Hybris in organizational development
Many organizations want to benefit from agility and have already experimented with it. After initial enthusiasm, they realize: new frameworks and practices do not suffice. If you want all the benefits, you have to adapt the organization as a whole. But there is no blueprint available.
Unfortunately, everything is often turned upside down in a hurry. Analysis, design of teams and frameworks, concept for structure and processes, training plan and implementation take place waterfall-like. That’s hybris and barely human-centered.
The same structures, methods, tools and processes lead to different results depending on the culture. All of this is in constant interaction and influenced by a quite unpredictable external environment.
We can hardly predict how the measures of an agile transformation will affect an organization. It is complex. Too often it is forgotten that in some places new teams and frameworks are not necessary. In some cases, it is sufficient for coaches to demonstrate techniques such as Lean Coffee or other facilitation tricks to employees in their daily business for a while. In other places, for example, Scrum can evidently reveal what is slowing down or blocking employees. This results in improvements that are rather unimagined, but very fitting. If managers and employees are allowed to shape their own working methods and are given a little help from coaches, they realize how change can also be triggered by themselves. Provided that mistakes are allowed! Scrum, Kanban and other frameworks will sometimes be used in the wrong place. That’s ok! The important thing is to be able to admit it safely and change it.
This step-by-step process of trying things out together, failing, learning and co-designing is more time-consuming than the big bang change, but it gains actual acceptance. That’s the only way for an agile transformation to lead into a self-improving organization. Change at a healthy rate thus becomes a habit.
This does not mean we can just haphazardly go for trial and error! A cross-functional transformation team should approach organizational change iteratively and incrementally. In the process, it gets to know itself, the organization and agile ways of working. Constantly each new organizational part should be evaluated by top management and employees for its benefits, and the next steps should be agreed upon. Complexity is met with routine.
But no matter how you approach organizational development, one thing stays the same: First and foremost employees have to earn their living, few can simply change their job, and usually they are not equal owners of their work organization. This is what consciously or subconsciously runs in people’s minds. Up to this limit hierarchies can be reduced, self-reliant action and a healthy error culture are possible.