Thursday, November 6, 2014

Help Your Team Become More Agile

Help Your Team Become More AgileA large organisation offers a more stable day-to-day work life. There's a buffer between teams and the outside world, so people work in a stable, predictable environment, with less stress and more confidence they can cope with the work. Even when external pressures occur, the organisation can absorb, delay or counter them so they don’t affect normal operations.

When you work in this sort of environment, it's easier for you to plan, project, budget and allocate resources. It's easier for you to motivate your team members with clear and predictable goals, milestones, bonuses and other performance rewards. You can also promise a more secure, reliable, predictable workplace – so it's easier to get, engage and keep key people.

But big ships get hit by icebergs!

Although this stability is a benefit in normal operations, it also makes us less flexible and resilient when things go badly wrong. Like the little girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead (“When she was good she was very, very good; when she was bad she was horrid”), or an ocean liner that can handle big waves but not an iceberg, we react badly when big things happen. Decisions take longer, everybody's protecting their turf, we're under the public microscope so even small decisions get scrutinised in detail, and so on. Most of all, most people are simply caught unaware when the boat hits the iceberg.

Even if you see the dangers and risks ahead, you're a small fish in a big pond, so you might not be able to do anything about them. In an increasingly fast-paced world, big organisations are less agile, less flexible, more vulnerable and less prepared for big external pressures.

When a crisis occurs, you might lose staff, projects, and even your job – through no fault of your own, and without any recourse. It's bad enough when a lone sailor loses his life; it's a tragedy of a whole other magnitude when it happens to a large ship.

Even if there are no crises, you (and the organisation) might not see the opportunities either – opportunities that a smaller, more exposed organisation would recognise and take. Even within your team, a predictable workplace can be boring and unmotivating! And if everything is predictable, you're not allowing your team members to thrive.

Take a leaf from a small, agile business ...

Small organisations deal with crises (some imagined, some real) regularly. Because they are more exposed, these workplaces can be more uncertain, frantic and frightening. However, they can also be more dynamic, more exciting and more inspiring.

Give your team the best of both worlds, by showing them the excitement of a dynamic work life while still enjoying the relative security of a stable workplace. You can do this in three ways:

  1. Lift them up: Expose your team members to higher roles, so they can see over the metaphorical walls (or physical cubicle partitions!) in their regular work.
  2. Bring the outside in: Subscribe to industry magazines and journals – both in print (which you can leave lying around in common areas, or circulate among the team) and electronic form.
  3. Take the inside out: Encourage your team members to step outside the workplace and participate in business networking events (and yes, in real life, not just online!)

By giving them opportunities "above their pay grade", you help them avoid the false sense of security they might otherwise feel.

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