The phenomenon of “dynamic link” (how to work with initiative employees)

    With this article, I wanted to describe a phenomenon of an organizational nature that occurs in the work of many companies. Its essence is that when something goes wrong in work, for example, ineffective business processes or code deteriorating every day, people may appear who will be eager to change it, simply because they themselves want it, they want to some kind of "make the world a better place." And this energy is very important to use correctly. If it is not effectively directed in the right direction, then, if it is not realized, it will begin to “burn” the initiator from the inside and in the end demotivate it, or even lead to the loss of the employee. If you use it adequately, then you can not only make changes that are useful for the organization with a high level of motivation, but also further develop the employee.

    However, in order to understand the full chain of cause-effect relationships and how they can be used for good, you must first explain the initial causes of the occurrence and development of the phenomenon. Therefore, at first a small excursion into the structure of the phenomenon.

    Conveyor and Agile

    We live in a great century, IT takes many familiar processes to a whole new level. And one of the main parameters of this industry, in which large companies will always quietly envy small ones, is dynamics. Moreover, not only the dynamics of the pace, but also the dynamics of changes. To understand the difference between these two terms, imagine a runner. It can run long distances perfectly at the same pace, giving excellent performance, but try to send it to a rugged terrain with obstacles, where you need to jump, climb, dive, and it will quickly exhaust itself. In one case, we have the pace dynamics, we run fast, in the other case the dynamics of changes, we can quickly change course and maintain a good pace. After all, you can quickly run away, but not to where you really need to, or even "could be cut through the forest."

    The industrial age has taught us how to develop processes with tempo dynamics. One of the main decisions regarding the dynamics of the pace was the conveyor. He allowed to develop a high pace of a standardized process and was a breakthrough for his time. In the current realities of the IT industry, the conveyor cannot be an effective solution due to a number of phenomena. The main ones: The
    inability to standardize sections of the "conveyor" and the entire line. Market conditions change very quickly and, as a result, the product “moving along the assembly line” may change sooner than it leaves it. For this reason, waterfall-development is obsolete.
    The requirement for highly motivated employees. In the IT industry, this is directly related to performance. At the conveyor, this is not given much attention, because it has little effect on performance.

    The Agile approach has become a natural development of the manufacturing process to solve these problems. In particular in the field of software development. It allows you to develop the dynamics of change, i.e. the need to change the product halfway fits perfectly into the production cycle. Agile also has a number of activities aimed at increasing the motivation of process participants, which also improves productivity.

    However, one way or another, Agile is always also a business process, just a different structure. For some part, this is even a kind of nano-waterfall. And we all perfectly understand that there are no universal processes that are suitable for all occasions. It is for this reason that you can hear the phrase “Not a single team working on pure Scrum from the well-known agile coach”. Actually, Agile itself needs to adapt to the realities faced by the workflow. And here, the larger the production process, the more links in it, the more “standardized” it is (interaction regulations, etc.), the more difficult it is to develop the dynamics of changes.

    Processes arranged like clockwork

    In the minds of many leaders, and this still drives into business schools with their ideal models of “spherical organizations in a vacuum,” there is an idea that the ideal process is when everything works “like a clock”. Let's try to imagine this in a metaphorical simplified way:
    There is a spring that transfers energy to a pendulum, which in turn sets the pace to a chain of gears, which at the end of their process create “value” in the form of a display of the correct time.
    By analogy with a company: a spring is resources, such as finance; the pendulum is the leaders that set the pace (including the direction of development); gear chain - these are elements of the production process (marketing, development, implementation, maintenance, etc.).

    Accordingly, an organization that works “like a clock” is one in which everyone works at the same pace, ideally interact with each other, have enough resources, and as a result, they can never stop and not stand idle in any of the sites constantly creating “value”. This model is perfect for conveyor-type production cycles with a high degree of automation. But, as practice has shown, obtaining such processes in a large organization is quite difficult. Actually, one of the basic Agile practices, Kanban, was born at Toyota Automobile Plant in order to optimize the process of assembling cars. So the ability to have high dynamics of changes in the current business space can be considered a very serious competitive advantage, and in the field of software development this is already a must-have standard. A product with a half year or more release cycle is almost certainly doomed. Even operating systems are already producing on-demand updates.

