Learning from Holacracy
What Continuous Performance Management Can Learn From Holacracy
With tools and strategies bringing teams together, it's important to understand the various management paradigms that exist. Having this knowledge will help you adopt a model that fits best with your team culture. This guide will walk you through one of these paradigms, Holacracy, including:
- What is holacracy as a management concept?
- Misconceptions about holacracy.
- Self-management and how you can adopt components of holacracy within your current management model.
To get started, let's go over some common reasons people lean towards self-managed paradigms:
- Current management structures that are static and rigid are not efficient at engaging new hires and adopting a community-feeling team culture
- Countless hours are spent supervising work, not producing results
- Management is expensive
- Decisions get slowed down due to bottlenecking of supervision and managerial layers.
- Innovative problem-solving ideas need layers of approval so roadblocks aren't overcome fast = slower decisions
Holacracy explained in 10 bullet-points
- Created by Brian Robertson
- Holarchy is derived from the concept of Hierarchy of holons [systems that have smaller subsets that are also independent systems within them]
- Follows a natural process of trial-and-error to correctly identify the subsets of a system that are needed to make an efficient whole
- Goals of holacracy include: distributed authority, purpose-orientation, rapid decision-making, evolution of holons as projects come and go
- Every employee and every team is considered a holon (an independent unit, but also part of the larger organization)
- Organizational structure of individuals following holacracy is similar to that of cells in an organism
- There's a fixed constitution but it's a living document that is constantly evolving over time (iterative process of determining the rules)
- Everything's organized around expressing the peoples' purpose
- Hierarchy is established using "circles of accountability" that have their own purpose within the larger system of the organization.
- Each circle has sub-circles, or sub-roles, that support the larger circle's purpose.
Holacracy eliminates the need to compare and evaluate based on position, rank, relative power, seniority, or status within a team. Each person's skills and knowledge is leveraging, valued, and recognized for its uniqueness. Capacity to engage and interact is instilled in everyone through direct accountability and ownership over their responsibilities.
- It is non-hierarchical
This is false! Holacracies have an explicit hierarchical format when it comes to laying out circles of ownership. However, rather than focusing on seniority and title<>power within traditional organizational hierachy, there’s strong emphasis on consensual, democratic decision-making. Collaboration is at the core. Everyone's opinion matters. As a result, the established hierarchy relates to accountability over results. It's very value-neutral.
Circles of ownership operate as a hierarchy since there is an established purpose that everyone within that team must work towards. Like sub-departments, there's smaller roles within the larger context of an area of accountability that have expectations and jobs-to-be-done that contribute up to the success of the circle as a whole. No two people are doing the same thing, therefore everyone is vertically aligned. However, there is still explicit roles and responsibilities everyone is held accountable for.
An added layer is that each circle of ownership connects to other circles, creating cross-functional teams that have overlapping tasks. This is similar to a Venn diagram.
- There are no managers in a holacracy model
It's true that there is no explicit title of "manager." However, the roles that are defined still, for all intents and purposes, relate to the traditional roles expected of managers (facilitating projects, creating strategy, coaching others, etc.)
Holacracy doesn't eliminate a sense of accountability. There are 'core roles' that govern the results of all the other sub-circles.
Holacracy's challenge to other management paradigms: "What if everyone was accountable?"
Often management paradigms don't view accountability as being individually held - at the end of the day it's up to managers and supervisors to make sure their teams deliver. Holacracy questions this bottleneck, placing accountability of actions in the hands of those producing the results: everyone.
- There'd be higher employee retention - everyone would be held accountable for their own results, so they'd work harder and more efficiently to showcase their skills.
- No one person would carry the burden of organizing complicated processes
- A culture of support and coaching would be created. Leveraging skills, not authority means the job gets done efficiently.
- No politics associated with fear and power.
- Innovation is at the core of the day-to-day since bottlenecks of approval are decoupled.
- Creative potential becomes part of team culture.
- Roles are fluid - skills come and go as the organization evolves, meaning there's no inefficient pockets of workers.
