In order to be able to react quickly to the customer and adapt to future trends, it is not enough to release teams into self-responsibility.
If employees are unable to take this step or if organizational processes do not fit, these teams will become insecure or get frustrated and withdraw to old behaviors. Nothing is gained.
Many change measures are silting up due to conflicting messages. Whether the decision-making processes do not match the responsibilities or good approaches fail due to old, uncorrected policies and rules. A reorientation towards self-responsibility and agility can only have a lasting effect if it takes place on three levels.
The individual level
The courage to innovate will fail if individuals are left alone with their fears. This is a learning process in which old habits and rules have to be reconsidered. Since habits are very stable, this does not happen by itself. Self-responsibility also means being able to deal with uncertainty. Many employees must first (newly) learn this ability. At this level, the aim is to help everybody to develop the appropriate mindset. That can’t be done through speeches or agile manifestos. In therapy research, which has been dealing with this topic for much longer, it has been proven that verbally conveyed convictions are the most unstable. Stable conviction comes from action and the reaction of the environment.
The team level
As we have discussed in our article about trends, decisions will be discussed and made much more frequently in teams. To make good decisions, a team usually has to learn new behavioral patterns. This concerns the distribution of tasks, dealing with mistakes, tracking ideas and systematic problem solving. Since the task of the teams is not limited any more only to the processing of orders and also a hierarchical leader is no longer available as a last instance when different perspectives exist, a better capability of handling conflict is required. At the team level, communication patterns are crucial. We need new ways of giving feedback, bringing conflict on the table and working them out. However, communication patterns are very stable because are repeated frequently. This means, for example, that the change in communication cannot only impact the agile teams.
The organizational level
Agile working methods and self-responsibility also require new ways of dealing with decisions. This also applies to support systems, reporting systems, decision-making powers and escalation channels. Teams also need different support. Contradictions in policies and rules very quickly ensure that employees and teams return to old behaviors.
In this case, contradictions between these three levels emerge in the form of conflict that individuals cannot resolve. Therefore, an important step is to consciously rethink old policies, rules and decision-making processes and adapt them to the new requirements.
These thoughts result in a 3 × 3 mindset matrix in which each of the nine fields* must be specifically dealt with. This makes the necessary next steps very clear. And it enables to deal with the normally “soft” topic of attitudes and culture in a very targeted way.
In our book we will fill the individual cells of this matrix with practical examples of very different companies.
In several of our interviews we heard the statement that the promotion of self-responsibility depends exclusively on the commitment and skills of the direct manager, while there is no systematic promotion of self-responsibility in the organization while managers are also left alone individually when it comes to “giving up responsibility”. There will be a separate blog article on this issue.
The more seriously we take the issue of self-responsibilty, the more we need to support attitudes and not methods. Social neuroscience gives us great hope that we can succeed. The opportunities and necessities have never been as clear. We just have to help everyone implementing it.