Picking up hitchhikers on your journey to Agile Performance Management

As we discussed in Planning your route to Agile Performance Management, there are superficial ways to appear agile and there are authentic ways to become agile. Becoming agile is a wholesale cultural change that affects everyone.

Any cultural change starts with the first follower and either snowballs or fizzles out. The determining factors are how you support your early adopters, find your influencers, pass the tipping point, and handle detractors.

As our journey gathers momentum, we need safe ways to pick up all the hitchhikers that we want to bring along with us.

This post looks at techniques to build the change movement that will make your journey to agile performance management a safe trip for others to join.

Be clear what you're standing for and how people fit in

You can't start a movement if you are not taking a stand for or against something. 

Be clear about what that is and why it's important so that people know if they have empathy for it or not.

  • Are you standing up for meaningful work?
  • Are you standing against anxiety in the workplace?
  • Standing for lifelong learning and supportiveness, for recognition and appreciation, for autonomy, empowerment, transparency
  • or against ineffective bureaucracy, artificial hierarchy, or dog-eat-dog extrinsic motivation schemes?

Whatever you are standing for by introducing agile performance management, it needs to be crystal clear and public in order to get a following.

What must also be clear is the one simple thing people need to do to join in. This one thing needs to be noticeable so they too can be seen to be making the same stand that you are.

Support you first followers

As your cause becomes clear, those people who've been craving to support your stand will become your first followers.

You need to spotlight these early adopters. Recognize their support, and make them the organic leaders of your movement rather than appointing or expecting nominated leaders to jump on board.

By harnessing the energy and enthusiasm of your early adopters you'll make far more progress than putting the same effort into coercion.

It's less risky for others to jump on board once they see that someone else is already following your lead, and this is the snowball effect you're looking for.

There is a great example of how starting a movement snowballs in this TED talk by Derek Sivers.

Find your influencers

Of course your first followers may not have the kind of influence you'd like, and therefore they might not be able to deliver the kind of impact you need to reach tipping point.

The group of people that do have this impact are the influencers in and around your organisation.

Influencers create impact because of their reach to good numbers of others. On top of that they gain their own meaning from informing and making recommendations to their audiences, so they are vocal without needing encouragement.

Finding them and validating their influence is much easier than ever before thanks to technologies like Social Network Analytics (SNA) which can help visualize the influencers and the groups they influence.

By leveraging your influencers your message will spread more quickly and people will be incited to follow your call to action because they trust those asking them to join in.

Beside identifying influencers, SNA can help you identify how tightly or loosely your organisation is connected which dictates how much of your organization must adopt agile performance management before you reach tipping point.

Reaching tipping point

Reaching tipping point is the moment when a behavior stops being the exception and starts becoming normal. The expression has been popularized by Malcolm Gladwell's book of the same name.

It's an important stage in any movement because this is when people start to stand out for not being part of the movement rather than because they are part of it. From the tipping point on, the change 'sells itself' to gather numbers.

Gladwell picks up on the idea of influencers, citing 3 kinds of influencers being necessary to reach tipping point;

  • Connectors - people in the network who bond others together and span social, cultural and economic circles
  • Mavens - people who connect us to new information and start word-of-mouth epidemics
  • Salesmen - charismatic people with powerful negotiation skills needed to persuade others

He also makes a key point that a number of smaller movements may be necessary to enact a larger one.

Once you agile performance management movement has reached tipping point, your challenge is about making the change stick.

The change whilst gathering pace is fragile and can easily tip back. A key part of making the change stick is handling detractors.

Handling detractors

When I was leading a particularly big shift in culture for a large corporation, my mentor at the time said either change the people, or change the people!

What he made clear was that whilst everyone deserved the chance to find their groove in a new regime, ultimately with any change some people will no longer be in a good place for themselves.

Not everyone who starts the journey to agile performance management will make it to the end.

I have seen leniency on detractors become the downfall of more than one worthwhile change program, and I've seen good leaders being lost whilst mediocre journeymen have remained.

To handle detractors a 4 point approach may help everyone get to a place where they can thrive

  1. Listen to their concerns and make reasonable adjustments if needed
  2. Encourage a growth mindset to fight their self-sabotage
  3. Isolate the detractor from situations where they can sour others (particularly if they are influential)
  4. Remove the detractor from the environment completely

If you can spotlight your first followers, find and mobilize your influencers, achieve critical mass and neutralise detractors then you will be able to pick up all the hitchhikers on your journey to agile performance management.

If you need help, the team at Pay Compliment will happily show you how a comprehensive feedback platform can handle these 4 aspects of orienting your people to the change.

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