In this article, we cover white agility is – as definitions are essential – what the workplace can look like, when it lives in agility, and watch challenges, you will face in bringing this into the workforce.

Eric Vigo

Managing Director and Founder of Rebooter Group

Originally authored by

KEY TAKEAWAYS

1. Agility, defined as the ability to quickly adapt strategy and business models to capitalize on major market opportunities, has become an essential leadership skill.

2. Leaders may face resistance from employees comfortable with the status quo, lack of buy-in from senior management, difficulty breaking down silos, and employees feeling pressure to constantly innovate.

3. Ongoing training and reinforcement of agile principles is needed to drive lasting change. In summary, an agile mindset is essential for organizations to adapt and thrive.

Setting the scene

In a culture where decisions are top-down and there’s little room for employee input, resentment and frustration can build up quickly, which can often lead to sabotage. And this is a not-minor cost to the business, as we will hypothesise. And if voices are ignored or discounted, the costs still amount, even if they are not accounted for on the balance sheet. Sometimes the change in the organisation to save multimillions is take those of lower status’ voices seriously.

 

Here’s a breakdown of the stages that could lead to sabotage and its consequences.

1. Starting with the Decision-Making Process:

The bosses make decisions without consulting or considering input from the rest of the team, and give out their word as in ‘final’. This creates a feeling of exclusion and disempowerment among employees, who may feel undervalued and unappreciated.

If management realises the uncontrolled results coming from a command-and-control structure, and bring in active listening, accepting other voices and making changes, the damages from costs are contained and potentially reversed

However, if management chooses to continue to issue directives from a command-and-control structure (for whatever reasons), then the following continues, almost like a chemical reaction. Without this, none of the following will happen. This article details what happens as a result next.

.2. Lack of Ownership in the Decision Making Process/Psychological Safety:

Staff now feel diminished ownership or responsibility for the outcomes, other than what their contract asks them to. They may view the decisions as arbitrary or misguided, especially with a lack of explanation of how or why decision makers got to that point, leading to a lack of motivation to implement them effectively. When employees don’t feel comfortable voicing their opinions and concerns, they are less likely to buy into changes mandated from above. This creates an environment ripe for passive-aggressive sabotage.

If there is no triage done for disaffected employees and strategies to bring them on board, we degrade to stage 3.

3. Silo mentality

Without cross-functional collaboration and communication, different teams may work at odds with each other, undermining company goals.

With no reversal towards listening, accepting and building, the damage to the bottom line begins from stage 4 onwards.

4. Sabotage

Frustrated employees may resort to passive-aggressive behaviours or outright sabotage as a way to express their discontent and regain a sense of control. This could include:

  • procrastination,
  • deliberately doing tasks poorly,
  • even spreading negative rumours about the decisions or the management,
  • are less motivated and productive,
  • bad-mouthing initiatives,
  • withholding information, or
  • even tampering with equipment.

5. Resistance to change

Not all is on the employer. Older workers especially may be set in their ways and see any change as a waste of time or a threat to their position.
This is where the costs start to come to people’s attention.

6. Consequences

Sabotage can have serious consequences for the organisation, including:

  • decreased productivity,
  • damaged morale,
  • increased turnover, and ultimately,
  • a negative impact on the bottom line.
  • a struggle to achieve its goals
  • a struggle to fulfil its potential.

Whether management believes steps 4 to 6 are not important, or just part of the cost of doing business, the costs will incur anyway, sucking significant resources to manage, when this can be avoided by shifting the mindset at stage one.

 

Results of stages 1 to 6

Hypothetical Example:

Installation of a $2.5m CRM system

Project/Goal: Implementing a new customer relationship management (CRM) system, which is crucial for streamlining sales processes and improving customer satisfaction.

Revenue Range: The organization’s annual revenue is estimated to be between $50 million to $250 million.

Estimated Number of Employees:
• Finance: Approximately 10 to 50 employees.
• Sales: Approximately 10 to 75 employees.
• Customer Support: Approximately 5 to 38 employees.

