Explore the Power of Active Sensemaking for Agile

Join us at Spryng.io for a free 90 minute hands-on session to create and analyze an Active Sensemaking study for agile enablement.

Everyone who works in Human Resources, Employee Experience Management, or Agile Transformation recognizes that organizing and improving organizational and business Agility is a complicated process. Results are often less than stellar. This is because businesses and departments are created by and for people. People create complexity because they act as they see things. Each group of agile enablement stakeholders – human resources, leaders, management, and employees – have different experiences and perspectives on what is happening and what matters.

We want to realize the benefits of Agility and there is no shortage of advice and hopeful wisdom that can help businesses and departments to improve. Most advice boils down to principles and practices to organize and improve how people work together. The goal being a system of flow is relieving the system from over burdening, improving predictability and ultimately making it fit for function. But all that advice may just not fit the current state of the departments. This means each department must figure out how to proceed.

The big question and challenge for organizational and business agility is – how can people understand sufficiently what is happening to identify what works and what does not work so well? Without this understanding people will not know what or how to improve. Alternatively, a department may be facing a significant challenge that threatens its success or viability. Most challenges result from complex interactions and decisions over time, from many people’s separate perspectives and decisions. Practitioners with Active Sensemaking and Spryng.io have shown that individuals in a complex situation have experiences and stories that provide powerful insights into useful answers, delivering much richer data than is possible with surveys and interviews.

Active Sensemaking is a practice that enables people to tell their experiences without bias or interference, submit their stories independently of anyone else’s influence and contribute to insights that make a difference. These stories are linked to context and carry the nuances of meaning that inform the situation. This is what Spryng.io provides in its platform and sensor questionnaires.

Consultants can use the Spryng.io platform to design and distribute sensors, collect people’s experiences in a department to identify what is happening, and from this evidence take steps to make improvements. Other questionnaires can be prepared for one-time or regular use.

We invite you to join us to explore and learn how this questionnaire is used to discover answers to previously unanswerable questions, answers that are hiding among the people in the situation.

Agile enablement is tricky, but what if you could supercharge your efforts with a change in approach? What would that do for your organization? We’re all facing an accelerated pace of change in all we do. The future is not something that we can predict or control. Yet, with the right tools at your disposal, you can build the capacity to deal with a complex and uncertain business environment. Instead of being stuck in circular decision-making processes, you can create the space for more thoughtful and intentional decisions when you leverage the power of active sensemaking.

You can focus your resources on the signal rather than the noise. The patterns that matter, rather than the trivial.

What is Organizational Complexity?

Organizational complexity describes the fact that, in an organization, there are a vast range of interdependent parts that interact with one another in ways that cannot be accurately predicted. This is because they’re made up of human beings. And we are complex. We all come to the table with different interests, backgrounds, incentives and perspectives. And with 5 different generations now active in the modern workforce, the interactions have never before created so much complexity.

Add to this the nature of technology and internal processes, and you have something that can easily get out of your control if you don’t have the right process to make sense of what’s happening internally.

Organizations struggle with miscommunication, ambiguity, uncertainty, and all this results in various impediments to longer-term success. Luckily, there is a tool that can prove very effective in these instances, and it’s called ‘sensemaking’.

What is Sensemaking?

Sensemaking is a subfield of ethnography that aims to use narrative structures and anecdotes to analyze complex ecosystems and make sense of what’s really going on. It draws its inspirations from a range of different sciences and uses various data disciplines to uncover insights from the stories of people in the organization. When done well, it can help leaders identify the key patterns, trends, and problems that exist – so they can take meaningful action that pushes the organization forward.

The best way to understand how this method can be useful is to consider an example.

Using Sensemaking to Diagnose Problems with Agile enablement

Imagine, for a moment, that your organization has made the decision to move to an agile development approach but you’re struggling to get the necessary buy-in that you need to make it work. Sensemaking can be used to dig into the stories and anecdotes of those people to find the key sticking points that are getting in the way of success.

