Skip to main content

Questions and Answer from our Webinar on Radical Management

Yesterday, Steve Denning and I hosted a discussion about Radical Management. We had many more questions than we had time to answer, so here are answers to more of the questions:

Tom Mellor asked
: Robert Quinn in his book Change the World wrote "[deep change] requires letting go of control.  It means facing the unknown, walking naked into the land of uncertainty.  We spend most of our lives striving to avoid that prospect. When faced with the choice between uncertainty and conformity, we usually choose conformity."   How do we help our firms choose deep change?

Peter Stevens: Deep Question! When I work with command and control managers, they are often afraid of losing control, because they are also accountable. So I think part of the process is helping managers understand that how their control is going to change, that results will still be important, and how accountability is different but still present. For instance in Scrum, accountability is achieved through the Daily Scrum and the Sprint Review, the latter often with stakeholders present, making what has happened transparent to all. This gives people important assurances that they are not engaging in dangerous 'Blind Trust'

Furthermore, I think Storytelling plays an important role. Telling stories can convey a vision of the future, guide people to solutions (or perhaps just reassurance) by considering similar solutions in the past. Listening to stories can help people understand each other and identify commonalities between they are and where they are going. I am particularly fond of the 'Remembering Heaven' exercise: by remembering and sharing success stories from the past, the future you are proposing no longer looks so strange to them. Storytelling improved the effectiveness of my Scrum coaching enormously!

I also teach Jurgen Appelo's Management 3.0 course. This is about giving middle managers tools for dealing with their departments in a radical or agile world. For example, his Delegation Poker game is very helpful to managers who want to understand their roles and how they should interact with other people. So in summary, I think the big issue is taking away the fear of change - as people start to see how the pieces fit together and what they have to do, the new world no longer looks so strange, comfort levels rise and people become more willing to try out and accept new ideas.

Adrian Leu asked: Doing something innovative in IT in healthcare in UK very often hits the problem of badly implemented, legacy systems for anything that needs to have a larger cover than just localized solutions. Is a radical solution the best one to apply? How do you sell this to the stakeholders?

Peter Stevens
: Three big questions here! 1) What to do with your old, difficult to maintain IT systems?  2) How to manage the process of whatever you decide to do to fix them? And 3) how do you convince your stakeholders to do the right thing?. The first question is really a question for your IT people. They are the experts. I would trust them to come up with good alternatives. On how to manage the process: Several radical approaches, most notably Scrum and Kanban were developed in an IT context, so chances are good a radical approach will work well in this context. The introduction itself needs to be 'radical' - that is with the consent, desire and participation of all the people involved. If you're getting resistance to some change, you have not gotten the necessary support from the people implementing that change. In this case, you need go back a few steps and do some marketing of your ideas.

Your last question, How do I sell it to stakeholders, is a big one. I've been planning to write a blog entry on it for some time and people have written books on the subject! There are many patterns for making change happen, 'Fearless Change' by Rising and Mann has an excellent collection (though it does not include storytelling!). Steve has several books on Leadership Storytelling.

Change like this cannot be sold. The people have to buy it, or more precisely, buy in to it. So you have to market it. AIDAA - Awareness -> Interest -> Desire -> Action -> Ability is a useful pattern. Start with Awareness and work forward.  A good place to start is with the stakeholders themselves. Get them to tell their stories: what is their pain and why? Ask them about their successful projects in the past. Look for attributes in those stories that you would like to have in the future and ask 'wouldn't it be great if our projects today were like that?' Now you can talk about your proposed solution and get permission to try out a next step.

I usually get involved when a champion has gotten enough awareness and interest among the stakeholders that they are willing to listen to an expert. You still have to build awareness, interest and desire among all the people who will be involved, but this is enough to get the ball rolling. I would not go straight into training (Ability) at this point, but continue to build interest and desire until you have something close to consensus that the radical approach is the way forward. Then you can start with the training and the first project. Usually coaching his helpful as well.

