agile journeys

...rants by Asheesh Mehdiratta on Transformation and Change

Category: transformation (page 1 of 2)

Do you plant New Seedlings in your team?

As you grow your garden, you need to plant New Seedlings and nurture them till they become stronger and stand on their own.

As an agile coach, do you plant New Seedlings in your team?

Do you show the team new techniques, new ideas and seed their minds?

Do you show them by being hands-on? New process steps? New tools? New ways of doing the old things? New ways of doing new things?

Ask yourself –

  • What happened when you planted new seedlings, and you nurtured them?
  • When you helped a team member and showed him a new technique?
  • When you provided an unexpected improvement in their way of working?
  • When you helped in finishing their task, without them asking for help?

Did they smile at you ? Did they Thank you? Did they adopt your next suggestion more easily? 

Did they start Trusting you?

Conclusion

So to make a dent in your team’s change journey, and do break those brick walls, you need to start planting as many seedlings everyday as you can, with everyone in your team. Some will die, but others will sprout  if not immediately then at a later point in time. Some will grow and become stronger! and the ones who become stronger will be your light house for your transformation journey.

So go ahead and plant new seedlings everyday!

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5 Step Recipe for building Communities of Practice

building communities of practiceAs part of organizational transformation journey, CIOs today need to move from hierarchical models to self organizing communities to deliver IT, and there is an even greater need to build and sustain “Communities of Practices” for achieving the same. If you are an internal change agent responsible for building these communities, you can learn about the 5 step recipe to building and nurturing these communities of practice in your organization:

But before we kick-start, let us try to understand what really is a Community of Practice?

Communities of practice (CoP) are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.

Typically these groups have a shared domain of interest, shared competence, and learn regularly from each other. They engage in joint activities and discussions, help each other, and share information; they are practitioners who share experiences, stories, tools, ways of addressing recurring problems — in short a shared practice.

Below is a Simple 5 step strategy to kick start and nurture your Community of Practice:

1. Establish a Sense of Urgency and leverage the Strategic objectives

2. Gather ‘early’ Adopters and “Run”

3. Partner with the internal and external Ecosystem

4. Scale –  Horizontally 

5. Scale –  Vertically

 

1. Establish a Sense of Urgency and leverage the Strategic objectives

Corporate honchos will typically lay down the current / future areas of focus for the organization. These are typically called as the Strategic Capabilities or future growth areas or similar sounding terms.

The key to starting a community is to leverage these strategic objectives with an inbuilt sense of urgency, and find a key sponsor (read as TOP DOWN Support), and identify the contributions with this sponsor, as to how the community can add Value, and then focus the discussion and activities around these.

The BOTTOM UP support is always easy to find, once the Sponsor has been identified, who can then help in spreading the message across the enterprise. It is never a question of how to find the bottom up interest, but more a question of ‘how to engage and guide’ the early adopters and steer their passion.

2. Gather ‘early’ Adopters and “Run”

Start with whoever shows up and accept that there will be passionate people (few initially), but always encourage and accept different levels of participation. You will realise that the strength of participation varies from each individual. The ‘core’ (most active members) are those who participate regularly. There are others who follow the discussions or activities but do not take a leading role in making active contributions.

Then there are those (likely the majority) who are on the periphery of the community but may become more active participants if the activities or discussions start to engage them more fully. All these levels of participation should be accepted and encouraged within the community.

There is never a critical mass required to start a community. So RUN with whoever shows up!

3. Partner with the internal and external communities

As a community guide, you will/shall/need to partner with the internal and external communities for your organization.

The internal communities would include your Support functions – typically Human Resources – Learning / Training departments, and the internal facilities, who can provide the required logistics, marketing muscle, sometimes manpower too and really make your community endeavors as a key part of their learning offerings. It is best to create this win-win combination to sustain your communities.

The external communities is key and would include partnership with the industry forums, and speakers, wherein the community members interact, broaden their expertise, and learn and share their stories, new learnings and upcoming trends. The key is to provide an engagement channel with your Community SPONSOR, on how to funnel the participation and share these learning’s internally without getting sucked into the legal and compliance partners.  The culture of your organization may aid/resist this step-up.

