I’m honoured and excited to be talking at Agile Tour London 2016 (21st October), where I’ll be talking about Teal Organisation and how they’re handling complexity.
As part of the lead up to the event, they’ve asked the speakers to answer some interview questions. Here’s my response.
Firstly, if you’d like to come along to this great event, there’s still time to register.
Tell us a little bit about your agile journey (where did it all begin? where are you now? what/who are your inspirations etc)?
My agile journey started when I was working at the BBC in the late ‘00s, when I was introduced to DSDM. Although my experience of DSDM isn’t strong, it made a lot of sense to me. Taking an iterative and incremental approach to product design, and (on a more philosophical level) our own beliefs, seemed like the obvious default approach. Yet many organisations don’t hold agile and lean values at the heart of their mindset, and I fear for their existence.
In the intervening years, and after working at several organisations where their incumbent dominance is threatened, I’m beginning to fear that the majority will never acquire a truly agile mindset. Many are in an existential crisis.
Organisations exist in complex world where they need to be alert and nimble to change; they need to become federated, where each self-governing unit has huge autonomy to sense and respond to their own values and competitive environment. Yet many organisations believe they exist in a simpler world where they can centrally predict and control all internal and external outcomes; this is futile and will lead to their eventual demise.
Now in my agile journey, I’m wanting to enable organisations to acquire an agile mindset where they develop an acute degree of situational awareness, where they foster the ability to experiment quickly to test their assumptions and convictions, and where organisations safely probe threats and develop an adaptive immune system that’s inquisitive and rapidly learns. Boy, are we a long way off from that!
People that inspire me are Simon Wardley (everyone, learn about Wardley Mapping!), Steve Blank (author of Drive), Steve Blank (started the Lean Startup movement) and Dave Snowden (creator of the Cynefin complexity framework).
You are speaking about at Agile Tour London the title of the session is TEAL ORGANISATIONS: THE NEXT PARADIGM SHIFT IN RECOGNISING AND HANDLING COMPLEXITY, what are the origins of the talk?
The origins of my Teal talk is from a confluence of ideas I’ve developed in the past few years. I’ve realised that no one, regardless of how confident, experienced or knowledgeable they are, can predict the dynamic forces within their organisation and within the market the organisation operates in.
Teal’s approaches, I believe, can create organisations where the leader becomes less relevant. They become the steward of the organisation; an organisation that is self-managing, emancipates its staff (not simply empowers), and allows the organisation’s products and service to morph and grow like a living organism swimming in a swirling current of nutrients, threats and friendlies.
Which organisations are now currently Teal?
Here’s a couple of examples.
Buurtzorg is a Dutch homecare organisation that’s renowned for creating fully autonomous nursing units. Like a good agile coach, they create a support system which means their patients can care for themselves, and the nurses safely depart. In a few years Buurtzorg have grown from nothing to dominating the homecare sector in the Netherlands.
In the UK Timpson, the shoe repair and key-cutting retailer, have many Teal-like qualities. Timpson is a profitable organisation that’s embraced upside-down management. Staff are actively encouraged to use their initiative and try new ideas. No head office staff are allowed to issue orders. They delegate authority but NOT responsibility.
Which sessions are you looking forward to seeing while you’re at Agile Tour London?
- Your company will never be agile – David Tanzer
- Toyota Kata Puzzle experience – Håkan Forss
- Growth Hacking for Product Managers – Andrea Darabos
What else is on your radar for this year; any conferences, events, books etc.?
- Trying to get some training in Wardley Mapping
- I’d like to read The Radical Incrementalist (Kelvin Campbell, Rob Cowan), and Beyond Budgeting (Jeremy Hope, Robin Fraser) and Antifragile (Nassim Taleb)