Sabotage Effects:
• Finance deliberately delaying or reducing funding for the project:
Potential involvement of 3 to 15 employees from the finance team.
• Sales intentionally providing inaccurate data or feedback during the implementation process:
Potential involvement of 2 to 15 employees from the sales team.
• Customer Support spreading negative rumors about the effectiveness of the new system:
Potential involvement of 1 to 4 employees from the customer support team.

Financial Impact:
1 Decreased Productivity: Range: $300,000 to higher, based on potential increase due to sabotage.
2 Damaged Morale: Increased turnover costs: $200,000 (unchanged).
3 Increased Turnover: Recruitment and training costs: $100,000 (unchanged).
4 Negative Impact on Bottom Line: Total loss: $600,000 (unchanged).

Consequences:
Original Project Cost: $2.5 million (unchanged)
Sabotage Effects: $500,000 (unchanged)
Consequences: $600,000 (unchanged)
Total Additional Costs: Previously calculated as $1.1 million

Now, let’s calculate the extra financial burden:

Original Project Cost: $2.5 million Sabotage Effects: $500,000 Consequences: $600,000
Total Additional Costs: $1.1 million

 

 

Percentage Increase on Original Project Cost:

(1.1 million / 2.5 million) * 100% = 44%

So, the financial impact of sabotage and its consequences results in a 44% increase in the total cost of the project. This demonstrates the significant financial costs incurred due to passive-aggressive behaviors and dysfunction within the organisation.

Real World Example:

Analysis of Boeing’s 737 MAX aircraft

Boeing, as a large private company, faced pressure from the market to compete with Airbus and deliver a new aircraft quickly. The decision-making process and subsequent actions taken by Boeing’s management have been scrutinized in relation to the 737 MAX crashes.

Project/Goal: The development and certification of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, aimed at offering fuel efficiency and competing with Airbus’ A320neo.

Teams: Involved various engineering, design, testing, and management teams within Boeing.

Cost of Implementation: The cost of developing the 737 MAX program is estimated to be in the tens of billions of dollars.

Sabotage Effects: While sabotage may not be the correct term, there were significant issues related to decision-making and prioritisation within Boeing’s management, which may have been influenced by market pressure:

  • Rushing the development timeline to compete with Airbus.
  • Downplaying safety concerns and relying heavily on software fixes (MCAS).
  • Lack of transparency with regulators and airlines regarding the aircraft’s systems.

Financial Impact: The financial impact of the 737 MAX crisis on Boeing has been substantial:

  • Grounding of the entire 737 MAX fleet resulting in lost revenue.
  • Costs associated with investigations, lawsuits, and compensation to airlines and victims’ families.
  • Loss of market share and damage to Boeing’s reputation.

Consequences:

  • Decreased Productivity: Delays in production and delivery of the 737 MAX.
  • Damaged Morale: Negative impact on employee morale due to layoffs and public scrutiny.
  • Increased Turnover: Loss of key executives and engineers.
  • Negative Impact on Bottom Line: Estimated to be in the tens of billions of dollars.

While the exact financial impact of behaviour-related issues in the Boeing 737 MAX case may be challenging to quantify, it’s evident that decisions made under pressure to compete in the market led to significant consequences for the company.

In this scenario, the excuse for not changing or slowing down the process could be attributed to market pressure and the desire to maintain competitiveness, despite the detrimental effects on safety and long-term profitability.

Even so, it is up to management to take into account pressure to perform beyond capabilities, and invest in what is needed (people, resources) to keep that pressure in check.

How a culture of applied improvisation has an effect

Applied improvisation can help transform a rigid, top-down corporate culture where employees feel disengaged and resistant to change. Here’s how it can turn around a situation of sabotage. Engaging employees by showing them their voices matter

Fostering Collaboration/Collapsing Silos:

Applied improvisation encourages collaboration, communication, and active listening among team members. By engaging employees in improvisational exercises, the organisation can create a culture of inclusivity and teamwork where everyone’s voice is valued. Breaking down silos through collaborative exercises.

