A story about empowerment: self organizing team day

This month, the Nike Enterprise and Data Analytics department EMEA, organised a Self Organising Team Day remotely. I’m truly amazed about the way people adopt to this offsite online way of working. The outcome was astonishing with many teams being better balanced out than before and set up for future success. It was all about Self Organization in action, online and in its purest form.

Many organizations adopt an Agile way of working and in that process they want their teams to become self steering. And so, often the Leadership draw up an organizational plan and pushes the people in the squads. I was seriously impressed by the way Nike dared to change for better and empowered the people in taken decisions within their own hands.

Okay, so what was this day about?
In essence this is an event in which all associated people can, within certain boundaries, select their team of preference. It’s about giving people the opportunity to manage their own career and build strong balanced out teams for the future. Like said before, the department was looking for better balanced out teams after growing significantly in the past years. The end goal is to set up teams so that they are able to better answer the questions from their customers, set up teams to do their work as autonomous as possible.

“Change is an opportunity to do something amazing.”

In the last all hands session,, an internal meeting, with Nike’s CEO John Donahue John talked about his heroes in leadership. One of them was Phil Jackson, arguable the best coach in the history of the NBA. Here is a little story about him …

Phil Jackson won 11 championships as a coach and 2 as a player. After his playing career, he took coaching to another level because he mingled the typical basketball coaching thingies with things from life like meditation or reading books. And so, for example, whenever the team got to play multiple games on away courts, and the team was going to stay in hotels for multiple weeks, he gave his players a book to read that he carefully choose for them: the book was based on their interest and based on things they could learn from the book. And so, these books and the inspiration his players got from the books, was something they could discuss in 1-2-1. But obviously sharing books is not what makes him a great coach… There is more to it.

“The strength of the team lies within the individual. And the strength of the individual lies within the team”  

Phil Jackson

For me, one of the many reasons he is considered the best coach in the history of the NBA, is the way he made his team become one. During a basketball game, when the heat is on in a close game, you can anticipate the coach to take a timeout and give orders to the team to make sure they actually win the game. And often it happens in a close game, the coach ends up with no time outs left to draw up a play to make the decisive shot. Phil Jackson played the long game in this… During the regular season, he often didn’t take a time out when you, as a fan, was anticipating that, He left his players on the court and let them try to figure out themselves how to get out of a bad situation, even when pressure was high. The mentality was that there might be a situation in a playoffs game that the team is either limited in time outs or doesn’t have one at all and the coach won’t be able to save the team. And so Phil Jackson taught his team how to figure it out on their own while acitvely playing in the game. This was a story about empowering people and getting their engagement to grow as a team and trusting them in getting a result. In the process of doing that, he created a culture of oneness.

So the idea was to start that day in forming teams and making a first step in becoming one as a team at the end of the day. To orchestrate this day, there were some boundaries to make sure business continuation is guaranteed. But the day is also build on strong beliefs and you need to have a management breathing those beliefs as well to make it work:

  • We believe in building projects around motivated and committed individuals. We give them the environment and support they need; we trust them to get the job done.
  • The best architectures, requirements and designs/solutions emerge from self-organizing teams.  
  • The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a team is face-to-face conversations.
  • We believe in the empowerment of people and their common sense to make the right decisions to:
    • align personal aspirations with the strategy
    • challenge the status quo and strive for excellence & a balanced team setup
  • Through sports we change the world.    

Looking at the outcome of the day, after a couple of iterations, the teams are well balanced out now. People are happy to stay in their current team or excited to have joined a new team. And although it was all remote, you could actually feel the pumping energy. 

For sure, we still have a lot of work to do in coming together as one in the teams, but we already have a head start after empowering everybody in making their choices. 

How new possibilities and balance arise from triangles

Many organizations try to scale their Agile way of working and get advised to adopt some sort of scaling Agile framework. The impact on the organisation is huge but during the process of scaling, whether scaling is the right thing to do for your company or not, we forget to redesign the organization and thus actually keep the same levels of hierarchy in place.  And lately, I’m getting quite fed up with some Agile gurus preaching only about leadership showcasing the wrong behavior and so killing any early Agile culture inside an organisation. We have to step up and at the very least propose solutions other than just retraining managers. You can’t change something as fundamental as a way of working without touching the design in which people need to operate. The easiest way to turn things around is getting a white piece of paper and design the future organization and put people in their new roles… Errr, but there’s also something like continuation of business, so implementing a new design overnight might disturb your organization just too much. So how to go from A to B and slowly install a culture of collaboration that can actually support the Agile organizations of the future? I think the answer is ‘triangles’.

At the start of the 2004-2005 season, the basketball team I was playing for at the time was introduced to a more open and flexible way of playing the game. The coach talked about principles of playing an offence, more than narrowing down possibilities into a system. The end goal was to make players start thinking for themselves or “better read the game”. The transition from a tactical playbook to an open offence culture based on principles was a though nut to crack. But the moment that the team started to adopt triangle thinking and saw the possibilities that arose from that, was the moment we’ve started to play better basketball. We didn’t won every game, because there is more to winning games than just an offensive approach, but at the very least, understanding how triangles worked and balanced out our offensive play, was something I’m still cherishing today. 

In the beginning the team was really struggling with this way of playing. And after a couple of games, I had a discussion with the head coach about why we were struggling. It wasn’t about the principles, it wasn’t about the effort, … it all came down to the fact that the team just didn’t understood ’triangles’ yet. So, I’ve asked the coach to focus on explaining on how triangles actually worked and how they constantly change, yet how they needed to be kept into shape because otherwise you’d loose that balance that was needed. And so, the team started to work on understanding the method and keeping the balance. At some point, I really felt we were going places with this type of play, but we were going to need some time and no disruptions to fully adopt this. It still feels sad to say, but there were too many disruptions during that season and after that first year, the team fell apart. Yet, for some of us, with a greater insight on basketball than before…

“The strength of The team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” 

– Phil Jackson – 

Triangles have intrigued me since I have started playing basketball, because I really feel they open up possibilities and give balance to things. And I also start to see those possibilities in a business context. Especially today, with the ongoing digital revolution disrupting organisational designs, we need to redefine principles to find the balance again. Many organisations want to adopt Agile ways of working for the sake of more ‘agility’: faster go to market, more business value, … . All of a sudden, they redesign their organisation on the lowest hierarchical levels because Agile ways of working prescribe cross-functional teams. Yet they keep the old structures in place. And so the old Project Manager is now the new Product Owner, the department manager became a Chapter Lead and besides new naming, nothing much has changed so it appears, yet all of a sudden many people feel unsafe and don’t understand what is expected of them when they need to work in a self organising and cross-functional team. The company is completely disrupted, people are fed up with this ‘Agile monster’ and in the end the old residues of controlling remains. 

