Tecna Editrice published one of my article “Decision Making: a framework for today’s leaders [italian]“.
The article is based on the studies coming from Stacey and his matrix about simple, complicated and complex systems and the Cynefin framework created by Snowden.
Click HERE to read it.
January the 27th I help the webinar “Soft skills of an Agile Project Leader” for the PMI Rome Italy Chapter.
Here below the links to the video and presentation.
The PROSCI® ADKAR change management model is one of the most CM methodology used in the world (see previous post for details).
Change Management, still today, is largerly misunderstood when it comes to change any organizational process, approach, system, tool. These innovative stimulus are mostly thought as “simple” substitution of old stuff with new one, underestimating the impact on the people side.
That’s where Change Management comes into play.
The past three days I have been in Milan attending an intensive, challenging but amazing three days course held by Interactive Learning Solutions, about the PROSCI ADKAR Change Management methodology.
I remained astonished of how much knowledge is necessary when dealing with this kind of program: dedicated processes, tools, approaches, which impact on several different areas like communication, project management, leadership, sponsorship, training, coaching.
How Agile & Lean transformations help organizations in achieving business agility?
What are the seeds, foundations, pillars that sustain this goal?
Agile and Lean are effective methodologies which can help in achieving business agility by optimizing the processes involved in the creation of value for customers (Lean) and aligning people, giving them context, vision and resources, to be responsive and creative to build innovative products (Agile).
Let’s see what “business agility” means exactly.
Business agility is the “ability of a business system to rapidly respond to change,
by adapting its initial stable configuration” [Wikipedia]
This system must be responsive enough, to sense a change that is coming and reconfigure its internal structure, to adequately respond and thus finding a new stable balance.
One of the crucial characteristic the system should have is resilience (see previous post).
Let’s elaborate a bit more.
Business agility can be achieved by maintaining and adapting
goods and services to meet customer demands, adjusting to the changes
in a business environment and taking advantage of human resources.
Thus, agility is the ability of an organization to rapidly adapt to market
and environmental changes in productive and cost-effective ways. [Wikipedia]
Human beings are obviously the most important factor an organization has to leverage when it’s time to change.
This is the reason why the agile manifesto states “Individuals and Interactions, over processes and tools” as the first value to achieve agility.
Furthermore, when it’s time to change many factors must be taken in the right account:
- How will people react to this change (change management)?
- What kind of leadership will drive the change (leadership models)?
- How will decisions be made (decision making framework)?
- What tools and techniques will be used to oprimize processes and solve problems (lean thinking)?
The agile enterprise is an extension of this concept, referring to an organization
that utilizes key principles of complex adaptive systems and complexity science
to achieve success. One can say that business agility is the outcome
of Organizational intelligence. [Wikipedia]
Scaling agile accross the enterprise means to enter the land of complexity, where no best neither good rules and receipts exist.
What you can do, as an agile change agent, is to know and experience a lot about:
- change management (kotter, adkar, Satir, etc.),
- decision making (cynefin framework, problem solving, etc.),
- lean thinking (value stream analysis, lean canvas, lean change, lean startup, etc.),
- Agile at team level (Scrum, Kanban, XP, etc.),
- Agile at scale (SAFe, DAD, LESS, etc.),
January, Tue the 27th I will conduct a webinar for the PMI Rome Chapter at 1.00 PM.
The topic regards the soft skills a Project leader shoud have to success in Agile projects.
70% of change efforts fail or do not reach the expected results. This is real for any change management program, also for the ones related to an agile transition. Why and how to enable the new behaviors, approaches, rules, to take root in the corporate culture?
Changing is hard work.
Any human being, by his very nature, seeks balance, repetitiveness, usual rythms, constant pace. This stability is the necessary precondition to pursue any other objective.
According to the Maslow’s pyramid, he needs to satisfy any physiological and safety necessity before being able to look for a sense of belonging, self-esteem and actualyzation.
This means that only when a good level of solidity in those primary elements is reached, is possible for that individual to seek for performance, improvements.
Organizations are made by people. Any organization pursues stability as well. It happens, though, that its status-quo is continuously challenged by factors like new needs of the market, more aggressive competitors, new laws or regulations.
