In most hierarchical organizations the spirit of absolutism still prevails. All power is with the boss. He or she manages and controls, imposes rules, monitors their compliance and punishes misconduct. Even today there are still enough small and big Sun Kings: L’état c’est moi! This is because people are still susceptible to excessive power on the one hand and on the other because the Enlightenment apparently had little influence on the design of modern organizations. The advance of knowledge work and the increasing striving for agility also lead to a new Enlightenment with a more pronounced separation of powers.
In 2008, a team at Google launched Project Oxygen. The aim of the project was to find out what defines good leadership and what behaviors characterize a good manager at Google. Being a data-driven company the team approached this question on the basis of data from employee surveys and the managers’ annual performance reviews. The original eight behaviors have recently been reworked and two new behaviors have been added. At first glance, they still seem quite trivial or, as the New York Times noted in its 2011 article, almost like a gag on the whiteboard in the television series “The Office”. But one must not be deceived by this simplicity. Google has seen positive effects in recent years in terms of employee satisfaction, turnover and performance through incorporating these finding into trainings and through the intense focus on leadership that accompanies the publication. This is reason enough for a second look.
Dear decision-makers, who wish to make your organizations more agile, do not long for heroes and saviors for your agile transformation. And please stop copying blueprints and using frameworks to introduce agility via a recipe. An agile transformation is not a project, but a long journey without a clear objective on which an organization that has become too rigid in the past becomes an increasingly adaptable one. Uncertainty is part of change, but heroes and recipes are not. On the contrary, heroes and doers make people dependent by providing heroic solutions rather than empowering teams to find those solutions themselves.