Newly Published: Achieving Impact through Engagement

While various studies explore the business impact of employee and customer engagement, they don’t necessarily offer a way for operationalizing their findings!
Throughout various endeavors to foster greater employee and customer engagement for business impact, two particular models have emerged — The Ownership Pyramid (TOP) and Artful Agility or Actions-Intentions-Results (AIR) — that have empowered individuals and groups to operationalize the findings of many such studies!

This book briefly explores these models and how they work together to foster achieving impact though engagement!



Fostering A Healthy Relationship Between Coaches and the PMO


Effective Coaching is based heavily on the partnerships established within an organization. To produce the results necessary for the organization to realize the value add of the Coach, the Coach needs to be well positioned to influence meaningful change.

The essence of an effective Coach stems from their ability to navigate an organization with little or no  organizational constraints. Whether the constraints are hierarchical reporting, agenda and scope driven, simply political, or cultural, the Coach needs to establish a presence within the organization that is agnostic to all of those, and is solely reporting to “the best interest of the organization” as a whole. By remaining outside of the boundaries that others may find they need to operate, the Coach’s next best ally is the sound partnerships they establish throughout the organization.

As enterprise transformations unfold, or even before they begin, at times the Coaching Community may find themselves reporting directly to the PMO. If a proper understanding of the Coaching role is not grasped by all parties, the relationship between the Coach and the PMO will inevitably become toxic, as the Coach is focusing on the dynamics (Behaviors, Relationships, and Communication) of the organization and teams, while the PMO is focused on the mechanics (Process + Tools).  With these different underlying intentions, the relationship between the two can quickly become toxic and dysfunctional, causing whatever partnership existed, to breakdown and dissipate. And because there is a direct reporting structure in place (Coach to PMO), the Coaching Community will be handcuffed, creating an environment that allows for minimal chance of survival. Additionally, the organization as a whole will not have respect for the Coaching Community, as they are bound to a division that is concerned more with metrics and reporting than fostering healthy human dynamics and establishing an organizationally owned enterprise value-driven framework. Other parts of the organization won’t understand the coaching intentions coming from the PMO and will push back on any suggested changes. The best recipe for success is to have a partnership between the two, and not a direct reporting structure, permitting them to work toward the same result while remaining steadfast to different intentions. Additionally a partnership will enable the Coaching Community to have more impact on the organization and position them to cultivate change.

In addition to a partnership, clearly understanding who owns what is paramount. The Coaching Community should own and be accountable for “coaching in” the framework created by the organization and guiding and mentoring teams on best practices/disciplines, while the PMO should have ownership and accountability over enterprise initiative budgets and the enterprise roadmap. If the PMO takes ownership over the framework, the partnership will collapse and eventually the Coaching Community and Framework will be dissolved.

The best position for the Coaching Community is to be a direct report to the CIO, and have sound equal partnerships with the Leadership Team (including CIO and COO, focused on overall strategy of the organization), the PMO (enterprise roadmap + budgets), the Enterprise Architect (enterprise architecture description ), and the Oversight Team (focused on value discovery and delivery). This dynamic will enable ownership and accountability of the framework to reside safely with the coaches, and continue to foster a healthy relationship between the coaches and the PMO.


I Want It All, I Want It Now: Changing the Diner Mindset of the Business

Courtesy of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Courtesy of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Far too often as coaches, we find ourselves in a professional environment where the breakdown in communication and collaborative efforts has led to dysfunctional behaviors that cause development teams to over promise and under deliver due to a magnitude of reasons. Searching for a root cause, one may need to look no further than the culture of the organization and its stress on ownership. Teams need to be in the position of owning the work they are asked to deliver.

Even before estimating and writing “better” user stories/requirements, its important that the organization allow the teams to Commit to completing the work within the specified timebox. Commitment doesn’t mean to blindly agree to complete everything thrown their way in a specified period. Its authentic commitment that is pragmatic to the situation of the team. Many organizations have difficulty adhering to this concept, as simple as it may sound, because resistance emerges from both Business and IT. Business wants everything yesterday, and IT wants to please the Business, as they “believe” it reflects on their performance.

Engaging IT and the Business together in conversation to first understand each other’s pain points is a key first step in promoting authentic commitment. It brings a healthy dynamic to an otherwise dysfunctional environment, as the two parties can begin to embrace each other’s humanity, driving respect and forgiveness for each. Next would be to begin formulating a framework that both parties can operate within, and one that fosters collaboration with a focus on results. Unfortunately, Coaches are in most cases deployed into the trenches, working individual teams on stand-ups and user story writing (for example), when the root problems are manifesting further upstream. If a sound yet loosely structured framework is in place, the teams can develop the best practices and processes within the delivery cycle, and the coach can focus their energy on ensuring the Business and IT are adhering to the disciplines within the framework.

Finally, heavy coaching is required for the framework to remain intact and disciplines to be followed and for the teams to be in a position to offer authentic commitment during each delivery cycle. Coaching the Business and IT, so both parties are aligned on expectations, will undoubtedly enable ownership to flourish at the individual and team levels, and authentic commitment will be welcomed by all.


The Horror of becoming Aware – The Halloween Special


In tribute to Halloween passing over the weekend, I thought it would be interesting to provide perspective on coaching an individual in becoming more aware of themselves and their surroundings, using the horror film genre. Horror movies have always provided clear examples of coaching opportunities and a lack of awareness on the part of both the audience and the characters.

