You are NOT paid to work!!
That’s one of the first catchy statements I use to accelerate the much needed “click” when trying to develop more business agility in my clients.
So, repeat with me: I am not paid to work. I am not paid to work. I am not paid to work. I am not paid to work. I am not paid to work…
I am paid to deliver value.
And those 2 things work and value are not always the same!
So, step 1, start segregating those 2 things in your mental model.
Most of the clients I work with start with an understanding of agility that relates to “be fast, be efficient, be flexible, do more”.
If we keep on thinking we are paid to work, then we will end up trying to work faster.
And that usually translates to work more. Hoping to get “more done”.
The velocity, efficiency and flexibility trap.
Hence, I spend time sending and massaging the message “work” and “value” are not necessarily the same thing.
So, you are not paid to work. You are paid to deliver value.
If you can deliver value by doing nothing (nothing ?!?!?!…yes, no-thing) great.
And yes, “agile” is about delivering value as soon as possible, as fast as possible. The work you do is the instrument to achieve that goal.
And you may redefine and refine that instrument to ensure it is linked to the best and most valuable thing (which is not always the case).
If we do not establish that clear distinction, I’ve seen the following patterns may arise.
If this journey sounds familiar to you, please let me know your feedback !
The “stuff doers” frustration and process barriers
There’s a frequent starting point where teams and orgs seek in agility an answer to “do more, do it faster”.
Competing priorities, unclear impact on the expected goals, and the pressure of the client / market to get “more done” usually translates (wrongly) in trying to do “more” of that thing we do.
Be more “efficient”.
Several behaviours, usually determined by the company culture (and by the managers DNA) , could arise:
- The hard workers: We’ll try to do more, work hard(er) !
- The process barrier: We’ll protect ourselves by process, tickets, policies and procedures…
People and/or business results are the main casualties in that process.
So, we do not achieve the expected business benefits, so, by definition no business agility.
The “invisible link value” paralysis
“Ok, so work is not value… but my work is so far from “value”…so let’s analyse, let’s kick off an internal initiative so that we refine the work we do so that we deliver more “value” (whatever that is), what metrics should we use…”
The bigger the company, the more tempted it is to kick off a really big initiative.
Looking for the Holy Grail definition of “value”.
Changing everything in that quest, with an unclear definition of the target.
At some point (hopefully sooner than later) the initiative dies, it’s almost forgotten but leaves behind a “yet-another-initiative” resistance which jeopardizes next attempts to change.
Eventually, we default to previous behaviours and we keep on “doing stuff” (with more or less new metrics make up…).
Finding how I can contribute to the actual business goal is too difficult. Someone smart out there should know this stuff I do is what needs to be done, uh ?!
The “click”… for now
If you really try hard, you actually may find the link. Or a proxy to that link that is good enough (for the time being).
And then you change what you actually do (i.e. “The Work”), so that link is amplified.
And then you establish that as a process. The new metric, the new definition.
To a point…Eventually, that new “new” may become stale, so watch out.
So…Keep on going…
The final recommendation.
Do not establish any value definition as a “done”.
Whatever your model, whatever your metric, whatever your understanding of what “value” is, and how you are going to measure it (directly or using any other proxy).
Keep on revisiting it.
As the world changes and human beings are not robots.
A practice that may be producing results today may end up producing bureaucracy tomorrow.
So watch out.