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Insights by Agilicist

What You Measure is What You Get Back

“The hours of folly are measured by the clock; but of wisdom, no clock can measure.” – William Blake.

In the modern world there are countless attributes that can be said to be quantitative measures of success. Financial stability, relationships, quality friendships, material possessions and job satisfaction are just a few that spring to mind. What you consider to be important will undoubtedly influence your behaviour, and the activities you undertake. But how do we ensure that those that are working with us are able to see, understand and conform to what is important to us? Equally, what impact does ambiguous or misguided interpretation of priorities have on our people and the value that they bring to their work? Let’s take a bit of a deeper look…

Picture the scene. You are the manager of a large team of diverse professionals that is tasked collectively with delivering product innovations to a key App that is the portal for on-boarding customers, delivering the services they require and maintaining active commercial relationships with customers. In short, if your team doesn’t deliver, the whole commercial viability and reputation of the organisation could be put at huge risk. Being the tremendous Servant Leader that you are (and we all are nowadays, aren’t we?!), you have ensured that your team, as a group of professionals and individuals, has a clearly defined and globally comprehended vision statement, supported by overt strategic objectives. That’s a pretty strong place to be, so everything will run on rails, right? Perhaps not.

Given the world we all now live in, it is more and more likely that teams may not be physically collocated, which introduces an interesting dynamic into the working regime of any team. It also demands ingenuity, empathy and clarity of expectations to get the best out of our people. But what is the true measure of the success or otherwise of any team? Arguably, it should be assumed that delivery of valuable products for customers in a timely manner that is also responsive to customer needs has to be the answer. That’s all well and good in theory, but what happens in practice (including behaviour of leadership personalities) has an exponential impact on the psychological ownership of those products.

Let me explain further.

As the leader of your team, you set an outstanding example. You’re always first in the office or online, you communicate regularly with your team and key stakeholders, prioritising face-to-face (albeit electronic) interactions over other means. You’re aware of what your team is working on at any given time and keep a good holistic overview of the team members. You work solidly from the minute you log on to late into the evenings most days but believe in leading by example and would expect your people to work out of hours without question or reward if necessary. You ensure your people have specific deadlines that they work towards, which you agree with key stakeholders as part of an ongoing dialogue with them. In this example, what do you think is the key measurable outcome for your team?

The situation above, if it were real (and I have worked this way in the past), would almost certainly engender a disproportionate focus on deadlines and an ethos of being seen to be maximising time available to the team being held as extremely important. Some might totally agree with this, but there is an inevitable trade-off to be had if deadlines are to be consistently met. This can lead to inability to deliver the actual value that has been agreed and/or to cutting corners to achieve the desired outcomes. There may be overriding factors that dictate the need for a specific deadline to be met, but this would ideally be the exception and not the rule. Likewise, operating against the clock introduces a new element of stress for the team that can be counterproductive as wellbeing of individuals falls by the wayside. Without fully-functioning, motivated people, your team will never deliver what is asked of it, and poor morale as a result of constant pressure can sweep through a team in the blink of an eye. This will increase sickness absence, poor quality of work and, ultimately, attrition rates as your people vote with their feet.

Conversely, a team that focuses on the delivery of specific valuable products/innovations and understands why what they are doing brings value will begin to feel empowered to ensure that quality products are released to customers when they are ready. The key to progressing this ethos as a leader is empowerment – ask yourself these questions:

  • Does my team understand what they are asked to do?

    • How can I promote that understanding?

    • How much influence on/exposure to product design processes exists?

  • Can my team empathise with the customers our product is intended for?

  • Do all members of my team truly understand and embody my strategic vision?

  • Am I influencing my key stakeholders and my entire team to become trusted partners who collaborate from product ideation through to delivery and post-release activities?

  • Do all members of my team feel empowered to make decisions commensurate with their grade, role and experience? Indeed, are they aware of bounded autonomy, in terms of:

    • What it means?

    • Where it starts and stops for them?

    • Where to turn if they are unable to make an autonomous decision or if it falls outwith their remit?

  • Does mutual trust exist within my team and with external stakeholders?

  • Do my people and I overtly recognise and respect the right of your team to be individuals outside the workplace, and talk in terms of the value of effective work-life balance?

Investing the time and effort to ensure that you can answer the above questions satisfactorily and putting into place the process and ethos that supports this is no mean feat. The energy invested in this will reap rewards, as your people begin to show flair, ingenuity and initiative in their work. A happy by-product is that it will free your time to concentrate on not only maintaining the status quo, but continuously developing and improving your team, your/their relationships with stakeholders and the processes that underpin the release train.

Your focus (and what you almost certainly will be measured against personally) should always be on that which enables value delivery to the customer in the most efficient manner. Gifting this focus to your team through trust, empowerment and a clear understanding of what that value means for the customer could be the most effective leadership move you ever make – at the very least, you will have happier, healthier people!!


Any Questions?



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