    Large and small companies

    Let us return to the metaphor metaphor and apply it to compare large and small companies.
    In small companies (start-ups), there is a problem with resources, but it is compensated by the strong swing effect of the pendulum (leader) itself, and since the number of links at first is very small, the loss of “energy” before creating the final value is also small. As a result, such companies have high efficiency and high dynamics of changes, because it is much easier to reconfigure another combination of gears when they are few. And rarely, small companies start with poorly fitted parts, as a rule, these are very “unidirectional” people.

    In large companies, there are resources and good leaders who set the pace, but, nevertheless, the efficiency, compared with small companies, can be lower, and sometimes much lower. This is due to the fact that the number of gears in such companies is high. As a result, the losses on the interaction become greater, and if some two gears “did not fit their teeth” and “pace”, then the whole subsequent chain starts to sag.

    It is worth clarifying here that gears should be understood not only as individuals and departments, but in general as an approach to the production process. For example, the appearance of a new product may be accompanied by new requirements for the skills of specialists, or by interaction with external dependencies (outsourcing or customers) and so on. All that should "work like a clock", but not always that way.

    Silver Bullet Rules

    The classic decision, which is legally justified and acceptable in our society, for such situations, is the regulation. For example: you need to get a layout from the design department. If the gears work "according to the rules", then if something went wrong, you will be returned the task with a request for clarifications to which you must answer within a certain time, and if you do not answer, the task will go to the next iteration of development and will be ready for a week later, but not the fact that new questions will not appear that should also be “written” in the task with translation of request statuses and approval. If the regulations are honed and all the gears fit perfectly together, then the process will go “like clockwork”. But if something went wrong, for example, the email “stuck” somewhere, or the notification did not work, or the person took a day off, then the whole system will begin to sag. The situation is quite typical and this solution is quite justified: the system has a description, there is a person responsible for each section, each does only his own job. And even in some ways, it starts to resemble the very same conveyor in an attempt to manage everything and control everything that is possible at each stage.

    However, the situation of “perfectly fitted gears” does not always have a place to be. Each organization is experiencing growth, hiring or hiring employees, a change of direction and other changes. And the greater the dynamics of change, the more such effects. All this leads to the fact that some gears begin to interact not always efficiently. The production process begins to suffer and regulations in this case are not always able to correct the situation, and sometimes even more harm. For example: a new direction, a new product opens, and a team is typed under it. If you follow the rules, then an attempt will be made to "rebuild" the team for existing processes, or even a new schedule will be developed, moreover, not by those people who will be direct participants, but by those who "know how to correctly." After that, these regulations will be “lowered from above” and the gears should spin “as needed”. Undoubtedly, there is a chance that everything will be so, but more often the opposite is true, and the mechanism will “spin with a creak” and its effectiveness will leave much to be desired. It is precisely for solving such problematic situations in Agile methodologies that there is a rule that teams themselves are constantly involved in changing their processes (the same retrospectives), naturally within the framework of what is permissible, and sometimes “within the framework of regulations”. If only the result was achieved. that the teams themselves are constantly engaged in changing their processes (the same retrospectives), naturally within the framework of what is permitted, and sometimes “within the framework of the regulations”. If only the result was achieved. that the teams themselves are constantly engaged in changing their processes (the same retrospectives), naturally within the framework of what is permitted, and sometimes “within the framework of the regulations”. If only the result was achieved.

    I believe that this situation is quite understandable and typical, and the standard way out of it is also quite obvious: the search for the right combinations by trial and error. This is how the development of most business processes occurs. To reduce the number of errors, consultants are also often attracted, but nevertheless the errors themselves cannot be avoided and this is normal.

    “Dynamic Link”

    In an attempt to find a more universal and effective solution to this problem, I came across an interesting effect. We call it conditionally "dynamic link".

