April 16, 2015

Scaling Engagement Agility

“To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.” - Doug Conant, CEO of Campbell’s Soup

To create Organizational Agility you need to find the harmony between People, Process, and Tools.  Agile speaks of putting people first, however from my experience, people are the poor step child to process and tools.  People should be the driver, not the passenger.  Creating Organizational Agility means scaling the employee engagement to have and maintain the culture of a start-up.  My experience in scaling agile across large organizations is that even when you put the right process framework and practices in place, you are still missing something.  People are going through the motions but there is a lacklustre of excitement.  They are 'doing' agile, but they are not 'being' agile.  They don't have that passion to innovate the product or how they're creating it.

People are the heartbeat of the organization.  They are the ones who represent you to your customers.  They are the ones that define you.  Their skills.  Their talents.  Their passion. The intangibles that only they bring as a person.

If you look at start-up they have very few processes and tools.  However they have a collective passion to get product or service into the market place.  This is because they have the people who are emotionally vested in a common goal.  They know the 'why' behind what they are creating. They know what they individually contribute toward that goal.

As organizations grow, or scale, they lose sight of this.  They spend less time recruiting for the right people (focusing on the skills rather than behaviours), reduce training budgets, don't invest in coaching, and merely just lose regular touch points with their people.  They try to replace this with process.  Process can help people go through actions in a similar way, but does little to nourish that passion that motivates them to do something a different way, a better way.  Why do we move away from focusing on our people?  We know it works.  Process can't scale the behaviours, talents, intangibles, or passion of employees.  We need to foster people engagement in order to get bottom-up innovation.  This will build the culture you need to support agility.

Instead of process scaling, think of engagement scaling.  Engagement scaling is how you build within your organization mechanisms to keep people passionate and purposeful.

Teams

There is no silver bullet. This takes a lot of time and work. You need to build a relationship with the people.

You need help them understand the problems you're trying to solve for your respective customers or market space.  Building that customer empathy that helps them understand the "why" the company is doing what they're doing.  The more they understand the problem the more collaberation and ideas to learn different ways to solve these problems.  They get vested in the purpose.  This relationship will make them feel more comfortable to propose and create innovative products and servicesbecause they are getting more insight from you.

Continually share the organization vision.  Explain how the organization is going to establish themselves in the marketplace.  Build the excitement.  Explain the values of the organization so that your people understand how the organization wants to be seen to the rest of the world.  Connect the dots to how your department or team will contribute to achieve and embody this.  Share your challenges...be transparent.  This will help them feel connected to helping you solve these challenges.

Most importantly, create a bond with your employee.  Have a deep understanding and interest into their goals.  What is their needs as an individual.  How can you helpsatisfy those needs.

III

Build a culture of 'fail-fast', learn, and make adjustments.

Develop problem solvers.  Let them discuss the challenges they are facing.  Resist the temptation of giving them your answers to these challenges.  Actively listen andask questions to help them get a deeper perspective of their challenge so that they can come up with options to solve them.  Your job as a leader is not to figure out everything, but to coach your people to figure out solutions to their own challenges. Help them reflect on what they learned when they tried something and it didn't work.

When they have a win, share in their happiness.  When they accomplish goals give them time to reflect.  Have them reflect on what they've learned from the success.

There is been countless studies that show that people are more productive when they feel the organization shares in their development and success.  This is all on you as a leader.  If you don't have time for this, question your role.  Engagement Agility is developing leaders throughout the whole organization to create an ecosystem of continual engagement.

How do you do this? I will be doing a series of blog posts digging deeper into the topic of scaling engagement and employee development in the agile world.  I will share things I have implemented - pragmatic strategies to achieve this.  I am calling this topic Engagement Agility. This is my passion that is inspired me to start writing a book on how to build this within large organizations.
“When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.” - Simon Sinek