agile journeys

...rants by Asheesh Mehdiratta on Coaching, Transformation and Change

Coaching Leadership Teams Journal: Everything You Need To Know – #1

Leadership Teams are everywhere, but most teams need support with Team coaching, to be able to leverage the true potential of their team members and the team itself and realize the benefits and generate value for the team’s stakeholders.

In this multi-post series, I will share my personal experiences along with notes from the book “Leadership Team Coaching”, by Prof Peter Hawkins and would love to hear your insights and experiences.

KEY Leadership Team Challenges

In this first post, let us understand the KEY Challenges currently being faced by Leadership Teams :

Leadership Team challenges
  1. Managing expectations of all Different Stakeholders

Leadership teams today must be able to respond and ‘win the hearts and minds’ of multiple stakeholders – which include key customers, internal staff, partner organizations and the broader spectrum of regulators, board members and shareholders, with communities and the wider shared ecology. Future generations and millennials have even greater expectations and less respect for titles and roles, and leaders will need to earn their respect with creative inspirational and credible actions.

  1. Leadership teams have to RUN and TRANSFORM the Business in parallel

All leadership teams today have to focus on not just running the business, but also look at transforming the business and the wider system and this is never easy! With parallel work across the three horizons, the leadership teams typically have the below focus areas and tend to struggle on maintaining the right balance.

  1. Immediate – Business as Usual
  2. Innovating for tomorrow
  3. Future foresight requiring radical change

  1. Teams need to increase their Capacity for working through Systemic Conflict

Multiple leadership teams are under pressure from the stakeholder group that they represent (CFO – Investors interests, HR – Employees, Sales – Customers etc..), and this leads to systemic conflicts between the various leaders. But for transformational leadership to succeed, we need these leadership teams to collectively engage the commitment and participation of all major stakeholder groups to change in the context of shared purpose, values, and vision. This conflict resolution requires the teams to expand their collective capacity to manage this systemic conflict.

  1. Human beings learning to live with Multiple memberships and belonging

The leaders in leadership teams are increasingly becoming more interconnected with the broader ecology, and increasingly matrix organizations. Every leader is a member of multiple teams, representing the interests in various capacities (E.g. – Executive team, Board member, Industry committee representative, Working groups etc.). This multi-team belonging is difficult for human beings who traditionally as species have learned to be loyal to a tribe/family group, and therefore it is difficult for us to adapt to this new multiple membership’s world.

  1. The World is becoming more Complex and Interconnected

Team leaders today are living in an interconnected world with an ‘Always ON’ mode with demands across the organization, and ‘work anywhere anytime’ post pandemic scenario. This makes it harder to stand back and reflect and see the bigger picture and the team leaders are now turning to team coaching to provide the protected space and outsider perspective.

  1. The Growth of Virtual working

Post the pandemic we are all now forced to work with remote working, and teams working either virtually or hybrid, and all this change requires for us to learn and enhance our communication skills, but also learn new ways of building and establishing trust. We need to be able to build the informal social circles and/or build those ‘moments of trust’, which can replace the earlier physical interactions, and this is still a work in progress for most leadership teams.

  1. The major leadership challenges lie not in the parts but in the Interconnections

As the world has become interconnected, the main challenge lies not in the people, or in the parts but in the interfaces between people, teams, functions, and different stakeholder needs.  This leads us to effectively coaching relationships, which leads to enabling the dialogue, resolving conflicts, or helping teams relate better inter-personally. This means that it is not just sufficient to be ‘customer-focused’ but we need to focus on our customer’s customer – enabling their customers in turn to make a difference for their customers. The leadership teams now need to shift to a virtuous cycle of active collaboration, which is grounded in a shared purpose instead of the vicious cycle of blame.

  1. Restoring Trust

Employees increasingly now expect the companies they work for to be purpose led, delivering social and community change, and not just profits. This requires that we ‘restore trust’ which has been lost or is falling across customers and our stakeholders. Leadership teams struggle with this trust deficit and are learning new ways of restoring this trust.

  1. Increasing the Quality of Engagement

Leadership teams are finding it extremely important to engage effectively with employees and stakeholders, considering that trust is critical in this VUCA world. The key elements requires that leadership teams provide a strategic big picture, have engaging managers, employees who can easily voice their ideas and concerns, and organizations whose values align and finally ‘real teamwork’ to enable teams working on shared purpose.

We will explore more on Leadership Team coaching in my next post , but would be interested to hear more about what are your leadership team challenges ? Do these challenges resonate with your teams ? Do these resonate with you as a Team Leader?

Feel free to reach out to me for your team or individual coaching needs and subscribe to my blog to learn more, as I share my coaching journeys.

