Empowering Leadership

Some pundits proclaim that leadership rests on charisma, the ability to create a vision, or “presence.” Teams do need a vision and a compelling goal.  But do teams need one charismatic leader? No.Teams need leaders of a different sort. Teams need leaders who don’t need to be out in front, who are able to work…

Continue Reading →

Pendulum Swings and Oscillating Systems

An effective hierarchy provides enough central control for coordinated action in achieving the aim of the organization. At the same time, the hierarchy must provides enough autonomy for subsystems to function, self-organize, flourish. Yes.  But how to do that? Let me walk you through a scenario that describes the challenge. I’ve seen a number of…

Continue Reading →

Still No Silver Bullets

Not so very long ago, I made my living writing code. My colleagues and I did our best to understand what our customers needed, and to write code that was easy for other programmers to understand, solid, defect free.  When our managers asked us how long it would take to create a new feature or…

Continue Reading →

Seeing System Dynamics: Beyond Budget Reports

There’s a buzz about systems thinking in the software world these days. Systems thinking isn’t new. Jerry Weinberg’s An Introduction to General Systems Thinking was first published in 1975. Senge’s Fifth Discipline came out in the 90s. Still, we haven’t turned the corner on this thinking revolution.  That may be because the pragmatic benefits of…

Continue Reading →

Eleven things to remember about people in middle management roles.

It’s easy to be critical of managers.  A few things to remember. 0. Most people in management roles want to do a good job, but may not know what to do or how to do it. 1. People in management roles are dealing with incomplete and ambiguous knowledge.  It’s a fantasy that they have all…

Continue Reading →

Seeing System Problems: Expand Your Field of Vision

One of the biggest mistakes people make is attributing system problems to individuals (and individual problems to the system).  If you try to solve the problem on the wrong level, you are doomed to fail. Here’s a simple yet classic example of trying to solve a systemic problem on the individual level. Bob Sutton recently…

Continue Reading →

Another Cautionary Tale: Creating a mess by “eliminating waste”

I’ve seen lots of managers struggle to help teams.  Often, they are driven by deadlines and goals set by their managers.  They do what they think will help, acting out of their current view of  how things work. Sometimes they look for new ideas on how to manage.  One of the ideas that’s been popular…

Continue Reading →

Curing System Blindness

I’ve been writing about seeing systems, and got to thinking about a company I did some work for a few years ago–because they were a great example of how focusing on events leads to blame and prevents people from seeing patterns. Here’s the story.  The customer service organization in this company had serious problems with…

Continue Reading →

Bifurcated Concentration of Knowledge Doesn’t Serve

We’ve long lived with the assumption that the people at the top of the organizations are the ones who understand the business.  They understand the market, the product, the customers.  They hold the financial information about how the company makes money and the current financial status.  Since they hold this info, they also know what…

Continue Reading →

Shifting the Pattern: A Systems Approach to Change

Too often, manager in organizations act as if changing behavior in an organization is a simple matter of “make it so.” Some changes are like that–but most significant changes are not. Systems drive behavior. Therefore, if you want to change behavior in an organization–increase accountability or teamwork for example– you need to understand the factors…

Continue Reading →

Page 1 of 2