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.
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
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
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?
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
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?
This year, I am celebrating my 10 year anniversary as a practitioner in the field of change management. I started to get curious about the topic while I was deep in implementing knowledge management programs at a multinational company. We were constantly presenting new ways of working to our colleagues and it was natural to get closer to the levers of facilitating change.
Admittedly, Change Management is not the most popular term and yes, I am not using it a lot either. Still in my heart I know, I found my calling in this profession. On the one hand, I am always eager to look at performance and improvements. On the other hand, I like to connect with people and I am curious about how they are interacting with each other. Both topics are very tightly interlinked. New systems, processes and organisations only unfold their potential when they are embraced by the people involved in them. And, we can only design great systems, processes and organisations, when we deeply understand the human actors in it.
The way I look at the change management is holistic. This means, I suggest that we go beyond the simple implementation of (for example) a new software tool; a better way is to look at the journey and the larger ecosystem where this software is supposed to add value. In this sense, my focus is on how can I enable people to embrace and grow with the constant change that is happening around them. How can we bring more antifragility to the people and to the organisation. in my eyes, this has a lot to do with culture and leadership. How can we create the right space between people that they can grow together; and as a leader, how can I provide a platform that gives people passion and ownership.
How did I get started? In the beginning I read a lot of different books and articles about the topic and followed a course or two. And about four years ago, I also started with my certification. I can really recommend to get in touch with the global Association for Change Management Professionals (ACMP); you can find great, like-minded people and lots of resources. They have developed a great professional standard and I like their certification path. Though, most important is to be exposed and learn on the job - consciously applying what you think is right, try new things and develop your own practice.
I want to thank the people that strongly supported me on this path: San-Daleen, Jerome, Sandra, Michael, Björn and many others!
In my practice, I am often talking about three different topics: change management, operational excellence and innovation. For many people, they are very different concepts and many companies assign these to different departments. What makes them so distinct? Or are they not?
For me, they are strongly supporting each other and tightly interlinked. Let's start with innovation. This topic is about creating and implementing new solutions. Change management is supporting innovation by driving the change (behaviours) that the new solution will bring. And according to some studies, about 80% of the innovation are incremental, operational improvements, while still disruptive.
In the same way, operational excellence is strongly supported by innovation methods in order to discover crazy ideas. And, in my experience, change management practices support to engage the people and motivate them bring better results.
Lastely, for me change management is directed at improving the business. This can only happen by cultivating an innovation mindset and driving operational excellence across the entire organisation.
So, instead of distributing these three topics in different corners of your organisation, bring them together. Some successful companies have one (Transformation or Excellence) team which can be the driver for company-wide innovation which includes operational excellence and has strong change management practices.
How do you bring innovation, change management and operational excellence closer together?
In the last post, I shared arguments to shift from command & control to guide & facilitate leadership. What does that actually mean? What are the new leadership routines? In the context of positive leadership, I am promoting two key activities for an effective leaders: establish a collective dream and actively let go.
Let me start with one question: as a leader, are you controlling your entire ship? And is that actually something you want to achieve? How can you ensure that all relevant information is coming to your desk? What are you levers to motivate your teams to follow your vision? What is the behavioural impact of taking central control? And, do you want to take this burden on yourself? This approach of running your organisation might lead to bottlenecks, people not performing to their potential, and slow-down of the organisation and the people. So, how can I engage in the two key activities and give control away?
The start is to create a collective dream (guide); a dream because we want to evoke passion; collective because the dream is created and lived by everyone in the organisation. One important result of this collective dream is that everyone is looking at lasting success, and this is based on a balance between delivering positive outcome and developing the organisation and the people to become better. Here some suggestions:
In one of my recent coaching engagements we talked about this collective dream in the context of a people initiative. While we discussed the objectives and the motivation around this initiative, it became apparent that the goals of the people responsible for the implementation where not aligned with the business intention. We identified a potential resistance and started to work on the alignment of the objectives.
Once this meaningful direction is established, the second activity is to actively let go (facilitate). With this we start to increase decision-making power at the front (where the information is). Here the qualities of curiosity, appreciation and learning are so important. As a leader, you start to appreciate the capabilities and progress people are making; you are curious to discover new approaches to solve problems, and you are experiencing that you can still learn a lot. Key activities in while letting go are:
Coming back to the coaching engagement above, we identified that the regional expert acted as a central node of expertise. This created bottlenecks and hindered learning across the regional group. We then established regular sessions where we facilitated conversations between the local experts that they can share their practices and ask for direct support from peers.
This example also shows that we are creating leaders on all levels. And in my experience, providing guidance via a collective dream is often well understood. Though, many leaders are still afraid to let go.
What hinders you to let go and give control to your people?
Command and control leadership style is outdated - we heard this many times. What makes it outdated? What are the alternatives? How can we establish the right routines for a new leadership approach? There are many debates around this topic and I feel I want to share my belief and opinion.
Control - let's start with this as many of us have experienced it in form of micro-management. Frequent status update meetings ask if the projects are on the right track. Senior managers churn out roadmaps and give milestones on what needs to be achieved by when. An army of analysts provide reports on a number of data points. All this machinery is in my eyes blocking ownership; there seems to be no leeway for experimentation and leveraging experience.
In my experience, people at the front know best where to improve and where we can reduce friction. Though, they need an environment where they can connect with diverse experts and experiment with different options. The objective here is to learn, make quick decisions and continuously improve and excel. As a leader, we need to be the facilitator for this environment, removing bottlenecks, allocating resources, and connecting the right people. And, this requires a big picture direction...
