It’s surprising that after many years of having the team on the agenda, companies are still struggling to capitalize on the additional treasures of grouping employees into working teams. The promotion of individual careers, the artificially fueled competition for credit points and the lack of informal opportunities to exchange information hamper a relationship based on cooperation. Usually the individual criteria are still used to evaluate the performances. Individuals are in the focus – although that puts a strain on trustful cooperation.
The company or rather its representatives do little to ensure that this additional advantage can arise. Even though there is an agile momentum nowadays and everyone wants the appropriate commitment from the employees, there does not exist
the necessary, open structures,
agile workplaces and meeting rooms to meet spontaneously,
It can actually not exist as long as the decision-makers themselves are only employees in a multilayered hierarchy. Perhaps it helps to realize that a group of employees is more than the sum of the individual experiences – when more can be said and heard.
The senders have more thoughts than they can express The collaboration thrives on ideas that are exchanged within the team. The difficulty is the fact that much of the thoughts that a team member thinks about, cannot be completely shared. Many aspects are lost during the transfer into language and images. Through generalizations, the use of classifications, unspoken assumptions and the use of ambiguous terms, important contents are filtered out.
Example: All sales people follow the sales process with the conviction that anything is possible. Their credo is AIDAS. Why can’t this be improved through intensive cooperation? We need agile procedures. In the example, many facts remain unspoken: Sales people? Sales process? What is possible? AIDAS? What makes cooperation intensive? Agile? The sender knows more, but does not express it more comprehensive.
The receivers determine the content of the perceived
The exchange of ideas requires that everybody notices the thoughts of others. Since all people perceive through different channels, sometimes the spoken and sometimes the written word and sometimes a picture or a series of numbers are worth than a thousand words – as long as you do not miss the message. In any case, the target group is responsible for interpreting the statements. The path into consciousness uses the already existing thoughts and mental patterns of the target persons to enrich the contents with useful knowledge in their mind.
Example: Jim and John have been working in sales for a long time and use for weeks Clickfunnels to collect 1500 new contacts every day, so-called leads, which they prioritize with their software module in order to turn in just one week the most interesting contacts into interested customers, who are willing to meet with our sales people. The example shows that the receiver immediately adjusts the perceived to his ideas: Jim and John are salespeople; Clickfunnels seems to be related to the sales process; 1500 leads per day are possible; the rest, e.g. the agile, has disappeared. The recipient has enriched some messages while hiding others.
Mutual discourse expands the comprehension Actually, everything is works as desired. The sender communicates and the receiver understands what he can. In fact, the receiver only bears the whole thing in mind so far. In order to share the experiences, everybody in the group must become a sender and share their feedbacks. The target people perceive the contributions again and link the contents with their ranges of experience. The ideas are further processed to a more comprehensive, joint result by mutually asking questions. The more intensive the exchange of ideas, the more comprehensive becomes the overall understanding.
Example: How do we reach Jim and John? Who should join? What exactly does Clickfunnels? How can we use the results for needs analysis? How do we increase our flexibility? The example is not about rhetorical questions, but about filling gaps of understanding and creating a common picture. Once the saturation level is reached, the team works together more effectively and efficiently based on this consensus.
The magic of teamwork arises when employees can exchange ideas free from conventions and constraints – when they don’t have to be afraid of disadvantages due to their active participation. In order to achieve the desired effect, they need the appropriate freedom, both psychologically and physically. Not everything works out. But there is a good example that illustrates the opportunities. Let’s remember the Post-It story. Spencer Silver had invented in the sixties a glue that did not stick permanently. It was only when Arthur Fry had in church the idea to mark his hymnbook with sticky bookmarks that the idea of Post-It was born – today 50 billion sticky notes are sold annually. On average, everyone uses at work eleven sticky notes a day.
Bottom line: Without the corporate culture of the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (now 3M), this cultural artifact would probably not exist. For decades, it has been a showcase that you must allow the development of new ideas full bent. At the same time, it shows that people can complement each other extraordinarily. All companies need to do is to provide the appropriate conditions. Employees need the space, the time and the mutual discourse to produce results that individuals simply cannot achieve. There is always more than is said and heard.
When people and their collaboration become more important and results count increasingly and customers are tighter involved and the flexible reaction to changes determines the work, then we speak of agility. Everything is about the involved parties and, above all, the working group who takes self-determined care of tasks, which can neither be extrapolated from the past into the future nor pragmatically predicted in advance. A look at the Agilemma has shown that the new conditions are pulling the nerves of the managers – although they have the key to successful actions – the alpha and omega of agility.
It’s all about activating employees. For this reason, managers in an agile environment, actually not just there, need to consider the following points.