So, what does self-organising mean for teams in business context?

A self organising team is a team that has the autonomy to choose how best to accomplish their work, rather than being directed by others outside the team. Unlike traditional management principles, the self organising empowered teams are not directed and controlled from the top; rather they evolve from team members participating actively & collectively. This means that organisations want to build the structures in which those self organising teams can thrive. Then the one million dollar question comes to mind: how do we build these structures while the residues of old structures are still present in an organisation?

FC Barcelona

From 2008 till 2012, FC Barcelona conquered the world and won 14 titles. Pep Guardiola’s example of tiki-taka at FC Barcelona is considered the best application of this style after Barcelona won the sextuple in 2009. Guardiola preferred freedom in the final third of the pitch which was effective as the team created many chances per match. The style involves roaming movement and positional interchange among the football players, moving the ball in intricate patterns. “In a fast-moving world, Barcelona established a school of TIKI-TAKA that has since been embraced across the globe – despite the dwindling appeal of possession football”, stated Jordi Punti.

Barcelona FC Tiki Taka – Triangles

In the 90’s and later in the nillies, the triangle offence from the Bulls and the Lakers dominated the NBA. Phil Jackson perfected the Tex Winter’s triangle offense and won the Championship a staggering 11 times as a coach. It has been claimed that the triangle offense is the optimal way for five players to space the floor on the basketball court. This way, it creates a lot of possibilities and with gifted players like Jordan or Bryant in your team, special things happen and titles will be won.

What these basketball and football systems have in common is triangles. New possibilities arise from the situations, but it gives also safety and balance. Most of the time players are free to receive the ball or move the ball around to another station.

The laws of Nature are written in the language of mathematics…the symbols are triangles, circles and other geometrical figures, without whose help it is impossible to comprehend a single word.

-Galileo Galilei- 

What can those triangles in sports mean for business?

Let us be honest, we are struggling. We want all the benefits from Agile way of working, but redesigning an organisational structure is hard, really hard! So we focus on ‘culture’ and ‘values’ and ‘behaviour’ to make sure the change lands inside an organisation. We ask leaders to stand up and embrace a new way of leading (servant leadership) in which they better support the individuals and the teams. We ask the teams to become self-organising after rebuilding teams from the ground up and putting people together that barely know each other. Face it, when I write it like that, it doesn’t seem to be a recipe for success. And yet it is! People are getting more empowered and are respected for their hard work more than ever. But we’re not there yet, there still is this residue from the old structures and the hierarchical organisational designs that might jeopardise agility. It will take organisations some time to embrace the designs that better support teams and individuals. The evolution towards structures that better support Agility is ongoing. The end goal is less hierarchy and more guidance and coaching from the sideline. I truly believe we’re actually pretty close if we dare to think different.

So, in the meantime, what if we create triangles in business as well and so more easily break down hierarchy and silo’s? What if we add a red line for more balance? 

In this drawing you have 2 hierarchical levels:

  • The tactics line:  creating, communicating and executing a strategy
  • The delivery line:  delivering solutions in line with the strategy, operations

Often, strategic items are brought to the team via a single point of information. And so, in the communication hand-over, important information might get lost. Best case scenario, those delivery teams speak to the other delivery teams and they might understand what was meant. Often, these delivery teams start making assumptions based on the incomplete information they’ve received. We all know that assumptions make an Ass out of U and ME. And so, delivered solutions might not live up to the expectations.The red line for balance creates an extra line with the strategic level and breaks down the silo you might be in. The red line also prepares the organisation for a future-proof organisational design. And unless what you might think, we’ll start to see much more real servant leadership inside the organisation.

You might say this is nothing new, the leadership is expected to support teams and so it’s not necessary to make this explicit. I believe in the opposite, it’s very much necessary to make this explicit because this helps people to break the barriers without giving them the feeling they’re doing something wrong or bypassing their boss. It’s very much necessary to setup the structures like that in order to give that self organizing team the mandate to actually self organise. It’s all about openness and safety. It’s about creating a culture in which servant leadership can thrive.

One of the Agile principles state: “Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.” A possible conclusion could be: put them together in a room, have some people to facilitate discussions in which everybody feels heard and finally … just get things done. How great would that be?! When we hear about these stories, we use them to make a point and state that this is the only way forward. But we need to respect how most of the organisations are still designed. We aren’t there where we need to be to put everyone in a room and deliver stuff. So we need solutions that might help us today… like an explicit red line, to help people change their behaviour in the long-run. With a red line comes different kind of behaviour: openness, willingness to help,  togetherness, opportunities, alignment, servant leadership. Future and more Agile driven organisational designs will arise from it automatically. So implement the red lines and rewrite the way we change organisational design from now on. Draw the red line and start building triangles for balancing your organisation. 

Behaviour drives change

18,3 seconds on the clock. Jordan just stole the ball from the Jazz’s star player Karl Malone and dribbles the ball to the other side of the court. Now it’s Jordan’s time to shine and score that championship winning shot. He hits that 20 footer with just 5,2 seconds on the clock left and give the Chicago Bulls a final 87-86 lead. The rest is history … the Chicago Bulls are now the biggest franchise in the history of the NBA. Jordan is now the best player ever to have played in the NBA. The team and Jordan never settled for mediocracy. They have always pushed their own boundaries. Jordan always challenged the status quo, always searched for ways to up his game and ways to inspire his teammates. 

Lately, I’ve been thinking about this topic of pushing the boundaries and going the extra mile. People like things to be changed for the better and like things to be improved, I really believe this. But those same people simply don’t like them to be impacted by it when going through the change. And so change don’t always happen and then they might state things like: “That’s how the things are done here”, “We just leave it as it is, since things don’t change over here”, … . I find those remarks a bit too easy. Society is going through changes, and so it’s only natural companies do to. Giving up and just accepting the status quo is such a shame, especially for the people who are involved. Everybody knows that standing still is moving backwards. Nobody wants that. I truly believe if we dare more than freeze whilst being afraid, we can grow cultures of amazement inside every organisation. Yes, it’s behaviour, your behaviour, what I’m talking about. I’m referring to the type of behaviour that put things in motion inside a company.  Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Emil Frankl, a Holocost survivor, said it so eloquently: “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

“Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.”

