We really don’t lack opportunities and choices. There are always more ideas than can actually be implemented. This is true at the level of the individual as well as for teams and organizations. The fact that technology makes our world turning ever faster and that our world is becoming ever more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, i.e. tending more and more towards VUCA, leads to an unprecedented wealth of opportunities and ideas. This makes it all the more important to focus which is the responsibility of leadership. And focus begins with the apparently forgotten art of saying no.
This is now the eighth year I’m blogging. I like writing. Writing helps me to get to the point. And by this I mean, really to the point and not just to bullet points on a slide of PowerPoint. Formulating thoughts in such a way that they appeal to the reader and the message reaches the reader is damn hard work. It requires discipline and concentration – for every article, every week again. It is all the more astonishing that Jeff Bezos has banned PowerPoint completely and instead insists on six-page narratives, which are then studied in silence (sic!) by everyone at the beginning of a meeting. If Jeff Bezos and his team utilize their time in this way in the extremely fast-moving business fields in which Amazon in very successful, this can be seen as an inspiration for all of us to tell more and better stories instead of heartlessly enumerating endless lists of bullet points.
How do people cope with change? Family therapist Virginia Satir has provided an interesting model that can also be applied to organizational changes. A stable status quo is challenged by a foreign element. After initial resistance to the foreign element, the confrontation with it initially leads to uncertainty and chaos and thus to a loss in productivity. Depending on the strength of this impulse, this phase lasts for a longer or shorter period of time until the chances of change are finally understood and utilized. Gradually, the group will return to its original productivity and hopefully grow even further. In essence, however, this model means that change can never come for free. As trivial as this sounds, organizations rarely admit this in both large and small changes. And then fail due to false expectations and their impatience.
Agile methods and especially Scrum look very simple in a small product with a single team. As soon as several teams work on one product, the work has to be split up somehow. The obvious, because well-known, approach is to break down the product more or less logically and meaningfully into components and to assign component teams to them. From the customer’s point of view, however, these components are completely irrelevant. At best, the customer doesn’t realize them. In most cases, however, he does, because there usually several component boundaries have to be crossed to realize customer’s benefits and the product’s necessary functions. This results in handovers and coordination between teams that interrupt the flow. From the customer’s point of view, it would be much more desirable if the new feature was implemented by a single so-called feature team, no matter which components are affected.
We are experiencing a world in which it is “normal that many things are changing and are changing more quickly than ever”, as Karl-Heinz Geißler so aptly put it. The perceived or real speed of life increases daily driven by fascinating and sometimes frightening technological developments from Artificial Intelligence to Blockchain. This is exerting enormous pressure on companies to change and innovate. The half-life of products and business models is becoming shorter and shorter. This means that companies have to reinvent themselves over and over again and at ever shorter intervals in order to survive. In addition to the efficiency and profitability that are always in the focus of today’s business, it must become the second nature of long-term viable companies to boldly explore new opportunities and constantly test new business models. But precisely because today’s urgent business tends to displace the important exploration of tomorrow’s business, the sixth and final thesis in the Manifesto for Human Leadership says: “Courageously exploring the new over efficiently exploiting the old.”