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From time to time everyone will ask themselves whether what they do every day is really fulfilled. Or if the skills are somewhere else and they are not yet exploited. This is often followed by the thought of further exploring when time permits. Now either the idea of a sabbatical can occur or the displacement mode is switched on - until the next vacation.....
Sure, who likes to reflect when trapped in the daily routine. And yet there is an entertaining and interesting possibility to rediscover or get confirmed your own skills. The Life/Work Planning (LWP).
Admittedly, it’s not a new method. But let's be honest - what is really fundamentally new today. It is more and more about transforming existing methods into the current situation. And this can also be achieved with LWP.
By definition, the LWP is mainly called a job search method. But it can do so much more, because it is about getting to know yourself better, reassessing or confirming yourself. And that can and certainly is valuable in all stages of life. The LWP is all about finding an environment in which you feel comfortable, can contribute appropriately and meet people with whom you can develop further. It can also help individuals and teams in agile working environment. Especially, when new heterogenous teams must be built or new things must be tested, it can be helpful to review and adapt own individual skills.
Thus the methodology is suitable for all people who would like to re-focus themselves, are looking for a voluntary position, would like to build up a new network - or are simply curious about new things.
1. What can I do, what do I want?
2. Where do I want to get involved? Where can I find like-minded people?
3. How can I link 1 and 2 to achieve my goal?
In the first step it can help to sit down with people who you don’t know. For example, tell a story from your life in which you had a objectives and let people play back which skills you unconsciously used in this situation to solve it. You will be amazed at which skills will be discovered.
Then, in the second step, consider which environment would fit to your skills. Do research, talk to friends, family, foreigners, in order to use their assessment and experience.
In the third step you search for like-minded people in the selected organisations, companies and networks. The lowest common denominator here is the entry into a conversation, possibly at events where you get to know each other or through recommendations. And so you learn more about the environment in the conversation and can assess whether it really fits in with your own planning.
These are not new ideas, you might say. True, as already said - I always find it exciting to adapt existing methods and strategies to the current situation - and to think outside the box. And so you can also use LWP beyond the actual definition. And to be honest - especially the 1st step can open your eyes and help you to try something new. And it can create a comfortable situation in heterogenous teams to also add individual strengths and skills.
Of course, this way does not lead to paradise either, compromises always have to be made, but the less the better, right?
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Working agile, overcoming traditional project and organizational hierarchies seem to be cool, especially for youngsters. Assumed freedom for independently picked tasks and self-organized implementation. No one is allowed to delegate or to set boundaries, everyone is responsible to help each other to improve and self-development. The last is mainly requested from senior professionals.
Quite often older team members are being perceived as unable to work in agile environments since it’s been considered that they are usually coming from waterfall organizations. Hence, they should/sometimes would like to sense intuitively how teams are working today, in addition they should set good examples.
So far, so good. But, is it really true? I don’t think so. Agile does neither mean absolute freedom, nor missing hierarchies, nor must be learned by only senior people while younger are living already agile. Every generation must build agile skills, preferably in teams. Failure acceptance on the path of self-development is part of the game. Each individual is responsible for development, there is no way to wait for others.
Let’s have a look into the agile values, what they are telling us.
Be open and curious for the New, the Unexpected. This also requires to handle unplanned topics that never came up before. This can be more easy for younger people as they might bring less experiences from similar situations than the more senior. However, being open is mainly based on individual characters which is part of every generation.
Openness leads to courage, the next agile value.
Either you are courageous or not, predisposition can be helpful at least. You can learn to be courageous: the more positive experiences made in uncomfortable situations where you needed to stretch your personal limits, the easier it will become to be open for any new situation and fear to lose control will be reduced. This is verifiable independent of age and generation.
Once this is confirmed, the next value follows consequently.
Every interaction in a society, a team or 1-to-1 requires respect. Respect for new ideas, different thoughts and mainly that the other is there to make a difference. Also this attitude is totally independent of age but mainly formed by education and society or community. This makes this value that complex, because we can’t change where we are coming from but only our individual behavior and view on others.
Changing yourself refers to the next value.
The primary goal of an agile environment is to add value. Focus is one tactic to succeed, focus on what is needed in a particular situation. Adding value to a team, requires that you predominantly need to know yourself. Hence the need to focus on you, your attitudes, your knowledge and goals. Usually, it’s said that older people are more patient which might be helpful for self-reflection. However, I met many people of different ages with high self-confidence in agile environments who also rate others, unfortunately very often as worse and less „perfect “.
All of you experienced in agile management will now raise your brow since this behavior is not at all following agile. Nothing is final/perfect in an agile environment – all is in change to stay flexible for the new, unexpected.
And here is where the 5th value joins the game.
