Help! My Company is Stuck… (Part 2)

In Part 1 of Help! My Company is Stuck, we discussed a few of the stagnating scenarios found when organizations are attempting transformative movement towards greater agility and improved culture. In part 2, we’ll dig into a few of the more challenging situations you may be experiencing.

Admittedly, many of these will require a coordinated, herculean, and multi-year effort to fix. If the will of the people to change is not there, sadly, the organization may not be able to become “unstuck.” This doesn’t mean it can’t be successful but it will probably be a painful experience. I also realize some of the following suggestions are simplistic but perhaps you can use them to get the right conversations started.

Lingering systemic dysfunctions. These are the hard, often controversial, things such as forced rankings, archaic performance management systems, and legacy yearly project budgeting procedures. The biggest of these, in my opinion, is the covert comparison or ranking of the people in the workforce. I have written about this in the past (I’m not alone) and until this approach to performance measurement is radically changed or abolished, organizations will continue to struggle to create an atmosphere conducive to full employee productivity and satisfaction.

Begin conversations early and often with Senior Leadership and Human Resources. Jurgen Appello and Management 3.0 is a good place to start for cutting edge thinking around building revolutionary systems around the needs of your employees – instead of hindering and demoralizing them.

One area or department is “more agile” than another. Agile is often introduced in one department while others are left to adjust to this new way of thinking and working. When this occurs, two or more “ecosystems” emerge with each out of sync with the other. Tension often builds between these ecosystems until ultimately, walls are raised and greater dysfunction emerges.

Expand transformation efforts into sales, business development, finance, marketing, operations, and human resources as soon as possible. Initially, this may just be a communication of transformation progress or a few initial ideas for new ways of working together. Find catalysts and advocates in other departments to begin experimenting and co-creating new ways to working together. They are out there.

Leaders defaulting to obsolete leadership styles. Many leaders continue to exhibit command-and-control (and other damaging) behaviors. Industrial age management styles and techniques will often clash with a movement to greater agility with the casualty of this conflict being the people being led. In many organizations, a new generation of leadership thinking will be necessary.

Deliberate focus on developing and transforming leadership roles. I recently posted a PDF on Servant Leadership and Agility. While Servant Leadership is certainly not the only leadership style to focus on, it is a good place to start. Here is a link to a view of how Servant Leadership principles connect with other principles (such as agile and lean) to support an ecosystem of agility. Work with your training department or develop your own leadership training materials but get started by putting a strong emphasis on radically changing the leadership message at your organization.

Managers in an abyss. Even those people considered to be strong servant leaders aren’t sure what their purpose is in an agile organization. They were the ones assigning work and determining how best to build things. Now, they aren’t sure where they belong or what their purpose is. Often, the people who report to them are working on teams where their manager has no visibility into their work.

Connect with and coach your managers. Coach managers on their importance in developing and supporting people. Guide them to the importance of their presence in sprint review session and how they can be an amazing encourager of their people. Transformations gather a tremendous boost when your managers are active and engaged in the movement. They are often the most eager to change but the last to be invited.

The trigger for this post (and part one) are the number of people who have recently been sharing with me stories of how their workplace is causing them to be emotionally and physically drained. High-blood pressure, unable to sleep, unsustainable work load, and family tensions are just a few of the side effects I am hearing. I believe we need a few passionate catalyst to begin moving organizations out of the current arrangement many people are in. Steve Denning says it best.

If an organization is expecting any transformation (agile or otherwise) to be the spark for a workplace renaissance or a dramatic change in culture, the desire to overcome these scenarios (and many more not covered here) must be overwhelming.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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