Thursday, April 30, 2015

About energizing people and empowering the team

Maybe you once read the book Management 3.0 by Jurgen Appelo. If not – read it. Especially the chapters of how to energize people and build up motivated teams gave me insights and ideas that helped me in my current situation.  Let’s see and example.

After about two months of working we introduced additional ceremonies to organize our team work based on our daily work that was (intentionally from my side) somewhat ad-hoc organized so far. In this period we all learned what communication we needed within the team and in collaboration with all the other teams we interact at Digitec Galaxus.

My team members were not that happy that I as the boss did not define ceremonies right from the beginning. Becki once gave me the feedback “your listening. That’s good, I like that. But sometime I would like you to decide and define”. That was my experiment in building up the team. My idea and hope was that a certain state of unhappiness fosters the need for change and motivates every team member to think and reflect about improvements. The hard thing is to get the feeling for the right point in time for a change so that creativity for change does not turn into frustration.

By the way, I really like experiments. Experiments are the perfect instrument to develop a complex system – and every system is complex as soon as more than one person is part of the system. Experiments are small changes, tiny measures that are implemented fast. For a certain topic like the improvement of the portfolio process it is good to have a backlog of potential experiments. Then you apply an experiment. As it is small it is implemented fast. You get feedback very fast. Fallback is often possible in case the experiment fails as the change is small and the impact limited. Experiment by experiment you learn about the system and the number of successful experiments increases. Changes are small for all individuals involved and included in these changes. Ideal all individuals in the organization get used to that the system changes continuously. As most experiments succeed, all involved persons perceive change as something that delivers value. 

Well, back to my first experiment in my team. In the meeting itself – we explicitly took team ceremonies as the topic of our BD team meeting retro – the team expected some statements from the boss. Not too bad. I took the chance. But I did not present a solution. Instead I tried to summarize what problems in communication we obviously face and what goals are expected by the organization when introducing our ceremony culture. Additional I presented some alternatives and good practices out of my work experience that succeeded in other companies in similar context. I added some statements about further reading. Then I pleased my team to present their ideas how to organize our team culture.

Luckily my team took as well the chance. Especially Becki and Andi, the long term Digitec Galaxus employees, started to present their view based on their insights and experiences inside our company culture. For sure sharing my experience and ideas biased and influenced. I recognized this carefully. But this is positive. The influence is mutual. We as a team work on a common goal: to identify and agree upon an effective and efficient ceremony culture that satisfies the needs of our organization.
The result was ok, practicable, a good start. It was not the perfect solution. We all knew this. We agreed to start and to improve as soon as we learn more. Meanwhile we changed our team ceremonies by applying about five additional experiments. These improvements often are agreed upon at the end of a meeting. One team member raises its hand and starts: “By the way, I believe we could improve our meeting culture as following…”. Small experiments are agreed upon fast and implemented at once. If we are not able to agree we move the discussion to one of our BD team meetings.

Now, three months after my start I can say that this way of involving the team in all decisions is an essential step of team development. My personal experience and competence out of my professional life is welcome as part of the team and not perceived as “the expert overrules us”. We learned as well – following the delegation model presented in Jurgen Appelo’s book Management 3.0 – what decision are team decision on eye level and what decision are solely on my side as the head of, but still influenced on the important input and shared knowledge of my team.

Now, three months after my start I ran through the yearly performance process with each of my team members. I recognized and honored the open feedback that I got about what is good and what is not so good. But what I value most is that all of my team members agreed that it is fun to work in our team; that they are happy with their job and fully motivated to engage for  Digitec Galaxus. That again motivates me. We are working on a common goal.

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