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.
I wrote this post for the Lean Enterprise Insitute.
I was recently talking with the CEO of a large insurance company who said, “our people seem to know Lean concepts and tools, but they are not being Lean as they go about their daily work!” If this sounds familiar then read on.
After years of training, workshops, and books on Lean and continuous process improvement, most organizations applying Lean have not realized the performance breakthrough and cultural shift they had hoped for. I have visited numerous organizations who have invested years undertaking Lean activities (value stream mapping, A3 problem solving, visual management, leader standard work, Kaizen, etc.) but have little to show for their efforts in terms of sustained value stream performance, quality, productivity, effectiveness, safety, and efficiency gains.
This is an issue we as a community need to take an honest look at. Perhaps there are some missing elements that we need to be considering. Is it possible that we’ve gone on “autopilot” and are just going through the motions without engaging our minds? Have we become robotic in our Lean thinking and doing? Have we become so comfortable with the knowledge of Lean that we have lost touch with the being of Lean?
Shifting out of autopilot
A state of being known as mindfulness presents a path forward. Mindfulness is defined as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.” Mindfulness has gained lots of attention in the business press over the past decade. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) journal Preventing Chronic Disease reported: “Approximately 1 in 7 workers report engagement in some form of mindfulness-based activity, and these individuals can bring awareness of the benefit of such practices into the workplace.”
Four Levels of Awareness
You are probably familiar with the classic four stages of awareness:
- Unconscious Incompetence – blissful ignorance (not knowing that you don’t know something)
- Conscious Incompetence – painful awareness (realizing that you don’t know something)
- Conscious Competence – intentional awareness (knowing what you know and don’t know)
- Unconscious Competence – unaware but knowledge and experience has taken over
Initially described as “Four Stages for Learning Any New Skill”, the theory was developed by Noel Burch in the 1970s.
Isn’t it interesting that unconsciousness competence emphasized the autopilot nature of our thinking? Perhaps this works for a few people, but the rest of us would be better served relying on mindfulness and conscious competence to develop deeper levels of focus, analysis, experimentation, reflection, and learning. To that end, please consider the following model:
Four levels of awareness: Knowing, Understanding, Doing, and Being
(see image above)
A good place to start
Knowing is where we typically begin by training people in Lean Basics: principles, systems, and tools that make up the Lean body of knowledge. While knowing key concepts and models is certainly needed, by itself knowing does not necessarily lead to major changes in behavior. I may know eating pizza is not good for my health but that knowing does not stop me from ordering a large pizza most Friday nights!
Understanding occurs when we mentally process the new information we have learned, compare it to what we know and don’t know, and create context and perspective. We reconcile the new knowledge to give it meaning in relation to everything else we believe we understand.
But even solid understanding does not drive sustained changes in behavior. John Shook addressed this issue in his landmark Lessons from NUMMI article in 2010. In that piece, he wrote, “It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than to think your way into a new way of acting.” This key insight is attributed to Millard Fuller, Founder of Habitat for Humanity.
Activity with mixed results
Doing is where many organizations find themselves – they are diligently putting up team boards, updating metrics, holding team stand up meetings, updating A3’s, developing countermeasures, going to the gemba, and so on. There is a concerted effort to accomplish the tasks of continuous improvement. Kaizen events, team huddles, and the Lean Management System have been determined a success, but at the end of the day, not much has changed!
Let’s pause here: how accurate is it to suggest that “not much has changed?” If we define change in terms of sustained gains in value stream performance, quality, productivity, effectiveness, safety, and efficiency gains. Go take a walk around your company and honestly assess the level of sustained gains when viewed through this lens of awareness.
Just as understanding is needed for clarity around the “why” and “what” of Lean, doing is the action needed to close the gap between where we are and where we want to be. Someone once said, “A tool is only as useful as the user.” If a team using Lean is operating at knowing, understanding, or doing level, problems not deeply understood, changes are temporary, and solutions seldom sustained. We can often find ourselves so absorbed with the challenges of achieving our daily work goals that we lose focus and reliance on process improvement – we are doing Lean, but we are not being Lean.
To move to action, we need to move from understanding to doing. However, to sustain the change, people must progress to the next level of awareness – being.
Being is a whole new ballgame
Being is the calm, focused state of mind where we are fully present and aware of what is here, right now. When we are in this state, the mind is nonjudgmental and accepting of the current situation. Acceptance does not mean approval; it means that we grasp the situation for what it truly is, in order to take steps to improve the situation and close the gap. With acceptance, we do so with a clarity of mind and calmness of thought that leads to a state of allowing things to be as they are while moving towards an improved target state.
Acceptance, acknowledgment, and allowing things to be as they are versus resisting, judging them, or putting up excuses for them, gives us a powerful edge for direct observation which often reveals underlying contributing factors to the current conditions.
Being delivers a key element that is missing from doing: a space for the mind to be more relaxed, more creative, and less stressed. As we become more present and focused on the moment directly here and now, the mind becomes calm, curious, and accepting. Mindfulness positions us to approach problems dispassionately, which directly supports Lean thinking (structured experimentation, reflection-based learning, connecting with people on an authentic level).
In the next post, we’ll explore some specific mindfulness practices you can apply to boost your effectiveness at being Lean.
About the author: Mike Orzen is a member of the LEI facility and has been practicing both Lean and mindfulness for over twenty years. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Program Description: The most difficult step to take in a Lean IT transformation (be it agile, DevOps, service management, etc.) is the very first one. Organizations fall into the trap of learning lean concepts and talking about the possibilities, but the initial excitement fades and the transformation never gets off the ground. Lack of alignment to organizational purpose, inability to figure out where to start, and fear of making mistakes all conspire to keep companies from ever getting started in the first place.
This one day workshop, based on the book, The Lean IT Field Guide by Mike Orzen and Tom Paider, will provide participants with an understanding of the foundational elements needed for a successful lean transformation and practical experience identifying and executing the key activities of pre-launch and day zero activities.
The workshop will focus on preparing you to implement a solid foundation of a sustainable lean transformation, not just focus on terms, definitions, and theory without application!
Benefits: In this interactive workshop you will:
· Gain understanding of the core elements of the Lean IT Roadmap and how to apply it to your DevOps/agile/lean transformation
· Identify your organization’s current strengths, challenges, and readiness to begin a Lean IT transformation
· Learn to apply key concepts, methods, and tools critical to successful transformation
· Acquire the skills to plan and launch a lean transformation using a case study simulation
· Reflect on how you will apply these concepts and tools to get started on the right path or to check/adjust in your organization
Who should take this class? Agile, DevOps and Lean IT practitioners of all levels + those responsible for leading real change in IT
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.