What else can I do to include the middle managers in this agile transformation journey?

Topic : “What else can I do to include the middle managers in this agile transformation journey?”
Date : 2020-09-08
Coach : Ramesh
Client : Wan

Video : https://youtu.be/aVBty9cZI84

Transcript :

0:04 [coach]
Good morning, Wan.

0.05 [client] Good morning.

0:09 [coach] Firstly, thank you for the honor of allowing me to coach you today.

0:14 [client]
Thank you. Thank you for the opportunity.

0:18 [coach]
So, I would like to make a recording of our conversation, purely for learning purposes, Do I have your permission?

0:29 [client]
Yes. I’m alright.

0:34 [coach] Okay, thank you so much. So Wan, what would you like to talk about today?

0:41 [client]
I would like to talk about an issue at work. I have a client who would like to adopt Agile. The CEO is very enthusiastic. I can understand why. I think, in this COVID-19 I think everybody understand or agree that we all have to be more agile. And, the teams, when I talk to them, they are also feel excited. And I think I can understand why. They are given more opportunity to make decisions and work together. And the issue I have is when I talk to the middle management, team leaders, line manager, they have different response. So, I would like to talk about this challenge in this conversation.

1:46 [coach] Hmm, okay. Nice. See, thanks for sharing that Wan. So, what I heard you say is that you are currently engaged with the client who has a direction from the CEO to become more agile. Your discussion with the teams is pointing to enthusiasm and excitement about direction. While your discussion with the middle management, you described as different. When you said different response, what does that mean?

2:40 [client]
I mean, when I talk to them, their response seems to be like, lukewarm or muted. Like they are not disagreeing with the direction and I feel that enthusiasm is not really strong, It is kind of like lukewarm response, Like yeah, it is ok. The direction is from the CEO. So I guess we just have to do it. So this is what I sense.

3:07 [coach]
Okay. And when you sense this, lukewarm response, what is, what is coming up for you?

3:31 [client]
It actually ring a bell. it’s a warning bell in me because based on my past experience, if some of the stakeholder or the participant are not enthusiastic, so, the journey of transformation or embracing Agile will be more challenging. So, I think once I realized the response from the middle managers are less than enthusiastic, so, I know that this will be a challenge for me.

4:09 [coach] I see. Okay. And when you say challenge, what, what does that mean?

4:20 [client]
I think challenge in two aspects. One is, in terms of the client experience. There will be more discussion required because I think, especially the middle managers are the one who work with the teams day to day right. So, from my experience, I definitely need their buy-in, right. So this is one challenge. Second challenge is, of course, for me, as a change agent and I need to engage them to understand what’s behind their lukewarm response. I don’t have a clue yet. So there is another challenge for me, as a change agent,

5:19 [coach] Um, I see. So, you mentioned your need their buy-in. And you also mentioned that you need to understand their response. What would you like to focus on for today’s conversation, Wan?

5:50 [client]
I think I would like to have some idea on how to engage them. My question will be what else can I do to include the middle managers in this agile transformation journey?

6:15 [coach]
So, what you said was what else can I do to include the middle managers on this journey?

6:31 [client] Yeah.

6:32 [coach] Okay. I see. And just, just so that we are clear about what the outcome will be for our conversation. Um, when you say “what else”, what do you mean by that?

6:57 [client]
So far, I have one to one talk to some of the middle manager. So I’m thinking what I might not, what I have not tried. What are some of the new idea or step I should try to engage them, besides one to one conversation ?

7:22 [coach]
Okay, I see. So it’s new ideas that you are looking to walk away from during our conversation?

7:32 [client] Yes.

7:33 [coach] Okay. I see. Okay. So coming back to your, this statement of focus for today’s conversation, right. You mentioned “what else can I do to include the middle managers in this journey”. Your use of the word “include”, I’m curious, why do you use the word “include”?

8:10 [client]
[Deep breath] I used “include” , mainly because I am an external consultant, right. So they have to own the journey and outcome. And I think it’s very crucial they are part of it because in the end after my engagement, they will carry on with the journey and any adjustment. So their buy-in is very important and including them is one of the way I think I could try, right.

8:54 [coach]
Okay. So when you say “include”, you’re really talking about gaining their commitment. Are you looking at them as being a member of the team? I know them to lead the team. What, what are you looking at them to play?

9:35 [client]
What I’m hopefully, they are more … besides being more enthusiastic. Yes, I think if they are part of the transformation team will be great because I think it will take up your free time, on top of what they already have as part of their role. I think the least is they will be a very strong supporter, if not a member of the transformation team.

