Webinar on Implementing Radical Management

On 15 April 2015, Peter Stevens and Simon Roberts were honoured to take part in a webinar on Radical Management as part of Scrum Alliance’s program of webinars supporting the Learning Consortium.

The webinar covered:

  • Radical Management and its five main shifts
  • Transforming organization strategy from shareholder value to something more sustainable (including customer delight)
  • Experiences in applying Radical Management in large organizations
  • Key steps for introducing Radical Management, including engaging with top management, getting early buy-in, training, and coaching

Download the slides from the webinar here.

The webinar is also available as a recording.

After the webinar, the presenters answered many of the questions that we didn’t have time to answer during the presentation itself. The questions and answers are available here.

Thank you for the overwhelmingly positive feedback after the event (including tweets).

Radical Management in Practice

Many organizations are based on a hierarchical bureaucracy with managers who practice command and control. This approach is incompatible with much twenty-first century work, which is knowledge based and best carried out in self-organized teams.

Building on Steve Denning’s “Radical Management”, this presentation provides guidance on what managers should do to best support the work of agile teams.

This draws on experiences from multiple large-scale Agile transitions in Germany and the United Kingdom in the telecommunications and finance sectors.

The Retrospective Prime Directive

Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job they could, given what they knew at the time, their skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand.

and in German:

Egal was wir heute herausfinden, wir wissen und glauben ernsthaft, dass jeder sein bestes gegeben hat entsprechend seines Wissens, seiner Fähigkeiten, der zur Verfügung stehenden Mittel, und der aktuellen Situation.

I’ve been a fan and user of Norman Kerth’s retrospective prime directive for many years. Every now and then I will start retrospectives with a reading and short discussion about the prime directive. It serves as a reminder of the state of mind that we need to achieve to get the best value out of retrospectives. The very act of reading and discussing it helps us to get to this state.

I often follow this by a short discussion on working agreements. Again Norman Kerth has some excellent advice as a starting point:

  • We will try not to interrupt.
  • We will accept everyone’s opinion without judgment.
  • We will talk from our own perspective, and not speak for anyone else.
  • If someone is holding the “talking coffee mug,” then only that person may speak.
  • There will be no jokes about other people in the room.
  • These ground rules can be amended after any break.


Next Steps for the Stoos Movement

In little more than a year the Stoos movement has grown from the initial four founders, to the twenty-one present at the Stoos meeting and now to a network of thousands worldwide. But little has changed in how most organisations are run.

Even where approaches such as Scrum or Kanban have been introduced at department or business unit level, the involved firms themselves are still focussed on keeping shareholders happy rather than delighting customers and employees remain disillusioned.

In his passionate call to action during a talk as part of the Stoos Connect meeting in January 2013, Stephen Denning described   five challenges for the movement:

  1. There is a need to recognize the extent of the challenge. Throughout the twentieth century these ideas have been presented many time but have not stuck.

  2. The movement needs to think bigger by becoming part of a movement of movements. Organisations such as the management information exchange, Scrum Alliance and Agile Alliance are all concerned with the same or similar ideas. All of the organisations together represent perhaps 500000 people.

  3. We need to be bolder. We have truth on our side, but that is not enough. We have to insist on change, to get beyond tweaking.

  4. We need to work on the constraints preventing change by taking practical action that can lead to lasting, sustainable change. For example, by engaging with the 80% of business schools that do not yet subscribe officially to these ideas and by challenging business journals (e.g. HBR) by pointing out when their articles are not supporting new management ideas.

  5. By evangelizing the change. Rational argument is not enough, the movement needs to express itself with passion.

Stephen Denning quoted Margaret Mead (anthropologist) at the end of his talk:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, nothing ever else has.”

A video of Stephen’s talk is here.

10 Mistakes that (some) Managers Make

1. Putting Most of their Energy Into Avoiding Getting Blamed

The main objective for some managers is to avoid getting blamed for a problem. The result is that they reduce transparency and that decision makers are not able to make rational decisions because the information that they get is misleading.

