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.
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.
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