2020 is a year about change. So many amazing things are happening and many things that are not at all amazing. I want to talk about what’s going on and what I think about it.
I want to invite conversations. If you’re interested in talking to me, if you have a challenge, if you have a problem, if you have an interesting topic you want to dive into and explore, let me know! You might be in for a free consultation 🙂
And I want to use this chance and this channel in the future to also let you know what is happening in Olaf’s life and Olaf’s work. I’ve done about 50 Certified “Agile Leadership” trainings in the last three and a half years. It’s been a journey of learning and discovery, and there are lots of content to share.
I’ve had an interview recently with Christopher Avery. It’s going to be one of the next videos I’m going to publish. I lead conversations about relationships since corona started. Every day at 4:00 p.m., we’re talking about leading relationships in these interesting times. Join us: it’s an amazing group that has emerged and I want to open that up to more people.
Next week, we’re running a course called Mastering Relationships, a really interesting advanced leadership experience that emerged from my collaboration with a therapist that I started last year when I brought P3 to Berlin, a course in emotional literacy and agility. We do that again and they will do it again in Orlando, Florida. So if you’re based in the U.S., as soon as the lockdown is released and we can start travelling again, that’s definitely an interesting option I highly recommend to you.
In Autumn, two courses that I’ve run multiple times will restart. Our TrustTemenos Leadership Academy will open again in September – if you want to be part of a group exploring their identity and intention and leaders over several months, discovering the leader you want to be, join us!
Business Development for Coaches: our School of Coaching Witchcraft and Wizardry will open up again in autumn. Like the previous cohort, I’ll co-lead this with Ken Power. If you want to grow your confidence, courage and magic, if you want to upgrade your business model and develop your ideal customers, come join that course!
I have a mentoring circle for agile coaches, who want to accelerate their growth and learning. Maybe you’re interested in a certification like CEC or CTC. Maybe you just want supervision. Maybe you need community and confrontation, to learn with other coaches?
I would love to stay in touch with you. I would love to be there for you in ways that I haven’t discovered yet. So much at the moment is about reinventing things and creating something new and I would like to find out what kinds of new things to create with you. So to repeat my invitation from the beginning, I want to invite you to conversations. I will occasionally record and publish videos where I talk about important topics, like if agile is the solution, I want my problem back, about leadership, about relationships, about all of the things close to my heart. And I would really prefer those to be conversations. If you know somebody you want me to talk to, let me know. I’ll try to find them and try to get them into a conversation.
I love the new technology for remote conversation and collaboration. I love the new ways and opportunities for connecting that we have and how connecting remotely has become normal now. Remote work is definitely also a topic I’ll talk about. It’s something I’ve done for years, and I find the possibilities amazing. I hope that many of us don’t go back to flying around the planet all the time and to travelling a lot all the time just to get work done. Instead, we can stay where we are, save the resources of the planet, and have more time. I have not been to an airport since February. If you know me, being to an airport has been usually a more than weekly event in my life for far more than 10 years. And I love it.
So if you would like to know more about what I do, stay in touch, subscribe, stay on this list, and I’m looking forward to what we can co-create, what we can develop. I want to build this relationship and I’m really looking forward to it. Let me know what you want to know and let me know if you like this. Stay in touch. Rock on.
This is the last in a series detailing six leadership lessons drawn from Agile by a recovering conventional manager – me!
Being a learner – inspecting and adapting
The Agile founders built into all their processes a regular pattern of retrospectives – a disciplined practice of looking carefully at their work and their processes and sensing how to improve. Crucially, this practice starts at the team level. Instead of being judged from above, the team assesses itself on its performance and comes up with its own ideas for improvement. This discipline is often called “Inspect and Adapt.” it happens regularly in sprints or Agile increments of work. It builds self-reflection, healthy self-criticism and continuing learning and change into the organisation at every level. While formal leaders can contribute, of course, it is not a top-down evaluation exercise and leads to increased self-responsibility and a learner culture at all levels.
Bringing a big vision to life by carving it up into small chunks of work
Because Agile practice encourages work to be done in small increments, with constant customer feedback, reflection and change, big visions get built in small steps. This takes a lot of risk out of the process, and does not require leaders to commit to a full plan early on.
Not only does this way reduce risk, but it also reduces strain on the organisation. Instead of huge leaps, the organisations can change in small increments, rapidly but smoothly. There is less sense of straining for impossible, unrealistic or invalid goals, and more a sense of dancing with reality. All the while we maintain a connection to a vision of the future — a connection held lightly, creatively and flexibly.