Socrates

Things however don’t change overnight. We often think that, especially in this modern western society. But change is sometimes a long-lasting process and people might get stuck in a place of “being in between” what was and what the future state should be. And when you’re stuck in that twilight zone … you don’t want people to ask you to challenge the status quo, you just want them to leave you the ‘F’ alone. I really respect and understand that feeling. But, why do you choose to work in that twilight zone? What can YOU DO to change it? Michael Jordan’s dad once said : “You have to take a negative and turn it into a positive.” So next time, when somebody is telling you that “things are done in here like that since forever”, know that people actually do understand change, they might just need a little push to get started. Maybe you can challenge such an expression?

One person can start the fire

When Jordan entered the league in 1984, it was clear that he was something special. He promised the city that he would make them World Champions. Although he was a very gifted player, if not the best of all time, he knew that winning titles in Basketbal is all about team effort. He knew he couldn’t achieve this on his own so he gave it his all and asked his teammates to step up and give it their all as well. “I wanted to win, but I wanted them (the team) to be part of it too.” It’s amazing how much people get done if they do not worry who gets the credit. They didn’t became champions right away, the build takes time. But step by step, the team grew and became better: more maturity, better understanding of tactics, stronger leadership off and on the field, smarter, … . They kept improving over and over again.

Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships. –

Michael Jordan

But imagine this, Jordan came into practice, not giving so much about the game itself but more about the fame. He’s extremely talented, but not always willing to fight for it. He’s accepting his teammates to have the same behaviour. So imagine Jordan accepting mediocrity… would they have become Champions of the World? Very unlikely. It’s like Jordan said so eloquently: “It all start with hard work and ends with champagne!”, and the hard work is almost always pushing the boundaries. 

In business , we love the refer to sports because in sports, it’s clear that when you work extremely hard for something, you’ll get a result. A new personal record, local winner in a race or maybe Olympic champion … It is very unlikely that the ones that just accept mediocrity win. Although people might express that they are satisfied about how things are, I’m pretty sure that if you address their intrinsic motivation, they will come up with ways to improve things for the better and challenge the status quo. The trick is to find that spot that it starts to itch just enough to get them started. Jordan made it very clear what he wanted to achieve and how they could achieve that. He addressed his team mates’s intrinsic motivation and left no room for unclarity. They were going to become champions and for that, everybody needed to go the extra mile and they needed to earn Michael’s respect along the way since nobody was working harder in practice than he did.

Don’t aspire to be the best on the team, aspire to be the best for the team. 

Today we’re trying out new ways of organising our work. We’re looking for more day to day agility in the workplace to satisfy our customers. More than ever, it’s all about the people and their behaviour, and it is technology and processes in full support of the people. Since everything has to evolve faster, we try to redefine organisational design by implementing self-organising structures around multi disciplined people in the hope to deliver things faster: the consequence is that teams just have to become autonomous. What you need for that to happen is full transparency on what is happening inside the team and some sort of structure to keep on improving. Yes, it’s about adopting an empirical mindset. In that process of adoption, you want to appreciate everybody’s opinion so you install a healthy culture of trust in which people dare to speak up. People should never be afraid to share their professional thoughts and insights, certainly  not inside their own team. But transparency, openness, … we need to explain people that these are the cornerstones of high performing teams in business. It’s all about values and values drive behaviour.  What is being asked of people is huge! In the process, the just became accountable to organise themselves and deliver. The only thing that will get you there is behaviour. You are the change!

Throw in some slack and focus better

Me, working from home, well I just got a huge boost in doing that. Like so many people worldwide, I was obliged to do so. This homeworking is really pulling me out of my comfort zone, because I liked going to the office and connect with people in real life. But what I experience now is that it’s becoming easier to focus on getting things done, since there are less distractions, besides the toddler comic duo here at home. And what I’ve gained extra, is time to reflect a bit on the essence of Agile in these times.

Inspect and adapt

These times are calling for agility, although we’re looking for ways to control the situation as much as possible. It’s very much about sensing and adapting. Besides the fact the digital workplace is fast maturing now, companies are forced to embrace a more empirical way of thinking in order to overcome uncertainties. Only Yesterday I had such a interesting talk with one of my colleagues at Nike. In the current situation, there is new news everyday, there are new measures everyday, whilst the immediate future is very uncertain. We don’t quite know what will bring the day after tomorrow. And this uncertainty is pushing us to look into how we should make decisions and focus on what is important and what is not. Hello Cynefin I would say. 

But also on a personal scale, I have to adjust and adapt. I have to focus on things that are important. And the company has to trust the fact that I am able to make that kind of decisions. So how do you do that when your constantly working from home right now?

“Art is the elimination of the unnecessary”

– Pablo Picasso

Relearn and retrain myself about the value of focus 

So let’s define focus from a scientific point of view: In physics they state that focus is the point where waves of light or sound, that are moving towards each other, meet: the focal point.You can easily think about the focus of a lens on a camera. You are either  “in focus” when a photograph is clear, or you’re out of focus when the photograph is unclear. A more generic definition is : the main or central point of something, especially of attention or interest. It’s the main object of interest, or the attention given something. 

We know that working on many items in parallel is counterproductive. Multi-tasking is a myth, it’s simply just switching from one task to another very rapidly and that comes at a high cognitive cost. Yet the danger to try to do so, especially when it’s harder to catch people and briefly clear out things because we’re all working from home now, lures around the corner. And so, being ‘busy busy busy’ with all kind of different things should be a small reminder that we should better prioritize our work and start working on them in a value order. In my search for a good image to articulate that idea, I was triggered by a drawing I came across in a David Hawks presentation I’ve found online. It made so much sense:

It’s clear the right side will be more predictable. At least, when they are asked about their performance, they are able to state: “we have 4 items finished and are about to be done with a 5th one soon.”  The left side is much more uncertain. The big question here is: “when will there actually be anything finished?” 

Being in a lot of calls and video conferences nowadays, it made me remind that I needed to prioritize the important things again. Well to be honest, I should bring in focus again. This focus thing… here’s what it means for me actually. It made me think again about a quote the Kanban guru’s are using a lot: ‘Stop starting, start finishing’. So, I need to re-own the time I spend on things, I need to take charge of my calendar again. When I started my professional life, I was forced by my manager to organize my agenda and bring in ‘blocking moments’. These moments were used to focus on getting things done without distraction from anything or anyone. In one of his keynote speeches, Henrik Kniberg takes this approach to another level and he introduces ‘slack’ into his agenda.  Bring in slack will definitely be beneficial for myself and I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to do more things that actually matter and make a bigger impact.  

