"A journey of a thousand miles…

…begins with one step,” and you must lead teams so they are willing to take it.

This famous Chinese proverb (Lao-tzu, The Way of Lao-tzu) is a powerful antidote to the analysis paralysis mindset that strangles many large projects. Actually doing something rather than meeting and talking about it often seems like a novel idea in large, complex organisations. Cutting through the noise and putting one foot in front of the other is also not that difficult; plus it doesn’t have to be career limiting. [1st of 5 paragraphs]

Whether you have a large project to deliver, a book to write, an overflowing in tray or an impossible deadline, just start somewhere and keep moving from there. Each of these examples require a different first step and it may vary whether you take it or someone else does. In IT projects, the Agile way of developing software captures this mindset perfectly; you don’t have to know the route precisely before you start the journey – it’s simply more important that you actually begin. [2/5]

The final line of The Agile Manifesto states that greater value is placed on “Responding to change [rather than] … following a plan.” You still need a plan but it’s more of a roadmap with a clear picture of the destination than a Gantt chart with 2000 lines requiring a full time project administrator to maintain. This is because Agile also assumes you create an environment of trust within which motivated individuals have the support to get the job done. [3/5]

These motivated individuals are usually knowledge workers who simply don’t respond well to micro-management, or such overly detailed plans. They thrive in collaborative teams that sprint through iterations of work and rapidly apply learnings from quick and early failures. They are willing to make progress, take feedback and improve the next step until they get it right; harness this and you can change any organisation. [4/5]

It’s the basic Plan > Do > Check > Act cycle at which successful teams have become very effective to achieve progress. Their leadership is often the catalyst for this progress and creates a safe environment within which teams can confidently and continuously improve. There are no shortage of great plans, it’s the doing that is needed and often it’s extremely simple; just take the first step. [5/5]

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