At Agile 2014, many people were inspired by this case study so Olaf Lewitz interviewed me. Here is what happened.
Archive for Organizational Culture
At Play4Agile, Olaf Lewitz and I hosted an exploratory session on personal growth hacks. Everyone shared ideas and turned into the self-appreciation game.
Purpose of the Game
The purpose of the game is to give people practice at accepting praise and recognition so that we feel good about our accomplishments and successes. This cultivates our sense of self-worth so that we are more resourceful at work and in our personal lives.
Why Play the Game
In our society there’s rarely room to learn how to accept praise and recognition. We squirm and say “it was nothing” because it feels uncomfortable. We have a hard time seeing our own self-worth and feel this disconnect when we receive praise.
This is a great game to help people and teams become more resourceful so they are able to co-create a more positive environment.
It is very helpful if you are working to create a people-oriented organization.
Form a circle. If you have more than 10 people, consider the option of forming two smaller groups.
Explain the purpose of the game and it’s mechanics.
- Brag Protocol: Pick something that you are proud of and share it with the group.
- Applause: Everyone cheers and claps to celebrate your success.
- Soak it in: Let the appreciation soak in like maple syrup in a pancake. Connect deeply and fully with the feeling for 10 to 15 seconds. See Hardwiring Happiness for further explanation of letting in the good.
Go around the circle 2 to 4 times depending on how much time and energy you have.
As we went around the circle the connection and trust increased. Everyone left this game feeling awesome.
Why This Game is Important to Me
I am on an epic quest for self-worth so that I can engage with the world from a centered and whole place. So that I carry my own weather around inside me. The game was invented to help me level up on my quest. And it worked. I hope you are interested in similar benefits.
We are deeply grateful to the participants of the workshop who helped co-create and test drive this game.
The WholeHearted Manifesto consists on one value statement:
We Value People. (Period)
People are the driving force behind getting results. This is the secret recipe for success.
We value all people. Our customers. Our peers. But most of all ourselves.
It would be a mistake to think this is fluffy bunny stuff. It’s not. It is the hard stuff that makes all the difference.
The principles of the Wholehearted Manifesto are:
- People happen. Not right, not wrong. They will amaze you.
- Awesome outcomes emerge from people who truly connect.
- Collaboration is our oxygen: we co-create environments for people to flourish and grow.
- We all are on a unique journey and help each other along the way.
- We love and celebrate people for who they are.
- We are open and honest.
- We ask for help before we need it.
If you have any comments, suggestions, or enhancements – please add them on the manifesto page.
Help make a difference
If this message resonates with you – please go sign the manifesto. And please share the message. Let’s move towards a better world.
The manifesto spontaneously emerged during an intense, emergent collaboration session I had with Olaf Lewitz & Christine Neidhardt. We were not seeking this, it just arrived. So I imagine that many other people must be thinking the same thing. So this is a shared idea – not ours. Not anyones.
A wonderful group of people came together to help build the Wholehearted Principles at Play4Agile in Ruchersbach, Germany. Many thanks to:
- Alexey Krivitsky
- Andrea Grass
- Ari-Pekka Lappi
- Christine Neidhardt
- Ivana Gancheva
- Jan Weinkauff
- Jerónimo Palacios
- Michael Sahota
- Mikko Mannila
- Olaf Lewitz
- Rolf Dräther
- Sandra Warmolts
- Sebastian Lang
- Silvana Wasitova
We would also like to thank Brene Brown who has greatly influenced with her wonderful books and TED talks. She introduced the term “wholehearted” to describe people who are able to fully love themselves and bring joy to those around them.
People are messy: they have personalities and emotions. In this post we explore how we can embrace people’s messiness for advantage rather than have it act as a drag.
Default Business Model is Mixed Engagement
A recent study from Carnegie Mellon Training shows that there are very mixed levels of engagement from workers. See diagram to right.
Current estimates are that staff disengagement cost $11 billion from turnover alone. If we include the costs from low productivity, then $11 billion looks like pocket change.
One challenge with the traditional business model is that it denies people’s individuality and feelings. People put on an “office persona” for how they think they need to be to fit in.
