Asal Bapak Senang: Session Making Work Culture at Indonesian Companies More AGILE



By
Thierry Sanders
14 August 18
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Asal Bapak Senang: Session Making Work Culture at Indonesian Companies More AGILE

A group brainstorm to identify the obstacles to company agility in Indonesia & some suggestions on how to solve it.

THE SETTING
August 8, 2018n- 7pm @ Kolega M, Jakarta
We are in the spacious room on the 7th floor of the Kolega M co-working space opposite Lotte Shopping Mall in Jakarta. It is 7 pm on August 8th, 2018. The workshop is organised by Ekipa an Agile consultancy. I have been asked to moderate the session.

Around 35 Agile & Scrum enthusiasts from some 20 companies gather to do a workshop. The participants are mainly from Tech or Finance companies in Jakarta working in software development, transition management, business development or are in managerial positions.

THE BLOCKERS OF COMPANY AGILITY
The participants were asked to form groups of 4–5 persons. The groups were first asked to “identify 5 issues which a blocking your companies from becoming more Agile”. We did these using Post-Its. The main “blockers” identified were:

# of blockers. Main issue blocking Indonesian company agility
11. Very hierarchical
7. Lack of transparency
6. Fear of admitting to mistakes
5. Lack of priority setting
4. Asal Bapak Senang
3. Fear of asking questions & suggesting
3. The boss never says “I don’t know”
2. Sensitive personal embarrassment, keep criticism private
2. Procrastination, work just before deadline
1. Conflict avoidance

All the Blockers mentioned, blocking company agility

Very hierarchical (# 11)

  • “Gimmick seniority” at the office, based on age or level
  • Boss is not contributing to agile culture & transformation
  • Call me MAS (Big Brother)
  • Control and command culture
  • The power of the finger: Pokok ‘e
  • Bad mouthing, creating a toxic environment
  • Company is set up in a hierarchical structure
  • Bureaucracy
  • Silo thinking
  • Disrespecting people
  • Instructions are top down, feedback bottom-up is minimal

Lack of transparency (# 7)

  • Boss is never at his desk or at the office
  • General lack of knowledge of what is going on
  • Lack of transparency
  • Miscommunication between teams, departments, levels
  • Little sharing of knowledge & collaboration
  • Miscommunication between Product Owner and Business Analysts
  • Divisions have trouble aligning to the same goals

Fear of admitting to mistakes (# 6)

  • Afraid to trespass bureaucratic rules & protocol
  • Not willing to break the rules
  • Blaming culture
  • Poor quality control
  • Avoid making mistakes
  • Hide mistakes, and try and fix it in the meantime

Lack of priority setting (# 5)

  • Too many projects, little priority and accountability
  • Little focus in priority setting
  • Lack of initiative, because it is unclear who is accountable
  • Too many ideas
  • Stakeholders: too many, blame others for issues, accountability to which stakeholder

Asal Bapak Senang (Let’s keep the boss happy) (# 4)

  • Make the boss happy, even if the work delivers no results (ABS)
  • Deadlines are too tight, often done to impress (ABS)
  • Asal “customer” senang (ACS), over-promising / under-delivering, causing priority changes lower down
  • Overtime is more appreciated than effective working

Fear of asking questions & suggesting (# 3)

  • Feeling of inferiority
  • Scared of speaking up
  • Lack of courage to suggest ideas to the boss

The boss never says “I don’t know” (# 3)

  • The boss doesn’t have vision
  • Stubborn boss
  • Boss beats around the bush

Sensitive personal embarrassment, keep criticism private (# 2)

  • Extremely sensitive to personal embarrassment
  • Fear of telling the truth to protect one’s own position

Procrastination, work just before deadline (# 2)

  • No initiative from low level management
  • Laziness

Conflict avoidance (# 1)

  • Not able to say no (to seniors)

SUGGESTIONS TO IMPROVE COMPANY AGILITY

The participants were asked to form groups of 4–5 persons. The groups were first asked to “identify 2 solutions each for the issues blocking your companies from becoming more Agile”. We did these using Post-Its. The main suggestions identified fell into the following “blocker” categories:

# of suggestions. Suggestions per category of Agile blockers
8. Fear of asking questions & suggesting
7. Lack of priority setting
6. Fear of admitting to mistakes
5. Lack of transparency
2. Personal embarrassment, keep criticism private
0. Asal Bapak Senang
0. The boss never says “I don’t know”
0. Conflict avoidance
0. Procrastination, work just before deadline
0. Very hierarchical

All suggestions mentioned to alleviate blockers of company agility

Fear of asking questions & suggesting (# 8)

  • Reward achievements more
  • Involve employees more with an informal approach
  • Create a continuous improvement culture
  • 360 degree feedback
  • we need a mental revolution, mindset change
  • Evaluate projects, regular evaluation makes discussion about mistakes less problematic
  • Make brainstorming normal, so that open dialogue and questioning becomes normal
  • Recruit staff with an open mindset

Lack of priority setting (# 7)

  • Use scrum more and more regularly (daily standups)
  • Align more to organisation’s mission and vision
  • Gather requirements then set priorities
  • Define a single overarching goal
  • Use Scrum “Retrospective” approach: ‘Stop’, ‘Keep’, ‘Improve’
  • Prioritize solutions, if necessary with a plan A, B, C in case Plan A doesn’t work
  • Identify the root cause (often: too much work due to little priority setting or not working efficiently)

Fear of admitting to mistakes (# 6)

  • Create an environment of collective responsibility
  • Admit: “mistakes will always happen”, let’s incorporate it
  • Daily standups that encourage to speak up about problems (to improve communications)
  • Create a safe environment to talk about failure & mistakes (Celebrate mistakes)
  • Build trust between each other, understanding better everyone’s strengths and weaknesses
  • Reward exceptional work & celebrate achievements

Lack of transparency (# 3)

  • Sharing sessions: goals, progress to targets (for more transparency)
  • Dashboard tracking progress, performance, actuals versus targets

Personal embarrassment, keep criticism private (# 2)

  • Give criticism & coaching, more 1 on 1 (The “feedback” room)
  • Scrum master does 1-on-1 sessions with team members, boss, Bapak

Further Reading…

20 Indonesian Work Culture – Characteristics

Few pics from the meetup!

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