I once worked for an organization with many opportunities for improvement. To be honest, it was a mess. It didn’t take long to realize that the organization had implemented many dysfunctional practices and policies that were ingrained into the culture. There were many problems surrounding software development practices, project requirements gathering, and deployment of finished work. It was evident the dysfunction ran deep as the organization’s “business as usual” was the general mantra. Overcoming inefficiencies and the status quo is always a challenge but becomes even more difficult when the culture perpetuates dysfunction. No one is willing to ask the question, “Is there a better way?”
When “It is what it is” Isn’t Good Enough
The culture at the previous company I worked for was progressive and very forward-thinking in its vision. I was eager to share some of the experiences and lessons learned at the new company. Unfortunately, I was met with great resistance by new colleagues who were either not interested in or felt incapable of changing existing systems in the organization. I was sensitive in my exploration because many of these processes were forged by my new colleagues. Many employees had a long tenure with the company and acclimated to the sub-optimal environment, happily maintaining the status-quo. I questioned and asked why things were the way they were and hoped to ignite a desire for improvement and efficiency. To my dismay, many answered my questions with “It is what it is,” ending the conversation.Ultimately, I realized I only had two choices, assimilate or resist. I knew it was futile, but I chose the latter.
One important trait of an organizational change agent is low tolerance for mediocrity. Don’t even consider a job as a Scrum Master, Agile coach, or consultant in general if you’re not comfortable rocking the boat. Be fearless in your efforts to improve your organization and that means you cannot fear being fired. Those that fear being fired fear challenging others.
Ask the Whys
“Wait, what? You want me to get fired?” Nope, I never said that. I am encouraging you to find ways to challenge the status quo and professionally address those situations to raise awareness and begin an honest dialogue to help shift the organization back on track. For example, if you have a micromanaging boss, what do you do? Complaining behind your manager’s back may seem like the logical choice, but directly addressing the situation with your manager is actually the best bet. Sometimes solid feedback is all it takes to change someone’s behavior for the better. I recommend reading Crucial Conversations by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler for practical ways of addressing hard-to-address conversations. If there is a process or procedure at work that doesn’t make sense, keep asking why. Sakichi Toyoda, the founder of Toyota Industries, would encourage you to ask why up to five times to get to the root of the problem. Toyoda’s concept of 5 Whys is incorporated into current lean methodologies to help organizations solve problems, improve quality and reduce costs.
I have made it my life’s work to never accept “good enough” as good enough. That’s why I created Responsive Advisors. It is our mission to provide our clients with a holistic approach to agility. Together, we help clients find and remove dysfunction and inefficiencies in their organizations. Raising awareness begins with the simple question “Why?” Become an agent of change and ask the difficult questions if you see opportunities for growth and improvement. Will you join me and ask the whys? Leave a comment and let me know what you think!