In our workplaces, we do not dare to show our true and whole self. We do not feel welcome, and co-create work environments where sub-optimal results and shared ineffectiveness are normal.
The Authentic Workplace
An alternate model for our work environments is to invite people to show up as themselves – as the wonderful human beings that they are – and fully welcome them.
We might imagine an environment that allow us to:
- Relate and connect authentically.
- Share and acknowledge feelings.
- Trust each other
- Feel safe
- Be vulnerable
Typical vs. Authentic Workplace
Consider the following diagram illustrating difference between these models:
In the traditional workplace we create a work identity that is often a shallow project of our true self. Our minds our filled with distractions from our life outside of work. We put in effort to create a distortion field around ourselves to that no one sees our true selves or our distractions.
In an authentic workplace we welcome each others dreams and ambitions, personal history and most importantly our feelings.
Authentic Workplace Benefits
Here are a few benefits:
- People are motivated when they feel valued and connected at work
- “Distractions” can be dealt with so people can focus
- Emotional support for challenges so people get unstuck
- Better decisions since people are safe to share information
Authenticity is a Spectrum
It is valuable in this discussion to keep in mind that this is not a black or white situation: traditional or authentic. We might imagine measuring or sensing the level of authenticity in a given environment. I am not thinking of metrics but guideposts such as: Do people talk about their emotions? Do people feel a sense of community and support? The 12 Questions from “First Break all the rules” can be a helpful here.
How can we develop the skills?
Below are three ways that I have been developing these skills in my own life and practice.
#1 Authentic Connection Circle – Toronto
This week I am starting an Authentic Connection Circle in Toronto as a way for people to build capacity for authentically relating to one another. We will do this by talking about the stuff that scares us to build trust and create a safe environment.
Some might dismiss this as fluffy Bunny New Age. It’s not.
It’s about character.
Mastering out own patterns and history so that we can engage effectively with others is hard work. It takes character to be authentic and welcome what shows up in people.
#2 Temenos Workshops for Trust and Connection
Temenos is an experiential workshop that invites us to experience connection, openness and trust on a level that’s not accessible to us in daily life. With Temenos, we can safely test more effective methods of relating with others.
Temenos provides a safe setting to explore this space to develop our existing skills. We discover that we can open up to people and learn that this satisfies a deeply rooted human need.
With this experience, we may dare to treat each other more openly, truthfully, and effectively than before. We’re more aware of who we are, and what we want.
- Toronto – Jan 25 & 26 (Michael)
- Frankfurt – Feb. 19 & 20 (Michael/Olaf/Christine) – no website yet. Contact me if you are interested.
- Munich – Dec 12 – 14 (Olaf/Christine)
#3 Core Protocols
The Core Protocols are a set of rules designed to support high-performance teams. Some of the protocols are very supportive of building an authentic workplace. I will briefly highlight a few of them here:
- Check-in. At the start of a meeting or day everyone shares their emotional state so that there is awareness around how people are entering this context. A simple format of: I am … <glad> <sad> <afraid> is used.
- Check-out. People check out when they feel they cannot focus and be productive.
- Alignment. People share what their personal development goal is and lets others know how they can help.
Leaders Go First
In “7 Habits of Highly Successful People”, Stehphen Covey talks about this as “Victory begins at home”. If you want to see these changes and benefits in your organization, you need to go first. Leadership in organizations comes from all levels. Be the change you want to see.
The primary source of this thinking for me comes from Brene Brown. Olaf Lewitz and I have been collaborating on the developing these ideas and applying them in workplaces. Parts of the text around Temenos were co-written with Olaf. Pascal Pink contributed key ideas in helping explain what Temenos really is about.
I have thought for a long time that Agile and Lean are pursuing similar goals and quite similar in many respects. Although compatible, I now see they have significant differences in focus.
The Schneider model is a very good tool for creating a quick and understandable analysis of a stated or implied culture system. If you are not familiar with it, I suggest taking a quick read and then coming back here.
Consider the result (below) where the principles of Lean are placed into the Schneider culture model. I used Jeffrey Liker’s 14 point model from his book The Toyota Way. As we can see the two dominant cultures are Cultivation and Control, with Competence a distant 3rd when we place each principle on the model.