    In the cases described above, when you have problems in the interaction of any links, a more effective solution can sometimes be not creating rules for them to “make them work as they should”, but creating / implementing a “dynamic link” between them. A kind of gear that can work at any pace and any shape of the adjacent gears without slowing them down and without “breaking off the teeth”. However, as you can immediately draw conclusions from a technical analogy, the load on such a gear will naturally be much greater and the approach to such an element needs a slightly different approach to the "static links". It is this link that will help to create / set a “common pace”, and in the future, with the right approach, it can even be removed without losing the quality of the process.

    What it looks like in life. It is required to launch a new project / product. A manager and developers have already been found for him, but they were recruited from other areas and previously they did not work together. The manager does not know how to work with this team. The team does not know how to work with this manager. They try to interact within the framework of the regulation, one sets tasks, others fulfill them. Naturally, the motivation in this case will not be up to the mark, and violation of expectations on both sides (“incomprehensible tasks from the manager”, “the team missed all the deadlines”, etc.) will also reduce the process efficiency. At the same time, anyone can find any number of explanations from the series "the problem is not on our side." There is a poor interaction of the links. And in this case, it’s more efficient not to wait until all KPIs are broken and a new regulation is formed, but to introduce a “dynamic link”.

    Consulting and agile coaches

    As we know where there is demand, there will be an offer. Logically and historically, this niche is occupied by consultants and consulting companies. In recent years, IT companies have now begun to practice hiring agile coaches. Like Agile himself, this profession is pretty young.

    However, Agile coaches, in today's reality, are more focused on the IT segment and, in particular, development teams. In areas where Agile is still not so widespread, for example, departments of accounting or legal support, this form of development of business processes as coaches is not widely used.
    The slow pace of the introduction of dynamics in these areas is due to the fact that the work there is very regulated and as such, the dynamics of changes are not required there, only the dynamics of the pace. In this regard, in units with a high degree of regulation and low dynamics of changes, the best way to increase the pace is precisely the automation of processes, just like on a conveyor belt. From here we see the growth of the electronic document management market and the high demand for such products as 1C.
    All this, of course, is not suitable for high dynamics of product development in IT. Therefore, people are required who allow dynamic changes in the workflow.

    Internal dynamic link

    However, we’ll rather talk not about how to attract outside specialists, but how to use internal resources to the benefit of both the company as a whole and the development of its employees.
    So what is a "dynamic link"? This is a person with a very specific set of beliefs and skills. Such people are in almost every company, perhaps, with the exception of strictly regulated organizations like government agencies.

    The main qualities (personal beliefs) that distinguish a good "dynamic link":
    1. The work must be done perfectly.
    2. "Who, if not me?"
    3. The result is more important than the rules.
    4. Never give up.

    and a number of beliefs that are similar to or derived from those listed.

    Such people in life try to accompany their work with value creation. They especially love to be needed and do something useful and valuable.
    Sometimes, if such links are not in their place, or are not directed in the right direction, they can be perceived as “a plug in every barrel”. They strive to improve everything they can, and this is not always welcomed by those around them who are accustomed to "go with the flow."
    As I said, a certain set of beliefs is very important for such people. These beliefs should create exactly a useful result for the company, bring value, because if the vector of their interests does not coincide with the vector of the company, then their activity may be negative for the company. On the other hand, if their aspirations are useful and their skills are enough to create a useful result, then the efficiency will be much higher than from a static link.

    Dynamic Link Qualities

    Above were listed qualities-beliefs characteristic of people of this type. It is the qualitative implementation of each of these beliefs in the work process that creates from the dynamic link a useful component of the work process. If at least one of the qualities is not developed or directed, or is even completely absent, then this link will be more destructive than creative.
    Let's analyze them in parts:

    1. The work should be done perfectly.
    If the understanding of value is distorted, then “excellent” can take on different shades. For example, a programmer who strives to do his job “excellent” can “dig into the code” and bring it to an end, although all the deadlines have already been torn down and the product has lost customers.
    Excellent - this means brought the maximum measurable value at minimum cost. It is important to understand not only the dynamic link, but also any participant in the business process.

