We all know that developing ourselves intellectually requires sustained dedicated effort toward continual learning. We take classes, read books, read from experts online, we find mentors, we collaborate, and many of us learn by teaching others.

Continual learning and growth are key to acquiring skills and experience needed for our future career opportunity and personal goals. Most often, the learning might not affect our immediate situation, but it’s an investment to staying relevant and fulfilled in the future.

Photo by Chanan Greenblatt on Unsplash

We also know that keeping ourselves physically fit requires sustained dedicated effort toward healthy activities like proper nutrition, exercise, and active lifestyles. Physical fitness is an investment for a healthier future. You won’t see immediate results by eating one healthy meal or going for one bike ride, but it’s an investment in future health and well-being.

Dedication & Focus

It takes self-discipline and dedicated focus to make these long term investments, despite not always getting an immediate impact.

I always say business organizations are a microcosm of society. The same self-discipline is needed to keep organizations healthy in body and mind.

The organizational model where leaders make most decisions to predict where the company has to invest and tightly control the output worked in the past. Now, as the world is changing more rapidly and radically with technology and globalization, this can no longer work. Leaders need to move to a sense and respond organizational model, where they trust their people to self-manage to work with customers to solve problems and achieve successful outcomes. This is not easy, but if they put in the deliberate effort, they will build the bottom-up intellectual muscle to make this possible.

Organizations do not change, people in the organization change. They change by exercising deliberate action and creating new habits.

Organizations Need to Invest in Fitness

Infrastructure Fitness — Are you investing in the tooling, automation, and platforms to allow for the most efficient way to produce value? Too often organizations spend a lot of time and money hiring the most skilled people, training them to use a lot of new and wonderful skills and practices but do not give them the time or means to use them. It’s like hiring the top skilled surgeons and asking them to perform complex surgeries with a fork and screwdriver. Infrastructure needs to be a deliberate investment year over year. If you are trying to radically transform, the investment in these might have to be higher than the investment in business portfolios for the first two years. In three to four years when you can take advantage of continuous delivery, you will be glad you did.

Learning — Organizations need to invest more time and money into learning. They need to learn new skills and behaviours. When there is a shortfall or low quarter, the first thing that gets frozen or cut back is training budgets. This is when learning is needed the most! The focus should be — “How can we reduce the cost to produce?” not “How can we reduce the cost to grow?” Also, I see as people progress through the leadership ranks, they often reduce their time and investment in learning. They say they are too busy with their new responsibilities. This sets the precedence that their people should be too busy to take time for training or invest in other means of learning. Mentoring and curiosity are types of learning that do not require money. Leaders — when is the last time you invested time in mentoring someone? Not managing someone…but mentoring. Have you learned anything from your direct reports? If not, are you invested to be curious enough to discover something you could learn from them? Learning is not only top down, but it is also bottom up. If you are not learning from your people, you’re wasting an opportunity.

Focus—Do you know where your weaknesses are? Leaders should focus more time on fixing organizational impediments. Impediment fixing is usually left to those who struggle with the impediments daily, but it needs to be enabled at the top. The best way to reduce escalations is to start by having the top aware of and engaged in fixing these issues. The time invested in this will free up more time for delivering value. Pairing this with shared ownership of top-down/bottom-up innovation feeding strategy — it gives a healthy body for top performance and endurance.

What are you willing to sacrifice today for a better tomorrow?

I would like to leave you with 3 things:

  1. Invest in the tooling and automation to reduce the cost and effort to release. The easier it is to release and stay continuous, the better we can support iterative delivery.
  2. Invest in learning. Invest in training budgets. Set time aside to allow this budget to be used. Create mentoring programs explicitly assigning people and dedicating time toward mentoring.
  3. Align incentive programs to measure growth. Ensure in everyone’s annual performance plan that they are measured and incentivized to learn, to mentor, and grow people around them. What gets rewarded gets done!

Every keystroke is precious so I will end here.