4. Scale –  Horizontally 

In order to generate initial buy-in across a wider spectrum, it always makes sense to scale horizontally first, so that you can achieve critical mass for your community. This allows the members to contribute and break the ice, and helps in the initial stages in collaboration for the ‘core’ team, as each member brings some additional value to the conversation. We call this strategy as the – Go Wide move

It always helps to create a rhythm for the community with regular schedule of activities that brings the participants together on a regular basis, and combining familiarity and excitement, by focusing both on shared, common concerns and perspectives, but also by introducing radical or challenging perspectives for discussion or action.

5. Scale –  Vertically

Post the initial buy-in, and few first steps, there are always challenges of – What next? Who runs? When? How?

Try Vertical Scaling! – which means going deeper into the sub-topics of interest / work streams within a common umbrella, focusing on multiple aspects: roles/functions/location/on-line/offline medium

As the community needs to be refreshed every few seasons and undergoes an ownership transition, which will happens as you scale vertically now, it is OK to disengage the earlier passionate core and let a new ‘core’ emerge. Other options include introducing Game mechanics in the community, and allowing for non monetary rewards and publicity for the passionate volunteers. You may need to watch out for the Success Patterns and Failure Patterns for your CoPs.

In the end it is the Passion that always rules!

The key to building successful communities is to provide an enabling platform and a safe environment for people to share their stories without any judgement or fear of failure.

I would definitely be interested to hear if you have used these or additional steps to make your communities a success !! So what’s your success story building and nurturing Communities of Practice ?

Photo Source: http://bit.ly/2d39F6R

p.s. This post was originally published here

Pranks and the Power of Questioning

questioningAs a change agent, you have a tough task of raising the awareness, educating, training and transforming the minds of the teams and leadership, while still maintaining your sanity. Sometimes they GET IT! And sometimes they act as innocent kids, enjoying their pranks while displaying passive or active resistance to your change efforts.

To me, this situation seems very similar to the dilemmas of the teaching community, who have similar problems everyday with the school kids. But if you watch the teaching community, one of the techniques they use is the Power of Questioning.

Power of Questioning

Power of Questioning includes asking the right questions, which challenges your teams, and promotes a higher order thinking, incubates creativity and helps them to finally develop learning!

So as a Change Agent, you should start to ask the right Questions, so that you can gather useful information about the team, about their interactions, their personalities, and help you in bonding better. You can start to listen more, with open questions, and practice active listening.

Different Types of Questions

It helps to develop a broad base of questions and mix up different styles. Below are some examples –

  • You can ask Rhetorical questions to emphasize a key point, and create a dramatic effect !
    • Check out some  examples from an education project, which you can customize for your team interactions.
  • But really the most important way is to go with Socratic questioning, which makes the individuals think for themselves, rather than elicit information from you.
    • Check out additional examples from an education project, which you can customize for your team interactions.
  • Other times you can use Reflective questions and it can help with having with Question Cards , examples below –
    • What was easy?
    • What was hard?
    • What did I learn?
    • How will you use this learning in the future?

Check out examples from an education project, which you can customize for your team interactions.

Your Next Steps

Looking at the above examples, you might be wondering that the Sprint Retrospective questions sounds familiar. But in my view, it is simply one of the many forms of questioning that you use at a team level, but the variety and situations are immense for you to experiment and start using this technique in almost every situation. So ask yourself –  if you can use the Power of Questioning everyday? Can you learn and pick some of these questions and apply in your Change journeys?

In my experience, as we learn the process of inquiry and questioning, we become better at it. You will start to use the insight from the process of inquiry to develop cues to asking better questions and you will find your sanity.

Conclusion
Power of Questioning should be an important arsenal in your tool box, and should be a daily affair, and not just at a certain ceremonial point. It engages your teams and leaders to reflect on their current state and make it easy for you to overcome the passive/active resistance in your change journeys.

So next time you see your kids or your teams displaying resistance to your change efforts, and playing some funny pranks, try the Power of Questioning, and see if you can see through their beliefs, and reflect the mirror!

What are your favorite Questions ?  Which questions inspire your team ? Which  questions do you use most often?

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Are you increasing your Organizational Learnings?

As part of the DevOps transformation, one of the main challenges is building bridges across Dev and Ops and start to build TRUST.

But TRUST cannot be built by simply flipping a switch !! It is never easy.  So how do you start ?

