Why Getting Work Out Faster Requires Upskilling of Middle Management

Customers can be a fickle bunch, but there is no better indicator of a successful business than measuring the number of repeat customers.

The challenge all businesses must face is that the speed that customers demand products is increasing, whilst at the same time products and services are more complex. Organisations must deliver more complexity with larger numbers of people in less time.

This requires a different way of working.

What seems to be the hardest shift for management is the acceptance that many elements of business and customer behaviour are unpredictable. Traditional management assumes that business is predictable and many of the processes we take for granted are built on this belief.

For example, the yearly budget assumes we know what is going to happen this year and how many people we will need to deliver it. The yearly budget is based upon this belief in predictability. Once this belief shifts, it creates an almost existential problem for an organisation and its management.

Moving away from the yearly budget that is based on risk management through cost accounting, requires large numbers of people to change their way of working, including the finance department, whilst still managing cash flow and growth. This can be an enormous undertaking and often the collaboration overhead and lack of understanding of non-predictive ways of working means that many organisations would rather ignore the obvious and keep doing the same ineffective things but only more vigorously, causing more stress without results.

How can the upskilling of Middle Management lead to getting work out faster?

Surviving and thriving in this unpredictable marketplace requires a different set of skills. Managers need to shift their mindset on a number of different fronts and upskill in topics that they may not have explored before.

The most common mindset shifts that we see managers struggling with are:

  • Accepting that much of product delivery is unpredictable in the medium and long term.
  • Moving from an expert, (needs to know everything and have everything proven) mindset to a facilitative, coaching, and growth mindset.
  • Shifting from delivering something on time, without even measuring its effectiveness, to iterating towards real business outcomes.
  • Investing in their own personal development, especially around emotional intelligence, relationship skills, and coaching / mentoring.
  • Letting go of status and instead focusing on collaboration and co-creation.

The most common skills we see lacking in managers are:

  • The ability to grow, coach, and inspire others around a vision rather than tell, sell, or force.
  • Creating the right environments for staff to grow, collaborate, and experiment.
  • To engage real customers as part of the creation process and optimise processes for those customers.
  • To delegate effectively and inspire ownership in others and collective accountability including themselves.
  • To create iterative strategy (or any strategy at all in some cases).
  • The make a stand in the organisation for experimentation, especially at the strategic level.
  • To deploy organisational design patterns that engage people, reduce bottlenecks, and decrease time to customers.
  • To invest in and understand why quality must be built in at the point of creation and not as an afterthought or later in the process.
  • To collect status updates on outcomes rather than productivity, output, and delivery dates.

Changing one’s whole approach to work, to each other, and to our customers, in large organisations, with lots of people, whilst delivering complex products and services is hard. Really hard. It requires skills that often take years to learn. It requires upgrading systems, organisational structures and processes, and navigating a sea of internal politics, naysayers, and doubters. Organisational change takes years and then results in a robust system that can adapt and change itself continuously without any more change programs in a never-ending cycle of experiment, learn, adapt.

This is why it is so important for organisations that have decided to upgrade to be able to grow and thrive in an unpredictable and complex world, to be able to learn quickly and to avoid the commonly known risks and pitfalls along the way.

How Adventures with Agile can help with the upskilling of Middle Management

The AWA Community offers many of these learnings for free. We have created 100s of videos through our meetups, publish blog posts every week on the latest challenges and solutions, and run events every month in different locations and online.

AWA also runs, arguably the best-certified training classes in the market, on the latest and most important challenges and solutions for businesses. Everyone who attends the training classes is invited to a free business community on slack to explore, learn and share.

This year we will be upgrading our communities and creating deliberately developmental community collaboration spaces that are designed not only for members to learn and grow but to provide a real experience of what it is like to truly collaborate on something in a high-trust environment.

Our mission is to bring about a tipping point where the ease of transformation allows more organisations to make the shift to thriving in the face of unpredictability, ambiguity, and ever-increasing complexity before they reach a crisis point.

My recommended first step is to learn some professional coaching techniques. We have a great Agile Team Coach class, which is perfect for managers who are looking to upskill, especially if they want to help change their organisation to be better prepared for complexity.

Our coaching training happens all over the world, the current list of classes can be found on the AWA Coaching page.

If your organisation is interested in hearing more about how the upskilling of Middle Management can lead to better, faster outcomes, you might consider our in-house training offering.

Curious about Agile Ways of Working? We answer your most frequently asked questions here.

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