Using open-ended question prompts, the scientific method, and the right collection strategies for these narratives, we could gather a qualitative data set that could hold the key to real progress. After processing those narratives, you might discover that the reason that engagement was low was because those key personnel didn’t understand why the agile method was so valuable for them.

This is an insight that would not have been obvious from basic surveys or from surface-level interactions because no-one wants to admit that they don’t really understand something. But the discipline of sensemaking helps to unearth these uncertainties and raise them to a level of consciousness where an action can rise to the level of a next wise action.

Taking Meaningful Action

The next step is undoubtedly the most important – and that’s to actually take action. The patterns and discoveries made during the sensemaking process are only valuable if they lead to action. As such, our team at Spryng would host a workshop with the decision makers to systematically analyze the data that had been collected, and plan what the next steps should be to rectify the situation.

In addition to a direct action plan that might improve the agile transformation, it’s also very useful to note down some of the adjacent points that have come up during the investigation. Sensemaking tends to create lots of ancillary value that you didn’t expect, because of the nature of narrative information, and so you want to integrate that carefully into your organizational knowledge base.

This way, every sensemaking exercise you go through can generate insights that compound in value over time and help you be proactive in the future as you scale your organization.

The Sense of Urgency

One of the most powerful benefits of these sorts of processes is that it creates a real sense of urgency to improve the organization. When you take the time to listen to the stories of your people, you’ll discover frustrations, pain, and concerns that you might not be aware of. And hearing it in narrative form is all the motivation you need to take drastic action and improve things.

These are the sorts of insights that you don’t get in typical feedback situations. The magic of sensemaking is that it leverages the power of human stories to dig through highly complex business environments, allowing you to zero in on the things that really matter, while ignoring the shallow, surface-level reasons that send you down the wrong track, making costly decisions.

Conclusion

That case study provides just one example of what sensemaking can do for your organization. But there is so much more to uncover here. When your people have a chance to share their stories, and you can process them in a scientific way – you have the opportunity to change the way you do things forever.

These shifts that you make represent what true leadership is all about. When done well, you’ll demonstrate to your people that their voice matters and that you’re dedicated to doing everything you can to make your organization succeed. This energy transcends financial incentives and speaks to what is human within all of us. It’s a game changer.

If the concept of sensemaking has piqued your interest, be sure to check out what we’re doing at Spryng. We’re passionate about bringing this unique capability to your organization and we’d love to hear your stories. Get in touch today and let’s see how we can help.

The Three Pillars of Continuous Improvement
(And How Sensemaking Can Make the Difference)

Creating an ecosystem of continuous improvement is one of the most important pieces of agile enablement. How you set the conditions for it, how you nurture it, and how you sustain it, can make or break your transformation efforts. The idea is that you create small experiments with tight feedback loops that allow you to gather insights and improve things as you go along. The philosophy is that this continuous improvement allows you to adjust and adapt to an uncertain business environment that is shifting underneath your feet.

We’ve written before about how sensemaking can be the key ingredient for a true agile transformation, but we thought we’d use this article to show three examples of how sensemaking can radically transform how you think about continuous improvement.

Strategy

In any scenario where people are working in a team, there is going to be complexity in terms of roles, performance, delivery, and the like. A strategy is typically put in place to try and anticipate some of this, hold people accountable for their contributions, and set a north star for everyone to work towards. But even with all this planning, bumps in the road are natural. So, your preparation for these obstacles, and your capacity to face them is absolutely critical.

Sensemaking can be a fantastic tool to help diagnose strategic weaknesses out in the field in real time. By integrating the narrative insights from your people, you can identify trends that point to misaligned incentives, miscommunications, and a range of other potential problems that you might want to rectify.

Feedback

Imagine another scenario where your team steps back from what they’re doing to look at the bigger picture. This is crucial for continuous improvement but it’s only valuable if you can push past shallow metrics and get to the heart of what’s going on. Sensemaking provides that research-based methodology that can open up those feedback loops for you and provide actionable information that can inform the next iteration of whatever you’re doing.

