By necessity or design, a growing number of organizations are embracing the concept of business agile. Not necessarily as a project management methodology, but as way to enable flexibility and rapid decision-making. At least, they’re trying to.
Unfortunately, many organizations are experiencing an unintended and unwelcome consequence on their journey to the business agility promised land: change fatigue.
As the disheartening term suggests, change fatigue happens when changes in the environment are so fast and frenetic, that employees experience frustration and burnout. Contrary to what may appear on the surface, this reaction is not a fear of change or a resistance to change. Yes, there may be some apprehension or anxiety around change; simply because all change — even the positive kind — can be a little scary since it’s a matter of trading the known for the unknown. But change fatigue is fundamentally about self-preservation. Employees aren’t trying to slow down, block or even sabotage change efforts. They’re simply trying to maintain a stability and balance.
To that end, here are five areas that enterprise leaders should focus on to make business agile work in their environment, and for their employees:
All organizations know that collaboration is essential. But when things are moving fast and constantly changing, it’s possible to mistake an excess of conversation, as an indication of effective collaboration. They aren’t synonymous. To paraphrase Mark Twain, they have as much in common as lightning bug and lightning.
Effective collaboration is about bringing individuals and teams together so they can advance tasks forward along the work journey (which at times may involve going sideways, stepping back or re-mapping the path altogether). Excessive conversing is when the environment is overrun by countless emails, posts, calls and meetings. Read this article for a deeper discussion on how to ensure that your organization is collaborating vs. conversing, and that you aren’t mistaking lightning for lightning bugs.
Most enterprises do a pretty good job of connecting their employees to various systems and tools. However, making business agility work involves another key piece of the puzzle that is often neglected: connecting teams to each other.
Indeed, unless cross-functional teams in the environment can connect and move forward together, then all that will happen is “speed for the sake of speed.” Yes, employees will work faster and faster. But instead of seeing their efforts translate into greater productivity, they’ll find themselves on a treadmill to nowhere, because they aren’t connected and aligned with their colleagues. In fact, they may find themselves falling behind due to excessive iterations and re-work.
One of the core reasons that change fatigue sets in – and business agility unravels – is that employees don’t feel that they have enough of what psychologists have long since identified as an essential requirement for basic well-being: control.
Now, this doesn’t mean that employees are control freaks and want to know everything; on the contrary, they often have more than enough on their plate, and are fine with working on a need to know basis. Yet that’s the point: they need to know how the concept of business agile looks in their environment.
That is, they require clear 360-degree visibility into all relevant project plans, workflows, discussions, change requests, lists and reports that impact their day-to-day experience. Otherwise, business agile is an abstract term that can mean anything, everything or nothing. It’s not a pragmatic part of their reality until they can see it, and as such they shouldn’t be blamed for finding business agility unnerving instead of empowering.
As every good enterprise leader knows without reservation, if employees aren’t emotionally and intellectually invested in a project, let alone an organization-wide paradigm shift like business agility, then success can’t happen; at least, not to its full potential.
Fortunately, getting employees to align, focus and buy into the benefit of business isn’t an uphill battle, and doesn’t require across-the-board raises. Rather, it’s about helping employees see how their contribution fits into the bigger picture (360-degree visibility comes back into play here), and recognizing their accomplishments. For an interesting look at this aspect, check out the infographic “Fight Back Against Today’s Employee Engagement Crisis.”
Conventional project management software uses a command-and-control approach that undermines and impedes business ability. Instead of advancing, adjusting or pivoting because they’re equipped with quality data, individuals and teams are bogged down and held back. Needless to say, change fatigue flourishes in these conditions.
The antidote is using a Collaborative Work Management (CWM) solution that enables organizations to connect and engage their workforce across the enterprise. It brings together project and portfolio management, configurable workflow automation, multi-system integration, in-context collaboration and customizable work experiences. In other words, it’s designed to support business agility.
In Other Words…
It’s easy to understand how business agility, if left unchecked, can lead to change fatigue. That’s why organizational leaders need to augment their approach by focusing on collaboration, connectivity, control, contribution and CWM. These factors aren’t just important. They fundamentally make or break business agility, and determine whether an enterprise will reap profitable rewards—or face unwelcome consequences.