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.
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.
“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…
I had a conversation with my friend & colleague Catherine a few weeks ago that I want to share with you. She told me that her mother, Claire Louis, described cancer and heart-attacks not as events or as states, but as trends. She said, “You don’t have cancer but you are cancering. You have not had a heart-attack, but you are heart-attacking.”
I was struck by the power of this and then we started to think about it in terms of Waterfall and Agile. Are you Waterfall-ing or Agile-ing? Are you applying the values and principles of Agile, even if not perfectly, but enough to start to move you in the right direction? Can you build on that tomorrow? And the next day?
On my table lamp in my home office I have a sticky note that says, “Was I better today than yesterday?” Same idea. What small thing am I doing today that makes me better than I was yesterday? It accumulates.
Are we working toward building a healthy, profitable and fun place to work, or are we doing the same old thing as yesterday? A little bit every day? And building on that the next day?
There are no short-cuts, no sliver bullets, no magic processes or quick-fixes. It is all about doing that little bit each day that incrementally, almost imperceptibly, effects you and your friends, family, employees, organizations and your quality of life. You and they will see and feel the difference. But it takes time.
Shall we “ing” together?
Share your “ing” here on the blog. I’d love to hear from you.
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.
I think we have silo busting all wrong. Well… partially wrong. I recall a story about a university campus. When buildings were put up on campus, there was a deliberate choice to not build any sidewalks or walk paths. Students, staff and faculty moved freely from building to building and over time, paths were worn into the ground where people had walked. The worn paths were the natural walking routes between buildings. Sidewalks were built on the beaten paths.
The usual approach to sidewalks and walk paths is to make straight lines, usually perpendicular or parallel to buildings. They look nice, neat and organized. But they are often not the way people choose to walk from point A to point B. Traditional organization design creates a neat, easy to understand model of how things should work. When it doesn’t work, we re-organize in the hope we are busting a silo. What happens instead is that we create a new silo. Silos are impossible to avoid. We trade one for another.
If instead, we could focus on the paths, we might have a chance of finding something better. In large knowledge-worker enterprises, the flow of information is the real organization. The rules and policies and containers we build are often not respected when something just has to get done. We use our network of trusted colleagues who have access to the right levers and information. When designing an organization, think about the flow of information. Go out into the organization and look for the beaten information paths. Find the “natural networks”, the ones that actually get things done and reinforce them. The challenge is to reinforce them without inhibiting natural change, or without constraining them.
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.