I recently read (and read again) a book by Charles Duhigg that got me thinking about the power of a single idea that can transform an entire business. The book is called The Power of Habit.
Here is a summary of one story in the book that made clear to me, the opportunity to lead powerful change.
On a blustery October day in 1987, a herd of prominent Wall Street investors and stock analysts gathered in the ballroom of a posh Manhattan hotel. They were there to meet the new CEO of the Aluminum Company of America–Alcoa. It was a company that for nearly a century had made foil wraps for Hershey kisses, the metal in Coca-Cola cans and the bolts that hold satellites together. Many in the audience had invested millions in this company. But in the past year, investors had started grumbling. Alcoa’s management had made misstep after misstep trying to expand their markets and customer while competitors stole them away.
There was relief when the board announced a new CEO, but that relief, at least today, was about to be turned on its head. Appointed to the post of CEO was a former government bureaucrat named Paul O’Neill. A few minutes before noon, O’Neill took the stage. He was 51 years old, trim, and dressed in grey pinstripes and a red power tie. His hair was white and his posture military straight. He looked dignified, solid, confident. Like a chief executive. Then he opened his mouth…
I had a conversation with my friend & colleague Catherine a few weeks ago that I want to share with you. She told me that her mother, Claire Louis, described cancer and heart-attacks not as events or as states, but as trends. She said, “You don’t have cancer but you are cancering. You have not had a heart-attack, but you are heart-attacking.”
I was struck by the power of this and then we started to think about it in terms of Waterfall and Agile. Are you Waterfall-ing or Agile-ing? Are you applying the values and principles of Agile, even if not perfectly, but enough to start to move you in the right direction? Can you build on that tomorrow? And the next day?
On my table lamp in my home office I have a sticky note that says, “Was I better today than yesterday?” Same idea. What small thing am I doing today that makes me better than I was yesterday? It accumulates.
Are we working toward building a healthy, profitable and fun place to work, or are we doing the same old thing as yesterday? A little bit every day? And building on that the next day?
There are no short-cuts, no sliver bullets, no magic processes or quick-fixes. It is all about doing that little bit each day that incrementally, almost imperceptibly, effects you and your friends, family, employees, organizations and your quality of life. You and they will see and feel the difference. But it takes time.
Shall we “ing” together?
Share your “ing” here on the blog. I’d love to hear from you.
Yesterday, Catherine Louis and I delivered our three-hour workshop on “Whole-Team Dynamic Organizational Modeling” at the opening of the conference. It was well-attended–standing room only. Our colleague, Neil Johnson wrote about in his AgileSOC blog here. InfoQ wrote an article about it here. Thanks to Shane Hastie of InfoQ for attending and sharing our work with everyone.
Catherine Louis of Cll-Group and I will be facilitating a three hour workshop at Agile 2012 in Grapevine Texas on Monday August 13. The topic; Modeling Large, Complex Agile Organizations. Over the past year and a half we have been developing and refining a modeling method that allows teams to create “preto-types” of their organizations to test ideas and solicit feedback rapidly on what might be an appropriate organizational design for a business given different types of constraints. Below is a reproduction of the abstract for our workshop.
In large geographically distributed organizations where the size of the product exceeds what a single Scrum team can build, we think through the best way to organize teams and work. Over the past year, we have been working with large projects (over 100 people), distributed in several countries and helping them develop organizational models that they can use to visualize how teams and work could be best organized to maximize agility. In this workshop, we guide the participants through the process of assessing and developing large organizational models. The models provide business stakeholders with a tool to assess the trade-offs of different organizational models visually and rapidly. Whether you are responsible for building a large scale global Agile organization, or are a team member with ideas on how to organize teams and work, this workshop provides you with tools to develop organizational “preto-types” to use for communication and troubleshooting large-scale Agile organizational design.
We invite you to join us at Agile2012 on the Adoption and Transformation Stage and take part in a highly interactive and fun workshop. Complete details can be found here. Oh yes, I nearly forgot, we get to play with Lego. See you there!