In the flow

Your organization wants to become more responsive. To this end, the vision & mission have been thoroughly revised, a strategic plan has been developed. In short: the “why”, “how” and “what” have been established. Everything has been shared with the employees, their feedback has been processed and there is wide support. How do you know whether your organization is able to make the plans come true? Where do you start then?

The basis
An organization or team can only perform well if a number of conditions are met. The basis is that every individual can come into his or her own. Compare it to a football team: one or two players who do not play in the right position or have an off-day, can destroy the performance of the entire team.

How can you create the conditions that allow employees to come into their own?

If you achieve your full potential, often you are in a state of “flow”. You become so absorbed in your activities that you forget the time. In such a state you feel great and perform best. We have all experienced that at one time or another. The concept of “flow” was invented by the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly.

He described the characteristics of flow in his book: “Flow: the psychology of optimal experience”. We will not consider all of these characteristics here, because several are the result of a state of flow. For example, the lack of a sense of time or a strong sense of well-being. We focus on the four characteristics that can be influenced: willingness, ability, focus and feedback:

  1. Are people doing what you want to do? This is about people’s motivation. If the organization’s vision, mission and objectives are aligned with this, people have found a place where they can spend their ambitions and energy well.
  2. Are people doing what you can do? Does the job fit well with the talents and skills? If people are not challenged enough, they will get bored. When too much is asked of them, they get stressed.
  3. Can people focus well on their tasks and responsibilities? For some organizations, “death by meeting” or “death by email” applies. Or there is so much uncertainty about the demarcation of responsibilities that people are too busy with each other’s tasks. Constant distraction does not improve the quality of the work or the well-being of employees.
  4. Continuous feedback is important to keep people engaged and motivated. They need to know how they are doing and how they can improve. This is not about the (semi)annual appraisal: if feedback is continuous and properly applied, it is also a mechanism that improves the quality and spirit in the team.

Get it going
The aforementioned factors help people to get into their flow. The starting point is mapping the position of each employee on them. So there is a clear picture for each team which employees are in the right place or not. The following diagram is a summary example of what such a mapping might look like. Other HR factors could also be included, like in this example the fit with the team or the professional maturity of team members:

Example of mapping of individuals in a certain team

A number of things become clear immediately. For the entire team, the feedback must be improved: there is too much orange or red here. The employees do not know enough about how they are doing. On an individual level, a number of other things become clear: Melissa does what she wants to do, but still has a lot to learn (“Can” and “Professional Maturity” are both not good yet). For Brian and Julie the question is whether they fit into the team. Brian has the capabilities (“Can” is green), but does he really want this role? And for Julie, she is doing what she wants, but, at least for now, is lacking skills or capabilities.

From this overview, the team can develop and grow. For example, based on the personal development plans of each employee and a plan for the team, possibly supplemented with a change in team composition. Now, each individual can come into his or her own and alignment is obtained with the whole of the organization.

The next step is to make sure every team is functioning properly. In other words: flow at team level. That’s what next week’s blog will be about.

Slow is fast

The holy grail of (tech) trends
Big data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) have been the big promises in the business world for some time, with tech giants such as Google and Amazon as great examples. Yet recent research among 85 “Fortune 1000” companies shows that, despite significant investments, the use of Big Data and AI is not yet leading to the expected improvements (Harvard Business Review, February 5, 2021, Why is it so hard to become a data-driven company?, Randy Bean): only 24% of the companies surveyed indicated that they were “data-driven”. In the same study a year earlier this was 38%. The importance of “big data” and AI in decision making is not yet as great as expected.

What is striking is that – for the fifth year in a row! – “Cultural barriers” was cited by 92% of the companies surveyed as the most important obstacle in the development towards a “data-driven” organization.

The promise of innovation …
The realization of promising trends or new management methods is usually more difficult than expected. Well-known examples are the rise of office automation in the eighties, the internet, and “agile” working. There is a systematic underestimation of the time and effort required to implement new ways of working and then use it effectively. In the examples mentioned, the promise was largely correct: office automation has resulted in an enormous efficiency improvement. Thanks to the internet, many business processes can continue as usual in Corona time. And agile working is commonplace within many ICT companies. But for all these developments, the realization of the promise usually took longer than initially expected. And the organizational culture was often cited as an important bottleneck. Apparently people become so enthusiastic about the promise of innovation that the same mistake is made over and over again: an implicit assumption arises that the benefits are so great that success will almost come naturally…

… and the prospect of great results
I have experienced this firsthand. During a “global meeting” of division managers of a multinational I presented a strategic change plan. The presentation had been preceded by months of preparation and coordination. Much time had gone into the way the message was conveyed. And apparently it had worked: the reactions were enthusiastic without exception. “This is a homerun,” I thought. The support for the plan was so great, it only seemed a matter of rolling it out.

