Most businesses have been deliberating about reinvention and innovation for well over a decade. Some brave souls have sought to deliberately break down and reinvent their businesses from within. Some have applied a solution from one sector to solving an unrecognised need in another, and created massively disruptive new business models. Others have been moving gradually yet grudgingly toward incremental innovation on the back of continuous improvement, knowing that movement is necessary yet clinging to the tried and still-successful recipes as long as possible. Clayton Christensen talks about the innovator’s dilemma, where short-term payoff is more immediate – and thus consistently more tempting – than investment in innovation.
And of course there are the many – particularly those operating without the luxury of good profit margins, time and other resources – who’ve just kept doing what they’ve always done, perhaps just trying a little harder each year.
The crises ushered in by COVID-19 are immediate and long term, and I think we all acknowledge that we’re facing uncharted territory. It’s terrifying for economies, businesses and individuals alike. But the nugget of good news in this is that we are all in this together now. Everyone is going to need to face and take risks to survive, and learn to be innovative and agile.
Nuggets of gold are presented to us in times of crisis. It's up to us to choose how to view the challenge, and how we respond
There are more gold nuggets though, beyond the ‘touchy feely’ stuff that has most executives rolling their eyes. Read on, but before I go there, I remind you of an interesting fact: the body’s physiological response to the feeling of fear is identical to that of excitement. These are the only two emotions that have identical responses, but appear different depending on the perspective we choose to take! It echoes the two meanings of the Chinese word for chaos. Perhaps now’s the time to recognise that we have the choice as to how best to respond.
Business consultant, coach and colleague, Martin Collinson, posted a very pertinent question on LinkedIn two days ago, which had me thinking this morning. He posited that organisations now need to take measures at three levels:
· Emergency response and crisis management
· Strategizing for the new normal
He’s right. The challenge, however, is that they need to take place in a somewhat overlapping process – crisis management must blend into stabilising activities, and stabilisation must blend into and prepare the groundwork for new strategies. Not only that, but that many of the resources required for each of these processes are required for all three, yet need to be utilised or deployed differently.
More to come on that in future posts, but in working through the mechanics and dynamics of how this can happen, it brings to my attention the face that in the breakdowns we face, lie all the ingredients for successful reinvention, provided we’re willing and able to tap into the active and latent talent that likely exists in almost all organisations. These are the golden nuggets, and I urge you to begin acting now to take advantage of this truly unique moment in time:
Crisis is a great leveller. We all get to define 'what next'.
Time for the real leaders to step into the spotlight. Leaders who have vision, leaders who can integrate and facilitate activities to effectively drive toward the vision, and leaders who have the skills, insights or capabilities to bring direction and initiative to the teams who will make this happen.
And time for every member of every team to take ownership of co-designing, creating and giving life to the new and more human offerings we now have the opportunity to offer each other. Survival is no longer someone else’s responsibility.
Here’s to a brave new world.
Originally published on LinkedIn on April 1st, 2020
Reviewing the 'Scrum Guide' by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland recently, it's clear that – despite the predictable misuse as the new silver bullet – the 'Agile' framework presents a promising early view of an empowered organisation.
But instead we witness a gradual fading of the initial impetus and enthusiasm of most 'Agile' efforts, with a return to apathy and low engagement that characterised the pre-Agile organisation. Never mind the consequent disillusionment and loss of trust between teams and management.
The success of an agile transformation is grounded in culture
That's because the real success of an agile transformation is grounded in culture, not processes, structures and practices. These latter are the relics of the industrial age and command-control structures... the antithesis of 'agility'.
Once leadership convinces their teams to work the 'Agile' way, a bigger stumbling block is encountered: leaders remain tethered to old paradigms. Understandably so: these old frameworks brought both personal and organisational success. So the instinctual reaction is to control the transformation process and measure success with old yardsticks. But leadership styles that brought success in the past are now diametrically opposed to the transformed 'agile' organisation which places authority and accountability at the level of teams. While at senior levels, remuneration, tenure and - yes, let's say it - personal power, is firmly rooted in conformance, predictability and profitability.
The move to true agility necessitates surrender of control: a superb fear-generator, guaranteed to put the brakes on any level of meaningful short- to medium-term transformation as envisaged by the Scrum Guide, unless the executive is either highly emotionally mature or recognises it as the only way out of obsolescence.
Old drivers of success must be weeded out
So, what happens instead? Beyond the foothills of resistance and the oasis of enthusiasm, Agile practices are given lip service. Even with restructuring, role changes and new reward/incentive systems, somehow the old measures of performance survive. Productivity is measured by how fast things get done, ROI is measured by uptake and immediate profits, and teams that work smarter just get pushed to fill the space and deliver more. Teams recognise they don't really have authority or autonomy, and fall into apathy, with the most dominant individual taking a suspiciously project manager-like role and wondering why no one really tries anymore.
The key ingredient driving transformation to an ‘Agile’ culture is the complete paradigm shift as to leadership… and self-powered teams.
The role of leadership will be envisioning, inspiring and integrating
A leader's role is no longer rounding 'em up and herding 'em but envisioning, inspiring and integrating. Driven by social changes and improved work methods, this new role is already emerging, and companies would be well advised to nurture those who show promise in this space. In fact, the concept of 'leadership' may gradually fade, to be replaced by 'envisioning'. And the power of this role will no longer come from formal authority but from the ability to paint with a clear and inspirational picture, and to enable teams to achieve it.
So if you think you're leading, check if others are following; you may just be out for a walk.
But teams must step up and hold themselves accountable
But wait, that’s not all, folks! Teams, who execute strategy, and define and effect daily tactics and recalibration, need to step up to the plate too. Being empowered entails not only taking authority, but holding ourselves accountable. In an agile organisation, where the vision is clear and inspiring, and leaders get out of the way of those doing the delivering, we have no excuse for not taking full responsibility for our own performance, our decisions, and our circumstances. Real ‘Agile’ practices mean no more hiding places.
