leadership agility keys
Fast and flexible is vital — even lifesaving — today. Recently, we had discussions with a senior leader about his goal to build a more agile organization. This leader had been talking urgently about agility for the past six months. When we started our coaching and consulting work with his leadership team, it soon became clear they were frantically implementing a partial and piecemeal effort.

Poorly aligned agile teams were launched to implement critical new programs. But these teams confused activity with results, and motion with direction. Many of the teams were making changes that didn’t really matter to customers. They were focusing on trivial issues that had very little impact on performance.

Leadership teams failed to guide the improvement activities and establish clear improvement priorities. That led to a desperate “do something — anything” flurry of unfocused activity that sent the organization scurrying off in all directions at once.

In their frantic rush to implement the latest change program, many organizations have essentially said to their project teams, “don’t just sit there; improve something.” Often that means teams make changes that hurt other parts of the organization. Not only are these cause-and-effect relationships unrecognized, but the team may be rewarded because, at the micro-level, their improvement project produced “results.”

 As is the case with so many “activity-frenzied” improvement efforts, this company lacked an integrated focus. They’re launching a series of programs bolted-on the side of operations rather than an integrated process of change and transformation.

Bolt-On Change Programs Built-In Change Process

Experts/Specialist Led Line Management Led
Stand-Alone Projects/Programs Integrated/Interconnected
Constantly Out to Launch Disciplined Follow Through
Electronic/Information Overload Two-Way Conversations
Mission/Values with High “Snicker Factor” Core Values/Purpose Guide Programs, Operations, and Behaviors
Reactive Management, and Search for Guilty/Weaknesses Proactive Root Cause Analysis and Search for Systemic Changes/Strengths
Measurement and Performance Management Gaming Feedback Guides Learning, Improvement, and Change
Inside Out Focus and Controls Outside In Aligns Internal Partnerships

Tomorrow we publish my September blogs in the October issue of The Leader Letter. This month’s issue looks at leadership teams and their impact on the organization’s culture, especially on becoming more agile. It starts with recognizing when a team is trapped in rigid thinking and approaches across three key areas.

Over decades of helping leaders strengthen their culture, we find time and again that culture ripples out from the team leading it. Their individual and collective behavior is THE single biggest driver of organizational culture. Unfortunately, many leaders don’t recognize their own behavior reflected back to them in cultural norms.

Is your team out of focus? I once heard a branch office leader describe head office as a “puzzle palace.” Each time a leadership team member visited their branch, they delivered contradictory and confusing messages about goals, priorities, and direction. Is your team delivering consistent messages on where you’re going, what you believe in, and why you exist? We’ll look at six ways your team can sharpen its focus.

Slowing down can help us go faster. Taking time to reflect upon and renew the key leadership and culture approaches in this issue will help you more quickly respond to, and capitalize on, today’s high speed of change.