This assumption turned out to be completely false. We, too, were blinded by the promise of the plan, inspired by the beautiful prospect of the results we would achieve. Consequently, there was no insight into what was really needed to achieve success while using the existing culture. I later learned that there was insufficient understanding in the organization for the initiative: it had to be explained better. It was only after I had visited branches all over the world to engage people that support grew for the plans and the roll-out gained traction.

Culture is a breeding ground…
Every organizational culture has a unique potential. And that is the breeding ground for success. The question is therefore not how you bring about change despite the culture. The trick is to use the culture – the people with their beliefs, ambitions and behavior – for the intended change. Therefore it is important to understand the causes of resistance and friction.

…not a barrier
“Action is reaction” is what I learned during the Physics lessons in high-school: the force you exert on something leads to the same, opposite force. This law of nature also applies to organizational cultures: the harder you blame them, the greater the resistance, because somehow people feel not understood, and affected in their authenticity and free will.

In this light, the conclusion of the aforementioned study should read: “Apparently, companies have insufficiently organized for success while they were planning the transformation to a data- or AI-driven organization.” So that support and energy could be generated to use data and AI for what they are intended: improving business operations. and realizing competitive advantages.

If there is a ‘Holy Grail’ it ought to be culture
It is not the promise of new technology or new management methods that is the holy grail. If there is one, it ought to be culture: the unique potential of people: they determine the degree of success of any initiative.

The promise of big data and AI is true, at least to a large extent. Moving As One also makes good use of it, to help clients with their change projects. But that promise can only be fulfilled by the organization.

“Slow is fast”
Entrepreneurs and managers who see this make good use of it. And yes, it takes time and a lot of patience to understand how you can take everyone along and set the flywheel of change in motion. But once it is moving well, improvements can emerge suddenly and rather quickly. Or, as the world-famous coach Stephen Covey once put it: “With things, fast is fast. But with people, slow is fast.”

Tapping into the ability to change

Everyone generally agrees that agreement (‘buy-in’), focus and available capacity are most relevant factors to make any change endeavor successful. In one of our previous blogs we concluded, based on recent scientific research, that it is precisely these factors that lead to frictions and often stand in the way of change and success.

In conversations with managers, it is noticeable that they often find their employees difficult to change. “People are creatures of habit”, “Change is apparently scary for people”, are examples of beliefs I hear regularly. The fact that so few change initiatives are successful seems to endorse this … but is this a correct assumption?

Allow growth and change to emerge
Several years ago I interviewed the founder of Art of Living, one of the largest voluntary organizations in the world: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. The mission of this organization is to promote world peace, among others by teaching people how to reduce stress. In addition to the interview, I was allowed to spend a day with the organization. What was immediately noticeable was that everything went in great harmony and almost flawlessly. When I – a business economist with an interest in organization and management – asked my host how it was “managed”, his answer was: “Nothing is managed here, it all emerges.” Further inquiries into the matter showed that there were no job descriptions: everyone found his or her role in the organization, based on a shared vision and mission and personal motivation. “How can I help?” was the simple question with which everyone found his or her place. The result is a strong responsive organization with millions of followers worldwide and countless successful initiatives.

There are many similar examples in business. Take Buurtzorg. This Dutch organization has brought a lot of innovation to home care in the Netherlands, partly by abolishing management. Teams of nurses organize the work themselves, determine the goals and divide the tasks. This way of working has led to innovation in services, higher customer satisfaction, low employee turnover and a strong growth of the organization. Buurtzorg sets the tone in home care and their way of working is now being taught to other (home care) organizations, even outside the Netherlands.

Such cases show that employees are perfectly capable of helping to shape change and growth.

Organize for success
Could it be that most change initiatives fail or fall short of their goals because of the way people organize and manage them? The conventional view is that it is the job of management to make decisions, direct people and control the results. A top-down activity. That went well for a long time, right? But perhaps that would explain (part of) the aforementioned lack of agreement, focus and capacity?

What do we learn from these examples? When teams decide for themselves how they achieve their goals, people are motivated to take responsibility together. People become more creative in solving problems. Agreement is found and their focus becomes sharp.

