Today I experienced an emotionally intense retro with one of the pioneering agile teams in China. What I experienced in the retro reminds me once again about this phrase “touch base”, especially during challenging times, for me it is so important to touch base, to connect with my core values and purpose, why I’m on this path. This is what I shared with the team, perhaps this reflection piece will serve as a reminder for me as well.

 Several years ago I faced a choice, whether to go for more P&L responsibility or to enter a different path. I chose the latter. Already during my years in business operations and strategy, I’m so clearly convinced about the paradigm shifts in today’s world. Prior to 2020, the word VUCA was just becoming known, right now with COVID still raging around the world, no one could deny that there are paradigm shifts in nature and in society. For me there is no doubt that the way we work in organizations needs to change in order to suit the fast paced world. Because the traditional tayloristic thinking, the silo mentality, the slow process of hierarchical organizations cannot meet the demand of the fast pace any more. Whenever I think about a life could be saved if a timely decision is made, more lives could be saved if medication is made widely available for people around the world, I can then link my work with the potential that can be unleashed in the organization and the benefit that can be created for customers, patients and the entire ecosystem. I happen to be someone idealistic about this path, and yet if I put my business hat on, I’d just notice the byproduct if an organization can swiftly catch innovation opportunities, leverage the fast moving digital platforms, curate and leverage ecosystems for win-win collaboration. I’m convinced that this needs to be in the back of mind with every leader.

 When it comes to this organization specifically, the days when we could rely on 3-4 core blockbusters to generate 70% of revenue is gone. With 20-30 portfolio elements in the pipeline, the only way the sales organization can be future fit is through customer centric transformation enabled by ecosystem thinking and digital transformation. What you’re working on is at the center of this. 

 And of course, for any pioneers who embark on a new journey, the path will not be smooth. As the metaphor I used during our workshop, we’re in the transition stage of a caterpillar turning a butterfly. In this transition, there will be pain, there will be frasturations, there will be failures and learnings and there will be vulnerabilities. And yet, what touches me most is the passion that I experience from people along this path. The passion to try new things, for learning. The passion to capture early opportunities and embrace future possibilities. I’ve experienced numerous emotionally intense moments throughout my journey supporting pioneering teams, what I learnt was to always touch base to our core values, and to reach out to the wider community. Because we will find we’re not alone, many people face similar challenges and the community is always eager to help out.

 For those who will embark on a different path, I feel entirely supportive and appreciative. Because in the end, this journey of embracing the agile way of working is beyond any organizational boundary. We’ll remain in this community and we all can contribute in our own ways. I must say it may happen quite often that the most passionate people might feel most vulnerable. That’s also why it’s so important to foster a community of change agents, together we are stronger. 

 I often use the Yin-Yang map to describe the “being” and “doing” aspect of our work. Having the “Being” part of purpose and passion is not enough to support the organization and its people to transform. We also need skillful means to support the team. Typical potential pitfalls, such as clarity of understanding in vision, the clarity and shared understanding of strategy, team dynamics, decision making principles, understanding of agility, capabilities of individuals and teams, the container where a pioneering team is operating on (often cases within traditional siloed organizations), leadership mentality shifts, they all need to be addressed. That’s why I find myself constantly mentioning systems thinking, and complexity theory, because we’re dealing with complex human systems in highly dynamic market environments. 

 After all the years, what I can say for sure is that I feel all the effort is worthwhile. My journey to awaken the power of self organization is the most valuable experience I had in the last 10 years. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing the power of truely enabled, highly efficient and effective teams. Along with happy people who work towards their strengths. In the end, through this way of working, we’re creating a world where more people are awakened to their value and purpose, hence being able to make conscious choices. We are creating a better future through our daily work, maybe not in such a direct and visible way, but for sure the ripple effect is there.

 Let me end this short note with the quote from Steve Jobs

 “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes … the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. … You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. … They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

(p.s. the title picture: today Switzerland is immersed in snow, the forest in front of my house became a Winter Wonderland)