Taken together, these lessons invite me toward a much more humane, humble, curious, dynamic and creative vision of leadership. I’m reminded of my friend and teacher Olaf Lewitz’s idea of “Surprisability”: we create spaces where people can do their best creative work, surprising themselves with what they can do, and being surprised by the beauty and uniqueness of their diverse colleagues. We make things and present them to the world, and are prepared to be surprised both by their successes and by learning how our creations might change or evolve to improve. With our intended outcomes in mind, we set a course to the best of our ability, but stay fleet and flexible – Agile! – fully prepared to be surprised, and to learn from and capitalise on those surprises. We hold ourselves and our colleagues gently, caring for ourselves and others as we create sustainable, welcoming and creative workplaces. And in doing all this, we bring great things to life in the world, little step by little step, delivering something new and beautiful every day.
This post also published on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/recovering-conventional-manager-learns-from-agile-two-scott-downs/
This is the fourth of six posts detailing leadership lessons drawn from Agile by a recovering conventional manager – me!
In conventional management, all too often there is huge temptation for senior leaders to drive their organisation very hard, putting everyone under huge pressure and creating a culture of overwork and burnout. This way of working often leads to injury to team members’ physical or psychological health, and to people just getting fed up and leaving. People with a desire for a balanced life tend to be driven out, undermining the diversity of the team.
The Agile founders discovered that their teams were most productive over time if they found and held a sustainable pace. “Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.” This approach moves away from management as distrustful slavedriver and builds mutual trust and safety, particularly trust in the team’s own ability to find and hold its own sustainable pace. Curiously enough, it actually seems to improve long-term productivity as compared to an over-pressured style.
This is the third of six posts detailing leadership lessons drawn from Agile by a recovering conventional manager – me!
In conventional planning, leaders are called on to set major goals far in advance and then stake their reputations on achieving those goals. In Agile planning, a direction is still set. A vision of the future is clearly articulated, often in the form of a simple, brief narrative or “epic,” but that commitment is held lightly.
In the first instance, the organisation commits only to small incremental steps toward the vision. The effectiveness of each of these steps in the market is continuously evaluated, and then the next small step is committed. This approach keeps more options open and allows for constant learning and adjustment — responding both to changing circumstances and also to organisational learning about those circumstances.
Second in a series of leadership lessons this recovering conventional manager has learned from his inspiring Agilist colleagues.
The Agile pioneers discovered that it was far better to create a small amount of working software and release it fast than to wait for a large product to be fully ready. This was because users and customers would then have an ability to try out and respond to a working product. Both the development teams and their customers learned quickly and incrementally. This way of working transcended the tendency of managers and planners to believe they could see far enough ahead to develop detailed specifications for a product months or years in advance. Instead, the product was developed in small increments, with learning all along the way.
As a leadership matter, this approach is the antidote to leaders’ believing they can create a detailed answer to business challenges before engaging with the market and the customer. Instead, we are all invited to set a direction as a hypothesis, then trust ourselves and our colleagues to create small increments of value frequently and rapidly in response, ship them to the customer, and learn directly from the results.
Next post: Set your course, but commit only incrementally and iteratively.
Last week’s post gave an overview of a recovering conventional manager’s (me!) six learnings from Agile. This post expands on the first of the six: creating contexts that value and liberate people.
In the course of their learning about software development, the founders of Agile came to understand that their front-line creative teams were their greatest resource. They came to see that small teams created amazing results — when they were truly liberated, left to organise themselves and to work on challenges in their own ways. The magic happened when people were not told what do in any detail, but were allowed to find their own way. In particular, the results were most amazing when groups of diverse people were put together in ways that allowed them to meet a challenge from beginning to end, and continually to create working products that delivered customer value.
The leadership conclusion I draw from this is that there is tremendous power for people and for the organisation in trusting people to work together in teams, valuing them for their creative gifts. Instead of the conventional command-and-control ethos (“Tell them what to do and monitor them”), give people a challenge and trust them to get the job done. Again and again, I have seen this approach free and invite people to do their creative best, to feel inspired and liberated, and especially to thrive off the diversity of the range of their colleagues’ talents. In several of the post-conventional leadership frameworks I have experienced, we think of this as creating a container for creativity and innovation. It is the opposite of command and control. It means creating a space for people to be free to bring forward their own solutions – in their diversity.
Next post: Making and “shipping” vs. planning and perfecting.