A Valuable 2-Day Masterclass for Leaders and their Direct Reports –
Getting results applying Agile, Lean & DevOps is common but usually relies on a handful of people who carry most of the weight because they are excited by the new tools and methods. These early adopters act as champions of change and are essential at the start of an IT transformation. For change to persist, innovation to be sustained and continuously improved, everyone needs to be engaged!
This is where effective leadership is crucial. Using hands-on exercises and role play, this workshop will position you to understand and experience the key behaviors needed to effectively lead Agile, Lean IT & DevOps teams through an enterprise transformation.
Currently, most DevOps, Lean IT, and Agile transformations are not led by CIOs. They are often led by the director of operations, chief architect, or director of development. It is good these people have been given the authority and/or responsibility to introduce a significant change in the way work gets done. But there is a potential downside: without the vision, alignment, and commitment a CIO brings to the discussion, these efforts can collapse for many reasons including lack of commitment across the entire IT service delivery value stream, conflicting priorities, entrenched silos within IT, lack of internal coaching and support, and overburden of bottleneck resources (just to name a few).
The success of the transformation begins and all too often ends, based on the degree the CIO and their direct reports actively lead and authentically connects. To lead people effectively, leaders need to understand the “Why,” the “What,” and the “How.” This is a mindset, skill set, and toolset that needs to be learned, practiced, and adjusted based on the culture of the specific organization and the challenges they encounter. Leaders throughout the organization must be able to connect with people at a very real and meaningful level that fosters trust, transparency, respect, and new ways of working across silos. This is tricky stuff for almost everyone and the CIO is the pivotal influencer of how seriously and deeply people will go to make their transformation succeed.
Have you ever issued what you thought was an inspiring challenge for your team, only to discover they were underwhelmed and far from motivated? Many organizations that have mission statements displayed in their lobby, company values laminated on the back of employee badges, and team banners hung from rafters proclaiming lofty goals – but it may not be surprising that when their people are asked, “What do you do here and why is your work important to you?” most look puzzled and perplexed as they attempt to articulate an answer. This response is global: from the U.S. to Europe to Asia to South America – over 75 percent of people I speak with seem to lack a meaningful challenge which serves as a source of motivation, caring and commitment.
In Lead with Respect, one of the core practices is to create a meaningful challenge. How does creating a meaningful challenge demonstrate respect for people? Why is it so important that the people on your team perceive the challenge as meaningful on an individual and personal level? When people understand goals and objectives, acknowledge them as having relevance, and feel they can trust co-workers and leaders, profound levels of engagement and self-initiated involvement emerge.
The challenge must be clear
Often challenges are vague aspirations which mean different things to different people. For example, “To delight our customers by delivering outstanding value” may sound like a worthy goal, but most people find it difficult to translate into specific behaviors which can be modeled, coached and measured. People need to understand the why of their work and identify with its importance in order to deeply care about outcomes. In other words, people need to clearly understand the why before they will genuinely care about the how and the what! (See Simon Sinek’s TED talk classic Start with Why). When the reasons why are distorted, vague or left undefined, there is little personal commitment to performance and even less motivation for improvement.
Clarity is not enough
Clarifying the reason why the work is important is a good start but it may still lack the motivational power to engage people at a visceral, deep-seated level. How do you know if your people understand the challenge and find it meaningful enough to be inspired to take action?
One approach is to simply ask them, “Do you feel our team has a meaningful challenge?” They will most likely say, “Yes.” Be sure to follow it up by asking, “Why?” and “Can you give me a specific example of how our challenge was meaningful and motivated you?” These conversations show respect for people through honest dialogue. Focus more on listening than on speaking during these encounters. Look for examples of behavior (physical acts) that are tied to the challenge. If the challenge truly is meaningful and clearly understood, people have no difficulty describing it and drawing a recent example of how they were guided to take action because of it.
How does this fit in with go & see?
The next time you are at the gemba, watch and listen for evidence that a meaningful challenge is part of the discussion. Is the challenge understood and shared? How frequently does it come up in conversation and how is it used? Are people inspired by the challenge or discouraged, intimidated, or detached as a result of it? Can you connect people’s actions back to the challenge? How does the team know they are winning or losing (reaching their goals)? Do they care and if so, why do they care?
Take a look, reflect, and experiment
Leading with Respect is all about engaging hearts and minds and moving beyond people simply giving the minimum effort, going through the motions, or only doing what they are told to. When a meaningful challenge is present, people care at a personal level and join together as a team to find the energy, creativity and commitment needed to meet the challenge. It’s a beautiful thing to see! Take an honest assessment of your challenge and its effectiveness at creating motivational impact on behavior. Ask these questions to yourself and to your team and reflect on your current condition. If your need to improve the effectiveness of your challenge, develop a countermeasure and run an experiment to learn more deeply about the impact of a meaningful challenge on your team’s level of engagement, commitment and self-assumed accountability.
This post was also published by the Lean Enterprise Institute here.