Last week, I completed the final module of my training as an agile organizational facilitator at the Collegial Leadership Workshop in Glashütten. It was great fun again to come together face to face with 30 colleagues and to exchange ideas in small groups, in the open space format and also during the breaks. The expert training module was led by Bernd Oestereich and Claudia Schröder who have already published two books dealing with collegial leadership work and facilitation of agile organizations.
The basic idea behind the principle of collegial leadership is to delegate responsibilities and grant decision-making powers where the decision-making needs arise. The aim is to be able to react properly and quickly to changes in the market. Since it is primarily the employees who work with customers, for customers and with service providers, the decision-making power must be anchored directly with them.
The following three themes addressed during the 2-day training module are the ones that I am still contemplating about:
- The framework for action must be transparent. Managing directors, shareholders and leaders must not and should not delegate full responsibility to their employees, at least not all of it at once. It is essential to make transparent which topics should be and should not be transferred to the team for shared leadership purposes. This transparency is best ensured by using the delegation board. This board should also highlight which of the tasks have already been assumed by the employees and which not. Because the pull principle applies here, as it also does in agile working: the team decides what it can do.
- A very powerful tool for assuming responsibility is the collegial election of roles: a group of team members designates one person among all of its members for a particular task or a particular area of responsibility and provides an individual rationale for that decision that is visible for all involved. The actual election takes place only in a second phase. Each team member then again designates one person who they think is especially suitable for the role in question and, in doing so, takes into account the reasons given by the other team members. The persons with the most votes given in the second round of election is then being offered the respective role. The person is allowed to decline his/her election, but my experience shows that most of those elected through a collegial election of roles accept the vote. Maybe this has to do with the form of appreciation that is associated with the collegial election of roles…
- If you want to try out something new in your organization, it is always a good idea to develop the corresponding proposal together with representatives from the organization. In a second step, the proposal is presented to all of those affected. Afterwards, it is important to have all team members express their concerns and to appreciate this feedback appropriately. If there are serious objections from individual team members, these should, if possible, be made part of the original proposal so that they are at least no longer serious from the point of view of the person concerned. This form of integrating objections is best carried out in moderated small groups of 4 to 5 people so that it becomes manageable. Furthermore, the discussion of objections should always focus on the principle that the organizational purpose takes priority over any individual purpose. The discussion can be simplified further when it becomes clear that the proposal for change is first tried out for a certain period of time and then re-submitted for further discussion at a later stage.
In a nutshell: A clear framework for action, the use of collegial election of roles and proper integration of objections are important components that contribute to the success of an evolving agile and collegial leadership system.
This text first appeared in my newsletter 'Innovation on Wednesday'. It is published every other Wednesday. For subscription click here