Thursday, April 26, 2012

My Experience Building Deep Trust

How would a company function if its top leadership trusted each other deeply and truly shared a common vision for the future? This question burns in my mind as I ponder the impact of the retreat I attended last weekend.

I met Siraj while making contact with the Washington DC Agile/Scrum scene. I had offered to help him make high quality photographs of his collection of "influence maps." Having just moved to the DC area, and having time on my hands, I thought that some small acts of service would be a good way to get to know and integrate into the Agile community here.

An influence map is both a discovery tool and an information radiator for reflecting on and telling the story of your life. It was fascinating what I could learn about people I had never met just by looking at their maps.

There was always something mysterious about Siraj. As his name suggests, he is of Indian origin, but he grew up in Middle East and studied in a Jesuit school. His life has always been driven by the questions, 'Why am I here?' and 'Whats next for us?' So when he invited me to attend a weekend retreat on change leadership based on these influence maps, I was intrigued and just had to come.

His model for influencing change is called The Influencers Mantra, and the monthly retreat to learn this model is called Temenos, which is the Greek word for "container." Just as you can't control your heartbeat, you can't control the container. But you can influence your heartbeat (and many other reactions) by controlling your breathing. Temenos is about how to influence containers of people like a marriage, a partnership, or a company.

A Temenos has a simple format:
  • Warm-up on Friday evening - a fancy word for dinner (and maybe some wine) and otherwise getting to know each other. 
  • Saturday and Sunday were the formally defined parts of the workshop, 
  • Cool-down Sunday night - another fancy word for dinner (and maybe some wine) and enjoying the afterglow of an intense weekend together
  • Monday morning departure 
Siraj's model of influencing change is based on simple premises:
  1. Any group of people, like a company, a partnership, a team or a marriage is a container.
  2. A container is not a soldier to be commanded, it is a woman to be wooed. It is also a raging fire which will will burn you if you take the wrong approach. Having been burned several times and having wooed an organization once or twice, I recognize the truth of this statement!
  3. Listening and Observing are the keys to influencing the container.
So most of the time in the workshop is spent listening and observing: 1) Understand yourself and each other by creating and sharing influence maps. 2) Create a clean slate to start afresh. 3) Understand your and each others' Personal Vision. 4) Working as a group, create a compelling shared vision for moving forward. 5) Supplication.

Influence maps and Mandalas are both visual representations (or information radiators, as Agilists would call them). The Influence map represents your life to date, and the Mandala represents either your personal vision or the shared vision of your container.

The workshop follows this approach:
  • Check-in
  • Introduction to The Influencers Mantra + Temenos
  • Influence Maps - draw and share the story of your life 
  • Clean Slate - recognize and forgive the failures of the system and your own failures to the system
  • Personal Vision - draw a Mandala and share your vision for moving forward at a personal level. 
  • Compelling Shared Vision - create a Mandala for the container / organization / group
  • Supplication 
  • Theory - Personalities of Influencers or Archetypes and Forces of the container or patterns in the change process
  • Check-out
By the end of the Personal Vision exercise, we understood ourselves and each other so well, that we could talk to each other about anything, without fear or insult! I call this state Deep Trust. It's amazing. It is the perfect state for creating a compelling shared vision for the future.

Supplication was perhaps the hardest to grasp. "Supplication" is the process of bowing down in prayer. It represents a humble attitude towards the organization. I use the analogy of wooing a woman. I remember the night I met my future mother-in-law. There were only two chairs in the room, one for her and one for my future wife, so I literally sat at their feet! It seemed a bit a odd at the time, but it helped create a lasting, positive impression. In the successful change initiatives that I have coached, I have taken a similar approach, offering information, while encouraging those doing the change to figure out the best direction without telling them what the answer should be.

I came home exhausted, but full of energy and enthusiasm for this approach (and for my own future vision). I started making changes right away in my life and in how I deal with people; these were also noticed immediately. The approach seems to resonate. Everybody I talk to about it seems to get really excited: Connecting with your friends, colleagues, co-workers and even family members seems to be a deep need for many people. And I still ponder the question, what would your company be like if your top leadership deeply trusted each other and truly shared a common vision for the future?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Agile is the Vanguard of the Transformation of Management

Recently I wrote on ScrumDevelopment:

Agile is the vanguard of a general change in management, beyond "just" software. At the moment, it is seldom on the radar screens of today's MBA trained managers.
Two responses arrived almost simultaneously:
"No. People like Deming, Goldratt, Ohno, (and several others...) are the vanguards of general change in management (to the extent that there is yet much of a change)" - Kurt Häusler

"Well said Peter!" - Srinivas Chillara

I really do believe Agile is the vanguard in the transformation of management.

