Author: Sven von Osten

VUCA

VUCA is an acronym to describe or to reflect on the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of general conditions and situations. The U.S. Army War College introduced the concept of VUCA to describe the more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous multilateral world perceived as resulting from the end of the Cold War. It has subsequently taken root in emerging ideas in strategic leadership.

The deeper meaning of each element of VUCA serves to enhance the strategic significance of VUCA foresight and insight, as well as the behaviour of groups and individuals in organisations. V = Volatility: the nature and dynamics of change, and the nature and speed of change forces and change catalysts. U = Uncertainty: the lack of predictability, the prospects for surprise, and the sense of awareness and understanding of issues and events. C = Complexity: the multiplex of forces, the confounding of issues, no cause-and-effect chain and confusion that surrounds organisation. A = Ambiguity: the haziness of reality, the potential for misreads, and the mixed meanings of conditions; cause-and-effect confusion.

These elements present the context in which organisations view their current and future state. They present boundaries for planning and policy management. They come together in ways that either confound decisions or sharpen the capacity to look ahead, plan ahead and move ahead.

From the perspective of organisational transformation, leaders must prepare strategies to lead their organisation through VUCA situations. They must learn to navigate themselves and others, to create an environment of agility, adaptability and development to withstand the pressure of constant change.

Pros

  • Leaders who are proactive in strategic planning can enable their organisations to pre-empt VUCA situations.
  • Leaders who encourage their organisation to learn from mistakes create the conditions for their people to recover from setbacks and look for ways forward.

Cons

  • Organisations must make significant investments in technology to aid collaboration and enable their people in the stormy VUCA environment.

Recommended resources:

VUCA Tools for a VUCA World: Developing Leaders and Teams for Sustainable Results, Deaton Ann V., 2018, ISBN 978-0692074947

Values

Organisational values drive the way people influence, how they interact with each other, and how they work together to achieve results. Organisational values are not descriptions of the work they do or the strategies they employ to accomplish their mission. They are the unseen drivers of behaviour, based on deeply held beliefs that drive decision-making. The collective behaviours of all employees become the organisational culture – “the way we do things around here”.

This promise lies at the core of the organisation’s brand, the essence of its identity, and must be fulfilled by employees.  Those employees who actively fulfil that brand promise, by embracing and living out the organisational values, are the true brand ambassadors. The relative number of brand ambassadors in any organisation is an important indicator of organisational health

Poor alignment between the values of an organisation and the personal values of their employees, translates directly into poor performance. This, in turn, impacts negatively on the quality of deliverables – and the organisation’s financial performance. Conversely, when the values of the organisation are aligned with the personal values of employees, the result will be a high-performance environment with high levels of employee engagement and the pursuit of excellence for the benefit of the organisation.

Most organisations have identified values but for many, they are restricted to wall plaques and induction handbooks, far from the hearts of employees. This disconnect points to leaders who are not empowered to model the values through decision-making and behaviour.

From the perspective of organisational transformation, leaders must create platforms and the room for their teams to make the connection between the organisation’s values and their personal values. This is imperative if leaders want to ensure that their team is able to adjust to the new situation and the changes in what is expected of them.

Pros

  • A strong personal connection to the values of the organisation increases the ability to make faster and better decision aligned to the ethos of the organisation at all levels.
  • Values-based leadership increases the authenticity of leaders and inspires teams to go above and beyond, particularly in times of change.

Cons

  • Many organisational cultures evolve in a haphazard way. Consciously creating a specific culture requires effort and the continuous focus of the leaders.
  • Investments (time and money) must be made to develop the mindset, skills and tools to create a values-based leadership culture.

Recommended resources:

Becoming the Best: Build a World-Class Organization Through Values-Based Leadership, Kraemer Harry M. Jr., 2015, ISBN 978-1118999424

Transformation

The word ‘Transformation’ is defined as a complete change in the appearance or character of something or someone, especially so that that thing or person is improved. 

In the context of organisations, it reflects the need to continuously evolve from its current state to a future state in order to remain relevant and successful in a world that is constantly changing.

When the people in an organisation need to think and act differently to achieve different results and thrive in a different reality, then a transformation is needed.

From the perspective of organisational transformations, it must be considered that commercial organisations who need to transform, cannot afford to put operations on hold. Leaders must simultaneously manage the external reality of operations and the internal reality of metamorphosis.Pros

  • Organisations who constantly adapt to changes in their environment increase their chances of staying relevant.
  • It increases the potential to meet customer needs, met and unmet, with innovative solutions.
  • Employees have the opportunity to contribute and shine.

Cons

  • If not done well, it can have a serious impact on morale in the organisation.
  • It requires strong leadership to maintain momentum and focus.

Recommended resources:

Reinventing Organisations: A Guide to Creating Organisations Inspired by the Next Stage in Human Consciousness, Laloux Frederic, 2014, ISBN 978-2960133509

Strategy

Strategy (from Greek στρατηγία stratēgia) is a general plan to achieve one or more long-term goals under conditions of uncertainty. 

