Encouraging synchronized eye-rolls and harmonized groans


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.

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Just a stale way to deal with the new. 🙂

If you’ve tried this, please share your results!

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Designing your Agile Organization


Last month at the Paris Scrum Gathering, a colleague and I ran a workshop on designing an Agile organization using Lego. We have done this type of design modeling for several years now. We’ve learned a great deal about organizational dynamics by both going through this process ourselves, and facilitating organizational design with teams.

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We licensed the method under Creative Commons and have made it available to everyone. We call it Whole-Team Dynamic Organizational Modeling. When teams engage in designing their own organizations, they are much more likely to accept the trade-offs they have to make in order to deliver their products and services to the market. No organization is perfect. Each model creates its own set of silos. Each model is tuned to be effective within a particular organizational culture. All solutions have a messiness that is unavoidable. The usual reason for re-designing an organization is improved throughput and higher value delivery to customers. Sometimes, the organizational design is crafted to achieve a specific outcome related to culture or product architecture. Goals vary, but the act of building and testing an organizational model reveals consistent insights.

You can find more information at wtdom.org, including a facilitation guide to help you plan and deliver your own modeling experience.

What’s the one lever that can transform your business?


The Power Of Habit

The Power Of Habit (Photo credit: Earthworm)

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…

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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.

What does it mean to have a 100% Agile organization?


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…
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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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