Connecting the Dots on Agile, Org Culture, Personal Growth & Temenos

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:

Culture Reboot Roadmap

 

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?

Relational Flow

People Skills

Personal Growth

Organizational Transformation

Agile Transformation

Transformational Leadership

Temenos Workshop

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Create Authentic Connections with Influence Maps

(Joint post with Olaf Lewitz - Temenos Series)

In the course of our lives, we all encounter events that shape us, allow us to change and grow, that have made us who we are. We don’t tend to acknowledge or appreciate these events, and we rarely share them. Understanding our own path, reflecting how we became who we are, which influences determined what we value and what we want, is a powerful source of personal growth. We better understand our own unique identity, our relationships with others and the related emotional baggage to the load we carry around in our lives.

Influence Maps is the module in a Temenos lab that allows you to reflect, visualise (map) and articulate your personal history, and share it with the group—as detailed and deep as you choose to. Like every Temenos module, Influence Maps works on its own, too.

Influence Maps

Influence Maps (the key/main part of a Temenos lab) are used in group workshops to:

  1. Create deep personal learning and growth,
  2. Connect with other participants and develop a deep level of trust,
  3. Allow ourselves to be seen and accepted as human beings,
  4. Create the opportunity for participants to heal one another’s emotional wounds.

An influence map is a visual depiction of the influences in our lives that have led to us becoming the person we are.

The diagram below shows the main elements of Influence Maps and how the Tememos container serves as a safe and caring environment.

Influence Map Infographic

Influence Maps help you understand and appreciate your past. This will hurt as you share past trauma, and makes you ready to be healed.

The healing and personal growth results are emergent from the container we collectively create. A high-quality container will lead to a myriad of opportunities.

Don’t mistake the Temenos’ healing effect with therapy. While we all have our unique history and individual and specific things we did and had happen to us, the strategies we use to deal with them tend to show common patterns. Many people who lose a dear person, for example, go through a stage of denial. Through sharing our history we create resonance with others who’ve been employing similar strategies.

“People heal from their pain when they have an authentic connection with another human being.”

Marshall Rosenberg

Example Influence Maps

Before we explain the workshop setup and mechanics, here are some example influence maps.

Michael explaining his Influence Map

Michael presenting his Influence Map

Olaf explaining his Influence Map

Olaf presenting his Influence Map

As influence maps are a creative expression of one’s identity, there is no one “right” way to do them.

Workshop Setup

Trust. Safety. Caring. These are the properties that participants are asked to create and nurture in a Temenos. The role of the facilitator is to work with participants to have these properties rapidly emerge. For example, supporting and encouraging vulnerability so that we can speak about the issues that shame us and hold us from our potential.

From our experience, the group size should not exceed 6-8 voluntary participants who are interested in personal growth.

Workshop Mechanics

The first exercise in a Temenos lab (and the one taking up most of the time) is drawing and sharing of Influence Maps. The process is very simple:

  1. Introspect: Through a guided meditation with music, we ask you to reflect on your life. Use your timeline to guide your memories. Imagine a trusted friend asked you: What do I need to know about you that will help me understand who you really are? Ask yourself: What about me do I not dare to tell anyone? How much of that might I be willing to share to understand myself better?
  2. Visualise: Each participant uses a large flipchart paper and creates their life’s story with an eye towards defining moments and key influences. Many people find it useful to draw a timeline, but any expression of your deepest self will work. It’s not about the drawing, it’s about the story you tell.
  3. Articulate: Participants take turns telling their stories through their influence map. Before any person shares their story, another participant will set the stage for her, to initialise the Temenos: “Sit down, slow down, breathe, and focus on the whole person who will present herself.” Then share your story with the group. The group will help you understand yourself better: You mentioned <…>. Could you slow that down for us? How did that make you feel?
  4. As a member of the group (or a facilitator): Observe for patterns. Participants are able to help each other learn and heal in two ways. When we are similar in a trait, we can see ourselves better through the other person. One person struggling with a loss will be able to help another: “If you can forgive yourself for doing <…>, I can forgive myself for doing <…>”.  An example from a recent Temenos: “If you can forgive yourself for being an average parent and making mistakes, then I can forgive myself for doing the same.” When we are dissimilar, we can see what is missing in ourselves or help others see what they may be missing.

At least two people in the group should know how to ask open (coaching) questions.

The Influence Maps add depth to the Temenos. Without them you will still identify improvement options, and have less probability for moments of true transformation.