There are two levels to Agile - one is about engineering practices, the other is about values. Let's leave the engineering practices aside for a moment. In this context I am referring to Agile as a management framework.

What management principles does Agile implement? Servant leadership, delegation, intrinsic motivation, high trust cultures, PDCA, and much more. These are all things that one routinely encounters in an Agile project and exactly what the management gurus have been saying we should do. It is not that Agile invented these things, but Agile is where these things are being systematically applied, where there is a large body of knowledge on how to do it, and where there is a lot of experience on what happens when you do it.

Agile represents the one of the few communities where these principles are systematically applied. Take Scrum, for example: Product Owners and Scrum Masters are servant leaders. Sprint Planning operates at level 6 (of 7) on Jurgen Appelo's authority scale. The framework implements PDCA in two to four week cyles.

What other framework could qualify? Maybe Lean. Kanban I think has a strong claim. It leads you away from command-and-control, even though it can co-exist with it. But many people consider Kanban to be as much an agile framework as a lean one. Is there any other framework which can a) make this claim, and b) is widely applied?

All these modern management ideas are being implemented right under the noses of and often in the face of apathy or active resistance from classically trained managers. Steve Denning documented this thoroughly in his recent post. If you read a college textbook on management, you don't learn about Agile, or Scrum, or Kanban. Maybe a little bit about Lean. This has to change.

So yes Agile is on the vanguard. Not by talking or teaching at prestigious business schools, but by actually doing all the things management gurus have been saying managers should do for the last 50 years. Rod Collins, former CEO of Blue Cross Federal Employees Division and author of Leadership in a Wiki World believes the next generation of top managers will come from the agile ranks, simply because these are the people who 'get it':
  • Agile, Lean, Scrum, Kanban - all are examples effective approaches to organization in a complex, networked world. None of them are compatible with the hierarchical, command-and-control management approach that was perfected by General Motors in the 20's. More fundamentally, thinking is not compatible with following orders.
  • Beyond Budgeting - rethinking finances as the guiding instrument of corporate planning and control. BTW Professor Franz Röösli, Chair of the BB Roundtable, was an initiator of the Stoos Gathering.
  • Radical Management - a rethinking of management based on agile principles. Strongly influenced by Scrum, The Ultimate Question (delighting the customer as the ultimate goal of an organization), and the Innovators Dilemma (why established companies often fail to respond to disruptive innovations). RM adds storytelling as a change leadership tool (which, when I started employing it, has done wonders for the acceptance of Scrum in the agile transitions I have coached).
  • Stoos - a movement to catalyze a widespread change in management by building a common identity and networking between compatible approaches. People who identify themselves with Agile, Scrum, Kanban, Radical Management, Beyond Budgeting and others were all present at the first Stoos gathering.
Where do we go from here? A number of Stoos events are planned, most notably the Stoos Stampede and the StoosXchange. A number of Stoos Satellites have formed around the world to build local communities. Having said this, most of the resonance is coming from the Agile community. Franz Röösli and I will attend Gary Hamel's MIX Mashup. Our immediate goal is to get Agile on management's radar screen.

If you're not already a member, I'd encourage you to join the Stoos network. Summon the future! Catalyze a change for the better.

[Update 20.Apr/11:44 EDT]: I expanded the section on agile principles to give some examples of what management principles Agile implement. Also invited people to suggest other frameworks which might qualify. ]

[Update 20.Apr/12:10 EDT]: ...and I updated the section again to be more inclusive of Lean and especially Kanban. Stoos is about what compatible frameworks have in common, not about the rivalries between them. ]

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Surviving Disruptive Innovation

Steve Denning recently wrote that disruptive innovation is a disease which has destroyed company after company. A number of comments challenged his use of the word "disease." What is a disruptive innovation? Is it a disease, are you getting it, and what can you do about it?

The term disruptive innovation was coined by Clayton Christensen in his book 'The Innovator's Dilemma.' A disruptive innovation occurs when a new technology is developed that is lower cost and qualitatively inferior to existing approaches -- measured along the criteria of the existing market -- but offers other unique advantages to a new market. The new technology innovates faster than the established technology and eventually replaces the old technology at a lower cost, destroying the established players.

So calling the problem a "disease" is pretty close to the mark. The disease is not disruptive innovation per se, but the inability of established companies to react to it properly. Perhaps calling the "Disruptive Innovation Syndrome" would be a better word.

