Turning the “Yes BUT…”​ into “YES! AND….”​

We met a new amazing partner a few weeks ago and since then our collective wheels have been turning as we’re creating something we think has major potential in the “You can’t have the WoW without the WoT” fight. We’ll announce it soon – or maybe we won’t, we haven’t discussed this, and it’s not a product that needs to reach many people but what it does need to do is transform.

When we talk about our work we know we’ll start by encountering a myriad of “Yes BUT….” a.k.a. objections. All of these will stem from people not having one of the key 3 values we obsess over – Knowledge, Courage and Passion.

Knowledge wise – Many of these will come from a lack of factual information and wrong assumptions as to what Agile needs to be. That’s easy to change if we step away from our own fancy framework name and back to manifesto-level-basics.

On the courage and passion side, things are harder to tackle. Most will reject it on the basis of having a case of just watching the clock ticking. A complete lack of involvement that sees some 89% of our employees so disengaged they do the bare minimum to get by and wish their life away until the next pay check be it monthly or the retirement bonus of a CxO.

That’s where their lack of passion and absence of purpose completely disables their willingness to be courageous and open.

Our job is fundamentally to find the spark in these clock watchers – we strongly believe that the vast majority of individuals we work with, have extreme latent and unutilised potential and used to be heavily emotionally invested, so it will only take reigniting that, and reaffirming the organization’s purpose and their personal degree of investment in it, to transform them from human resources into human capital- ideally before an Agile transformation starts, so it has its best chance to achieve lasting change and the results we all covet-.

Changing one’s behaviour is the holy grail of any betterment exercise and achieving that takes relentless creation of new habits. As any Cognitive Behaviour Therapist would attest, there is no lasting result in creating new neural pathways and consequent new habits and behaviours in the absence of motivation. In other words, without enough genuine impetus that comes from a self-held conviction that altering one’s view and embracing this new way of work is fundamentally desirable, any individual will struggle to achieve that change.

This brings us to how, of the few of us who comprehend Agile will never be all it can become and replace any other antiquated way of sequentially doing things, before we reach minds and souls, there is a school of thought that postulates that doing it the other way around is possible. I.e. that teams and even leaders, who are made to work in an Agile fashion will eventually embrace it through the power of habit.

I don’t believe this to be true. I strongly believe that mandated Agile only ever yields what I call “Agile by numbers” long term and that, if an organization is willing to impose it without the effort to achieve buy-in hence ignoring the risks to morale and acceptance, they must also realise they are only buying time to achieve the internal motivation and must put that plan in place day 1.

In other words, if the board has decided they are doing an Agile transformation as of next month and they either neglected to find the right consultancy to hold their hand through a tour de force in asking for everyone’s support and investment or simply couldn’t find any -if you went looking for it, you’d be surprised how little can be found in the way of consultants willing to affect mentality change to accompany a transformation effort-, they absolutely must find ways to correct that and bring their employees along on the journey.

Arguably, doing it by force also turns into a futile “Agile by numbers” exercise long term because it willingly ignores the power of “Purpose” and how make-or-break it is to the organization. When companies go down the Agile path without getting the initial buy-in, they erode the little purpose capital their employees had to begin with. If they felt even remotely connected to the end goals and then this massive change in the way they work is being thrown at them for apparently no good reason, how are they to still believe they are part of building anything and have a sense of partnership with the business?

Wasting the opportunity to turn your whole organisation, irrespective of a size, composition and distribution, into a cohesive team that rallies behind this new type of thinking that’s going to make you compete with the likes of GAFA, is irresponsible and it amazes me that more boards and exec teams haven’t realized this and started at squeezing Agile for the inspirational capital it holds before attempting to implement it.

Ironically enough, many describe “willingness to change” as the main topic that the initial frustrated Agile manifesto signatories always returned to in their discussions. They meant it as an enabler to speed – as long as developers understood that what was delivered was feedback fodder not a present with a bow on top and had an open channel with the business where real dialogue existed, the cycle could continue. Funny that 20 years later it still is the willingness to change that’s cornerstone even if this time it’s in a much more complex context.

Why is it so hard?

Well for one thing, what other way of thinking connected to our work have we ever effectively changed since maybe the industrial revolution?

If you look at Lean and Six Sigma – some claim they have all but vanished and therefore failed, but if you stop to think about them, how are we to exclude the possibility that any degree of acceptance for faster results and greater flexibility can’t partly be attributed to the leg work of thousands of evangelists that tried to nail the concepts into the heads of execs busy with BAU for the past 40 years?

It’s also hard because it is a way of thinking and a way of feeling that is completely eerie to most of us in a professional environment – empathy, strength of character and conviction as well as ability to withstand uncertainty while still feeling safe enough in the team to resolve it and grow, strong and self-replenishing sense of purpose and a hefty dose of personal responsibility all come into it.

We know that to turn our “Yes BUT….” into an excited “YES! AND…” (a concept so crucial to creating that improv theatre is based around it) we will have to work on all of the above.

Being truly strong, open and flexible, having Emotional Intelligence while still applying all of the hard skills and obsessively ever learning – that’s what’s needed of anyone who works in Agile ways.

Yes, but… It just is an extremely tall order that forces us to be at the stretch limit of our ability and above all, our humanity.

YES! AND it’s worth it! Surely we all just want to be better. Faster. Stronger. And ultimately? Happier.

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