Leaders: Why You Should Wear Jeans on Casual Friday

Some of you might be saying that I am digging for content; that I am getting into fashion now.  I am actually going to start writing a bit more on organizational and management patterns since I honestly believe this is where your greatest impediments to improving efficiency, innovation, and overall satisfaction are.

Recently, I have worked with several organizations that are trying to create a more casual and friendly environment.  Some of them are going a bit to one side of the extremes and buying low couches, changing the lighting, installing multiple game consoles, etc. in the attempt to show a “hipper” working space.  Some others have just tried to institute “casual Friday” or, as one organization has done, “casual summer.”  And I think that any attempt to lighten the mood and lessen the restrictions that actually PUSH quality employees away is a great thing (as long as it is backed by your true culture)!

There is one trend that I see is problematic, however – “management” does not generally engage in such things.  Take for instance the iconic hipster lounge.  Can your VP be found hanging out talking with people getting a cup of Fair Trade, single origin, Honduran city roast (my fave by the way right now from Bowdon Coffee Roasters – check them out!)?  Or is their time spent mostly convincing even higher management of the value of the development program?  You know, the lounge is also a good place to collaborate with the individuals that make the organization great and gather ideas.  It is also a place to connect with and create “top-down” transparency – an extremely important fix to the problem that “the worker doesn’t know what is going on” and, may I add, a much more functional solution than the “all hands department meeting.”  By the way, that was free – I won’t charge for that. 🙂

To the title of the blog, however, it might seem innocuous that senior managers wear slacks or a jacket on days that are considered casual.  But what are we saying when we do these kinds of things?  For emerging agile organizations or those in the midst of some organizational change, this can be a sign of an anti-pattern that says, “I am going to distinguish myself from the rest of the ‘workers’ by wearing a suit.”  It might not be intentional and it is, more than likely, not deliberately harmful.  For the agile coach, it could be a way to identify those who might be resistant to change or who are having a difficult time simply adjusting to a new concept.  It is also a great way to explain that all of us are teachers and that what we do is sometimes more telling than what we say.

I urge, then, leadership to do just that – lead.  Be the example of what you want your developers, business managers, etc. to be.  Do you want the organization to act as a team?  Then be the first to create patterns of teamwork.  Do you want to see increased transparency?  Then be the innovator of transparency!  Do you want your team to be refreshed and rock the work week?  Well, that one will have to wait for another time.

I welcome your thoughts around this matter!

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