Sometimes, the trust starts to build between teams when they start to share their internal  success and  failure stories .  Trust starts to build when  they start to create Transparency across the walls. But this requires them to  start to share and start to speak a Common Language .

Today if you ask any Development or an Operations teams, they have conflicting goals, and their languages are  poles apart. The language manifests in the form of different process, different artifacts and different formats which they share with their management and teams. There is a BIG GAP!

So how do you reconcile this GAP ? Ask if you can – 

  1. Can you codify your team  processes?  
  2. Can you automate these process steps ? 
  3. Can you codify the creation of your teams artifacts?
  4. Can you automate the creation of these artifacts?

Benefits of Common Language

The benefits are huge, if you start to codify this implicit and explicit knowledge across teams. As you start to codify, you can start to automate and the benefits will  further increase, as this knowledge can now be shared across teams, repeatedly, and improved,  and in the end will lead to increased organisational learning.

So if you are able to codify, automate and share your knowledge across development and operations, you will be on your way to  maximize your organizational learning!

Go ahead and share how you increased your organizational learning?

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Watch out for these Top 5 CoP Failure patterns

Sustaining Communities of Practice is an art and probably a science and can best be build using the framework in my earlier post. I also talked about the CoPs Success Patterns but if you watch out for these Top 5 Failure patterns also while building your CoPs, it may lead you to a better place than where you are right now. So let’s jump right in and reveal these patterns –

1. Big boys club

In this pattern, there are only management bigwigs who only do the TALK,  but fail to WALK the Talk. In effect they will be able to make splashy presentations, but will not have real community members or an engaged community audience. Only the marketing would be the highlight but there would be no real sharing of new ideas or experiences.

2. Solopreneurs

In this pattern, there is a SINGLE Volunteer/Lead who hogs the limelight and runs the show. The individual shamelessly blocks the entry for other volunteers or robs the “community” feeling for the CoP. With no recognition for the remaining volunteers or the community members, this is doomed to failure sooner than later.

3.  Passion-less Glow

In this pattern, the community runs as a Mechanical Robotic system, organizing and running events, but more from a top down hierarchical mandate, rather than a network of  passionate individuals coming together for a cause or passion. These CoPs survive but usually die as soon as the mandate drops.

4. Dropped Anchor

Every community needs key individuals who are the anchor for the community. This is typically the CORE group, which is passionate, driven, and is a community builder, who love to share and grow and learn together. If you do not have these Anchors in your group or these Anchors move out, the community can lose the momentum and slowly fade away.  So watch out for the dropped anchor effect.

5. Big Brother Conflict

Sometimes if the community is driven bottoms up, it can suddenly run in rough weather with the senior leadership if there seems to be a direct threat or conflict to the larger ego or interest of a senior manager.  The community initiatives can be killed or simply degraded if the big brother is not on your side and has his own agenda. So watch out for the big brother conflict.

So these are some of my Top 5 Failure patterns to watch out for sustaining your CoPs. Which failure patterns have you seen? 

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Top 5 Success patterns to sustain your CoPs

Sustaining Communities of Practice is an art and probably a science and can best be build using the framework in my earlier post. But, if you follow these Top 5 Success patterns to sustain your CoPs, it may lead you to a better place than where you are right now. So let’s jump right in and reveal these patterns –

1. Band of brothers

Successful CoPs have a small circle of Brothers  (or Sisters), who have a good rapport with each other and are always acting and building upon each other’s  strengths and weaknesses, as they build and grow the community.

2. Diversity Rules

Successful CoPs have a good diversity across the team in terms of young and old blood. They build an ever growing tribe across different functional roles and/or departmental silos, which are typically found in large enterprises. This community diversity keeps the energy flowing.  The diverse mix allows varied opinions to surface and not let the community be constrained by any single dominant group.

3.  Musical chairs helps

Formal CoP structures offer positional authority in enterprises, and can be a key element to drive and link back to the larger organisational goals. But these formal positions whenever kept optional and /or rotational always keep the individual honest.  These help in structuring the community in the right direction, without any hidden agendas. Thus musical chairs for the community positions is a key enabler and an important success pattern.

