Work overload is caused by the very people who talk and talk about it.
For over 18 months, we have been hearing the 5th trendiest word after Covid, Remote, Hybrid, and Agile. Well, this 5th position goes to:
During these 18 months, we considered ourselves very fortunate to have helped 53 organizations (as of this article’s publication date) to shape their new ways of hybrid work, having previously identified the different strains that produce their day-to-day work overload.
Our sequencing of genomes of work overload in infected companies all over the world has enabled us to develop a phylogenetic tree of their different virus strains and to find effective vaccines with no side effects. Well yes, with a common side effect, immunity: getting healthy hybrid ways of working, forever.
Strategic plans of little more than nice intentions
What plans can be derived from a strategy with cornerstones that say something like “to be the company of reference at …..”?
The result is nice PowerPoint sheets that we share with each other at cool events. The next day, right these PowerPoint sheets are nothing but one more document consuming space in the Cloud. Action plans add to the long list of frustrations caused by the gap between what is said and what is done.
Luckily, there is an infallible vaccine:
What exactly are OKR?
OKR: Objectives and Key Results.
Let’s summarize the efficacy of this vaccine with the statement leadership and other teams most frequently tell us after we put strategies into practice:
“We thought we were aligned, but in fact, each of us had interpreted the strategy in a completely different way.”
Imagine what that means for an organization of 10,000 people; 10,000 different interpretations, 10,000 people with the illusion of moving in the same direction and finally arriving at quite different destinations. There is nothing that generates more work overload than working on things that are going to be of little or no use.
The vaccine is very simple: OKR (be careful with the OKR manuals available on Google, as the remedy will be worse than the disease).
This quote from Gianpaolo Santorsola, Executive Vice President of Adevinta, is all it takes to understand it:
With OKR, we execute the strategy every day and review it every week
Off-sites to create flipcharts of good intentions
We can tell you: zero.
There is another way of working:
Manifestos, Dailys and weekly leadership Retrospectives with Radical Candor
There is a failsafe vaccine: define, in 30 minutes, simple manifestos with 3 rules of the game that we are all going to challenge and commit to, review them in 20-minute weeklys by each rule of the game and give feedback with Radical Candor to each other: no ruinous empathy, no obnoxious aggression, no manipulative insincerity. Just radical honesty, valuing one another and mutually challenging each other to improve.
Feedback are data.
Data that enable an organization to learn and
be the best
With one off-site or one sterile conference less per year we will have enough time for a whole year of 20-minute weeklys. We know, the truth hurts sometimes.
Scrum certifications and all its family of friends.
One of the last ridiculous headlines we read while writing this article was something like: “You get the European Accreditation for Scrum and…”.
The reality of this Agile certification show is starting to overtake fiction.
Has anyone ever transformed an organization with certifications? Again, the answer is: No.
Remember the First Certificate? Why, that’s the equivalent. Just change “English” to “Scrum, Agile and so on” and you already have the answer.
Every day we meet professionals, skilled professionals, certified in Scrum, who have learned all the Taylorist and deterministic rituals of Scrum, with a great inability to know what to do the day after certification.
Unfortunately, they invest their time in certifications that fill their heads and their LinkedIn, but that do not allow them to change the status quo of the daily routine or to accompany the people in their organization towards a truly more agile and flexible way of working.
Plan, do, measure, learn and iterate, or keep doing. Iterating has become fashionable, although it’s not always necessary. Sometimes the metrics respond and you need to keep going on and on and on … to leverage the momentum and deepen the impact.
Resilience and perseverance have fallen out of fashion when they are as necessary, if not more so, as iteration. GRIT is the ally of our era.
Company culture is disrupted by Agile Hybrid Working. Don´t miss this step in evolution.
We’re not done yet, let’s turn to the mother strain of posturing:
Conferences and forums because of the great sandwiches
If we hang around from forum to forum all the day, how can the teams and ourselves not be overworked? Less forum and more focus.
Less forum and more ppl (not ppt). Let’s get into ppl:
Pollination and Pair Learning
For this purpose, the pollination sessions in which different groups explain the best way they have achieved a result are as effective as they are brilliant.
A prerequisite is that the teams, who were sharing in the meeting, put their knowledge at the service of others when they leave these sessions. How? With Pair Learning: people who learn from others by having an impact together. A formula as simple as it is effective. While robots learn from each other at exponential speed, we humans cannot allow ourselves the luxury of not multiplying our intelligence.
No time for pollination? One forum less per year buys us six months of pollination, improvement and impact on the organization. No excuses.
David Manchón Mauri
General Manager Sales of Adevinta
This is especially difficult in an organization that is not only a matrix, but at least comprises four different businesses in the same organization. In this environment, managing a cross-sectional area like the one I manage, which has dependencies with many vertical areas, raised significant issues. On the one hand, the product teams often forgot to incorporate the commercial input and, on the other hand, the commercial teams had dependencies on other teams in the company and it was difficult for them to get considered within the tasks to be developed by the other teams. Working in the PEAK framework, planning quarterly based on the fulfilment of some objectives and KRs involving previous work on communication between teams to definitely reach handshakes. It is also indispensible since the the multidisciplinary teams have to incorporate sales people if the fulfilment of KRs requires it. Applying this methodology allowed to solve the above mentioned problems to a considerable extent.
"No less essential has been the role of this methodology during such a special time as the pandemic when teams have been working from home. I believe PEAK has been the key that has allowed the machinery to keep going"
Powerpoints to report the past
14 hours per day, 728 hours a year
lost while explaining what we did and can't change.
Let’s get the antidote:
Engaging with the future
Plan and execute with the future in mind.
Imagine you have three months more per year than your competitors to beat them with plans focused on what is wildly important. Imagine you have 91 days more per year than the others to carry out an outstanding execution at the sales points or in delivering service or for the product.
Finally, we share with you some basic principles that we have applied to protect organizations against future strains and variants of overwork: