In today’s fast-changing environment, consumers’ needs and wants (for either our products or services) constantly take new shapes. Yet, we must not forget that the same is true for employees.
COVID-19 caught many by surprise and shook the way we think, plan, and operate – whether you are a small entrepreneur, a manager, or a freelancer.
Now, more than ever, we need to be “agile”. While “agile” is very easy to understand, in reality, it is a lot more difficult to embrace and practice.
A common misconception is that “agile” is another way to run projects. Over the year, I have experienced plenty of organizations (or just teams) adopting “agile” methods (i.e. SCRUM project management), to simply become “fragile” or run “ScrumFall” projects.
“agile” is more than just a framework, process, or method. “agile” is a radical shift in paradigm – the way we think, plan, and operate – which means the ecosystem around it must change.
Here are 3 things I have learned if you want to truly become “agile.”
KISS (KEEP IT SHORT & STUPID)
As leaders of a business (large or small) or just a team, we need to constantly find new ways to drive performance. Therefore, it is more important than ever for leaders to stay focused and deliver a simple message to employees and customers.
I am often asked by aspiring leaders or entrepreneurs “What book should I read to become a leader?” or “What do I need to know?”
I learned that the best leadership book is the one based on your experience, but there are 5 things that a leader should know.
Over the years, I have learned that reading a leadership book can spark ideas and help me understand elaborated concepts made complex by others. However, they can often lead to an overload of information and paralyze you. In fact, leadership can be as complicated as we wanted to be until we get entangled in its complexity to the point that we can’t even explain it anymore.
Throughout 30 years of work experience, I have had the fortune to work for or with different types of leaders that have shaped the way I have been leading – be it a small team, a virtual team, a small business, or (even harder) about 1,400 colleagues without authority over them.
“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” – Steve Jobs
HEAD, HEART & GUTS
We all know the 3 basic attributes of leadership:
- HEAD is about being result-oriented leveraging on your strength and that of your colleagues
- HEART is about creating a sense of purpose and an environment of trust and integrity
- GUTS is about focusing on clear priorities and being positive about challenges, uncertainties, and changes
While that is easy to understand, where do we start? Ken Allen (former DHL Express CEO) talks about “radical simplicity” or as he would eloquently put it once: “Keep It Short & Stupid (KISS)”.
5 THINGS TO KNOW
I am going to keep it “radically simple” and summarize 5 things anyone must know as the foundations to lead a team or an organization with or without authority.
While these 5 things are true for any time of business and leadership, when it comes to building a true “agile” organization these are not only more pivotal to success but also look different. For example, when it comes to KPIs, “agile” vs traditional milestones and operational environment is quite different.
1. Know your business
Have a clear vision, a simple Mission, and a passionate Purpose. All 3 will shape:
- Your customers’ experience with your business – not only your products or services but also your organization.
- Your employee’s (or team members’) commitment, engagement, and performance.
- Your product and services unique selling proposition leveraging on strength.
2. Know your customers
Empathize with customers’ experiences and journeys when engaging with your business
- What is the customer’s (or User’s) experience?
- Why do the customers need your product or service?
- How do you create and sustain Customers’ loyalty?
3. Know your people
Fuel their Passion, Purpose, and Pleasure working with you (not for you)
- Your team (or employees) make and deliver the products and services of your business.
- As the saying goes: “People don’t quit a job! They quit the boss!” Yet, what does it mean?
4. Know your numbers
Measure and Monitor everything you do
- Clear and simple SOPs because “If you can’t describe your work as a process, you don’t know what you are doing”. W. Edwards Deming
- Clear and simple Measurements throughout the product/services life cycle (Input, Process, Output)
- Clear and simple collaborative and individual performance measurements
- What will the Theory of Change look like for your business in terms of outcomes and impact?
5. Know Your Community
Think like a business person and act responsibly. Besides being the right thing to do, it is a catalyst to customers’ loyalty – “Share Of Mind” or “Share Of Heart”
- Make a sustainable impact on society and the environment
- Remember that sometimes not making a negative impact is as valuable.
Over the years, I have learned and practiced a cocktail of tools from world-class methods – be it Lean, Six-sigma, Accelerated Change Management, Design Thinking, and Agile. While classroom training (virtual or physical) is important to set the foundations (knowledge), the magic happens through on-the-job coaching while you learn by doing. It is more effective and efficient for you (mentee) and me (mentor and coach) because we transform knowledge into reality with tangible results.