Creativity and problem solving power
And there is more that argues for a reassessment of the distribution of autonomy in an organization. Especially in these (Corona) times: agility and resilience cannot arise in a boardroom. Central management is at odds with creativity and problem-solving skills. Not because management could not be creative, but because there is simply too much distance from the problems in the workplace. When a sales team encounters a problem, it needs a certain amount of autonomy to solve it on the spot. In many cases it does not work to go higher up the organization, to catch up with management and to go back with adapted instructions. If only because no one knows the situation on the ground as well as that team. Of course, clear agreements are needed about decision-making and objectives. But here too there are more and more cases showing that autonomy and self-management lead to better results more often.

The human perspective
People like autonomy. They want to decide for themselves on matters that concern their responsibility. And they can do that perfectly in a group, taking into account the goals of the organization and the team in question. When they feel that (too much) decisions are being made for them, such as when change is being managed, this creates a feeling of inability and resistance.

Inspiration is more fun than instruction
Employees are not against change and growth. The trick is to address people’s motivation so that they are part of it. And there is still plenty to do for managers. After all, isn’t it much more fun to inspire a team than to instruct it?

A new perspective on management

A long time ago I attended a seminar on management. A partner of a well-known consultancy argued that managing is simple. He compared it to balancing a broomstick on the tip of your finger: the broomstick is constantly falling over. By paying attention to how the broomstick will fall and always making adjustments, it stays in balance. How hard can management be?

Managing for control
This story illustrates the (unconscious) beliefs behind traditional management: “if you do not (pro) actively control and adjust, there will be chaos.” Management gives instructions – what is to be done and how – and controls the output. Another important assumption is that the desired results will then “automatically” emerge from the process. And there is implicit distrust that teams can achieve the desired results autonomously: the broomstick will fall if it is not scrutinized all of the time.

For a long time this view worked fine: with apparently predictable and longterm growth, it was relatively easy to make a strategic plan, divide it into periodic schedules and use it to manage the organization.

Pulling the grass
But following such a process no longer automatically leads to the desired results. As discussed earlier, change processes often fail because employees are not taken along well enough in the movement that management aspires to: lack of support, insufficient focus and change capacity cause the most frictions. The result: insufficient agility and resilience and little pro-activity to external events and developments. The feeling that this creates among many managers is that they are busy “pulling the grass and hoping this will make it grow faster”. An exhausting and unsatisfying activity.

But grass cannot be forced. That applies to everything in nature, including humans. This in contrast to “things”, such as…well: a broomstick. Too much direction and control, driven by underlying mistrust, leads to stress. Burnouts as a result of work stress are now the most important occupational disease, possibly around the world. The way in which it an organization is managed plays an important role here.

Organize for success
Every gardener knows that you can influence the soil, creating a fertile situation. Responsive organizations manage to create such a situation and let teams thrive. How do they do that?

First of all, autonomy is invested as much as possible with the employees in teams. People are more motivated when they can work together autonomously. That means a high degree of independence, decision-making authority and responsibility. The degree of autonomy or self-management can differ, depending on the culture and beliefs that live within the organization.

But isn’t it going to be chaos, as the broomstick metaphor predicts? On the contrary. Research into self-managing teams shows time and again that employees who determine how they do their work are more motivated, collaborate better and achieve better results. Provided there is clarity about the direction and goals. Creating that clarity, together with the team, is where the manager adds value.

The key here is trust. Trust is mutual, so you get what you give: people try their best not to shame it and are motivated by it.

Don’t control, create!
There is then still plenty to do for managers. But their role now is about creating the breeding ground for success – not about directing and controlling.

What are the ingredients? Clarity about the goals has already been mentioned – of course with sufficient support (70% of the teams do not agree with the goals of their management!). In addition: ensure that people come into their own! That means that they do what they want to do, what they can do and that they can focus on their work. Encourage good team dynamics (feedback). This means that every team is complete, and that it is clear to everyone what their role is and how it contributes to the goals of the team. Psychological safety is the most important ingredient here. This ensures that people share ideas, give their opinion, dare to make mistakes and celebrate successes together. This is the fertile ground for creativity and growth!

Give your team freedom in confidence.
Just like the gardener trusts nature to do its job. Will it always go well then? Of course not: usually something happens that is not foreseen. Which is exactly why you have a responsive team and where you can make the difference as a manager. By overseeing the situation and helping people to find an answer to (new) dilemmas together.