Micro management Once the boss is the best employee, it will be difficult. Micromanagers are busy taking care of the smallest details and reworking all the results of the employees. Managers who cannot let go are a serious obstacle as soon as employees are expected to act independently. The autonomy of the agile teams is unimpeachable.
Options In order to obtain viable solutions, the working groups need various options for action. On the one hand, the requirements determine the choices. On the other hand, the solutions need sufficient means for implementation. The provision of resources is one of the most fundamental tasks of a manager. The responsibility of the team is the best regulator against extravagance.
Transparency To be effective, actors need as much information as possible about stakeholders, the environment, the capabilities of participants and the beliefs that drive all. The decision-makers do not have to provide the figures, data and facts, but do have to provide sufficient opportunities to become adequately informed. Borderless data flow is an important prerequisite for agile work.
Impetus The inner drive of the team members is the fuel, which keeps the zest in the iterations of the project. Everything that hinders the momentum belongs to the alpha and omega of agility. The managers have the task to do everything they can to ensure that stronger performance is achieved and that everybody deals better with failures Capable bosses master the art of awakening intrinsic motivation.
Variety Complex tasks can only be implemented with even more complex means. For this reason, a wide range of characters, solutions and activities is indispensable. To ensure that diversity is not disturbed, all forms of nepotism must be avoided, since this generates envy and resentment, which ultimately results in poorer performance. Anything that increases diversity is indispensable.
Aim In the absence of clear objectives, the rough direction and the emotionally charged target horizon are the most efficacious description of the intention of the decision makers. If the undertakings of the bosses are based on the available resources and offers the team a loose network of people, and if additionally it becomes possible to draw ideas from coincidences and mistakes, and the efforts are limited to what one is prepared to lose, than the intention has good chances to deliver results. The coherent aim is the fuzzy vision.
Team Internal and external interdisciplinary partnerships are essential for an effective team. Given the different origins of those involved, it is essential to create an encouraging sense of belonging. Decision-makers must ensure that appropriate team-building activities are carried out. Here applies – Together Everyone Achieves More
Individuals The team hopefully consists of various characters that complement each other. Each team member should have a strong self-confidence and assertiveness in order to enrich the team in its capacity. The decision makers should resist the impulse to recruit teams from their old boy network, as this only causes discomfort in the team. The team is more than the sum of the members.
Orientation Independent of the agile approach applied, the decision-makers must in particular ensure that there are clear target visions by which the employees recognize the direction. In the absence of reliable foresight, it is not a matter of tough specifications, but of awakening yearnings. The team needs the fuzzy vision in order to have orientation.
Need The advantages arise on the way to the goal, which develops only in the course of the iterations. In contrast to classic projects, which create in advance an elaborate business case that promises great benefits in order to get the budget to start, in an agile environment small steps create small increments that can only be evaluated at the end. Take care of the pence and the pounds will take care of themselves.
Bottom line: For a long time, „classical“ organizations with business processes and projects have given their business the finishing touches. After years, this has led today to insufficient capacities being available for the next round of transformation, the Digitization. Therefore they want to use agile work styles. For many managers, this creates the Agilemma. Besides the required mindset it is necessary to master the alpha and omega of agility – the MOTIVATION of the employees in the agile teams.
P.S .: It takes a lot of time and energy to gain the trust of the parties concerned, but only a blink of an eye to destroy everything with a disrespectful, degrading and unfair leadership style.
If the career accelerates further and further and the values get lost on the way, then the incompetence lurks behind all corners. The fate of an executive hangs on a single horse hair. In the past we used to talk about the Peter Principle – i.e. in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his or her level of incompetence. Now everything happens so quickly that this level is reached sooner, because the experienced mentors are lacking. With the appropriate attention, countermeasures could be taken at an early stage.
What are, however, practices that should be considered in order to delay this stage as long as possible?
Keep a low voice The vernacular says, „Who cries is wrong.“ If you believe the statements of contemporaries, then neither Steve Jobs had resisted the pressure to yell, nor does Elon Musk have this self-control – although the material background would allow for some generosity. The rest of the executives, who shout irascibly and offend cynically and even believe that they are leading, show with this behavior, above all, their limitations. Better be self-controlled by an appropriate volume.
Stay fair The traditional incentives for yes-men, the special financial payment for strong conformists, are an expression of unbalanced treatment of employees. This injustice is nowadays even replaced by the friendly shake hands, which enhances its effect by never praising otherwise. It does not take long for the biased distribution of appreciation to be noticed. In this sense, giving preference to somebody reinforces the impression that one has reached its level. Everybody benefits, if you stay fair.