    2. "Who, if not me?"
    If the previous paragraph is useful for any employee, then this one is specific only to dynamic links. Often the role of a dynamic link is connected precisely with the fact that no one else is able to perform the missing functions, and then, by virtue of this belief, and in accordance with paragraph 1, these people take on functions that lie outside their official duties. And they’re taking it not with the words “I’ll try, but whatever happens,” but in full. Voluntarily make themselves responsible for what lies outside their responsibility. Again, here it is important to understand the line of “useful result” in this action. If a dynamic link thus draws upon itself the area of ​​responsibility of another link, starts to do well the work of the person who does it badly, then in this way it will only harm the business process,
    It is important to understand that it is permissible to pull over only those responsibilities that are not currently assigned to anyone. Mentoring is also allowed when a dynamic link helps to develop their competencies to related links, thereby establishing their work. This is exactly what agile coaches do.

    3. The result is more important than the rules.
    This is also characteristic of a dynamic link and it directly follows from the previous paragraphs. If the value is honestly clear and responsibility is assumed, it is important to be able to make decisions and change the rules so that the efficiency of the workflow becomes greater. Static links, unlike dynamic ones, do not seek to change something, do not seek to actively develop the process as a whole, maximum within the framework of their own area of ​​responsibility. As the dynamic link expands its area of ​​responsibility, the “vision” of how to improve this area is broader. Therefore, they need to go to a change in the regulation if this helps to form a great value.
    And here again, "the devil is in the details." Under the rules, it is necessary to understand not only the regulations, but the established traditions / habits in the company, and it is very important to understand which rules are permissible to break and which are not. And since there are various “areas of rules”, for example, if a person unconsciously projects his moral beliefs on the work process, then they can also participate in decision-making.
    For example, a person has the belief that "you can’t upset people." As a result, being in the role of a leader, such a person will most likely never give high-quality feedback, i.e. constructive criticism. Because it will initially perceive criticism as "upsetting people." Accordingly, the problems that will arise in the team will be hushed up. Man cannot "break the rule." The converse is also true when a person, in an effort to achieve a result, can break the rules that are important for the company, for example, force employees to work overtime.
    As a consequence of the above, it is important that the dynamic link improves the production process, even if it requires a violation of the regulations, but at the same time is fully aware of what consequences this may lead to.

    4. Never give up.
    Perhaps this belief is characteristic of any single-minded person. And for a dynamic link it is especially important, because from time to time it has to “swim against the stream”, and this can take up a lot of energy. Therefore, not only motivation should be at a high level, but external support and personal determination. Otherwise, there is a risk of turning a dynamic link into a static one, into a performer without motivation and previous energy.

    The difference between a dynamic link and just a good employee

    Based on the above description, the dynamic link really resembles just a good employee, but this is not entirely true. As a rule, most people are not ready to look for problems on their own head, that is, to answer for what they were not asked for and for which they should not. Most "already have enough worries." For the dynamic link, this is a question from the category of "injustice is happening somewhere in the world." When “something is done poorly” is perceived as a personal challenge, because they strive to do their work as well as possible in order to create even more value.

    Good or bad

    In various forms, dynamic links are found in any organization. It is not necessary that a person will always occupy a similar role, rather, a similar link is formed where the problem of creating value (product quality, interaction of links, etc.) arises, which does not allow someone, namely the link itself, to sleep peacefully. More often, such processes are spontaneous and are not controlled deliberately from the outside. Just a person appears “who needs it most” and begins to do work that no one could have done without him.
    In a certain sense, dynamic links bring benefits, sometimes very significant, however, like any fire, they can warm, or they can burn. If any of the above conditions is violated, then the dynamic link may begin to burn out for activities that do not bring real value, not only their time, but also the time of their colleagues.
    Therefore, with dynamic links, it is necessary to strictly observe the conditions of their “useful life” in the chain.
    In general, dynamic links are extremely useful even when business processes are in place. In this case, their focus can be focused, for example, on the quality of the product, system performance, its security and other important characteristics, where their behavior will be similar, namely, “find and recognize a problem that no one can handle and solve it”.