These challenges often become threats, affecting its sense of safety (i.e. market share reduction, decrease of revenues, etc.) and this imposes the organization to change.
The question in these cases is how to change an organization to be more effective, performing and competitive, being disruptive in the market, but sustaining the people in the change process and contemporarily assuring the change takes root in the corporate culture?
The ADKAR® Change Model
One of the most famous and used model for change management, is the ADKAR® Prosci model.
This model is mainly considered as an individual change management model, but it can be easily derived and transposed for homogeneous groups of people like teams, departments, etc.
It is easy to understand because it addresses the natural order of how a person experiences change. The word ADKAR is an acronym:
A - awareness
D – desire
K – knowledge
A – ability
R – reinforcement
The model suggests a simple process that helps to guide people through the awareness of the need for change, instilling firstly the desire to be part of such a change, helping them to develop their knowledge and transforming it into new abilities.
The last (very important) step is to reinforce these new behaviors, habits and competences, by anchoring them to the new organization success, creating, de-facto, a new corporate culture.
Change means stepping out of the comfort zone, actually moving in a context of uncertainties. This provokes stress and could strongly impact the sense of safety of any individual.
Facing uncertainty presupposes the capacity to deal with risks, to move between hypothesis, ability to use an empirical approach to act, inspect the results and hence adapt the behavior.
To help people abandon their comfort zone, it is necessary to explain the why: why this change is so important.
Kotter in his change model, defines this as “Create a sense of urgency“. And, to do this effectively, it is necessary to clearly communicate the compelling reasons, avoiding any rumors or misunderstandings.
It is important to communicate frequently, by using different channels, in differen manners, to objectively state these reasons, strongly connecting them to external observable drivers and measures,
It is not sufficient to just create awareness, you need to literally install the desire to change. Motivation here is paramount.
The leaders who are driving the change, need to understand what are the intrinsic levers of the involved people to maneuver.
They definitely need to clarify the what and the how of the change.
In this phase it is necessary to sustain the the wider, global and less distinct communication the organization is making, with a more specific, personal one, with one to one communication or communicating with limited local groups of people (teams, small departements, offices, etc.).
The categories of workers who are in charge to do that are the supervisors, the line managers, the ones who are coordinating small portions of the population that will be impacted by the change.
They should know their people and how to motivate them.
Once the desire to change has been successfully created, it’s time to move one, giving the people the possibilities, tools and right resources to develop their knowledge according to the new necessities.
A good training program must be drawn up by firstly assessing the real skills of everyone about the desired level to achieve.
This assessment should take into account any psychological, intellectual and physical capability of the people involved, to be sure to deliver the right typology and level of training, for any homogeneous group of people.
This is a really important concept and a core level of the ADKAR® change management model.
To let a new knowledge become new ability, time is necessary, practice is necessary, coaching is necessary.
Time helps the brain to rearrange the information, creating new connections. But this alone is not sufficient.
Any new knowledge must be reinforced by reviewing it and, most important, practicing it as soon as possible.
One of the most Confucius famouos quotes says:
What I hear, I forget.
What I see, I remember.
What I do, I understand.
In order to help practitioners to correctly act the new skills, it is necessary to correct any disfunctionality and, vicevera, reinforce any good behavior.
Here the support of a coach is foundameental and the role of the supervisors or line manager continue to be central and vital to address the growth of their collaborators.
These leader must create a safety environment where failure is allowed and when success is reached, this must be celebrated, even small-wins.
Recognitions and awards must be specifically studied.
Changing is hard work, even more if considering that the experience says that many of the modifications of the corporate culture occurs at the end of the planned change process.
Failing in communicating the need for change, thinking that creating awareness is sufficient instead of also installing the desire for change, or even allowing too much complacency or forgetting to sustain and reinforce the change in the long-term, most of, the times opens the doors to a general roll-back to the old habits.
Everyday the world is changing.
New opportunities, threats, challenges arise and need to be exploited, mitigated, accepted or rejected. Everyday we are asked to change ourselves, the organizations we live, in order to achieve goals, to realize dreams.
How can we enable that change and let it take root and persist over time?
It seems that systemic coaching, applied to change management, could be an effective answer.
Coaching is fascinating.