Be open A special form of injustice happens when the old leadership law is used – Rule 1: The boss is always right; Rule 2: If the boss should not be right, then automatically rule 1 becomes effective. This can lead to absurd incidents: I have clearly expressed myself. Why don’t you understand that? And five minutes later: Nobody can understand this. Why don’t you express yourself more clearly? And eventually, the results suffer Use different viewpoints for the benefit of all.
Delegate consistently Subsequently, there are also conflicting orders, which lead in any case to a punishment. The motivated employee, who is known everywhere and is working on Project A and Project B, will present one of the projects. Then, In the presentation of project A, arises irritation, why project B is not presented. The same thing happens of course in the opposite case. This dilemma can only be resolved by one. Ensure consistency when you assign tasks to others.
Let loose That a manager loses over time his sense of work is understandable. The lack of practice results in the fact that all the employees know much more than the supervisor. If the cost estimates made by the employees are not trusted and the plans get simply adjusted, this leads to an unnecessary frustration that creates negative stress. Micro management is one of the most important reasons for distress. As a leader you simply let loose and appreciate whatever outcome.
Form follows content Unfortunately, the sentence is practiced the other way around. Today, many are faced with a dilemma. The half-life of technical knowledge is three years. This means that after almost ten years, the original lessons learned have only a value of 25% – except: One has continuously learned. As a result, while the content is slowly disappearing, form becomes increasingly important. If the discussion of a concept revolves around the font and the CI, then the conversation partners are certainly on different terrains – even if this would be the moment for a valuable contribution. Support your employees, where they really need it.
Do not overload It is not a weakness especially of the management not being aware of the delayed effects of measures. Initiatives are launched that often take longer than the leadership needs in order to set-up additional activities. All this portfolio management does not cushion this homemade mess. Order and continuity is not a trait once you reach your level (remember Rule 1 and 2). Remember that your initiatives are finished, before you start to turn the next big wheel.
Express yourself clearly The communication behavior of executives is critical to success. Communicating clearly the strategy, providing values and supporting employees in their efforts is their actual task. If the employees do not understand their leaders, because there is a strange jargon up there or incomplete statements and vague messages are communicated, then the viability of the company is in peril. A fuzzy way of communicating is not adequate for a leader, but it only proves the indicated inability. Learn the language of your target group and deliver your message in their way.
Bottom line: The neutral look from the outside reveals people who endanger the interaction of the teams. Respectful dealing with each other, balanced involvement with all, no blaming, clear goals, avoidance of additional stress, focus on content, understanding of causes and effects, and a clear language are indicators of the effectiveness of a leader. The ultimate goal is to shift the level of incompetence as much as possible through attentive and competent behavior in order to avoid the Damocles sword.
Bonsai is the art of influencing the growth of trees in such a way that the trees have a beautiful growth habit through artistic designing, but kept small in pots by regular cuts. The result is a large variety of original, apparently wild trees. In nature these trees would grow into the sky. A similar approach has evolved within enterprises. Bonsai style is the art of keeping employees small. This micro management affects the employee activities, like the scissors on the growth of trees. Agility that depends on pro-activity, initiative and flexibility of the people, cannot tolerate bonsai style.
What defines the bonsai style that undermines agility?
More criticism than praise Representatives of the bonsai style have the tendency to nip the however small commitment of employees in the bud by caviling incessantly. It makes no difference, whether the objections are justified or not. The whole is intensified by the absence of praise. In an agile world such leader could not take a stand, since nobody would follow them.
Devalue results with formalities The agile employees are driven people of their own aspiration. The attention is limited to the resolution. This leads to the fact that aspects that do not have much to do with the solution are faded out as of minor importance. Does the tie fit? Did you use the official forms? Is the Font correct? The result consists of eighty-percent problem solution. The bad evaluation of the formalities completely misses the goal and tramples all over the tender seedling of the employee commitment.
Consistently pulling the superior joker
After many years of the development, the learning organization, the employee participation, and the teambuilding with their standards, evaluations and decisions from above, the power structures are still in place. Now those, who came to their limits, expect a debureaucratization and the utilization of the inherent employee energy of wanting to create something. However, if no one comes forward voluntarily, the volunteers are determined. If nobody delivers what the superiors expect, the employees get their result adapted by micro management. For safeguarding the business, the hierarchical structures are kept besides the agile ones.
Disparaged in the plenum
A very effective approach, in order to keep the employees small, are offending comments in the public. Devaluing remarks on the personal work style, on small mistakes in the argumentation or on the editing, guarantee that the employees lose their face. The anticipatory commitment of the agile employee is then no longer probable.
Micro management The always not available, but obsessed with details 24/7 micro managers are actually their best agile employees. Their commitment always is at maximum. They worry about everything and they are decisive. Unfortunately they don’t have the time to consider, because they have incessantly tasks, which they obviously have to worry about. Since everything excites their attention, they cannot manage to get used to the work and contribute thereby nothing. Understandably, they cannot accomplish their actual function. Micro management is one of the largest hurdles on the way to the agility.
