This pandemic has given us so many opportunities to pivot, to change, to resist change, to feel stuck or overwhelmed, to be surprised at the new things that are working out, and to be in awe about how small changes can become big shifts. Want to foster a culture that is open to regularly eliminating bottle necks and barriers to change? It’s easier than you think. Watch video to learn more.
Want to foster a culture that is open to regularly eliminating bottle necks and barriers to change?
Here’s an approach to consider. Foster a practice of continuous, small changes and call them experiments. I find the idea of experimenting so much more interesting, energizing, cheaper, faster, and innovative than figuring out a plan and following it. Especially now, when too much remains uncertain.
With an experimental mindset, you get to dream up a better outcome, design an experiment with a short time frame, test whether or not your experiment is moving you towards the better outcome, learn from it, and iterate quickly.
Consider applying the notion of experimenting to your leadership. Here are some stories.
Too many leaders would rather stick a hot poker in their eye than initiate a difficult conversation. Consider the better outcome you’re looking. Say you want Cindy to have a Can Do attitude for prospecting so she can increase her pipeline. You’ve avoided the conversation because you’re uncomfortable dealing with other people’s emotions and you’re worried about her reaction. The experiment is to test whether your worries are accurate or whether something else happened. After the conversation, you will have data about how to experiment with other potentially difficult conversations.
Another story. A leader of a software company noticed their new releases often had bugs. They brought out new releases every 2 weeks. A better outcome is no bugs. So the leader experimented and asked the team of designers to launch new releases every 3 days. They resisted. She then specifically asked them to experiment, reassuring the team that they would evaluate the results together in 3 weeks. Their resistance vanished and the experiment produced fewer bugs.
Another leader observed dismal participation in their weekly team meetings. He wanted more engagement. For 2 weeks, he sent out a thought-provoking question a few days before their meeting so his team could prepare answers. Participation went up a little bit. So he iterated. On week 3, he sent out the question, “What are the most pressing questions you think this team needs to address?” He put pairs into breakout rooms to discuss their answers before sharing in the larger group. There was more participation but lacklustre energy.
He iterated again. He announced to the group that he was experimenting with how to increase their engagement. Then he paired people up and assigned each pair a meeting where they would teach the group something that could address one of the most pressing questions. Engagement and participation improved significantly, as have sales.
One last story. I am on a Not-for-Profit Board. When any new idea with financial implications comes up, the first and loudest voices are from our vigilant Finance Committee, saying “We can’t afford it.” This kills any kind of meaningful conversation and stifles innovation. A better outcome is wrestling with the issue first to see if it makes sense. If it does make sense, then let’s get creative about how to fund it. Our experiment about addressing financial concerns at the end of the conversation, rather than at the beginning, is working. We are becoming more innovative and daring.
Experimentation relies on the belief that improvement is incremental, a series of small steps. And because the experimental framework itself suggests that we don’t know the outcome of an experiment in advance, we are open to trying new things and being curious about the results.
Through your commitment to experimentation, and to using the word “experiment” as you try new things, you can lead your organization or team on the best path to improved results, without having to aim for the stratosphere. Start experimenting! You can do it.