The world is far from predictable. And that’s one reason responsive teams are needed. Another reason is that people thrive when you tap into their intrinsic motivation and creativity. This requires managers who inspire employees with clear goals and then let them come into their own in a safe environment.

Purposeful change (part two)

A lot of research is done by organizations. For example, employee engagement or customer satisfaction. Employees often experience that too little is done with the results of such research. This is partly because the way of researching (asking questions) often makes it insufficiently clear:

  • what the status or progress is of a (change) plan or strategy
  • what should be done now.

Moreover, you want to know what possible frictions could hinder success! That’s why you want to know in particular:

  • what the status is of the priorities (maturity levels);
  • whether the number of priorities is too much, too little, or just right;
  • what the improvement levels are on each priority;
  • what the agreement is for them is among the people involved;
  • whether there is sufficient capacity to deal with the priorities.

Good research questions are therefore verifiable, factual and they contain maturity levels. Also, respondents can indicate what they want to achieve with each of the priorities (see part 1 of this blog). For example:

To what extent are your role, tasks and repsonsibilities clear?NowIn 3 months
Not or hardlyO
Discussed with my manager, not documentedO
Discussed with my manager, and documentedOO

A simplified example: management wants one or more teams to be more responsive. For that purpose, six priorities have been identified: three for each individual and three for each team. These priorities are presented in six different questions, with 3-5 options per question that differ in maturity:

To what extent are your objectives taken into account in your work?
To what extent is known which skills and talents you want to develop?
How do you deal with deadlines?

To what extent does the team have objectives?
Is there a clear division of roles, responsibilities and tasks?
Does the team celebrate successes?

Now suppose you want to realize the change plan in six months. Planning six priorities, like in this example, is of course relatively easy. But normally there are many more priorities, sometimes 20-30, which can also differ per team, department or country. But since not all priorities can be achieved at once, a choice has to be made. That is why we question everyone involved. Everybody? Certainly! Everyone is included in responsive organizations, and that yields a lot. A typical question in that context would then be, for example:

To what extent does your team work with objectives?NowIn 3 months
Not or they are not clearOO
Team objectives have been shared with the teamO
There are team objectives, and it has been assessed how my role contributes O

According to the respondent in this example, there are team goals and they are shared. He wants it to be clear in three months how his role contributes to the team goals – the highest maturity level in this example. This clearly has priority for this respondent.

Now everyone can indicate what they consider priorities and how much they should be improved. This leads to insights, such as:

  • how do individual employees prioritize?
  • to what extent is there support (among teams, teams with their managers)?
  • do teams take on too many priorities, or just enough?
  • where do we find “waste” – employees wanting to improve priorities more than necessary – or “shortage” – employees wanting to improve on certain priorities less than desirable?

And these insights arise at all levels: individual, teams, departments, organization. This also allows you to include everyone in the changes you want to initiate with your organization!

Sharing knowledge and working more focused
You now also know who has already reached a desired maturity level on a priority – because we ask for verifiable and factual behavior. Now you can stimulate people to share knowledge. Helping each other means not reinventing the wheel. This saves costs. But not only that: it has turned out that the approximately fifteen minutes that an employee spends on such a questionnaire frees up one to two weeks, because the work will be more focused!

How to lead and on what
By obtaining this information, management knows how and on what to lead. For example, in the event that a team agrees among themselves on the priorities but does not have sufficient support for the priorities of management, a different action is needed than if the team does agree with management. In the first case, there is a need for alignment. Maybe there is a conflict management doesn’t know about yet? In the latter case, everybody is clearly on the same songsheet, so let’s get going!

Of course you want real-time insight in the results, and you don’t want to wait months for these results to come in. Moreover, you don’t want (to wait for) extensive calculations to find out all these insights. Your organization will not be responsive! Here the algorithms of Artificial Intelligence platforms help, at all levels:

  • employees get a better grip on their priorities;
  • managers will have a better understanding which people come into their own or not. And what can be done about it;
  • the divisional director gains more accurate insight into why certain teams are on schedule or not and what intervention would be helpful.

In the example, the priorities for the next three months could be as follows:

  1. Everyone’s personal goals are discussed and documented (highest maturity level 3).
  2. Development of skills and talents of everyone are discussed with management (maturity level 2).
  3. Team objectives: clear and documented and for everyone it’s clear how their role contributes to the team objectives (maturity level 3).