- Focus on team performance, not 'climbing up a seniority ladder
- Dynamic roles replace static job descriptions
- Transparency increases
- Authority is no longer delegated, everyone has a voice
- Rapid iterations replace tedious, process-heavy changes
- Strong incentive for continuous learning
What we can learn from Holacracy for continuous performance management
- Focus on team performance and leveraging skills, not power or seniority
Holacracy empowers individuals by creating pockets of accountability, not ladders of authority. Continuous performance management values that everyone's hard work is equally contributing to the bigger picture. The common denominator is that skills are being leveraged from all angles to make the organization successful. There's an atmosphere of support.
- Collaboration and cooperation are key
Teams that respect the skills that each other bring to the table are much more likely to help each other out when they need it and listen to each other. With politics off the table, everyone has a defined purpose, leading to profit. With defined purpose, it's easier to set up cross-functional hubs that lean on each other. Cooperative, equal decision-making = collaboration!
- Strong incentive to balance professional and personal growth
At the heart of continuous performance management is the notion that the organization is there to support you in your efforts equally as much as you are there to drive success. With reciprocity of support, it breads a community vibe where continuous learning and growth can happen. This means supporting both in honing on your career trajectory and personal development plans, as well as the day-to-day resources you need to professionally succeed.
- Strong sense of transparency
Distributed decision-making and clear areas of accountability make it very clear to what you're being held up to achieve. With a continuous performance management model, just like in Holacracy, conversations happen in real-time as roadblocks are encountered. With direct ownership over an outcome, in both scenarios, immediate steps can be taken to fix the problem without worrying about bottlenecking up to a manager, or waiting until a yearly review in December to bring up a problem happening right now.
- Team culture is dynamic
Organizations and people are constantly evolving. It's important to constantly converse with members of your team to get a sense of what is working. Management is no longer a once-a-year-to-be-reviewed process, but a dynamic, living ecosystem.
What others have to say about Holacracy
The Next Big Thing You Missed: Companies That Work Better Without Bosses - Marcus Wohlsen, Senior Writer for Wired. [January 1st, 2014]
- “It is no longer assumed he has to be the final word” on everything, Gonzales-Black at Zappos says. The chance to spread his authority [the CEO's] around would seem to free him up to focus on the stuff he’s best at, just like everyone else.
Holawhat? Meet the alt-management system invented by a programmer and used by Zappos. - Rebecca Greenfield, Staff Writer. [March 30th, 2015]
- Holacracy is not going to take a bad business idea and make it succeed. It’s not going to take a team that doesn’t have the skills and make it brilliant," Robertson said. "It's more of an accelerant," he said. He likens Holacracy to getting a new computer. Generally, self-management systems promise happier employees, healthier workforces, and as a result a more successful company. Hsieh [Zappos' CEO] is so eager to ditch hierarchy because he wants his company to operate with the efficiency of a bustling metropolis, not a clunky corporate behemoth. Cities when they double in size get 15% more productive, companies lose productivity as they grow.
Collaboration is a top priority as teams grow. With tools and strategies bringing teams together, but further apart (such as through remote work [read more]), it is increasingly important to understand the value of collaboration. This guide will walk you through:
- How to jump into a frame of mind that places collaboration at the center of a high-performing organization.
- Clarify common misconceptions about collaboration.
- Provide high-level collaborative strategies and initiatives to jumpstart engagement in your team.
Collaboration, Not Cooperation
Habits of highly effective teams - Why Is Collaboration Important?
Collaboration breaks down silos of "jobs to be done" within teams and roles. By removing the conversation from tasks and "I only do this, not that" frames of mind, it allows organizations to be innovative, creative, and flexible as they can leverage all skills in the team for the right reasons.
Collaboration creates a bedrock of trust amongst teammates' capabilities. It also unifies everyone under a shared purpose (#sameteam!).
The biggest thing that differentiates collaboration from cooperation or teamwork is an element of vulnerability. When people feel trusted to automatically speak up in joint discussion, they can invest their full selves and efforts into their goals without fear.
- Collaboration is defined as an activity that involves multiple people working together on a project
Reality: Collaboration is a process.