In the horror movie making business, a great film maker has the ability to include the audience in the cast. Those movies most often provide an experience for the movie watcher that leaves a lasting impression. Two movies in particular, The Sixth Sense and The Shining, actually coached the audience in becoming more aware. There were key moments in both films when the audience became aware of the events surrounding the characters that changed the perspective of the films and sucked the audience in, for what my colleagues (Si Alhir, Mark Ferraro, and Don Gould) like to call an ‘ah-ha’ moment. In the Sixth Sense, when Haley Joel Osment (playing the role of Cole Sear) reveals to Bruce Willis (playing the role of Malcolm Crowe) “I see dead people”. Boom goes the dynamite! Everything quickly came into focus for the audience, allowing our sudden awareness of the situation to begin wanting to coach Bruce Willis’ character to help him see the truth about himself. It took years later for the movie industry and audiences to become aware that M. Night Shyamalan may have gotten lucky with this script, as his follow up films quickly began to deteriorate in both quality and substance.

Similarly in Stephen King’s The Shining, the audience is initially drawn into paying close attention to Jack Nicholson’s character (Jack Torrence), as he seems to pose the greatest threat to his family while living in the hotel. However, after the Inn Keeper, Dick Hallorann asks Danny Torrance “How’d you like some ice cream, Doc?” the audience becomes aware that Danny has a deeper connection to the hotel, and Jack is a mere pawn in the events to follow (another ‘ah-ha’ moment). On the flip side, the audience is inclined to want to coach Wendy Torrance in guiding her to safety.

Both films are powerful in providing a level of awareness for the audience, and also causing the audience to have a level of awareness regarding the characters, feeling compelled to coach them to a better place (truth and safety). After looking at both films in more depth, they have such similarities that it raises several questions, but that is for a different blog and a different day.

In lesser quality horror franchises, such as Friday the 13th and A Nightmare On Elm Street, the audience is more often forced into solely the Coaching role, as they are more aware of the dire situation the characters are in than the characters themselves. This makes for initial frustration, as you can yell suggestions at the screen all you want, without any character taking heed; followed by indifference, as you watch the characters meet their untimely and predictable demise after seeing the obvious warning signs that they missed.

All of the movies discussed above provide extreme examples of the challenges/frustrations coaches face when trying to help individuals become aware of their surroundings and themselves. Although extreme, horror movies can help people understand what it means when coaches speak of awareness; understanding where you are, the impact of your actions, and the risks associated with each.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Make. It. Stop.

Happy Halloween!

Making the Leap to OPEN: A Psychological Movement

Colleagues and friends Si Alhir, Mark Ferraro, and Donald Gould and I are continuously pushing the envelope with new ideas on how best to help our clients. “Are they in a better place than they were yesterday?” is a revisited question. From our conversation, a “place” can be both psychological and/or physical.

When transforming an organization its critical that leadership takes ownership over the transformation, and that includes complete buy-in to the process and results being delivered. Many leaders we find are open-minded to change, but are closed-minded when it comes to actually making the change (design vs execution). Getting a leader to make the leap to Open is big step in enabling an organization to take the first steps to actually make the change. The leap to Open takes a great deal of psychological strength from the reluctant Leader. However, if the Transformation Coach is well skilled, it will take little effort on their part to force a psychological capitulation to the Open mindset.

In the Art of War it is surmised that when surrounding your enemy, always provide a clear exit, so the enemy feels they have a chance of survival, this will give them the choice of surrendering. For if the enemy feels there is no chance of escape, they will most likely kill themselves off, leaving you with no leverage. In the case when helping a Leader make the leap to Open, its important that they know you as the Transformation Coach and the organization as a whole, have no intention of leaving the situation or abandoning the transformation, and reality will set in that they are surrounded. And because this is 2015 and we are talking about organizations, exits are always available… and clearly marked. And the leader will then have a choice, and will most likely decide its best to make the leap to Open.

An additional tactic to surround the leader is to “dimensionalize” the transformation by bringing it into the physical world.  In one scenario, we had roadmaps created using sticky notes and tables with tape denoting the delivery quarters. We brought the leader into this room to further display the reality of the transformation and the efforts being exerted by others within the organization to take them to a better place. This further pushed the leader to make the leap to Open.

By applying both the psychological ‘surround and drown’ (but provide an exit) aspects with the physical dimensional aspects of the transformation, a Transformation Coach can apply a small amount of energy and produce the large level of energy needed by the leader to shift his/her mindset and make the leap to Open.

SAFe Revisited… Accounting for Reality

SAFE Revisited

After engaging large organizations in their desire to transform to a more anti-fragile environment, its become evident that the SAFe has its limitations, as it neglects to account for reality. In an attempt to highlight areas of the SAFe model that assume systematic adherence within an organization, the markups provide an alternative mindset for achieving the goal of anti-fragility while implementing the SAFe.

Studying the model above, key themes to consider are Stability among teams and assets, Organizing Around Value is a necessity for foundational success, and strong Leadership that can step into owning the transformation and the future direction of the organization is critical.

Key components within the different hierarchical tracks include, a well defined and administered Intake Process; established Value Streams (Products, Services, User Experiences offerings); a Discovery and Delivery team for each Value Stream; and Build and Deploy Processes that are autonomous to each Value Stream. By establishing these pillars, the SAFe model can begin to take shape in the form best suited for the organization; no one model will fit all organizations.

For additional perspectives from others in the industry, I encourage you to read the writeup by colleague and friend, Si Alhir.