Our guest, Evan Leybourn, ss the Founder and CEO of the Business Agility Institute; an international membership body to both champion and support the next-generation of organisations. Companies that are agile, innovative and dynamic – perfectly designed to thrive in today’s unpredictable markets.
Living Room Conversations: Organizational Behaviors with Evan Leybourn
ELENI = Eleni Tavridou (Host)
EVAN = Evan Leybourn (Guest)
ELENI: Hello everyone, welcome to our LIVESciences Living Room. Good morning, good afternoon or good evening wherever you are tuning in from should this be your office your own
casual couch or if you’re a bit more lucky as sunny beats somewhere in the world my name is Eleni Tavridou I’m a catalyst at LIVESciences and I will be the host of today’s episode. This is the 34th episode of our Living Room Conversations and as a small reminder for our followers and also for those that are first time with us let me give you a short overview what we are doing here why we started the concept of Living Room Conversations so from our day-to-day work
we have seen the catalytic power of conversations and impact that they bring to the world
our Living Room is a space for us to connect, explore thoughts, ideas, exchange learnings in a casual setting. We believe that conversations fill ideas giving them a new dimension and fully coming alive from a place of resonance and connection what we hope for through this channel is not only to engage in a dialogue with our special guests who come and bring their own stories and learnings and ideas how to shape the future of work but also to engage with all of you our
listeners and followers and we hope to create an opportunity for you to kindly each drop and chime into one of many of these interesting conversations around the space of Teal, Agile and
future of work.
I really hope that we will leave you with some fresh air, some new ideas and why not some carrots to explore and infuse your work with new ways to unleash your own potential and the potential of your team. Okay. So today’s topic is Organizational Behaviors. And for this conversation I have with me a very special guest and I would like to share some words about our guests so our guest is the founder and CEO of the Business Agility Institute, an international membership body to both champion and support the next generation of organizations companies that are innovative Agile and dynamic perfectly designed to thrive in today’s unpredictable markets and as if this is not enough our guest is also the author of Agile Organization and No Projects: A Culture of Continuous Value. And with that I would like to bring the states and welcome Evan Leybourn.
EVAN: Thank you so much Eleni. Good morning, good afternoon, good evening wherever you happen to be. Yes, my name is Evan Leybourn it’s an absolute pleasure to be here. I am absolutely delighted to have this conversation so for the next hour or so or just under we’re really going to be exploring what it means to create a human adaptive Agile organization so this is going to be exciting.
ELENI: Thank you very much Evan. So may I ask you where you’re tuning in from today?
EVAN: So today, normally home is Melbourne, Australia as some of you may guess from the accent. But no, today I’m actually in Nashville in America. I’m here speaking at the business sorry- at the Agile 2022 conference and again just trying to get spread awareness about these ideas around what’s possible at an organizational level.
ELENI: Perfect and that’s very early morning then for you so extra kudos and thanks for making the effort and being with us okay so I believe from our conversations I kind of know well who you are what you’re doing but maybe to kick this off would you like to share some words about the Business Agility Institute so that the audience gets to understand a bit better the purpose and objectives of your work?
EVAN: So we’re a fiercely independent advocacy and research organization. We’ve been around now for about five years and our primary focus is to support both our members as well as the broader ecosystem, the broader world with key concepts, research and data information and stories to both inspire and inform. Those ‘Oh I didn’t know you could do that’ or ‘Ah that’s how you’re meant to do it’ those ‘oh’ and those ‘ah’ moments and so we publish we write and of course we have all of the or at the end of the day the goal our mission as an organization is to fundamentally inspire companies to be more human. To be more humane. If you’ll give me just a moment one of my personal beliefs is that we spend more time working than anything else right? Now that’s not a belief that’s a fact and there’s nothing wrong with that that’s just human nature in fact we’re actually working less now than were 100 years ago but if work is the biggest part of our life, it should also be the best part of our life. Anything less is a waste of human potential at best and an abuse of humans at worst.
ELENI: Okay yeah that’s really inspiring and thanks a lot for sharing but I guess you didn’t start your career with this. So this came at some point during your journey so may I ask you what was the trigger that made you take up this journey and found this institute?
