Archive for Management

Lululemon – A Stellar Example of Break-Through Organizational Culture

Christine Day, the CEO of Lululemon, gave a compelling account at the Toronto Board of Trade of how Lululemon uses culture as a core competitive advantage. It is woven into the fabric of every interaction and decision, not a bunch of meaningless posters on the wall. Sadly, there is no book yet. But when there is, I believe it will have greater impact than Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness – a landmark book on organizational culture.

Below are my notes from the session.

Lululemon Culture - Christine Day

 

Lululemon shares some characteristics with other break-through organizational cultures:

  • Focus on the long term success
  • Compelling shared vision – “elevate the world from mediocrity”
  • Little or no organizational hierarchy. e.g. Stores drive activity, not head office.
  • Focus on people and their development
  • Having a compelling Why? See their manifesto
  • Coherent and compelling company culture. See some slides to get some more flavour of this.

There are two elements that I notice are unique and striking about Lululemon culture.

Values Value Chain

The first is the focus on the “values value chain”. They seek to create an ecosystem of success: win/win for everyone they deal with from suppliers to staff to local yoga studios. Like Amazon they believe their long term success will not always lie with short-term decisions. And they always make decisions in favour of the long term. A key difference with Lululemon is that it’s not just about the customer, it’s about everyone involved in the value chain.

Creating a Generation of Leaders

The second and more important element is the relentless focus on leadership and personal development of staff. They encourage staff to dream big and to develop both personally and professionally. These are visibly posted in stores and online. The #1 reason for leaving Lululemon is to pursue their personal vision.

After the talk, I sat with some “Educators” – associates who do sales and other activities – and I could see first hand that Lululemon is changing the world by creating a generation of leaders. It is for this second element, almost a side-effect, that I believe that Lululemon will help change the landscape of business to one more habitable by humans.

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Relatedness trumps Responsibility, Accountability

Relatedness is the heart of high-performing teams and organizations. As stated in the Agile Manifesto, focus on “Individuals and Interactions” is essential. How we relate to ourselves and others is central to creating and maintaining effective and valuable systems.

There are many mental frames that are used to discuss organizational culture and performance. In this post, I argue that relatedness trumps responsibility and accountability as a meme for change. All are valuable and necessary, however, focus on human beings and their relations provides the greatest leverage.

The diagram below illustrates this hierarchy.

Relatedness Responsibility Accountability

Relatedness

Relatedness is the connection between human beings in a system.

We can describe a system as the aggregate of all the interpersonal relations. Environments of trust and safety have a high degree of relatedness between people. These are the kinds of systems that we want to create for ourselves. We do this by connecting with others and helping people in groups connect with each other.

There are myriad ways to create relatedness. Simple ones include sharing food or drink. Working together on a shared goal can support this. Simple exercises such as Marketplace or teambuilding with Lego can move us towards greater relatedness. Another is the Check-in protocol where people share emotions. Improv theater has expected behaviours that support relatedness: yes-anding, making everyone else look good, mistakes are invitations to create, etc). Zappos has fun as part of company culture and uses events and activities to create connectedness. e.g. Head shaving for charity.

Approaches exist for dramatic improvements in relatedness. Temenos is a retreat/workshop designed to help people see themselves and other participants as whole and valuable human beings. Other approaches include organization-wide mindfulness practices and mediation to re-wire our brains to focus on the present moment as well as to what is going on at an emotional level with ourselves and with others.

Recently, I have been writing about the work of Brene Brown and how attention to our internal emotions and thoughts helps us connect with other human beings. See related posts on empathy, vulnerability and shame.

Responsibility

Christopher Avery views responsibility as the core to success. We want environments where people feel a sense of ownership and responsiblity for creating successful outcomes. Individuals that feel responsibile are an essential compenent of a high-performing systems: they will notice what needs doing and make it happen.

So why is it often better to focus energy on relatedness versus responsibility?