Build up Focus

The recipe for Kniberg, from a highlevel point of view, is based on ‘creating slack’, ‘saying no’ and ‘stop thinking that I don’t have time’. I’d like to throw in some extra ingredients since I have thousands of ideas flowing in my brain. This means that I might have to be more mindful of the task I’m working on. So next time when an urge enters my mind to take on another task, I’ll ignore that one and redirect my attention back to my priority. And further, I’ll make sure I’ll prioritize my work on a weekly basis and create a list of daily priorities when the day starts. I need to rebuild my routine in doing that. In the process of that all, I don’t want to filter out what drives me.

Howard Inlet: “Oh. What is your "why"?
Why did you even get out of the bed this morning?
Why did you eat what you ate?
Why did you wear what you wore?
Why did you come here?
Other than the fact that I would fire you and hire someone else
if you didn't show up for work, but...
- (Audiance LAUGHING)
Not that.
The big "why."
We're certainly not here to just sell shit.
We are here to connect.
Life is about people.
Advertising is about illuminating how our products
and services will improve people's lives.
Now, how do we do that?
Love.
Time.
Death.
Now these three abstractions connect every single human being on Earth.
Everything that we covet,
everything that we fear not having,
everything that we ultimately end up buying,
is because at the end of the day...
we long for love, 
we wish we had more time, 
and we fear death.

Love. Time. Death.”

from the motion picture: Collateral Beauty

I’m going to reboot and better handle time on things I want to spend my time on.  And in my case, say no more often on some things. 
Steve Jobs said once:”It’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”

Be the inspiration – Be the influencer

Do you know that guy that actually worked his way up and became a true honest and fine professional? A professional with exquisite hard skills, but also with a fine vision on how his actions can influence people in a positive way? When you think about someone, it doesn’t have to be a CEO or General Director, but it can also be your everyday colleague… Well in that case, do you know him?

I’m lucky to know a couple of these amazing creatures, and I’m pretty sure you do too. One of them is Philippe. I’ve known Philippe for over 20 years, we’ve been and still are very close friends. At a previous employer, I was able to work with him and this enriched my perspective on a lot of things. But lately, what I like the most about him, is that he’s been doing a lot of introspection in order to further grow on a personal level. And, at the same time, he has combined that with a growth mindset about agility in a professional context. Yes, I speak highly of him, not because he’s a good friend and because he buys me a beer once in a while, but because he came to an understanding that he can influence a lot of people in a positive way, just by showing positive behavior towards ever-changing ways of working inside organisations. If many more of us are willing to rethink behavior in a professional context like he did, we can all achieve amazing things together. Thanks Philippe for inspiring me!

I like to spend my time at the office when I’m working with teams, searching for more efficient ways to improve their effectiveness. WOW, that sounded like a great pitch to impress managers about what I care, sorry for that! The improving thingy starts with confronting individuals or teams with their own behavior. Five days a week, we rush into the office and become “the professional” version of ourselves. Many of us now work in environments of constant change and yet we often don’t want to change although this era of digitization requires us to do so. Hmmm, seems a complicated situation. Luckily the amount of people who are able to change the game and help to mature organisations, is growing. Hooray for all the gamechangers who dare to walk the high wire and dare to confront for the better.

Agile and maturity… it appears that it’s often hard to rhyme them together. There is a lot of fuzz going on right now about doing Agile or being Agile. And it’s a good discussion because it triggers the dialogue that somehow we need to spend attention to the change part of people in this matter. It’s a matter of finding the right balance. From a sociological point of view, trying to understand what drives people inside their environment, can only speed up the change process and so, grow stronger foundations to build further maturity on. By this time, we should have understood that implementing a new way of working, isn’t solely about the process, but in fact it’s about the people embracing the process. And for the people to do so, for them it’s all about seeing the big-picture-shit in order to understand how that actually benefits themselves.

A parallel universe

Know the world you live in today. People appear to walk out of their world into a new world when their daily job starts. But the world they’ve just left behind is still out there and in fact, it is that same world they are trying to service. Yet, we don’t like to change the things we’ve been doing professionally although in our parallel universe we expect sort-like companies to deliver better service. So, we desperately need to invest in mindset. Mindset derives from beliefs and values. That mindset also drives our behavior.

I’ve never done it, so I think I can.

Pippi Longstocking

Humble Bee

Arthur Ashe, a legendary American tennis player was given infected blood given in heart surgery in 1983,. Because of that he died of aids. The story goes that the sick Arthur Ashe replied a letter of one of his fans who asked him: ” Why did God have to choose you for such a horrible illness?”. That letter would later become the famous “Why me?”-letter.

50 Million children started playing Tennis,
5 Million learnt to play Tennis,
500 Thousand learnt Professional Tennis,
50 Thousand came to Circuit,
5 Thousand reached Grand Slam,
50 reached Wimbledon,
4 reached the Semifinals,
2 reached the Finals and

when I was holding the cup in my hand,
I never asked God: "Why Me?"

So now that I'm in pain how can I ask God: "Why Me?"

Happiness keeps you Sweet!
Trials keep you Strong!
Sorrows keep you Human!
Failure keeps you Humble!
Success keeps you Glowing!
But only, Faith keeps you Going!

Sometimes you are not satisfied with your life,
while many people in this world
are dreaming of living your life.

A child on a farm sees a plane fly overhead
dreams of flying.
but, a pilot on the plane sees the farmhouse
& dreams of returning home.

That's life!
Enjoy yours...

If wealth is the secret to happiness,
then the rich should be dancing on the streets.
But only poor kids do that.

If power ensures security,
then VIPs should walk unguarded.
But those who live simply, sleep soundly.

If beauty and fame bring ideal relationships,
then celebrities should have the best marriages.
Live simply, be happy!
Walk humbly and love genuinel

A look in the mirror

“What have I done today that made a difference for myself or for my team?” Making sure a new way of operating sticks, requires from each individual a personal effort. In previous posts, I’ve often wrote about leadership, and their role to inspire people. But each individual, no matter the function or level, influences the impact of change, just by their behavior. So, John or Jane Doe, looking back on today, what did you do to make your professional life or that of the team more valuable? 

