people in our organisation?
Beside reading a lot of Science-Fiction books (inspiration to think far far out of the box) and Wired UK (for the latest tech trends), I am also following McKinsey for their solid insights into the business world. And they have this series of Five-Fifty which are great in today's fast paced world; and this one is about change: Five Fifty: The changeable organization.
Yes, we need to change; and yes, we are afraid and resist change. Still I believe that in order to "manage" change, we need to enable our people and our organisation to define the change and then be excited about it. Here is what the research of McKinsey tells us about this.
How do you prepare for exciting digital transformations?
* Organizational health: A fast track to performance improvement
You heard it enough: a clear vision, a meaningful purpose, a comprehensive strategy is the foundation for a successful business. And why is this so important? I share here an alternative and simple idea.
Today we often observe that teams and entire organisations are pushed to achieve some financial targets - and they all rush, putting a lot of effort to reach these objectives. Is everyone running in the same direction? Are they joining their efforts to create a larger momentum?
In this context, "collective dreams" might be superior to typical lagging indicators:
Where do you success with your collective dreams?
End of last year, we initiated a benchmark survey on how different companies experience their journey to accelerate innovation mindsets. How can we fully exploit our potential to deliver novel products, processes and experiences to our customers. We presented a number of activities and traits and asked two simple questions: are these important for innovation? and are they established in your organisation?
Here are the results of this APAC-focussed survey; they show clear indications on where to put energy and where to start:
Find here the complete survey results: The Current State of Innovation - Report.
Big Thank You to all that have participated in the survey!
In order to be successful in an environment where change and disruption are accelerating, we need to significantly speed up the way we work. Though, success is not achieved with rushing; greater velocity can be achieved with reflection on doing the right thing - slowdown to speedup. Sustainable success is based on creating a frame, empowering people and facilitating intrinsic motivation.
Where do you see these elements in your organisation?
"Live the best life you can. Life is a game whose rules you learn if you leap into it and play it to the hilt. Otherwise, you are caught off balance, continually surprised by the shifting play. Non-players often whine and complain that luck always passes them by. They refuse to see that they can create some of their own luck." - Darwi Odrade
from "Chapterhouse: Dune" by Frank Herbert
On a daily basis, we are pushing our teams for speed and cost. Do we get better, sustainable results? Neuroscience tells us we might be wrong in doing so.
Without going too deep into neuroscience, establishing new mindsets is literally about rewiring our brains. Neurotransmitters from new paths in our mind; this is creating new learning and helps us to transform. Two conditions support this rewiring.
Our brain will only be able to rewire when we are in a positive emotional state; we are open to new thoughts and discoveries. In addition, the new neural paths will be build over time based on repeating the new patterns. One simple and effective way to start is to visualise the positive outcome and repeat towards achieving it.
Instead of creating pressure, engage with our people and discuss with them how success looks like and what actions we think will lead us to this success. And let's have fun along the way.
Source: The Neuroscience of Habits, by Brigitte Najjar (Udemy)
In the recent months, I am very happy to support various teams in getting more agile. Last week, I had a call from one of the sites: "Tim, we have a huge problem! Some of our experiments have failed and some teams can't finish their projects" - "Hey, that's great! What we are focusing on is that we experiment and learn - getting faster along the way."
In a conversation earlier this week we reflected on this. Cultivating an agile mindset not only means applying the processes and methods for developing new solutions. In the example above, the teams struggle with significantly shorter project times and delivering experiments instead of fix deliverables - as usual, this is a journey.
Therefore, we need to experiment and use agility in applying the methods, concepts and processes of becoming agile. Experiment to experiment, be agile in becoming agile - if that makes any sense.
Implementing visionary solutions is like climbing a mountain. And so is to change a mindset of people. Why not using the same approach to take small steps to conquer the summit?
We at Hive17 Consulting are devoted to creating an environment for people to work with passion, engagement and fun via positive leadership and intrinsic motivation. We believe that it takes more than perfect processes, systems, organizational charts and value statements to make your company successful. Our people need to understand, shape and believe in the change journey. And for us, it is clear that this foundation will unleash people’s full potential.
Where is your heart: in Design Thinking? or in Agile? Both concepts are used a lot in the context of innovation and excellence. I heard a lot of arguments from both "camps" which is superior and that the one is a subset of the other - rich discussions.
What most can agree is that the underlying concepts are pretty similar - why not use both? In programs I have conducted - especially in order to become excellent - I have combined them to accelerate creativity and speed.
There is a huge overlap: both concepts are about empowerment, experimenting, minimal viable products, fundamental concepts of agility (arguably from Lean Manufacturing).
Where they distinguish are in two particular areas; and it is good to understand their strength apply where most valuable. Here is how I make the simple distinction.
> Create Ideas: human-centric Design Thinking helps to go deeper in your understanding of the customers and stakeholders.
> Execute Ideas: the strong focus on iterations in Agile, combined with the scientific approach of measuring assumptions are great to accelerate momentum when solutions are implemented.
