Could you imagine what the human body would be like if each organ in the body were incentivized and managed according to separate role-specific criteria?
Perhaps we want all our body parts to pull their weight and be productive. The heart may be encouraged to increase its beats per minute by 15% day over day. Your poor eyes might be measured on reducing blinks to ensure more constant sight. The stomach could be subject to any number of possible scenarios – keep up the flow of digestion with less stomach acid (“do more with less!”) or ramp up productivity by creating more acid (“100% utilization!”). Just think about how your lungs could be subject to performance management! What a mess it would be… the human body would be so out of sync you might even question if it could remain functioning. No need to wonder; when we manage the body this way, the results are catastrophic.
If the detriment to complex systems is evident in managing parts, why do we similarly manage our companies to the tune of “Role Success”?Continue reading →
Annie looked down at the table and softly said to her fiancee, “I’ve never been this nervous, or excited, about a job.” Sitting on the table was a package from the company she had been interviewing with. The interview process had been unlike anything she’d ever experienced; she felt fairly evaluated, trusting of the company mission and values, and she knew the company was a perfect fit for her. The day prior, the company informed Annie she would receive a package–the very package on her table–and would contain everything needed: the company’s hiring decision, feedback, and other insights from the hiring process.
Have you ever been asked to work with a team, then observed team members interacting with each other, well… never?
The desire to transform an organizational culture to one inspired by teams is understandable. There is no shortage of evidence, both anecdotal and scientific, which suggests teams (and teamwork) are a competitive advantage. The desire for such results through the use of self-organizing teams has led to the popularization of teams as a common organizational design.
What I’ve found in my career, however, is a tendency for organizations to both manage and incentivize teams like a “matrix” (of individuals) despite the assumption or label of “team”. The net effect is predictable: silos within teams. Research has shown my experience to be prevalent and related to inattention of cause-effect relationships between people and their environment, plus absent knowledge of base conditions which invite teamwork (Devine et al., 1999).Continue reading →
About two years ago, I met a marketing professional at an Agile conference and we had a lengthy conversation about creativity and ways to encourage innovation. After sharing with him the Cognitive Network Model taught to me by Dr. Robert Briggs, he responded that his firm was using “a drinking game“–sans drinking–before every major client presentation. In his opinion, the mechanisms of the game seemed to align perfectly with Dr. Briggs’ theory: as images are called forth in working memory, particularly in new combinations, people generate thoughts they didn’t have prior – leading to new ideas.
A drinking game for creativity? I had to know more! As he explained the game, I realized this short, twenty-minute activity had all the elements of a good Agile activity: fun, collaboration, and useful lessons. Continue reading →
Recently, I had a very enjoyable conversation with a group of successful, talented software leaders regarding Agile. More specifically, many of the topics shared underlying assumptions about the role of Agile to create structure in the place of chaos and align people towards a common goal.
As part of the conversation, we eventually reached a point where a question was posed (in my best paraphrase): “How can we measure a person’s effectiveness in changing people’s minds?”
I felt that all-too-familiar sense of discomfort and asked if “changing peoples’ minds” is a responsibility or requirement of a job, whether it be a change management role, team coach (e.g., a ScrumMaster), or anything in-between. Some in the group expressed the validity and importance of such a measurement; thus, I’ll explore a question within: should it be our job to change peoples’ minds?Continue reading →
I recently participated in a podcast recording over breakfast with friends in the Southern California area. While enjoying a mix of smoothies, acai bowls, and coffee (lean coffee, that is), we discussed a variety of topics – among which was mine, “if you could, which Agile practice would you eliminate?”
This is not to say I think practices should be removed from use. In fact, throwing away practices that Agile teams have found success with reeks of the worst kind of waste. Instead, I wanted to explore the extent of subversion within the group’s collective experiences and gather insight into contributing factors.
During our conversation, I placed my condemned practice on the chopping block: the “daily stand-up” meeting. Enthusiasm for removing this tool was (enthusiastically) not shared. Continue reading →
In starting new engagements or meeting co-workers and team mates for the first time, one of the first interactions I seek is deep listening to two simple questions:
What do you feel?
What do you need?
These two basic questions contain so much potential for discovery: there is nothing so fundamentally human than our feelings and desires. And, as my experiences have taught me, these are two of the most often neglected (even discouraged) aspects of humanity in our places of work. Continue reading →
“In the spirit of transparency,” she said, “be sure to send me an update by the end of the week.”
He glanced at her, casually responding, “Of course. And to be transparent, I’ll present the slides to the team at our next meeting.”
Despite the fact I am not clairvoyant, I am quite certain that the above conversation happened today. Perhaps it even happened in your respective place of work. Just like no company executive today would dare admit “we’re not agile”, the popularity of “being transparent” guarantees we assign transparency to everything we do. And so it goes: as everyone becomes “agile”, transparency becomes yet another buzzword in the great agile sea of expected change in peoples’ behavior. Continue reading →