Today I had a powerful conversation with a client looking to take their business beyond being stuck to a plan. You know it is a good conversation when a question stops you in your tracks and makes you think hard. The question that stopped me was:
What process works to help teams move beyond simply following a plan?
I had to admit I didn’t think there was one process. There are no silver bullets. Changing to more responsive and agile ways of working challenges people to adapt. Because the purpose, context, business model and culture is different in every organisation, there is no one answer.
As we discussed the question, three steps to a more responsive organisation came to the fore in our conversation:
- Focus on how value gets created: Plans take over from results when we confuse the tool and the result. Helping everyone in the organisation to understand the purpose and how value gets created gives them a better chance to align to outcomes and to adapt to new ways to create value. The role of a business model canvas is to help make explicit the hidden sources of value and the choices available in other paths to the goal.
- Explore catalytic mechanisms & new questions that keep the focus on new ways to realise value: We settle for a plan when we stop challenging ourselves to find new or better ways. Hard questions keep the focus on the external environment and the need to change and adapt.
- Help people to develop double loop learning: When we have challenging work to do, it is easy to let the work of the process dominate. We focus on getting better in the process. Double loop learning helps us to get better about how we are doing our work. To borrow the language of adaptive leadership it enables people to manage and be on both ‘the balcony and the dance floor’
These steps won’t deliver a more responsive & more agile organisation on their own but they will start your change. These can be combined with other tools and practices to create the model that suits your circumstances.
How do you lead the change to move beyond the plan?