Processes are created from outcome-based behaviours. Behaviours, otherwise known as habits, develop and grow over time. This creates a cycle where skills across teams can continuously be leveraged, regardless of what department or functional area the individual who has that skill is in. Projects are defined by timelines and a subset of tasks. One single contribution, one time, does not mean an environment is created where everyone has a voice.
- Collaboration is the same as Cooperation
Cooperation is defined by individuals developing ideas in isolation, then sharing these ideas with others. The key differences is that there is not joint discussion to spark ideas.
Collaboration is defined by individual goals are aligned and created in unison with, collective achievement. Joint discussions focus on outcomes that lead to innovative, creative ways of thinking.
- Collaboration can't occur when there are different departments with different approaches, goals, and measures of success
Reality: Variety makes organizations successful.
How does that make sense? Think of a strategic board game. In most strategic, puzzle based games, at the start there are an infinite number of moves that can occur at any give time. Just because there's multiple strategies or scenarios, doesn't mean you can't become familiar and master the game. Masters link actions to patterns, identifiable scenarios, and approaches. Not tasks.
Best practices for creating a collaborative atmosphere
So, how can I begin to work on collaboration with my organization?
Compiling a list of collaborative organizational efficiencies from my own experiences, online research, as well as insight from our customers at 7Geese, I've outlined key areas to look out for/pay attention to when assessing your own collaborative environment.
Each point has a 'THEORY' and 'REALITY' component. Theory references the concept, while the reality will walk you through a true-to-my-experiences example.
Measure what matters most to you
THEORY: There are a lot of things that an organization can measure. Focus on metrics that tie back to your use case, not someone else's. If you use engagement or adoption compared to churn or cost-of-customer-acquisition, create realistic performance expectations that teams can measure up to. It's not about what someone else is doing, but what makes sense for your culture.
REALITY: Focus on the measurement of movement that moves your teams towards organizational goal success not just arbitrary stats.
Strategy comes before technology
THEORY: Technology is the future of work. But before rushing to commit to software, it's important to understand the why, or strategy that will help you do the how. Initiatives don't succeed from using tools along, you have to create a common ground with understanding how a new tool can help realize what is needed, and how the organization as a whole is committed to engage and connect in overcoming a problem.
REALITY: At 7Geese, we use a lot of tools... Slack, Asana, Github, OneLogin, Twitter, Confluence.. aiya! But each tool has a purpose, a strategy behind why they're important over another product, and have been collectively adapted overtime.
Adapt as you grow and evolve with your team
THEORY: Greek philosopher Heraclitus noted, “All is flux, nothing stays still—there is nothing permanent except change.”
Collaboration is on-going and never-ending. As new strategies, tools, and team members come and go, the workplace continues to grow as well. Keep a pulse on your culture, internal processes, your industry, and anticipate! This will help you innovate, not just copy others.
REALITY: A good example of evolving and adapting is updating your core values. We went through the exercise at 7Geese not too long ago. As the team grew, we noticed 3 of our 6 values being exhibited more often than not. After a team strategy discussion, we collectively agreed this was because as times changed, but was most important got more clear-cut. The result of this? We eliminated 3 of our core values and saw an increase in recognition being given. Clarity to what matters most eliminated the lingering "I know this is important, but in what way.. I don't know" thought.
- Centralize Collaboration Using Communication
THEORY: No effective collaboration can occur without communication. Communicating the importance of cross-functionality through concepts such as core values, visions, or roadmaps will help everyone work together. Everyone on the team can share and build ideas for improvement, provide constructive feedback, and have the self-awareness to grow.
REALITY: Think about a really good friendship or partnership. The bedrock to a successful relationship is honesty. Without communicating your needs how will the other person ever know that you hate it when socks are left out of the hamper? You'd talk about these things in your everyday life, of which work is a huge part!
Integrate Collaboration Into Workflow
THEORY: Collaborating isn't an additional task or requirement. Collaboration is about natural habits and routines.
REALITY: Here at 7Geese we use a lot of workflow-based collaboration tools... Asana (keeping our roadmap on track from customer feedback all the way up to our developers!), Intercom (helping each other help our customers!), GitHub (We all like to squash pesky bugs!), and other cool things such as Screenhero to accommodate for our flexible working-from-home policy.