EVAN: So my journey towards Business Agility goes back to about 2008 so in about 2003 I was using Agile I was a techie right and nothing wrong with that I loved being a techie but in 2008 I got promoted to being a director. An executive in the Australian public service and for those of you listening are familiar with the Pizza Principle I was very much promoted to my level of incompetence I was I had the arrogant assumption that because I was good at something I would be good at managing something. When the reality is that those skills are fundamentally different in fact like even in like self-managing organizations it doesn’t mean no managers it means everyone’s a manager it’s like and we don’t teach those skills enough but and I wasn’t taught I started this role as like I had very little capability in actually leading this division this section so I after a couple of months of imposter syndrome and trying to figure things out I had this aha moment that my problems were around coordination, collaboration, cooperation so maybe these principles of technical agility right? Agile might work outside of those software teams in the business setting that I was struggling with and the short answer is it did. So that’s about 2008 and that’s where I started that journey but fast forward to about 2017. I’ve been talking about business agility then since what, ten years, nine years. Like in 2008 if i’d walked into a bank and said hey let’s create an Agile organization I would have been laughed out of the room I wouldn’t be allowed in the room right? By 2017 there is a at least a dialogue but there was this moment where I was presenting at another conference not this one one in india and I was looking at this audience of people like folk who believed as I did but none of them had the
authority. And I know like authority isn’t doesn’t mean management alright but none of them felt in these traditional organizations that they were working with that they had the authority to do anything about what I was saying so they all nodded their head yes we agree we need this and so that sense of frustration about like talking to the void screaming into the void that there are better ways there are more human and inclusive and engaging ways of creating organizations and running organizations and being a part of organizations led me to decide to basically form the institute along with my co-founder Ahmed Sidky as a way of just creating a dialogue globally around this at a different level so that maybe organizations would actually start listening and start changing. And I think we’ve been a little bit successful so that’s good.
ELENI: Yeah. Now here you are. Yeah, great. Thank you very much. So as I forgot and I realized now and today’s topic is Organizational Behaviors, right? And I would like us to start going a bit deep dive there but before I go to my next question I would like to invite our listeners and followers to please this is not only our conversation this is also your conversation please shoot any questions or comments in the chat whether you tune in from Youtube or Facebook and we will try to address all of them hopefully so back to us basically.
So to to our topic and I know you have done quite some work on this and it’s such a broad topic but if I make this question to you so what are the different behaviors that we or you can distinguish in a business ability journey from those just getting started to those being well progressed in the journey?
EVAN: So let’s make this a conversation for a second. Alright, tell me what do you think are the behaviors of an early organization and a more advanced organization? What do you think?
ELENI: If I talk about emotions maybe there is you know there are early adopters there are dreamers there is there are the resistant ones, the difficult to let go?
EVAN: Yep, which is true and that’s kind of what we see. So when we look at these organizations like the change is started by the dreamers I like how I wouldn’t have used that word personally but I love it I’m gonna steal it I’m gonna start using that word because that’s exactly who they are. It’s the dreamers who begin change right? it’s the ones who have that vision of hope of hey something’s possible and it’s I someone used the word yesterday
in one of the talks I was here at this conference and they used the word like fanatics it’s the fanatics who will drive early change and I don’t mean that in a bad way I mean the people who are fans right people who believe and not necessarily the dreamers who instigate but the believers the fans, the fanatics who will drive it forward. And so inside organizations if we look
at it not as necessarily the individual but now we look at it as a collective a complex adaptive system of people right? And you’ve got that entire spectrum that you described you’ve got the dreamers, the fans, the fanatics, you’ve got the skeptics you’ve got those who are who are pulling back and when we look at these organizations. Organizations who choose not to go down a journey of building agility or empowerment or building like autonomous workforces
their behavior so there are still some behaviors that they express but they tend to be very superficial. And so they’ll invest in employee engagement because who doesn’t want employee
engagement they’ll invest in building psychological safety because again that’s just that’s not agility specific that’s just good business and some like I keep making the joke or the threat to
our COO Laura Powers that we should just rebrand as the good business institute because half the time that’s what I’m talking about but it’s those organizations that now maybe one two three years into the journey the behaviors that emerge tend to be leadership behaviors tend to be I don’t like it but soft right or durable skills I around building empathy. Building coaching capabilities within leaders creating inclusive work environments. Now these behaviors are great they’re absolutely fundamentally necessary in or basically like how organizations like the social systems within organizations the social behaviors but those are early stage behaviors as organizations advance right what we find is that they start to build more advanced behaviors but if they if they stop if the momentum if the pressure to improve pulls back organizations often revert now they’ll usually keep these leadership behaviors they’ll keep these social human systems behaviors and that’s good so they don’t revert to zero but they definitely lose a lot.
