Dealing with overload

Overload is one of the significant factors limiting the performance of individuals and organisations. Although its presence is often obvious, it's typically hard to grasp its root cause and measure its impact.

During the webinar, Pete Schibli and Paweł Feliński shared how they help companies overcome the overload using a 3-step strategy.

Webinar transcription

[00:00:00.570] - Pawel Felinski

You. Welcome to Agile Encounters. Today's topic is dealing with overload. Together with my colleague Pete Schibli will try to go very deep into the topic and find out what we can we can offer to you if you want to deal with overload. The flow of our presentation is pretty simple. We'll start with the nature of overload, what overload is, what it isn't, you'll find out. It's pretty tricky then this strategy of overcoming the overload very general approach of how we could deal with the overload and finally practises on two different layers. Practises for dealing with overload. As I mentioned, my guest today is Pete Schibli, Agile and leadership coach. We used to work together and I think we'll bring this synergy effect back to this webinar as well. So ready?

[00:01:00.260] - Pawel Felinski

Let's go. The nature of overload, we discussed it with Pete before this webinar and we found out that first of all, whenever you think about whenever we think about overall we say it's hard, it's very, very hard. Pete, why is it so hard?

[00:01:18.890] - Pete Schibli

I think it's hard for a bunch of reasons. It's very multidimensional, very hard to see as was said there, it's very hard to make sense of because there's so many sources of overload and the very nature of overload blocks itself, blocks us from seeing it and dealing with it, from having the headspace to deal with it. So I think the first thing to, I think appreciate and acknowledge to equip yourself to dealing with is just recognising that you've had to take on if you so choose. Quite a tricky quite a tricky animal.

[00:02:07.290] - Pawel Felinski

You have just said it's multidimensional. What do you mean? Because I think at first glance it should be pretty simple. Whenever I feel overloaded, well, I feel overloaded and I don't like it. That's it. No brainer. Right? So what are the dimensions over here?

[00:02:25.340] - Pete Schibli

I think that when we're talking about organisational overload we see many, many repeating patterns, so we see it definitely impacting us as individuals, we see it impacting people around us, our teams, but we also see it impacting whole departments, divisions, regions, possibly even the whole enterprise themselves. So it happens in many layers and it shows up in many ways, in many practises and many behaviours. It's also a mix of both culture and systems, people and process, behaviours and mindsets. So it's quite a rich spaghetti which I think makes it at first glance anyway, can make it quite hard to approach.

[00:03:18.350] - Pawel Felinski

So it seems versus different I agree with you, it seems there's a difference between I'm busy personally versus my organisation is simply overloaded. It might be that I'm busy because of the general overload in my organisation, but it might be that it's a tricker topic, I do agree, typically when you talk about overload, discussions about performance, team performance, individual performance, business unit performance but I think there's also other approach to be dimensions. It's not only me, my team, organisation but, for instance, culture, emotions of individuals, performance, very business, business wise performance, perhaps even collaboration with customers. As simple as that. So I think it is confusing. Why should we understand the nature of overload in our organisation before really thinking of solving it?

[00:04:22.930] - Pete Schibli

Well, I'd say another thing that makes it hard, that kind of links into your question, is that I have a sense that, first of all, overload impacts different organisations to different levels. There's definitely a continuum. So if you're watching this and you and presumably with some interest in the topic, one thing to think about might be where do I sit on that? Where does my organisation sit on that continuum and how much is that negatively impacting me? But I think another reason why this matters might matter to you is that I find that organisations which are most.

[00:05:00.250] - Pawel Felinski

Ambitious are the ones that are most impacted by this because there's a big gap between where they are and where they want to be and that self-imposed pressure and desire to create momentum or move can inadvertently kind of create that overload itself.

[00:05:19.410] - Pete Schibli

I'm not sure I would agree, because in my opinion, I saw few companies very ambitious and overloaded because of that and few companies are, how to call it, not ambitious at all, go with the below and still overload it. I didn't see former set of companies perhaps they struggle with overload because they see we are overloaded. We shouldn't be the latter set of companies, perhaps they don't care, but still the overall is over there. I think the very first indicator of organisational, overall as such, is we start to think there is a problem but we have no time to fix it because we are overloaded. Right.