Clarify each person's roles and responsibilities and how they contribute up.
THEORY: Collaboration only really works when everyone is on the same page.
REALITY: What can I do, you ask? Well, we have a few customers who can help you with that! Read more on how they've created collaborative environments with continuous performance management.
- Airware: With 7Geese, everyone on the Airware team can discuss what’s blocking priorities and what’s keeping them from accomplishing quarterly objectives in real-time.
- Moz: They were a fast growing company that always put their people first, so it was super important for them to invest in a process that benefitted their employees.
Create a supportive environment
THEORY: Collaboration isn't defined or related to compensation. Encouraging and motivating each other, even if there is good communication can be difficult if the only reason people are working together is for compensation. This isn't to say great performance shouldn't be rewarded. A supportive environment means having resources and a culture of coaching available to encourage teamwork.
REALITY: My dad is a great role-model. Growing up he always allowed me to make mistakes, asking me what I learnt - he never scolded me for doing wrong. Everyone has a moral compass. As a result of my Dad helping me develop my own interpretation of what went wrong, I have a lot of self-awareness. Help people help themselves, support each other. (#sameteam again!).
Hold productive meetings
THEORY: No brainer. Good meetings have clear objectives and an agenda. They should serve to motivate people.
REALITY: I've been involved in two different teams in the past year that have tried out a lot of various meeting styles. Daily stand-ups to discuss in 2 minutes or less per person "What am I working on? What challenges am I facing?" to weekly reflection on "What am I proud of, what did I learn, and what did I redo?". All really great intentions, but sometimes you leave these meetings feeling more confused than when you went in. WHY? Because there's rarely a strong purpose and accountability behind what is said. It's great to air your dirty laundry, but if you're not going to wash it, what's the point? Productive meetings have purpose, accountability, and takeaways. Every time.
- Build a sense of community
THEORY: Employees need a personal connection to one another to feel collaborative. One great way to create community is to establish core values and have your team begin to publicly recognize behaviours that exhibit these values.
REALITY: I always default to kindergarten class when I think of community. Before snack time it was team-clean-up. It didn't matter who played with what toy, or how it got there, there was this unified goal of cleaning up to munch. A great community is one that sticks together, helps each other, and doesn't care who made a mess, but if they can help to course-correct, they will.
- Listen to the voice of your team
THEORY: We are always so adamant about listening to the voice of the customer, or our mother. So why not the voice of those that are pivotal to the success of our business? Trust in the decision making process should be a thing established between a new hire and the rest of the team from step one. Listen to their ideas, what they need to succeed at their job, and their suggestions on improving internal culture. This goes a long way to show you care about integrating their feedback.
REALITY: I struggle with this everywhere I go. I often like to challenge the status-quo and voice difference of opinion. This isn't the best way to build trust as people often get defensive. There isn't malicious intent to this challenge, but rather it's underlined by wanting to make sure the other person truly understands why they're fighting for something. I could probably do a better job with tone, and how this is delivered. Bottomline? There's a balance between listening to others and listening to yourself.
- Don’t micro-manage
THEORY: Respect employees and give them autonomy to do their jobs.
REALITY: I've been fortunate everywhere I go to have a documented outline of areas of ownership I'm responsible for. Everyone knows that's what I'm working on. Even if I lock myself behind music and noise-cancelling headphones, there's no doubt from anyone else that I'm not working. As a result? No micro-manager counting my every minute!
- Lead by the example you would provide
THEORY: Everyone is a leader no matter what age, what role, or what experiences they've had. There's an innate capacity for everyone to influence positive change in the day-to-day, so why not leverage that for organizational success? Differing points-of-view.
REALITY: Everyday you do something you're leading by example. When I was visiting Germany a few years ago I noticed a particularly cool thing happen in public. You can drink on the streets. It's legal. What I noticed, was when there was a child around, people were very discrete with their alcohol. I asked my flatmates at the time why this was. They simply responded, if I had a young child I'd want to teach them good, respectful habits. That family may not want to show their child it's okay to drink in public - it's up to the family to teach morals.