Command - the second dimension is more nuanced. Managers might give commands, telling people what to do and giving them very little room to explore their own methods and defining their own objectives. Again, this is close to micro-management and the lack of freedom where to go is stifling creativity and a growth mindset. At the same time, a commander's responsibility is to give people a purpose and direction, and keeping the teams aligned with a bigger purpose. The big question here: are we creating followers or leaders?
In my experience, I have seen often a gap between a nice mission statement and how people perceive this is impacting their daily work. People need a high-level direction that allows them to define their daily priorities. And, everyone should be involved in defining this high-level direction to add their 'local' expertise and for better adoption. As a leader, we need to be the guide to jointly develop a collective dream. And then, coach the teams to translate this dream into a meaningful direction for themselves.
Based on these arguments, I propose to switch from command & control to guide & facilitate leadership. In short, I prefer to call it positive leadership which focuses on appreciation, coaching, curiosity and learning.
Where do you see the pitfalls of command & control?
Image credit: Konrad Frost, Volvo Ocean Race
When is the last time that you have been frustrated that you have not reached your objectives? This might be a personal fitness objective, an ambitious result for your sport or a project deliverable at work. In my practice, I observe that most people are setting goals that seem to be unachievable. Which can lead to frustration and in the best case, lack of celebration. Is this in itself a bad thing?
Setting high ambitions are a great thing. They can induce passion and purpose we want to strive for. This collective dream brings the members of a team together, they create alignment and meaning. There is no doubt, ambitions and objectives are essential. And this collective dream makes us start the journey. Though, they are not good to sustain our motivation.
A true, deep motivation requires that we are disconnecting enjoyment from the actual achievement of the goal. This means, we appreciate the journey that leads towards our ambition. As a swimmer, I have the ambition to reach a certain result in an open water competition. Though, I enjoy the preparation and training that leads to achieving this result; this keeps me motivated. Similarly at work, while we set a specific goal to bring our operations to excellence, we appreciate what we are learning along the way. The goal is almost an excuse to create a journey of excellence.
In order to build this motivation, I suggest to keep reminding yourself about the feeling that is created by the activities (and micro-achievements) that lead towards your big picture goal. Make the journey worthwhile and valuable in itself. Then you might never lose momentum to reach your collective dream!
What are your new resolutions for 2021? The start of the new year is usually the opportunity to rethink our priorities, to trigger new behaviour, and to create a new, positive momentum for personal growth.
In the last few days, while asking people about their 2021 priorities, I heard a few times the same thing: "I need to see what my boss tells me". And to be honest, I was a bit shocked. Who is owning your priorities?
Here is what I think: work is part of our life; a considerable part of our life and our well-being and our achievements in our job is defining the success we feel in our entire life. Therefore, I think it is important to first understand what we want to achieve in our life overall. In 10, 20 years, what is the life we want to look back at? What are the fundamental values that define me as a person.
Based on this we can then see how our current work fit into our life ambition. How does our career contribute to the betterment of ourselves? In this sense, now at the start of the year, I suggest to start to think in two steps:
Start 2021 with a new resolution: take ownership and be proactive!
A special year is coming to an end and I want to thank all my families, friends, network and followers for your encouragement, conversations and learning opportunities. Despite all the difficult moments, I think I have been lucky and grateful of all the things that have happened - maybe it is by choice?
The New Year is coming and if we can predict one thing, it will be different from the past. Will it be better? I think, this depends on what we make out of it, right? For myself and for all the great people around me, I wish that we are getting ready for what will come. First, I think we will need curiosity to discover the opportunities; we want to understand our passion that gives us a big picture direction. And then, let's start with small steps towards this collective dream, and building together with our network of people.
Wish you a fantastic start of the New Year!
In the last few weeks we all observed a sentiment of fatigue. Many of us feel exhausted of what the year 2020 brought to us and are craving for the festive break. Why did this happen?
From my perspective, I can see two things that have contributed to this feeling of wanting to pause. One is external; the continuous uncertainty of what is coming next. The widespread consequence of the reaction to the pandemic has created big shifts on the economy, how we work and how we interact with our family and friends. The second element is more internal; due to the environment, many of us reacted with activism directed at keeping the lights on, stemming the impressions and impact from the ecosystem, and simply putting the head down and keep running. In this situation many of us stopped pausing and reflecting on the bigger picture. Budgeting and forecasting were not done properly because the felt meaningless. Any long term plan was avoided because we were in survival mode.
Today, when I look back at the last 12 months, I can see many accomplishments and great opportunities for the future. We have learned about many new possibilities which we can leverage. For example, focusing on the essence when forecasting, improving the way we discover the needs of our customers, crating flexibility how we are working, strengthening the work environment with a focus on the value of our people, and connecting to friends in a more meaningful way.
Last month, McKinsey published an article - Overcoming pandemic fatigue: How to reenergize organizations for the long run - that outlines five key points how we can go "beyond grit and perseverance". Which was for me a reminder of the relevance of the Wheel of Antifragility we at Hive17 Consulting have developed.
We believe that these four pillars establish an environment and a culture that enables short-term benefits that evolve into lasting success.
How are you looking forward into the New Year?
Tim is a change practitioner in the area of innovation and excellence. He is working with teams to accelerate innovation, collaboration and agility.