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Boil It Down to Behaviors

Updated: Apr 10, 2021

What actual behaviors do you want to see?

Before you start any business agility journey, address the human needs—the motivations—of those who make up your business and your organization. Agility all comes back to people. Whatever your business is built on, a service or a product, you have a customer. You need certain behaviors from them. So be intentional and clear about what those are.

Here’s a story about how important it is to understand behaviors.

Years ago, I led an agile transformation effort at a multinational telecommunications corporation. From the start, this transformation was being treated transactionally, as one transformation among many others. That was the first problem.

One day, we had a directors meeting—one 45-minute slot in a two-day offsite. All the C-level people were there. All hands were on deck. And somebody said to me, “We’re just getting lip service about agile. People aren’t committed. What do we do?”

Ah-ha, I said. Let’s do something different.

Our room had a big stage. On the left side, we put a flip chart that said NOT COMMITTED TO AGILE. On the right side, we put one that said COMMITTED TO AGILE. We asked everyone, all 200 people, to line up according to their level of commitment. Big surprise: Everyone lined up close to the big COMMITTED sign.

The CIO looked at this and said, “Look. We don’t have a problem.” That was the second problem.

I said, Give me a minute.

We brought five other flip charts onstage. They covered five specific levels of commitment, from “Send my employees to training” (least committed) to “Send my employees to training and report back to my manager “(slightly more committed but still passive) all the way to “Participate in everything, plus personally model these behaviors to my own leaders” (fully committed). Then we asked the people onstage to stand beside their actual level of commitment.

That was a sight to see: Everyone shifted from the right side of the stage to the left.

I told the CIO: Everyone says they’re committed, but their level of commitment is really low. After your teams align on which level of commitment they can agree to, you yourself need to publicly commit to one of these levels in front of your entire company.

After two weeks of talking, they committed to the fourth level. And that totally changed this company’s entire transformation campaign.

Be crystal clear about what behaviors you want.

This worked because we were crystal clear about what behaviors we wanted, and we reflected back what they were actually doing and what they weren’t. It was powerful because we spoke in a compelling, tangible way by simply boiling it down to exposing behaviors.

As a transformation team, we need to clarify what behaviors we wanted to see as leaders—and what behaviors we need to see from leadership. And then we need to see who’s actually doing these behaviors.

So be intentional about what behavioral change you need.



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I'm Ahmed Sidky.

As a seasoned practitioner of business agility, I want to share these insights with the world.

Chances are, I’ve gone through what you’re going through. I can help you out.

Use these resources. Study them to help you learn business agility. Share them freely with your colleagues.

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