When it becomes stable again more advanced organizations is when the system’s behaviors change as well and there’s a quote I forget who said it’s like a bad system will break a good person every time. And that’s sort of what happens where your performance management systems and the behaviors around performance management the behaviors around measures and metrics rewards and remuneration the behaviors around strategy and governance. These need to then change. Because once that happens we now have a stable state and that tends to be that flow human system behaviors at a very early level more advanced human systems behaviors are unstable until the systems, the business systems, the governance system behaviors are then established which then lock in the rest of those human systems behaviors.
ELENI: Okay, yeah. That was yeah- I will need some time to digest you know but yeah I guess it’s kind of normal. And you know you talk about also this hypo- not hypothesis but if they get stables or if not then they revert so what’s which are the reasons for which they might not get stable but they may revert and there are- yeah?
EVAN: So let me take a step back and just sort of just put one piece of credibility on the
table like we’re a research organization. So this behavioral model that we’re talking about is based on a study of over 1,300 companies and looks at what what behaviors are emergent and these behaviors range from like human systems behaviors or human centric behaviors they are leadership or management behaviors they are governance or lightweight governance behaviors and so there are all sorts of different behaviors that emerge inside companies complex adaptive systems what tends to happen as organizations as organizations progress there are tensions inside that organization. Constantly in flux. So agility is not a state there’s no point you can say today we are Agile right? All we can say is today we are better than were yesterday, hopefully maybe today we are worse than we were yesterday again the whole thing is in flux. So you have all these tensions and trade-offs being made across the organization all right what is HR how’s HR like like like one day it’s like it’s like we’re gonna open up the budgets and let people make like autonomous decisions and then a new leader comes in or there’s like external impediments and now like budgets start to freeze and so that autonomy gets taken away again because it’s like it’s it’s the organization again this is where systems come into play but the organization that those tensions start pulling backwards so without if you’re not in a stable state right? If you and think about like a like a chemical reaction if you remember like chemistry back in high school right and you put energy in but if you stop before the reaction’s complete it often reverts back to the previous states of those chemicals same is true in organizations.
If you’re not building that pressure that that momentum that drive towards whatever goals you’re driving towards those tensions those pressures in the organization often pull then backwards and revert back to a prior stable state and that’s unfortunately the case.
ELENI: Yeah so I mean as long as I don’t like to use much the word manager but maybe we talk about leadership and what you describe, literacy plays a big role in how you know the pace of change the adoption so what are according to you the biggest challenge is for a leader of an entire organization?
EVAN: So I’m going to challenge you slightly. So first of all I do like the word manager name and I like the word management and people management. And partly is be so we’re as an organization on a like a mission to reclaim management when people think of managers
they think of the pointy head boss from Dilbert. They think about Michael Scott from the office or William Lumber from office space. Managers are seen as incompetent at best and evil at worst. But we know that inside organizations and I’m talking more traditional organizations so they’re not Teal organizations but inside traditional organizations people are more likely to leave bad managers than any other thing right? And so the inverse of that is people are more likely to stay because of good managers. It’s the experience you have with your colleagues and your peers across the organization and especially those who you report to have a disproportionate impact
in your psychological welfare both attributes actually at home as well as at work but certainly at work so the skill sets of management is vitally and fundamentally important and the fact that we often overlook those skills and we talk about leaders and leadership right? And we don’t talk about the skills of management but they are fundamentally and very very personally important to billions of people around the planet right now. So we really do need to actually talk about the importance of management. I will go one step and I just mentioned this earlier. I also would say that in self-managing organizations right it doesn’t mean that there are no managers. It means that everyone is a manager, right? Self managing. It’s in the words it’s in the phrase. And so those skills of management are actually now doubly important because those skills have to get taught to everyone right? So it doesn’t matter whether you have people reporting to you
you still need those skills and so anyway I I just want to push back a little bit and I’ve completely forgotten the question that you asked, so you can ask that one again? [Laughter]
ELENI: So it was about the challenges of leaders of an Agile organization.