[00:06:06.790] - Pawel Felinski

It's definitely a great flag. That's definitely a good point. And your original question was why should we take the time to really understand why it's hard? Yeah, and I think there's two reasons. One is I think it gives us permission to approach it seriously. It's not a light thing to take on, it's not a trivial problem to solve, it's going to take a TF, it's going to take sponsorship, it's going to take effort, it's going to take time, it's going to take care. And then the second thing is that by understanding it better, you'll equip yourself and your leaders and your organisation with the ability to start to approach some of the causes, some of the levers to it. So you're both equipping yourself, you're equipping yourself on those two fronts with the tools, the approaches and the mindset to take it on seriously. What would you add to that?

[00:07:02.310] - Pete Schibli

I think it's a great segue to this strategy that we thought of, but before going there, I'd like to dig a little bit deeper into the nature. I do agree that if we know why it is so hard in our case, it's way easier to get by in and eventually to solve it. If you know your enemy, you know how to approach the enemy. But who would you start with? Who do you think is the most impacted group of people in your organisations that are impacted with the overload?

[00:07:35.590] - Pawel Felinski

Yeah, great question in my experience so far of really looking at this quite seriously over the last nine months or so, I find that the more senior the leadership, the more really they are impacted. So whereas a team member might be taking on a ten or twelve hour day, an executive will be taking on 14 to 16 hours days heroically. And what I observe is just them being just crushed for headspace in the face of dealing with that because they have to deal with the manifestation of all of the overload, of the decisions, the work in progress and so on. I don't know how many of them do it actually it's made awe of what they do.

[00:08:28.290] - Pete Schibli

Got it. I tend to agree. I would say leaders are the group of people most impacted by overload. I'm not sure if senior leaders or executives over here I see two dimensions. First access would be how often people complain about overload and I hear typically no complaint from executives, but really little from senior leadership. Moderate complaint from middle leadership and teams operational level, lots of complaints always, no matter what. But it's not about the complaint, it's about who is really impacted. I have a story of a senior vice president, not yet executive team, but pretty senior person in one of my former customers and we had a conversation definitely not about the overall. Absolutely not. And during the conversation I found out that he makes a lot of decisions that should be made. Why? I'd say three, five, maybe even six floors in the Keroke in the ladder organisation ladder below him, like which language of programming should be used by that team out of these three, I would say it's not a job for seniors. As a president, with all respect, I said in my opinion, what you should do is think about how you see your business unit in three years from now.

[00:09:48.810] - Pete Schibli

Right? This is kind of thinking kind of what you should do. And he said, I agree. The root cause over there was was lack of trust in the organisation, so so the lower levels of of organisation were paralysed. No decision was made, was always escalated. So very simple ones were made by even the board of members. But I think midair or senior middle management complaints a lot because they already see it. They have a systems view in the organisation, they see it's wrong, it's wrong, they don't know how to overcome it. And ironically, I think these are the first people I would go to while offering my help in fixing this situation. Right.

[00:10:34.170] - Pawel Felinski

That's a great story. And I think it illustrates another point too, which is as those senior leaders get more and more impacted by these kind of self reinforcing patterns, like decisions not being made at the right level because they can't be trusted, whatever the source is, then what we know about decision making and collaboration is that when we're in that state of overload, we tend to go into a state of survival. It impacts all of us. I certainly get impacted by this myself. We go into a state of survival, we get tunnel vision. Our creativity and our collaboration just tank because our brains are not designed to be collaborative and creative when we are running away from a tiger. So the very thing that we need most of creativity and collaboration is the thing that is most scarce when we are in the state of overload. So it's another example of another pattern of this this beautiful vicious cycle or self patterns. But again, if you start to bring that into the light of day and say, here's a pattern, you actually explicitly write it out as part of your making sense of why is it so hard for us?

[00:11:43.160] - Pawel Felinski

Why am I being forced to make decisions six levels down, then? That's, I think, part of that very first essential step of sense making.

[00:11:53.750] - Pete Schibli

All right, I think this is about time to tell and discuss how we can how we can deal with that situation, what to do. Before this webinar, Peter and I, we had a conversation, we ended up with something that looks very and I'm scared of that because it looks really simple. Well, it's not. Let's start with the simple part. Here's what we call the strategy for overcoming overload. It's a three step picture over here. Start with building awareness. There is a problem with overload in our organisation or a team. Then building a desire to fix it, to do something about it, and then taking a pathway, building the pathway, taking a pathway to solve it looks simple. I believe it's not, because, as always, it's all about the details. So let's take a look at the details. Why not building awareness? What does it mean? Why is it so important?

