We are at the midway point in our Agile Transformation-focused exploration of Stephen R. Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” with Habit 4 – Think Win/Win. I’m sure we’ve all said it in business and even relationships, but how does Covey intend it towards being highly effective and what does it mean to an Agile Transformation?
Before we explore the answer to that question, it seems appropriate for a quick refresher on the first three habits. Habit 1 – Be Proactive, and Habit 2 – Begin With The End In Mind ultimately enable Habit 3 – Put First Things First. In terms of what we’re here to talk about, an organization that is proactive (Habit 1) with an end state vision (Habit 2) and realizes it through a focus on what’s most important (Habit 3), is well on their way towards effective Agile Transformation. With that, let’s now consider Habit 4 – Think Win/Win.
FROM independence to INTERDEPENDENCE
As we venture into Habit 4, we are moving on from what Covey refers to as Private Victories, characterized by independence, into the habits of Public Victories, characterized by interdependence or success in working with other people. Covey is clear on the fact that effective interdependence can only be achieved by truly independent people:
“As we become independent – proactive, centered in correct principles, value driven and able to organize and execute around the priorities in our life with integrity – we then can choose to become interdependent – capable of building rich, enduring, highly productive relationships with other people.”
With that in mind, Habits 1 through 3 are essentially prerequisite to Habit 4 and thus begins our look outward, rather than inward. The focus now being on interdependence or our relationships with people.
You may recall that Covey introduces the P/PC Balance concept early in the book using the goose and the golden egg metaphor, where the golden egg is the Production (P) of desired results and the goose is the Production Capability (PC). I find the P/PC Balance particularly relevant now as we get into the interdependent habits.
Covey suggests that every P problem is a PC opportunity as it’s a matter of interdependence. Simply put, if you want the goose to continue to produce golden eggs, you must continually invest in that relationship. Or, in Covey’s own words, “By recognizing that the P/PC balance is necessary to effectiveness in an interdependent reality, we can value our problems as opportunities to increase PC.”
Effective Interpersonal Leadership
Every company all over the world has one thing in common, people. Companies are made up of people, people interacting with people, people working to serve customers that are people, and people partnering with the people of other companies. You’ve heard it time and time again, the massive change management undertaking that is an Agile Transformation is all about people. Think Win/Win is the habit of effective interpersonal leadership needed to move whole organizations of people towards effective Agile Transformation.
Win/Win in effective interpersonal leadership is constantly seeking mutual benefit and finding synergies. Covey explains that this is a belief that there is a better way, a Third Alternative, and not your way or my way. However, if Win/Win isn’t possible then No Deal, or agreeing to disagree agreeably, can be a freeing option.
There are other paradigms of human interaction – Win/Lose, Lose/Win, Lose/Lose, and Win – that may have their time and place, however, not in the interdependent reality we find ourselves in. Per Covey, Win/Win is really the only viable alternative. He finds that, “Anything less than Win/Win in an interdependent reality is a poor second best that will have impact in the long-term relationship.”
Five interdependent dimensions of life contribute to effective interpersonal leadership that is Win/Win: 1) Character, 2) Relationships, 3) Agreements, 4) Systems, and 5) Process. Character is the foundation of Win/Win and characterized by integrity, maturity, and an abundance mentality. From the foundation of character, we build and maintain Win/Win Relationships with high levels of trust. From those relationships flow the Agreements, with a focus on results over methods. The right structure and Systems are needed for Win/Win to survive in an organization with the right Process to support it, matching the means to the ends.
A brief word on Systems as this rings true to my belief about how to effectively accomplish an Agile Transformation and, ultimately, the LeadingAgile way. Covey states that, “Win/Win can only survive in an organization when the systems support it.” This is essentially LeadingAgile’s Systems-first hypothesis. This hypothesis asserts that given The 3 Things that comprise an Agile Transformation – Systems, Practices, and Culture – an organization must first put the right Systems in place – Structure, Governance, and Metrics (yet another 3 things) – and then apply Practices and Culture will emerge.
If you haven’t read up on The 3 Things or heard Mike Cottmeyer, our CEO, talk about them, you are missing out on the answers to all things in life (maybe I’m exaggerating some, but I do find that most work problems can be solved with The 3 Things).
Cooperation over Competition
The change management needed for an effective Agile Transformation, one that accomplishes better business outcomes, must be based in Win/Win or it is doomed to fail. Win/Win is cooperation, not competition. Covey states that, “…cooperation in the workplace is as important to free enterprise as competition in the marketplace.” The truth to that seems obvious, however, is all too frequently not the case.
In my (Agile) years of experience, I’ve found that Win/Win is created when there is, what I call, the Perfect Storm of top-down and bottom-up support for an Agile Transformation. That is, both leadership at the top and the teams at the bottom, can see their win; there is no loser and the mutual benefit to both parties is clear, agreed, and accepted. They are cooperating to win, not competing to win. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of Win/Lose and Lose/Win, and sometimes even Lose/Lose, going on with agile transformations nowadays. Take for instance when leadership inflicts agile on its people in an attempt to fix them. In this case, morale takes a big hit as people become bitter and disengaged and the whole thing falls apart or, even worse, leads to greater dysfunction. Or, consider when the teams go rogue with grassroots-style Agile, assuming leadership will come along for the ride, without consideration for the needs of the business or what leadership really wants to get out of it.
The Perfect Storm isn’t always present. Take it from me, they don’t all start with the rainbows and butterflies of aligned interests and agreed direction. That’s where the work comes in for Agile Transformationists, such as you and I, to embody Habit 4 and Think Win/Win towards an effective Agile Transformation where everyone is a winner and there are no losers.
Habits 1 through 3 – Be Proactive, Begin With The End In Mind, and Put First Things First – were all about independence, or looking inward. This time we explored the paradigm of interdependence and turned our focus outward with Habit 4 – Think Win/Win. Stringing it all together, we’ve learned that a proactive organization (Habit 1) with a mission-focused end state vision (Habit 2) that focuses on what’s most important first (Habit 3) and embodies the principle of Win/Win (Habit 4), makes way for an effective Agile Transformation.
Next up, we’ll explore what Covey intends with Habit 5 – Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood and how it relates to Agile Transformation.