EVAN: So the challenges of leaders or managers in an Agile organization. Yes, so there’s well there are a number of challenges, so the first actually no you know what I’m just gonna talk about one good thing. I met a good friend of mine here at this conference. Her name is Nadesha. She’s what I would call it like the coach’s coach. She’s a strategic coach. She changes company strategy. I absolutely love it. A bit absolutely fantastic thinker, alright? And she said to me politics is the currency of human systems right now I don’t know if she’s heard that somewhere else but like when she said that to me it was like this was such a it’s like yes obviously right? So when we look at the challenges that leaders have right the challenges occur
because leaders can’t always coordinate with other leaders I and it’s like we run executive forums where we bring like top executives from organizations together to learn and share with each other one of the number one challenges that gets raised by leaders about other leaders and by people in our research about their organization is leadership buy-in right and it’s there’s one organization who literally emailed me yesterday it’s like how do we light a fire under our leaders because like like we’re in record profits there’s no burning platform so how do we
make them care how do we make them buy in how do we get their engagement it is like literally the number one challenge and so when Nadesha sayings like politics is the currency of human systems it just made me automatically goes like that’s it what leaders struggle with is quite often we don’t know how to work these human systems. We don’t know how to play the politics as it were. And the leaders that do are the ones who are successful. The problem is often the leaders who know how to play the politics are doing it for their own gains, not because they’re trying to make a positive impact in that organization.
The ones who learn to play the system are learning for themselves and the ones who generally are more let’s call egalitarian the ones who are trying to do it for a common good tend not to play the game as well. They tend to see playing the game as dirty something they shouldn’t do but in reality it’s like it’s the currency it’s how it all works.
ELENI: Yes, yes, that’s interesting. I personally tend to see as a big challenge the fear of the unknown. Because what you said before I mean we don’t you know work today and wake up tomorrow and say yeah we made it we are a dial and it’s always a journey and of course it’s a difficult journey many times you have to unlearn many things, learn different things and it takes time you don’t know exactly what it would look like and for me I had observed a lot this as a challenge as well.
EVAN: And that’s I think one of the challenges that you see is the only certain thing in life right is there’s a death and taxes it’s certain uncertainty like that’s all you’ve got so I but our brains are wired to find patterns to try and find the certainty in the system and for many people it creates anxiety. It creates actual psychological stress in those uncertain environments so it is a very natural human response at all levels to try and find ways of avoiding, pushing back or in some cases just denying uncertainty. The problem with that is we do live and we always have lived in uncertainty it is a fundamental it’s the dichotomy of the human condition right we reject a very fundamental nature of ourselves and the world that we exist and a good I won’t even say a good leader, a good person right? No matter who they are no matter what they do no matter where they are in the hierarchy of a massive oil conglomerate right? What makes someone psychologically sound psychologically safe is in part the ability to accept at a minimum and embrace in an ideal situation the uncertain nature of life.
ELENI: Yeah definitely thank you and yeah I see that we have some questions coming in so I see one from George Labrador if an organization is totally not exiled but is considering making the change is it better to start from scratch or implement it within the existing hierarchy? I see you smiling. Looking forward.
EVAN: Yeah so you don’t have a choice. It is definitely better to start from scratch. Right smaller organizations young digital native organizations ones that whose finance processes and systems whose HR systems and people aren’t resources we know but it’s called HR across millions of companies so it’s called HR but people operational systems or HR systems or governance systems of an organization if you don’t have that, if you have a blank slate you can create and grow a true Agile organization. Whether it’s you’re going down a Teal path or whatever it’s so much easier to do it from scratch. I will caveat one thing as well what what we’ve done well sorry we’re doing a piece of research we haven’t finished this research yet we’re still undertaking it and we’re looking at actually what are the dependent and independent variables when it comes to organizational size and complexity and so things like governance and structure and like operating models actually need to be fundamentally different at different scales.
A 150 person organization needs a fundamentally different operating model and governance structure to a 50 person organization. So as organizations grow what we when we design these systems we have to actually keep redesigning and reworking them just because of that just because of how they grow and organizations that grow too quickly and don’t the systems don’t keep up, break. And similarly organizations that look like ahead and go oh we’re gonna use like we like that’s an admirable company we’re gonna copy what they’ve got but if they’re three times more complex like their systems are designed for their size their complexity not yours so as that grows but inside an organization that establishes you don’t have a choice of throwing things out and starting it right you literally have to like stand on the shoulders of those who came before you all right now maybe you’re standing on the shoulders of giants or maybe you’re standing on the shoulders of midgets in a trench coat right? But at some point that’s what you’re doing it’s you’re just building incrementally a better organization and those companies that are a hundred years old right? We’re talking generational change if like those old banks those those old organizations that have legacy systems and structures that are older than anyone listening here has been alive these organizations like if you go in and you’re trying to change the organization you can’t. What you can do is make the organization better than when you started and so the next person who comes along can make it a little better again.