- Learn to get out of the way and trust
THEORY/REALITY: Don't stifle collaboration by not trusting the skill sets you've hired. Best practices, policies, and processes act as guidelines to let your hires know do what they need to do, but trust that they're bringing expertise to the team. You hired them because you needed help - let them help! If it doesn't work out, you can assess culture, or perhaps your hiring processes to ensure it doesn't happen a second time.
- Employee collaboration also benefits the customer
THEORY: Happier, engaged teams means a better external experience that is far superior to a cog-in-the-machine feel from unhappy hires. If teams aren't really sure how to solve internal processes first, how are they going to be able to effectively solve customer problems?
REALITY: Being the lead for support at 7Geese I've created a guiding ethos document. You can find this here, if you're curious: 7Geese Support and Learning Ethos Guide. The main component of this guide was knowing that I could have creative freedom to define how I wanted to do my job and support our customers how I see will most benefit them. Happy me = happy them!
Persistence - At no one particular time is it important to keep going. It's always important to move forward. Without a constant, persistent attempt to connect with teams and engage everyone, collaboration won't work.
What do I do next?
- HR and talent management professionals can assess the level of trust in an organization through employee surveys and confidential one-on-one interviews. If something isn't working, don't assume why it's not working - talk to people. Your most important assets are your team members, so include them in discussions. They'll offer some pretty interesting insights, I guarantee this!
- Create a Shared Vision and Purpose. If you haven't already shared what you, as an organization or team, are trying to achieve, have a brainstorming session and align everyone behind a common goal. This will add purpose to the day-to-day. Everyone will feel like they're working towards them same outcome, regardless of the creative path they take to get there.
- Tap into individual talent. To optimize collaboration, assign roles that fit each person’s strengths. Build teams based on what each person can bring to the table. Have regular conversations around the direction each person wants to take and how the organization and team can support that direction. This goes a long way to show that an organization is invested in their people, making them invested in team success.
Changing Internal Processes - Creating a Change Plan. Let's answer the question:
- What factors facilitate and inhibit the way in which I can measure engagement with, and adoption of, processes in my organization? If something isn't working, how do I initiate change?
This guide will focus on initiating change associated with changing internal processes, but the overall principles can be applied to any type of organizational change.
First, let's take a look at why processes that don't work can lead to numerous problems.
- Teams may complain about feeling their work is being undervalued.
- Duplication of work, unknowingly.
- Costs to run a team increase... but why? No one knows.
- Resources are wasted supporting the wrong efforts.
- Bottlenecks develop = missed deadlines. Or worse, crappy products being delivered. Who is happy then?
- Customers get frustrated they waited, but for something that didn't even help them anyways. Crap. A lack of internal processes can mean team members don't know who to go to for help, meaning customers externally are left waiting longer.
- Frustrated customers and lack of excitement internally = possible churn + lower sales + not so good word-of-mouth stories. I'm no math guru, but I do know this isn't the best equation...
So now what?
Determine what you aim to accomplish with change
- What change do you want to occur? Why?
Ask yourself: is there something going on internally that is causing bottlenecks? lack of motivation? duplicated resources?
Dig deep - don't worry about picking apart the broken pieces. The good thing is, there's only up to go!
- Is the problem I am experiencing an operational problem? Strategic vision misalignment? Functional issue?
Pinpoint what is nipping productivity and engagement in the bud then seek to develop an answer on how to solve it. Is is more resources? Culture fit issue? Or maybe there really has never been anything established around this particular issue... time for a new idea!
- What teams are involved (and at what detail) in these functional areas - to what extent would a change disrupt them?
Put the needs of your champions (your teams, of course!) first. Make it an open discussion.
Not everything needs a process. For example, one team in the entire organization is riddled with competition and competing personalities, maybe it's time to think... well how did this happen? Did I not do my due diligence in the hiring interview to ensure cultural fit? Is there some form of competition inherent in this department compared to other departments? Maybe they each have a different idea of expectations expected of them and it's just a matter of clarification. Reflect, don't assume.
