What Makes Us Move? ScrumDay Danmark 2019 Thoughts

Engagement as the key to agile: sounds simple and obvious?..

However, in reality there is a lot to reflect about – before taking it for granted that it will work by itself when we shift to agile.

According to Gallup poll there is a clear cut proof this is not a piece of cake. Only 15% of the employees worldwide, with slight variation between the countries, are really engaged. 15% is a lot – but just think of the rest 85%, that are not, – including 15% that are actively disengaged. “This means 15% of actively disengaged undo what the 15% engaged have achieved…” concluded Scrum Caretaker Gunther Verheyen in his keynote.

What is the problem that despite all the efforts of HR, change leaders and agile coaches, organizations fail to engage their people?

Any training fails, if no transfer (Baldwin and Ford, 1988). Real-life results show that only 10-20% of training ‘sticks’. Similarly, change has the same score of 10%: other attempts to start doing something differently, change of attitudes, mindset shift fail, if there is no supporting environment, no maintenance, no further development and practice of just-acquired skills and new work attitudes. All that is achieved is not just stored over there, but lost. Often the attempts to practice the acquired are cynically grinned over – and the new skills and mindset shift break into the rock of the reality.

Offices and meeting spaces can also kill engagement. Part of the context, they define the way we work in these offices and the way we meet, the working procedures and working tools. The devil is in the detail – of HOW we work.

Remember the panic when the power point does not work or wifi goes down? “Technical problems” are not only the features of the high tech, but are embedded in poor design of the room, chairs, stationery, ventilation…and the working habits we acquire surrounded by this poorly designed contexts. Moreover, what is outside, – the macro context design – is often beyond us. This does not mean things with macro design are closer to perfection and helping.

Why any design fail?

Poor design is the result of poor learning about the user, and poor imagination that cannot connect the design elements into one whole with the human ‘context’ that is culture – values, vision, understanding of the world.

In a poorly designed environment and poorly designed work practice whatever scrum language sounds like thunder – when lightning breaks the darkness apart.

Why not growing into agile – experimenting and exploring – adopting and building it up step-by step? doing it all in another way – maybe playing it through in a safe way? Acquiring skills, working habits, shifting not drowning?…

It is not enough to introduce the new frameworks and language to bring in change. When change is “communicated”, the communicators often forget they are using mostly words, the most cruel form of communication. One of the modern poets, Sylvia Plath, has compared words with axes falling the wood – trees falling, with tears of sap… (Words)

Combined with “ingrained obsession to control individuals” which actually is the core idea of managing, with Key Performance Indicators procedures, words are still the Key Strategic Communication axes. 85% to whom the strategy or goals are ‘communicated’, still do not see any connection between organizational and individual values, purposes, vision… The axes falling, merciless to tiny connections and soft greenery of imagination, which constitutes human existence – and is often referred to as future.

Axes are metal tools, treating soft as material resources to shape. When engagement experts speak of intrinsic motivation, -purpose, mastery and autonomy, – they connect them to the business results. They point out that achieving these is the source of individual happiness and joy. Sounds like great fun for anyone, but somehow people are not engaged… Also looks like 40% of the today-tomorrow workforce – that are millenials – have also missed the fun and do not fit the paradigm. Many of the ‘today-young-angry’ are these IT nerds which are experiencing the agile transformation – stubbornly self-centered and disengaged in the above.

Any self-organising, self-designing, or other self-agile procedure, raise the problem of discrepancy between agile, with bottom-up logic, and management, with top-down approach. The discrepancy calls for real-time, real-context, immediate action. Great example of re-thinking and re-imagining, presented by Paul Skarregaard and Kasper Høgstrup Mølgaard, agile leaders from BESTSELLER, prove that this is possible. Actually, this is also a real-life example of what Harvard Professor Stephan H. Thomke describes in his new book (2020): that experimentation works .

When ‘ongoing challenge’, with exponential uncertainty contradicting traditional strategic clear-cut priority and direction, ‘investment in explorative learning is the key’. In this context, as the Bestseller has understood, the clear-cut “roles” and jobs become obsolete in no time. This sounds quite natural, as any “role” is never a true individual. Creativity, imagination, purpose and authentic voice are attributes of individuals, they cannot be prescribed by “roles”.

Exploring cortex physical reactions or habits incorporating cultural values as the sources of resistance, change leaders can find a great explanation, but few tools to deal with resistance. Unfortunately culture takes time. Imitation of mimics suggested by Henrik Zätterman to understand emotions and reactions can put us into the other people shoes. This is easy to acquire way to understand and respect the autonomy of an individual. An employee is the stakeholder and therefore also the user, – seeking the value in the ongoing challenge, – HIS /HER user value.

Recognizing, that these shoes really count, leads to understanding what makes people move. The inspiring story told by David Tøttrup confirms, that change like in LEGO happen when Open Source Change Strategy takes the place of traditional top-down ways.

The concluding keynote by Kurt Bittner and further discussions, open space, networking and interaction, masterfully facilitated by Jakob Schmidt Sørensen and Tim Pedersen have turned the day into unforgettable experience for all participants of Scrum Day Danmark 2019.

Many thanks to our host Siteimprove and the enthusiastic team of Mads Troels Hansen, Mikkel Toudal Kristiansen, Ole Rich Henningsen for this fantastic experience and looking forward to 2020.

#ScrumDayDanmark2019 #agilemindset #engagement #digitaltransformation #agiledesign

Let’s make it all happen together, –

Playfully yours,

Agile Design