And remember it’s not about the company all right and I’m going to say something that might be a little bit controversial Eleni, a company needs to earn the right to exist. Right, a company will die and that’s okay alright all things have an end right that is the fundamental nature of the universe. And the people inside the organization is who we have to care about so I we want organizations to we want that 100 year old bank to be better so that people in that organization feel engaged empowered and have a joyful and and they find joy and value in the work that they do right and if that organization doesn’t survive because the market moves too quickly and they can’t adapt then those people will find new jobs in organizations that can survive that can create the work environment that inspire them and give them joy so like I’m not afraid of organizations not changing or organizations dying because that’s that’s the nature of it I kind of got off topic from the question. [Laughter]
ELENI: No worries, no worries. I like that we also go a bit more philosophical. I mean it’s a casual conversation. Remember, we are in the Living Room okay thank you and I hope we answer to George and I see another question from Menard why do you think so many companies are so sensitive resistive to this type of organization especially since it has
been shown to be effective?
EVAN: That’s a tough one. And it’s something that we struggle with and we have to be very careful to sort of get out of the bubble right and so we exist within like a space of people who
think as we do who look at these organizational models and go why isn’t everyone using this they’re effective we have the data to prove it right but they also have the data of a hundred years of taylorism to say that this like this other kind of model is effective as well so I it’s not a it’s not an us versus them scenario we need to get out of that tribal mentality. Yes there is resistance in large part because they don’t see their mental models of how the world works about how companies work are fundamentally different right? And two things happen. The first is generational change so a really good example is Microsoft. Now when I was a techie and that again we’re going back nearly 20 years I was an open source guy all right I ran Ubuntu, Debian, I ran the open source developers conference in Australia twice it’s back then in like the early 2000s Microsoft was the big evil right they were the organization that was building the monopoly and acting very underhandedly and they were taken to court by multiple countries and broken
up by multiple countries so they were the big bad.
But if you’d asked me in 2003, 2005, 2008 if I thought Microsoft could change, could be a better I wouldn’t use the word Agile organization so that’s just like back then I would have said could they be a better organization a more human organization I would have said no. But the organization, I would have said was a lost cause. Now I would have been wrong because there was a generational change that occurred and not because of a transformation though there was transformational efforts and the transformation helps but what we have is this slow steady changing of the guard new leaders, new executives, new developers, new individual contributors right bringing with them their own vision of what a good company looks like. And what they wanted and so when many of these transformational activities and the cultural change and the momentum towards agility and I’m talking and I’m talking about Agile I’m not talking about Agile I’m talking about like just good human organizations right when that cultural shift when they were ready it happens and so the Microsoft today is one that like they’re not perfect no one is right? They’re a mega mega organization they’re going to have good bits and bad bits but they have a lot more good bits and bad bits these days they’re a company that I’ve learned to actually respect and I actually like I use them as a one of the very few examples of an organization that would have been resistant but through generational change right the changing of the guard alright? They broke through that resistance and became I what you and I would consider to be a pretty good organization now do they have do they have to go further hell yes all right but I’m pretty I’m pretty impressed by how far they’ve come.
ELENI: Yeah. Thanks a lot and thanks a lot Menard for your question. You mentioned this generational change so this it’s a nice link for me because I’ve seen your work in Business Agility institute around diversity quality and inclusion and the potential link with agility. So first of all you know would you like to share some words around the background of this? Like what was the inspiration behind these pizzas and why at that point of time and later on we can go to some of the findings.