Since we live in an era of constant change, we all need to understand that each and everyone of us holds a piece of the puzzle and we are actually all responsible for making the change happen. Leadership must inspire and guide, for sure! At the same time, each individual holds the power to change their own behavior in relation to the updated strategy or values and beliefs of organizations. Once the big picture is clear to us, we should challenge ourselves a bit more to see the world from that new or different perspective. Organizations don’t change just because they like to, it is because they have to in order to give each employee a future inside the organization. I’m pretty sure, if an organization grew to a certain level and made good profit and could continue to do ‘till the end of time, they wouldn’t change a winning approach. But the reality is just completely different.

Well here’s something to think about: People don’t like big promises although they do like to dream. People prefer to be told a realistic view. But what if, in the many changes organisations go through it is not about the happy ending, but all about the journey? It is in fact about seeing the opportunity and start making the difference, and this is behavior each and everyone of us can showcase. You shouldn’t tell yourself that it doesn’t matter, because it’s just a case of perspective. Your behavior, not matter level or rank, can be an inspiration for the ones around you. Making the change happen is a collective responsibility.


So, next time you walk into the office, it would be refreshing to change your behavior in relation to the values and beliefs, and so you can also start influencing the ones around you.

Let’s build cultures of amazement. 

Gain something better than you have now

Wednesdays are fun. After work I rush home, have dinner with the family and leave for basketball practice. Wednesdays are also a typical night to watch medical drama television series on television. And so, after practice, I join my wife in that activity. At this moment, it’s the series New Amsterdam: the story of a doctor, Dr Max Goodwin, who is asked to transform one of the oldest public hospitals of the United States and bring them into the 21st Century and so, provide exceptional care to patients. In his journey, he needs to tear down bureaucracy, build on few people to initiate the change, improve gradually. It is a true change story, with all unpleasant people things exaggerated for the sake of drama. What runs like a thread through the series is the way the organization is improving continuously while remaining open for ‘customers’. It could easily have been an Agile transformation story. 

In the episode ‘The big picture’, the doctor decided to hold a hospital wide census to get to know the staff and learn how to help them. So, he organizes coffee sessions and opens up to people, stating that he really wants to know what is holding them back to do better and give the patients better treatment. It takes some time for people to trust this process, but eventually they dare to speak up. It is fiction, and logically there will be a solution for the problem. Nevertheless, there is much value in his action.  In order to move forward, leaders of an organization need to know what is beneath the surface. They should try to connect to the people on some sort of personal level. It’s all about trust. The key element in this episode was the fact that the good doctor kept on creating opportunities in which people could open up to him. Creating those opportunities is something all leaders should do. The other side of silence is not the place you want to be.

We all know the value of the coffee machine or water cooler talks. It’s a moment when people are ventilating, expressing their frustrations, sharing thoughts or others might just have a laugh. Whatever the sound, from coaching perspective, sometimes it’s interesting to explore the reasons why people are sharing their thoughts. Listen, actually listen, to the stories people have to tell and you’ll be able to bond with them in the (near) future. People daring to share their stories are opening up and showing vulnerability. This is saying: “We trust you.” As a leader or as a coach, you know the importance of water cooler talks. But I firmly believe we need to create extra opportunities for people in our office environments in which they feel confident enough to speak up. People have a desire to believe and to trust so why not create extra opportunities? It’s more than just having a coffee together. For sure, it takes time to build the trust. But in your process of building (trust),  it’s equally important to capture the moment when a group of people show first signs of testing your trustworthiness: we have a concern, what do you think,  what’s your vision on, can we talk for 5 minutes about stuff, … Those hints are pretty straightforward. It gets tougher when the team doesn’t give it away that easy. This is the moment you want to create the environment in which you offer them multiple opportunities to start trusting you. Easier said than done. 

So, what is trust actually? Let’s define it as a strong emotional bond that connects people to one another. It gives safety in a world where betrayal and screwing is right around the corner. To become a trustworthy person, you’ll have to stick your neck out and actually be a person who is to be trusted. Are you able to create trust… create the opportunities in which people feel safe enough so they trust the leadership and the other team members? 

Comfort Zone – Stretch Zone

We like it when it’s comfortable, but at the same time we also know that in order to make a significant move forward, we need to stretch ourselves and do things that we haven’t done before. It makes us feel ‘uncomfortable’. If it feels like a challenge, not stress, that’s the moment when the actual learning takes place. Besides the learning, it often boosts trust inside teams. In the end, what you gain as a team is for sure something better than you have right now. The trick to gain progress and build trust is by setting small attainable goals and then celebrate them. I’ve been a basketball coach for about 15 years, and each season I’ve had the opportunity multiple times to stretch the team and gain extra trust. When a game is locked and both teams go head to head, it could be an opportunity to gain trust. Obviously, it comes down to knowing the capabilities of your team: individually and team. It’s making a judgement call in that specific moment to decide whether that is the right moment or not to create the opportunity to gain trust versus the possible result of the game. But it’s also about having passion for people and giving them all the trust to make it happen. So, picture this: a close game and you make the call to try to unlock the game. Knowing your players’ capabilities, you draw a play on the board that wasn’t trained yet, but it is something your team could execute. You’ll make them focus on getting that ball to that one specific place where a player gets an open opportunity to score. The success of the action is not the fact whether you score or not, but it’s about delivering the ball to the place where somebody gets an easier chance to score. This is a perfectly attainable goal and something you can build on. I can truly say that in about 80%, the players on the field did actually score, just because they believed in each other and the opportunity. What I’ve gained as a coach was trust. So, what about creating those opportunities in the workplace and build trust? 

The topic of leadership is a touchy one. A lot of leaders fail because they don’t have the bravery to touch that nerve or strike that chord. Throughout my years, I haven’t had that fear.
— Kobe Bryant — 

In essence, it’s all about knowing the environment, have passion for people and daring to create chances to build trust. Even if you fail in the result, you might win trust if you’re open and honest about it afterwards. Just remind the team of what goals they’ve actually did achieve. This is building trust with firm foundations. And it will be in that kind of setting you’ll be able to discover what lies beneath the surface or is holding teams back to the evolve in better versions of themselves. In the end, you’ll gain something better than you have right now.

Your coffee talks will be of much more value when you work in full trust with each other. 

Great expectations of leadership

Our society became a whole lot harder since the digitisation started taking over our world. During this process politicians have lost connection with the people. Politics is now something that happens far above our heads, in a galaxy far far away. Somehow, this has always been a little bit that way, but the gap between the people and the politicians is bigger than ever.

In the workplace we experience the same disconnection between leaders and employees. And so, a lot of organisations are already taking measures and reorganising their way of working: customer involvement, empowerment of people via self-organising teams,… How is it that many of the organisations fail in their attempts to connect? Is it because their internal politicians don’t know/understand how to connect with the majority of their customers or employees anymore?