Clarify why you're thinking about this in the first place
You've identified what needs to be fixed as a result of poor engagement, but don't just make it a change in process for the sake of creating a series of tasks with a specific end result (such as hiring someone or producing a product). Think of the outcome, desired solution, impacted parties. What is it you're analyzing? What is its importance in the bigger picture?
The end result is equal parts process as it is future adoption. Will this new process be adopted ad-hoc for the sake of short-term change, long-term adoption, or just another process for the sake of beefing up the internal on-boarding handbook?
You have clarity, know what you want to accomplish - now think: who is impacted by this change?
Change can impact internal teams, external customers, can be apparent or hidden in a trigger event as a result of an unintended consequence of the change.
Here's an example to think about: changing how your sales team tracks success. If there is temporary chaos internally, external customers and clients and other departments will feel this too. For every internal reaction, there's an equal external hiccup that can arise. There's also the potential to break something else that is currently working. Think about all possibilities no matter how big or small they may seem in the present day.
To avoid hiccups, identify:
- Which teams need to participate? What departments? Customer groups?
- Where do the resources needed to make this change successful come from?
- Who receives the most disruptive output of the process? (Both good and bad outputs)
Proactive measures! Nothing is farfetched at this stage. Go as far as you can in the brainstorming process to map out and involve the people most likely to be affected by the decision and what resources or potential solutions can be created to prevent hiccups. The more people you involve in brainstorming, the more insight you have into identifying unintended consequences. (These individuals will also be invested in the outcome! They can become your strongest ally when it comes to proactively conquering the consequences of the decision made in the end.)
Phew - all this thinking - Now it's time to start creating!
A well-designed change strategy will be accompanied by an explicitly designed cycle with triggers identifying where potential gaps occur and what areas may need to be constantly updated along the way.
These trigger areas include:
- Other existing processes – Establish clear processes and strategies for how you want to handle change within the bigger picture. A good example is updating/creating a new hire on-boarding list.
How do you know you've established a good process?
- It can be periodically reviewed by an external set of eyes.
- It can be modified.
- It can be deployed by anybody, not just the person who created/designed it.
- It can be understood and executed by anybody reading it, without the necessity to be interpreted.
- There's a clear outline of how to proactively identify internal and external triggers of change that can negatively impact adoption of the process.
- People and resources involved – All changes need resources. Asses what skills needed to be utilized (if any) to get the process going, how long does someone need to reflect on the process to understand it? Are resources needed to maintain and commit upkeep to your processes? How often do they need to be deployed?
How do I allocate resources to support people?
- Ask your teams, 'do you feel you have enough resources to effectively accomplish your goals day-to-day?
- Ask your teams 'What do you need to be successful?'
-If resources are properly established, there will be organic adoption of processes.
- Ask your teams about their self-efficacy (know that you CAN accomplish goals). If they feel even with strong self-regulation there are roadblocks to success, you haven't established appropriate resources.
- Systems – Establish resources and process in flexible systems. Change is always going to happen, so be ready for it - embrace it, make it apart of the process. Good systems aren't static, but are dynamic. The main component of a good system = element of change.
How do I create a process that incorporates an element of change?
- Don't fear the inevitable. People come and go, typically processes stay the same. Ideally, new team members adopt processes. But sometimes, processes should be altered to adopt new teams. This doesn't mean that just because you have a new hire you have to change your organizational goals. But that's just it! Goals are separate than processes. Maybe someone learns better through videos and not written handbooks - invest into creative process building. There's more than one type of way to learn!
- Create an urgency/importance matrix. Determine which processes everyone needs to adopt, which can be altered on-demand, and those that if someone stops doing altogether you can then restart the process creation phase and recreate. If a process hinges on being not important and not urgent chances are no one is going to really adopt it, care to change their habits, or go out of their way when told something they are doing doesn't match up. Honestly, let's just get rid of these processes - not urgent, not important? Let people think for themselves on this one.
- Culture – Typically change happens as a result of a culture shift within the team. Everyone will appreciate making culture first and foremost in all change. I bet you can't think of a situation where good culture didn't lend itself to happiness!