A system where people have a high degree of relatedness will foster strong responsibility. People will be motivated to take action because they care and understand about the impact on others. So when we start with relatedness, responsibility will follow. It is also the case that relatedness will increase when people act with responsiblity, but this is not as strong an effect.

Both relatedness and responsibility are valuable. When it is appropriate to cultivate relatedness in a system, then this will set a stronger foundation for system health and growth.

Accountability

There are some who argue that accountability is the key to greater performance. One example of this is Change the Culture: Change the Game where Conners and Smith explain how accountabilty can be used to increase organizational performance. There are lot’s of valuable contirbutions from the book discussion culture change, however, the central tenet “The most effective culture is a culture of accountability” is not aligned with more recent notions of organizational design and culture.

Tobias Mayer has a great post where he clarifies the tension between responibility and accountability. Tobies shares this quote : “There’s no word for accountability in Finnish,” said Pasi Sahlberg, one of the chief architects of Finland’s successful school reforms. “Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted.

Although, accountability is required and a direct focus on accountability will get positive results in most dysfunctional systems, this  is not the full story. If we want a high-performance system, however, the best way to get accountabilty is by cultivating relatedness and responsibilty. Direct focus on accountability is hazardous to more evolved human systems.

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank those who have helped me on my journey to understand human relatedness as central to high-functioning systems. In particular, Siraj Sirajuddin, Pascal Pink and Olaf Lewitz have been powerful influences. I would also like to thank the participants of Temenos workshops for cultivating my ability to deeply connect with others.

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Tactics, Strategy, & Culture – A Model for Thinking about Organizational Change

The following diagram is a powerful mental frame to help understand change efforts within organizations. It makes the discernment between tactical, strategic and cultural levels. One way to use the diagram is to position each change item or activity on the line to show what aspect it is focussed on.

More importantly, I use the diagram to engage with clients to explore what they want to achieve, why they want to achieve it, and how invested they are in the outcome.

Some typical benefits are listed above the line. Most importantly, break-through results only come from culture –  not tactical or strategic approaches.

  • Tactics – “How do we work?” is about day to day practices and process elements. These are things that a team or organization can adopt.
  • Strategy – “What do we want to achieve” is about aligning the company around key goals and initiatives.
  • Culture – “Who do we want to be?” is about clarifying the organizations reason for existing as well as it’s values and vision.

Relationship between the levels

Culture is the foundation that Strategy and Tactics sit on. But culture is like an iceberg – a powerful force that is underwater where you can’t see it. Sure it’s possible to work at the levels of tactics and strategy, but that is unlikely to make any lasting change or draw great benefits. Lasting change requires working at all three levels so that the tactics and strategy support the culture.

Relationship to Leadership Agility

Bill Joiner has identified a number of distinct mindsets that can be found with managers/leaders. and his work on Leadership Agility. The following are one to one mappings from types of leaders/mindsets:

  • Experts focus on Tactics: problems and work execution.
  • Achievers focus on Strategy: outcomes and the system.
  • Catalysts focus on Culture: vision and break-through culture.

Acknowledgements

The deepest inspiration comes from Bill Joiner and his work on Leadership Agility and the different levels of focus. This served as the basis for my model.

I would like to thank a variety of sources for the notion of Culture being mostly hidden – I have seen or read this in a number of places but most vividly from the folks at Crucial Conversations and their book Influencer in particular.

I am grateful for Mike Cottemeyer for helping me understand the difference between Agile Adoption (Tactical) and Agile Transformation (Cultural).

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What is a Team?

Here is an infographic on “what is a team?”. I created it to help explain the concept in an upcoming workshop. Now I think it will be part of my basic Agile training.

Team Characteristics

  1. Shared Purpose or Goal
  2. Team Boundary – who is part of team and who is not.
  3. Shared responsibility to achieve the goal
  4. Shared work and shared results
  5. Maybe 5 or maximum 8 people on the team.
Please note, I am not talking about the definition of a “high-performance team”. This would need to include things like: safety, trust, diversity, collaboration skills, kindness, etc.