This is crucially important at every step of the process so that you’re learning from your mistakes and making incremental improvements wherever possible.

Conflict

The last scenario in our continuous improvement framework is to understand the nature of interpersonal conflict. When we see this in our organization, it should point us toward a red flag that we need to deal with. But it’s only through sensemaking that we can dig through the emotion in the conflict and uncover the underlying reasons for the frustration. If we don’t use a disciplined approach like this, we risk diffusing the situation and sweeping things under the rug, only for it to re-emerge in the future.

Continuous improvement demands that we deal with that conflict effectively and make the necessary changes to avoid seeing it again going forward.

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Each of these three pillars represent opportunities for sensemaking to make a dent in your agile transformation journey. Too many companies approach it with the idea that they know how they are going to transform themselves. They’ve read the books and they’re ready to implement the theory. Unfortunately, that’s just not how things work in practice.

Organizations are complex and it’s only through sensemaking that you truly understand how your agile transformation is panning out. Then, with those insights, you can make the iterative changes to your culture, mindset, and systems to improve your results.

We’ve seen it time and time again with clients here at Spryng. Maybe you should be next?

Why is Sensemaking Important for Agile Transformations?

More and more companies are adopting agile and moving away from more traditional approaches. As organizations have realized that agility and tight feedback loops are crucial to remaining relevant in an uncertain business landscape, they have done all they can to transform the way that their organization runs.

These transformations are not easy though. In highly complex ecosystems, bringing any sort of change is going to be challenging, especially when it pulls at the very core of the culture that people are used to. It’s for this reason that many have turned to sensemaking as a tool that can help ease the difficulties of implementing a full agile transformation.

Sensemaking is a narrative-based ethnographic tool that identifies patterns and trends from the stories and anecdotes of your staff, through a combination of open-ended qualitative data collection, and rigorous data collection and analysis. This powerful combo has helped numerous organizations diagnose the problems that are deeper than surface level, allowing them to make a meaningful difference in how their organization functions.

The reason that this works so well in an agile context is because the entire methodology centers around a company culture that can handle complexity and uncertainty as it goes about its day-to-day operations. But it’s not enough that you write that on a mission statement. It needs to become a part of the DNA of the organization, and sensemaking can help you to spot the places where you need to intervene and make some changes.

An agile transformation requires thoughtful change management and a carefully curated strategy that can empower the people involved with the knowledge, resources, and motivation that they need to shift their paradigm. Identifying how to do this in a complex environment requires a very nuanced understanding of your unique situation – the kind of thing that sensemaking can provide. Change fatigue is a very real thing and sensemaking helps to mitigate that by finding the right fit without overwhelming people.

We’ve seen it time and time again with our clients. When they embrace sensemaking and act meaningfully on the insights it uncovers, it helps to transform the human and system complexity into something that can be dealt with. All of this without losing any of the resolution that one would like when approaching these sorts of organizational shifts.

In our opinion, a true agile transformation is simply not tractable without sensemaking to understand your organization on a deep level. This is a people game, after all, and it’s never been more important to dig past the shallow surface and identify the key impediments that are standing in your way. Work with us here at Spryng, and you’ll find that you learn more about your own ecosystem than you ever knew before.

And from there, the agile transformation is at your fingertips.

Agenda

What is Active Sensemaking and how can it draw on the wisdom of people to gain powerful insights and improvements for schools? (15 minutes)

The structure of an Active Sensemaking Study (2 minutes)

Hands-on Time in a Study (55 minutes)

  1. Creating the Initiative (walk through study purpose and organizing)
  2. Designing the Questionnaire or Sensor (Discover – prompting questions, Design – sensor components, Test – overview of verify)
  3. Preparing participants (explore the marketing landscape)
  4. Collecting responses (the collection – simulation)
  5. Analyzing responses (exploring results in signifiers, clusters, patterns)

Applications for agile coaches, scrum masters, change agents, agile transformation leaders (3 minutes)

Examples of Applications of Spryng.io (2 minutes)

Membership Options and support (2 minutes)

Q &A (15 minutes)

Join an Agile Pilot

You can take the first step to revitalizing Agile in your organization with an Active Sensemaking Pilot. You will have an Active Sensemaking consultant to work alongside you and your organization in an apprentice-like model, following Active Sensemaking principles on the Spryng platform.

