Why Do We Not Follow The Frameworks We Say We Do?

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At Ramsey Solutions we love (like really love!) applying new frameworks to our business operations. For instance, a few years back the leadership team in my business decided to adopt the Traction model. However, after a year or so I noticed even though we said we were following Traction, we were doing the L10 style meeting and not much else. We don’t have any Integrator roles running around, we don’t use VTOs, and only one team was still doing the People Analyzer exercise regularly.

And that’s not the only instance where that happened. You’d hear things like the following:

  • “To understand OKRs [Objectives and Key Results] you need to read Radical Focus. Bonus points if you read Measure What Matters too.”
  • “We’re not going to do waterfall projects anymore; it’s time to learn Kanban. We’ll set up some trainings.”
  • “We’re trying to create empowered teams, so let’s go through Empowered as a book study, oh and if you haven’t read Inspired yet, read that first.”
  • “Our sales team follows the Scaling Up and Predictable Revenue models, so you need to get familiar with both.”

Like the Traction example earlier, it bothered me when I saw us get excited about a new framework but then only implement about one-third of what was outlined. What gives?

So, let’s back up. What is the purpose of a framework?

In an unhealthy environment, a framework becomes a set of rules. Teams then become worried and focused about breaking said rules. You’ll know this is happening if they’re constantly asking questions like “Is this allowed?”

In a healthy environment however, frameworks are a set of principles with malleable guidelines to help teams get great work done and have fun while doing it. That’s it.

Frameworks are just a starting point, not the finish line. When we want to implement a new system, the conversation should sound like this: “Hey, we think working this way will help us produce awesome stuff and enjoy working together even more, so let’s TRY it.” [emphasis added, please read TRY in a loud, clear voice] From there the team tests it out and decides what to keep, what to tweak, and what to get rid of.

That realization allowed me to relax on not following everything from a given model like in Traction. Our leadership teams kept L10s because they worked for us, and we shed the stuff that didn’t. Not only is that not a big deal, but it is also the right thing to do!

You see, if you follow a framework just because it’s the framework, you’ve let the process become the thing instead of what the process is supposed to help you accomplish.

Now, I can hear some of your arguments. “But at scale we need standardized processes. If we’re going to work together, we have to work the same way.” Or some such.

I hear you and you’re not wrong, at least not completely. There’s a balance here that requires sound judgement and circumstantial flexibility. That’s the job of leadership and coaching. But teams need the freedom to try new and different things because if they don’t work out – guess what? You can go back to how you were doing it before or try something else!

I believe holding onto strict frameworks is a crutch for weak leadership. It’s easier to manage a process than it is to lead people. Rigidity has clear edges, decisions are simple, and it provides you with a thing to blame when your team isn’t kicking ass and having a blast at the same time, instead of where that responsibility lies (hint: it’s with you!)

Good leadership is dancing in the in-between. It’s not micromanagement – telling people exactly what to do and how to work. Nor is it giving your team complete autonomy, to work on whatever they want, without accountability to the results produced.Give them the freedom to try different approaches while holding them to the outcomes it produces. Talk them through their thinking about those decisions and identify why things worked or didn’t. Then change it again.

Iterate and improve, using frameworks and organic experimentation, to find what works best for the unique collection of human beings who work with you. It doesn’t look the same for every team in your organization because, SHOCKER, each team isn’t the same!

So, dance the dance of The Frameworks We Sorta Kind of Follow with your team and start kicking ass and having a blast.

Postscript: I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank my Kanban coach, Tristan, for countless conversations on this and related topics. His feedback and coaching have been instrumental in my personal development and is just one more awesome thing about working at Ramsey Solutions - we employ Coaches to help you continuously improve.