Business Decision Making Take initiative

Rethink modus operandi before corona crisis ends!

Now that we are a few weeks into this global corona crisis. Most organisations have found a way to deal with the operational challenges it comes with. I hope that leaders in organisations that are economically affected by this corona crisis, are shifting their focus. Strategising what will happen after this lockdown or other restrictions are lifted. I believe that it’s not an option to return to business as usual.  If you are a leader, you should not be micromanaging the current crisis. Your employees know very well what can or cannot be done at this moment. Do not feel the temptation to invest a lot of your time and energy in optimising your business for the short term. Shift your focus towards the long term and how to restart your business.

Necessary actions are taken

The longer this crisis and the restrictions are upheld. The more likely we have to fundamentally rethink how to run our organisations. It would be naive to think we could just pick up where we left off. 

Maybe in the last couple of weeks you and your organisation have restructured your processes to be able to deliver the best possible value to your customers. Many organisations have decided to let their flexible workforce go, cancel training courses and stop all non essential investments. These are relatively easy and logical actions taken to create room to breathe on the short term. And because the economy is in low output mode, the remainder of the workforce can deal with the remaining work at hand.

Once restrictions are lifted, you customers won’t automatically return. You probably don’t have the funds or work to hire new employees. Or make too many investments. I would expect leadership teams are already thinking about what can be done to restart their organisations. Think about what will likely happen. Which approach might help and how this situation can be used to rethink their current method of operation. If not? Keep reading!

Before the corona crisis

Since the industrial revolution, we have been trying to optimise our value creation processes. We have created an impressive number of ways to govern it. The variables below used to be extremely influential in determining how successful we are able to do this.

The primairy factors triangle
Three primairy factors to be successful

Those who were able to control and utilise the three primary factors (resources, labour and capital) were successful. Large corporations dominating the markets because competitors are unable to obtain the natural, monetary and labor resources. To maximise these rewards we adopted numerous ways to optimise them.

When the restrictions to manage the spread of the coronavirus will be lifted. The scarcity of resources will not have changed. Maybe the oil prices are lower at this moment, but they will eventually rise again quickly. Organisations have probably used a significant amount of their financial reserves to prevent them from going out of business. They might not have the funds to (re)hire the flexible workforce they have let go. Organisations will resume their operations with less capabilities than they used to have. That might feel like a disadvantage. But in fact it’s an opportunity to do ‘things differently’, be more effectively with less.

Entrepreneurial Abilities

When these three primary factors are scarce, the entrepreneurial abilities of an organisation can make the difference.

Entrepreneurial abilities triangle
Entrepreneurial abilites

The ability to optimise the utilisation of the production factors is entrepreneurship. This involves five elements:

  • Taking initiative – Action oriented and driven by forward motion
  • Strategic business decision making – Based on a clear vision and strategy being able to make decisions
  • Innovation – Exploring and experimenting
  • Bearing risk – taking the consequences of the previous three elements regardless the outcome.
  • GUTS!

Focus on maximising outcome!

The last couple of months, I have been working with my clients to focus more on maximising outcome delivered. Many organisations tend to focus primarily on maximising the output. Being extremely efficient to deliver an assumed outcome. If there is no crisis at hand, you might get away with this. However, in a couple of weeks or months from now (who knows when). You will be restarting your business. Probably with fewer people available and with limited (financial) resources. The worst thing you could do is resume to the state before the corona crisis. Following the same procedures etc. I predict the outcome will be significantly lower. 

The restart of your business will provide you with the opportunity to rethink your modus operandi. How you can maximise the outcome with the capabilities you currently have. And the only thing you have to do is to involve your employees and tap into their entrepreneurial abilities. 

Inspect and Adapt

As a leader, you will have to set clear goals (outcome or even impact) and clear boundaries. Also, you might want to adopt an empirical approach to inspect and adapt. To navigate uncertainty (maybe you are have been using frameworks that assist you on that). This way you can reinvent your organisation in small iterations. Rethink all the things you used to do if these is necessary (procedures, protocols, documentation, sign-offs etc). Do these actions add value to your customers? Or can you achieve the same results with a different approach. Give your employees the freedom to change things without compromising on quality or safety. Most organisations have been practicing this approach for the last couple of years. For example, adopting the Scrum Framework or attempting to ‘transition’ towards more agility. 