4. Ride the Fast Lane

CoPs which can piggy back on organisational strategy and business objectives will always succeed! So if your CoP can ride the fast lane and align with the business strategy, then funding and a management support will appear magically. The community will be able to grow faster  organically, but will also get champions with the top down mandate and grow inorganically.

5.  Circle of Life

Communities which can build a positive circle of energy, with frequent learning systems and sharing among the membership,  and will have a chance of sustaining for the longer term.  As new members grow, community engagement goes up and increases the learning’s, thus leading to a completion of the feedback loop with more ideas and more events, and more members joining building on the momentum.

So these are my Top 5 Success patterns to sustain your CoPs. What are your favorite success patterns ? 

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CHANGE ? Are you Missing this jigsaw?

change habitsChange is hard for everyone and though the 70% failure rate is quoted and busted as a myth, but this does not make the problem of change management go away!

 The change management discipline is itself now challenging (source) the traditional change model, towards a more inclusive, invited, and organic model. It is acknowledged that focus on “People” is an integral part of any Change initiative!

So why do most change initiatives fail? what really are you missing in your Change initiative journey?

Try pondering on this quote –

“Change is not always easy when patterns in our lives have existed so long.”

-Lolly Daskal, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness

If you look at your change initiatives, they will typically be aimed at uprooting our patterns, at changing our interactions, changing our containers or simply making those interactions disappear.

Sometimes you may simply need to simply break down the wall, and sometimes you try something different?, but with every change initiative asking us –

Can you Break your Old Habits, and start adopting NEW Habits?

So if you can start to change people’s habits, you would in my view have successfully moved the needle, and possible achieve some success in your change initiatives.

So what is the biggest Habit that you have been able to Change with your teams? Do share how you introduced the New Habit and got rid of the old one?

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Breaking down the Walls, brick by brick !

brick by On your transformation journey, sometimes you meet the bright sparks who simply GET IT, and sometimes you are faced with the hard rock faced bozos, who are simply DEAD! They build a WALL around themselves. They simply have no desire to CHANGE!

What do you feel?

Do you get mixed feelings, mixed emotions ?  Do you ignore this dead stock ? or do you try to turn them around ? 

What if they are a critical piece to the overall transformation? with all the right authority and are riding the right power pedestal? and you simply cannot ignore them.

What is your next step?

For me, sometimes it helps to simply listen to them and give them your ear !

The act of empathizing with the hard rock faces sometimes melts them ~slowly~ one day at a time and then another day and so on.
It helps if you understand what are their Drivers? which may be in conflict with the transformation agenda! Sometimes their ego simply needs a massage.

By listening to them and all the other nay-sayers, you just break down one brick at a time and suddenly one day you find that the wall no longer exists, and they simple GET IT!

Time to move to the next wall to break !

Do you have any stories to share of your hard rock faces, who you were able to turn around? brick by brick ? what was your strategy?

 

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Blockers are sometimes good for your Transformation

Does your transformation suffer from ‘blocker’ souls?

Does your transformation really need those ‘blocker’ souls?

Have you tried to ‘unblock’ those ‘blocker’ souls? and FAILED !

Sometimes it may be better to let the transformation efforts be BLOCKED (for some time at least)

and let the ‘blocker’ souls rejoice ~silently ~

But this can be your ally in most cases, as  the BLOCKED transformation now suddenly gives you the SPACE and Time to re-evaluate your OPTIONS, your EXPERIMENTS.

It gives you the time to think and rethink your change management strategy. 

  • Does your message needs a refresh ?
  • Should your medium be changed ?
  • Are you under estimating your Impact Radius?
  • Is your staff aware of the overall strategy and why this change is coming?

Sometimes the BLOCKERS are useful to take a pause and reset your clock!

So go ahead and let those ‘blocker’ souls not derail you from your journey!

Feel free to share your ‘blocker’ stories in the comment and keep on listening and subscribe to my blog.

Fresh Innings!

To my readers, this marks not an end but a new beginning, for my rants and opinions on all things active in my world related to agile, lean, devops, change, digital, leadership, and much more.

I AM MOVING my blogging activities to agilejourneys (dot) com now, and this archive will remain AsIS always ! But I hope that you will still follow my rants 🙂 as I hope to trigger some thoughtful conversations on my new site. 

So come on and subscribe to my Latest UPDATES !
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