EVAN: So yeah when- we’re a research organization so let me take a step back so when we started we didn’t actually start as a research organization we started as more as really just outreach right? So our publications were more about just enabling the outreach whereas now we’re a lot more like the contents and the publications are like a very major focus but after when we after about six months of existence I was listening to a talk by Linda Rising an absolutely fantastic woman and if you haven’t seen her speak like just look her up on Youtube, brilliant. Linda Rising. But she made a like she she created a she said a deliberate misquote right she said the plural of anecdote is not data right now the actual quote is a plural anecdote is data but what she was trying to say was that in the space that we’re in right we all work on anecdote it worked for me here therefore it’ll work for you there right? And there was very little in the way of
rigorous true research that would either validate or dis validate some of those experiences and assumptions all right it’s just because it worked for you there that might have been an anomaly
right there may be some attributes of that organization that made that successful and thus unsuccessful somewhere else and I think we’ve seen this a lot like those you familiar with spotify may be familiar with the with the spotify model the way in which spotify is structured or at least was structured tens of thousands of times by different organizations around the world. And a lot of those that copying of that model has failed again because anecdotally that’s what Spotify was doing and so hey let’s try it it’ll work for us because it worked for them but there was no data to back that up. And so all these organizations went down a path that actually hurt them because there wasn’t that evidence but so we started going down a path of research because we’re an independent organization. We don’t do consulting, we don’t do training, we don’t sell services, we’re funded by our members so if anyone can do independent research it’s us.
So we started down a path of research one of the very early research studies that we picked up was the one on diversity equity inclusion and this one again was triggered not it was triggered from one of our community members. We have these meet-ups around the world. And so one of the meet-ups was on DE & I. One of the presenters was a gentleman who was legally blind. And he was telling his story about the transformation in the organization that he was working for right? Where they went from like using these non-Agile systems in any like Microsoft project kind of thing right? Which would work with screen readers and it was inclusive like he could engage even though he couldn’t see very well or at all. But when they move to Agile ways of working across the organization not just in one team at an organizational level, suddenly he got post-it notes on the wall. There’s no screen reader that’ll handle post-it notes all right; they moved from whatever tool they were using to Jira or I think let’s say it was Jira for a second right and at the time Jira didn’t support screen readers. So again this organization created an exclusionary environment for him, right? And he ended up taking redundancy because he couldn’t do his job.
And so this just this was eye-opening for me because, of course, like I exist within a bubble, agility is great right? You want empowered, autonomous, teams. Teams to make their own decisions and all that kind of thing but if a team makes a decision and it’s exclusionary like where’s they like hang on this is like suddenly my own biases around how great agility is are suddenly exposed because it’s like you’ve got autonomy on one hand inclusion on another and what happens when those are in conflict? So we started a research study that looked at hundreds of organizations. Over a thousand hours of interviews and surveys. We had a volunteer team of about 30 people who went through and deeply spoke to people who had been disenfranchised, disempowered, excluded through these sort of Agile or business agility transformations. Now obviously we also looked at the positives. The whole point of research is you’re not trying to like you’re you come with a hypothesis now our hypothesis was that agility despite its best in its best intentions leads to exclusionary practices right? And went to test it we looked for where it created inclusion what’s the negative of the hypothesis as well as where it did create exclusion what we found through those thousands of hours of interviews and surveys and everything else was that unfortunately yes and there’s a caveat. If DE & I was not explicitly integrated into a Business Agility or an Agile transformation whether it’s in technology Agile or across the entire organization business inclusion went down right? Which is obviously a negative outcome. Whereas where DE & I was explicit right? It was part of the journey, part of the transformational journey both of them went up.
Now we’re working on a we’re going to be starting the next round iteration 2 if you will of that research and it’s to test the why hypothesis. Our hypothesis for why is that the focus of many organizations on culture fit is- leads to the recruitment of people who like mentally look the same as you right? Neurologically like they fit your culture they think your pattern of behavior and given the way that culture is generated in individuals may actually also physically look the same as you at the way as well. Physically look the same as you as well. Because obviously like our upbringing and our social status and in many cases our race in some cases our gender also define those cultural attributes. And so these behaviors, exclusionary behaviors get amplified because this higher for culture fit leads to monoculture which leads to exclusion. Or at least it can. And that’s what we are hypothesizing we don’t have evidence of that that’s where we need to that’s where we need to prove it or disprove as the case may be the alternative is of course hiring for culture ad. Which is deliberately hiring for people who complement where you are.
So one of the things that we found in the research is that it doesn’t matter how no I’ll put a different way. The makeup of your organization should reflect the makeup of your customers or the market in which you operate. And hiring for culture ads means looking at the market you operate, looking at organization and going what’s missing. What kind of experience, culture, background do we need to bring in to make that mapping that alignment between those the outside world the outside our customer base and our world stronger? Anyway I could talk for a long time on this topic because I am quite passionate about it but yeah I’m gonna show you guys-
ELENI: Basically my follow-up question would be what do you think that we are missing or
organizations missing to walk the talk? So we have you know like this unified Agile and DE & I together?
