In this issue:
I'm thrilled that the vaccine rollout has started. (I received my first shot already.) That means we can start to think about our “new normal.”
Instead of considering a return to working exactly the way you were before the pandemic, consider these three ideas to create an even better environment. You can start now.
Tip 1: Retrospect Often
You might feel as if you're struggling just to keep going. Can you really take time to retrospect?
Start small. Consider a 20-30 minute kaizen (continuous improvement). Here's how to manage a short timeboxed workshop and still gain value:
- What's one thing that gets in my team's way? I tend to ask the team to choose the item in advance of the meeting.
- When does that thing occur? You might gather data in advance of a real-time meeting, or timebox this discussion to 4-5 minutes.
- How many ways can we consider how to address this issue? In a 5-7 minute timebox, ask people to write their ideas on virtual stickies. Writing tends to offer everyone more flexibility to participate.
- In 2 minutes, affinity-group the stickies. See what you have
- Pick a group of stickies to address. (You might have to dot-vote.)
- Generate at least three options, starting with any options the team can execute. Timebox this to 10 minutes.
- Ask people to choose which option they will start to use as an experiment. Agree on when you'll meet again.
This short workshop can go sideways if the item you chose requires a lot more discussion. In that case, schedule a longer retrospective. However, if you want to start picking away at the little problems, start with a kaizen.
When we start with a kaizen, the team can start small and see what we can do. Might we run the risk of optimizing something that won't help the larger system? Yes. That's why I like to keep experiments small and meet regularly.
Notice I talked about a team here. This approach works for any team, including your management team.
Tip 2: Build on What Worked This Past Year
I suspect that some practices worked quite well for you this past year. When I ask my clients, they say:
- Separating the asynchronous writing and synchronous collaboration times. The two activities differ.
- Taking enough time to think—but not too much time to delay decisions—worked for many management and leadership teams. (Feature teams already knew this!)
- Learning a little about each person's environment and family. Not so much as to intrude, but enough to create context and resilience for the team.
I've learned something quite important about the workshops I offer. I transformed my project management and product owner workshops from in-person to online. And when I timeboxed each session to 90-120 minutes (with a break!) and only led one session a day, the clients were able to integrate the ideas as we worked through the workshop.
I suspect you have many other practices or events that went well. You can build on those ideas for the future.
Tip 3: Amplify Autonomy with Appreciations
(I love it when I create unplanned alliteration!)
Everyone has experienced more autonomy this year. As you envision and plan your new normal, how can you amplify each person's autonomy? When I speak about this (from the Modern Management Made Easy books), some leaders ask me these what-if questions:
- What if people don't do what I need them to do?
- What if people make mistakes?
- And more about problems or outcomes that don't work.
People will make mistakes. They won't deliver everything you need them to deliver. You will experience more problems.
Instead of trying to limit autonomy, consider how you might ask the team how they plan to assess and manage their risks. In addition, consider appreciations, reinforcing feedback, to ask for more of what you want.
When we hear reinforcing feedback, we are more likely to succeed more often. With appreciations or reinforcing feedback, people are more likely to repeat those useful actions. Or even improve on them.
When leaders reduce autonomy, people tend to stop thinking. Instead, if you increase autonomy, people will think more. They're even more likely to succeed. (If you liked this, you'll like the ideas in the Modern Management Made Easy books. This idea is from Practical Ways to Lead and Serve (Manage) Others, Book 2.)
That's it. Three tips: look back, reinforce what worked, and amplify autonomy. Let me know how you use these ideas.
Want to build your nonfiction writing chops? See the Q2 2021 Writing workshop. Join a small cohort of writers. You'll learn to build a writing habit that works for you. I'll offer you feedback on your writing. I hope you join us.
The Modern Management Made Easy books are done and out everywhere! Yes, the ebooks and print books are available in all stores and in your local library. You will probably have to ask the library for the books.
Are you new to the Pragmatic Manager newsletter? See previous issues.
Here are links you might find useful:
- My Books. (BTW, if you enjoyed one of my books and you have not yet left a review, please do. Thanks.)
- Online Workshops
- My various consulting offerings
- Managing Product Development Blog
- Create an Adaptable Life
- Johanna's Fiction
Till next time,
© 2021 Johanna Rothman
Tags: autonomy, change, leadership, management, Modern Management Made Easy, retrospect, servant leadership