How do you see the two concepts play with each other?
Last week, the community of Design Thinking professionals met in Singapore. On Friday, we discussed how culture can be influenced and how Design Thinking might support transformation - very interesting question...
I have started to use Design Thinking in order to cultivate customer value focus, agility and cross-silo collaboration. With great success.
Another thought we developed is around intrinsic motivation. Design Thinking facilitates:
* a clear definition of challenges that supports purpose;
* autonomy due to the focus on empathy (button up thinking)
* the iterative prototyping allows mastery (getting closer and closer to the customer needs)
How do you see the connection between transformation and design thinking?
"Instead of forcing change, create an environment where change can happen"
Today, in our production facilities in Thailand we started to discuss how we can execute ideas to improve productivity in a different way: achieve results in a faster way while keeping the big picture in mind.
The excellent outcome of today's workshop was the definition of Focus Topics. We took the solution ideas we created during a Design Thinking workshop in August and modularised them into smaller chunks that can be implemented as minimal viable products. The teams have now selected the first Focus Topic which will be implemented in the next three months. The graphic below vitally supported the understanding of this concept - visualisation is such an important aspect in discovery.
The objective of this approach is not only to create tangible results fast; we also aiming to cultivate agility and a new mindset. Looking forward to see the results soon.
As a change management professional you sometimes get asked about gamification. A question that is... interesting. When people talk about gamification, they often mean badges, leaderboards, levels... Then I ask myself, what keeps me in the game (for me, mainly sports)? Beating my personal record. That's it; not the medals, not the competitors, not the cheering crowd.
I think this is very much what mastery is about; we want to become better and better in a certain subject matter.
If we want to sustainably transform people, one important aspect in my eyes is to understand how people are motivated from within. Let the people define their own KPIs; allow them to identify an area where they want to become a master. And they will define the change and they will push it forward.
What are your experiences?
Pull intrinsic transformation! Instead of pushing change to people.
This week, me and my colleague had a very insightful conversation about how to lead people through change. The question is, how can we prepare people for upcoming change.
Can we really get people ready for change? Or will they always fear it?
I suggest a different path of thought. Let the people discover and design their own transformation journey. Create motivation and excitement for a new strategy and then allow them to run towards these goals. As a leader you might only focus on removing the barriers.
In this sense, I believe that true success can be reached by creating a meaningful purpose, facilitating cross-silo collaboration and cultivating a willingness to experiment.
Where do you see the leading indicators for success?
IMD Alumni invited us to a speech by Diana Wu David sharing her experiences and thoughts about how we can make ourselves Future Proof! Globalisation, Automation, Longevity all creating the need to look differently at the 'world of work'.
The future will bring lifelong learning, demands flexibility and soft skills, and requires us to be enabled by technology.
How can we get there? And her thoughts really resonate with my experiences and believes:
These behaviours and routines will lead to creating a more satisfying life for us as leaders and family members.
The still open question is: how do we convert our top leaders to stop looking at the past (lagging indicators) and start embracing the future. Any thoughts from your side?
Who are the most efficient messengers for your change initiative? Is it the communications department sending out newsletters and distributing posters? Is it the HR team conducting training sessions? Or is it the group of advocates which are excited about the new things to come?
In my experience it is none of the above. Instead, the best result is achieved by focusing on the following two messengers
Senior Leadership Team - highlighting the strategic reasoning and implication of the new initiative. Provide a purpose that excites the people. And, living the change themselves.
Direct Supervisor - creating clarity what the initiative means for each individual and link it to personal values. Provide the operational impact of the new routines. And, living the change themselves.
Quick share on communication... who are the key messengers to get the purpose and mission across?
A) the CxO level to create excitement for the strategic messages
B) the direct supervisor to build deeper understanding what the strategy means for our daily operations
Let's focus on these two messengers and it is a great start to get closer to our employees.
It is Friday and in today's "Quick Share" I am pondering about how close change management and knowledge management are.
A long time ago I was very deep into Knowledge Management; and one key topic was making communities (of practice) successful.
When you are doing this, you realise that you need a lot of change management expertise; that is why I evolved into a change management professional.
Today, I am driving innovation, new mindsets, nudging new cultures - guess how - with communities. This is a very interesting reflection.
Why communities? Because they bring people closer, build relationships, facilitate to have common grounds, etc.
Where do you bring people together to work together outside of their daily job?
It is 'Quick Share' time and let's look at People Excellence. I spoke about this topic last week and I received a great amount of confirmation for this.
For the last 150 years we keep automating - farming, then manufacturing and now services. This created a mindset that we can control people. In recent years, neuroscience showed people work better when we give them more freedom; with less control we achieve more.
I think we need to focus more on the humans around us:
1. Engage in conversations and get out from behind the screens
2. Let's care about the things we are doing
3. Create a drive in people with purpose, autonomy and mastery
Tim is a change practitioner in the area of innovation and excellence. He is working with teams to accelerate innovation, collaboration and agility.