In last month’s newsletter, Organization Assessment (Readiness) + Feedback, we took a deep dive into steps three and four of the Organizational Development Process: Organizational Assessment (Readiness) and the Feedback Meeting.
Figure 1 - Organizational Development Process
As you may remember, and I hope you do, last month I walked you through the steps involved in performing multiple types of organization, leadership, and team assessments, as well as conducting feedback sessions regarding the overall readiness and results that were presented to the leadership and stakeholders. If any of this is a little bit fuzzy, please go back and reread last month’s newsletter. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.
In the last article for this series, we are going wrap up the two remaining steps in the process: the Change Plan and the Coaching Contract.
The next step in the process is to discuss the change plan and the actions that will need to be taken to implement it. It’s extremely important for the key players to understand all the factors involved in this change and the impact it will have. These changes will impact the leadership and the teams in varying ways. At this point, it is important to have in-depth discussions about the challenges each will face.
We’re not just talking about shifts in mindset, culture, or leadership. Other aspects that need to be discussed and agreed upon are how will technology, HR, marketing, culture, payroll, and business be affected. Every aspect of an organization may potentially need to be transformed based upon the assessment results.
While all of these considerations are valid and extremely important, I believe the most important element in any transformation is the impact it will have on the people involved. By this point in the process, the employees will probably have heard all kinds of rumors about what’s going on: some of them may be looking forward to the change while others may be concerned about how this will not only affect the way they work but more importantly whether they will lose their jobs.
Unfortunately, some agile transformations have resulted in thousands of people losing their jobs. At this point, I must state that agile, in and of itself, does not cause job loss. Agile consultants who are only interested in “flattening” an organization are normally responsible for these massive job losses. Unfortunately, many of these consultants are more concerned about the bottom line than how their recommendations are affecting people’s lives.
From my perspective, “flattening” an organization has nothing to do with a successful agile transformation. While I believe that sometimes organizations may need to restructure, it does not mean you have to eliminate positions or downsize. You just need to find the right position for each of your employees based on their experience, knowledge, and desire to learn new ways to work.
After you and the leadership have worked out the transformation plan, it’s time to present it to the rest of the organization. That’s right, it’s time for the leadership to be open and transparent with their employees. It is extremely important to provide an opportunity as well as a mechanism for the employees to express how they feel about the transformation. This feedback is invaluable and should be thoroughly evaluated and addressed throughout the entire transformation.
I also recommend that the leadership identify a couple of teams that are supportive of the change or are at least curious enough to be the first ones to experience the transformation on a small scale. Remember, it’s easier to change one or two teams and handle their issues than it is to deal with an entire organization. It also provides you with the opportunity to discover potential bottlenecks and hurdles that you may encounter later.
The way I approach this is to create a hypothesis with the two teams, then we run several short experiments in parallel and review the results. We discuss what was learned so the next teams can consider their course of action.
There’s a lot more to consider with a transformation change, however this is a start.
Now it’s time to talk about your role as the transformation leader and establish a contract for that role. It’s extremely important that you and the client have a clear understanding and agreement about each of your roles in the transformation.
Whether you are internal or external, there still needs to be an agreement of understanding or contract that lays everything out regarding your expectations of them and their expectations of you. If you are external, then obviously this should be a legal contract not just to protect you but also to protect the client.
Personally, I prefer to have the agreement or contract discussed prior to providing the client with a plan. Unfortunately, there are plenty of companies out there that will take your hard work and then not hire you. Contractor beware, this has happened too many times to people I know.
Whatever type of contract you choose, it is extremely important to ensure that both you and your client have not only a verbal understanding but also a written legal document that outlines the full understanding of the business relationship and scope of the work which includes what success looks like, how to measure success, and what happens when there are issues that prevent you from being successful. For contract work, I also strongly recommend hiring a lawyer to either draft a contract for you or to be available to review a contract that may be provided to you.
For internal transformations, it’s still vital that you also have some type of agreement with the same details I mentioned for contractors. Whether you call it a coaching alliance, working agreement, or even social contract is not that important. The important thing is that you and the sponsors have an understanding and agreement on the type and level of services that you will provide.
In both cases, contract or internal, be sure there is an escape clause for you and the client. An escape clause permits the unexpected termination of the agreement or contract without cause. This protects you and the client.
That’s it for this series. Hopefully, it has provided you with enough information to get started on your journey. Feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or comments.
My next series of articles and YouTube videos will concentrate on all the aspects of Extreme Programming, to include, Test Driven Development (TDD), Pair Programming, Continuous Development, Continuous Deployment, and Continuous Delivery, just to name a few.
Stay healthy and safe.