And there, I believe, lies the secret to the truly transformed organisation of the future. Personal power, not at the expense of others, but in the service of all.
Originally published on LinkedIn on 21st October 2019
I’m coming clean.
Last year I finally reached a point where I believed it was safe to relax my death grip on hard work. To begin enjoying my success, spend more quality time with the people I love, and get out and enjoy life.
Precisely as I began to feel more joyful, the proverbial rug was whipped out from under me. Rudely and cruelly. And with brutal timing. My life came crashing down around me.
I've always been a fighter, though, and expected to pick myself up once again - as I've done before - and push forward. But not this time. Many, many months later I'm still in a kind of purgatory. Everything but the love of those closest to me has been taken and prospects for the future seem bleak.
It's tempting to share the gory details of ‘what was done to me’. In fact, for a while it was a tremendous relief to finally give voice to the injustices I’d suffered silently, both professionally and personally, for many years while battling stoically on. It's also tempting to blame. To blame those who stole from me, blame those who allowed envy to become spite, blame the economic situation, blame those who took advantage of my good will, blame others for their blind prejudices, blame those who saw what was happening and did nothing. But that brings only bitterness.
"I've been finally forced - very much against my will - to question everything about myself, and see my part in my own demise"
Instead I've been finally forced - very much against my will - to question everything about myself, and see my part in my own demise. To find the courage to analyse how my determination, always my biggest strength and saving grace, slowly lost its place in the repertoire of behaviours that serve me.
How did I come to this realisation? I was doing an exercise in positivity, still viewing perseverance and hard work as one of my strengths, and began thinking deeply about the true origins of this 'strength'. It struck me that one parent always over-praised me, believing that we all rise to expectation; the other minimised me, believing in the virtue of humility. Well intentioned on both their parts, bless them. But my innocent mind reached its own conclusions. I grew up believing I'm expected to out-perform others, but that I'm in reality never quite good enough! It was the secret of my success, and propelled me to take chances that others wouldn't and to put my heart and soul into my endeavours. I've always been complimented for my excellent work, yet have never understood why I received these compliments, secretly believing that I'm a fraud and one day someone would see I wasn't good enough. I was most conscious of this when consulting, but didn't realise this belief was a fundamental driver in my business partnerships, sports activities, love relationships, role as a mother and every other aspect of my life. This unquestioned paradigm had shaped my entire life, bringing me much success and yet subtly sabotaging everything I held dear, finally leading to what I considered to be massive failure on both a personal and professional front.
A primary driver of my success was also one of my most fundamental self-sabotaging and damaging beliefs. And it turns out to be based on a simple misunderstanding.
"In our success lie the seeds of our failure." To grow, we need to recognise beliefs that have served but slowly strangled us.
My MBA Strategy lecturer once said something profound: "In our success lie the seeds of our failure." In life-coaching parlee, this can be extrapolated to, "let go of what no longer serves you."
To grow, we need to take the radical step of turning inward with love, recognise beliefs that have served but slowly strangled us, stop letting them control us. Be conscious of how we apply the behaviours they've engendered, and use them in constructive and appropriate ways.
In this darkest period of my life, I'm starting to see the light that has always been here. Things have happened that have shown me I’m loved and valued. Things that I never saw before. I know others do want to see me thrive and be happy. I've reflected on things I've done, and realised I have reason to be proud of them. It's still hard for my heart of hearts to believe I'm worthy of love, joy, respect, success. But I'm slowly becoming open to the possibility. Somehow I know that when I accept and stop clinging to outdated beliefs I'm open to receiving the help, goodness and abundance that life wants to offer all of us. And this may be key to my self-empowerment.
So I’m coming clean. I acknowledge the part of me who feels she must earn love and respect, and I thank her for the success she has brought me. But I understand that this paradigm no longer serves me, and I choose to let it go and take conscious control of my joy.
What behaviour has served you in the past but needs to be let go for you to truly thrive?
Originally published on LinkedIn on 10th September, 2018
I can't claim to be a consistently perfect judge of candidate/company fit. But I know I'm better than most. It's not that I'm special. And it's not merely because I actually take time to get to know my candidates in person and to understand the context and unstated needs behind the client's resourcing requirement, but because when I meet the person I look them in the eye, engage fully with them, and focus on them, rather than on pushing an agenda.
What really cheeses me though, is when I provide that well-matched candidate and the client interview process involves interviewers who are really not engaged in finding the best candidate. Interviewers who view the meeting as a process rather than an opportunity. Or worse, interviewers who see things through the eyes of their own ego.
When engaging with candidates or clients, I want to work with those who take real ownership of their role. Who invest themselves in delivering the best they can. If not, if I sense they are there essentially to swap their time for money, I'd rather walk away. I'm here to offer the best of myself to the world, and I choose to surround myself - even in the context of my work - with others who feel the same.
It's always disappointing to witness a great candidate with that most important asset - an enthusiastic sense of 'can do' - turned down because the interviewer hasn't engaged properly. Ultimately, it's the company's loss. And the interviewer's, because they've just turned away someone who would probably have made their lives easier in the end.
If you want to avoid becoming a 'wooden' interviewer who could probably be better replaced by AI, consider these questions:
Ultimately, despite all the technology, process and current knowledge, it's people that make the difference. In a world where success is increasingly driven by the quality of people a company can attract, it's time interviewers get over their own egos or insecurities and recognise that creation of a great team begins the moment the interview commences.
Originally published on LinkedIn on 27th May 2019
I have interest in a broad range of subjects relating to business and life.