    How to work with dynamic links

    First of all, recommendations relate to managers who are subordinate to people with a similar approach to work. The basis for these recommendations is precisely the reduction of the above qualities of the dynamic link to an effective form.
    These recommendations, in principle, apply to all employees, however, they are of fundamental importance for dynamic links.

    1. Clarify what value is and how you can influence it.
    Be sure to speak and synchronize the “picture of the world” with the employee regarding what value he is trying to create. There should not even be a hint that there is any misunderstanding.
    The deeper the understanding of value, the better. For example, a designer should understand the value of his work not as “beautiful design” or “a great picture for a portfolio”, but as “increasing the value of the company through the image component” or “increasing the conversion of landing pages”.

    2. Clear the problem and SMART the result.
    If an employee wants to make changes, then discuss in detail the problem that he wants to solve, and which SMART-the goal should be achieved by the result of his work. As in any other field, this will help to avoid empty work. In this case, it is very useful to ask the modeling questions “What will happen if everything remains as it is?” Or “How do you see the final decision when everything will be done?”. This will allow the leader to better understand the situation itself and how it is seen by a subordinate, and the employee can understand for himself new aspects of the situation, and sometimes even understand that there is really no problem that he wants to solve.

    3. Correctly delegate additional areas of responsibility.
    Discuss with the employee what specific additional areas of responsibility you assign to him, even if they are not directly related to his duties. Also make clear both the risks and the opportunities involved.
    For example, if one of the developers wants to take on the role of a liaison with a support service, then clarify what will be implied by this role and what expectations will be associated with this. Also coordinate this issue with all participants in the process.
    Thus, you better focus the work of the employee and remove unnecessary additional stress from the interaction.

    4. Agree on the "rules of the game."
    This moment is more related to specific situations, but it is important to remember about it when you are trying to change something. For example, if you are delegating some additional duties, then agree on the permissible labor costs for them, for example, so that the designer does not suddenly become an SEO-person. Or, for example, the procedure for resolving conflict situations within the framework of uncertainty. As already mentioned, this moment is individual for each situation.

    5. Provide the employee with the missing skills.
    Sometimes, dynamic links try to solve problems that are not within their competence and skills. If such a situation arises, then use this to develop the employee. For example, if a system administrator wants to implement information security regulations in a company, then it will be useful to give him recommendations on how to do this better. Perhaps send to colleagues from a friendly company for advice, or send to courses, or just recommend a good site on the subject.

    6. Be sure to regularly give constructive feedback.
    The use of a dynamic link is always associated with stress and certain risks, because a person assumes responsibilities that are not inherent to him, and sometimes are not at all in his competence at all. Therefore, the leader is obliged to control this process, "keep a finger on the pulse." To do this, it is useful to schedule meetings periodically to discuss how work is progressing. Constructive feedback is an essential component of any interaction, and this case is no exception. Thus, you can not only timely help in case of difficulties, but also provide psychological support to the employee.

    Recommendations for Dynamic Links

    First of all, they relate specifically to people who have a similar set of beliefs to the above. For such people, “doing their job perfectly” is a must. It is unbearable for such people to observe how “something goes wrong,” when something can be done better, more efficiently, better. Moreover, these are people of an active life position, and not of the level of "whining about how bad everything is." That is, at least, they will try to improve the situation at the cost of their own efforts and to do this, including with the aim of developing themselves.

    In general, the recommendations are similar to those given for managers, only from the point of view of the employee.

    1. Make sure you know why you want to change something and coordinate this vision with your supervisor.

    2. Clearly indicate the criteria for when you will achieve the goal, positive changes.
    This will help you have a breakpoint when you say, “Everything worked out!”.

    3. Agree with the manager of the required powers and responsibilities.
    This will help to avoid unnecessary stress and misunderstanding in the process of achieving the goal.

    4. Define the "rules of the game."
    How much are you willing to spend time on this, what resources will you need additionally, what changes will be required, etc. Be prepared that you will need significant additional efforts that will pay off with your development and recognition of success.

