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.

photo

Just a stale way to deal with the new. 🙂

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

You have a great idea? How to get executive buy-in.


One reason bottom-up proposals fail is because idea champions don’t engage their executives in the right way. Whether you are promoting new methods, practices, tools, or cultural changes, getting your exec team on board can make all the difference.

Having influenced executives for many years, I’ve made my share of mistakes and had some successes. Here are a few things I learned along the way.
Continue reading

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…

Continue reading

Whole-Team Dynamic Organizational Modeling a Success at Agile2012


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.

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?

Continue reading

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.

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.