Five Minutes That Will Change Your Workplace Forever

2017 is up and running at organizations small and large, and the pace is already staggering. How about in your organization? Can you feel it?

Does this describe your organization?

There is a lot of buzz and an accelerating pace in the air. Kick-offs, planning meetings, lunch chit-chat, goal-setting, water-cooler chat … I can imagine the energy and sense of urgency within your organization as you press ahead on your plans for the year … the pace is fast and already getting faster … heck, my head is spinning just writing this post!

<deep breath>

With all of this speed and acceleration, I took a moment early this morning and carved out a few minutes to simply think and reflect, Given how fast organizations rally around their year (meeting after meeting after meeting ….), it can be hard to find these peaceful moments, but I did … and you should too.

How can you use “Five Minutes” each day to improve yourself and your organization?

During this valuable “think-time”, I focused specifically on the state of global workplaces and the little things I feel each and every one of us can do to make organizations better. As I searched for some serious inspiration, it led me to this 13-minute TED Talk entitled: Are you a giver or a taker?

I played the audio-version of this talk during one of my morning commutes into “work”. Just me, my car, and some enlightening inspiration. Wow – I was definitely inspired. For me, it was profound. It REALLY made me think about the reality of our largest global enterprises – on a lot of levels. I listened to it a couple of times, and I was still listening when I parked my car. In fact, I sat in silence for Five Minutes and thought about writing this post, so I could share it with others.

In the TED Talk, organizational psychologist Adam Grant shared a workplace practice called the “Five Minute Favor”, and I’m already convinced that this one small thing could make a HUGE impact in many companies…right now…and at all levels.

This incredibly-simple technique is to leverage Five Minutes of your workday to find *small* ways to add *enormous* value to other people in your organization — every single day.

For example …. (lightly-adapted guidance shared from the TED Talk):

It could be as simple as making an introduction between two employees who could benefit from knowing each other.

It could be sharing your knowledge or giving a bit of “tough” and compassionate feedback to a fellow teammate, so you can help that person learn and grow in the moment.

It might be something as basic as saying, ‘You know, I’m going to try and figure out if I can recognize a fellow employee whose hard work has gone unnoticed.’

Perhaps it could be something like … <insert your “Five Minute Favor” here>

I believe that most workplace professionals give “Five Minute Favors” all the time. I’ve experienced these favors countless times during my career, and I try to return the favor every chance I get. I need to get better at it…

However, you might be shrugging your shoulders at the “Five Minute Favor”. If so, then perhaps one of these discouraging patterns describes you or your organization:

  • The “Organizational Politics” epidemic.
  • The “I want to feel more important and have more power in the hierarchy.” organizational design challenge.
  • The “I care about making more money than I do about helping my fellow employees.” greed syndrome.
  • The “I will use this technique to manipulate others into getting what I want.” self-serving belief system.
  • The “I can’t implement this practice because it will threaten my job” paranoid attitude.
  • And more…

Watch out for those patterns, because they can block the value of a “Five Minute Favor” on a moment’s notice.

In Closing

I’d love to hear what you think of the “Five Minute Favor”. Does this happen in your organization now? Should you be doing this more? Are you an executive leader who needs to promote this behavior in your company? What other wisdom from the TED Talk do you feel would help foster an awesome workplace in your organization?

Here’s to an awesome 2017 and making the most of our “Five Minute Favors”!

 

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If my writings resonate with you, please consider spreading this message so we can energize and inspire the entire professional world together. I invite you to ‘Follow’ my professional journey through LinkedIn. I am also on Twitter.

What Does This Retweet Tell Us About Agile and Scrum?

I must confess that my Twitter knowledge and expertise is limited. I’m even skeptical of its value. But after July’s Agile2016 conference in Atlanta, GA, I found that engaging via Twitter enriched my overall event experience throughout the week. I learned quite a bit from the real-time chatter and continue to draw new learning moments from the pile of #Agile2016 tweets that amassed throughout the week. There is an overwhelming amount of content, so I sorted by the “top” tweets to see which moment might have resonated the most. What do you think it was?

