Deliberate Practice – the Leadership Kata


A kata is a set of actions that are assembled in sequence to help you train your mind and body to perform with precision, proper form, and to help you develop muscle memory so that these forms are available to you without thinking. The word “kata” comes from the martial arts. At the Agile2011 conference there was a tutorial titled “The Agile Leadership Kata: Discovering the Practice of Leadership” by Tom Perry. We applied the kata to the practice of leadership. Slides form the session can be found here.

Stephen Denning refers to leadership communication as performance art. All performance requires practice. Katas are a practice tool. Why bother? As a leader, why does it mater if I practice? If my current set of leadership tools are working, do I really need to develop new ones?

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Cultural Architecture


Last week I had the opportunity to present at Agile2011, which was attended by 1604 registered participants and over 250 talks. The conference was a wonderful opportunity to connect with old friends and make new ones.

The talk, titled Cultural Architecture was about how culture influences the way we work and interact differently depending on our cultural biases, rules and filters. Each culture presents unique challenges, and as change leaders, coaches, and practitioners, we have a responsibility to educate ourselves on how cultures influence what people do, why they do it, and how. As teams become increasingly cross-cultural and global, cultural knowledge becomes more important than ever.

Listening Tools


A great TED talk on how we are losing our listening…

Particularly interesting for me was the part on filters that we apply when we listen.  In a world where we we are increasingly broadcasting, Julian Treasure reminds us of the importance of listening, and shares five tools for improving our listening. Enjoy.

The Colors of Change – Tools for Change Management


Leading change requires change agents to exercise influence. Understanding individual motivations and assumptions matters. People come in different colors. Understanding each color and the motivations and assumptions that drive each one can help you get into the shoes of others, and consequently, help you understand how to best help them embrace change. There are five colors. There is no bad color or good color. Each color brings a different perspective, thinking style, and work style to the table.

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Speaking @ Agile 2011 – Salt Lake City, August 8-12 2011


I’ll be presenting “Cultural Architecture” at the Agile2011 Conference in Salt Lake City this August. Here’s an overview of the talk.

If our business culture was a product, how would we re-architect it? Culture influences everything. So how can we influence culture? What tools help us understand cultural influences, from the implicit, the elements we don’t even think about, to the visible, the artifacts that lead to stereotypes? Adopting an Agile culture, when it is under-laid with the cultures of the world is challenging. Reconciling cultural dilemmas drives collaboration and innovation. Culture is the core of it all. Knowing this, you can create a pull for cultural change in your organization.

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Absence of Evidence is not Evidence of Absence


Abraham Wald, in his youth

Image via Wikipedia

Abraham Wald, an Austrian-Hungarian born mathematician applied his statistical skills to improve the armor of aircraft returning from battle during WWII. His approach was insightful. He examined where the  bullet holes and damages were on returning aircraft and recommended that armor be added to all the places where bullet holes and damage did not exist. His reasoning was simple. The aircraft that returned could take the flack where the damage was. The aircraft that did not return must have been hit elsewhere.

In our own analytical work, we sometimes ignore the lack of evidence, which is sometimes more important than what we can quantify. In the context of product development or leading change or any other endeavor, what are the things you cannot see? This is an indicator. Are we fixated on counting and measuring damage, or are we also thinking about why we don’t see any? Just because we cannot see it does not mean it is not there. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

The metrics game is one area where we are vulnerable to make the mistake of counting what we can at the expense of identifying what is  important. If you are coaching a team, are you looking for the absence of evidence in addition to it? Are you looking at evidence from both perspectives? The notion of False Dichotomy and Confirmation bias are errors in thinking triggered, among other things, by absence of evidence or ignorance of evidence.

One of the challenges of leading change is to look for things which are not part of the model, not part of the picture, to focus on outliers and anomalies. The damage to the aircraft is relevant only because the aircraft returned safely. It’s the dark side of the moon and the iceberg below the surface. We cannot see it, but it is there.

What is it that you do not see?