One challenge when training managers is how to get away from the same tired old messages about encouraging self-organization and collaboration without inducing synchronized eye-rolls in tandem with a harmony of groans. The words have lost their potency.
I stumbled upon a simple exercise that might work.
Suppose the goal is to develop your employees into self-organizing and accountable teams. Ask instead:
How can I get my employees to be completely dependent on me and irresponsible?
Have your managers generate a list. (Trust me, the ideas will flow). Then, have them re-phrase the list into the opposite of what’s on the list. Here is what it might look like.
“Our vision is to become a firm that pays the very lowest wages possible, charges the highest prices the market will bear, and divides the spoils between stockholders and executives, mostly the latter.”
Does that get you excited about…
Coming to work?
Doing business with this company?
This sample, from John Kotter‘s Leading Change is a reminder that for a vision to work, it has to be seen as something that everyone can get excited about–all stakeholders. And it has to be bold enough to drive people out of their comfort zone, and provide enough focus and targets to make business as usual uncomfortably impossible.
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…
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!
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.
This is a question that comes up from time to time and to me, it’s like asking; “What does it mean to be 100% Chinese, Indian, German or Italian?”
If we have everyone doing Scrum, does that mean we are 100% Agile? That’s like asking, “If I listen to Italian music, eat Italian food, drink Italian wine, and live in Italy, does this make me Italian?” Maybe it does…maybe it doesn’t! If you have read about my talk at Agile-2011 know where I am going with this. Being 100% Agile to some extent means we cannot explain why we are Agile, we simply are. Why am I Italian? I just am.
I come from a Punjabi culture. While preparing my talk for Agile-2011, I asked my sister why we value respect and deference to our elders. Her comeback was “The culture of guilt and shame.” We laughed. She reminded me of how if we failed to accord the appropriate respect to our elders, which included our parents’ best friends, we were taken aside and admonished with, “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself? Go say sorry to your Auntie!” Mom and Dad never explained WHY we should feel ashamed, only that we should… Continue reading →