The 12 enemies of adaptability
And weapons how to kill them…. Enemy 4: Habit
In “ the 12 enemies of adaptability” series different angles that influence adaptability within organisations are discussed. All articles have this theme but can also be read on their own.
One of the main reason for organisations to start a transformation is to (re)structure the organisation in order to improve their ability to respond to a fast changing environment.
Only, to be a smooth adaptable organisation in the world around you, first you’ll have to make sure you have an internal environment that is supporting this objective. In this serie of articles I will describe 12 enemies of internal adaptability. Kill these inside enemies and you will smoothen the way to reach your objective towards the external adaptability as an organization.
After looking into Decision Bias in the previous article in this series this edition we dive some deeper in the enemy “Habit”
Enemy 4. Habit
Chains of habits are too light to be felt until they are to heavy to be broken. — Warren Buffet -
Decision Bias focuses more on the behaviour to avoid making choices and maintaining the status quo due to the effect of loss aversion. In this article we look some closer to the danger of routine. The tendency to keep following routine is enormous: if it worked for us yesterday, we feel comfortable to continue to do it. The pain of routine must be worse than the pain of change to make a transformation inevitable. A few decades ago you might have had the luxury to wait until that moment, nowadays you will have to adapt faster to survive.
“If an inspector determines that one or more aspects of a process deviate outside acceptable limits, and that the resulting product will be unacceptable, the process or the material being processed must be adjusted. An adjustment must be made as soon as possible to minimize further deviation.” — the Scrum guide
Translating this paragraph of the Scrum guide towards organisations in general it says that as soon as deviation towards the organisation goals is expanding beyond acceptable parameters it should adapt. Since organisations are made up of the people who work in it, these are the people who have to make the adjustments. They are therefore the ones that really have to want to break with “habits” to make adaptability possible. However, if you have been working in an organisation for years, you often found yourself a certain way of working you like. It gives you structure, it gives you peace.
Breaking habit, it’s just like cycling. (Okay, I admit it, I am Dutch so metaphors based on cycling are my second nature :-) )
Imagine a professional bicycle team. All very experience cyclists, that have won many times The last years they have been losing more and more because this team is still riding older bikes. Most people in the team love their bike. After so many years they really know the good and bad parts of their bike. Although they weigh more than newer bikes, the riders have been doing power training to keep up, and the teams explositivity has doubled the last 10 years.
However, more and more people said they should change bikes because there is a level where doing more power training does not deliver more speed anymore. You really have to change bikes. (Even a few people in the team have a different bike at home. Although most of them love it, some feel it’s not robust enough to be a professional bike). Usually the day before a new tour, their sponsor makes a big speech and brings their custom made t-shirts. This year the day before the tour the France, their sponsor even made a bigger event. They brought a total new set of bikes. These new bike are great, they are much more aerodynamic, they have a new kind of suspension and the steering wheel has some power steering. The teams tries the bikes for the first time in front of the cameras on the parking of their hotel. One of them falls of his bike, they all have a good laugh and they blame the champagne.
Yet in reality these bike really demand another way to drive: they are so much more sensitive, so the cyclists are oversteering when they are going into bends. On top of that, because of the new suspension they have a different feeling on the cobblestones. All in all they have to sit different on the bicycle to use it to its fullest, learn how to handle the new suspension and start winning again.
How to kill habit?
- Involve the team:
Involvement is a process for empowering employees to participate in managerial decision-making and improvement activities appropriate to their levels in the organization. So in this example, involve the team/ Subject matter experts in buying the right bike. Instead of deciding by the sponsor what the right bike must be, based on the type that other teams use, let them experiment themselves. Be clear that after all those years, there will be new bikes needed in order to win the races, that part is not negotiable. However what bikes will do the trick for this specific team, let the team come up with a proposal. A team that excels in time trials in particular needs a different bike than a team that is really good in mountain climbing.
- Create ambassadors:
Like mentioned in the story there are a few people having one of the new kind of bikes at home and they really like it and see the potential value of them. Same time they do not consider it yet to be a good enough alternative. Well, you know, when being part of a professional cycling team does not allow you much time to have a hobby project aside. So knowing they like the new bikes and believing in them, invite them to bring their own new bike along and let them train to get better. Not only will this help them in getting better more soon, but also will help in convincing the other team members if they actually see these bikes being better and faster.
In this series of articles I will discuss all 12 enemies, so stay tuned and let me know if you want a notification when the next one comes online …
Did you like the article? I am very keen to learn what you think about this topic.
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All discussed enemies of adaptation in this series: