Businesses Aren’t Agile, or Innovative or…

Happy New Year’s all!

Welcome to 2019, the year our company, The ABC Company finally masters #Agile or #Innovation of any of a myriad of other #buzz words!

Anyone who has worked in the corporate world in their career has probably heard a speech like that.  It is usually a ‘C’ Suite leader extolling the virtues of the latest ‘fad’ whether the benefits were real or not.

In the 90’s it was about Total Quality Management and Six Sigma (Lean) in the early 2000’s it was about ‘mobility’ and then ‘Agile’ and the latest is around Digital Transformation or User Centered Design.

Please do not misunderstand, I believe each and every one of those efforts has value.  Where the value disappears is when a leaders (managers) of an organization stands in front of a group of people and says Our Business is going to become <insert the words above>.  That is effectively the starting point of the failure to actually achieve that outcome.

There are a number of reasons for that, but essentially it represents a fundamental belief that 1) This is a staff problem 2) This is a training problem 3) Leadership is not integral to the change 4) Change is not something the organization can easily do or is skilled at doing.

There has long been a saying, ‘people are our greatest asset’.  That saying is quickly sidelined when a buzzword is rolled out in business journals promising to solve all that ails the company, if you will only switch to/convert to/implement the New and Improved Program #FixaWhatzit!

I have been consulting and working with companies on improving their process and ability to deliver on their strategy for years.  I have done all of the processes mentioned above plus many many more, the simplest advice I can give you is: “Change your buzzwords into actions your employees take, and values that guide their decisions as a result of the learning you bring to them”.

Businesses are not #Agile.

Businesses are not #lean.

Businesses are not #innovative.

Businesses are not ANY VERB.

Businesses, for better or worse are a collection of processes, tools, policies and maybe some products AND their people.

Apple was seen as very #innovative just a few years ago.  This week they wiped off a ‘Facebook’ worth of value from their stock price.  Was Steve Jobs the only person in the company that could innovate, and after he left, the company lost its ability to innovate’?  If the company was innovative, how could that be? The company is still #Apple!

The truth is that only people can be <insert the words above>!

People are #Agile.

People are #lean.

People are #innovative.

ONLY People can do ANY VERB.

If you want your organization to be #Agile, or #Learning, or #Collaborative or #Lean or #Innovative or anything else, your people, and the values of your company must support these things inherently.  The Company must not only reward these things, they must promote them, instill them, train and teach them.  They must become part of the Company’s DNA.  If people don’t say “That’s just the way we do things around here” then you are not that!  Just as a company cannot forsake their #strategy for their #mission, nor their #mission for their #strategy they must BOTH be tended to with care and #intentionality!

Only when leadership or the vast majority of the people in the company AND the values, stated or otherwise, support these things will the company appear to mimic them.

Microsoft today is a great example of a leader recognizing the need for a shift in their culture to position themselves for the future. Their turnaround in culture over the last few years has been astonishing, and it started with Mr. Nadella making significant values changes.  Compare the following:

Microsoft circa 2002:

Vision: Empowering people through great software – any time, any place and on any device

Values: Great People with Great Values

  • Delivering on our mission requires great people who are bright, creative and energetic, and who share the following values:
  • Integrity and honesty
  • Passion for customers, partners, and technology
  • Open and respectful with others and dedicated to making them better
  • Willingness to take on big challenges and see them through
  • Self critical, questioning and committed to personal excellence and self improvement
  • Accountable for commitments, results, and quality to customers, shareholders, partners and employees

Microsoft circa 2018:

Vision: We believe in what people make possible

Our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

Values: What we value

  • Innovation
  • Diversity and inclusion
  • Corporate social responsibility
  • Philanthropies
  • Environment
  • Trustworthy Computing

When managers were writing goals and objectives for their organization, you could almost write them from the values statements in the 2002, they were measurable, they were definitive, and they were targeted.

Learning with Play

Today, the leaders of the organization probably talk to their people about how they will fulfill the promise of the company #values and how that achieves their mission and their strategy, not in HOW they work, but WHY they are working. The Agile words, the innovation words come from our why, not our how.  Businesses, specifically their leaders, can articulate their why but only their people can deliver it!

As you enter 2019 and commit to change and bringing value to your company or clients, take some time to understand your why.

If you struggle with this, don’t get down, you have been conditioned since entering the workforce in terms of outputs, instead of outcomes.  It might take some time to reprogram your mind around this.  When it happens, your decisions, and more importantly your conduct will reflect these things and that is truly where your potential will be unleashed.

If you struggle with trying to do this for your company, or your clients, you can practice with your family.

I value safety for my family. (outcome)

To achieve that I will: (outputs)

  • Learn CPR
  • Practice fire drills
  • Teach my children their home address and how to call 911

In my next post (hopefully the next one) I will discuss Objectives and Key Results.  A way to ensure you are aligning your strategy and mission, to your execution.  This process should help ensure that you stay focused on the outcomes, not the outputs, and if you have your values aligned toward achieving those outcomes, you are already ahead of many companies today!

Good luck to ending 2019 with all you are willing to accomplish!

Remember, you do not teach Agile, you teach people! Only through #learning, can we truly guarantee that tomorrow will be better!

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