Dangers of Optimizing for “Role Success”

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

Towards a Culture of Teams

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

A Ramble About Metrics

You’re sitting in the director’s office with a nervous feeling.

“So, about those agile metrics I asked from you…”, she says. Your stomach churns and pulse quickens.

How will you show the progress of agile transformation? How will you measure improvement in teams and people? And how will you avoid the trap of shallow metrics like say:do ratios and velocity?

Continue reading