This is a very short answer to a very long question, but I hope it gets you started! Please feel free to email me for more info...

Margaret Clark asked: How to deal with it when leadership plays lip service to innovation, collaboration, yada yada, but doesn't actually do anything.

Peter Stevens: Hmm - this could be a lot of things. Where are they in the AIDAA process? It might just be lack of ability, which can be fixed by training and coaching. It might be a lack of lack of engagement and commitment. These are a classic failure patterns. Showing presence and determination are success patterns. If management hasn't really Decided to go this direction, you probably need to back up and build awareness, interest and desire to solve this problem.

Some people seem prefer to becoming a statistic rather than changing course! If an otherwise intelligent and rational manager does something which seems counter-productive, then her bonus probably depends on some consequence of her chosen course. I think your best chance is to find out the real reason why the people involved are doing the rational thing. It might have something to do with the focus on the bottom line rather the delighting the customer. I would work on enlightenment of the people concerned. And consider the answer to the previous question. You are trying to change their mindset, so they need to go through this AIDAA process in their own minds.

Christy Wendell  asked: Since IT Managers ""hate"" their jobs ... how can the companies that live and die by IT (e.g. video gaming company, service providers, etc.) best manage when 95% of their employees are IT types?

What does deep demotivation prophecise about the future of the company?  The consequence of demotivation on productivity and customer service is known to all. Only 20% of workers worldwide a fully engaged in their jobs (and the percentage is much lower in India and China!). Paying attention to staff happiness is an emerging best practice. If you inquire about staff happiness and don't like the answers, you should do something about it!

Daniel Timberlake  asked: How can you encourage collaboration and influence change when you don't hold all the cards?

Peter Stevens: Good question! Everybody has influence -- few people, even at the top, really have control. I would suggest you start by building a community in your company of people who share your ideas and interests. This can be a very informal group at the beginning, meeting at lunch or after work. You can share ideas and experiences with each other. Your meetings can also be a place where newcomers can find out about your approach. I used this pattern when I started doing Scrum. No one had ever heard of Scrum, much less published a job posting for a Scrum Master when I started doing Scrum. So I started the Scrum Breakfast, and every month, people came who wanted to find out about Scrum. This help spread the word, built acceptance for Scrum, and had the pleasant side effect of creating a market for Scrum related services.

Chuck Phipps asked whether it makes sense to go stealth to get RM in a traditional-management organization.

Peter Stevens: This is a common pattern in IT, in which agile practices (e.g. Scrum) are applied to improve the productivity. Eventually the Scrum projects run into conflict with the command and control structures of classical management and the day of reckoning comes. A Ford plant in Mexico was the leanest, most efficient automobile plant in the world in the 1980s. But rather than adopting those practices in the rest of the company, Ford chose to bring the plant back into the fold of doing things the Ford way, which was not good for their efficiency nor for Ford's health as a company. Stealth may be the only way to get started. But I would think about your "coming-out": How are you going to deal with your management when they tell you, 'you're doing great work, but we need you to improve your bottom line'. Zappos had this dilemma and ended up 'firing' their board of directors by getting the company sold to Amazon. I would strive to get permission early for what you are doing, even if it is 'just a limited experiment.'

Joel Bancroft-Connors asked what is middle management's place in the new era of self empowered teams?

Peter Stevens: Middle management most definitely has a role! The purpose of middle management is to hold the company together -- that will not change. Some of the duties will not change either. For example, someone will have to allocate people to teams or projects.

The tools of middle management will change, in some cases dramatically, because many of the old tools are ineffective or counterproductive. Middle managers will concentrate on achieving outcomes rather than merely producing outputs or controlling inputs. They will look more outward to the customer and less upwards to the boss or sideways to their peers and rivals. They will focus more on managing the system and less on controlling individuals. They will focus on creating an environment where their people can work effectively. When impediments arise which prevent work from being done effectively, they will use their influence and position to get the problems fixed. Most importantly, they will be on the front line of living, promoting, and protecting the radical management mindset within the organization.