This is the detailed initiative usually undertaken by the senior leaders of the organisation, which takes into account the available resources, and considers the effects of the external and internal environment on their decisions.

While planning a strategy it is essential to consider that decisions are not taken in a vacuum and that any action taken is likely to be met by a reaction from those affected.

The objective of a strategy is to maximize an organisation’s strengths and to minimize the strengths of the competitors. Strategy, in short, bridges the gap between “where we are” and “where we want to be”.

From the perspective of organisational transformation, it is worth considering whether the existing strategy requires an update. It is also worth considering whether the overall number of strategic initiatives provide the intended focus for the organisation.

Pros

  • A clear strategy brings focus into the organisation.
  • A well planned and realistic strategy puts the right level of resources at the right place to ensure the desired impact.

Cons

  • Often organisations implement too many strategic initiatives concurrently, causing a major overload, which ultimately results in lack of focus.
  • While leaders may be experts at defining strategies, often they are less successful at transmitting it well into their organisation, or engaging their teams to actively contribute to the few key things that would move the organisation forward.

Recommended resources:

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t, Collins Jim, 2001, ISBN 978-0066620992

Scrum

Scrum is a framework within which people can address complex adaptive problems, while productively and creatively delivering products of the highest possible value. It is a lightweight framework that helps people, teams and organisations generate value through adaptive solutions for complex problems. 

Scrum is simple.  It is the opposite of a big collection of interwoven mandatory components. Scrum is not a methodology. Scrum implements the scientific method of empiricism. Scrum replaces a programmed algorithmic approach with a heuristic one, with respect for people and self-organisation to deal with unpredictability and solving complex problems.  

The fundamental unit of Scrum is a small team of people, a Scrum Team. The Scrum Team consists of one Scrum Master, one Product Owner, and Developers. Within a Scrum Team, there are no sub-teams or hierarchies. It’s a cohesive unit of professionals focused on one objective at a time, the Product Goal.

From the perspective or organisational transformation, it is worth considering if your existing structures and culture will allow for the relatively low-governance approach required for this method to be applied effectively.

Pros

  • By involving customers, Scrum ensures the best results.
  • It is a lightweight and highly adaptable approach.
  • It is cost-effective and delivers fast results.

Cons

  • With no deadlines to deliver it can lead to scope creep and make budgeting difficult.
  • Requires a highly cohesive team culture and strong commitment from all team members.

Recommended resources:

Scrum.org

SAFe® (Scaled Agile Framework®)

The Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) is a set of organisational and workflow patterns for implementing agile practices at an enterprise scale. The framework is a body of knowledge that includes structured guidance on roles and responsibilities, how to plan and manage the work, and values to uphold. SAFe promotes alignment, collaboration, and delivery across large numbers of agile teams. As businesses grow in size, SAFe provides a structured approach for scaling agile.

Dean Leffingwell and Drew Jemilo released SAFe in 2011 to help organisations design better systems and software that better meet customers’ changing needs. At that time, teams used traditional project management processes  to deliver software. But as the need to rapidly respond to changing market conditions increased, new frameworks emerged to help businesses improve solution delivery across their enterprises, and SAFe was born. Today, SAFe is one of the most popular scaled agile delivery frameworks, and SAFe’s worldwide community of practitioners continue to evolve it.

From the perspective of organisational transformation, it is worthwhile considering whether the agile mindset is sufficiently developed in order to implement SAFe®. If yes, it can provide a customer centric framework that helps in offering both efficiency and stability served with a hint of innovation. 

Pros

  • Scalability at all levels of the organisation from project teams to executives.
  • Clear vision of program increment, cross-team dependencies and cultural sustainability.
  • Alignment of business and IT strategy with enterprise goals.

Cons

  • It can appear to have a more top-down approach due to the multiple layers of administration and coordination.
  • The framework is considered by some to be anti-agile as they view it as too complete to help an agile company culture thrive.

Recommended resources:

Scaled Agile®

Organisational Coaching

Coaching is one form of development in which an experienced a coach, supports a learner or client in achieving a specific personal or professional goal by providing training and guidance. The learner is sometimes called a coachee. Coaches use a range of communication skills (such as listening, questioning, reflecting, etc.) to help their coachee shift their perspectives, thereby discovering different approaches to achieve their goals.

Organisational coaching focuses on supporting individuals to improve their skills, performance and capabilities, therefore their growth, within the context of their organisation. It is frequently used to help organisations achieve strategic objectives, enhance leadership capability, and create culture change. Broader organisational needs are placed front and centre, and the coaching is used to scale-up change across the enterprise. While there is overlap, this broader focus is in contrast to executive or leadership coaching which targets the individual’s development needs and more typically comprises standalone engagements.

