“Let’s face it, we, as an HR department, were brought up to obey: the business demanded and we had to deliver. We could have brought up whatever we wanted, but at the time, they would never have listened.” Before continuing, May stood up and pretended to be a waitress, with a napkin over her arm, stiff upper lip and standing to attention: “Yes, sir. No, sir. As you wish, sir. HR at your service,” she says with a salute.
The Transformation Team and I were slightly in shock by this performance from the ever-lovely May, after which we all burst into laughter. “Hilarious,” I answered, “I can also still see the bewildered faces of our CEO and the other board members after all those remarks from the employees and leaders during the town hall. It was not a pretty sight to see her ambushed this way.”
A memorable turning point
I still get goosebumps when I think back to that moment in time, now almost 10 years ago. I am standing in a crowded room at our headquarters with some 1200 other colleagues. It’s pretty warm in the room and I feel the tickling heat in my neck. I am excited but also a bit nervous. 2 months ago, I started as HR Transformation Lead and today, it’s D-day.
One of the board members takes the stage: “Dear colleagues, to be fit for the future, we have to start this Agile transformation and shift our hierarchical structure towards a structure of self-organisation. We need your help if we want this transformation to succeed. We need you as transformational leaders and empowered people”
Then, all of a sudden one of the employees gets up so firmly that he knocks over his chair. ‘I’ve been working with Lean and Agile for several years now within the IT department. Do you actually know what Agile is? Because if so, why is this meeting and transformation set up and communicated in a top-down way.’
You could hear a pin drop. Then… chaos set in.
Have you ever been in a situation, leading your team, department or organisation not really knowing what to do or what the outcome would be?
These voices became the catalyst for change
The fact that we face resistance during change, is not so much the problem. Most people who resist to change, show this because they care. In fact, resistance is very helpful to get different perspectives in the room.
Because of this remark, “Do you actually know yourself what ‘Agile’ means?” and the show of resistance that followed, we realised that:
- We were not aware of what was going on in the organisation
- Our top-down, fragmented communication resulted in fuss and misunderstanding
- We did not understand what we were aiming for
- We were a group of individuals in fixed teams, who were not aligned on how to approach such a radical transformation
- We did not really understand what ‘Agile’ was about
The power of a strong leadership team
Research* shows that agility and responding to constant change is a ‘major’ challenge for C-suites and one that requires specific skills and capabilities from leaders.
To develop these skills leadership development is necessary. At the same time, 89% of C-suites said that they face significant barriers to implementing their leadership development programmes due to:
o Lack of interest from those benefiting from the training programme and
o Lack of awareness of the benefits from the training programme.
o Inadequate internal resources to support the project/deliver outcomes.
*According to a new interesting research published by LHH entitled “Bridging the Leadership Development Gap” using data from 1,502 C-Level executives at organizations with 500+ employees across 4 countries. Thx Nicolas Behbahani for bringing this data to my attention.
Other research from the Business Agility Institute also shows this gap in leadership development. After all those years I still see organisations struggle and underestimating the power of a healthy and aligned Leadership Team. A strong team that can lead the change, one that doesn’t stand in the way, but that gives space and empowers others.
So how can a team move forward again and what can you do to avoid such a public rebuke?
- Step out of any current silos and gather a multidisciplinary Transformation Team.
- Define the purpose and goals of this team.
- Make sure the team encompasses all the disciplines that are necessary to complete such a massive undertaking. So, for example: Sales, IT/data analytics, HR, Communication, Marketing, Facilities, Strategy, Finance – these are all departments to consider for this. In case you work together with external parties/consultancies/Agile Coaches, then make sure they are also part of the team.
- Make sure you have, or build, ample transformation capabilities in the entire organisation.
- Understand what you are aiming for. If Business Agility is the goal, then gain a deep understanding of what that means for your organisation.
- Be the orchestrators of change and help the leaders gain understanding of, and being clear on, what the organisation’s direction should be, how to align on that direction company-wide, and what their role as a leadership team should be during the transformation and beyond.
- Take an iterative approach and activate the collective intelligence of all people in the organisation.
Transformations towards Business Agility have been around for quite a while now. So, what does this show us?
Grab the opportunity of starting successfully from day one. As a Transformation Team, as leaders of change, you function as a catalyst and are setting the example. The complexity of shifting towards an adaptive system and leading this system with agility, is not just a change of your way of working.
Establishing this aspired future system, requires also a different way of thinking, collaborating, behaviour, mindset and approach. To be successful you need all talents, perspective and brain power in and outside your organisation in the room. And when you keep working in silos, an iterative approach to change is not something you can successfully kick-off.
Elevating your expertise and capabilities: A transparent and human approach to agility and purpose
If you want to change your current strategy to an approach that revolves around people and purpose, then our People Journey Circle framework can help you further. To learn more about this practical and proven framework, download our eBook – Leading with Agility.
This eBook offers you a wealth of tips and tricks you can experiment with to find your way of working and thinking. A human approach that revolves around people and purpose. That helps you create a differentiating and inclusive journey towards the future of work.
And if you are on the verge of an Agile Transformation or have you already initiated a transformation ,but are still experiencing barriers? Chances are you can create a successful approach using this proven framework. I will be happy to help you develop transformation capabilities in your organisation. Get in touch to understand how we can support you.
Thanks for reading this blog and looking forward to your response!
If you think this is of value for others, then please share it with your network. I greatly appreciate that.
I hoop to meet you soon. And don’t hesitate to connect. Additionally, if you have questions leave a comment or feel free to get in touch for a call to discuss how I can further help you on this journey.
Transforming lives and business for good.
It’s my purpose to spark the Human X-factor and create purpose driven spaces where everybody is able to grow.
How? Put people & purpose at the heart of your organisation and drive your transformation People Led.
Passionated about living by purpose. Entrepreneur and founder of Twinxter and the TwinxterAcademy, Author of Purpose Driven People, creating business agility & sustainable growth, Co-author of Agile People Principles, Transformational Leadership in the fitness and physical activity sector & Emergence, Creator of the People Journey Circle, Keynote Speaker