Three of the six priorities have now been chosen. The dashboard confirms that there is support and that the amount of priorities is feasible with sufficient capacity within the team:

If more time is freed up through better focus, cooperation and knowledge sharing, then nothing stands in the way of accelerating the change program. It’s not surprising that responsive organizations often set the pace of change and innovations in their sector!

On Thursday, February 11, Moving As One is organizing the free webinar “Know How To Change Purposefully”. Participants learn how they can engage their teams or organization in change processes more effectively through better and faster surveys, with the help of Artificial Intelligence. Includes a live demo. More information can be found here.

Purposeful change (part one)

A global scientific study of more than 3,500 teams investigated the causes of frictions that hinder successful change (see also one of our earlier blogs on frictions that cause most change management initiatives to fail):

  • lack of support or agreement: 70% of teams disagree with management’s priorities. And 40% of the teams surveyed disagree among themselves.
  • lack of focus: more than 60% of the teams set too many priorities with either a high level of ambition for improvement (not realistic) or a low level of ambition (no focus). Only 3% of the set a manageable number of goals with a high level of ambition.
  • overexertion: in 80% of cases, the effort to be made is either too high for the people involved and/or not evenly distributed within the team.
  • insufficient capacity: in 50% of cases there is insufficient capacity to implement the change.

With this knowledge it is not surprising that most change projects fail or do not achieve their goals …

How would you know where you are, and what to do?
Let’s assume that you have taken all the steps to make your organization more responsive. And you have a strategic plan that is now being followed. How do you know how if your organization is progressing according to plan, or better? How do the teams score on the relevant factors of Agreement, Focus, Effort and Capacity? And is everybody aligned on what should be done next?

Ask everyone involved
All of them? Certainly! Moving As One means involving everyone in the motion you want to create! This is necessary for a committed and responsive organization. And it is easier and simpler than you think if the monitoring tool meets two conditions:

Use a real-time AI platform
Technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI) enable us to use valuable data and insights from research in real time. In clear dashboards, for all levels: individual, team, department, business unit, organization. Now everbody can really be “on the same songsheet”!

Unfortunately, too few companies are still aware of its possibilities.

“Amazon has brought the world same-day delivery, but we still have to wait three months for the results of the employee engagement survey.”

Amazon executive in ‘Big-4 or Big Tech:Who Drills First?
The Search for A.I. that drives automated consultancy.’

Quality of the questions
The quality of the questions determines the quality of the answers. Many organizational studies use the “Likert” scale, a so-called “psychometric” that charts people’s opinions or feelings. We all know them well, for example in a question or statement like this one:

My role, tasks and responsibilities are clear.


Opinions and feelings are not verifiable
The disadvantage of this kind of surveys is that opinions and feelings – although important – are not verifiable. Such questions are not about facts or actual behavior. While the causes of friction always concern specific priorities with which an organization wants to move forward. Moreover, you want to get people moving with concrete actions – and the right actions.

Verifiable questions
What if we twist the above question and base the answers on verifiable and factual behavior. For example:

To what extent are your role, tasks and responsibilities clear?
Not at allO
Discussed with my manager, not documentedO
Discussed with my manager, and documentedO

As you can see, a number of verifiable maturity levels are linked to the question. These will help to set priorities, create focus and involve all people in the team or organization. To this end, we add one more dimension: what is the situation now and what does the respondent want to realize with regard to this question in, for example, three months? Then the possible answers will look like this:

To what extent are your role, tasks and responsibilities clear?Today In 3 months
Not at allO
Discussed with my manager, not documentedO
Discussed with my manager, and documentedOO

Now suppose you have 20-25 questions (which takes appr. 15 minutes per respondent). They are about what you and your management team consider important in the organization. For example: psychological safety, individuals come into their own, there is enthusiasm for our organizational goals. Or whatever strategic area: agile working methods, following safety procedures, reducing working capital. Now you can have an overview of how your organization actually scores on these relevant aspects. You also see what people themselves would see as priorities, which gives you insight in what is needed to move forward with any team.

And that in turn will help you map out the support, focus and available capacity for change. Now your change program becomes concrete and possible frictions are known. E.g. because people think differently about priorities than management. Or because it becomes clear that there is insufficient capacity when certain changes are “pushed through”.

This immediately – remember to use online AI in realtime – makes it clear what the feasibility of the change plan is and what you need to do to increase it. Now you know what aspects in the priorities are covered well and which ones need more attention from management. The organization will be involved better in what needs to be done.

The next blog in this series – Purposeful change part two – explains how you can bring it all together.