I have been in the IT business long enough to remember:
  • Minicomputers displacing mainframes to the stratosphere
  • Unix Workstations displacing minicomputers and forcing them out of existence
  • Intel PCs doing the same to UNIX workstations
  • Linux/Intel Servers doing the same to UNIX servers
and the list goes on. Today were can observe
  • SSDs are starting to displace hard disk drives
  • Tablets are displacing netbooks
For an established player, there are many challenges to adopting a disruptive technology:
  1. Innovative ideas originate at the lowest levels of the organization. Without an innovation culture, these ideas do not filter up to the top-level decision makers.
  2. New, low-cost technologies do not have an obvious market. Getting a go from top management to invest is difficult due to the risk and uncertainty of a small, new market.
  3. The new technology is unlikely to contribute significantly to the bottom line or growth of a large organization in the first years after introduction.
  4. Investment decisions are not made just once at the top, but on a daily basis by middle management over the life of the project. It's called 'allocating resources' and established customers with well known needs are a lower risk than uncertain new markets. So products for established customers get the best resources.
  5. The company's marketing "value network", i.e. its sales channels, marketing approach, and cost-structure are oriented toward existing customers. A company often literally does not know how to identify new customers or how to sell to new markets. Because margins and volumes are low, it is not financially interesting to do so.
So most companies simply choose not enter disruptive markets. The task is too daunting! And in the few cases that they do, it is very difficult road and most attempts are not successful.

What does it take to combat this syndrome?

Christensen argues that the technology itself is not the problem. It's the value network around the company which traps the company into its business model. The most successful approach he has observed is creating new business units which are independent of the existing business units and proportional in size to the target markets. IBM took this approach launching their PC business -- and went on to lose the market when it brought the PC division back into the fold, building closed, IBM-only devices which were slower and more expensive than their competition.

Apple takes a variation of this approach due to the extreme secrecy within the organization. Apple behaves like multiple start-ups which are in many ways unaware of each other, preventing much politics between the departments.

Steve Denning argues that companies need to have much more room for innovation. They need to adopt a culture of continuous innovation. The focus on the bottom line is counterproductive in the face of disruptive innovation.

What should you do? I don't believe these approaches are mutually exclusive. If you emphasize creating happy customers over the bottom line, then you know there are times to develop new customers and that a short term drop in profitability is a small price to pay for the long term survival and growth of the the company.

You need to create space to explore disruptive technologies. You need to recognize that much learning is involved and some attempts may fail. You need to identify new markets and new marketing approaches. You need to accept that the new approach will initially have lower volumes and probably always will have lower margins than your mature, existing products.

Once you decide that one product is a potential winner, you need to ensure focus. This means shielding the people and budgets from the pressures of your mature high-volume products. If you say 'A', and expect to get to 'Z', then you need to say, B, C, D, etc. until you get to Z. So if you are going to develop a disruptive product, you need to have top people working on it and you may not pull them off the new product development to support your cash cow.

Does the new venture have to be a separate business unit? A priori no, but there is a lot of practical experience which suggests this is a good idea.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Radical Management and #Stoos Workshops, Webinars and Events and Communities as of Q2 2012

Agile as a management framework may be one of the best kept secrets, but the word is getting out. Here is a list of events where you can find out, learn and exchange information about
  • Radical Management, the approach for making the entire organization agile, and
  • #Stoos, the movement to catalyze a change in management


  • USA-Washington, DC, May 21-23, Making the Whole Organization Agile, 3-day workshop with Steve Denning and Peter Stevens, Info and registration
  • USA-Seattle, WA, June 26-28, Making the Whole Organization Agile, 3-day workshop with Peter Stevens, Info and registration, hosted by SolutionsIQ
  • NL-Amsterdam, July 5, Seminar on Radical Management, 1-day workshop with Steve Denning and Peter Stevens, Info and registration, hosted by Zilverline 

Radical Management, #Stoos, and related gatherings

Interactive Webinars

Radical Management Related Communities

    Twitter Tags

    • #Stoos - for anything related to the Stoos movement
    • #rmweb - for Q&A on Steve & my webinars
    Have I missed anything? Please comment or tweet to @peterstev and I will keep this list up to date.

    Join Steve and Peter's Monthly Mashup

    Making the whole organization agile.

    Join Steve Denning and Peter Stevens for their web-based MONTHLY MASHUP* call-in show on MAKING THE ENTIRE ORGANIZATION AGILE. It's for:
    • Agile leaders and coaches wanting to convert the entire organization to Agile,
    • Business leaders needing to understand Agile management or achieve continuous innovation, 
    • Public sector leaders seeking the agility to “do more for less”, and 
    • Entrepreneurs wanting to grow their startups without losing agility.
    Fed up with hierarchy and bureaucracy?  Want your organization to be more agile? In this interactive call-in show, share with us your biggest challenge in making your organization more agile and we’ll brainstorm with you to see what can be done about it.