[00:12:59.770] - Pawel Felinski

Well, if part of the problem is we can't really see it, then if you take as kind of overall strategy that the way to solve really hard problems is to first confront the problem. So Michael Ceruleus says the obstacle is the way I think maybe I'm misquoting him there. Or another. People say impediments are not in the path, they are the path. So if that's a kind of meta strategy, if you like, then if the first problem is that we can't see it, then let's see it. Let's see the patterns. That story that you just described, let's map out all of these different kind of loops and kind of cause and effects that we can see. And by making visible, by talking it out loud, socialising it, writing it down, we can start to pull it out of the fog and into the into the light of day. And I think that also gives us a great excuse to then start to start to map the impact of this as well. In your executive skates, how much time do you have to spend doing that versus the strategic stuff, for example? So I think it's about seeing the causes, quantifying the causes and helping give people the words to describe it.

[00:14:33.510] - Pawel Felinski

An example of an organisation I'm very close with at the moment, very senior leader on stage said, we write a book when a page will do. And that came out of directly doing this kind of work, of starting to see those patterns that are unique to their particular organisation.

[00:14:55.470] - Pete Schibli

I love it totally. And I think this is very important, important step. Very often see consultants or coaches going directly into solution. You have a problem of overall, let's implement Kumban, for instance. I think that very short term thinking. Building the awareness has a lot of benefits. It makes the reality transparent. First of all, it's not that you can see it only, but it makes sense. You understand what and why. Plus, I think it's a very important effect before we go to the next steps. Building desire, desired solution. It's a very important effect to show the organisation that, hey, the problem that you fought is yours or your team's. Only actually, everybody has it. Showing problems, showing blockers, showing problems that are systemic problems. It's very powerful.

[00:15:53.550] - Pawel Felinski

Something there too, which I think ties back to the nature of overload, which is a psychological barrier, which is when I'm overloaded myself, I tend to think pretty harshly of my own competence, my own effectiveness as a leader, as a coach. By sharing what you just said is brilliant because it helps people see it's not personal to them.

[00:16:18.620] - Pete Schibli

Yeah, I would even go one step forward. Some people think that this is their job, to be busy. I'm a manager. I'm the one who is the hero, the fighter over here dealing with that. And if you see that, it's not only you, it's everybody over here. Maybe there's a bigger thing to touch over here. If I were to name direct Practises that I am using around this area, built awareness, I would be thinking of, for instance, dependencies mapping. Everybody says we have dependency, let's map it. Let's see what the spaghetti is over here. I did a few times. Not level of team, but the department. Let's say we have ten teams in one unit. Let's map interteam department, inter team dependency. Sorry, but for real. And when you see how much of that is over here, that's amazing. Let's take a look at how many blockers we have in our workflow versus how many items we are actively working on. It's pretty easy to visualise and it's impactful. I'm not talking not mentioning about more sophisticated Practises such as causal loop diagrams from system thinking that's bigger. That's bigger. And not don't do it at home.

[00:17:35.760] - Pete Schibli

Definitely. All right.

[00:17:39.410] - Pawel Felinski

One trick just to kind of throw into the mix here is using the organization's own words. That particular example, I said we write a book or in a page or do that came out of the mouth of a senior engineering leader and it resonates with them. That kind of added an emotion. They were like, yeah, we do do that, don't we? Yeah, we do. And then so you've got it's inside of their cultural kind of frame, if you like.

[00:18:10.430] - Pete Schibli

Very important and I think valid observation for our consultants or coaches. Piece of advice for Scrum masters, please don't talk about impediments. Nobody uses that work except for Scrum people. These are problems, blockers, whatever. But that's also one of conclusions that Peter had before this meeting. Let's take a look at an example that's very important. It's just an example of what you could observe in organisation as such that is overwhelmed. And don't scream when you take a look at this slide, screenshot this as.

[00:18:49.000] - Pawel Felinski

You’re looking at it. And maybe a question I'd invite you to consider is which ones are true for you? To what degree? And perhaps more interesting might be what do you just instinctively know is also causing mischief? That's not on here for you.

