– DIGITAL COLLABORATION & REMOTE GUIDE
The drumbeat aligns us, irrespective of proximity
Key four is about composing a unique rhythm to integrate, unify and shape the complex organism (organization) into a predictable and consistent momentum, holding an empowering space for individuals to think and be creative in pursuit of the vision.
Organizations have traditionally controlled through hierarchy; a chain of command incentivizing people to relentlessly, mindlessly execute. The consequence of command and control is the loss of the most valuable characteristic of an autonomous team: intelligent, committed engagement from the people with the most realistic perspective of the user.
Far from a static set of dates penciled into the corporate calendar, a drumbeat system awakens a rhythmic set of rituals. In practice, these rituals continuously synchronize the exchange of knowledge and information effectively level setting shared understanding of measureable impact, certainty and adaptability. Tuned in through the drumbeat to the constantly evolving needs of users, customers, and market terrain equips leaders to sense and respond with the teams in their thoughtful progress toward breakthrough objectives.
Thinking about time in periods (seconds, minutes, hours, etc) is our most common (and notoriously short-sighted) point of view. Consider your next milestone, for any endeavor- is it bound (even loosely) to a point in time? One tenet of a sound goal is “time-bound” which is important, yet becomes problematic in unpredictable times. For example, Covid-19 is the exponential disruption of a lifetime, forcing us to rethink everything about how we live, play and work. As I write this, we find ourselves in liminal space, unable on almost all levels to answer “When?”
In this space of uncertainty there is great insight to unearth related to how we think about and integrate a more dimensional consideration of “time” into our sprints.
Close observation of a thriving system quickly dispels any naïve mirage of binary, universal, 1-dimensional ways of thinking, seeing and acting. Planning to discover and deliver within the singular constraint of a ‘time-box’ neglects the interplay of social strata and technical nuance that is the incomparable value of a self-organized team engaged in discovery.
The timebox is necessary and effective, but insufficient on its own. It is the multiple dimensions of the drumbeat- the rituals, the engagement that requires data based conversations with the people establishing the means to the desired end.
Time isn’t a tape measure. There are dimensions of time, and we are capable of a depth of practice and measurement that more closely meets the reality of our situation. We do this by integrating measurable elements of time like tempo (or pace) and pitch and rhythm into our system. We call this multi-dimensional cadence a drumbeat.
To play on the metaphor, contemplate some interrelated units of measure contributing to success in an actual (running) sprint.
– Distance– the objective, goal, gap, how far you need to go.
– Breath– the critical ability to supply and sustain energy through the activity.
– Heartbeat– the vital circulation and distribution of this activity’s lifeblood.
– Stride-the pace and beat of your foot strike; how you hit the ground running and endure.
– Duration– the clock that times your start to finish performance.
The elements preceding duration in the above example are the key success factors for achieving the best possible time. Blind devotion to Time as the dominant governing criteria for success neglects the requisite underlying support systems to accomplishing that success.
If you only set the pace per km, without factoring the runner’s conditioning, how well would you be framing the “success” objective? Isn’t that a leader’s responsibility? If your only “visibility” to performance was related to the finish line, how would you assess progress, make decisions and provide support? Isn’t that a leader’s responsibility? Positioned from the team member’s perspective –
if you are the runner’s coach, and you’re standing at the finish line, how will they let you know if they are in trouble along the route?
In parallel then, why blindly set superficial sprints for business performance? When we shift our mindset to a drumbeat, we acknowledge and contend with the inherent complexity in our systems. A drumbeat embodies the “sense and respond” nature of Agile. A drumbeat makes allowance for expansion and contraction to incorporate the ever-changing needs and learnings yielded in discovery through progress indicators along the route. A drumbeat acknowledges the subliminal conditions influencing our outcomes, measuring the vitals not the output.
The drumbeat synchronizes hearts and minds, aligning one team member with another, the team with the objective and the objective to the primary needs and wants of the user. It isn’t an arbitrary isolated check-in point on a timeline; it is highly situational, rightsizing the nexus of skills, capacity, urgency and possibility of meaningful delivery coupling the means with the measures to determine whether the initiative is sufficient to achieve the higher level objectives. Its far more robust than “we’ll meet every Monday.”
When we consider remote teams, it’s important to recognize that neither geography (that the work is physically happening before your eyes) nor waiting at the finish line with a stop watch actually enable you to “see” (sense and respond to) your team’s performance and needs along the way.
Composing a multi-dimensional drumbeat, necessarily unique to your teams, customers and objectives puts a leaders finger on the very pulse of the requisite set of vital signs to achieve impactful progress toward the objective each step of the way.