The focus of Lean and Toyota Production System is on effective management of manufacturing facilities. As a result, it is not surprising to see such as strong operational focus with elements of control.
With this model of Lean, Collaboration culture is not strongly valued. Here there is a striking difference between Agile and Lean – Agile is much more about people since Collaboration and Cultivation are dominant. I would expect a different result if we looked at the culture of the Toyota Product Development which I imagine would be more similar to Agile.
Schneider identifies Cultivation and Control as opposites so having these be co-dominant would imply that either 1) the Schneider model is not sufficiently complex to deal with Lean philosophy, 2) The principles in Liker are a confused westernized attempt to model Lean based on the Toyota Production System or 3) I have misinterpreted the principles. Sadly, I don’t know the answer but this perhaps is indicative of the challenges that are encountered in real life with most failed attempts to instill a Lean culture.
I am aware that respect for people is considered a fundamental aspect of Lean. I have two observations to make. First, respect for people does not imply Collaboration culture. Second, Lean can be a dehumanizing system.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line for me is that we cannot safely ignore the culture we are working in or the culture that our ideology and tools bring with us. It is only by seeing the bigger picture and letting go of labels and tools that we can make effective, lasting change.
Slide deck with the top 10 things executives need to know about Agile:
Here’s the list with some handy links:
- Agile Is Mainstream
- Many Benefits from Agile
- Agile is not a Silver Bullet
- Agile Fails Due to Culture
- Agile Differs from Most Company Cultures
- Most Value Comes from Mindset/Culture, not Practices
- Adopt Agile Practices that fit Culture (Option 1)
- Change Culture through Organizational Transformation (Option 2)
- Culture Mismatch will Slow and Ultimately Fail Your Agile Initiative
- Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast
Of course, it is fine to proceed with either option – adoption or transformation – it’s about what is the best fit for the client environment and their wishes.
There are two conversations around transformation that this deck is designed to trigger/encourage:
- What does break-through organizational culture look like?
- What does organizational transformation look like?
My Favourite Slide in the Deck
I would like to thank the hundreds of people who have attended my workshops and talks over the last two years to help clarify and refine this message.
The post is about how one can create a bubble of a new culture inside of an existing organization. For example, this may be used by a group interested in developing an innovation and learning culture inside a typical bureaucratic organization. This post is a continuation of my earlier post on how to Build Culture Adapters to Avoid Agile Failure.
I realized that I have drawn the diagram below dozens of times with clients, prospects and colleagues over the last year and realized other people may be interested in it.
The drawing below shows the hierarchy of a typical organization with a dominant culture (in blue) and a new culture bubble formed (in green).
Given the nature of a power hierarchy in traditional organizations, a leader/manager can induce a culture shift in the organization that reports into her. See Transformation? Leaders Go First! for an explanation of how leaders can support a transformation process.
It is of course, critically important to build adapters around your bubble so that it can safely interface with the rest of the organization and avoid trigger the attack of organizational anti-bodies.
A final comment is regarding the cooperation of partner groups (in light blue) that are tightly bound to the same customer value stream. The close cooperation required for success necessitates a higher level of alignment. This means that the partner group must either help lead the culture change (and go green) or at a minimum be neutral (as show in light blue).
In a software context, a very tight relationship exists between the product and development groups since they need to work together to create customer value. A common pattern is for the green bubble to be the development and the blue bubble to be product.
When and How to Use This Diagram
I typically draw this picture and provide this explanation when socializing alternative approaches to Agile. In virtually all cases, the change agent leading the Agile initiative is not the CEO and does not have a span of control or influence over the whole organization. It is usually the case that typical “modern” management practices are in place that are regressive and hostile to fostering an Agile culture. So most leaders have the option of sticking to the adoption of practices that are consistent with the existing organizational culture or undertake a transformation of their group to realize a new culture that is supportive of Agile.
It is of particular importance, that as an external change artist, we are fully respectful of our client’s wishes and intents. It’s their organization after all. For some coaches this means letting go of the dream of helping the organization move forward on the road towards an Agile mindset – or “real” Agile.