[00:19:06.140] - Pete Schibli

Yeah, absolutely. This is just an example. So you may add many other ones. But at the end of the day, we think that the overload on the level of organisation is about these two big red blocks. We have too much input, too much things to do, too much tasks, projects, initiatives, depending on where you are. And delivery is slow. And this arrow over here, we believe that slow delivery, among others, is caused by too much input and something that is above and beyond these two bigger causes, bigger problems. We have no time to improve or we feel we have no time. Which one and I'm asking for opinion actually, which one is more harmful? Too many things to do or slow delivery? What do you think?

[00:20:09.810] - Pawel Felinski

I guess every organisation is different, but what I've seen so far is that the too much input is the source of slow, is the biggest source of slow delivery. And that in turn, of course, has different knock on effects. I think, in terms of building desire, a map like this, if you to draw one out for your organisation and go and just have coffee with people and sit down and go, what's causing mischief? What's causing us to slow delivery? If that's the problem, or whatever the problem is that is near and dear to your organization's heart, what are the things? And just start to draw it out on the back of a whiteboard, a napkin. And then what will emerge from that? Just like you've got this picture here is your own unique kind of self diagnostic. You could take that to a team and say, how does this resonate with you? And they'll say, all of it, if you've got it more or less right. And then of course, you can ask the question, okay, which one are you most interested in getting after? Or which one would you most want to solve? Because then people can self calibrate where to go to work.

[00:21:22.860] - Pawel Felinski

It might not be the thing that is causing the most impact that they choose to target. It may be the thing that they feel they have the most control over, for example, that would give them the desire and the pull and an early win, perhaps, and so on.

[00:21:37.680] - Pete Schibli

I think that's one way, an over way of thinking about it is that I will show this map again if I take a look at the left hand side. We have too much input, too many activities to do I typically hear a complain of my organisation about slow delivery? It might be somebody from organisation or my customers. So I think depending on your organisation, on your context, it might be fed to change as such the trigger to start doing something of it. It might be internal in our organisation, it might be external customers are complaining and the level of complaints, dissatisfaction gap is so big that actually this is the trigger for us to improve our organisational capability.

[00:22:26.790] - Pawel Felinski

Right, yeah, there's a couple of thoughts in there. Definitely using this with your suppliers could be incredibly powerful to kind of work together to say how do we make things better? But also what also just occurred to me in freshly looking at this is in terms of zones of control, if you're looking at teams versus leaders, for example, I'd say your teams will be more on the right hand side and your leaders will be more on the left hand side. So you talk to your middle managers and your executives and if you've trained them well and are starting to think about how do I help solve this, where can I make the difference here? It's the stuff on the left for sure.

[00:23:06.650] - Pete Schibli

Absolutely. All right, let's come back to our strategy. We start with build awareness. This is just an example of what symptoms of what causes you would see in your team. Now let's take a look at the second step. So build desire will the awareness is there so your organisation understands we have a problem, understands what kind of problem it is, what is the impact of the problem for both the business impact for our customers but also our internal impact on organisational capability, we must start building the desire. So in other words, demand for solution but also agreement, perhaps even sponsorship, right?

[00:23:51.270] - Pawel Felinski

Yeah, definitely 100% at as many levels as you can and as far whiting as you can as you start to build your coalition.

[00:24:02.750] - Pete Schibli

What would be the first step that you would suggest? I have my own and I'm not sure if we have the same yeah.

[00:24:13.490] - Pawel Felinski

I guess it'd be different for every organisation. So presumably you're approaching this because you notice a negative impact and you want to do something about it. The very first step where you've been building awareness and perhaps socialising some of this and trying to make sense of what's causing this and what is the impact, that itself will start to build desire. It's simply by asking the question does this matter to us? How much does this matter? Should we bother solving this? And if you can get people to kind of pause and look at it seriously and it may be a hard thing to see, we just want to kind of sketch it back into the busyness of the work. But if you can get some of you just pause and actually have a look and confront fail of the problem.

