Maybe you need to help your people Make a Diffference

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On Monday through Wednesday of this week I was teaching our PMI-ACP course in Toronto. Over the three days, as we walked among the different frameworks, methods and practices that are part of the course, a common theme started to emerge among the participants.

While the students could see the clear benefits of each framework, method or practice, they also began to recognize the challenges they faced in being successful at applying them in their organizations; Organizations that still operate under traditional management approaches.

Some of the more obvious challenge areas noted included:

  • Finance – budgeting processes would still be based on the big upfront estimates that cover multiple planning years.
    • Traditional cost accounting operates over long time horizons.  
    • The budgeting process focuses on controlling variances over focusing on what may be the right thing to do  
    • Operating and capital expenses are segregated; Often  times this I fairly arbitrary to order to meet prescribed percentages of what should be in each
    • Audit is focused on looking for the “smoking gun” rather than working with teams to avoid the smoking gun in the first place
  • Procurement – the current RFP processes rely on being prescriptive and transferring most of the risk to the vendors
    • Vendors bid to win and then use the Change Request process which often drives final costs to be two-to-three times the original bid price
  • HR – existing HR policies are primarily based on hiring to skill rather than hiring to behaviour and compensation policies are reward individual rather than team achievement
    • People are called  resources, assets and capital as if they are interchangeable like furniture and computers
    • Competition is valued over contribution to value creation
  • Executive level – see this “agile thing” as just an IT team level thing that will somehow increase the productivity of these groups but has no bearing on how their level of the organization

It is interesting to me that organizations are willing to invest in having their people learn about more agile ways of thinking and working, while they somehow believe that outside of these teams (usually within IT), that it’s OK to keep doing what they’ve always done.

The people who show up for these classes do want to do things differently because they genuinely want to make a difference. They recognize the folly of continuing to use outmoded ways of thinking that rely on prescription in an increasingly chaotic and complex world.

Yet here they are. In a class that will validate what they already have come to know about why things don’t work. Where they will learn some new ways of thinking and some new ways of working that offer the possibility of handling the complexity and chaos they know their organizations face.  

And now they have to go back to organizations that, outside of the teams that these people belong to, want to keep doing what they have always done.

The IT industry and those in the agile space have tended to focus on the team-level with their educational thrusts. There is nothing wrong with that. However, it does leave the part of  every organization that can actually make the real difference in meeting the complexity and chaos challenges to pretend that agile is a IT-team thingy. It isn’t. It’s an everyone in the organizational thingy – and that starts at the top.

Are you a leader in an organization where your teams are learning about and/or starting to use agile approaches? Do you  recognize the crucial role you will play in how successful or not these teams will be? Do you realize that in order for them to make a difference, that you will also need to make a difference by eliminating challenges such as those above?

In our course on Adaptive Leadership we refer to that part of leadership your need to be the CSR (Chief S**t Remover). Whatever impedes your teams' ability to help you achieve organizational and business agility needs to be removed. As a leader are you up to being a CSR?

If you’d like to talk strategic intent, adaptive strategy, back-casting over forecasting, outcomes over outputs, any of the agilities, or pretty much anything you think I may be able to help you with in making a difference in your world, here is my availability during the conference:

  • Saturday the 28th from 1:30 to 4:30
  • Sunday the 29th from 3:00 to 5:00
  • Monday the 30th from 9:00 to 12:00

You can also connect with me at:

  •     https://twitter.com/cooperlk99
  •     https://www.linkedin.com/in/lawrencekcooper
  •     www.TheAgilitySeries.com
Posted by Lawrence Cooper on: October 26, 2017 10:49 AM | Permalink

Comments (3)

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Sometimes leaders have their own motives for creating roadblocks. If you're not the decision maker, even a team of advocates for change often lose out. But they don't have to go unheard. At the end of the day even stubborn leaders may switch views if the cost/value benefits are clearly defined and measurable.

Empowered and educated people are the best resource for any organization. Currently, competition has spiked greatly and human resource of the companies is playing as the sole contributor to their competitive edge over others. Development of employees is really crucial because it empowers them and let them explore new things by the knowledge they have acquired.



You hit the proverbial nail on the head, Larry, about individual versus team performance rewards.

I don't know how many times, I have sent an e-mail congratulating a list of employees that worked on a project, just to find out I forgot one person.

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