10:06 [coach]
Hmm. So you’re looking for enthusiasm. You’re looking for commitment. And you’re looking for support.

10:24 [client]
Yes.

10:27 [coach]
Okay. And I’m also curious about the population of this middle management. How many are you dealing with ?

10:30 [client] So far based on what I gather, there are about seven to eight. I classify all the people with “manager” title as middle manager and also team leader as long as you are leading a few people, I consider you as part of the middle management. So far I know about seven to eight people yeah, So far I have talked to about two of them and that’s why I gather, there’s risk factors for me to consider.

11:22 [coach]
Yeah. Okay. So as you’re describing this scenario, an image came to my mind, Wan. Do you mind if I share that image with you?

11:47 [client]
Sure. Sure.

11:49 [coach]
I have this image of you tending a garden and in your garden, you have various kinds of plants and trees. Some are fruit trees, some are flowering trees, some are just weeds and plants, random plants. And so as a, as a tender of this garden, you have to treat the different plants differently. And, you know, your objective is to obviously maximize the beauty and output from your garden.

12:42 [client]
Yeah, I think you’re right that in this engagement, I try to be more of a gardener than an expert. In gardening,
I realized that if I can get buy in from the… or maybe if I can get the plants in the ecosystem to help each other, then the result that I hope to achieve will be more sustainable. For example, if taller plant can provide shades to the smaller plant, then I don’t need to build a structure or structure to support the flowering plant or maybe weed or grasses. So I think this, I think, as a gardener, hopefully I create some kind of environment for the ecosystem to thrive. And I think in this case, the outcome will be adopting Agile.

13:56 [coach]
So positioning yourself as that gardener. I’m curious though, Wan, what belief about your different plants and trees, may you want to address?

14:20 [client]
[Deep breath] I think the obvious belief or that I need to have is they are capable and then for the line manager I think I need to be hopeful and enthusiastic. I think with that intention, I think, I will have a better chance in engaging them.

15:03 [coach]
So, in your garden, are you expecting all the plants and trees to perform as you expect them to?

15:15 [client]
I think based on my past experience, having everyone very enthusiastic will be a tall order and that is why based on my experience, if I can get the support from line manager or middle manager then my chance of success will be much higher.

15:40 [coach]
Right. But as we said, the seven or eight middle managers and line managers are all not the same plant right or not the same tree right?

15:45 [client] Yes. They have different roles.

15:46 [coach] Yes, the plants have different kind of characteristics, right. So, what, what’s coming up for you as a gardener then?

16:05 [client]
I think as we talk about the gardening, I can imagine because they are different. First thing is
I can’t use one strategy for all of them, for example. Tell them Agile is the best thing in the world, the best thing ever and they all should adopt, right? And it is this one-size-fits-all definitely won’t work, because I’m sure they have different preferences or different concerns. So, one thing I definitely need to have is to have extend one to one conversation to more people. To find out where is the common ground, where they all have the same needs and also listen more carefully, where are their constraints, or maybe concerns. Like gardener, right and we can’t use the same fertilizer for different plants, right. It will be my foolish thinking that I can use the same “fertilizer” for everyone.

[long pause]

17:31 [coach]
Yeah, yeah. So what are you learning so far from our conversation, Wan?

17:38 [client]
I think when I realized that I’m very enthusiastic about this thing called Agile and enthusiasm is great. I would think that looking for the other party perspective will be better. Because I think, as I going through this conversation I realized that, by engaging, like my future partner in this way I think I should … have more, yeah, maybe even deeper engagement.

[pause]

18:23 [coach] More and deeper. When you say more and deeper, what do you mean by that?

18:40 [client]
I think in the past, my usual playbook is like some training, some practice. And that’s about it. That’s the usual playbook, but I think if they’re gonna own it, they should have some say in the process right? Is it just about training, some practice? What else do they need? I think by having them to have a chance to say how is this transformation is going to be carried out, At least I will believe they feel more emotionally
engaged or they have a stake in it. Because they are part of the process. They are not given a paper or plan and then let’s do it. So they’re actually kind of like co-creating the plan as well.

19:43 [coach]
Yeah, I like, I like the word that you chose, Wan. What you said was now a feeling like these middle managers, too, be part of or co-create their journey and not have it imposed upon them.

20:13 [client]
Yeah, this is what I learn from this conversation. And as I think about this co-creation, if they feel that they are part of it and they are the designers as well. I think from this approach or angle, they may feel safe enough to talk about the challenge because I don’t know the challenge yet. I’m sure there are challenges. [laugh] I think if I convince them that I am here for a genuine partnership. Maybe they will share with me or with the team, what are the challenges in adopting Agile? Yeah, so that is something that is new to me. Yeah, I think something that I think I should attempt in this engagement.