From the perspective of organisational transformation, supporting leaders and key stakeholders with organisational coaching helps to align their personal development with the desired future state of the organisation, and enables them to lead themselves and others through transformation more effectively.

Pros

  • Unlike stand-alone coaching engagements, it ensures development in direct connection to the transformation.
  • Leadership capabilities are rapidly developed to engage and lead others through the transformation authentically.

Cons

  • Some organisations may be resistant to the concept of coaching due to previous experiences.
  • The organisation’s existing culture may not support changes in leadership behaviour achieved through the coaching.

Source: Institute of organisational Coaching

Organisational Development

Organisational development (OD) as a practice involves an ongoing, systematic process of implementing effective organisational change. OD is both a field of applied science focused on understanding and managing organisational change and a field of scientific study and inquiry. It is interdisciplinary in nature and draws on sociology, psychology, particularly industrial and organisational psychology, and theories of motivation, learning, and personality. Although behavioural science has provided the basic foundation for the study and practice of OD, new and emerging fields of study have made their presence felt. Experts in systems thinking, in organisational learning, in the structure of intuition in decision-making, and in coaching whose perspective is not steeped in just the behavioural sciences, but in a much more multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary approach have emerged as OD catalysts or tools.

The objectives of OD are to increase the level of inter-personal trust, cooperation and collaboration among employees, and to confront problems by increasing organisational problem-solving and reducing conflict.

From the perspective of organisational transformation, it is worth considering whether a dedicated OD function could be an enabler to continually improve processes and offerings by helping to make strategic choices in all activities of the organisation.

Pros

  • The process forces introspection, which can be revealing, reinforcing things you suspected and exposing things you didn’t know existed.
  • It can point to better outcomes, often by showing how to make the most of existing resources and also how to take advantage of new strategies and tactics.
  • It can reduce business expenses. From getting a firmer handle on your budget to reducing waste and duplicity, organisationaldevelopment should influence your bottom line.

Cons

  • It can unleash a swift culture clash, especially if there is a lack of employee buy-in.
  • It can be easily foiled by weak communication. Employees must be kept in the loop about all phases of an organisationaldevelopment initiative, no matter how mundane the details.
  • It requires considerable investment of time and budget.

Recommended resources: What is Organisational Development, CIPD

Objectives & Key Results (OKR)

OKR is a goal setting framework used by individuals, teams, and organisations to define measurable goals and track their outcomes.

OKRs comprise an objective (a significant, concrete, clearly defined goal) and 3-5 key results (measurable success criteria used to track the achievement of that goal).

Not only should objectives be significant, concrete, and clearly defined, they should also be inspirational for the individual, team, or organisation that is working towards them. Objectives can also be supported by initiatives, which are the plans and activities that help to move forward the key results and achieve the objective.

Key results should be measurable, either on a 0–100% scale or with any numerical value (e.g. dollar amount or percentage) that can be used by planners and decision makers to determine whether those involved in working towards the key result have been successful. There should be no opportunity for “gray area” when defining a key result.

From the perspective of organisational transformation, it is worth considering, whether the implementation of an OKR approach to managing the change could support the definition of the new priorities and to reinforce new routines.

Pros

  • They focus individuals, teams and the organisation on goals that deliver business impact.
  • They encourage regular follow-ups and progress checks.
  • They are measurable.
  • They align everyone to shared objectives.

Cons

  • If OKR’s are added at an individual level they can increase complexity.
  • Updating and tracking can result in increased workload or the need to implement special software.
  • Organisations tend to set too many OKR’s, which negatively impacts the intended effect of alignment and focus.

Recommended resources:

Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs; Doerr John, 2018, ISBN 0525536221

Obeya

The Japanese term Obeya (great room) originated in the 1990’s and is considered a component of the Toyota Production System. The Obeya was instituted during the product and process development, where all individuals involved in managerial planning met in a ‘great room’ to speed communication and decision-making.

Conceptually akin to traditional ‘war rooms’, an Obeya will contain visually engaging charts and graphs depicting such information as program timing, milestones and progress-to-date, and countermeasures to existing technical or scheduling issues. An Obeya room can also be a place for software development, a command center, managing new business strategy, workflow and project management. This tool forces people to work together without distractions and creates a great atmosphere to generate new ideas.

From the perspective of organisational transformation, it is worthwhile for senior leaders to consider implementing their own version of Obeya, in order to achieve and maintain efforts towards the desired future state.

Pros

  • An Obeya (or War Room) aids communication between the key stakeholders of the transformation.
  • It can reinforce a shared understanding of the current status and where efforts need to be focused to ensure progress.
  • It allows for prioritisation and effective workload distribution.

Cons

  • Access to the visual components and information storage can be challenging for geographically scattered teams.
  • It carries with it the risk of placing too much focus on resolving issues and deflecting attention from causal links.

Recommended resources:

iObeya

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