Skip to main content

What is your Engagement Model?

What must an Agile Transformation initiative have to be reasonably assured of success?

We "change agents" or Agilist, or Organizational Development peeps, or Trouble Makers, or Agile Coaches have been at this for nearly two decades now... one would think we have some idea of the prerequisites for one of these Transformations to actually occur.  Wonder if eight Agile Coaches in a group could come up with ONE list of necessary and sufficient conditions - an interesting experiment.  Will that list contain an "engagement model"?  I venture to assert that it will not.  When asked very few Agile Coaches, thought leaders, and change agents mention much about employee engagement in their plans, models, and "frameworks".  Stop and ask yourselves ... why?

Now good Organizational Development peeps know this is crucial, so I purposely omitted them from that list to query.

One, central very important aspect of your Agile Transformation will be your Engagement model.  

Since we know from the Agile Manifesto that Agility is all about people and their interactions, an agile transformation will be constrained by the level of personal engagement your workforce perceives they have with this initiative.  It better be extraordinarily high (top 10%).

If you cannot name your Engagement Model - it doesn't mean you don't have one.  It just means that you have no way to intelligently discuss and inquire about behaviors that you observe that appear to fall into the grouping of ... "but they said they wanted X, they just didn't do anything to acquire the knowledge or appear to want real X."  What is a thing that cannot be named?  It surely exist... it's just not easily discussed.  And since it exist - likely it is functioning quite well, unbenounced to you.

There is a high certainty that the unlabeled engagement model is a well functional status quo maintainment system.  The Gallup article by Jim Hater "Dismal Employee Engagement Is a Sign of Global Mismanagement", states:
In a nutshell, this global engagement pattern provides evidence that how performance is managed, and specifically how people are being developed, is misfiring. Most of modern business relies on annual reviews to provide feedback and evaluate performance. And yet the new workforce is looking for things like purpose, opportunities to develop, ongoing conversations, a coach rather than a boss, and a manager who leverages their strengths rather than obsessing over their weaknesses. They see work and life as interconnected, and they want their job to be a part of their identity.
While I see this as very core to the issue - his concussing will be that performance management will solve the problem.

Some interesting and shocking stats from Gallup:
According to our recent State of the Global Workplace report, 85% of employees are not engaged or actively disengaged at work. The economic consequences of this global "norm" are approximately $7 trillion in lost productivity. Eighteen percent are actively disengaged in their work and workplace, while 67% are "not engaged." This latter group makes up the majority of the workforce -- they are not your worst performers, but they are indifferent to your organization. They give you their time, but not their best effort nor their best ideas. They likely come to work wanting to make a difference --- but nobody has ever asked them to use their strengths to make the organization better.
When we get performance management right, engagement will naturally rise. 


Is this analysis a cart and horse locating problem?  Do we need better diagrams of which comes first?

Performance management is a trailing tool (not a leading indicator or lever).  Engagement comes well before performance management takes place.

How far back do we need to search to find that we already know the reasons for this misrepresentation of work motivation?  I'll refer you to the 1960s and Hertzberg's Two-Factor Theory of workplace motivations and "hygiene" - a term that captures all that performance management techniques are designed to measure and influence.

I noticed at the recent Consciousness Capitalism  conference 2018 in Dallas, TX; this model of organizational development toward a higher purpose; note where Transformation is in the model.  Does an organization need a minimal set of capabilities to successfully attempt an Agile Transformation?  I ponder this a lot...

Have you been in a large organization where you wished you had be recruited like the college level interns, and given the 3-6 months of professional development and relationship building opportunities that the interns received?  Our large organizations know how to engage employees - and they decide not to engage.  Is it any wonder that employees are hesitant to respond favorably to engagement surveys?

Are you in the beginning (or the nth reboot) of an Agile Transformation?

Not long ago, I started a gig with a mega corporation, well know in the Agile/Lean lore and history.  It was about a year after their change (the announcement of an attempt to adopt "Agile" ways).  The transformation was challenged.  A well respected colleague asked me what the engagement model was.  Reflecting... I had nothing, there was no talk, plan, model of how to engage the typical worker in the change that Executives had envisioned and hired SInc to perform.  I responded we don't have one.  He replied that we do... we just haven't payed any attention to it... most organizational change initiatives skip over this step... in a hurry to show action.  And in that hast, set the foundations for a poor first impression for those workers that are not very sure if they want to get on board, or hunker down.  The term for this ad-hoc - unaware method of engagement is imposition.  It is the typical, default, engagement model for any command and control organization.  Commonly used (exploited) by the Agile Industrial Complex to achieve their goals.

To validate this hypothesis - I reflected.  The division I was working with had been "invited" to a week long training, on the schedule for a month, and a few days before the training, said NO WAY.  We cannot take a week of all of our peoples time to do training.  The training was imposed - but the division leaders refused to allow anyone to participate.  This resulted in ZERO engagement.