Create your change framework
In any transformation effort, there are a number of variables that exist simultaneously and affect the acceptance of change by a team. It's important to set up teams to know they have a supportive environment and that the culture isn't changing drastically, but enough to make things better.
Change doesn't occur in a vacuum, it's continuous. Here's a model to identify what a good change framework can look like:
While this is one model that can be used to develop a change framework, make one that works with your and your team needs.
Develop a team-wide execution strategy
There are multiple approaches to take when it comes to presenting change as a value-added strategy. The type that will resonate the most with your team, and ultimately the approach you should take, is related to the culture and type of your team. Are you relaxed or strong on operational policies?
- Your team is: Data-driven
- Emphasize reasoning as a tactic for bringing about a change.
- Identify a clear one sentence (ideally 30 words) goal that will state by doing this, ____ will be more efficient.
- Inputs, outputs, and expected outcomes are relatable to metric-centric change in a positive way.
Your change has an increased likelihood of adoption when those impacted understand the results of the transformation and the rationale behind it.
- Your team is: Participative
- Make change democratic. Involve people who will be, think they will be, or perceive potential later down the road impacts.
- Make it about how to transform, not completely erase and renew behaviors.
- Make it clear how the change will influence attitudes, values, skills, and actions. Don't just rationalize change from a leadership standpoint - make it about everyone.
For this change strategy to be successful, it is dependent on all impacted individuals participating both in the change (including design, development, and implementation of the change) and their change education and transition.Dealing with resistance
Resistance is a critical element of change activities. Let's try make resistance positive: look at it as a unifying force that can help resolve tension between otherwise unaddressed conflicts. To combat resistance in a healthy, transformational way it's important to understand how resistance occurs.
- Cognitive resistance
- Characterized by perceptions of how the change will influence likelihood of opportunity for the resister to voice ideas about change itself.
- Spot cognitive resistance! There is a lack of willingness to be involved in planning or execution of change without reason.
- Emotional resistance
- Characterized by perceptions of negative emotions that relate to comfort zone disruption and lack of understanding that change is happening around an individual, not to or about the individual. (Read more on emotional resistance here.)
- Curb emotional resistance! Educate on why change is happening, not only that change is happening or what that change actually is.
“People don’t resist change. They resist being changed.” – Peter M. Senge
- Behavioural resistance:
- Characterized by a mix of perception about being changed as an individual and a fear of change in being a heard voice.
- Spot behavioural resistance! Hearing rumors? Typically this is a sign of behavioural resistance.
Successfully executing all this thought and planning requires the support of a transition plan. As easy as it may seem to change something, the complexity of the impact of the change on the organization and the triggering consequences that you've now identified can be overwhelming if a transition plan isn't established. Once the nature and the impact of the transformation are understood, the change champion (that's you!) will have the critical information to create a transition plan.
You've done analysis up to this point to identify the gaps, triggers, potential cataclysmic resistance areas, and all the other communication strategy planning - put this to action! First identify the future state of things, which areas are going to be impacted the most (most urgent, most important areas) and start there. Not everything is predictable so make sure your transition plan has a constant feedback loop to stop-reflect-REact (not react. It's BAD to react - this can lead to rumors, further resistance, and the outlook that you lack confidence in your own plan!)
Second, make it clear that there is a close. This means that it is indeed a plan with a goal. All things implemented should be continuously evaluated as being effective, but that doesn't mean that each change shouldn't have a definitive end. Change does not occur in a linear manner, but in a series of dynamic but predictable phases (all which have a start and end.)
Third, clearly communication the resources that are available. It can be nerve-wracking to here there's going to be change. Often the question "but what happens to me?" comes to mind - answer this question at the onset of your transition.
Lastly, and most importantly, your plan should take into account the specific needs and requirements of each individual impacted. Surprises are bound to be triggered (oh no, I didn't think of that!) but helping mobilize each team's needs within change renders itself to feelings of being supported.
No change or process introduction is easy. And I've probably left something out. But that's because no two changes are alike. You can only plan for change before change occurs for so long. At some point you just have to change.
