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.

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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.

 

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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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.

Speaking @ Agile 2011 – Salt Lake City, August 8-12 2011


I’ll be presenting “Cultural Architecture” at the Agile2011 Conference in Salt Lake City this August. Here’s an overview of the talk.

If our business culture was a product, how would we re-architect it? Culture influences everything. So how can we influence culture? What tools help us understand cultural influences, from the implicit, the elements we don’t even think about, to the visible, the artifacts that lead to stereotypes? Adopting an Agile culture, when it is under-laid with the cultures of the world is challenging. Reconciling cultural dilemmas drives collaboration and innovation. Culture is the core of it all. Knowing this, you can create a pull for cultural change in your organization.

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