Imagine, you could change your organization towards High-Performance Teams yourself – without any external organization, freelancer, or consultants.
Would you hesitate?
Based on our experience in the past 10 years, many organizations fear to change the way of working or implement new tools because of one of the following reasons:
There is a pattern to all the above statements. It is how we as Company Leaders look at the change from ourselves. But change does not happen, if we as corporate owners or leaders do not believe in it. We need to believe in what we preach; we need to be the change, we want to a see in the world. Remember, the famous story of Ghandi and sugar.
One of the most important flaw is how we look at how we change. As already discussed in an earlier article, our traditional approach to change management is flawed. It does not take today’s complexity in mind. And more often than not, we just follow wrong individual assumptions for the future.
Our belief system is based on biases, which became the norm for us, but are scientifically unproven:
And this is one of the recurring patterns, we see in most Agile Journeys to high-performance teams. It is an exclusive top-down decision how we want to change. The practices and tools we use follow a very antique and over 100-year-old view on team dynamics.
Douglas McGregor published already in 1960 a ground-breaking book titled “The Human Side of Enterprise”. Most of the people have already heard about or even read the book. It basically defines two different views on people (there is more to it, but we keep it simplified):
In workshops, we sometimes do a test and ask participants, if they believe, they are Theory Y-ers or Theory X-ers. The most people would think about themselves as theory Y-ers – especially in complex and creative environments. When asked about their team or staff, some of them would actually move and say, their staff would be Theory X-ers.
This is an interesting view: We usually see ourselves as Theory-Yers and sometimes others as Theory-Xers.
But here is a surprising truth: According to McGregor: Theory X-ers do not exist and never did.
But still, most organizational systems and structures is taking a world view into account, which does not exist.
When we want to bring new ways of working or any change into the team, we wonder, why people do not execute this change, are lost / overwhelmed or quit altogether.
If we are looking at management and organizational dynamics, change is much more effective, if we are changing our view on people:
Every organization (team, department, company, etc.) is a construct of human interactions (see also Conway’s Law). So, if you follow a plan or recipe from other people, we need to be aware, that this is always based on a different context. You can get inspired from other companies, but we recommend not to blindly copy & paste.
Every company need to find their recipe. A recipe, which exactly fits the context and purpose. Henrik Knieberg’s two-part video on Spotify’s engineering culture is a great example. Many companies believed, they can just follow the elements mentioned in the video. But they did not understand the principles and values behind those decisions. Even Knieberg himself mentions that the presented framework is a mix of who they are at that moment and who they want to become.
As a company leader, invest into identifying the principles you would like to follow. It could be the 7 principles we discussed in earlier articles. It could be the Beta Codex principles. Or it could be the heuristics from Allen Holub.
Then do not plan a final state of an organization, but think about elements in your organization, which are actually preventing you the most from getting closer to those principles. Remove those elements. Then, inspect and adapt as a team. Improve slightly to get closer to the principles.
You could do this on a company leader level. They have the power to change. However, this is imposing your way of working on other people and would reflect a theory X view on people.
Better is to let the people who are working and understanding your organization to start working on the principles. Be open to be surprised, what could happen.
For that, it is important to set up a frame, which guides the team to better autonomous decisions. The above-mentioned principles help, but more significant here is also making the Corporate Values visible and feasible: A value called “Teamwork” does not mean anything, if nobody knows, how we imagine teamwork in the company.
One company, we are working with, started using Scrum. To observe and control Scrum compliance with the right tools and practices takes a lot of time. Often compliance to policies and rules is wasted time.
So, they changed their approach: They realized that it is not relevant whether they do Scrum or not. Every team can decide their own way of working. If one team wants to do Kanban, it is fine. If another team would like to go to “Waterfall”, also ok.
They only had one principle (besides Corporate Values): They cannot change for only local optimization. If they intend to improve something, for example, change something in their process, they need to ensure that they optimize for the flow of all teams. They cannot become or build new bottlenecks.
Interestingly enough, most of the more than 30 Teams are actually using a Scrum-like way of working. Now they are collaborating team-internal and across teams, on how they can deliver software sooner, instead of checking f every team does their Daily Scrum. This is how we should build High-Performance Teams. Focus on the bigger picture of what we want to deliver. Not the individual flaws.
Do you want to know more? Read in a future article, what role management needs to play. If you want to be able to coach high-performance teams based rather on principles instead of checklists, come to our Academy for Agile Coaches.
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