[00:25:02.030] - Pete Schibli

I think you're metre to one question that they will ask, how much would it cost? Right. Coming back to our previous foot, people very often in organisations that are overloaded, they think we have no time to change. And if you require them to, I don't know, attend a training, fix a process, change something, whatever it costs, and not necessary money. Of course, money isn't some of that, but we are time, limited time. My approach typically is to find out who is really interested in the solution versus who should be interested. Typically, these are two different people. Somebody arrives to me, could you please help me? However, her or his manager should be aware of that and I need to help my direct client build that awareness. I call it sponsorship. There has to be a sponsor for that change and it's rarely the same person as the person who needs the change.

[00:26:01.860] - Pawel Felinski

Right, yeah. In my experience, you want your sponsorship to be reasonably you want to have a deep bench. The deeper the bench of sponsorship you have, the more likely you are to get through the process. I've had at least three major engagements where, through sometimes good circumstances, responses kind of be important to something else halfway through. And that's not great.

[00:26:30.190] - Pete Schibli

Absolutely. Over here on the chart, as you can see, we added one common show path options. We believe there is always more than one path to deal and I think that building desire requires some options. You need to show how good looks like, what's the maximum plan, what is cheapest plan, what is out of scope that we should not touch, or if we do it, that's definitely too little. And I think putting the conversation on that kind of track helps us get the commitment, not only sponsorship, but the commitment.

[00:27:09.890] - Pawel Felinski


[00:27:10.700] - Pete Schibli

All right. I think we are ready to move on.

[00:27:14.650] - Pawel Felinski

One more piece to this puzzle too, which is sometimes when we're being good coaches, the temptation is always to stay strong with, we're going to help build the solution with you, and so on. But I found in Practise that there's a real tension between that pure approach and giving them enough of the track ahead. They can just you've really got to stay quite dynamically, be able to move from one to the other, just give them a next step. And it's really tricky because you don't necessarily know what is the right thing for this particular organisation. So having space to experiment, but also and giving them multiple options to choose from so they can get the sense of it's actually possible we could win, other people have, so we could as well, and it's not impossible.

[00:28:15.550] - Pete Schibli

So let's see what's possible. Let's say last part on the chart in our strategy would be to build the pathway. Why did we call it pathway over here? Why can't we just solve it and go.

[00:28:37.670] - Pawel Felinski

Well, if somebody out there does have the magic bullet to solve overload, please let me know. I want to know. I haven't figured that out yet. Well, just I guess it's a complex problem, it's a complex adaptive problem with all those kind of self reinforcing patterns that we described earlier and it's unique to your organisation and I don't think you're probably going to solve it in one day. It's going to take a little bit of learning and it's going to take an evolution and it's going to take a different way of operating. If you just take the view that you're getting exactly the results that you're getting right now are a perfect correlation to the systems and processes mindset you have now. If you want a different experience and different set of results, you need to redesign that. And if you want to do that relatively safely, you want to do that carefully and thoughtfully over a period of time.

[00:29:41.530] - Pete Schibli

And I think that time is a critical factor over here. We already put on the chart, but we need to create some early wins, definitely just to keep the desire present in our organisation. I definitely like the word pathway over here because my approach and it wasn't like that ten years ago, I have to confess that's something that I learned, my approach is actually, I'm not solving problem, I'm not even helping my customers solve it. I'm currently focused on helping my customers build their organisational capability and I'm literally using the word pathway over here, learning pathway, any other kind of pathway that helps them build capability to overcome this causes the symptoms that we listed a moment ago. It might be long trip and definitely there is something more and I think we are ready to reveal it, actually. If the path is long, you may lose your awareness, lose desire, so versus a loop intentionally, I don't know whether the loop comes back to build desire step or build awareness with both of them, but we need to build momentum and they stay on the course. When we have this conversation with Pete previously, I thought it's very similar to one of bigger models that we have in Agile World, the Kanban Maturity model, with their approach saying that focus on that pain point in your organisation that is the most on surface, most critical, and solve it and then wait, wait a little bit.

[00:31:26.970] - Pete Schibli

Another problem from the list would pop up with the surface and then solve this one and this one. Don't try to solve everything at once. That would be one approach. Another coming from systems thinking would be think first, think and try to find that issue, that lever that if you use it, that make the biggest impact, positive impact to your organisation. How do you see it? Be it?

[00:31:55.510] - Pawel Felinski

Yeah, I can't add anything more. I think you've captured it for an Ashley, I told.

