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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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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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.

Whole-Team Dynamic Organizational Modeling – Agile 2012


Catherine Louis of Cll-Group and I will be facilitating a three hour workshop at Agile 2012 in Grapevine Texas on Monday August 13. The topic; Modeling Large, Complex Agile Organizations. Over the past year and a half we have been developing and refining a modeling method that allows teams to create “preto-types” of their organizations to test ideas and solicit feedback rapidly on what might be an appropriate organizational design for a business given different types of constraints. Below is a reproduction of the abstract for our workshop.

In large geographically distributed organizations where the size of the product exceeds what a single Scrum team can build, we think through the best way to organize teams and work. Over the past year, we have been working with large projects (over 100 people), distributed in several countries and helping them develop organizational models that they can use to visualize how teams and work could be best organized to maximize agility. In this workshop, we guide the participants through the process of assessing and developing large organizational models. The models provide business stakeholders with a tool to assess the trade-offs of different organizational models visually and rapidly. Whether you are responsible for building a large scale global Agile organization, or are a team member with ideas on how to organize teams and work, this workshop provides you with tools to develop organizational “preto-types” to use for communication and troubleshooting large-scale Agile organizational design.

We invite you to join us at Agile2012 on the Adoption and Transformation Stage and take part in a highly interactive and fun workshop. Complete details can be found here. Oh yes, I nearly forgot, we get to play with Lego. See you there!

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.