So if you recognize this example - case study - as similar to your own situation... what might you do, next?
Could it be too late to create an engagement model?  Well, before you mutate the Performance Review Process so that engagement naturally rises find out.  Yes, it could be too late... how would we know?  Ask.  If the people that are most effected by the change are engaged and interested, it is NOT too late.  If they are disengaged (determine this) - it's too late.

If it is not too late... then work on that aspect of organizational change urgently.

Hierarchy of Needs & Engagement


Here are a few ideas:

OpenSpace Agility's Engagement model - steal this idea.
Success with Agile - What they don't tell you.
Invitation Based Changed

Or you could go study Organizational Leadership and Change models in the halls of academia.  They have know of this issues we are facing within our Agile community for decades, academics have studied and written about it for years.  It is captured well in the 30 or so books of John Kotter's Leading Change books.

See Also:
Gallup:  Dismal Employee Engagement is a Sign of Global Mismanagement by Jim Harter
Motivation and the Hertzberg Two-Factor Theory
Interesting Motivation links
HBR  - Does Money Really Affect Motivation? A Review of the Research by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic
Majority of American Workers Not Engaged in Their Jobs Gallup
Post a Comment

Most Popular on Agile Complexification Inverter

David's notes on "Drive"

- "The Surprising Truth about what Motivates Us" by Dan Pink.

Amazon book order
What I notice first and really like is the subtle implication in the shadow of the "i" in Drive is a person taking one step in a running motion.  This brings to mind the old saying - "there is no I in TEAM".  There is however a ME in TEAM, and there is an I in DRIVE.  And when one talks about motivating a team or an individual - it all starts with - what's in it for me.

Introduction

Pink starts with an early experiment with monkeys on problem solving.  Seems the monkeys were much better problem solver's than the scientist thought they should be.  This 1949 experiment is explained as the early understanding of motivation.  At the time there were two main drivers of motivation:  biological & external influences.  Harry F. Harlow defines the third drive in a novel theory:  "The performance of the task provided intrinsic reward" (p 3).  This is Dan Pink's M…

Exercise:: Definition of Ready & Done

Assuming you are on a Scrum/Agile software development team, then one of the first 'working agreements' you have created with your team is a 'Definition of Done' - right?



Oh - you don't have a definition of what aspects a user story that is done will exhibit. Well then, you need to create a list of attributes of a done story. One way to do this would be to Google 'definition of done' ... here let me do that for you: http://tinyurl.com/3br9o6n. Then you could just use someone else's definition - there DONE!

But that would be cheating -- right? It is not the artifact - the list of done criteria, that is important for your team - it is the act of doing it for themselves, it is that shared understanding of having a debate over some of the gray areas that create a true working agreement. If some of the team believes that a story being done means that there can be no bugs found in the code - but some believe that there can be some minor issues - well, …

Team Performance Model - by Drexler and Sibbet

Many of you have all heard of the Tuckman model of team dynamics (Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing).  It was created in 1966 and has become the most popular model for describing team behavior.  Is it time to level up in your mental model of team dynamics?  Are you ready for a richer more functional model?



Introducing the Team Performance Model by Drexler and Sibbet



Orientation - Why am I here?
"Orientation is about understanding the purpose of a team and assessing what it will mean to be a member.  you need to understand the reason the team exist, what will be expected of you and how you will benefit from membership.  In a new team, these are individual concerns, because the group is only potentially a team.  that is why these concerns are illustrated as occurring in your imagination at an intuitive level.  As a team leader it is important to provide time and space for people to answer these internal questions themselves."

Keys to when Orientation challenges are resolve…

Situational Leadership II Model & Theory

Have you ever been in a situation where you thought the technique needed to move forward was one thing, yet the person leading (your leader) assumed something else was what was needed?  Did you feel misaligned, unheard, marginalized?  Would you believe that 54% of all leaders only use ONE style of leadership - regardless of the situation?  Does that one style of leading work well for the many levels of development we see on a team?

Perhaps your team should investigate one of the most widely used leadership models in the world ("used to train over 5 million managers in the world’s most respected organizations").  And it's not just for the leaders.  The training is most effective when everyone receives the training and uses the model.  The use of a ubiquitous language on your team is a collaboration accelerator.  When everyone is using the same mental model, speaking the same vernacular hours of frustration and discussion may be curtailed, and alignment achieved, outcomes …

Refactoring - examples from the book

Martin Fowler's book Refactoring:  Improving the Design of Existing Code has a simple example of a movie rental domain model, which he refactors from a less than ideal object-oriented design to a more robust OO design. Included in this Refactoring_FirstExample.zip Zip file are the Java source code files of the Movie, Rental, and Customer classes. Along with a JUnit CustomerTest class. Using these example source files you too can follow along with the refactoring that Fowler presents in the first few chapters of his book.