This is a deep cultural problem in many organisations. If organisations are serious about becoming learning organisations they need to foster a no blame culture so that managers and teams are encouraged to make problems visible.

2. Not Focussing on Value Generation

Incentives or personal targets are often not aligned with generating value (by delighting the customer). Inappropriate objectives (e.g. on-time delivery) can result in dysfunctional outcomes such as launching a product when it is not ready, resulting in increased cost-of-ownership and unhappy customers.

3. Controlling Instead of Supporting

If there is a problem with the work of a team, the response of some managers is to put more controls in place. A better solution would to ask the team what they need to be able to work more effectively. If we focus on creating radical transparency and supporting teams, we won’t need so many energy sapping controls.

4. Watermelon Green

Traffic light or RAG (red, amber, green) status reports are common in larger organisations. High blame organisations often have an unofficial fourth status — watermelon green — i.e. green (everything fine) on the outside (political level) and red (serious problems) inside. When this happens senior managers don’t get the information that they need to make rational decisions.

5. Laissez-faire

Servant leadership doesn’t mean laissez-faire. Good managers need to show that they are interested in a team’s work. They should practice “management by walking about” or doing the “Gemba walk”. In a Scrum context, this could mean observing daily stand-ups, taking active part in sprint reviews and making it clear to the team that the manager’s door is always open in case they need support.

6. Belief in Perfect Resource Planning

Knowledge-based, creative work (such as most product development) is complex. It is not possible to plan in detail who should do what and when they should do it. Many managers persist in their belief of perfect plans and that the route to better efficiency is to maximize “resource” utilization. I’ve seen organizations where managers have daily resource re-planning meetings – they hang on to the belief that they just need to plan better. Instead they should focus on putting together great teams, supporting them and letting them get on with the work.

7. Belief in Top-Down Standardization

Some managers believe that the organization will be more efficient if tools, practices and processes can be standardized. This is rarely the case — the people doing the work are usually the best people to decide how they work and what they need to get the work done. Managers can play an important role in helping to spread innovations and other knowledge created by teams, e.g., by fostering communities of practice.

8. Belief that Trust has to be Earned

Effective teams need trust within the team and between team and manager (in both directions). Patrick Lencioni shows (in The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team) how teams cannot reach their potential without trust. Managers need to take the first step by being vulnerable, even if they are inwardly skeptical.

9. Just Paying Attention to Technical Skills When Building a Team

Highly effective teams need diversity of personality preferences as well as technical skills. Diversity of personality preference is important because it enables the key team roles (e.g. as described by Belbin) to be covered more effectively. Many managers just focus on technical skills.

10. Hiring People Who Are Too Much Like Themselves

Many managers hire people who are similar to themselves in background and personality. As a result departments lack the diversity that would enable them to become more effective.

Using the Cartoon Story Board Technique in Retrospectives

Cartoon Story Board

Cartoon Story Board (also called Comic Story Board) is one of my favourite creativity techniques and it can be used to good effect in retrospectives. I have used it in the “setting the stage” phase of retrospectives to help a team to frame the key question to be tackled during the retrospective, and for helping to generate ideas when deciding what to do differently in the future.

It is useful in the following contexts:

Teams in conflict, retrospectives, futurespectives, problem reframing during the “problem definition” phase of Buffalo style Creative Problem Solving (CPS).

The procedure that I use is:

  1. The facilitator draws the grid and lays out the paper on a table at which the participants are sitting.
  2. The participants draw a representation of the current situation in the first cell.
  3. The participants draw a representation of an ideal state in the last cell.
  4. The participants imagine that they are looking back from a future time represented by cell 6 and draw a representation of the first step that was taken to make things better in cell 2.
  5. The participants draw a representation of how it was just before they reached the cell 6 time in cell 5.
  6. The participants fill in cells 3 and 4.

From here it is usually a short step to problem/question reframing (ask the participants “what is the key problem that we have identified here?”). Alternatively or in addition, the technique can be followed by braining storming, clustering and dot voting to generate ideas for action.