Speaking at Agile India 2021 on OKRs and data challenges

OKRs (Objective Key Results) are getting lot of attention recently, but it is never easy to implement and teams attempting face multiple challenges especially with respect to the data. It is a tough journey and takes patience and education and I will be sharing my experiences in Agile India 2021 as a speaker on 20th Nov at 3.55 p.m. IST

The conference schedule is posted here now and my talk details are here. Post conference the slides and video recordings will be posted on the same link.

Let me know if you have similar or different experiences with OKRs or plan to implement OKRs soon. Happy to hear and reach out to me for your coaching needs or  subscribe to my blog , and feel free to share your feedback in the comments below..

Do you manage your constraints with self awareness ?

Manage Constraints with self awareness

Life is full of trade offs and constraints. The best in class are experts in managing these constraints while maximizing their outcomes. But we realize only in hindsight that it may be our ‘self awareness’, which may be stopping us from becoming aware or missing these constraints and exploring innovative solutions.

In one of my recent coaching conversations, the individual running a business unit was reviewing his latest unit performance with key KPI’s and scorecard. With most key indicators green, he was worried about the red ones and how to move the needle on them.

PROBLEM and SOLUTION

As part of the coaching conversations, we started exploring and zoomed out to his awareness about all the parts of the broader system, and how much he was aware of the various constraints in the system. The question we discussed was really simple.

“What are the Key Constraints for this system ?”

As he reflected on this, it became apparent that he was clearly missing out few constraints which were hiding in plain sight, but were overlooked. He had missed them in the deeper execution challenges and delivery focused agenda. As a coach, you are always aware of how various subsystems are all interconnected and systems thinking is a key skill to build up this base. If you wish to know more, you can read how you build Communities of Practice ( and think of all the actors in the system)

The next question was simple but thought provoking for the individual .

“Can we change the constraints of the system ?”

This simple “reflection’ and “self awareness” was key for him to observe the system dynamics and take a fresh look at his KPI’s, and readjust them to reflect the new insights.

SUMMARY:

Sometimes we have to zoom out and become an observer of the SYSTEM, without any attachment and this self-awareness is the KEY to the insights.

So if you are struggling with managing your constraints, then try to become more “SELF AWARE”, and with that expanded awareness you will be able to manage your constraints much better.

To know more or understand about how you can build your self awareness, reach out to me for your coaching needs or  subscribe to my blog , and feel free to share your feedback in the comments below..

What are the ‘common’ barriers to Coaching ?

common barriers to coaching
Flickr photo – heat13hr

As a Coach, you will always face challenges working with teams or individuals (read as Coachee’s) and Sponsors. You are always trying best to Break down the Walls, brick by brick. So this post is a starter list for some of the most common barriers to coaching with the Sponsors and the Coachee.

For a SPONSOR, some of the common barriers to Coaching are –

  • Coaching in any form starts with the basic premise that you have – Permission to Coach the coachee, but if coaching is ‘imposed’ on the Coachee by eager Sponsors, then there is no permission really between the coachee and the coach. The relationship then simply becomes an ORDER = “Thy shall be coach’d or else !!
  • On the opposite end, there is simply a lack of Sponsorship for coaching, where the Sponsors see Coaching as only a add-on and not really a strategic investment ! In these scenarios, we find that the the coaching is ineffective or if the money simply runs out and thus fizzles out over a period of time.
  • Sometimes Coaching is seen as a fancy ‘buzzword’ reserved only for few select high potential (hipots 😐 ) as an ‘accelerated career’ move / higher promotion to take up leadership responsibility or on the flip side for the ‘bottom percentile’, who are often ‘told’ to get coaching as a ‘development’ or ”remedial’ activity, thus falling prey to – are you Rewarded or Punished ? and the majority in the middle are thus not offered any coaching.

For a Coachee, some of the common barriers to Coaching are –

  • Coachee’s suffer the common syndrome of ‘I don’t have time’ for coaching or the coaching followup actions. The coachee’s other priorities (personal / professional) overpower the coaching conversations / and actions for followup.
  • Lack of peers, and senior executives (Role Models) – who come out openly and speak about their ‘personal’ coaching and the benefits gained. As coaching is often seen as ‘remedial’, since the Coachee’s are reluctant to appear as vulnerable and acknowledge that they are possibly not fulfilling their full potential. The coachee’s do not wish to appear weak in public, especially in the corporate jungle.
  • Coachee’s are not aware of the possible benefits of coaching for personal growth of individuals, or the benefits of coaching teams and how coaching can directly impact the enterprise results and business outcomes. This lack of awareness is a primary reason for under investment by Coachee’s or enterprises on their coach-ing *team.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of common barriers, and the list is surely much longer, and would be happy to hear your thoughts. Do you have any stories to share about your coaching barriers ?