EVAN: So our recommendations- so the first set of recommendations was actually aimed at transformational leaders. So like people like any of you listening who are coaches or consultants folk who are responsible or working towards creating a like modern or new organizations. Number one recommendation is you have to learn inclusion. You have to learn DE & I. There are skills there are transformational skills in that domain in that subject area that should be a part of that like when you learn to be a coach you should learn it and if you don’t learn it on that path to being a coach or a consultant or a transformational expert then you should go out and find and learn it.
Second recommendation was to the framework organizations. Like not that we have a framework but we are a community like we are a standards body to like in the Agile world folks like the scrum alliance and so forth the Teal community to the beyond budgeting folk right we need to integrate DE & I into these models into these systems and frameworks explicitly so that it’s not something that can be forgotten. So if you’re going to like do an Agile technology transformation and you’re doing and you’re trying to bring safe as I scrum or safe into an organization then DE & I is in the guide it’s right there if you’re trying to do a Teal transformation right then like DE & I should be part of the standard guidance and road maps. Like you look at all the pictures you read Reinventing Organizations the DE & I is implicit usually and sometimes it’s called out in like a tiny little footnote but it’s not it’s not there it’s not like there’s a chapter on building inclusionary environments and there should be.
We need to change the fundamental models and how we describe it to include inclusion or DE & I in general but inclusion definitely specifically um and then of course the companies themselves and this one’s at least there is focus here. The companies are at least working on this in this way. DE & I is an important topic. Now we published this report before Black Lives Matters before like the Me Too movement but it’s these are there that there is social pressure on this down this path and that social pressure is just increasing so it’s at least from a company standpoint right like they’re being told they need to do this. But from the models, the systems, the frameworks and you yourselves as transformational people, go learn those inclusion tactics, those inclusion strategies and go learn how to build inclusion into those transformations.
ELENI: Yeah and honestly my question around you know what was the trigger it’s because I saw the work and then it was so inspirational that you know everything that followed- and I’m like wow, you know I just found it genius on the side personal note.
EVAN: Between you you and me like we are we’re proud of the research but it’s also intensely disappointing that we had to do it. If we could have if we could have made it such like- I would not I would have liked not to have said it. I would have liked to be able to say yeah like like Agile organizations Teal organizations going towards this more human yeah of course inclusions like it’s a big part of it. But the fact that we have to say in 2022 that inclusion is going down because of these humanistic approaches, it’s like what have we missed? And how we missed it for so long? It’s honestly like it hurts me and it’s like it’s like it’s a little bit shameful. And I’ll be honest I learned things in this research now I didn’t do the interviews and in fact like because of the sensitivity of the nature there was a very strict firewall I don’t even know who’s interviewed
only the interviewer knew who they were interviewing. And of course these are sensitive conversations but when we like we had the like weekly meetings where they were like reporting on what their findings were and the summaries and so forth. And once I learned something for example. I think of myself as a fairly inclusive person but I kind of like if someone had said hey
like we should do like like I have this problem I’m being excluded and it’s like and it’s like my first response, wrong, would have been oh like like when you spoke to HR and ask them to accommodate you what did they say? That’s exclusionary. You should not have to ask to be accommodated; you shouldn’t have to disclose your disability or a diverse attribute to be included, right? Disclosure or the requirement of disclosure is exclusionary and it’s like that for me was like a very embarrassing moment or no no I can’t say it’s embarrassing I have a growth mindset. I want to continually learn and improve and in doing so I have to recognize that I don’t have all the answers and I’m not perfect.
So it’s okay that I didn’t know that. But when I learned that it was this it was just this moment of is like yeah well actually that makes total sense it’s why should someone who has depression or anxiety be forced to tell their work that they have depression or anxiety especially a new startup right? Just to be accommodated because they need to take a day off because it’s like it’s like they can’t get out of bed because they’re broken. Like their brain just won’t let them get out of bed. And this yeah, even for someone like me who believes in this to go through this research and go oh I was like ‘I didn’t know this very fundamental point about inclusion’ it’s like okay well I it’s we all have to learn more. Anyway sorry-
ELENI: No worries but I think you know for me I would like to close this with a positive note because at the very very core of it is mostly around awareness. So for organizations that you can call them already like advanced in a journey of Agility there is already like an openness and growth mindset so we are going there. And I think it’s all fine that we don’t do everything right and we are learning. We have now this awareness and we go for it.