Some time ago I shared George Schlitz and Giora Morein’s Agile Enablement Battlefield model to help understand how a transition is progressing. I am no longer a big fan of the metaphor of war, however, the notions of “fog of war” can be helpful. As well, I have seen increasing danger and harm caused by wolves in sheep’s clothing. These are the folks who say they are on board and go along with changes, but resist in passive ways. Of course, this is a natural and understandable response to coercion. If we really want to change our organizations then coercion is a tool that we need to leave behind.
The basic ideas of managing gaps in culture comes from William Schneider’s book How to Make you Culture Work. Many thanks also to all the various workshop participants who validated that these patterns apply.
The purpose of this post is to explain why building culture adapters around at team or group is a good idea. It is important for me to revisit this topic from my book and conference presentations since I have learned something new and wanted to share it. All but the last section is an excerpt from my book.
Let’s talk about one way of moving forward with Agile – building adapters. This is an effective approach when the span of control and influence of the leadership does not cover the whole of the organization.
Start with A Successful Agile Team
A very powerful way to think about introducing a foreign culture such as Agile to an organization is through a cellular model. Consider a successful transformation of one team or group to Agile. This may have been a special pilot project with all the people keen to do Agile.
Imagine that the team is very excited about the new way of working. The team exists in the context of some other culture.
The team is not that excited about all of the organizational barriers and limits on productivity and success. So, what typically happens is they start to push back on the needs and requirements of other groups that are not adding value to the team and to the customers.
Attack of the Organizational Antibodies
The result sounds like a B-movie: “Attack of the Organizational Antibodies!” In the human body, we have antibodies (Killer T-Cells) that are designed to eliminate foreign elements to keep us healthy. In a similar way, organizations will react to the introduction of a foreign culture system such as Agile. These are the elements that work hard to preserve the status quo.
Build Culture Adapters
The movie doesn’t have to have a bad ending. One common pattern is to build adapters or translators around the foreign culture so that it fits within the overall culture. These are depicted in the diagram below as shapes surrounding and protecting the team. In this situation, the adapter allows the team to blend in with the overall organizational culture and avoid triggering the antibodies. It looks like this:
In practical terms, the adapter could take the form of a Microsoft Project Plan that has no value to the customers or team but is required by the organization. Another might be team use of a peer-based review for merit increases that still gets submitted by the manager since the system requires input only from her.
This sounds like a lot of effort! Is it worth it? The value is equal to the benefits derived from Agile less the cost of adapter maintenance. Assuming there is good value in the team’s new state of functioning, then sadly some of that productivity will be lost maintaining the adapters. But this is a much better situation to be in compared to getting attacked by organizational antibodies. The adapters are part of the cost of doing business. Like taxes.
Lean differentiates between different types of waste in organizations. Type I Muda (waste) are non value added tasks that are required at the current time. Type II Muda are non value added tasks that can be removed immediately. Maintaining the adapters is type I since the environment requires them.
The model above points a way to success with Agile transformation – it is possible to transform one team or group provided that care and attention is provided to satisfying the requirements of the larger organization. It is a feasible strategy to consider this a first step before a wider organizational change initiative.
THIS WILL EVENTUALLY FAIL!
The adapter strategy is not sustainable in the long term. Why? Eventually, the manager of this group is going to leave and a new manager will be selected. The new manager will typically be chosen to reflect the host organizational culture and will become a powerful attractor for the host culture. An then Agile gets dissolved or neutered. And the people who love working in this new way to deliver great products quit the organization and go work somewhere else.
At a number of conference presentations, I presented the arguement that no responsible manager should undertake using this pattern since it is ultimately doomed to failure. And this is my mistake. I was wrong. Sorry.
But that’s Good! (My New Insight)
I was at a client earlier this year and this topic came up. As I have been working very hard on supplicating and having compassion for the organizations I coach, I noticed something interesting. This particular organization was focussed on short term results and not long term results. (Yeah, I know this is a losing strategy but it’s their culture not mine). So, in the context of their organizational culture is was not only acceptable but highly desirable to do something that will work in the short run but fail in the longer term. So, if you are a manager in an organization that is fixed on short-term results, then the adapters are a truly great strategy to use with a clear conscience. Happy trails.