The advantages of using Spryng Agile studies can be a game changer. But most organizations are unexposed to the approach and opportunity. Introducing this approach to an organization is something done carefully and incrementally. We believe experiencing this is a critical step to understand and leverage this approach for your organization’s benefit. A carefully designed study that is introduced safely and produces tangible results for individuals (experientially and for their work) and for the organization can open the door to continued learning and growth.
One valuable benefit of Spryng/Active Sensemaking is to help people become more collaborative, creative, and effective within and across their organization. This is about increasing capacity to adapt and innovate. We encourage you to go down this path because not changing could be disastrous. But try wisely. Spryng gives you some options to explore and test these new (we think revolutionary) ideas.

A first step is to participate in a Live Demo – explore and see the basic steps we take to conduct an initiative. Invite a group from your organization to participate so you can evaluate the experiences together. Then evaluate and imagine what this new kind of information could do for your organization.

The second is to conduct a pilot study within your organization. A pilot study should be small, well focused, and relevant to a current or emerging issue affecting your organization. It should be sufficiently relevant to most if not all people involved in the department, group, or organization. Make it affordable, streamlined so that people can contribute without cutting too much into their daily responsibilities. It should also be conducted in a short enough time so that results are still relevant to the issue and current situations in your organization. We will help you design and implement it and keep it affordable. This gives you a change to experience the whole process and benefit from the results without having to master learning the practice and the Spryng platform. But you will get to know the practice and the platform. Take the experience and results to others in the organization and explore what this new kind of information and insights can bring your organization. You may be pleasantly surprised at how affirmed people are to tell their stories without fear of reprisals.

What you do with a pilot study can be reworked easily into more studies and larger initiatives. Step by step people will recognize that others’ voices matter, that opportunities and challenges can be addressed. Success will breed more success. People’s personal experiences with this will begin to change how they communicate and interact and these changes will change patterns in your organization. This is what has happened with organizations who took the time to explore and try something new like this.

Costs for pilots can range from $5,000 to $24,000 depending on the scale and scope of the study. We will work with you to fit your readiness and situation to your means.

What will the process look like?
Initiating an Agile study
Guided steps on where and how to start an initiative, following Active Sensemaking on the Spryng platform.
Discovery
Guided steps on how to involve your Agile coaches in the discovery steps to designing an initiative for your organization.
Design
Guided steps on how to craft a customized sensor questionnaire for your organization, allowing participants to share their experiences in stories and interpret the meaning of their own stories through signification questions.
Testing
Pilot test the sensor questionnaire you have created.
Collection
Strategies on maximizing engagement.
Analysis
Guided steps on how to analyze the data and stories from the organization responses.
Dashboards
Guided steps on creating dashboards based on the insights gained from analysis.
What will it cost?

$18,000 - $24,000 USD

Endorsements

“Sprynging into Action is like a gourmet nine course meal where you get to experience soup to yummy dessert.
Even better -- you are able to wathc the skilled chefs perpare your Active Sensemaking meal, seeing all that is invloved. ”
“In the face of massive upheaval and uncertainties, wise leadership of our organizations and institutions has never been more critically important.
But the foundation of wise leadership is deep awareness and insight into context—a meaningful understanding of what’s going on.
Spryng offers a uniquely powerful methodology and effective tools that yield the awareness and insights needed to empower wise leadership decisions.
Complete with the ‘Sprynging into Action’ support resources, Spryng is ready to help you gain the information you need for your most challenging decisions. ”