Panellists:

Hosted by: Niall McShane from Beaker & Flint


Reading List

Books

Articles

Resources Referenced

Key Takeaways

Peter Lam

  • You can’t get anywhere without great people. However when you’re starting, leading or trying to transform - there’s a few reasons why you’d start with process over people.
  • Usually top tier leadership is rewarded and recognised on delivery. Delivery is about getting stuff to ‘done’, and happy people don’t necessarily deliver more work.
  • If we start with the idea that people are intrinsically doing their best work, and things aren’t still working, you need to look at what is holding them back (what levers, or mechanisms are keeping them from performing).

Tim Stroh

  • If procedures aren’t driven by their own need to change, you can still fail. You can achieve short term change by process changes, but mid-to-long term change needs strategy to thrive and be resilient over time.

Anju Gahlawat

  • Investment in the people that are already there is critical, along with strategy. Empowering teams and people to go ahead with their own ideas, creatives the adaptivity and flexibility that will see companies survive.

Susan Harry

  • But how do you actually do strategy, or change process? They’re driven by people. These top-down elements are usually less concerned with relationships and cognisant of the people that have to do their best work within them.
  • Thinking back to a successful project you’ve been a part of lately, how much of that was successful due to technical knowledge, and how much of that was due to an emotional intelligence, or relationships? Feeling connected to a cause or your team, or feeling supported by those around you?
  • Reflecting on your own performance across different roles, how much of your own fluctuation was down to process, or the respect and care for you as a human?
  • Research shows (by Google and Amy Edmondson) that where people are psychologically safe to express their opinions and change the mechanics of the organisation, perform better than those that don’t.
  • Our brains work better when we’re psychologically safe and positively engaged. When we’re in a threatened state, we underperform and we don’t make good decisions.

Anju Gahlawat

  • Persistence is a really important thing to add to that. It’s not enough to invest in people occasionally - it needs to be a long-term commitment.
  • What we are saying and what we are exhibiting needs to be the same, otherwise it creates a culture of distrust.

Tim Stroh

  • One thing that erodes psychological safety is the inability to impact organisational direction or effective decisions.
  • Uncertainty is accelerating in the world around us. Some people argue that this means we can’t create a long-term strategy. I argue we can’t have a long-term plan, but we absolutely can have a long-term strategy that gives people a bedrock to make informed decisions on, contributing to psychological safety.

Peter Lam

  • If you’re a leader and you aren’t constantly looking for research on high-performing teams, you should maybe question your commitment to serving your team best.
  • You need to build capability and you need to build psychological safety - but it takes time. The fastest way to create dramatic change is to create mechanisms that are based on deep feedback from teams, that address the things that hold them back.
  • You start there first, but you don’t stop. You then go onto build capability and a strong, resilient culture.

Susan Harry

  • We’re in heated agreement!
  • The difference in emphasis is in whether we can achieve good results without taking into consideration the brain based research (the things that help us to work effectively) or just focussing on a process only approach.

Tim Stroh

  • If i was going to advocate one starting point procedure to straddle the fence, it’d be to build a learning culture. And it’s about four things: learning and identifying lessons, being able to verify them, sharing with others and running experiments so we’re not operating in the same space.

Anju Gahlawat

  • We want to avoid dry delivery. You need a combination of people and process. You need to connect people to their why and the big picture.

In-Call Poll

In-Call Questions

Do you believe an organisation can be so broken that a “reset” is required? Or with strong leadership, can any organisation be turned around?

  • Tim: I am passionate that all organisations can be improved, but there are conditions. If a tightly held company where there is no opportunity to change the leadership then it’s a monumental task to open minds and create real change. There are many examples where key leadership teams are on board that the culture is toxic and change can be made.
  • Niall: The difference I’ve noticed is the permission to coach and having an invitation in to help fix, and having sponsorship to do so. This signals to me that they’re serious about change and not just trying something tactical to achieve cosmetic change.
  • Peter: I’d love to use the example of the Wallabies - back when they were losing quite badly to many countries. In a training session, the coach asked why they’d left the balls on the field. The players assumed the ball boy would pick them up, and the coach said: ‘No, you will”. This underpinned a change of taking responsibility that led a huge culture change within the team. Leaders failing to recognise their ability to create change, and being in the way of change, is a real problem.
  • Susan: One of the first things in getting leaders to recognise they’re part of the problem is to join, before you differentiate. You don’t just walk in and point the finger. You go in with curiosity about why the system is working in the way it is, and what reasons have shaped that. Avoiding a defence response is where we want to start.

How much importance is really given to psychological safety in the new world where the projects are delivered in quick succession in 3-6 months with most of the resources being rotational (or contract to be more precise). And how can we give more?

  • Tim: In many organisations, insufficient is. Ironically, the shorter the time frame, usually the more important it is too. There are interesting studies around flight crews, or any high-stress environments (particularly where lives are on the line) about where this is paramount.
  • Susan: How much safety can be created in a crisis? We’ve seen a lot of safety created by many organisations in the last few months during the pandemic. One of the challenges is that we don’t recognise psychological safety is critical to results and outcomes. We see it as a nice to have and something that is inherently valuable on it’s own, not in relation to hard outcomes. Building relational capacity is where this is so important to focus on.
  • Tim: People assume that psychological safety is about all being in agreeance or agreeable. It’s not about that at all. It’s about being safe to encounter other opinions and work through them.
  • Anju: If you imagine sitting at a table, it’s about sitting on the same side, not opposite, to see things together and solve things together. IMO introducing incentives for agile teams are mostly frowned upon in the agile community. How do you go about creating a reward & recognition system at team-level in the org different from the traditional approach?
  • Peter: There’s some research that suggests that there is little correlation between financial reward and performance. But when team level rewards are given out (and tied to customer results and outcomes) over individual rewards, I’ve seen it work really well.
  • Niall: I really like the OKR construct but how it’s implemented is so crucial - it’s not just about what you achieved but how you got there.
  • Susan: It’s something that’s a real challenge with many organisations. People are wondering how do we become a genuine team rather than just needing to work by necessity. Research suggests status based rewards (recognition and acknowledgement) can be effective.