How to get moving – part two

Responsive organizations emphasize the need that every individual comes into his or her own. The blog ‘How to get moving – part one’ describes that, if this is the case, people do what they want to do and which matches their skills and potential. Further to that, the organization encourages them to work with focus on their tasks and regular feedback lets them know how well they are doing (these are the four elements known to bring people in a state of flow). The next step in creating a responsive organization is to develop the right teams dynamics, suited to the vision, mission and culture of the company. These are the conditions that effective teams need:

Psychological safety
Multiple studies have shown that effective and high-performing teams have one thing in common: people feel comfortable in the team, accepted for who they are. They experience psychological safety as a member of the team. Practically this means that people dare to speak up, disagree, come up with ideas and be open about their mistakes, because they understand and feel that the team ‘has got their back’. As a result, people feel fulfilled being part of the team and the team develops a continuous learning mode, in which people thrive.

Systemic team needs
Next to psychological safety, there are other basic ‘needs’, the so-called ‘systemic needs’, for every team to perform well. These are:

  • clarity about the team’s purpose and objectives;
  • understanding and acknowledgement of the events and history relevant to the team;
  • the team is complete – all necessary roles and functions are in place;
  • there is clarity about the order in the team;
  • people in the team experience a good balance of ‘give and take‘ in the team.

Often, when teams are not functioning well, one or more of these systemic needs appear not to be in place. For example: if at some point in time, a manager has suddenly left without proper explanation from upper management, this may cause the team dynamics to suffer in a way that will give any succeeding manager very little chance for success (which is why the second systemic need is important).

If systemic needs are not met, they will be the root cause of symptoms like too many changes in team management or relatively high levels of sick leave. Resolving the root cause will help find solutions to these symptoms – fighting them does not. For example: if employee turnover is relatively high, companies may be tempted to initiate an employer branding campaign, with the purpose to increase employee retention. However, the root cause may be in one of the systemic needs. For example, there may be a lack of clarity in (team)purpose which causes a lack of motivation (the first systemic need). In such a case, the remedy is in engaging the people involved and develop a compelling purpose and clear (team)objectives. This would be the proper and lasting solution in this example. The envisioned employer branding campaign would not, because it would be initiated with the wrong motive, and hence risk to realize adverse effects.

Self-realization is an individual need. It is also a need among teams. Therefore, successful teams function in certain autonomy. Not only for this reason, there is also a practical reason: centralized decision making is in many cases no longer effective if an organization aims to be responsive. So a certain level team autonomy – up to complete self-organization – is necessary.

Therefore, effective teams have clear arrangements how they work together. These arrangements deal with the way decision making takes place, the work is divided etc. They also contain conflict resolution mechanisms.

Putting the conditions in place
The conditions as described here cannot be put in place overnight. First of all, the organization needs to define how they will work for them. Secondly, it is a continuous process that requires constant evaluation and adjustment, so the dynamics will fit the organization. In other words: the organization finds it own flow. Once the desired team dynamics are in place, they require continuous monitoring, feedback and interaction (coaching, adjustments), to ensure the teams’ performance remains at the desired levels.

How To Get Moving – part one

Moving As One is about setting up your organization for success and creating coherence so it will respond effectively to its environment.

Good vibes
Let’s assume you and your management team have defined the Vision and Mission for your organization. They describe why your company is in this world and what it aims to achieve. It is concise, inspiring and memorable. You have shared it with your organization and stakeholders and  the feedback is excellent: you notice that the new vision and mission create positive vibes. You have hit a sweet spot…now what?

How to get moving…
The question for many executives then, is how to get their organization moving and build a responsive organization. As with all walks of life, this starts with the first steps and these had better be right.

Make people thrive

The ‘how’ for creating a responsive organization starts at the level of each and every employee. As everybody in the organization is part of a team, alignment starts with clarity for every team: how do they contribute to the vision, mission and objectives of the organization. What is their primary function and what are its objectives? 

This seems obvious. Yet many teams experience a lack of clarity to this regard. That is because people often struggle to understand the bigger picture and how their team can deal with the challenges at hand. For example: in times of turmoil and changes, sales departments may struggle with the question what product-market combinations they should prioritize and why. If leadership doesn’t help to get that clear, the sales professionals will find it difficult to move as one and be effective. Here’s a role for leadership to help make that clear, so the team can make effective decisions.