Kim Fehring asked: Working remotely/having team members in different offices is still a struggle. How can we apply all this remotely?

Working remotely is a challenge - the people don't see each other often. It is easy to focus on 'your' view of the problem and it is harder to build trust between the individuals or organizations involved. As working remotely can cover anything from telecommuting to off-shoring, I would ask you to explain your context and we can look for a better answer.

Alicia Korten asked:  What to do to make the workplace more fun, innovative and agile?

Steve Denning wrote that laughter is the ACID test of Radical Management, and this is so true! In my experience, laughter is the side effect of respectful conversations, a sustainable pace, a focus on results instead of punch-clocks, and the culture of fearless trust that is often seen in radically management teams. Creating the basis for innovation is much harder to generalize. Ideas are very fragile. Few companies have been willing to cannibalize an existing product to go after a new opportunity. (Here are two counter-examples: IBM, who learned the hard way that protecting the System 3X series from their PC's was a bad idea; Apple who risked the iPod to bring out the iPhone. Both of these companies learned the hard way. Here's a topic for a management workshop: "How can we structure our management so that no one person can kill a good idea or keep a bad idea alive?"

Did I miss your question? Send me a tweet or drop me a line, and I'll be happy to answer it. Or, if you want to get deeper into it, check out our workshop on Radical Management: 3 dates this spring in Washington, DC!


Popular posts from this blog

Sample Definition of Done

Why does Scrum have a Definition of Done? Simple, everyone involved in the project needs to know and understand what Done means. Furthermore, Done should be really done, as in, 'there is nothing stopping us from earning value with this function, except maybe the go-ahead from the Product Owner. Consider the alternative:
Project Manager: Is this function done?
Developer: Yes
Project Manager: So we can ship it?
Developer: Well, No. It needs to be tested, and I need to write some documentation, but the code works, really. I tested it... (pause) ...on my machine. What's wrong with this exchange? To the developer and to the project manager, "done" means something rather different. To the developer in this case, done means: "I don't have to work on this piece of code any more (unless the tester tells me something is wrong)." The project leader is looking for a statement that the code is ready to ship.

At its most basic level, a definition of Done creates a sh…

Explaining Story Points to Management

During the February Scrum Breakfast in Zurich, the question arised, "How do I explain Story Points to Management?" A good question, and in all honesty, developers can be an even more critical audience than managers.

Traditional estimates attempt to answer the question, "how long will it take to develop X?" I could ask you a similar question, "How long does it take to get the nearest train station?

The answer, measured in time, depends on two things, the distance and the speed. Depending on whether I plan to go by car, by foot, by bicycle or (my personal favorite for short distances) trottinette, the answer can vary dramatically. So it is with software development. The productivity of a developer can vary dramatically, both as a function of innate ability and whether the task at hand plays to his strong points, so the time to produce a piece of software can vary dramatically. But the complexity of the problem doesn't depend on the person solving it, just …

Money for Nothing, Changes for Free

“Money for Nothing, Changes for Free” encourages both customers and suppliers to focus on value.

A key advantage of Scrum projects is that at least once per sprint you have something that could be shipped and no work in progress. You can change direction every sprint, and you can reevaluate whether the project is a good investment or if your money could be better spent elsewhere. Abrupt cancellation is risky for the supplier.

While the concept of an early-exit penalty is not new, Jeff Sutherland gave it a unique allure with his allusion to the Dire Straits hit.
Desired Benefit Incentivize both customers and suppliers to focus on functionality that provides genuine value.
Structure This works with Agile software projects because there is little or no work in progress. After each Sprint, functionality is either complete or not started. Work is basically on a Time and Materials basis with a cost target, often with the intention that the project should not use up the entire project budge…