Encouraging Adaptability:

Improv teaches participants to think on their feet, adapt to change, and embrace uncertainty. This mindset shift can help employees become more open to new ideas and more willing to accept and implement decisions, even if they weren’t involved in the decision-making process.

Building Trust/Psychological Safety:

Improv exercises often involve taking risks and making mistakes in a supportive environment. This can help build trust among team members and between employees and management, fostering a sense of psychological safety where people feel comfortable expressing their opinions and trying new approaches. Fostering psychological safety so people feel comfortable speaking up. Improv training helps people feel more connected to the company’s mission and each other.

Enhancing Creativity:

Improv encourages creativity and innovation by challenging participants to think outside the box and explore unconventional solutions. This can help the organisation overcome resistance to change and find new ways to address challenges and capitalize on opportunities.

Improving Communication:

Improv teaches effective communication skills, such as active listening, clear expression, and empathetic understanding. By improving communication within the organisation, applied improvisation can reduce misunderstandings, conflicts, and resistance to change. Improving communication, listening, and conflict resolution skills – when employees feel heard, connected, and adaptable, they are far less likely to sabotage change efforts. Instead, they will be invested in the company’s success.

Helping people adapt to change through practicing flexibility and risk-taking:

This is based on the willingness of the management to adjust their style and be more inclusive. If so then overall, applied improvisation has the potential to transform the organisational culture from one of top-down control and resentment to one of collaboration, adaptability, and creativity. By empowering employees to contribute their ideas and perspectives, embracing uncertainty and change, and fostering trust and communication, improv can help unlock the full potential of the organisation and drive bottom-line results through increased productivity, morale, and innovation.

Effects on the bottom line and how applied improvisation can influence them:

Productivity:

When employees feel empowered and engaged, they are more likely to be productive. Applied improvisation fosters a culture where everyone feels valued and motivated to contribute, leading to increased efficiency and output. Employees who feel heard and respected are also more likely to go the extra mile to ensure tasks are completed effectively and on time, ultimately improving overall productivity.

Innovation and Problem-Solving:

Improv encourages thinking outside the box and embracing creativity. By empowering employees to take risks and explore new ideas, organisations can uncover innovative solutions to challenges and identify opportunities for growth. This can lead to the development of new products or services, improved processes, and enhanced competitiveness in the market, all of which can have a positive impact on the bottom line.

Employee Retention and Talent Acquisition:

A culture of collaboration, trust, and open communication, fostered by applied improvisation, can significantly improve employee satisfaction and retention rates. When employees feel valued and supported, they are more likely to stay with the organisation long-term, reducing turnover costs associated with recruitment, training, and lost productivity. Additionally, a positive organisational culture can attract top talent, further enhancing the organisation’s ability to succeed and grow.

Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty:

Improv teaches effective communication skills and encourages empathy and understanding. By improving internal communication and fostering a customer-centric mindset, organisations can better meet the needs and expectations of their customers. Happy and satisfied customers are more likely to remain loyal to the brand, leading to repeat business, positive word-of-mouth referrals, and ultimately, increased revenue and profitability.

Adaptability and Resilience:

In today’s rapidly changing business environment, organisations must be agile and adaptable to survive and thrive. Applied improvisation equips employees with the mindset and skills needed to navigate uncertainty and embrace change. By fostering a culture of adaptability and resilience, organisations can respond more effectively to market shifts, technological advancements, and other external pressures, minimising disruptions and maximising opportunities for growth.

Cost Reduction:

Improv encourages resourcefulness and efficiency by empowering employees to find creative solutions to problems. By tapping into the collective intelligence of the team, organisations can identify opportunities to streamline processes, eliminate waste, and reduce costs. This can have a direct impact on the bottom line by improving profitability and resource allocation.

The bottom line

There are benefits through higher productivity, better teamwork, and faster adaptation to market shifts. Improv is not a silver bullet, but it is a powerful tool to transform rigid, dysfunctional cultures into agile, innovative ones. The key is sustained commitment from leadership to model the desired behaviors and create an environment where everyone’s voice is valued.

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