Acknowledgements

This was inspired by the discussion of a team at Value, Quality, Flow. They drawn on lot’s of influences, so hard to list them all here.

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An Influencer’s Playbook

(Joint post with Pascal Pink)

I was extremely privileged to share a day with Pascal Pinck and learn his “playbook” as a powerful influencer. His lessons span mental models, coaching stance and tools for effecting change.

The infographic above expresses the key concepts – I will tie them together below.

Situational Awareness (Stance)

The place to start as an influencer is as a “co-sufferer”: to approach a system with deep respect and humility. Siraj Sirajuddin refers to this as “supplication”. I have experienced that this is the single most critical ingredient for success. More on this in coming posts.

When connecting with a system is essential to “Listen to the music, not the words” (Quote from Gerry Weinberg). This is because language may transmit conflicted sentiments and channel residue from past traumas, whereas the underlying spirit knows what is needed to create a resonant future.

One expression of respect for a system is detachment from the outcome – accepting the will of a system to choose it’s own destiny.  Pascal says this has gotten much easier for him since he accepted the reality that systems will not generally let influencers move them in a direction that is counter to their underlying orientation or DNA anyway.

Think of the organization as a person

An organization is a biological, organic system. We can use the metaphor of a human body as way to think about making interventions. We may also think of a system as having a personality: what are it’s hopes, fears, dreams and ambitions? See KrisMap for a workshop to explore this.

Homeostasis in the human body is a very powerful force that keeps us healthy. In systems, the status quo is expressed through the invisible and powerful force of organizational culture. It’s like the water we are swimming in that we can’t see. What can draw us away from homeostasis?

Compelling Shared Vision is a Critical Attractor

A shared vision is not enough. It needs to be a compelling shared vision to create a strong enough attractor to shift away from the status quo. Values and purpose intertwine with the vision to create a powerful attractor. A particularly powerful vision is that of a breakthrough organizational culture.

One purpose of compelling shared vision is to help induce relational flow so that the parts of the system are constantly aligning and self-synchronizing, which allow multiple sources of energy to pull in the same direction.

Intervene with Leading Indicators

One problem with organizations that focus (at a strategic level) on goals is that outcomes are by definition lagging indicators. Influencers get better results by focusing on the leading indicators. A simple example of this is whether to focus on team trust, alignment, and communication patterns (leading indicators) or budget variance, “lessons learned” and “best practices” (lagging indicators).

Pascal uses the metaphor of acupuncture where you poke the body in one place to get a result in another. For this to work we actually have to have some sort of model of the connections between things. In line with Cynefin framework for complex environments we can’t fully understand situations but can conceptualize “probabilistic directionality” to reason about interventions.

Oscillate between future and current state

A good influencer will oscillate between current state and future state. We need to connect with the current state to have empathy for the system and we need to connect with the future state to provide direction and sense mismatches. It also provides a great source of questions.  Pascal recommends The Three Laws of Performance by Logan and Zaffron as an excellent way to develop a deeper understanding of this topic

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Pascal for inviting me to LA last year to experience one of the most insightful days of my life and for sharing the secrets of his success. And then for co-writing this post with me.

I would like to thank Siraj Sirajuddin who developed or co-developed several of the ideas expressed in this post.

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Change your Culture or Die

Great Organizational Culture is Key to Thriving

Deming said that “Survival is Optional”. Organizations can change their mindset and culture or they can become extinct.

Companies are at Risk

Steven Denning  makes a great case for why companies are at risk: Only 21% of employees are fully engaged, Customers are dis-satisfied and bureaucracy is killing innovation. “Deloitte’s Shift Index shows, the average life expectancy of a Fortune 500 company has declined from around 75 years half a century ago to less than 15 years today, and heading towards 5 years if nothing is done.”

We can see new companies creating opportunity by using organizational culture as the competitive advantage. Some examples are: Zappos, Morningstar, Valve.