Credit: Shane Hastie (tweet) and Joshua Kerievsky (speaker)

Most of the retweets happened within a few days of the keynote, but the message continues to strengthen. To put into context, the keynote focused on the proposed 4 principles of Modern Agile, one of which is Make Safety a Prerequisite. The website offers some clarity within this principle:

Safety is both a basic human need and a key to unlocking high performance. We actively make safety a prerequisite by establishing safety before engaging in any hazardous work. We protect people’s time, information, reputation, money, health and relationships. And we endeavor to make our collaborations, products and services resilient and safe.

Why is this?

A reasonable level of engagement was fueled by this moment. Why might this be? Do many of our talented knowledge-working professionals still work in a toxic culture of fear in their organizations? Are people just embracing the obvious? Was it just ‘conference crowd bias’ kicking in?

What do you think?

The impact of a fearful company culture is nothing new.

In the world of Agile and Lean Thinking, the impact of a ‘culture of fear’ is well understood in practice, and a quick Amazon search turns up thousands of books on this very subject. A common use case is when a company attempts to enact and grow Scrum within a software Product Delivery organization. Since Scrum is an expression of empirical process control, it requires transparency so that inspect & adapt interactions will result in informed decisions based on reality rather than fantasy. In a company culture that promotes transparency through courageous communication, I’ve often seen it lead to some amazing business outcomes.

Is your organization attempting to scale using SPS/Nexus, SAFe, LeSS, etc.? If so, all of those frameworks are empirical as well, so to maximize the business and economic benefits, all arguably require that the organization Make Safety a Prerequisite.

Why do I feel so strongly about this?

Each of us has a professional story that is emerging each day we enter our workplaces. I’ve been fortunate that, in my 23+ year career, I’ve only lived in a couple of organizations that promoted an aggressive culture of fear. In both cases, the outcomes of the work were a mess, the people were miserable, the environment drained my soul, and success was defined by something radically different than a shared team goal.

I’m hopeful that these toxic situations are a rare exception, but I imagine that they will always exist to some extent.

What does the future hold?

The tweet is chock full of insight. Without an open, honest and respectful company culture, people struggle to tell the truth and create a shared understanding of tough problems and solutions. That said, I’ve seen situations where some implementation of Agile & Lean practices garners a small benefit, even in companies that have a culture of fear. And lastly, I’ve also seen situations in transparent and healthy cultures where people made incorrect assumptions and placed the fear on themselves. So although the tweet sounds simple…it’s actually more complex than we might realize.

In my mind, the real benefit is when Agile & Lean shine a light on the issue, so that an organization can acknowledge a culture misalignment and choose to solve for it.

In Closing

To tie this back to empirical scaling frameworks like SPS / SAFe / LeSS, the following is another popular retweet from the conference. Is your “Agile” operating model helping illuminate the culture of fear in your organization? What are you doing to solve for it?

 

Credit: Paul Wynia (tweet) and Ryan Ripley (speaker)

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What do you make of this? Have we largely solved this problem in the Agile space, or is it a widespread issue that needs to be addressed at global scale? I hope you’ll consider engaging with this post by sharing your views in the comments section below.

 

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If my writings resonate with you, please consider spreading this message so we can energize and inspire the entire professional world together. I invite you to ‘Follow’ my professional journey through LinkedIn. I am also on Twitter.

The Power of Appreciation

On more than one occasion over the years, I have encountered software delivery teams working day and night on a “challenged” project. Perhaps you have lived through one of these situations: a long project that is behind schedule, over budget, and over-pressured on many levels … and with no end in sight.

On one of these projects, the management team (who was also stressed) had put a reward system in place to motivate the teams to work harder in an effort to finish:

We really appreciate all of your hard work, and we’re almost there. If you can help us get this project done in the next two weeks, we will add a 20% bonus to your next paycheck.

I invite you to ponder these questions for a moment:

  • If you were the recipient of that message, in what way would it motivate you?
  • If you are the manager, how do you feel about controlling the terms of the reward?
  • What if both of you knew that a two-week deadline was impossible?

As expected, this reward system did not work. In fact, it made the situation worse and resulted in more delays, poor quality software, unhappy managers, miserable team members and dissatisfied customers.