People in the right place
In sports, one player who doesn’t play well can drag the team down. In companies it is the same, even though you can’t always notice it on the spot. So first you want to ensure that every individual comes into his or her own. That is because you want every person to contribute to the best of his/her abilities and potential. To do this, you need to know to what extent each person is set up right for their job. This comes down to answering these four questions:

  1. are people doing what they want to do? This is about aligning personal objectives and purpose with those of the team and the entire organization. People who are unhappy with what they are doing increase organizational friction and stress levels.
  2. are they doing what they can do? In other words, do their skills, abilities, and  potential match their work? You don’t want to challenge them too little, as it will bore them. Neither do you want to over-challenge them: it creates too much stress. People need to be challenged just right, so they are inspired and energized to stretch themselves.
  3. does the organization enable them to focus on their job. This seems an obvious statement, yet in many organizations people get distracted all the time. E.g. too much of a meeting-culture or constantly changing priorities prevent people from working with dedication.
  4. does everybody know how they are doing, and how they can progress and learn? Feedback should be continuous and not confined to an annual appraisal session. It should be motivational and constructive: motivate people with their achievements and inspire them to learn from things that have not gone according to plan. 

It’s a scientific fact that people come in a state of flow if they do what they want to do and can do, have the opportunity to dedicate themselves to it and understand how well they are doing. That’s why specifically these four questions need to be addressed.

Understand where every person is
If each person is ‘mapped’ along these parameters, e.g. by their team leaders, it automatically improves the interaction among your organization. That is because such mapping can only occur if people connect with and understand one another. You will find out whether people feel they are in the right place or not. It gives you an opportunity to understand how you can help them in their ambitions, aligned with the company vision and mission.

Team dynamics
Creating clarity for each team and assessing to what extent everyone is in the right role are the first and necessary steps in actively creating a responsive organization.

Once the teams are complete and everyone’s roles are clear, it’s time to look at the team dynamics. Which is what next week’s blog will be about. 

Workshop The Art of Moving As One

There is a growing need among business leaders for insights and inspiration on how their company could become Responsive and organize for success. Our Workshop ‘ The Art Of Moving As One’ does just that.

The Art Of Moving As One is a modular workshop that could be brought to your organization either as an interactive presentation of 60 – 90 minutes or as a full four-hour workshop that includes break-out sessions and sharing of insights and inspiration among the participants.

The program of the workshop will be tailored to your organization’s specific situation and needs. It takes the participants through the following topics:

Part I: Management As We Know It

  1. Conventional ways of organizing and managing. How do they work? What are their assumptions and starting points?
  2. Why and how have these ways of organizing and managing arisen? Here we deep-dive into the last 3,000 years of cultural history to explain how unconscious imprints influence us throughout our existence and build organizations built on fear, competition and impulses to control.
  3. Why are these conventional ways of organizing and managing less and less effective? What are the symptoms? Why do they cause employees to generally be non-engaged? How does it hamper change for the better?

Part II Why is change so difficult?
Roughly 70% of transformations fail. Whether we’d look at Mergers and Acquisitions, Cultural Change Programs, large ICT investments, Infrastructure projects – the majority fall dramatically short or fails all together. This part of the workshop explains why change is so hard – if not impossible – to manage. We do this on two levels: that of the individual and that of the group or team.

Part III How could we organize for success?

  1. This part starts with inspiring examples of organizations that have taken the leap and Have become Responsive. Organization that are coherent in their development, learning and growth, because the adapt almost organically to their environment while at the same time delivering according to their vision and purpose.
  2. What are their characteristics, how do they collaborate, decide, lead, resolve dilemmas?
  3. The foundation: vision, mission and unique potential. Although most organizations do have visions and missions, in most cases they are not used for what they are meant to and, hence, are not powerful: to provide a clear direction and strong energy to the stakeholders involved and to hold a compelling appeal to (future) employees and (prospective) customers. Unfortunately, the potential of authentic visions and unique missions is often underestimated which leads most of them to be no more than correct but generic statements that do not generate much of a stir among its stakeholders.
  4. How to build such an organization? This section discusses starting points and natural principles that help individuals and teams find their flow and come into their own. A straightforward model, peppered with surprising and inspiring examples.

The workshop holds many examples and case-studies (successes, failures, in- and out-of-the-box), history, society and science and has continuous interaction with the audience.

Knowing What To Do

As we discussed on the page ‘Get Moving’, there are specific factors that inhibit coherence in organizations. In order for our plans to succeed, we need to organize for success. This comes down to making sure there is alignment and focus. We also want to ensure that the required effort can be pulled off by the team.