Choose your Level of Risk

The graph above shows that the risk of extinction for an organization depends on the rate or ability of the organization to change. As discussed about, traditional corporate culture poses a high level of risk as it only tolerates a low rate of change. Organizations that use culture as a competitive advance have a lower risk of extinction. The two lines show that different organizations have differing risk profiles based on industry and markets they are involved in.

We can think of a fitness landscape of organizations: some are very robust to environmental changes and others are brittle. The top reason to change the culture of your organization is not because of this quarter, this financial year, but to create a lasting future and avoid the extinction event that is perhaps a few years out. Sadly, few companies invest time into thinking about how can we be great and how can we go out of business – the status quo is a powerful attractor.

What Culture?

OK, let’s say I want to change my culture. Now what?

There are a number of related and complementary approaches. Stephen Denning argue that the single organizational focus needs to be Customer Delight. Senge advocates the need for a Learning Organization. The Agile mindset is about people with a shared vision collaborating and learning together. A key misunderstood value from Lean is Respect for People. There are also recent movements and ideas converging on what thriving organizations look like: Stoos NetworkWorldBlu and Future of Work Manifesto.

What is best? Many are good and share common characteristics. My current investigation is to clarify and refine cultural differences between various approaches. The most important thing to remember is that: Perfection is a direction and not a target. Use KrisMap or another approach to define your ideal culture and then pursue it.

Acknowledgements

This post is inspired by conversations and a session with Saleem Saddiqui at Agile Coach Camp in Minneapolis earlier this month. It was Saleem who shared the quote “Survival is Optional” to start a great conversation. Key ideas in this post are Saleem’s – not sure what he shared and what I imagined.

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KrisMap: An Organisation’s Persona

(Joint post with Olaf Lewitz)

Essence of Kris

Imagine your ideal organization.
We may think of the organizational culture as the “personality” of the company.
What is the personality of this organization?

Culture is Aggregate Identity

Organizational Culture is the emergent aggregate identity of all her people.

Some questions to help you think about Her Persona:

  • What is the organization like?
  • What does she like?
  • What does she want?
  • What does she feel?
  • What does she look like?
  • How does she behave?


Kris (Agile Persona) is purposeful, curious and values people

  • Values People: listens well, is caring and loyal
  • Curious, Open and Playful
  • Resilient and Flexible
  • Relaxed, Happy
  • Purposeful and motivated

See below photo for our very first Agile persona – Kris.


How to run the KrisMap Workshop

  • Briefly explain concept of culture and personas.
  • In small groups, brainstorm key personality attributes of persona. (Remember to name her).
  • After cluster, select key or salient features.
  • (Do not prioritise, everything might be essential. Encourage to write more attributes and add them if no one objects.)
  • Share with large group. (Keep adding attributes as people get more inspired.)

Debrief

  • Would you want to work with Kris?
  • Would you want to hire Kris?
  • Is Kris attractive to customers?
  • Do you find any attribute of Kris that cannot be learned?
  • (if an attribute is identified as being hard to achieve, ask if it might be easier if you have a team to help you)
  • Is it your organization’s goal to be like Kris?
  • Do you aspire to be like Kris?
  • What examples for Kris’ attributes do you find in your current org? Share stories.

Our Key Observations/Learnings

  • Kris is an aspirational model — no one can actually be Kris.
  • Everyone can learn. Some attributes are easier than others. Teams help. Coaching helps.
  • Diversity in the team/organization allows Kris to emerge. Not every member of an organisation needs to (or should) have all of the map’s attributes…
  • Transformation of an organization occurs through the transformation of individuals.
  • Transformation needs to start with the leadership team.

Laura is energetic, caring and effective

Mona is purposeful, pragmatic and always learning

How To Use This

Do this exercise with your leadership team, frame the question as “How would you love your organisation to be?”

No organisation can grow, transform or flourish faster than their leadership team and, ultimately, their CEO (given you have a hierarchical structure).

