Maintain and reinforce the silver lining of this crisis…
This is a question I got recently from the head of a business unit in a large company:
“To keep the agility our organization was able to demonstrate during the crisis, we started to implement an agile way of working in the whole organization. We are adapting our processes and introducing a new operating system, but I don’t see the change I expected. I see people applying processes, but I don’t see people change their behavior. What am I missing ?”
Quickly after the start of the Corona Crisis, as soon as we were over the first shock, people started speaking about the silver lining of the crisis. People and organizations were invited to find creative solutions to cope with the new reality, to quickly adapt to change. Most of us started to work from home and found new ways of working, of making decisions and to stay performant.
For the silver lining to be sustainable and have an effect beyond the crisis, the question is how can we keep this new way of working alife?
Let’s change the processes
In order to make this happen, we see organizations focus on changing the way of working, adapting processes or even their whole operating model.
They all recognize that it will not happen overnight, nor that it will happen without deliberately committing to make it happen.
Indeed, it requires processes and systems that empower people: let them change the way they work, take decisions, experiment quickly, learn from their mistakes and be productive. Processes and systems are tangible and concrete elements to put in place but are they sufficient?
Let the collaborative and creative problem solvers stand up
You want teams of both dreamers and doers, who work together to make connections with customers to identify and anticipate their needs, challenge assumptions, generate new solutions to prototype and test them until they find solutions that are sustainable. They speak up, challenge each other and are committed from the design to the execution. You want them to be collaborative and creative problem solvers.
From process to culture, modeled by the leaders
In order to make this happen, you have to go beyond the observable elements of processes and systems. You want a change in mindset and behaviors. You want a change in culture. Culture is essential for an organization though at first side less tangible than processes. As with processes, it does not come by accident but needs permanent attention that starts at the top. It is tangible in the behaviors of its leaders, in your behaviors: you are the first to model the behaviors you are expecting, not once in a while, but always, every day, towards everybody in the organization. You are the ones who have to start behaving as collaborative and creative problem solvers in order to enable others to do the same.
The good news is that collaborative and creative problem solving is a trainable skill. As for many skills, it requires deliberate practice, a lot of practice. There are different tools and processes that will help you and your organization, going from Design Thinking, over Creative Problem Solving to lean and agile. They all help you to work more creatively and more collaboratively. However, following the process will bring you only so far. It is when you start to understand which behaviors the processes are meant to stimulate and when you start to deliberately practice those behaviors that you will develop the mindset of collaborative and creative problem solving and that you start creating a culture.
7 critical questions to ask
Here are the 7 critical questions to ask:
- Does your team have a compelling purpose that aligns and motivates people?
- What is the posture of your managers to your teams? Do they serve the teams, or do they think that the teams serve them?
- What is the level of trust you place on your employees and teams? Do you allow teams the freedom to really change how they work?
- Who makes decisions in your organization? Are there delays due to waiting for decisions/approvals that slow the teams down?
- How heavy is your process? Are teams allowed to change process or is the process dictated by a central standards group?
- Are you set up to run small experiments?
- How are mistakes treated in your organization? Do people get punished or are mistakes looked at as opportunities for learning and improvement? Are you set up to allow small mistakes?