Best practices - Remote Work
Remote work is labeled many ways. We define it as work completed in an environment or space other than that of the office workplace. This can include working from a home office, hotel, the beach, the car, transit, or even a restaurant! Anytime you engage with your work e-mail on your phone, for example, you're working remotely.
Advances in video conferencing, social media, telecommunications, screen sharing, and chat have increased need in the modern-day business world to be on the job 24/7. As a result, employees are looking for workplaces that offer flexibility.
Remote working is often viewed as non-beneficial for the productivity of a company. However, there are elements of remote work that benefit an individual's personal effectiveness, and ultimately business success.
- Gives employees an opportunity to have impact where they want to be: People want the feeling of belonging to something bigger. But they also want to be comfortable and spend less time commuting. Remote work enables individuals to still be connected, but also balance comfort and efficiency in their lives. This is especially important for new families - everyone wants to get home to be with a new loved one, not commuting
- Learning and development: Everyone has an opportunity to take ownership of their own learning. Since there's no day-to-day oversight of someone being at an office, companies can much easier assess development of an individual based on performance, not merely just showing up.
- Cheaper! And Optimizes time spent working: Businesses don't have to spend as much money on having desk space, a bigger office, more snacks in the kitchen, or any other perks you'd otherwise have to offer for everyone. Setting up your employee at home is more cost effective on operational costs.
- Balanced life = productive employees: Many people join start-ups because of the flexibility it offers to work from anywhere, whenever as long as you are getting quality work done. If you value excellence, you value your employees not burning out. Remote work gives individuals an option to work where they feel balanced. This takes the distraction out of feeling anxious to get out of the office, or, simply not show up because they have more important personal issues to deal with.
- Avoidance of Interruptions: The office is full of interruptions - especially if it's an open, co-worker space. People moving, getting coffee, grabbing lunch, playing ping-pong, the list goes on. With an employee working from home they can focus on their work with fewer distractions (aside from the kitchen fridge).
With any good thing, there's equal parts pitfalls. Remote work means talent can work where they're comfortable and you can ensure you've hired employees that best fit your team. However, here's a few things to keep top of mind that could potentially put a damper on remote working.
- Isolation and culture loss: Remote workers work alone, disconnected from the daily happenings of the office. Be sure to have team outings or some form of online screen time to keep everyone connected on a personal level.
- Cabin Fever: Make sure to promote getting up and out! Even in the office you step outside for fresh air once in a while. It's important to have that check at home too.
- Less face-to-face and slower communication: Even with telecommunication and chat-apps, sometimes getting the answer you need is more difficult than walking over to someone's desk. Be sure to plan out extra time to communicate with your remote workers to ensure they're kept up-to-date and in the loop.
- Overworked: Clear boundaries both mentally and physically are important to distinguish between personal and professional. Be sure to properly setup remote workers with a desk and anything they need to create a distinction. Burnout is not anything anybody wants!
Before encouraging remote working it's important to set everyone up for success. Here's a few of our best practice tips that we have at 7Geese that makes our remote working flexibility successful for everyone.
- Create a remote work policy: Establish a baseline of rules that are the same for everyone, even workers in the office. For example, here in 7Geese is we have established work from home Tuesdays and Thursdays, but we post whether we actually are going to be working from home in our Slack channel by 10am each of those days. It's not a set-in-stone policy, but a habit we've established to keep everyone in the know.
- Overlap in working hours: Make sure everyone, regardless of where they are working, can have at a minimum a few hours of time to correspond with your head office. This will help combat isolation and keep everyone connected on a personal level. You also eliminate having to wait until the next day for a response on urgent matters!
- Attend meetings: Book meetings in advance and provide the option to screen share and project your remote working employee in the meeting room. Create a digital presence if a physical one can't occur.
- Establish chatter guidelines: It's important to let everyone when it's right to email or use chatrooms. Establish a sense of urgency in communication to make sure the right messages get communicated quicker.
- Don’t hesitate to ask stupid questions: Distance can make it difficult to understand everything going on. No question is a stupid question.
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