Leadership is the key to the successful realization of flexibility

By News, Organizational transformation

Agile is hip; many organizations have truly embraced this way of working. However: it does not always create the expected flexibility. ‘Agile working means: even more meetings in my schedule!’, managers in The Netherland’s corporate world are complaining. At the other end of the spectrum, employees are not experiencing enough involvement from their managers. What’s going wrong?

Many of the organizations experiencing frustration with the Agile work methods have one thing in common: they are ‘fake-Agile’ working. Whilst teams work in short sprints, direction and management don’t adjust their own work methods. They continue to initiate large projects with changing one-team setups, only to guide them based on budgets, micromanagement and deadlines.

It’s a pity, because if Agile is truly embraced and thoroughly implemented, it has many advantages compared to the traditional (‘waterfall’) working method. Because finished products are frequently validated, this method ensures a quicker time to market as well as increased flexibility. Teams also experience more work enjoyment.

The role of leadership is crucial

Because there is a lack of a communal way of working between leadership and delivery teams, the teams are still being guided following the old method. All this despite the Agile philosophy’s requirement of a different style of leadership. This creates irritation and the frustration experienced on both sides is simply a logical consequence of this.

If an organization wishes to truly work Agile, the leadership must also adjust their behaviour and leadership style.

Five tips from practical experience for more Agile leadership:

  1. Choose consciously and link it to the most important priority

    The choice to work Agile is a transformation which requires behavioural change from everyone, at every level. Are you truly prepared to take this route and make the sacrifice of temporarily working less efficiently before experiencing increased flexibility? Follow and thoroughly live following the method and link it to the most important priority of the organization to show that there is no way back.

  2. Allow yourself help and stick with it

    Transforming is complex and at the moment that it becomes nerve-racking, one tends to fall back into old habits. Change can be unruly and comes with setbacks. Stick with it at times when others may have given up. Where Agile coaching in delivery teams is becoming more common, leaders, on the other hand, are becoming less agile. Leading Agile teams is really different than regular waterfall line management. It’s extremely difficult to unlearn years of trained and performed waterfall management. This is why you should allow yourself a coach!

  3. Make teams successful

    In an Agile organization, multidisciplinary delivery teams are the success factor when realizing flexibility. Therefore, the most important task of leaders is to make their teams successful. Give teams guidelines (guidance) within which they can act autonomously. Develop the teams with regards to independent choice-making. Challenge them with regards to the realization of outcome rather than output. Moreover, it is important to show involvement by being present in sprint reviews. These are the moment to get a feeling for the delivery and to relay new insights to teams.

  4. Stimulate experimenting and client validation

    In many corporates, there is an overwhelming aversion to risk and ‘first time right’ is so engrained that innovation and new functionalities are only released when they’re 100% ready. This is at odds with the Agile philosophy and this old way of thinking frustrates delivery teams as well as hampering flexibility. Therefore, one should stimulate experimenting and the validation of new functionalities with users.

  5. Be brave

    Dare to make mistakes; be brave. Differing ways of working within the same organization- waterfall in the case of leadership and Agile in the case of delivery teams- must stop. Leadership must take the first step towards this. They will need to communicate with one another and their direct-reports in order to show different behaviour, both top down and bottom up.


  6. Partially thanks to technological developments, the speed with which organizations will need to adjust internally to new market situations is only going to increase. Change is the only constant, Agile is here to stay and going back to waterfall is unlikely. Leaders who are inflexible will be overtaken. It’s about time that they become Agile.

    Written by: Johan Makkinga (Manager Organizational Transformation), Myrthe van Stralen (Consultant Organizational Transformation) 

How can you get the most out of your employees in three (proven) effective steps?

By News, Organizational transformation

Do you ever get the feeling that you aren’t winning any battles with your current team? That your employees reject responsibility and lack operational capability? You’re not the only one. IG&H encounters this problem often during client inquiries. With these three simple steps, you will get more out of your employees.

