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?
Two years back, I read the story of Ilkka Paananen in Wired UK (link); still today it is an inspirational story on how to lead with motivation. After a failed endeavour, he started Supercell and within 6 years the company was valued over 10 billion US dollars. How did he do that?
In simple terms, he put the right team together and then created the best environment for the team to thrive. What is that best environment? Turn the organisational structure upside down and empower them to define everything that relates to the success of the company: the vision, how they work, where to put the focus... Full autonomy? Yes, provide the team with all the freedom and automatically they will also take over the responsibility, the ownership for the results. The success lies in motivation, the energy and the passion that you can observe in your teams.
So, what do I need to do as a leader? Create that environment! Create excitement, allow them to discover how to do things, hire a diverse team, be a coach, be passionate about the company - and be transparent.
What makes you a great leader?
Image Credit, Nick Wilson, WIRED UK
Agility is for many the path for success, and I see many teams trying to run faster, sprinting and simply spinning the wheels faster. In my experience, this is not a sustainable approach; you are burning energy, burning people.
Velocity means that all your efforts are adding value and none is wasted. In this way, we are achieving results faster and with higher quality. To make sure, we know where to add value we need to be close to our customers, get their guidance on where to focus our efforts. This means we need to build relationships and connect frequently with the customers and stakeholders of our products and services.
One excellent way to do this is with prototypes. Why are prototypes so important? They make our ideas, achievements and challenges more tangible. The customers can imagine how the future solution will add value and where we need further tweaking. In addition, it is a fun way to celebrate what we have achieved within the team.
During my observations, I realised one thing that many teams forget. Demonstrating your prototype is a great opportunity to obtain direction and priority from your customers and key stakeholders. Prepare questions that provide this guidance in key areas.
Which achievements have you been proud of? How did you demonstrate them to your customers?
A research & development centre in Shanghai employs more than 100 chemists from different business units. After bringing all these business units into one location, the technical directors identified a significant opportunity to create a better structure to collaborate across these silos. We initiated a program to harvest this opportunity and to identify new technologies across all business units driving the business in the long run. In addition, the program aimed at facilitating experience sharing and cultivating innovation and collaboration behaviour.
With the sponsorship from the regional technology and marketing leaders, we initiated a program that created different communities along application categories. Each of these communities then established a routine of brainstorming new technologies. Each cycle lasted about 3 months and focused on one focus topic supported by the sponsors. Success was based on close collaboration with marketing and engaging in creativity methods that stimulated open and human-centric thinking.
This program is in its fourth year and initiated many new projects to discover and develop new technologies; this was possible by combining the strength of multiple business units and creating hybrid solutions solving customer pain points.
In addition, we observed a new mindset cultivated among the R&D chemist. One community owner expressed it like this: "In the past when I faced a challenge, I would go back to my desk and solve it by myself. Now, I come out of the lab and reach out to my colleagues and we find solutions together." Leveraging the experience and knowledge of your peers will bring fast and high quality results. Collaboration across organisational, regional and hierarchical borders has lead to success. This program laid the foundation for this change.
Thank you for this fantastic opportunity Enshan Shen, Wu Min, Renyi Wang, Meising Ho.
The current times create a lot of disruption and uncertainty. Many try to stick to old recipes and the old normal. Still, we know we are heading into a new normal, we are in the need to find new ways to be effective, profitable and valuable. This part of the journey can be daunting and paralysing. What can we do?
In situation of conflict, confusion, disorientation I always try to review the original objectives. What did we set out to achieve at the beginning? Often this purpose brings us back to the right direction and. Today can be an excellent time to review and reflect on the Collective Dream of our organisation. What was our vision at the start of your endeavour? What are our values? What do we as a team, as individuals stand for?
Why is this important in situations of uncertainty? Isn't it better pushing hard and running forward? Here are my thoughts around this:
This Harvard Business Review article confirmed my thoughts around this topic. We might want to rush and run forward, though we might only run in the wrong direction and waste a lot of energy. Allowing yourself a pause, reflect on your purpose and then accelerate in the right direction will give you confidence to create value for the people around you.
When will you invest in reflecting your collective dream?
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?
Neuroscience has been becoming very interesting in explaining how our brain works - and hence how we behave. This article by Paul J. Zak took this practice and explained trust - not only how it works in the brain; also how we can influence this system as a leader.
Why is trust important? Comparing to low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report:
Zak went through 10 years of experimenting this topic and discovered the following. Our brain is producing a chemical called oxytocin; when more of this substance is present in our brain, we tend to be more trustworthy. This means, the amount of trust we put into the people around us is influenced by the presence of oxytocin.
His research went further and he experimented what are the levers that influence the level of oxytocin in our brains. How can we as leaders create an environment for trust - proven by neuroscience. Here are the eight findings.
How are you struggling to become a trustworthy leader? Share your story.
Thank you, Daniel Benes, for sharing the article:
Our current COVID-19 situation is accelerating at an enormous speed and we can only wish that the peak will be getting closer and all our families and friends stay healthy. At the same time, it is not all gloom - it is an excellent opportunity to take responsibility for our own excellence.
The article here - How Will things Be Different When It's All Over? - is rightly asking the question: what can we as business leaders do now to prepare for the next three phases: Rebound, Recession and Reimagination.
Rebound: are your teams aligned with a collective dream? Do we all run in the same direction? And did we establish effective collaboration routines that create transparency while avoiding micro-management? When I talk to teams struggling with working from home, I often hear that people lack motivation, trust, efficient tools, etc.
Recession: one way to react is to shut down everything - total cost management. For me another question is more forward-looking: how can we maximise value creation with the existing assets. That might mean, we can find new customer groups that have an interest in utilising our assets. And we can take the economic slow-down and review our operations and make the fit for the rebound.