Appreciation and High Performance

High performance software development & delivery teams operate in a very different manner than described above. It starts with creating the right environment for these teams to take shape and thrive – an environment that promotes collaboration, creativity, transparency and sustainability. It is difficult to transform the former into the latter, but it often starts by learning and speaking a different message in your organization.

One characteristic of high-performing teams is the emphasis of peer-level appreciation over manager-handed rewards:

  • Appreciation – The recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something.
  • Reward – A thing given in recognition of one’s service, effort, or achievement.

What does it mean to emphasize appreciation over rewards?

If you are an organizational leader, consider empowering your Teams with small tokens of appreciation that they can use to recognize each other; for example, a thank-you card, or a small but meaningful gift.

Rather than rewarding for the work and the output, a Team member recognizes a quality or attribute of a peer that is stimulating a culture of collaborative Teamwork and high performance.

If done right, it can be healthy to incorporate a small reward into this setting, but genuine appreciation is the emphasis. The reward is simply a small, but meaningful surprise to the recipient. This can have an incredible effect on team performance in the workplace. The ‘Kudo Box’ is a method that is gaining traction. I encourage you to explore this tool and learn more about the six rules of rewards.

In my world of organizational Agility, this often happens within an event called a Scrum Retrospective. This is a regular event where Team members inspect and adapt the ways in which they work together in an effort to increase overall team performance. If this event is facilitated in the right environment and with the right leadership support, then genuine appreciation will often surface in an open and honest manner. A surprise reward between peers, small & simple, can go a long way as well – but only if given through a genuine gesture. I’ve witnessed thank-you cards or even small gift cards ($10) exchanged between peers while appreciating honesty, courage, openness, helpfulness, leadership qualities, etc. It is an inspiring and infectious dynamic when it plays out.

In closing, the following are a few compelling business benefits that peer-level appreciation can bring to your organization:

  1. Strengthens Relationships – When team members appreciate each other, it can be an accelerator into the four stages of group development (Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing). Stronger relationships stimulate the tougher conversations that ultimately drive actionable improvement and higher levels of performance.
  2. Promotes Transparency – High performance Team environments are built on a solid foundation of trust, which promotes open and honest behavior that is relentlessly transparent. In other words, everyone knows what everyone else is thinking and doing. In the world of complex software development, for example, transparency is often a contributing factor to the success and failure of projects.
  3. Makes People Happier – There is accumulating evidence that correlates increased happiness in the workplace to increased productivity. Consider measuring it, along with other measures of organizational performance to see if it makes an impact.

Will you show some genuine appreciation to someone in your workplace today? The results might surprise you.

__________________

If my writings resonate with you, please consider spreading this message so we can energize and inspire the entire professional world together. I invite you to ‘Follow’ my professional journey through LinkedIn. I am also on Twitter.

Are You an “Agile” Recruiter?

As we approach LinkedIn’s third-quarter earnings call on Thursday, analysts are expecting the company’s Talent Solutions Business to remain a highly competitive offering for recruiters and a healthy revenue stream for the company. So as I considered a morning message for LinkedIn Pulse, I decided to try an experiment — which is … <drum rollllll> …a post on LinkedIn Pulse:

Do ‘LinkedIn Recruiter’ Users Leverage Pulse?

We’ll see how it goes, because every blog post offers an author the chance for broad feedback, learning & growth. It’s one of the things I love most about this powerful platform, as I learn so much from all of you!

Given the 100,000+ users on LinkedIn Recruiter, a couple of questions come to mind: (1) how many of those users are sourcing for Agile talent, and (2) how many actively use LinkedIn Pulse as a source of learning? I realize the post won’t answer those questions, but it might be interesting to see what kind of feedback emerges (if at all).

Agile experts probably won’t learn much from it (although I seek feedback from Agilists around the world); rather, I hope to offer some introductory learning and insights for recruiters who are trying to source for the skills and mindset of “Agile”.

__________________

If my writings resonate with you, please consider spreading this message so we can energize and inspire the entire professional world together. I invite you to ‘Follow’ my professional journey through LinkedIn. I am also on Twitter.