Thursday, September 10, 2015

Changing the Culture Through Invitation and Engagement

Some of you know my phrase: “People are remarkably good at doing what they want to do.”
It is a down to earth way of saying: I think self-organization is the right thing. Or, I believe in freedom.
Believing in freedom does not mean Congress will always vote the way you want.  Or even vote ‘correctly’ (in 20-20 hindsight).
But it does mean that usually ‘two heads are better than one’, especially if we are reasonable in picking the Team. (I want a Team of 7 usually, not a team of 2.)  We (the leaders) put some basic constraints on the Team (eg, he Vision and ‘don’t break the law’) and NOT too many constraints, and then let’s them run.  Let the horses run!
This also applies to how we broaden the adoption of Agile.
Here is a typical scenario….
We do a pilot project in agile, with some success.
Then the Leader says: I want more of that!
The Leader must set a vision.  Usually tied to normal business goals, such as increasing customer satisfaction, higher quality, faster innovation, etc, etc. the usual stuff.  (Steve Denning talks about profits as the wrong main goal, and maybe some firms put too much emphasis there.  I agree that is an issue.  But not what I am discussing here.)
Then the Leader needs to say something like ‘We have tried some small Agile experiments.  With success.  And it looks like more ‘agile’ will help us.’  And then he needs to roughly provide a vision of Agile.  Maybe that is the Agile Manifesto and the Agile Principles.  Or something like that.  And he needs to say “Let’s see if more Agile leads to better business results. Let’s experiment more…”
He needs to get his people some education on agile. And then he needs to let them ‘figure it out’…or self-organize, decide on the details.
And they will do remarkably well, what they want to do.
Now, this does mean they need to know what they are talking about.  If they don’t know anything about physics, I think it will take them a long time (too long) to come up with E=MC(2).  So, somehow they need some education on what agile really is. Not forcing, just education.
If they ‘allow in’ good agile ideas, they will self-organize well.
Or, in any case, they will do whatever they do better than something that was forced on them.
One of the keys to success of a change is engagement of the people involved in the change.  This approach gets them engaged.  They all contribute to making the change happen.
One of the key phrases about change is: People do not resist change; they resist being changed.  And our knowledge workers are all pretty darn smart people.  Maybe some are stubborn, but all are smart.
Related to all this is a set of ideas called “Open Space Agility”.  I invite you to check them out here:

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