[00:32:00.790] - Pete Schibli

All right, in that case, I think you're ready to move on to a little bit more practical part before that. Two interesting help quotes. First of all, Al Khaldra. The more complex a system is, more profound is its inherent simplicity. What does it mean?

[00:32:25.310] - Pawel Felinski

Well, I think what Dr Govrad is pointing to here is that when you have an incredible I guess the system that we're talking about is the system that's created the overload that we're trying to address here. And your organisation will be unique, but it will be a whole constellation of drives and causes that both create and then reinforce that overload. So you had that that's the complexity of the system, the metrics you use, the behaviours, the mindset, the thinking, the culture, your systems, it all creates whatever intensity of storm you're suffering. And what he's saying is that the more complex the system is, then the easier it is to find.

[00:33:12.170] - Pete Schibli

The weak.

[00:33:12.740] - Pawel Felinski

Point or the constraint, or the blocker counterintuitively. And on our next slide here, one of my dear colleagues has what I think is the inherent simplicity of overload, which is the conscious control of the flow of work. So great pleasure working with this man, Cameron LeeSK, who is a bit of a rock star in the space.

[00:33:39.590] - Pete Schibli

I'd like perhaps to address the previous quote still here in Eastern Europe, we have, I think, the sort of proverb over here, if there's a big, big mess, whatever you're going to attach, you will only improve it. So in this complexity, the more complex situation is, it's easier to start, I guess, conscious control of the flow of work dangerously. Sounds like the Kanban method. So I think it's about time to talk about a few practises when we had this conversation before, with which we found out that it's actually not so simple, it's not just practises a method in case of dudes, there are actually two layers that we could talk about.

[00:34:27.800] - Pawel Felinski

Very first ones, probably more.

[00:34:29.700] - Pete Schibli

At least. Yeah, absolutely. At least. At least two layers. The first one or the second one, very obvious in consulting, defence level practise what you should do. But there's also a level of culture, mindset, approach, attitude, thinking that we could change. We like to achieve that mindset shift examples again, because I think the list is not complete. What do we have over here, Pete?

[00:35:04.290] - Pawel Felinski

Okay, so the cultural layer is the kind of invisible layer and it can be hard to see your own culture, so a fish can't see the water it's swimming in, but you'll know you've got it when you say it out loud or you have it written down, people go, oh, yeah, that is us. You'll recognise it when you hear it. But if you ask people to put their own culture in their words, they'll struggle. So there's a bit of art to creating it, but there are some common patterns. And if you do a bit of research on this topic, a great resource might be something there's a bit of industry jargon. So called anti patterns, which are these kind of self reinforcing, vicious cycles is another way of thinking them and have a look at those, almost kind of do an audit on those and see which ones which ones do we do? And putting it into my own organization's words, how would I capture that? So what's the good, the bad and the ugly of our culture? And in particular those things that you suspect intuitively might be causing overload? So instead of focusing on the outcome, you're focusing on outputs or inputs even instead of focusing on finishing stuff and putting into a customer's hands, you might find that your culture values and rewards and appreciates starting in as many things as possible.

[00:36:34.430] - Pawel Felinski

So they're great starters, not necessarily good finishers. The optimise the whole that would be the ideal state in my opinion. The opposite of that might be.

[00:36:51.090] - Pete Schibli


[00:36:51.360] - Pawel Felinski

Way you're set up culturally and organizationally is that it's all about optimising the local process steps. What people get valued for and recognised for is taking process A from point B to point C, for example. So these are kind of potentially positive aspects. You maybe want to invert these to see where they went and it's definitely incomplete. Some of these may or may not be relevant to you.

[00:37:26.430] - Pete Schibli

What I just realised looking at that list is definitely it's not complete. There are some loops, maybe even over here or more, but I think it's very important to say it's not a basket with apples and you can pick one or two that you like. I think you can start with one of this. But it goes, as I said, as a combo together. I can't imagine organisation that wants to embrace finishing over starting without the concept of giving some people some slack time over full what we call resources utilisation. I just can't imagine it. Outcomes over outputs, ironically, very often goes with leadership as service. Completely different approach to leading company, treating teams and so on and so on. So I guess it's a set river. Not complete. Not complete definitely, but a set river. A list of ideas where you could choose from.