We found in five sessions that all participants agreed that all their wanted attributes can be learned. They all agreed that this learning will be easier and faster in a team. They all ultimately wanted to be that persona that they had created, they identified it as an aspirational model to strive for. A personal vision they can align with and focus on.

To ground the group (which might feel like they entered a dream state of mind during the exercise and ask puzzled questions like “how do we start to make that happen?” ask them for one more step:

Try to remember stories that happened in this very organisation where someone has shown some attempt at the behaviour you now wish you’d see. Find examples of learning, pragmatism, experiments, care, unusual effectiveness, appreciation… (use your own persona’s attributes, of course.) Let them see for themselves that the behaviour they want is already possible in the current state of the organisation, is already present in its DNA.
A Want is a baby Have…
(Michele & Jim McCarthy in Software for your Head)

Acknowledgements

There is no Organization!” by Ari-Pekka Skarp got Olaf started to rethink his concept of organisation. Bob Marshall pushed him further in “There is no Organization, but…” which in the comments discussion inspired the idea of collaboratively creating an organisation’s persona.

At the Agile Influencers of DC meetup Michael and Olaf ran an experiment out of which this session design emerged with the help of Paul Boos, Andrea Chiou, Ken Furlong and Tucker Croft.

We re-ran the exercise at CultureCon in Philadelphia and AgileCoachCamp in Minneapolis (Laura & Mona), with great feedback (“May I use this?”) and at a first client. Thank you to all who created the context for us to emerge this.

And, yes, you may use this. Please tell us of your results.

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Scaling Up Excellence – Agile 2012 Keynote

Bob Sutton delivered an interesting and informative keynote at Agile 2012 on how to Scale and maintain excellence. The session was a grab-bag of interesting ideas that apply even if you aren’t interested in scaling. Here is my infographic on the session:

Here’s the synopsis:

  • #1 More vs. Better (or Dilution) – no matter what you do, you will lose quality as you expand. So you need to chose between more and better. Starbucks expansion from 1,000 to 13,000 stores was given as an example of the drop in quality.
  • #2 Alone vs. Shared – example here is Pixar that has only full-time permanent employees working together to build the product.
  • #3 Catholicism vs. Buddhism – Do you create one gold standard and attempt to replicate or do you use principles and allow for localization? Sadly most Agile rollouts look like Catholicism which is contrary to the principles.
  • (I lost track of numbers around here)
  • Hot Cause, cool solution – Get people emotionally charged up and then give them an easy way to get started.
  • Go Simple – Ideas and visuals need to be simple for them to catch-on and stick. This can drive the more detailed and complex outcomes.
  • Team Size – 4 to 6 is optimal. What does this mean for Scrum where many teams are at 7, 8 or worse even larger?
  • Don’t put up with bad behaviour – One bad team member can cause 30% to 40% loss in team output.
Checkout slides from an earlier presentation.
You can watch the Agile 2012 video if you are a member of the Agile Alliance.

 

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Leadership Agility – A Model for Understanding Managers

I was really impressed with Bill Joiner and Michael Hamman’s Agile 2012 session on Leadership Agility.

The key take-away is that there are three modes of thinking for a manager or change agent: problem-solving, strategic, and visionary (these are my labels). In the last week I have been able to effectively use this model to better understand how managers are interacting with their organization.

Here is the visual note I created during the session:

Expert (Problem-solver)

These folks jump into the problem, get the data and use their expertise to decide what needs to be done. They like to do the work themselves and tend to micro-manage. There is no leadership team – only hub & spoke command and control.

Achiever (Strategic)

These folks are focused on the organizational target. Typical tools will include listening to people, using systems thinking, working groups to analyze and understand. The Achiever sees herself as the leader of the team and will foster collaboration and teamwork to achieve the goal.

Catalyst (Visionary)

The catalyst is focused on nurturing and growing the organization. They carry a vision of a break-through organizational culture and work equally with others to bring about this vision. They are looking to improve the production capacity of the system by tacking fundamentals. They are seeing a deeper reality and using that as leverage.