A friend of mine asked me what is going on with all this touchy-feely people and personal growth stuff – “What’s it got to do with Agile?” My answer: everything! So this post ties together: Agile, High-Performance Culture with People skills and Temenos Workshop among others.
Here is my current roadmap of focus areas related to rebooting organizational culture:
The arrows indicate support. For example, People Skills such as communication models lead to Relational Flow where people trust one another and are emotional supportive. This in turn leads to or supports High Performance Culture.
High Performance Culture is the Goal, but Need to Focus Elsewhere
My goal is to help organizations develop high performance culture through the creation of environments where people can bring their best every day. We can see there are a variety of things to focus on that will lead to support this goal.
Let’s take meditation as an example. There is no direct connection to high performance culture – it’s indirect. But in my experience it is 100% relevant and salient for bringing about a sequence of changes that support the goal. So, we need to focus on the things that will lead to a great culture and the ensuing results. Of course, there are many routes and practices – so nothing is mandatory: meditation works for me, but you may have an alternate route to personal growth.
This is not an exhaustive map of all the elements that lead to High Performance Culture – for sure there are lot’s of things we could add. My purpose in creating and sharing this is to create a call to action to focus on these or related elements so that we can really help organizations succeed.
Examples of Posts on these Topics
My hope is that you are curious about some of these content areas, so I will share some of my blog posts for further reading.
What is High-Performance Culture?
- Workshop on Characteristics of High-Performance Organizations
- Diverse Paths to High-Performance Organizational Culture
- Lululemon – A Stellar Example of Break-Through Organizational Culture
- The Power of Vulnerability
- Understand Shame to get to Root-Cause in Your Life
- Deep Insights around Fear, Risk, Safety and Vulnerability
- Change your Culture or Die
- Tactics, Strategy, & Culture – A Model for Thinking about Organizational Change
- KrisMap: An Organisation’s Persona
- Ways to Make Progress with Culture Gaps
- An Influencer’s Playbook
- Hierarchy = The Matrix
- How to Build a Culture Bubble
- How Change Initiatives Damage Organizations and Fail
- Organizational Transformation Checklist
- Visual Summary of Agile Adoption and Transformation Survival Guide
- Agile Failure and Culture – Agile 2012 Workshop Results
- Transformation? Leaders Go First!
- Personal Transformation is the Heart of Organizational Transformation
- How to Incubate Transformational Leadership
There is no single path or prescription for high-performance organizational culture. Increasingly companies are abandoning the traditional “modern management” practices developed for manufacturing and are moving to post-modern approaches that reflect the changing face of work and the needs of knowledge workers.
In this post, we compare and contrast five organizations that have moved beyond traditional (archaic) management practices: Zappos, Valve Corporation, Semco, Netflix, and Beyond Budgeting Companies. The results are shown in the matrix below using Harvey Balls:
As can be seen that for many aspects these organizations, there is no single best way. It can be seen that there are many paths to effective organizational cultures. At the level of individual practices we can see that there is great diversity.
Customer Focus and Engaged Staff
There are two very powerful common threads that emerge around these organizations: customer focus and engaged staff. Although each organization has a unique cultural operating system and supporting practices, they all share this commonality.
Each organization has a powerful driver for coherence around values and behaviour. We consider each of the methods identified in the image below to be roughly equivalent in the sense that perform the same function – namely organizational coherence. In other words, simple rules of behaviour in one organization may be functionally equivalent to values in another organization in terms of it’s ability to guide and unify. Each organization has different values and principles, so this would suggest that there is no one path to success.
The diagram below is a brainstorm of additional organizational aspects to consider as well as other organizations the have characteristics of post-modern thinking.
I have recently discovered that Lululemon is another example of break-through organizational culture.
I would like to thank the participants in this session: Don Gray, Claudia Melo, Jens Coldewey and Diana Larsen. I would also like to acknowledge the financial contribution of the Agile Alliance for sponsoring this workshop through the Supporting Agile Adoption Program.