Reimagination: here we can be creative and see new opportunities unfolding. And a human-centric approach will allow us to go deep in understanding our existing customers how their needs have changed. Where are the new value generation opportunities? How did preferences have changed? How can I react fast to deliver on this value? Everyone in the organisation is part of the customer journey; in my experience we all need to work closely together to create an experience for our stakeholders.
Back to the article, it suggest a few inspiring success factors:
Thank you, Daniel Benes, for sharing!
One of my core beliefs is Positive Leadership; I am supporting leaders to adopt a human-centric approach to drive operational excellence. And our recent study showed, that human-centric traits are accelerating innovation: Sustainable Innovation Requires a Solid Foundation.
Some leaders respond to me that they agree to this belief and at the same time fear that they are seen to be weak. Leaders are supposed to be strong, able to command people and need to make "tough decisions" - right? In today's world, uncertainty is accelerating and we can not rely on historic recipes; traditional leadership styles will not deliver fast and sustainable success. Based on a neuroscientific understanding, these leaders will prohibit creativity, stifle motivation and drain energy.
A human-centric personality trait is a strength for today's leaders. Empatic leaders will be able to give energy to people, they will be able instil intrinsic motivation. Giving teams a clear and meaningful direction is vital for long-lasting success. Removing the barriers to creativity and agility will lead to fast results. Be bold, follow your heart and mind, and avoid falling into old patterns.
Thank you Emmanuel, for our conversation that led to this insight.
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?
This week I coincidentally stumbled across this simple explanation of the foundation of agile. A reminder for myself - and for all of us - where does agile come from.
"A set of values and principles that guide the team’s decision making."
For example, the interaction with people is more important the processes and rules; or the collaboration with the customer is more valuable than the contract we negotiated. These will guide a team to make the right thing.
And as a leader? Give your teams a clear direction, remove barriers, motivate intrinsically, stay close with them and join the party as an equal.
What did I miss?
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?
The world is getting automated, more mundane processes are taken over by robots and all of us will be confronted to interact with smarter machines. This has an impact on the future-proof skills we require.
This McKinsey report highlights the key skills that we need to focus on for our employees:
Are you ready to solve problems with speed? Are you ready to pick-up the latest trends? How well are you collaborating beyond your silos? In my eyes, this underlies the need for new structures to create deeper understanding of the people we work with and to experiment and execute creative solutions.
Five Fifty - Soft Skills for a Hard World
"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)
This article is an excellent summary on how to be an inspiring leader and apply a coaching style. And, in my experience these five points are applicable for all of us, not only millenials.
Do you thrive while being micromanaged and kept in the dark of the big picture? Do we feel great by being exploited for the task at hand and standing in front of a huge obstacle? Aren't we all in for a long-term career across multiple organisations (and open to join an old boss)?
Let's make leadership easier for us leaders and us team members:
1. Provide structure and sharpen their focus
2. Create opportunities for growth
3. Encourage ‘quick wins’
4. Foster an environment for learning
5. Give opportunities to bolster their CVs
How to Coach Millennials
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?
The first time I saw this video (The 7 Habits) I felt so... confirmed, I think. In my experience in the business and as a father I can only attest and share many stories about how we better pull people to their success than push.
Yes, you can put people under pressure and they deliver what you want - until you let go of the pressure. If you want to create a drive in people and then they run with their own energy, isn't this a more sustainable and actually effortless approach? I think in theory this is called an eco-systematic approach; dealing with the context of a situation in a more human-centric way (yes, I need to read more about this).
How can you pull people and create an inner drive? First of all, patience. Then, here some tips:
* agree together on a meaningful purpose and on how the result will look like
* provide freedom on how to reach the result
* engage in frequent coaching conversations; ask how does it go, what are the concerns, repeat the purpose
* hey, and why not join them on their quest, on the same level - just because it is fun
What are your experiences in this field?
For the last about 150 years, we have become very good at becoming efficient. We have automated farming, manufacturing, and are full steam ahead in automating services.
In this process, we focused on making individuals and small units hyper-efficient. We looked at organisations as a system and producing in large scale based on rigid processes; using people as robots in these systems.
Today, the world is changing rapidly, predictions become less accurate and the systems don't operate in a stable environment anymore. In this context, how do we know that we are optimising the right processes and systems? Are we wasting efforts on the wrong things?
In order to be fast and successful in this uncertain environment, I suggest to focus back on the effectiveness of the overall organisation. Cultivating our relationships with peers, suppliers, customers. And, creating structures and routines which allow us to learn fast, reflect and focus on the right things.
Where do you want to reduce waste today?
Today, I have a very quick Friday Share. What is the foundation to be successful?
1) follow your dreams, values and beliefs
2) have an authentic relationship with yourself and the people and things around you
Thank you Jags Burhm for our insightful conversation today!
Happy Friday to all
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?
"The Value of Everything"
Everybody is talking about innovation and yes, it is a critical components for the sustainable success of companies - and entire societies.
This article (long read) shares the experience of successful innovation in a larger scale - how governments can push creativity and successful new solutions for cities, provinces, countries - large scale. And the result:
>> Innovation is driven by a mission <<
In detail this means:
* let's be bold and inspirational
* aim at high ambitions that are risky
* define clear timelines and results
* connect people across silos
* give research teams autonomy and allow them to experiment
How are you applying these points in your team / lab?
This economist has a plan to fix capitalism. It's time we all listened
Tim is a change practitioner in the area of innovation and excellence. He is working with teams to accelerate innovation, collaboration and agility.