    Learn about the issues that others are facing and what you can do about the issues you face.

    We’ll discuss what's involved in acquiring the breakthrough capabilities involved in making the entire organization agile.

    Got a question for us to answer 'on the air?' Email me peter at or tweet it with #rmweb.

    Got a problem? Like to learn more? This is your opportunity! BTW - it's free!

    Register for Steve and Peter's Monthly Mashup

    *What's a mashup? A mashup is a creative combination or mixing of content from different sources. You, me, Steve, the web, other participants...

    Dates for upcoming monthly mashups:

    Executive Education Workshop: Making the Entire Organization Agile

    Mastering the Paradigm Shift to Radical Managementsm
    May 21-23, 2012 in Washington DC

    20 F Street NW is a
    few blocks from the US Capitol
    Photo courtesy alexabboud
    Today’s white-water environment requires the entire organization to be agile. With the abrupt, unpredictable and simultaneous shifts in markets, customers, communications, technology, competitors, talent and regulatory frameworks, the entire organization must be nimble to survive, let alone prosper. In this three-day workshop (May 21-23, 2012 in Washington DC), you will find out how to accomplish the necessary paradigm shift in your organization.

    The biggest secret in management today

    Just over a decade ago, a set of major management breakthroughs occurred. These breakthroughs enabled software development teams to achieve both disciplined execution and continuous innovation, something that was hitherto impossible to accomplish with traditional management methods.

    Over the last decade, these management practices, under various labels such as Agile, Scrum, Kanban and Lean, have been field-tested and proven in thousands of organizations around the world. Radical Managementsm distills, builds on and extends these principles, practices and values so that the entire organization can now achieve to apply the magic combination of disciplined execution and continuous innovation.

    What will you learn in this workshop?

    In this intensive, interactive three day Executive Education workshop, you will learn how to get beyond the rigidities of traditional management and acquire the breakthrough capabilities involved in making the entire organization agile. You will learn how to implement the elements of Radical Managementsm as an integrated whole so as to get extraordinary results for your organization, your customers and your workforce.

    How will the learning take place?

    You will receive both the theoretical grounding in the diverse principles and practices of Radical Managementsm and the hands-on experience of applying them to your organization. Learning through exercises, simulations, lectures, case studies and group discussions, you will emerge with a deeper understanding of the conceptual framework of Agile software development and Radical Managementsm and an enhanced capacity to make the necessary paradigm shift happen in your organization.

    Who is right for this workshop?

    Offering a career-changing experience for anyone dissatisfied with rigidities of traditional management, this leadership workshop is for:
    • Agile leaders and coaches wanting to convert the entire organization to Agile,
    • business leaders needing to understand Agile management or achieve continuous innovation,
    • public sector leaders seeking the agility to “do more for less”, and
    • entrepreneurs wanting to grow their startups without losing agility.

    Who is giving the workshop?

    The workshop is given by:
    • Steve Denning draws from his award-winning book, The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management, his path-breaking work in leadership storytelling and long managerial background as a director at the World Bank.
    • Peter Stevens draws on deep international hands-on experience in Agile and Scrum transitions, extending the breakthrough principles of Agile management from software development to the entire organization.
    Eventbrite - Making the Entire Organization Agile This workshop is taking place on May 21-23, 2012 at 20 F St. NW in Washington DC. Sign up here now and/or call Peter Stevens at 240-472-5615 to get more information and a special pricing deal (quote code SD1)

    What are the workshop objectives?

    In this workshop, you will learn how to take the breakthrough lessons of Agile software development and apply them systematically so as to transform the entire organization.
    You will learn how organizations like your own that have figured out how to get continuous innovation, and deep job satisfaction and delighted customers, and do this sustainably, as the permanent way in which the organization runs, all at the same time