This digital era was supposed to bring us closer together. Technology and social media are the recipe for this cocktail. But it seems that in a professional context we had one too many and so far it turns out that it isn’t making us better ‘together’ yet. There are a lot of positives for sure, but the connecting part on an interpersonal level is questionable. It is why people like Isabel De  Clercq are essential to guide organisations in their journey to adopt a connecting way of communicating whilst using social networks within organisations. Besides the professional context, our society as a whole became a whole lot harder at the same time, e.g. especially when commenting from behind a keyboard and screen. Generally speaking, everybody is thinking more about themselves, and we forget to serve something more than ourselves. It is what it is today; it’s what we made of it and how we thought it would be beneficial for everybody when we were at the crack of dawn of this digital (4th industrial) revolution. And you know what? If it doesn’t work, it will evolve in something else. And that is exactly what is happening now. A lot of people are fed up with the self-centric way of living of their leaders and are desperately looking for ways to connect with each other again. Look at all the movements that are starting up to preserve our planet so we could have a better tomorrow. Look at the people who are striking because a company is taking measures to downsize when technology is pushing other employees out. Look at all the people who are working together to raise funds for charity. Look at the discontentment of the people when politicians are playing ‘house of cards’ so openly they forget about the reasons why they were elected (to serve the people). Nevertheless, it seems the leadership, both in a political and a professional context, isn’t accepting the open invitation the people are giving them.

“Everybody comes from a different place, everybody has their own lens, their own perspective. The moment you invalidate someone else’s perspective, you dehumanize them.”

Shivani Ranchod

The current games of politics dehumanize our communities

Contemporary politicians seem to be loving their delusional world, a world they’ve created for themselves, a world about power and games. The political class is so high up in the hierarchical system, they’ve  lost touch with the average Joe of society. 

The same phenomenon is often noticeable inside big organisations with their big hierarchical structures. Ask the managing director or CEO of a (big) company what their employees are thinking or feeling about the company they work for, and you’ll probably end up with a very uninspired answer like: ”Our latest employee satisfaction survey showed that…”. Well, it showed that you have a process in place to measure, but are missing out on getting in touch with your people. When was the last time you, as a CEO, had a cup of coffee with one of your employees in the working place who isn’t a manager? What the employees experience inside hierarchical organisations is the same as they experience when a politician is explaining the fact that they want the best for the people. “We hear you”, leadership would say, when in actual fact they haven’t really listened, either because they don’t care enough, or worse, because it’s not in their best interest.

Today, people are still working their way up, using ‘politics’ to get to the level that serves their own personal benefit. Nothing wrong with climbing the ladder, but when you’re only looking at yourself in the process, that will be one of the main reasons people start to disconnect with you as a leader. Something to keep in mind. 

And so, it’s time to rethink organisational politics in a time when organisations are facing uncertain futures because of the disruptive digital revolution. Don’t worry, everything is alright! What you’re looking for is already there. It will all start with trust, and trusting each other is something we all have to relearn. It’s easier said than done when you look at communities, society or organisations nowadays. At work, we rather doubt our colleagues or direct reports than credit and trust them. So it will be quite the mission to guide the leadership inside an organisation towards a changed behaviour when it comes to trust: “Trust is something that you have to earn!”, they say. What the leadership should learn to understand is that a leader without followers isn’t leading. It’s a job title that indicated a leader should lead, when it’s the person and his actions that defines whether the person is leading or not. So maybe trust is something we should give in stead of making people earn it. 

The era of new leadership has arrived

New ways of working define a new type of leadership. It’s about serving, coaching, inspiring and collaborating. The typical and autocratic way of leading as a manager is disappearing as the ideal leadership style. Quite logic when you think about the fact you start empowering the employees. When you do so, you need to validate their ideas, opinions and decisions. There is no room for contemporary politics when you want to be fully transparent with you internal teams and people. Yes, you’re right, it is very much about values: openness, transparency, courage, commitment, honesty. There is no more room for power games benefiting personal interests in these days’ modern organisations. The mojo should be: Stop politics, start trusting! Relearn leaders how to care for those who are now empowered in decision taking. Redesign leadership and prioritize their human capital. Leaders, it’s time to actually lead by example and stop dwelling about a preferred future state. If you lead, you’ll get to that future state without overthinking it, but by just doing it! 

“Great expectations are better than poor possessions”

Miguel De Cervantes

So how do get started? Understand the sociological changes in forming organisations. Have a clear view on the psychological advantages of soft competences in the workplace: soft skills are flourishing you know?! Align all leaders about vision, mission, beliefs and values. A thorough understanding of the new ways of working will help leaders to grow into their new role. The talent you’re looking for, is – most of the times – already present inside your organisation. Work with the talents instead of replacing them by so called experts. The people inside your company that are willing to grow and get the opportunity presented, will bring engagement, commitment and respect for others to the table. It will benefit your organisation. And for the roles nobody feels qualified yet, look for passionate people who are able to inspire! 

Let’s make stronger bonded organisations. 
A tough nut to crack?
Let’s build them on trust.
Stop politics, start trusting! 

The undeniable force of values and beliefs

“Culture is a consequence when you implement a new way of working”, is apparently stated by many organisations who help organisations transform to an Agile WoW. Seriously?!

Earlier this week I had a chat with a person who told me that 5 different companies proposed their offering for Agile way of working to that organisation and those 5 companies each told that a changed culture was the consequence of implementing new way of working and you should not invest in advance in managing culture because in the end … well your culture is changed. You’re wrong!

Well, let me tell you this: the consequence is that if you look at it that way, you’ll probably end up in some sort of ‘dead valley’-culture. Values and beliefs are unclear and nobody knows what just actually happened, and suddenly you’ll end up with a scorched earth in front of you, asking yourself as manager:”What did just happened here?”

Let it be clear. When you want to transform an organisation’s most valuable resource, thus transforming the way of working of your human capital, you can’t just state that the newly desired culture of your organisation will probably be a consequence! It’s hard work. Everybody knows the saying:”Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. A new way of working is very much an act of a changed strategy. So it’s very likely that your current culture will overtake and even kill your strategy when you don’t work on this! A changed culture with the desired outcome is the result of efforts!

There have been many attempts to define culture. The most common definition describes culture as a system of values and beliefs which we share with others, all which gives us a sense of belonging or identity. 

“People don’t buy what you do, but why you do it!”, said Simon Sinek. When you want to set things in motion, you need your people to believe what you believe. “The why”, would Sinek say, “drives the decision of people”.