Missing covering The attitude to correct at any time each detail at discretion leads to the fact that the employees are quickly alone without covering, exposed to the problem in case of crisis. In order to be able to act agilely, they need however the trust from above that their actions always take place in the interest of the larger whole. Where a lot of things happen, there happen also many errors. Error tolerance is an approach, to provide good covering. In the context of agility a remaining leadership task is the boundless support and employee shielding, when they process the topics self-organized.
Rule one and two
Apart from the micro management the largest agility killers are the rules of power. Rule 1: The boss is always right. Rule 2: If he is not right, then automatically rule 1 is valid. Thereby the budding initiative has no chance to prove itself on a long-term basis and to develop an effective solution.
Bottom line: As long as the old approaches for the company design remain unchanged, like the hierarchical structure, the chain of command, or the superior joker, the associated disadvantages also remain. The generous authorization of the employees with sufficient resources, powers and support is crucial for exhausting the advantages of agile approaches. Bonsai style prevents thereby the desired effects since an employee initiative nipped in the bud cannot flourish.
No one benefits from a leader, who is taking care of every detail of the business. This so-called Micro Management is common style of leadership. The Micro Manager (MM) can be recognized by the following aspects.
He cannot delegate.
He is always on the run, has no time and works around the clock.
He is interested in every detail.
He favors deciding everything by himself.
He corrects personally every error, no matter how small they are.
… (You surely find some additional attitudes).
This „over-steering” results for the employees in reluctance, work to rule, decreasing quality, regular delegation upward as well as the habit to react instead of acting independently. The whole is reinforced by the possibilities of the Internet and the extensive accessibility through smartphones, iPads and WiFi. This leads to Micro Management 2.0.
The Micro Manager 2.0 has the additional following properties.
Smartphones junkie Micro manager 2.0s have their smartphones always in standby. He/she reacts immediately to incoming calls or messages – in the office, a meeting, at lunch, in front of the television, in the restaurant, on the beach or wherever she/he currently is.
Smsing, whatsappen and Co. The means and ways that you can use today to communicate, are multimedia-based – text, sound and images as well as all combinations, synchronous or asynchronous. This reaches from short messages, to emails, to Skype. 0 are reading and smsing regularly one or two sentences, give direct orders or send a message that they come back later. Emails are essentially passed on with a short comment.
CC-supporters 0s attach importance on being in all emails carbon copied (cc). Although they cannot cope with the resulting flood of information, they want to receive it because they could need the information later. Even so that this is mostly never the case. If the improbable case should happen, they will anyway simply request the latest version.
Calendar surfer In the Pre-Net age there was no choice for the micro managers than asking the secretary or the room neighbor, where Dick and Harry were. A 0 lives today in paradise, since he can access the calendars of the employees from everywhere. He does not limit himself to check where someone is. No. He asks, when and why not differently and what for at all.
Quality assurance It becomes particularly labor-intensive for MM2.0s, if they turn into the general quality control of the employees. Are the documents complete, error-free, perfectly bound, with enough copies,…? It starts, when they take over the spell checking. This, of course, can be intensified by checking the calculations of Excel sheets and by revealing all kind of minor flaws.
10hours+Alpha-day Understandably the MM2.0s are not able to fulfill all tasks in the context of a normal working day. Even not the chosen expansion of work time to any extent greater than permitted is sufficient to accomplish. Therefore, after maximum 12 months, the MM2.0s are running on empty. They cannot keep up and start overseeing errors. Above all, they do not have time for their actual task – the leadership of their scope of responsibility. At the latest they are now overworked.
Thinking out loud In the absence of time, MM2.0s cannot provide a documented strategy. Although they have a vision and strategic goals, they are not able to express their ideas in a consistent way. Therefore they always think out loud and proclaim their feelings – either this or that way.
Penniless The largest deficit of the MM2.0s is the omission to look for sufficiently large budget. Thus, they are often penniless. They activate the official escalation way and the top management has to release of necessary means – or not.
Walking question mark The backdoor for executives, who do not have time to reflect, is the fully developed ability to respond to questions with a counter question at any time. Even if MM2.0s intervene everywhere, they do not think that they can solve everything – but they believe that they have to.
Bottom line: We suffer with Micro Management 2.0 faster and much more „over-steering”. The available ICT solutions provide more and more mobile and at all time ready systems. They offer unlimited uses to the Micro Managers 2.0. Nobody actually believes that leadership style does not deliver any benefit for the executives, the enterprise or the employees. Nevertheless companies allow that valuable energy is wasted with this approach.