Start with the people and the culture will follow

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Hands-on Management 3.0 leadership workshops focus on tangible practices to help managers, team leaders, middle management, and C-level executives increase employee engagement and foster transformational change within their organizations. Start Your Leadership Journey Today!

by Valerio Alba

In my company, Vodafone Italy, one of the main things I’ve learned is: Before acting, observe accurately.

As an Agile Coach, when you decide to support a team it’s important to hang back at the beginning and observe how people work live and interact with each other. My goal is to support them so they can understand the best way of working together and so that they can follow the principles of self-organization, and respect the company’s culture.

We don’t have books or articles to explain how best to help each team member, rather it’s by playing games where we gain value and learn. Through this we’re able to better understand the connection between people and we can move forward using practices and techniques from the “Agile Toolkit” including previous personal experiences, case studies, experiments, etc…

As Management 3.0 preaches, there’s no scientific evidence that planned culture change produces a changed culture. The shift only takes place as a result of several interactions and not through a central plan or program. People are a complex system of interactions, where we need to listen to them and help them converge or diverge about technical business decisions.

Tip: Read more Management 3.0 Success Stories

After participating in the Management 3.0 workshop I learned the following:

Technically, we can’t make people feel motivated or engaged. But we can certainly set up the right conditions to maximize the probability that it will happen.

Managers, human resource personnel, agile coaches and everyone in a company should care about the work environment and whether or not people feel motivated. As Management 3.0 says, the primary function of leadership is to nurture culture through values.

Another way to reenergize and re-engage teams is to spend time in one-one-one coaching session and practice passive listening when communicating. These types of activities make people feel at ease in contexts based on transparency, trust and mutual respect.

I witness teams daily that don’t feel autonomous while doing their jobs. I ask what can be done to change things and the feedback I get is that it’s not within their control. This is when I have a conversation with the product owner of the project in order to renegotiate the requirements with the team so they can deliver. Sometimes it helps to discuss things with the IT department as well in order to grant the team access to the systems.

However, sometimes it’s not enough and people need more to feel empowered. According to Management 3.0:

Empowered people improve system effectiveness and survival and empowered organizations are more resilient and agile.

Managers often fear a loss of control when teams take over decision-making and creative workers sometimes have no idea how to take responsibility.

When I discovered this pattern I drew the Delegation Board on a flip chart. This includes the seven levels of delegation, which is used to help teams share how they feel about who’s responsible for multiple activities such as: Testing software, designing a prototype, etc. After doing this it’s easier for teams to compromise with product owners and managers with regards to their needs to have more autonomy and feel empowered. Every team should be allowed to operate according to their own rules, as long as the rules are in harmony with the environment.

Lastly, one of the best ways to connect with and motivates your team is to visualize. Draw, color, underline and connect the dots: Sometimes the team needs to visualize concepts through lines, forms and sketches.

I’ve posted, Management 3.0’s Celebration Grid on my wall so that the team can share each release and celebrate its success. And after weeks of listening, shadowing and experimenting, I became a team member and part of the Vodafone culture. To me, this is what being a change agent really means.

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Photo by Clint Adair (Unsplash)

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