I believe that organisations choose to transform their way of working because it’s their belief they can become a better version of themselves if they reorganise. But without a sparkle of inspiration, a word about the reasons, an explanation about the future preferred state, nothing will change for the better. People will never understand, unless you’ll start addressing their intrinsic motivation. And this is just the starting point. Getting people engaged, empower them to make things happen and constantly keep them focused and on track, is very hard work. It’s not about coaching the process, it’s about making people understand and feel what you, as an organisation want to achieve. Your employees’ belief should be the same as the the organisations’. And you don’t achieve this by tricking people into a new process and simple coach them on that process. Before you coach the process, you want your people to fully understand and believe what you believe. That’s the only way you organisation, and so your people, will benefit from the change in the end. And change is hard work!  

Empiricism

When you want your organisation to work Agile, you need to understand that it possibly need to make a shift from rational thinking towards empirical thinking. This is radical! The generations in the workplace nowadays were raised in an era that is was better to think twice, overthink the actions before doing, think about the consequences before handling. In Agile, we don’t stop thinking but we redefine the way we should think in order to get agility: inspect and adapt; learn from what you experience and act accordingly. It’s sounds pretty easy, but it’s harder than you would think to get everybody to think and act that way.

Mel Gibson once said:”Old habits die hard. If you don’t kick them, they kick you!”. As an organisation, you need to give your employees every possible reason and tools to kick the old habits out!  Unfluff the fact that culture is not tangible. Don’t go for just a consequence.

A word about balance and see you soon

The past 3 years at Tobania were an unbelievable journey! From the day we’ve presented ourselves to the board up to now, it has been challenging, fun, competitive, relaxing, joyful, difficult! It has been great and amazing #trumpwords. Those who have been working closely with me, know that I was 100% all-in. I really gave it all I had. Nevertheless, now it’s time for me to move on.

Since I’ve been one of the founding fathers of this unit, I wanted to explain thoroughly my personal reasons to leave and at the same time reassure you that great times lie ahead of you. All building blocks are there to actually build the greatest business unit ever with a strong culture of amazement. 

 
I won't throw myself from the pier 
I'm gonna go home and shut up for a year 
And when the year is over I'll reappear 
And have a solution 
I've reason to believe that what I find 
Is gonna change the face of human kind 
And all these years before well I was blind 
That's my conclusion 
'Cause I'm the architect 


"The Architect” - dEUS 

As you might have read of heard, I was out for some time. I’ve stayed home for about 2 months before returning early November. The last year was very hard for me. I’ve kept on going. Work started for me literally when I woke up in the morning and ended when I got in bed. I had no “off button” in my head. And at the same time, I’ve started to ignore my gut-feeling. This is a disaster for me!  And so my body reacted in every possible way it could when all my batteries had no more juice left. These 2 months made me overthink my professional behaviour, my private life and my personal well-being. It made me evaluate my personal health and the outcome is that I want to make some fundamental changes. So, without actually having signed somewhere else yet, I make the call to go for myself this time. It’s a bit scary, but the only right thing to do at this moment. There are possibly more than 1000 reasons for me to stay, but these are all external reasons. This time, I won’t ignore the internal sign. It’s time for me, for me!

Proud

3 years ago we’ve started with a dream to change something in consultancy. It rose questions for us like: “How can we actually change the way people are treated within consultancy firms? How can we be different as managers and actually give a damn about those who are in the trenches?”. The people centric approach was a success and we’ve grown harder than we could possible imagine. Because of that, new challenges arose faster than we’ve expected and made our job somewhat harder without (sometimes) a perfect process in place. I’m really proud that we’ve stayed true to our values and beliefs.

The last year, was very challenging but we’ve managed to build foundations for the future: OHANA is ready to launch, Agile EVOLUTION is without any doubt the best offering for Agile transformations in the market, the first digital roadmaps are co-created with customers and now we have full internal support to organise office break-out sessions (after making a point that traditional approaches don’t always work anymore today). I see people who are ready to step up and who are starting to inspire others. I see a lot of new initiatives coming from all our consultants, from you. It’s all I could have dreamt for, it’s all I’ve been working for. It’s what I always wanted, making myself obsolete. 

Never say never,because limits, like fears, are often just an illusion.
– Michael Jordan –

Today’s mantra is gratitude  

Tobania is actually a great place to work. It’s a special place, but it’s also a great place! And I tell you why…  Lode Peeters supported me: first with my trial against a previous employer (on a personal level) and later on he became a firm believer of my ideas (OHANA). He’s a true entrepreneur and he deserves all the credits in supporting our way of working. Willem is not that typical Business Unit Director in a consultancy business unit. He’s far more than that and showed enormous loyalty to this business unit and its people. He’s been the commander-in-chief you want to have when the going gets tough. Kim is 100% the opposite from me, and yet 100% the same. In my professional life, I’ve never had a more complementary colleague than him. I think I can say that both Willem and Kim, the other founding fathers, are more than just colleagues for me. We’ve build this amazing management and staff team. I’ve seen them going the extra mile more than once. In challenging times, they’ve always stood their ground! David, Femke, Killy-Bo, Free, Laura, Luk and Vincent, you are rockstars! 

Last but definitely not the least, there is you! My respect goes to all of you who are making a difference every day at our customers. You deserve all the credits. Some of you already also decided to help us further grow this great story and some are already helping us to further mature. 

So… Let it be clear: Tobania.Business has strong foundations, is moving in the right direction and the future looks bright. Other people will rise, but the old EBS culture will always remain. It’s always people first! 

Thank you so much for trusting me.
This is not are farewell, it’s simply said: “See you later”! 

How Kata boost your Agile Culture

Getting Agile to work for your organisation, isn’t easy. We all want the benefits of Agile, but we don’t like the struggles that come with this. After a couple of years discussing ‘Agile ways of working’ and looking from the outside in and experiencing from the inside out, I’m more than ever convinced that it is culture we need to address before we implement Agile as a new way of working. The specialists will shout out: “You’re stating the obvious, dude”. I felt it was needed to be stated once more, and I hope many will keep on stating this! We’re too often still failing to use company culture as leverage for change. “Change does not roll in on wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle”, said Martin Luther King Jr.

