Interview about Change with Marcus Blankenship

I recently sat down for an interview with Marcus Blankenship of Programming Leadership. We talked about my book, 7 Rules for Positive Productive Change, and how change plays out for people and organizations. You can listen to the full interview on Marcus...

Using Data in Problem-Solving

Many problems are easier to solve when you have data. However, there is a difference between having data and using data. Several years ago, I worked wit an organization that was experiencing system outages. After months of outages and no effective action, they...

Alternatives to bureaucratic hierarchy

I don’t doubt that its possible to have an organization with out traditional managers. I’ve read about Semco and Morningstar Farms. I’ve talked to people who work at Gore. My husband works for a less well know firm that doesn’t have traditional...

New Roles for Managers: Interview with Lean Magazine

I recently did an interview with the nice folks at Softhouse.se for their Lean Magazine. The interview was a lot of fun, and made me think (which is fun). The full interview will be in their special anniversary edition, schedule to be out by Christmas.  (Information...

Peck, peck, peck

A participant in one of my workshops of my workshops declared that in every team there is pecking order….and every one knows what the order is from one to n.  Since this is the case, he reasoned, it follows that ranking people in organizations is a reasonable...

Why not velocity as an agile metric?

In response to my recent post on Agile Metrics, a reader asked, “Why did you leave out Velocity?” Even though it’s not perfect, velocity is the best way we have to understand the capacity of teams. It’s the best way we have to bring some reality to...

Solving Symptoms

Recently, I attended two retrospectives.  Different teams, different states, different facilitators. I’m usually on the other side, leading retrospectives. Both retrospectives followed the “make lists” pattern.  One made two lists  “What worked...

Rethinking Manager’s Relationship with Agile Teams

This article originally appeared on gantthead.com  In the early days of agile, some pundits (and developers) cried, “We don’t need no stinking managers.” By now, most people realize that organizations still need management (and people in management...

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...

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...

As Goes the Contracting, So Goes the Contract

A while back, a colleague, Susan, called to ask me for some advice. “I’ve been planning a vacation with my family for months,” she said. “And now my new client wants me on-site next week. I’d be happy to come the week after next, but they keep pushing. I told them I...

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...

Shifting Organizational Patterns

I’ve been talking about (and using) Human Systems Dynamics tools lately–Rally Success Tour, OTUG, Practical Agility and Retrospective Workshops in Stockholm. I find Containers, Differences, Exchanges offers my clients (and me) a useful way to see past...

Bridging Structural Conflict: the Same and Different Exercise

No two people or groups are the same, but their differences don’t have to force them apart. Conflict resolution in the workplace starts with redefining these differences. Let’s begin our exploration of how groups can bridge structural conflict with a story. I...

Changing to Agile, in an Agile Manner

A while back I was contacted by a potential client who wanted to “go agile.”  But they wanted to do it in a deterministic manner.  They wanted a plan, complete with milestones and dates–mostly indicating that other people had changed their behavior as dictated...

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...

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...

The fundamental attribution error and accountability

A while back I was talking to a manager who complained that “no one” in his organization was “accountable.”  Of course, he exempted himself form that category. This manager, (I’ll call him Tom) feels like he’s accountable— he knows that if they people creating...

How Much Self-management Is Right for a Team?

The  answer is (of course):  “It depends.” But first, a puzzle: There are lots of teams in small companies and start-ups who are self-managing and self-directing.  They manage themselves, they set product direction, and set company priorities.  As...

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....

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