[00:38:33.350] - Pawel Felinski

Yeah, but the reason why we put this here is because when people talk about culture, that can seem a bit mysterious, like culture, how do I even approach that? But these are some possible, I think, anchor points to reflect on do that kind of critical thinking and socialisation just like we did in the earlier with the earlier areas to say what part of our culture could we best harness? Which part of our culture, if we managed to transform it or upgrade it or shift it, would give us the most positive difference.

[00:39:09.390] - Pete Schibli

That's a very good thought pitch. We need to think which ward would be better and to replace culture as a ward in management in general. But this is completely different. Webinar, let's move on. Final chart this time about the practical. Operational layer of what we could do on daily basis while dealing with overload here we have again two bigger parts. One, control sources of your work. So the demand for your activities, who calls you with what versus your capacity and then limiting work in progress. Again, it sounds like the Candle method, but these concepts are present in many other ones. There is a clear line between controlling sources of work and limiting working progress. Again, a question to you Pete, which one would you start with when you approach a new team or organisation?

[00:40:20.550] - Pawel Felinski

I think you've got to start with, in my experience, before you control your work in progress, you have to control the amount of work that comes into the system. Otherwise a team or a business might say, okay, we're only going to take on three projects at once. Or this number of initiatives, fine, watch all of the hidden initiatives and side projects and competing demands and emergent work that comes at them and you'll discover that quickly when you discover they're breaking their rules really quickly. Why? Because they have this really important and business critical need that's emerged. For example, or this customer who that I want to internal or external.

[00:41:12.550] - Pete Schibli

I saw a few eventually successful, Agile, in that case transformations that started with focus on limiting work in progress. And that was a problem, big problem. And for them the AHA, moment, pivotal moment for consultants, coaches and the organisation was hey, we can't effectively, seriously limit work in progress before actually addressing the demand, addressing our customers. So actually they move to controlling source of work. I find it way easier if you start with your sources of work, your internal customers perhaps in the first place than external ones, and only when you move to limited work in progress. For me, the left hand side part of this chart actually is already on the level of building awareness or building desire because I think these are the people who anyway would care about it.

[00:42:10.490] - Pawel Felinski

If you've been watching here, you probably can see there's almost a one for one mapping between the practises here and the problem slide that we showed before.

[00:42:20.170] - Pete Schibli

I think so.

[00:42:22.430] - Pawel Felinski

And there's also a trap in here too, which is you might start by saying we need to control the amount of work. We need to control the amount of work that we're putting on our plate. If we have too many cars on the motorway, everything just slows down. Okay, so fine. But I can see now in order to do that I need to control all of these hidden on ramps. And then you might say, AHA, but wait. In order for me to do that, I really need to understand and help people align on the priorities of these multiple, multiple kind of internal customers. I might have 20 internal customers all blurred and head in. I need to get alignment and I think there's a paralysis trap here where you go, I need to go all the way to the root cause. And in the meantime, you're not doing anything and burning enormous amount of time and you might easily get stopped at any point too. So maybe there's a point here about trying to carve out small, meaningful wins at each point while keeping your focus. Maybe 80% of your energy on the.

[00:43:26.070] - Pete Schibli

Highest could be I think the keyword that you mentioned is alignment over here. I mentioned a moment ago organisations that eventually were very successful, but I also see a lot of, maybe not organisations, but single teams that struggle a lot, especially if they work for one external customer. They focus on their internal capability, internal process limiting work in progress, which is absolutely not understood by the customer because customer perceives, okay, you're doing less or you're going slower. A customer does not understand. Yeah, we're going slow a little bit right now. We're changing our process in order to speed up in the future. Many scrum teams, I think, struggle to sell scrum, if I may say so, to their customers because they completely ignore the left and start part over here. So the demand yes, all right, I think we are about to finish. Pete, if you were to summarise in one, maybe two sentences how we should do with overload, what would be your key takeaway? Insight what you would like to leave over here.

[00:44:44.010] - Pawel Felinski

It almost looks a bit insultingly simple when we show the practises in the culture, and I think we all recognise here, you'll recognise listening to us, we're in the trenches of this every day. It's not easy, it's hard. The first thing to acknowledge is it's hard. The second thing is what makes it hard for you is the pathway to solve it. So if it's hard because you can't see it, great, bring it into sight. If it's hard because you can't measure it great, measure it. If it's hard because you can't get alignment, great. Get alignment. The obstacle is the path and it is simple. It actually is simple, but it's definitely not easy. So give yourself the space and the permission and build the widest possible coalition you can of support along the way to make meaningful progress.

