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The pandemic has dramatically increased the number of large organizations seeking to adopt agile practices. Agile transformation is seen as the best way to accelerate ambitious strategies, use resources more efficiently, and create an optimal employee experience in an increasingly virtual workplace.
But becoming agile in complex global enterprises comes with risks to productivity and performance. And from the employee’s perspective, the transition can be messy, confusing, full of jargon, and disruptive to everyday life.
There is so much information available to help organizations embrace agile – just take a look at the number of agile scaling frameworks available such as SAFe, Sas, Less, DA and SoS . But these frameworks often fail to adequately consider the human side of change, which is an essential step in doing change well.
By focusing on the frameworks rather than the people who need to use them, agility can become the enemy of productivity.
In my experience leading agile change, fixed mindsets are usually the biggest factor that hinders transformation success. Some of the most common can be attributed to cognitive biases that are simply human nature. These are biases everyone experiences, whether you’re the CEO or working on the manufacturing floor, and include:
- Egocentric bias: this is when people cling to their own preconceptions of what agility is and resist the specific flavor of agility that an organization may want to embed. With this bias, one’s own perspective shapes one’s actions while disregarding outside influences, however sensible they may be.
- Ambiguity effect: it is a person’s tendency to focus on nimble tools and rituals, while neglecting the more valuable – but harder to visualize – shifts in mindset and behavior. This highlights the tendency to avoid ambiguous or uncertain options in favor of those that are predictable and clear.
- Dunning Kruger effect: this is seen when a person, often a leader, overestimates their agile abilities and pushes ahead, with damaging ramifications. It is a consequence when a lack of knowledge and skills in a certain area causes a person to overestimate their own skills.
- Single exposure effect: this is seen when change leaders think their agile transformation can be copied from a previous framework or experience, but then discover that what worked elsewhere won’t work in their unique organizational context. It is a manifestation of the tendency to rely on something experienced rather than the unknown if given the choice.
The solution? Take a people-centric approach to agile adoption. Here’s how:
- Co-create what you mean by “agile” to dispel inhibitory biases. The language you use really matters and influences mindsets and behaviors. Traditional agile language is loaded with baggage. Create clarity by taking a co-created approach to defining and testing your starting agile formula. Articulate and communicate rigorously what it is, and explicitly what it is not, to deflect avoidable resistance.
- Make it a continuous learning experience for leaders and managers. These two groups have the toughest leap of faith to take as they learn to become servants and custodians of their agile organization. Setting up a tailored learning and coaching approach, where support can be offered in a safe environment, will help accelerate change. Letting go of control is not easy.
- Focus on mindset and behaviors first before introducing tools and rituals. Although it is tempting to rush with the introduction of scrums, Kanban boards and other ideas, take the time to understand how new agile practices will work in your cultural context before implementing the process change and of organization. Building the desired growth mindset on a large scale will take time, and it’s best to start early before introducing the “shiny” rituals that might distract.
- Beware of nimble scaling frameworks – go for the bespoke. Use frameworks as an accelerator, but not the single version of truth. One size doesn’t fit all, so being mindful of what you’re tracking for flexibility will reduce the chances of rework and slowdowns. Success is possible by exploring frameworks, selecting what seems appropriate, and testing with your employees. It seems obvious but can be missed in the rush to see results.
- Recognize and deal with the emotional impact. There is no getting around this, this is a significant organizational change and individuals naturally go through a range of emotions from fear to anger and resistance. Adopting an empathetic and human-centered approach to your change management will help you anticipate and defuse resistance, while involving employees in the change. Try to create employee personas so that your approach to change can be tailored by employee type, not just by role description.
Remember that being agile shouldn’t be the end goal, but a means to get organizations where they want to be – executing…
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This notice was published: 2022-04-06 10:45:30