It’s easy to get addicted to reactive team culture. In a reactive culture, our prime metric is the velocity of firefighting. It’s a culture that is emotionally and financially costly, and self-perpetuating. The more fires we fight, the more fires we get. We feel chronically behind, overwhelmed, distressed, under-resourced, and undervalued.
The most effective way out of the reactive spiral is creating a more proactive culture. This is a shift to new questions that organize our work. Here are five ways to create a more proactive team culture.
Do two-week sprints
Every two weeks, decide as a team where you will put your resources in the upcoming two weeks. Estimate together how much time people will dedicate to each effort and outcome. Identify and organize potential hopes and concerns. Notice how, with experience, the team gets better at estimating and organizing efforts.
On some regular basis, map out areas of your team’s work where you are most likely to be reactive. These are often experiences of chaos and uncertainty. For each, identify all your typical unknowns, translate these into questions, and identify what kinds of actions that could answer these questions.
Collaborate with impacters
Huddle with people from other teams who impact your team’s work on a regular basis and identify together what matters most is how our efforts intersect. Make and test agreements on the best ways to make what matters happen. Work together more by the alignment of mutual agreements rather than tensions of unilateral assumptions.
Practice the distinction between being reactive and responsive
Reactive and responsive are mindsets. Reactive is thinking problem elimination creates improved performance. Responsive is thinking improved performance requires creating the specific conditions for the performance we want to see possible. Eliminated problems do not necessarily create these conditions. How do we create these conditions is a distinctly different question and strategy in contrast to the question of how we suppress problems.
Make strategy ongoing
Every two quarters, decide as a team what progress would look like in the direction of what success would look like beyond two quarters. Make strategy an ongoing rather than reactive or periodic event. Keep updating your success metrics so your two quarter progress indicators stay focused.
The psychological payoffs of a proactive culture include feeling empowered, engaged, and valued. Our sense of meaning in work expands as our scope of impact broadens and deepens.