Healing Conversations in Buddhism

Thich Nhat Hanh  has this to say:

Deep listening is the kind of listening that can help relieve the suffering of another person. You can call it compassionate listening. You listen with only one purpose: to help him or her to empty his heart. Even if he says things that are full of wrong perceptions, full of bitterness, you are still capable of continuing to listen with compassion. Because you know that listening like that, you give that person a chance to suffer less. If you want to help him to correct his perception, you wait for another time. For now, you don’t interrupt. You don’t argue. If you do, he loses his chance. You just listen with compassion and help him to suffer less. One hour like that can bring transformation and healing.

Testimonials

Inspiring, Healing, Present. Michael’s presence facilitates the creation of a strong container to support making the connection from the heart, not the mind. The influence map is a powerful tool for building connection.” – An Agile Coach

Moving, Revealing, Balancing. I found that deep connections to other human beings can be found and made a lot more often than I expected. A safe space was created and held all the way through it.” – Melanie Meinen

Origins of Temenos

Michael-Siraj-OlafTemenos is a special kind of experiential laboratory (usually delivered as a weekend lab) that Siraj Sirajuddin has created over many years integrating diverse influences such as Buddhist, Islamic, Jesuit and Hindu spirituality, mythology and Jungian psychology. He’s been using these labs to support lean and agile transformations in his practice as an Organisational Transformation Mentor.

 

Upcoming Workshops

Ping us if you are interested.

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Diverse Paths to High-Performance Organizational Culture

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:

Comparison of High-Performance Organizational Cultures

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.

Organizational Coherence

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.

Values

Future Investigation

The diagram below is a brainstorm of additional organizational aspects to consider as well as other organizations the have characteristics of post-modern thinking.

Organizations and Aspects

I have recently discovered that Lululemon is another example of break-through organizational culture.

Acknowledgements

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.

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Workshop on Characteristics of High-Performance Organizations

At Agile Tour Toronto last November, I conducted a workshop to get crowd-sourced research into high-performance organizational cultures. The purpose of this workshop was two-fold. First, to understand similarities and differences between organizational cultures. Second, to see if case-studies of high-performance cultures would resonate with Agile-oriented people.

The companies that were selected for study were:

  1. Zappos – amazing customer service
  2. Valve Corporation – everyone responsible for finding a project to contribute to (no hierarchy)
  3. Semco – where people pick their own salary and people choose their managers
  4. Netflix – where staff are managed like a professional sports team – only the best and non-performers are cut
  5. Beyond Budgeting – OK, this isn’t a company, but we used the composite characteristics of companies that move to decentralized control. It’s more about leadership than budgeting.

Each group was given a case study, and asked to summarize the following:

  • Key Organizational Characteristics – What did the organization pay attention to and how did it structure itself?
  • Business Benefits – What material business results were observed in that organization?

Happy Customers and Engaged Staff

When asked what the key benefits these companies found from their high-performance culture the aggregate results across all companies were happy customers and engaged staff. See image below. We played a short version of the game of 35 to arrive at this result.

Key Benefits of high-performance cultures

 

With regard to the second goal of the workshop – the workshop participants were very interested and several indicated that they found learning about these cultures as valuable for understanding how to progress with Agile at an organizational level.

Zappos Characteristics and Benefits

I have photos of the results of some of the groups, but the lighting was terrible so it’s really hard to read. Below are the results for one group that was working on Zappos.

Characteristics:

  • Focused on long-term vision
  • Customer oriented
  • Fun and a little weirdness
  • Team communication
  • Personal and professional growth

Benefits:

  • Delighted and repeat customers
  • Employee retention
  • Long-term growth
  • Positive financial outlook
  • Better ROI

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank all the participants for working together to understand each organization’s structure and to identify the key benefits. Based on the ratings and comments, it looks like people had fun.

I am very grateful for Thiagi for showing me how to create a great workshop out just some handouts so that I can get out of the way and let people learn directly.

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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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Transformation? Leaders Go First!

Let us consider an organization that wants to transform itself. i.e. to change in structure and character.

A simple view would be as follows:

Transformation

 

By state, I mean the complex system that represents the organization. This includes people, culture, customers, infrastructure, etc.

Transformation is in a Direction

Real transformation is about pursuit of a direction, not achievement of a goal. A living, growing systems will continue to pass through a series of many small transformations as per diagram below.