A mean to reach objectives. Facilitating others to achieve their goals, clearing situations, defining expectations, in a transparent and honest manner, it is often illuminating.
Coaching is art.
Something you must study, but only if carefully practiced continuosly, with passion, attention and curiosity, it can become an effective mean for reaching important goals.
Coaching is helpful.
It helps an individual (or group, organization, etc.), who wants to achieve an objective, to explore and assess the situation, enumerate possibilities and options, make a plan and, finally, work on those activities, remaining always present and tackling any variance, to see if, behind it, there’s an opportunity to exploit or a risk to avoid.
Coaching is hard work.
Change is hard and, furthermore, to let any change happens and last in time, it should not forgotten to take in good consideration also the context where the change is applied.
Everyone is part of a system and both, the part and the system, must work together, according to a clear vision and with the same or similar macro-objectives.
Cause and Effect
A first important consideration regards the expected effect an action should cause and, respect to that, when it should be visible in terms of results.
Any change activities will have effects. Most of them could have great impact, aiming to change somehow the current situation, the status-quo.
The bigger the impact, the bigger the system where it is supposed to happen, the more attention must be taken into account.
When it is time to change the status-quo, for sure, much energy will be created. Vortices, gusts of wind, restraining forces and sudden accelerations will be experienced in the context where the change is happening.
This is the reason why, everytime a change is requested, it is necessary to be concentrated not only on the part who is driving the change and the corresponding ones that are directly addressed, but it is necessary, indeed, to have an olistic vision that considers also any response from the whole system.
Changing a system can be arduous, the system doesn’t care who or what it entangles, it just tries to maintain the balance, to achieve coherence.
This means that forgetting the whole, maybe we could even inject some changes, but the results could be too small or too specific to bring a lasting change. Probably, in a few time, those changes are rolled back, expelled as a foreign body.
A Systemic Vision
Every system has its own nature, conformation, and history.
Places, people, things.
Relationships have evolved during time and conditioned the systems by establishing interests, instituting habits, sometimes pursuing hidden desires and ambitions, hiding fears.
Systemic coaching could help in discovering such relations.
It states, as a rule of thumb, that every system, to be understood, should be considered taking into account the following three important factors.
The time within which the system has developed. The periods, the people who joined and left. What (or who) came first, has a natural precedence over what followed.
Everything that was part of the system, modified it somehow and had responsibilities, could have contributed to brought success or failures, have characterized the whole.
All systems will balance out a time precedence that has been denied.
Everything that influences or is influenced by the system, is actually part of the system.
Everything or everyone who is part of the system has the right to a place in the system: its unique place.
If someone is forgot or excluded, the system will balanced out it.
Every part of the system is directly or indirectly connected with the other parts.
In order to have healthy relationships between entities in the system, a dynamic balance of giving and receiving is required in a system.
Any disparity and selfishness will be compensated and levelled out by other items in the system, too much generosity, viceversa, will be forgotten.
Homeostasis, thus, is a very important property of a system: variables are regulated so that internal conditions remain stable and relatively constant. Forgetting this simple rule and neglecting any of the factors above, could be not only ineffective for the change to happen, but also harmful for the entire system.
What is resilience and why is it so important nowadays?
Resilience is the ability of an individual, community, system to intervene in situation of stress, trying to cope with such a situation by responding actively with proper actions, developing new behaviors, using formal and informal networks to absorb the shock.
Darwin said that the species which survive are not the strongest neither the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.
It seems, hence, that responsiveness and adaptation are the most important abilities and that resilience is a very important ingredient.
Wikipedia defines a system as a set of things, working together, as parts of a mechanism or an interconnecting network: a complex whole.
System science defines resilience as the system’s ability to withstand perturbations, without losing its equilibrium state.
When a system is resilient?
A resilient system has a modular internal structure, which allows to a quick and smart reconfiguration in case of need, thanks to its small, internal pieces. Taking for example the Lego construction, there is a finite number of main building blocks, which can be assembled and disassembled easily to crate new buldings, veichles, etc.
Another important factor of resilient systems is that their constituent internal modules should be simple and auto-consistent within its core. Each one with common traits, but somehow specialized in terms of behaviors, with different kind of interfaces but being able to connect the world outside in a simple manner.