EVAN: Yeah and I’m with you. The hope is I think there are more kind people. There are more people who are honestly trying. And sure people make mistakes but they’re honestly wanting better. It’s why I talk about generational change. I’ll use the Microsoft example and this isn’t DE & I specific, this is just better business. I have hope because as new leaders as new managers as new people move into organizations who are growing up with mindsets of inclusion who are growing up with growth mindsets who are growing up with like the ability to deal with the complexity of the modern world right we’re seeing organizations change not because they’re being transformed but just because these new people are bringing their new mind their new mental models in their world view into these organizations.
ELENI: I mean I think we could talk for hours but I see the time and I would like to be mindful of everyone’s time so maybe we can give a short like answer to one of the questions that I see.
I see one from Alejandro Pius; the biggest difficulty we see with agility is that people are worried to stick their necks out at work because they might be blamed. How to fix this among ourselves as employees?
EVAN: So there’s a lot of writing, a lot of research around growth mindset. It’s a buzzword these days but it’s true. And so we talk about creating psychologically safe environments where it’s safe to fail or perhaps safe to ‘try’ if you don’t like the word ‘fail’. There are two elements to this. At an organizational level leaders have to publicly fail. They need to show that the consequence of failure is a celebration of trying. And that will create or that it’s one of the ways there’s obviously others as well. But it’s one of the ways to create a safe environment is by the leaders showing the behavior that they want people to express. Now the minute someone gets fired for making a mistake that cycle of safety just disappears.
And so they have to like at an organizational systems level they have to continue to believe that there’s a couple organizations I know which have adopted what we call failure KPIs where it’s actually their their annual bonus is predicated on actually showing that they have tried and failed something in the last quarter or the last six months or the last year depending on the organization. And so there’s so there’s different elements here at an individual level and that’s organizations an individual level it’s really about creating a level of confidence in yourself and in individuals that you’re working with. And that confidence may be like like A it’s confidence in trying something and being okay to make a mistake and just having that mindset. But it’s also confidence that if this is a sucky organization that’s going to punish you for making a mistake well this is there’s an old saying; change your organization or change your organization and so the confidence to be able to go yeah I’m going to go to another organization that actually trusts me to try something and occasionally make the fix so there’s two elements there.
ELENI: Thank you. Thank you very much and I hope Alejandro is happy with our answer. I’m really sorry that we have to, you know, wrap up because I really enjoy our conversation. And if everyone that is watching enjoys it as well please like us and follow us on our social media.
So thank you very much Evan for being with us today. And I would like to let our followers know about our next events that should come on your screen. So please hurry up grab your phones
and scan the QR codes to sign up for our next Living Room Conversation and we will be happy to see you there. We are happy to grow our family of fans. Yes, so any last remarks or maybe would you like to share with us how someone can become a member of Business Agility Institute or you know what stories you’re interested in when someone should read out?
EVAN: So please if you want to talk to me about agility, I know there’s a few questions that I haven’t had a chance to to address; look me up on LinkedIn. Head to the Business Agility Institute website. businessagility.institute, it’s quite straightforward and if you do have if you’d like to understand more about how to build these kind of organizations that are human-centric, that are engaging, full of engaged employees, autonomous employees where structures are flatter if not flat. Then we have a lot of content in our library. And that’s the kind of stuff we want to publish we want to publish those inspirational stories about like ‘oh I didn’t know you could do that’ and those informational stories it’s ‘ah that’s how you do it’ so become a member check out our content if you have if if there’s material if you have a story right reach out to me we have a magazine that comes out quarterly like called emergence we have a lot of material on our websites so there’s so much stuff that we want to share. We want to inspire, we want to inform. And especially right anything that is related to transformation outside of technology. So Agile outside IT. Especially anything to do with human systems. Whether that’s like people operations, HR or whether that’s just about the dynamics of human systems or management and leadership, all of this we really want to tell these stories. So reach out to us.
ELENI: Thank you very much. Thank you so much for being here today with us and for everything you shared and the inspiration we hope we gave to our audience. And yeah all the best for your conference.
EVAN: Thank you. Thank you Eleni.
ELENI: And yeah, everyone here you can reach out to Evan. Yeah, thank you very much, everyone.
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