Enable People and Interactions
We often pay so much attention to roadmaps, metrics, processes, plans, that we completely forget that success of complex effort first and foremost depends on people and their interactions. As a leader, your task is to enable people in delivering enterprise value. But this task isn’t as trivial as it may seem.
Let’s take a closer look at what you as leader need to take care of.
Motivation and psychological safety
One. Work to create powerful motivation and psychological safety. Multiple research has shown that people involved in complex effort require intrinsic motivation to be truly productive at what they do. Proper compensation is needed, so people would not have to worry about their wellbeing and of those they deeply care about. But beyond this natural need, monetary incentives prove to be a poor motivation factor. Instead, a very powerful force is contained in a true sense of purpose, in becoming better at what you do, and at having some degree of flexibility and self-direction, when dealing with complex work. Ask yourself, as a leader, do teams and individual subject matter experts in your environment have all of those components that would drive their motivation? Or maybe it is a good time for you to step in and help. Additionally, a lot of creative effort may be stifled by lack of psychological safety. Is it appreciated in your environment, for instance, to come up with an alternative idea or a plan? Or is it frowned upon and will be detrimental to one’s career to think differently or to accept some risks?
Two. Constant learning is the prerequisite of sustainable success. Do your team members have a practical, achievable way of expanding and deepening their skillsets? And does the leadership, including you, have a good understanding that in order to master a new skill, mistakes are inevitable. Are mistakes accepted as a necessary steppingstone to higher performance and value? Because if not, you will witness very rare examples of new skill acquisition among your workforce. Unsurprisingly. So, think about how to enable your team members’ learning paths.
Organizing for value delivery
Three. Organize people around value creation. Organizations are too tempted to build teams and departments around skill areas or architectural components and subsystems. But this only increases the amount of hand-offs and coordination needed to create any chunk of end-to-end customer value. Instead, structure teams and teams-of-teams in a way that most of the crucial interactions would be contained within these structures and not across them. And this does not imply that you have to dramatically alter the formal organizational structure. People may belong to different units but let them work together as a team if they are creating a shared software feature, for example.
Culture and leadership by example
Four. When it comes to motivation, psychological safety, patterns of interaction, the “do’s” and the “don’ts” in the workplace, a lot is encoded in the organization’s culture. And when you want to make a change that sticks, remember, that leadership by example is key. People subconsciously catch every decision and action of a leader and that acts as a beacon to them, whether for the good or for the bad. So, whatever the formal steps you intend to make, keep in mind that they will produce tangible improvement only if they are thoroughly supported by your actual behavior, and behavior of those like you.
Okay… Time to take action. For every one of the four bullets we considered today, plan one simple step that will enable your people, your teams, to achieve more.
Daniel Pink, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Riverhead Books (April 5, 2011).
LeSS. Organizing By Customer Valuehttps://less.works/less/structure/organizing_by_customer_value.html
SAFe. Orginize Around Value.https://www.scaledagileframework.com/organize-around-value/