Coming back again to Lego, every piece has its own nature: single or double size, different lenght, colors, shapes, but everyone has clear mechanisms and joints (interfaces) which allows the player to combine them in new bigger pieces which, in turn, can combined with other items.
Additionally, it seems that Redudancy is an important characteristic as well, because having on board different parts with similar attributes, helps to substitute quickly any “broken” peers.
This kind of systems communicate both internally and externally continually.
From the outside it senses and receives signals thanks to its probes and sensors.
Internally, the many constituent parts are influenced and influence the behavior of the other parts, by exchanging messages, giving positive and negative reinforcement, feedback.
One common factor is that these systems are able to gather and process multiple, huge data.
Another important trait is that, in case of problems or urgent necessity of a part, the peers around should be able to reconfigure themselves in order to support, supply or substitute the former.
This implies a degree of redudancy within the fragile connections and the capacity to decouple quickly from any connection.
Resiliency can be understood and developed only by keeping an olistic and fractal vision: the system, which is in turn part of a bigger system, is made-up of sub-systems, components, single parts, which have their nature, characteristics and behaviors.
If this vision is forgotten, the risk is to create fragile system which are not really integrated in the environment and, therefore, more subject to failure under strong pressure or perturbations.
Said that, being able to have an olistic vision means also that, between the many constituent parts, there’s transparency: anything is clear, visible, in terms of objectives, rules, data, behaviors, communications.
Every part, sub-system, system, must be thought as a long-lived, self-organized, intelligent entity, where diversity and redundancy are paramount to survival and evolution.
Resilience in Human Beings
The human being is a complex adaptive systems (CAS).
An entity consisting of many diverse and autonomous components which are interrelated, interdependent, connected through several interconnections, and behave as a unified whole, continuosly learning and experiencing the world, reacting and adjusting to changes in the environment.
Resilience can be considered the glue, the constituent element for those components, which gives the capacity to the entire system to adapt, mitigate, evolve.
When human beings join and work together towards a common goal, they form a new, bigger complex adaptive systems, called teams.
Build successfull teams is hard work.
Every part of the team system, each member, is a complex system itself and need to collaborate with others to find solutions, to reach the goals.
When facing complexity these teams must work in a safe environment, a place where is possible to fail, where experimenting is normal and the best, fast way to learn, is to fail. The mantra for these teams is: “Fail fast, fail often“.
Trust is mandatory, otherwise no cooperation will happen.
But, what makes a team a resilient one?
A resilient team accepts changes, adapts its behaviors even in case of crisis, self-organizing to find solutions.
One important aspect is its capacity to develop redundant professional skills around the weak points.
Let’s say for example that the team has two junior analysts and a senior one, these teams perform several pairing sessions between them to leverage the knowledge of the analysts.
Yet another example, let’s say we have just one tester that is completely overwhelmed by the many testing activities, the other members help learning how to test, how to automate testing, in order to ease the bottleneck.
Diversity is another important factor. Diversity in professional attitudes, gender, race, age.
To react quickly in case of urgencies, asks for a strong capacity to storm around problems, find solutions, alternatives.
Lateral thinking is an important aspect of these teams and diversity seems to be a aignificant attribute.
These teams are also able to activate and navigate informal networks to have answers, solve problems, grow their experience.
But, finally, there’s no great teams without great leaders.
A great leader is someone who is passionate about human beings, who primarily develops people, then processes and things.
A person who has the capacity to modulate her styles of communicating and leading, to decentralize part of her control to teams, giving them space to be creative and solve problems.
These leaders are resilient persons. They are connectors, create communities, are moderators, facilitators, social engineers.
They know the importance of self-organization, redundancy, diversity, crativity, and the fact that these characteristics are expensive to develop and maintain, but is the only approach to thrive, sometimes to survive in the complexity land.
They are attentive to behavioral patterns, are transparent, francs, assertive, good at negotiating. They are generous, but able to commit and focus themselves to challenging objectives, able to find trade offs.
These people tend to avoid any form of complacency and remain present to themselves, probing and sensing the environment where they live, to understand what is changing and, iteratively, improving existing skills and develop new ones.
A never ending transformational process .