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Do you ‘Attach to Detach’ in your coaching?

attachment detachment

Change agents (read Agile / DevOps / Lean coach’s etc.) are always interviewing, observing and empathizing with the teams and individuals. Attachment and Detachment – are part of every change agents personal journey.

Attach-Detach cycle

As part of the transformation journeys, we perform Coaching Kata’s and tend to enter the space of ‘attachment’ and then start to expect our teams to behave in the way we think they should. We get really attached to our teams and sometimes individuals, who look upon us as we start to show them the new ways of thinking.

5 Coaching Kata Questions

Sometimes we are able to help them see the new ways and other times we may not succeed, but finally at some point we have to ‘detach’ ourselves from the engagement for various reasons (sustainable model built, benefit-costs ratio achieved etc.)

But this engage-disengage cycle takes a heavy toll on the change agents, who have to be able to maintain a high level of stability, calm composure to the external world, though internally they might be facing anger, frustration or sometimes loss of the relationships built. Therefore, this detachment is never easy and the below quote summarizes it beautifully.

” The root of suffering is attachment “

the buddha

Dilemma – Solution ?

It is always a constant dilemma on how much ‘attachment’ you bring to your coaching engagement (empathizing with the team/individuals), and maintaining your inner peace and scorecard, which honors the inherent change inertia (read – you cannot really change any one!), and then be bold enough to detach with a smile on your face.

” The cessation of suffering is attainable through detachment”

The buddha

The solution is always within us, and each one of us have to learn to detach ourselves. We should let the team/individual chart their journeys at their pace, while we can only enable them and if possible show them the new ways.

So here’s wishing you ‘detachment’ from your ‘attachments’, as part of your coaching and transformation journeys, in the new year.

You can subscribe via RSS to this blog , and would encourage you to share your stories and your feedback in the Comments below

Gratitude – Do you think it matters?

gratitudeChange agents are always running into Blockers, during their transformation journey, and need to overcome the impediments Brick by brick.

This journey can sap your energy and sometimes creates a downward spiral in the energy levels. This negative cycle must be balanced by a positive energy cycle in my viewSo how do you break this negative loop and enter the positive loop?

For me, it is the GRATITUDE –  which you show every day ~ when you THANK your stars and enter the positive state of mind.

Gratitude comes from the Latin word gratia, which means gratefulness, and associates us to a higher power.

As we show Gratitude,  we get this feeling of gratefulness and thankfulness, which allows our minds to be at peace and focus on all the positive things happening around us, even if they are very small!

It could be as simple as a Spark in the eye of the Business user at the new product, or the positive commentary for a feature demo by the Product owner, or simply an Executive smiling at the collaboration within the teams, or a developer who gets the test-first concept. The are all opportunities for us to show our Gratitude.  You could start by building up your Gratitude ‘journal’, and slowly you will realize the Happiness factors going up for you, your teams and your stakeholders.

Here are 3 Simple Ideas To Try
  • Start by putting up a GRATITUDE BOARD, for your personal accomplishments
  • Encourage the Teams to start their Team Gratitude Board/Journal for their Tiny improvements.
  • Introduce Gratitude Exercises in your teams daily routine, just as Teri McKeveer introduced for her athletes

Let me know what you try and give it a thought if you think GRATITUDE matters for you/your team?

You can subscribe via RSS to this blog , and would encourage you to share your stories and your feedback in the Comments below

Do you only focus on increasing efficiency OR…?

cut efficiency

As a change agent, you are trained and would consider yourself an expert in the LEAN space, and have surely developed “EYES for Waste“.  You are always looking for that efficiency gain and how you can squeeze the most juice from your endeavours.  For some Lean practitioners, if you are not focused on reducing waste, then you at not Lean-ing at all (another discussion some other time 🙂 ).

But do you stop and pause?  or are we fascinated by the efficiency cult  that we forget to look beyond ?

Do you lose yourself in Efficiency Optimizations ?

Are you always striving for getting that 1% efficiency gain –  following the principle of  “aggregation of marginal gains” 

How about looking at the Broader picture ?

Do you look if you can actually eliminate the STEP , that you were planning on improving the efficiency ?

 Can you make the STEP Redundant?

Can you COMBINE multiple STEPs?

Can you review the overall system and reorganize (without the STEP) ?

… and then suddenly you realize that there is no OPTIMIZATION to be done, if the STEP itself vanishes.

So, think about it the next time you are itching to maximizing that efficiency gain, and instead take a P-A-U-S-E.

Ask yourself – Should I focus on increasing the efficiency OR… there are other options?

You can subscribe via RSS to this blog , and would encourage you to share your stories and your feedback in the Comments below

 

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!

You can subscribe via RSS to this blog , and would encourage you to share your stories and your feedback in the Comments below

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?

You can subscribe via RSS to this blog , and would encourage you to share your stories and your feedback in the Comments below.

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