Do you prefer to read? Scroll down.

Step 1 starting: ‘purpose’ as the basis of performance

People have a natural need for development and progress (A. Maslow, 1967). Despite this, only one third of employees in the Netherlands goes with a sense of enjoyment and involvement. That has consequences on the work floor; those who do not feel involved are less likely to work hard in order to perform well. As a manager, you can use this natural need for development by giving the employee’s purpose a place within the team’s objectives.

A large retailer asked IG&H to assist them with this. One team member only showed enthusiasm for a certain type of project. By having a discussion about her personal purpose as well as the manager’s, both parties became more understanding of each other’s ambitions. By doing this, the manager was able to more effectively utilize the employee on projects in line with her goals. In this manner, the company was able to profit more from her qualities and the employee was more motivated and strongly involved with the achievement of the team goals.

Step 2 keep going: ratifying

Influencing and sustaining positive and proactive work behaviour can be done following a simple ABC: A stands for Antecedents, B for Behaviour, and C for Consequences.

In order to ensure that the team members of the aforementioned retailer were able to more effectively attain team goals, a daily stand-up was introduced in collaboration with IG&H; in other words, a precondition (A) in order to help the team to work together optimally and in order to stimulate (C) desired behaviour (B).

During the stand-up, team members were motivated to share help requests (B) via a ‘team standard’ (A). This dictated that colleagues, in these cases, must always offer help. By then ratifying the helpful behaviour (C), the chance that this behaviour is repeated becomes higher.

Around 80% of our behaviour is dictated by a punishment or reward that stems from our approach (Thorndike, 1874-1949). Coaching the application of ‘C’ is therefore crucially important.

Step 3 securing: culture in which making mistakes is allowed

Thereafter, it is important to create a culture in which mistakes are seen as possibilities for learning and growth (C. Dweck, 2012). Through this, employees will try more things out, experiment, and show courage, allowing them to be the best that they can be.

As a manager, you can make time during the stand-up for fuck-ups. Focus on the question of what the individual employees and the team have learned from the mistake. Ensure that an employee is appreciated rather than punished for sharing. It helps if the manager also shares his or her own fuck-ups. Look into the process with the team or the individual; what could have been done better here? Research shows that receiving feedback on the applied strategy works better than feedback on end results. Team members learn more effectively from mistakes, take on more challenges, and enjoy their tasks more (Dweck, 2012).

A successful organization

After following the steps mentioned above, the team of the big retailer worked together with more involvement and motivation, with a growth-centric mindset. The team members turned out to be able to realize team goals in a self-motivated, proactive way using the correct preconditions.

The aforementioned steps to optimization will also make your company’s teams stronger and more effective. Do you want more information? Feel free to contact the Organization Transformation Team at IG&H.

Written by: Eline Reurik (Consultant Organization Transformation) and Myrthe van Stralen (Consultant Organization Transformation).

Behaviour as the key for impactful transformation in the mortgage sector 

By Banking, News, Organizational transformation

The most impactful transformations for mortgage brokers focus not only on a new strategy, process or system, but also on the behaviour that goes with it. IG&H’s years of experience in the sector have proven this time and time again. Transformation trajectories often only accomplish a part of their original goals due to the fact that employees (and executives) eventually fall back into their old habits. How to prevent this as an organization? 

The mortgage sector is changing fast; technological developments are happening quicker and quicker, customer behaviour is changing and laws are being altered. Mortgage advice, for example, is changing towards a hybrid model. Clients begin the advice trajectory online so that the mortgage advisor can focus on only the most important decisions during their discussion. Smart software and data science technology are also making it possible to respond more effectively to the personal needs of individual clients. 

In practice, we often see advisors making little use of the new possibilities available to them. For example, the steps that a client has followed online are often not used, resulting in double the amount of work. It is also often the case that they do not know how to use new information, such as conclusions stemming from data science research, in practice. 