21:21 [coach]
So Wan, I applaud you on getting to this point in your thinking. How do you want to translate this insight that you’ve now into action?

21:39 [client]
I think in the immediate term, I should. Not I should, I will invite the other six who I have not talked to into a conversation. I think, I will be telling them what’s my role and what I have in mind and expressing my desire to include them in the journey. I think from there then we can plan what is the next step. I think from there I think rather than planning out more, I think of course I have something in mind, in my playbook. And by the expressed sincere desire to include them, hopefully they will see that there’s opportunities for partnership.

22:47 [coach]
Yeah. Great. So when you say playbook also, it feels like a pre-recording.

23:02 [client]
[laugh] Yes, that’s the danger, the risk…

23:08 [coach]
So further into your insight that you gain earlier about allowing them to co -create a journey, be less of a travel agent in a package tour, and more of what…

23:27 [client]
Yeah, I think, I think, maybe I position the playbook more as like, a brochure. This is what I have in mind. Which do you like to pick or which do you think work better in your environment?

23:53 [coach]
So, Wan, you know, we’re coming close to the end of our time together. So would you like to summarize your takeaways from today? And how, how have you found our conversation? Helpful or not? I’m not sure.

24:15 [client]
I really appreciate the metaphor of gardening and instead of being a gardener, I think an expert, sorry. I think once that image come to my mind, it opens up the learning that yes … the intention may be good, right, right. I think in adoption right. It gives me an understanding that there are different routes or different way of having a healthy garden and then if I want to build an ecosystem, I think, this way I have to take into consideration who are the participants. And how do I leverage their strengths to build a more sustainable change, more prospering garden. And I think I also appreciate that you highlight that some of my word maybe still like stuck in the old mindset that being an expert and I can also reposition the content for the approach that I would like to try. Thank you for that.

25:35 [coach]
Sure. Is there anything else you would like to discuss today?

25:46 [client]
Yeah, I would like to end this conversation is that I think besides what I have learned and I would like to acknowledge that if I can reframe the question or the picture, then I can see a different way, maybe a new path and thank you Ramesh.

26:20 [coach]
Sure. My pleasure. And I wish you all the success in your Agile transformation journey with your client.

26:30 [client] Thank you.

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Some observations based on ICF PCC markers

Competency 2: Creating the Coaching Agreement
Some examples from the conversation to demonstrated this competency:
6:15 [coach] So, what you said was what else can I do to include the middle managers on this journey?
7:22 [coach] Okay, I see. So it’s new ideas that you are looking to walk away from during our conversation?
13:56 [coach] So positioning yourself as that gardener. I’m curious though, Wan, what belief about your different plants and trees, may you want to address?

Competency 3: Creating Trust and Intimacy
Some examples from the conversation to demonstrated this competency:
21:21 [coach] So Wan, I applaud you on getting to this point in your thinking.

Competency 4: Coaching Presence
Some examples from the conversation to demonstrated this competency:
7:53 [coach] …. You mentioned “what else can I do to include the middle managers in this journey”. Your use of the word “include”, I’m curious, why do you use the word “include”?
11:22 [coach] Yeah. Okay. So as you’re describing this scenario, an image came to my mind, Wan. Do you mind if I share that image with you?
17:31 [coach] Yeah, yeah. So what are you learning so far from our conversation, Wan?

Competency 5: Active Listening
Some examples from the conversation to demonstrated this competency:
6:32 [coach] Okay. I see. And just, just so that we are clear about what the outcome will be for our conversation. Um, when you say “what else”, what do you mean by that?

Competency 6: Powerful Questioning
Some examples from the conversation to demonstrated this competency:
6:32 [coach] Okay. I see. And just, just so that we are clear about what the outcome will be for our conversation. Um, when you say “what else”, what do you mean by that?

Competency 7: Direct Communication
Some examples from the conversation to demonstrated this competency:
Based on the transcript of conversation, more than 70% of content is from the client.

Competency 8: Creating Awareness
Some examples from the conversation to demonstrated this competency:
17:31 [coach] Yeah, yeah. So what are you learning so far from our conversation, Wan?

Competency 9, 10 and 11: Designing Actions, Planning And Goal Setting, And Managing Progress And Accountability
Some examples from the conversation to demonstrated this competency:
21:27 [coach] So Wan, I applaud you on getting to this point in your thinking. How do you want to translate this insight that you’ve now into action?