[00:45:39.290] - Pawel Felinski

I think we are aligned. My key takeaway here would be buy in. Yes. Get the commitment. Get a buy in before actually touching anything. It doesn't have to be big coalition, but you need to explain what motivates you, what should motivate them to change. You need to find out the best way. I think getting Dubai the commitment is the key takeaway. All right, Pete. Thank you. Thank you very much. We could stay here for a few more days, I believe, but we are at time. That was a Journal encounter number eight, dealing with overall. My guest Pete Shibli. A few announcements at the very, very end. The first one is we are just about to start a new initiative at Meirik based on mainly what we hear at training sessions. It's called Askmeric, and it's very simple. If you go to the website Askmeric, you can leave a question. It's a simple question. For instance, hey, guys, how would you like us to deal with overload, for instance, and we will record a tiny video. Most likely, I'll be over there, literally one, maybe two minutes. I'll try to give you the answer. It might be tricky, especially your questions. Very difficult, but I'll do my best to make it as short as possible. So ask me new initiative, more about it on the website. And finally, in a little bit less than a month from now, we are meeting on Agile Encounters number nine. And I will not tell you what the topic is. It is just after Halloween and we have a spooky surprise kind of topic. Stay tuned, please watch us in social media. It's all for today. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you, Pete, and we'll see you next time.

Meet the speakers

Pawel Felinski

Paweł is a management consultant working in the fields of strategy execution and new product development. Recently, he has been involved in business transformations with Agile in the energy industry. Paweł brings a pragmatic and method-agnostic approach to problem-solving.

Pete Schibli

For the last several years, Pete has been applying agile in novel fields such as heavy engineering, exploration, new product development, and joint ventures. He’s committed to helping people create conditions that maximise good outcomes – and he’s conscious that after a lifetime's work in this field, Pete’s only scratching the surface of what is possible.

Past webinars

December 20, 2023

How to Start with Design Sprint

Nearly a decade ago, Design Sprint came to the rescue. It's a framework built on top of Design Thinking, which prescribes clear roles, requirements, and tasks that help bring Design Thinking to life.
October 25, 2023

What's Possible with Kanban

Discover the power of the Kanban method, including enhanced workflow visibility, faster delivery and customer satisfaction it can bring to your team and organisation.
September 20, 2023

How to Become an Enterprise Agile Coach

Join Paweł Feliński and Pete Schibli, seasoned Agile experts, as they demystify the role of Enterprise Agile Coaches, drawing from their extensive experience in various industries. Gain insider insights from interviews with renowned Agile coaches and learn the unique capabilities required for success at the enterprise level. Whether you're aspiring to become an Enterprise Agile Coach or seeking to advance your career in this field, Paweł and Pete will provide you with a roadmap to success.
August 23, 2023

How to use the Agile Coaching Growth Wheel

Discover and leverage the power of the Agile Coaching Growth Wheel
June 28, 2023

How to Reinvent your Career - The Transformative Journey to Become Project Manager

Delve the captivating story of Dmitrii, who charted a unique path from Lean Startup to Agile project management. We promise this webinar to be an enlightening exploration of personal growth and professional evolution.
April 19, 2023

Small steps management

Demystify systems thinking and draw useful conclusions from the peculiar domain of knowledge. Learn how to combine the popular OKR goal-setting system with a simple yet powerful visualisation technique to help achieve commitments step-by-step.
March 15, 2023

What to do to manage multiple stakeholders

Get to know techniques for discovering and prioritising the expectations of all your stakeholders together.
February 15, 2023

Stakeholder management in practice

Stakeholders management in practice
January 18, 2023

A better way to transform your business

Have you noticed that digital transformations, agile transformations, or any other business transformation often fail, despite initial successes? Why is it so? Is there any better way to manage organisational changes? During the webinar, we will share our answers to these questions and an approach that gives transformations a better success ratio.
November 2, 2022

Dealing with dependencies

Dependencies are one of the main causes of organisational overload. How can we deal with them? What practices can we use to manage and minimise dependencies effectively? We answer these questions in this Agile Encounter Webinar. Watch and find solutions for your organisation, team or yourself.

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