Consistent guidance

A new way of work calls for adjusted behaviour. It is often the case that employees are told to teach themselves new habits, which often results in them falling back into their old habits. Those who wish to create transformations with real impact on the organization will need to guide employees on the work floor consistently. If this does not happen, many applications and changes will be only partially utilized. 

How do you coach employees after a change in working conditions?

A few necessary basic principles for those who want to create lasting behavioural changes became obvious to us after countless transformation trajectories with mortgage brokers: 


If working conditions change, higher management often has the tendency to tackle problems that originate on the work floor directly using solutions which they have used before. Though this may sound logical, it can have a perverse effect. Previously used solutions have been proven to have an unsatisfactory effect. For this reason, do not immediately spring into action. 


Identify the root cause of the behaviour. We often see that the problem is literally the tip of the iceberg. The behaviour is merely what is visible to us. What is causing it to happen? Which convictions and motivations are strengthening or hindering? Begin working with this ‘undercurrent’ in mind. 

An often seen example is that employees fail to ask for help from each other or their executives. This results in them drowning in work or not sounding the alarm on time if they are experiencing problems. It turns out that people often do not dare ask for help. They are impeded by the belief that they should not disturb somebody else. 

This root cause is important; don’t tell people that they should ask for help more often, opt to discuss the problem during a meeting. Ask the entire team if they experience inconvenience when somebody asks for assistance. The majority of times this is not the case and this knowledge will ultimately lower the threshold. 

A second handle that we use often is the ‘change curve’. Everyone follows the same psychological trajectory from denying a problem, to frustration or resistance and, ultimately, acceptance. This is the case for both employees and executives, though some may start the trajectory sooner than others. The speed of the trajectory can also differ; one person can process a change within minutes, another within months. Some people may never be able to.

Higher management often recognizes the change much earlier than the rest of the organization. Therefore, they experience the change curve sooner. By the time the rest of the organization is informed, they have already accepted the change themselves and often cannot comprehend why the rest of the organization is not yet ready

Take, for example, a certain organization that went through a major change of direction. After months of meetings about what was needed, the management decided to share the outcome in a staff meeting. To their great displeasure, there was no immediate enthusiastic response. Half of the group did not see the impact and the other half wondered what this meant for their job. Taking people into the thought process at an early stage can help speed up the change curve.

Those wishing to prevent their employees from reverting told behaviour will need to guide the new work methodology on the work floor. Attention to both antecedents and consequences are of the utmost importance during this process. 

Shaping the correct conditions is a prerequisite for the creation of new habits. Employees must know what is expected of them and how they can achieve these goals. Organizations spend 80% of their energy on average on the creation of these antecedents. 

It is noteworthy that these prerequisites only play a small part in bringing about behavioural changes on the work floor. The largest part of the behavioural changes is caused by attaching consequences to the behaviour. This is crucial to changing somebody’s daily routine. 


In our experience, it often helps to let teams make explicit agreements over desired results and collaboration. Often, the existing situation has grown in a certain way, and it can do no harm to shake it up a bit. After this, create moments for feedback. For example, keep a frequent team dialogue, or ensure that an executive pays attention to the agreements, both written and behavioural.

Written by: Joppe Smit en Jorien Weerdenburg

Successful implementation of experiments into business

By Clientcases, Organizational transformation

What they wanted
This organization needed experiments to be successfully implemented into the business.

What we did
We introduced an Agile way of working. In addition, we provided coaches with training and guidance, teaching them and the teams a range of skills. Moreover, the standard innovation process was upgraded using clear steps for each stage.

What we achieved
The experiment teams’ delivery has become more predictable. Their ability to think ahead has improved, and they highlight complexity. Furthermore, both the business and partners come on board sooner and in a better way to prepare a smooth implementation stage.

What they said
Some client quotes: “I have become a more effective coach.” “We reflect on future important matters to a greater extent.” “IG&H left us with something truly valuable. This place is better than it was several months ago.”