    • You will learn how to extract what is valuable in 20th Century management while supplementing that with the new leadership practices that are needed to operate successfully in the tumultuous world of the 21st Century.
    • You will undergo a voyage of discovery, in which you will learn and embody a way of thinking, speaking and acting that is radically more productive for customers, employees and the organization. You will accomplish this by learning how to operate in a world of no-tradeoffs: how to get outsized outcomes for the organization along with inspired workers and thrilled customers and stakeholders.
    • You will learn how to accomplish these gains while creating authenticity in the workplace, both for you, for the people you work with and for, and for the people who work for you and for the organization’s brand.
    • You will learn what’s happening in other organizations along with the broader global movement for management change, epitomized in the Agile Manifesto (2001) for software development and the Stoos Gathering (2012) for general management.
    • You will learn how to get beyond instances of agility that are usually short-lived. You will learn how to expand oases of continuous agility, particularly in software development with the advent of Agile, Scrum, Kanban and Lean and eliminate the conflicts with the general management practices within the firm as a whole.
    • To make the entire organization agile, you will learn than new management tools. You will learn how to put in place together the right strategic goals, the right managerial roles, the right way to coordinate work, the right Agile values and the right way to communicate.
    • Understanding and implementing the comprehensive array of changes involved in making the entire organization agile will help you master the paradigm shift in management that is needed to create continuous innovation, delighted customers, passionate employees, and extraordinary shareholder returns.
    These shifts require more than learning a few new tools or processes. They constitute a basic change in the way think, speak and interact with each other.

    What participants say:

    • “Loved the exercises and activities”
    • “Really enjoyed the ideas behind it. I learned so much.”
    • “The high interaction and the moderation tools”
    • “It was great to have such variety in the different kinds of learning “I learned through leadership storytelling how to inspire desire for change”
    Eventbrite - Making the Entire Organization AgileThis workshop is taking place on May 21-23, 2012 at 20 F St. NW in Washington DC. Sign up here now and/or call Peter Stevens at 240-472-5615 to get more information and a special pricing deal (quote code SD1)

    Monday, April 9, 2012

    Scrum and 5 Principles of Radical Management

    Scrum is at the vanguard of a major shift in the management paradigm. The new paradigm is called Radical Management, based on Steve Denning's book of the same name. What is this shift and how does Scrum fit in?

    This shift is due to a fundamental change in the marketplace. Due to globalization, customers now have incredible freedom about whom they choose to do business with. In order to keep customers, companies have to do more than just keep their customers satisfied. They have to delight their customers!

    This shift impacts the five dimensions of management: Purpose of the Company, Role of Management, Accountability, Basic Values, and Communications.

    Purpose of the company

    Old: Maximize profits or shareholder value (or more recently, maximize management compensation)
    New: Delight the customer
    How Scrum does it: The product owner represents interest of the users, customers, and other stakeholders to the team doing the work. The product backlog is a list of items which bring value to the customer or value, sequenced according to their value to the customer or user. Customer value must be produced every 30 days in a potentially shippable form.

    Role of Management, 

    Old: Manager as controller
    New: Manager as enabler
    How Scrum does it: Scrum defines two leadership roles, the ScrumMaster and the Product Owner. Both are servant leader roles. The Product Owner defines the value to be produced for the customer, prioritizes the work and accepts the work. The ScrumMaster helps both Product Owner and Implementation Team work together more effectively, by eliminating impediments and helping the team improve.


    Old: Bureaucracy and blame
    New: Dynamic Linking (I prefer 'direct linking') in which the people doing the work have a clear line of sight to the beneficiaries of the work.
    How Scrum does it: Inspect and adapt is a core principle of Scrum. Scrum provide numerous occasions at the personal, team and product/project level. Sprint Planning - what should be produced in this iteration? Sprint Review - what was produced, does it meat expectations, and what corrections are necessary? Daily Scrum - what is preventing us from achieving our goal for this sprint. Sprint Retrospective - how can we improve how we work so that we can be more productive? Release Planning (if appropriate) - how do we meet our goal of delivering something valuable to the customer?

    Basic Values

    Old: Efficiency and Cost Cutting
    New: Sustainable values
    How Scrum does it: Scrum does not micromanage individual people and tasks but rather gives teams complete problems to solve until done. Sustainable pace is assured by giving the team doing the work the authority to decide how much work it can take on.


    Old: Command and Control (or more precisely detailed command and control)
    New: Adult to adult conversations
    How Scrum does it: To plan work, the Product Owner and Scrum Implementation Team come together as equals. The Product Owner has jurisdiction over priorities and acceptance criteria, and the team has jurisdiction over estimates, how much work they can accept in a sprint, and how to do the work. With the help of the ScrumMaster, the team and P-O meet and plan the work for the next increment. Neither the Product Owner nor the ScrumMaster has detailed command authority over the team or each other, but through their defined roles, they guide the team to a successful outcome.

    Like Radical Management, Scrum must be implemented more or less in its entirety, otherwise it will disintegrate over time. Scrum is surely not the only way to do Radical Management, but it implements the principles quite thoroughly and, in my experience, is an excellent place to start.

    Are you delighting your customers? Is your company agile enough for the 21st century? Join Steve Denning and myself at our web-based monthly mashup call-in show on Making the Entire  Organization Agile.