Engagement, passion – the big WHY.


Only one in five employees are fully engaged. (Deloitte’s Center for the Edge: The Shift Index).

I personally view this video as a warning; the perils of over-rotating on a left-brained, rational approach to life, which removes context, meaning, and the big WHY of what we do.  Passion and vision are largely missing in the world of work, and when they do exist in doses that are sufficient to stir our emotions, we often fail to realize their potential. We don’t connect the WHY with the HOW and the WHAT.

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift…and the rational mind is a faithful servant. – Albert Einstein.

We need both, not only to survive, but to thrive.

 

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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Leadership and Process Principles for Agile Finance


I’ve been reading “Implementing Beyond Budgeting” by Bjarte Bogsnes. Finance is sometimes a neglected area in terms of Agile Transformation and Bogsnes’s book offers rock-solid advice. The first element is the set of leadership and process principles.There are 6 of each:

Leadership:

  1. Customers. Focus everyone on improving customer outcomes, not on hierarchical relationships.
  2. Organization. Organize as a network of lean, accountable teams, not around centralized functions.
  3. Responsibility. Enable everyone to act and think like a leader, not merely follow the plan.
  4. Autonomy. Give teams the freedom and capability to act; do not micromanage them.
  5. Values. Govern through a few clear values, goals, and boundaries, not detailed rules and budgets.

Process:

  1. Goals. Set relative goals for continuous improvement; do not negotiate fixed performance contracts.
  2. Rewards. Reward shared success based on relative performance, not in meeting fixed targets.
  3. Planning. Make planning a continuous and inclusive process, not a top-down annual event.
  4. Controls. Base controls on relative indicators and trends, not on variances against the plan.
  5. Resources. Make resources available as needed, not through annual budget allocations.
  6. Coordination. Coordinate interactions dynamically, not through annual planning cycles.

These are difficult principles to live by without trust, transparency and simplicity in your organization. Adopting these principles takes time and effort, and a rather gargantuan mind shift. Eventually you’d want them all, but if you had to start somewhere, which principles would start acting on tomorrow?

Can we apply Pareto to the budgeting process, focusing on the top 20% of financial decisions and issues aligned with the Product Backlog?

Decisions on what to STOP doing are as important as the decision on what to START doing. Are you making the hard calls? Can you apply Pareto to both decision types? What will we fund? What will we kill?

More to follow on this topic in a future post.

Robustness vs. Resilience


An awesome slide presentation from Dave Snowden of Cognitive Edge. Black Swan Events, Power Law Distributions, and Pareto. Enjoy!

Moving from a system designed for robustness to one that supports resilience represents a significant strategic shift. Whilst systems have commonly been designed to be robust – systems which are designed to prevent failure – increasing complexity and the difficulty it poses to fail-proof planning have made a shift to “resilience” strategically imperative. A resilient system on the other hand accepts that failure is inevitable and focuses instead on early discovery and fast recovery from failure.

Leadership in the Digital Age – Listen, Learn, then Lead


Leadership matters, and more so when the stakes are high. Listen to Brig. General Stanley McChrystal talk about his leadership experience. A great talk. Some of the things he said that really resonated:

  • Leaders can let you fail and yet not let you be a failure.
  • Relationships are the sinew that holds a force together.
  • Leaders are good because they are willing to learn and to trust.

In this age of excessive speed, multiple generations of people with different experiences and contexts, widely dispersed teams, the ways in which leaders act matters more than ever. Enjoy the short video!

Sources of Complacency


Leading change without a Sense of Urgency… is it possible? John p. Kotter lists 9 sources of complacency. They are:

  1. The absence of a major and visible crisis.
  2. Too many visible resources.
  3. Low overall performance standards.
  4. Organizational structures that focus employees on narrow functional goals.
  5. Internal measurement systems that focus on the wrong performance indexes.
  6. A lack of sufficient performance feedback from external sources.
  7. A kill-the-messenger-of-bad-news, low candor, low confrontation culture.
  8. Human nature, with its capacity for denial, especially if people are already busy or stressed.
  9. Too much happy talk from senior management.

So now what? Kotter recommends BOLD action. He suggests:

  1. Link 50% of top executives’ pay to significant quality improvements.
  2. Find ways to get all the external customer complaints in front of everyone every week.
  3. Sell the jet and corporate headquarters and move into a building that looks more like a battle command center.
  4. Set an objective to become #1 or #2 or we are forced to liquidate and shut our doors in 2 years.
  5. Set your business targets so high they cannot be met doing business as usual.
  6. Stop measuring sub-unit performance and narrow functional goals.
  7. Use consultants to help force the honest conversations that need to happen.
  8. Use company newsletters/communication to provide not only good news, but business reality.
  9. Bombard people with information on these future opportunities for capitalizing on these opportunities, and on the organization’s inability to do so.

Over-managed and under-led cultures fail to do this according to Kotter.