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Be An Architect Of Leadership

In an article with Steve Denning of Forbes, Anna Sandberg, Head of Continuous Improvement & Change at Product Creation, at Volvo Cars in Gothenburg, Sweden, acknowledged Twelve Leadership Keys To Embracing Digital. The areas she identified were interconnected, each relating to the others, none of them independent from the process. We acknowledged her words, and related the ideas to climbing up a flight of stairs, as opposed to an approach that resembles parkour, where a leader is jumping from task to task when learning how to succeed.

The First Step: Forming The Foundation

The first key part of the leadership process was to begin instigating change with the innovators and the early adopters. What she meant by this was not to simply isolate stand out individuals to try something new. Instead, what it proposes is to instigate change, those who are willing to embrace newness and innovation, try things out, experiment themselves etc. will stand out without necessarily doing so consciously. By identifying these employees, you can find yourself in a situation where you can surround your teams in people with a “can-do” attitude. This means that their voices will sound louder than those she identified in her next step.

Sandberg calls people who resist change to be “laggards”, whether it be because they do not agree with the nature of the transition, the ideas behind it, a conflict of interest, or simply, adopting every aspect of the process at a slow but sure rate. She encourages leaders not to be overwhelmed by their resistance, and instead, to open channels to discuss the nature of the change, reassure those who hesitate etc.

Which is where her next area of focus is brought to our attention. She stresses the importance of discussions with employees. Sandberg explained that being open to communicate with her colleagues means that she can almost implement a Pavlov and his dogs’ effects on the staff around her, encouraging them with positive affirmations and rewards to cease their resistance to change.

In order to do so, she explains that using a personal communication system is ideal, and encourages her fellow leaders to use this practice too in their own workplaces. A personal communication system is a term used to describe “a place where [you] can put everything [everyone] do[es]. … [where you can] put them in the one place and make sure they include both strategy and dynamic information.” You may imagine a filing cabinet, but using such a physical form of storage is not what she suggests at all; instead, Sandberg encourages a digital approach, uploading everything into a centralised system, and sharing information as and when it is required in places such as newsletters or staff bulletin boards

Step Two: Building Your Team Like Pillars

Once you’re in the position where you are securing a network of staff that are willing to change, you can drive the process onward by increasing momentum; “if you don't define and design and help structure and organize people, and make people responsible for doing the things, it just won’t happen”. To do this, shuffling colleagues around, introducing the hesitant to the converted means that you needn’t waste your time squabbling with Nancy from HR at the coffee machine about whether making an agile transformation was worth it.

With avoiding casual squabbles in mind, the best way to do this, is to cement your change; make it clear that management are not going to budge their stance on a transformation of this nature, and by doing so, it will give your colleagues the change to understand that, perhaps, a man cannot move a mountain, and instead, you must climb it, turn back, or walk around it, and find another way to work. This means malcontent colleagues are in a position where they know that if they’re not happy, they are welcome to leave, should that suit them better, with no hard feelings.

And those who remain, are invited to be trained. Training can be done in many ways, Sandberg encouraged a variety of methods and perspectives with training, stating that she had to make it up as she went along at points. It allows her to spot innovators. “I look for the ones that will help us find new solutions to problems and opportunities. When giving a training, there would always be someone raising their hand and asking, “Would it be possible to do it like this?” And then I think, “There’s one: an innovator!” And so I would go into dialog with that person.”

Step Three: Polishing Off The Process

In the last stage, where you refine your process, having identified how to stabilise your transformation, you have to have an arsenal of anecdotes on hand to coerce the subtle and nuanced changes; encourage the people around you and explain that they are excelling. Sandberg said: “I want them to shine because that's how we bring the early majority to see the potential in this. All they really need is one reference.” By using stories, you can further the Pavlov and his dogs’ approach to coercing colleagues to embrace the organisation in its transformation.

She also stresses the importance of the next stage of the process: collaboration. In true agile fashion, Sandberg’s company encourages interdepartmental collaboration and communication, stating, “we try to avoid process descriptions in boring documents in hard-to-find folders and cold storage libraries. They need to be easy to access and clickable, as well as easy to understand, and showing how things relate together”.

And, of course, the most important thing, is for you, the leader, to be a person; a stable figure in the team and not an isolated shadow behind closed glass door. Express your humanity, communicate, laugh, admit sometimes you spell words wrong, and acknowledge your errors. Lead by example. Start the change as a figurehead, and march your company onward in pursuit of progress and profit. After all you cannot reign and conquer your industry, with a team of loyal employees supporting you from within the enclosed walls of a Conference Room B.

Based in London, U.K., and founded in 2016 by Arvind Mishra The Agile Works (, is an up-and-coming recruitment and Agile consulting company. Arvind is a Certified SAFe SPC and regularly delivers both private and public SAFe certification workshops.

He is a design thinking expert, Sr. enterprise, portfolio Agile Coach with over a decade of experience working as an Agile coach in diverse industries such as banking, pharma, retail, auto, oil, gas, consulting and government.

The Agile Works; a small team of three strive to help shape the leadership's mind-set and values in readiness for their business transformation journey challenges. With Arvind at the helm, we strive to provide you with the agility tools to make your company that can thrive, and not just survive.

To book a consultation, or for any enquiries, you can contact Arvind via the following email address:

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