Factory Analogy

In the top right corner, I have a factory analogy.

  • The Expert is working on fixing broken machines and expediting orders
  • The Achiever is looking at the whole output of the factory and working with the team to optimize it
  • The Catalyst is looking at the people and the culture and how to grow their capability.

To learn more, please see Bill Joiner’s book or consider taking one of his workshops.

How this relates to Coaching

When working as a coach we also need to choose at which of the three levels to interact with a client. For example, if we notice is a team is having a problem, we can intervene at any of these three levels:

  1. I can tell them what the problem is and how to fix it
  2. I can lead a retrospective and guide them to a solution/mitigation
  3. I can help them learn how to sense the problem and support them in resolving it on their own

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Book – An Agile Adoption and Transformation Survival Guide: Working with Organizational Culture

I am very excited that I just published my free book - An Agile Adoption and Transformation Survival Guide: Working with Organizational Culture on InfoQ. Agile change agents will find it valuable in helping companies succeed with Agile and avoiding failure.

About the Book

Struggling with Agile? Frustrated that people don’t really get it? Tired of fighting with organizational bureaucracy? Wondering how you could have been more successful? If so, then this book is for you!

The book provides a set of essential thinking tools for understanding Agile adoption and transformation: how they differ and what you need to know to know to avoid being another statistic in the widespread adoption failure. In particular, you will learn how to use culture to work more effectively with your organization.

It is called a survival guide since so many people have found the concepts to be invaluable in understanding their experiences when working with Agile.

This book includes:

  • Identification of causes of the widespread Agile adoption failure
  • A model for understanding Agile, Kanban, and Software Craftsmanship culture
  • An outline of key adoption and transformation approaches
  • A framework to help guide when to use these these approaches with your organization
  • Real-life case studies of what has worked and what hasn’t

Electronic Version is Free

You can get a PDF or ePub version of the book for free on InfoQ. Why free? My primary goal is to change the world of work, and by making it free I can best achieve this goal. Of course, I would be really happy if you bought multiple copies of the print edition to give to your friends and clients to help them succeed as well as support my work.

Thank You

“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” – Isaac Newton

I would like to thank Henrik Kniberg who has contributed so much open source material to the Agile community and inspired me to write a free eBook to pay it forward. I also appreciate him taking the time to write one of the forewords.

I would like to thank the attendees of workshops with early incarnations of this material – XPToronto, SoCal Lean Kanban, Agile Tour Toronto, and Agile New England. Your comments, challenges and reflections have helped in immeasurable ways.

Thanks to all the people who read my blog posts throughout 2011 on this topic and provided valuable feedback.

A big thanks to Michael Spayd for first introducing me to the Schneider culture model and for conducting a survey of Agilistas.

For sure this work would not exist but for Mike Cottemeyer’s differentiation of adoption and transformation.

Thank you to the review team for feedback: Chris Williams, Irene Kuhn, Armond Mehrabian, Krishan Mathis, Bernie Jansen, Ed Willis, Eric Willeke, Karl Scotland, Sabine Canditt, Todd Charron, Bob Sarni. Olaf Lewitz in particular deserves distinction by providing an extraordinary quantity of valuable comments, questions and challenges.

I would like to thank those who directly contributed to this work as well as reviewing: Olivier Gourment for contributing a case study; Jeff Anderson, Olaf Lewitz, Jon Stahl, and Karl Scotland and Alexei Zheglov for sharing their challenges and alternate visions in the appendix.

I would also like to thank Alistair McKinnell, Jason Little, Declan Whelan for providing feedback on the Methods & Tools article that formed a chapter in this book and to John McFadyen and Dave Snowden for feedback on the Cynefin section.

I am very appreciative of Jurgen Appelo for taking time out of his busy schedule to write a foreword.

And of course a big shout out for my daughter Scarlett who provided original art with the jigsaw puzzle and butterfly transformation drawings.

Wow! Even a small book such as this benefits from so much help.

- Michael Sahota

 

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