Transformation Many Steps

Each Person Transforms

When we talk about an organization transforming we are are really talking about the aggregate of the transformations of all the individuals. Many people need to transform before one may recognize a change in the organization as a whole. Of course people will transform at different rates as per Moore’s model for diffusion of innovation based on innovators, early adopters, etc.  The diagram below illustrates each person needing to transform.

Each Person Transforms

Leaders Go First and become Attractors

For a given moment of transformation, it will be the case that some people will go first. These people will act as leaders in the context of the organizational transformation. They will become what Siraj Sirajuddin refers to as a symbol of transformation and act as an attractor to facilitate the transformation of others. In the diagram below we can see a leader who is acting as an attractor.

Leaders Act as Attractors

Success Requires that the Leadership Team Go First

If an organization truly wishes to transform, then the leadership of the company need to transform first. This would include the CEO and senior management of a hierarchical organization or perhaps the head of business unit and her management team. Illustrated in the diagram below, we see how a leadership team can become a powerful attractor to a new organizational state.

Leadership Team Goes First

 

In hierachical systems, transformation initiatives will fail if the management team does not transform. In this case, the management team acts as an attractor for the current state. Failure of the management team to fully embrace a change with a sense if urgency is a severe problem in many transformation efforts. If urgency is not in place, it is better to abort a transformation effort and replace it with a less significant change effort.

Change Artists Lead the Leaders

A change artist is someone who works with organizations to support their growth and transformation.

Like the leaders in an organization, the change artist needs to transform first so they themselves can act as a symbol of transformation. It is not possible for a change artist to facilitate a transformation without having gone through the journey themselves. It is for this reason, that people that can play this role have already undergone their own transformation. They need to play the archetypal role of the Wounded Healer.

Acknowledgements

Thanks for Siraj Sirajuddin for mentoring me in his model of transformation via Temenos and private conversation. Many of the ideas here are either directly from him or were strongly influenced.

Thanks to the person or persons who told me that people have to transform one at a time – I wish I could remember who!

Thanks to Jon Stahl for helping me crystallize the notion of leaders going first through his presentation Agile from the Top Down.

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Why We Need to Care About Empathy

There is a really great RSA animated video explaining Jeremy Rifkin’s idea of the Empathic Civilization. He argues that we are neurologically wired for human relatedness and empathy through mirror neurons: we are soft-wired for sociability, attachment, affection and companionship – we have a deep drive for belonging.

Epathic Civilization - not Aggression.tiff Epathic Civilization - Sociability.tiff

 

 

 

 

 

Rifkin believes that we need to cultivate empathy to survive and thrive as a species. We can do this by extending our empathy to the entire human race. Over our history as a species, empathy has grown in scope from: blood ties –> religious ties –> national identity. We just need to extend one step further to embrace the whole world.

Enjoy the video.

People, Profit, Purpose

I like how Rifkins’s ideas are aligned with the triple bottom line of people, planet, profit. When we focus on building high-performance organizations by cultivating empathy skills (profit motive), we also better ourselves to help the people around us and the planet as a whole.

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Hierarchy = The Matrix

The hierarchy is at the very center of our lives. We have experienced it in our school years and later when working in organizations. It’s existence and function is tacit in our understanding of reality.

At the Agile Alliance Change Agents workshop in Chicago in November, it became clear to me that the existence of hierarchy was greatly influencing the sessions. I sensed that there were two broad themes that emerged from the sessions.

One theme was around exploring Agile in the Enterprise. In this context, hierarchy was assumed. And much of the attention and energy seemed to be about finding ways to rise above and minimize the constraints it imposed. For example, how to shift focus on end-to-end flow.

Perhaps, the most insidious aspect of this is that our default assumptions around the hierarchy – it’s existence and requirements form the context of our thoughts. Just like how people are constrained to perceive reality in the movie the Matrix: we do not see or question it.

A second theme that emerged was around considering ways to create workplaces of joy – environments that foster an Agile mindset rather than constrict it. Agile provides a clear compelling model for organizing work and people. It does not, however, address the problem of organizational design: how to hire, promote and fire. How responsibility and leadership is enacted and enabled. This is an open problem. Included in this theme are questions such as team self-selection vs. deploying known patterns (e.g. Scrum). We need to find solutions to this so we can escape the Matrix.

Acknowledgements

First and foremost, I would like to thank the Agile Alliance for sponsoring this workshop and Diana Larsen for inviting me. I would also like to thank the whole group since these themes were an emergent result of all our combined questions, sharing and curiosity.

As a caveat, I am not trying to summarize all that happened, but rather provide one perspective.

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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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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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