The time will come to really put all these investments into practice. We will be facing a time with a lot of uncertainty. So, the only way to deal with that is to set up your organisation to frequently inspect and adapt the value it delivered. And how to get better at doing this with the limited resources available. 

If you are a leader, you should not be micromanaging the current corona crisis. Your employees know very well what can or cannot be done at this moment. Do not feel the temptation to invest a lot of your time and energy in optimising your business for the short term. Shift your focus towards the long term and how to restart your business.

Take initiative Vlog

Hoe je gedrag in organisaties wel kunt veranderen!

Het boek dat ik op dit moment aan het lezen ben is ‘ De Ladder’ van Ben Tiggelaar. Een boek over verandering en dan met name van gedrag. Wat mij aanspreekt is de randvoorwaarde voor succesvolle gedragsverandering is het inrichten van support. In het geval van organisaties praat ik dan vaak over het veranderen van de context. Dit is iets wat je wel kunt beïnvloeden als je gedrag in jouw organisatie wilt veranderen. Deze korte video gaat over verandering, verhuizen en dus context.

Business Decision Making Take initiative

The autonomy and alignment experiment

Recently, we hosted a small event on ‘self organisation’. This was an informal and highly interactive session. We kick started with an experiment which I think is worth sharing.

Goal of this experiment is to see how people react when given a simple task with a combination of high or low autonomy and alignment. How does this make them feel? And how do they experience this? The outcome was great! In this post I would like to share how you can re-enact this experiment.

This experiment is inspired by a small fragment from the movie about the Spotify Engineering Culture part 1. We wanted, before showing this to the audience, to have them experience what it means to have low autonomy and low alignment but still have a result expected. This is how the experiment works:

Step 1 – The event starts before it starts

Before the event officially started, even before we welcomed everybody we divided the group into 4 smaller groups. S no welcome, no explanation that we are doing an exercise. Just. “Welcome, we need you to split up in groups of four.”

Step 2 – Handing out the assignment

Each group gets an assignment written on a post-it handed over by the facilitator of the autonomy experiment.

Group 1 – Low autonomy, Low alignment

Welcome, on behalf of Prowareness welcome to this Mastery in Scrum event. Tonight we will be talking about the self organisations in scrum teams. Enjoy your evening, we will start in 10 minutes.

Group 2 – Low Alignment, High Autonomy

Welcome to Mastery in Scrum on self organisation. Feel free as a group to get to know each other and the other groups in the next 10 minutes.

Group 3 – High Alignment, low autonomy

Welcome to Mastery in Scrum. Heres your assignment for you:

First group : Learn all the participants (so also other groups) their names

Second group: Learn all participants (so also other groups) their current role in an organisation

Third group: Learn all participants (so also other groups) the biggest challenge working with teams

Fourth group: Learn all participants (so also other groups) their experience with Scrum in years.

If you are with >4 groups choose one of four tasks.

You have 10 minutes

Group 4 – High Alignment and High Autonomy

This group gets the following assignment.

Welcome to Mastery in Scrum. We would like to get to know what people’s expectations are for this workshop. You have 10 minutes.

Step 3 – Chaos begins

Right after the assignments had been handed out, everybody started to execute their assignment where some are perfectly executing their task assigned and others where looking puzzled by the fact people approached them with certain questions.

Step 4 – The Question

After 10 minutes we asked everybody to get to their seats and we asked them;

For each group we would like to hear what you found out what people’s expectations are for this workshop.

Some teams were able to elaborate a little on the topic, some had no idea this was the purpose of the assignment they received.

Step 5 – Debrief

After this we did a debrief on the autonomy experiment asking the following questions.

  • Discuss what the groups thinks what this was all about?
  • Discuss how each group experienced this exercise?
  • Showing the movie on Spotify engineering culture
  • How does this reflect to their situation, their work and what is the relationship with self organisation ? (fishbowl – 1 chair per quadrant)

This was a great way to kickstart the event and a discussion on how to achieve self organisation because every participant experienced the impact on this. So please feel free to replicate this experiment and let me know what you think of it and how it can be improved.