Agility assumes that everyone is committed to provide the best solution. Does this only relate to agile businesses? Every individual is usually committed to the best result, even for creating an adorable birthday cake. In complex environments it’s just more visible when someone in a team is bringing less commitment. Everyone is required to fully take responsibility for the task chosen so that the final product can be ready and usable. If there is only one in the team less committed, the entire team will suffer. Taking responsibility, so being committed, leads also in detecting individual failures and the actions needed for improvement. Missing success is not always the others‘ fault but often a bit by each individual in the team – sometimes more, sometimes less. See also respect and focus.
In a time where globalization is still under process and new, digital work is being created, it’s essential to at least consider new working models. Agile management will cause disruption. Hence, it’s recommended to take small and gently steps toward it. At first hand, you need to understand the current situation of a company but even more about each individual in the organization. There are many helping tools, such as the Agile Affinity Model which uncovers unconscious assessments and concerns to be discussed amongst the team.
The results should be prioritized and broken into snippets for immediate implementation by small teams. Scrum, Kanban or other agile methods can provide helpful frameworks. However, the organizations’ characteristics will define which of those methods might fit the best. Some questions can help to identify: Are your processes already transparent? Are there already some agile methods in place? How deep is the agile knowledge? How fast can value be produced? You can either get first insights either online or by such a service provider.
I tried to use open ratios, since every society consists of agile people but also those who prefer living in pre-given environments. I don’t believe in right or wrong, every individual should have the freedom to choose how to live. Only than sustainable, healthy and successful societies will remain. Every individual can learn from each other, independent of age, race, gender, etc.
Following these thoughts, I believe that also so called agile companies should randomly review their agile health related to the agile values. Agility also means to learn from each other, accept news/new people and to consistently work on improvements. And this relates to youngster as well as to oldies.
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It’s often been said, especially in a digital and agile working environment, that leaders of today need specific skills.
However, I wonder if soft skills should only be expected from leaders? Or if these soft skills have even been required in past projects?
An article by Computerwoche listed 11 Soft Skills considered as most relevant for HR professionals. This list is a result of a research that had been conducted by the writers Gabriele Peters-Kühlinger and John Friedel while working on their new book "Soft Skills".
It is my opinion that the following soft skills build upon each other – independent of any working environment. Individuals who know their strengths and weaknesses have many attributes. They can empathize with others, are interested in new things, share very openly, enjoy engagement with teams, support others development, deliver constructive criticism for self-development, analyze conflicts for pragmatic solutions, facilitate control of emotions and finally convince others.
Knowing yourself, your strengths and weaknesses. This enables you to notice strengths and weaknesses of others, leave them as they are without assessing or trying to change them.
Empathize with and understand emotions of others, their thoughts and their circumstances only enables sustainable personal interactions. This requires that you know your own emotions and handle them consciously. Empathy can help to find consensus with others.
Someone on who you can really rely on in critical and/or confidential situations. A reliable person is taking responsibility, pushes others and is true to his/her words. This is an essential must-have to build a team and develop others.
Courage to leave old ways and review new methods, being open to all perspectives and interested for others contributions. Interest promotes creativity.
This competence drives clear and targeted communications that should always be respectful and open-minded for the exchange of knowledge and self-development.
Working in a team always requires constructive engagement, respect, tolerance, motivation and appreciation. The team and the common goal are always the first priorities, however everything can be questioned and explored.
Criticism – give fair, factual and respectful at all times, ability to accept criticism as well. Often such teams which share feedback and criticism, are really successful and self-developing.
Fast grasping of situations to react accordingly. This competence helps to quickly react to challenges, identify solutions and together, with the team, adopt the project strategy and goal, if appropriate. The analytical competence can also help to solve emotional situations.
Control your emotions and keep focus on facts rather than get controlled by feelings. Only those who are self-controlled can negotiate and convince pragmatically.
Accepting others’ rationales and helping them find compromises to solve conflicts. Team, project and eventually every involved individual will benefit from this competence.
To be convincing rather than forcing. Reliability, empathy and self-confidence drive innovations, especially for those new ideas that can’t be based on any experiences yet.
Let’s now see if the 5 Agile Values (Courage, Respect, Commitment, Openness, Focus), can be derived from these 11 Soft Skills:
Soft Skills consist of all competencies, skills and qualifications that can’t be gathered by any professional education. They rather relate to personal competencies, social competencies and methodical competencies. Plainly, a summation of talents, character, personal education, circumstances and experiences.
Independent of any working environment and/or size of projects or teams – Soft Skills are required everywhere. Teams can only be successful and sustainable when everyone is bringing those Soft Skills – whether in either agile and waterfall projects.
Going back to the initially listed requirements for leaders, it’s pretty clear that only those living such Soft Skills naturally will become the best leaders. What do you think?