    5. Do your (!) Useful work.
    Be very careful about what responsibilities you assume. If there is a person who is directly obligated to perform these actions, but this does not happen for some reason, be sure to clarify this issue. As an option, initiate this conversation through your supervisor. The result should be either the transfer of these duties to another person, for example to you, or the correction of the situation and the fulfillment by that employee of their duties. Otherwise, you run the risk of falling into a situation where your work will not be effective, namely, "one answers, and the other does." This situation always ends with demotivation and the collapse of the business process.

    6. Develop yourself.
    If you think that you need some additional information or skills, then feel free to talk about it. Discuss with the leader possible weaknesses and how they can be strengthened. Often, executives are interested in developing fixed ones, use this.

    7. The clearer for you and your leadership will be the result of the actions you take, the more effective these actions can be as a result.
    It will also be an additional confirmation that you are doing an important and necessary thing. Feel free to ask the manager to give you feedback on your work. It may also be useful to do this on a regular basis. You can agree on this, even if you have already begun to take some action.

    Warning

    It is important to understand that the phenomenon of a dynamic link almost always arises from emotions. It is emotions of the type “make the world better” that create this huge charge of energy that you want to send to the leader. And here it is very important to understand that if you remove the emotion from this process, then the “charge will dissipate” and you cannot get any outstanding result.
    In reality, it may look like this: an employee comes to the head with burning eyes, but in the course of a conversation the head “crushes” the employee with arguments from the category “you don’t know why,” “you yourself came up with a problem”, “you are still too young and you don’t understand anything ”,“ you don’t have enough experience ”,“ we don’t have time for that now ”,“ it’s not your business ”, that as a result, a person“ beats off any desire ”to change something. Or the manager is so "rekindling" the initial problem for the employee that from the "difficult and important task" there remains only a set of instructions that does not require any mental effort, which is also highly likely to suppress the emotional charge.
    In such matters, much depends on the manager’s ability to manage employee motivation. Therefore, even ideally following the recommendations from this article, you can get much more benefit from the initiative of employees, but still it does not cancel the remaining skills in working with people, for example, such as constructive feedback.

    Synergistic effect

    Despite all of the above, I would also like to emphasize the importance of the skill of working with dynamic links. The efforts made by the leader in this phenomenon are not so high (several meetings to monitor what is happening and focus the employee on the problem). Relatively small management investment compared to its outcome. As a leader, you not only solve the specific problem of your organization, but also launch a number of positive elements of the company's culture, which will still bear fruit. In particular, you encourage initiatives in their constructive spirit, develop your employees, create trusting relationships with them (you listened to them and helped realize their emotions), and also form a common company culture, because the employees themselves will act in the future with their subordinates .

    An example from an ideal world. Finally,

    you decide that the current registration form on your project is partly one of the “circles of hell" that awakens righteous anger in you. You come to the head, or the person responsible for this area, and propose to resolve this “pain” yourself. During the discussion, you, together with the leader, answer the questions:
    What exactly in this form affects business value in a negative way?
    What are some solutions that can add value?
    What metrics and how are you supposed to collect?
    What are the criteria for the success of the changes, that the new form is better than the old?
    How long will it take and how will it be allocated?
    Who will participate in this process and in what role?
    What milestones for the progress of the task do you plan?
    What additional competencies are required to be acquired (how to conduct A / B testing, how to determine user behavior, etc.) and how are they planned to be obtained?
    And a number of other issues, depending on the internal structure of the company, as a result of which you will have a clear picture of what problem and how you are going to solve. As a result of the changes, the company will receive a new registration form, which works measurably better than the previous one, and the employee will receive significant experience, development, and also, possibly, some additional “goodies”, including through feedback from the head.

    Perhaps this is all that can be told as briefly as possible about this phenomenon. I hope the article was interesting and useful for you. I wish you always strive for the best and be full of positive and energy for new achievements.

    Leksunin Eugene ,
    “Reducing Entropy in Development”

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