Shared vision as enabling constraint.

Transformations are hard. Transformations are even harder when only the executives know where the destination is meant to be, if they even know that.

A shared vision

One of the most important responsibilities for executives in an organisation under transformation is to ensure that there is a shared vision to guide the organisation. A shared vision means that everyone in the organisation buys into the vision. Everyone understands where the organisation is going so that they can make the most appropriate decisions in their context. For some people, this may mean learning new skills as their current skills are unnecessary in the new organisation. An example of this may be manual testers who need to develop test automation skills. The impact of the shared vision can be illustrated as follows:

IMG_0007

Once they understand the value to themselves, everyone in the organisation can align themselves to achieve the vision. The shared vision creates alignment. Alignment to the vision allows management to free up control and let the people in the organisation have autonomy about how they achieve the vision. This alignment causes resonance within the organisation which creates a higher order system, an organisation that works together to achieve a single purpose. A shared vision is an enabling constraint.

It is important for the executive leadership to ensure that there is a shared vision. It does not mean that they are solely responsible for creating and refining the vision. Ideally, the executive leadership team should facilitate the co-creation of the vision with the entire organisation. The vision should be a living, evolving thing. The executive team might paint a broad brush vision but individual teams will need to provide detail to the vision and feedback when context requires the vision to evolve.

Shared visions create options for the people in the organisation as to how they achieve the vision.

The shared vision anti-patterns

A common anti-pattern for organisations undergoing a transformation is to not have a shared vision. Either there is no vision, or there is a vision but the executive leadership have not made sure that everyone in the organisation shares the vision.

A lack of vision means that people in the organisation do not know where they are headed. As a result, management will need to intervene and make every decision for the organisation. This leads to a lack of autonomy with the team dependent on management for decision making and providing “context”. Normally this leads to an ever increasingly more complicated rules. The rules end up constraining the organisation so that it is unable to achieve anything. These governing constraints remove all of the organisations options and it becomes inward focused rather than focusing on its customers and competitors.

The impact of a lack of shared vision can be illustrated as follows:

IMG_0008

Sometimes an executive leadership team have a vision but they do not share it because they are concern about how the people in the organisation will react. People are smart, they will work out what the “leadership” intend and will work to oppose it. In such a situation, it is impossible for people in the organisation to act with autonomy. This lack of autonomy will result in all management energy being directed inward rather than focusing on leading the organisation to a new place.

Absent or unshared visions lead to rules and commitments on the people in the organisation that reduce their options to achieve their goals.

A shared vision?

The technology department of an organisation might adopt a vision of  “Be more responsive to customer and their needs.” which it makes actionable by saying “Reduce lead time for investments.”.

People in the organisation can then choose the appropriate action in their context to achieve that measurable goal. They can do small things that enable them to do bigger things. The act of making small changes alters the dispositionality of the system. Making small changes gives a team confidence, skills and experience to make bigger changes. The team can make any change that aims to reduce lead time. They can measure the impact of the change, and adjust accordingly.

To reduce lead time, they might do one or more of the following:

  • Increase test automation
  • Implement continuous integration/deployment or devOps
  • Make smaller investments
  • Adopt Scrum or Kanban
  • Reduce work in progress
  • Get teams to work more closely together
  • Apply theory of Constraints
  • Adopt Given-When-Then
  • Reduce technical debt
  • Adopt extreme programming
  • Hire experienced developers or coaches
  • Co-locate teams
  • Re-organise the organisation based on the Spotify model.
  • Cancel the SAFE or LESS implementation initiative.
  • Increase training and Learning
  • Many, many more things.

The team can adopt one of the above practices according to their context and dispositionality with the goal of “Reducing lead time”.

Alternatively, in the absence of a shared vision, the “leadership” might impose a number to initiatives on the team to do one or more of the following.

  • Increase test automation
  • Implement continuous integration/deployment or devOps
  • Make smaller investments
  • Adopt Scrum or Kanban
  • Reduce work in progress
  • Get teams to work more closely together
  • Apply theory of Constraints
  • Adopt Given-When-Then
  • Reduce technical debt
  • Adopt extreme programming
  • Hire experienced developers or coaches
  • Co-locate teams
  • Re-organise the organisation based on the Spotify model.
  • Cancel the SAFE or LESS implementation initiative.
  • Increase training and Learning
  • Many, many more things.

The team will pick those items that are easiest to achieve in order to get management off their back so that they can focus on their immediate business goals. Teams may have no investment in the outcome and adopt a “tick box” attitude to simply getting the “transformation” done.

What is a transformation?

You often hear about organisation transformations. But what is an organisational transformation? The transformation is when the people in the organisation value and commit to the shared vision of the organisation. The transformation occurs one person at a time until some tipping point is reached and the remaining people either buy in to the vision or leave the organisation.

So the organisational transformation is the point at which the enabling constraint comes into being. The point at which everyone values and commits to the shared vision. Leaders will discover that the can focus on the future of the organisation as the teams achieve autonomy. Without a shared vision, transformation is not possible.

Perhaps a good way to measure transformation is to consider how far into the future leadership are focused. If leadership are still focused on the day to day operations, the transformation still has a way to go.

Screen Shot 2019-03-10 at 06.31.37

Summary

In summary, autonomy will occur when all the people in an organisation are aligned around a shared vision. A shared vision is one that all the people in an organisation value and buy into. A vision that is not shared is the same as having no vision, or possibly worse as the people in the organisation might be in conflict with the leadership. The impact of a lack of a shared vision is confusion over the direction of the transformation and an inward focus of leadership.

A shared vision is an enabling constraint as it constrains the actions of people in the organisation so that they are aligned.

So start the path to transformation, co-create and build a shared vision.

About theitriskmanager

Currently an “engineering performance coach” because “transformation” and “Agile” are now toxic. In the past, “Transformation lead”, “Agile Coach”, “Programme Manager”, “Project Manager”, “Business Analyst”, and “Developer”. Did some stuff with the Agile Community. Put the “Given” into “Given-When-Then”. Discovered “Real Options” View all posts by theitriskmanager

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