You don’t know what you are any more, just know where you’ve been. It doesn’t matter how it all was before, let the present begin … what’s done is done! You need to set your ways. And that is you, You in your future days! (“Done is done”- Millencolin)

Implement Agile only when your leadership is embracing a true mindset of Agility

Employees often copy the behaviour of the leadership, at least if they are to be trusted. It’s like your favourite lead singer of a band. As a kid, you probably have been imitating the stars. Well, if you have a boss who’s good for you and that you can trust, you will probably copy some of his/her behaviour. In the current era of Digitisation, companies strive for enhanced agility but often, they’ll remain groping in the dark. The leadership heard about some benefits of Agile and interpreted it like things as: doing more work with fewer people, faster go-to-market, more value for money, less management because of self-organising teams. Ooh, the type of things senior leadership likes to hear, because it optimises costs and boosts sales. And so, they’ll appoint an expensive consultant to make a plan to change the company overnight. The leadership expects immediate results, and although small miracles happen everyday in the workplace, results don’t live up to their expectations: they simply don’t see the financial impact. Soon they’ll start to blame the consultant although often the leadership is the absentee landlord when needed the most. So it’s about cultivating the soil so it’s ready when you sow the first seeds. It’s about getting the leadership aboard, making sure they fully understand the journey they are about to start and remind them of their responsibility as leader! 

The first thing to do when you start your journey is actually change the mindset of the leadership. They’re vital to make the change happen, vital to boost the evolution towards enhanced agility. They’re the rockstars of the organisation: let them inspire, support, coach and lead! They’ll be the trusted guides along the way during this mind blowing journey.

Don’t simply start the ’transformation’ but relearn the leadership how work ‘works’ today. They need to have an Agile mindset before you can start, otherwise it’ll possibly be all money down the drain. They need to understand that they are key; they are the key people when it comes to nurturing the Agile culture. If they are rockstars, their fans will imitate them. If they are absentee landlords, the people will start talking and create their own environment. Senior leadership will never understand this underlying culture in their company and where it came from, although, they are the ones to blame. Don’t take mindset lightly when you want to move towards more Agility. 

Teams from the ground up

Once you have leadership in place, you can focus on rolling out Agile in the organisation. To make it easy in this article, let’s say Business & IT decide to work in a Scrum way. You might choose for a Scaled Agile framework to support you or you can build your own Agile organisation from the ground up and learn from the dependencies, hiccups and troubles along the way. Nevertheless, I believe you have to define some cornerstones, so it’s clear what type of culture you want to nurture inside your own Agile framework.

(Some) Cornerstones for an Agile Framework:

  • Do Agile the way it was intended #empiricism
  • Operate in a pragmatic way 
  • Focus on change: individuals and teams, leadership and employees #empowerment
  • Install a culture to thrive on and build strong communities to further engage people
  • See the horizon and let the North Star Metric guide you 
  • Dare to shoot for the moon with OKRs 
  • Install a culture of learning and peer coaching. #lifelonglearning

Installing the Scrum ceremonies, roles and artefacts is something we’re familiar with today. But in my humble opinion, it should come after a bath of inspirational sessions where you slowly start to change the mindset of all the people inside the organisation. The Senior Leadership is able to explain employees why the company is making the change for the better and rock stardom is necessary to inspire people and put them into motion. It truly is a change story! Then you start to install Scrum in the cross-functional teams as way of working. Be aware that you don’t switch your focus from people towards the process, but balance this out! And although the ceremonies should support this balance, it might be a good idea to have a program running to install the true Agile mindset and further nurture the Agile culture inside your company:

  • A change track – you know the drill
  • A trainings track – you know the drill
  • A coaching track – you know the drill
  • A Safe and Security track to make people understand that you’re in this journey together. Both leadership and operations will learn from mistakes along the way. We definitely need to learn this drill. #openness 

Implementing Agile and improve Continuously

From the start, you’ll have to start to measure (subjective and objective). This information is crucial to address continuous improvement. We’re used to improve continuously inside the team, but we also need to improve on a higher and bigger level in order to get an organisation that will get a cadence that reverberates. The outcome of the gathered information can be used to streamline your Kata. Kata, a Japanese word, meaning literally: “form”.

Kata originally were teaching and training methods by which successful combat techniques were preserved and passed on. The goal is to internalize the movements and techniques of a kata so they can be executed and adapted under different circumstances, without thought or hesitation.

Since Agile is an empirical process, you keep on learning from previous iterations. Whilst installing Agile as way of working in teams, I’ve never seen a mature Agile team from the first day they’ve started. Time to meaningfully support teams in every possible way .

“Great things happen to those who don’t stop believing, trying, learning, and being grateful.” -Roy T. Bennett.

So, let’s plan your first KATA based on the information you’ve collected from subjective and objective sources. Rollout training (or workshops) for a more general or a specific topic which is applicable for more than one team. Check the result in the teams after a couple of sprints. Evaluate and Review the result in depth and learn from the result. This approach is scalable, teams can copy this approach in order to improve continuously. The goal is to keep on repeating this, and so install a culture of continuous improvement. Because I firmly believe Continuous Improvement is the true driver for growing the Agile mindset.

Here’s an hypothetical example to make you understand how it works:

Business is complaining about the quality of the product. Scrum Masters indicate that their teams are complaining during the retrospectives about the vague analysis they’ve received so far. Reporting shows a huge impact on the budget because of poor quality, in casu many change requests. On a team level, the teams are rethinking their Definition of Ready/Done and they agreed to ask the Product Owner more questions before accepting a User Story that’s not clear. A Kata is developed about the theme:”user stories with clear acceptance criteria as a baseline for Behaviour Driven Development”. Expert will train analysts and Product Owners during a period in order to deliver better quality and the right amount of information. They learn them about the right kind of availability behaviour in an Agile Context. One of the immediate actions are updated definitions of done for each team. At the end of the Kata you’ve will measure the progress of the ‘poor quality’ and hope to see a decrease of change request. You see a changed behaviour from the team and from the Product Owner.

I don’t necessary say, we’ve done a bad job so far. But we need to be aware that an Agile culture can only grow if you invest in this. Kata give you the opportunity the make change possible and feasible to take in for your people. It gives the opportunity for the leadership to play their supportive role and give them the purpose of actually leading in stead of just standing at the sideline, questioning themselves what the hell is going on. Kata boost peer coaching and a culture of learning. 

Start to cultivate your Agile culture via focus on Continuous learning, Customer Delight and Employee Engagement. Evaluate (subjective reasons) and monitor (objective reasons) constantly the adoption of the Agile Mindset. 

It’s time to step up our game. Like Michael Jordan once said:”Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it”. If the wall today is lacking Agile mindset, don’t run from it, look for ways to make it work for you!