How do we gain insight in these parameters to the extent that  everybody knows where they are now and what needs to be done next? In essence we want to have insights like:

  • ‘John has too much on his plate. We need to sit with him and understand how we can help him.’
  • ‘Team B is well aligned with the company objectives, but they are not aligned among themselves on their priorities. Let’s get together and resolve this first.’
  • ‘The Business Development Team is moving too fast on lead generation, since ICT isn’t ready for the CRM rollout, yet. We should  align them with ICT and alter their priorities for the coming quarter’.

Ask everyone involved
How do we arrive at these insights? We do so by asking all the people involved. By asking we engage people in the movement we want to create.

As an example, let us assume management wants to improve the  effectiveness of one or more teams. For the sake of this example, we use six priorities that management deems relevant. Three priorities for individuals to thrive in their team and three for team effectiveness:


  1. To what extent are your personal objectives taken into account in your work?
  2. To what extent is it known which skills and talents you want to develop?
  3. How do you deal with deadlines?


  1. To what extent does the team have objectives?
  2. To what extent is there a clear division of roles, responsibilities and tasks in the team?
  3. Does the team meet to discuss status and progress?

There either is a natural order in these priorities, or an order should be set. E.g. for the individuals we could agree that their personal objectives should be reckoned with first. On team level: without objectives there is no need to have a team. Et cetera.

For the purpose of engaging everybody involved, we ask everybody about these priorities. Since we want to gain specific insights for concrete actions, we ask for facts or verifiable behavior. In the questions we incorporate the maturity levels that we have in mind for the team and our organization. Last, but not least, we ask people for the status now and the status they want to have arrived at in the near future, for example six months from now.

A typical question would look like this example: 

Note that we can work with up to five maturity levels, however three appears to be the most practical number to work with.

According to the person in this example, there are team objectives and they have been shared. However, he thinks the team should step up in the coming six months by making it clear how his role contributes to the team objectives – the highest maturity level in this example.

Every person in the team can indicate where he or she is at, and where he/she wants to be six months from now (or two or three, depending on the rhythm you want the change to occur at). Now we can have an aggregate understanding where the individuals and team are and what needs to be done, for example: 

  • ‘Within the team there is little alignment on the priorities to work on.’
  • ‘Suzy has reached the highest maturity level in dealing with.’ deadlines. She can share her expertise with John, who is lagging.’
  • ‘There is clarity on the team objectives, yet the division of roles is not fully clear.’

How to lead and on what
By getting this information, leadership now gets a grip on how to lead and on what. For example if the team is well aligned on their priorities, but not in agreement with leadership’s priorities, leadership should take a different action compared to when the team does agree with them. In the latter case, there is no need to hold back: everybody is on the same song sheet so let’s move forward! In the former case there is a need for clear communication. Maybe there is a conflict that needs resolution!

Engage everyone involved 
In order to engage everyone, we actually ask everyone involved. All of them? Yes. But wouldn’t it be cumbersome and time consuming to get  all the answers and process them? Not if you use Artificial Intelligence, let algorithms do that work and present you the dashboard, on all levels of granularity – in real-time! 

The Praioritize platform, developed by our partner Transparency Lab,  does all that. It automates all the tasks involved in measuring and reporting on the change progress. You don’t need to wait until all responses are in and you don’t need people to process responses – the platform does all that in real-time, through 360º input from every person involved. The platform gives insight on levels of agreement and calculates priorities to work on for the organization, the teams and all individuals. Management of course ultimately decides on these priorities, and is supported by the platform in knowing whether the effort required is feasible and the capacity in the team is sufficient.

Knowing what to do…
In case of this example, the plan and priorities for Team A in the coming six months could now be assessed as follows:

  1. Personal objectives of everybody discussed and documented (highest maturity level 3).
  2. Development of skills and talents of everybody discussed with manager (maturity level 2).
  3. Team objectives: clear and documented and for everybody involved it is clear how their role contributes to the objectives (maturity level 3).

Note that of the six priorities dealt with in the questionnaire management has chosen three to focus on in the coming period. That is because, based on the algorithms of the Praioritize platform they know that this is a feasible amount of priorities (focus), the effort of which can be borne by the team and there is sufficient capacity within the team to pull this off.

Dashboards on every level
The platform provides dashboards on every level. This means that every individual has access to the information relevant to his/her performance (where am I, what do I need to do next?, who can help me?), every team leader has insight on team level and the board of management has a comprehensive overview, including insights on how teams are progressing together.