Agile Management Innovation and Culture Hacking at LESS 2012

LESS 2012 was fantastic!  For me, the smaller scale was much more intimate and, most importantly, the topics were more advanced.

My day started off with Agile Management Innovations (AMI) hosted by Bernd Schiffer and Christian Dahn.   AMI struck me as a menu of practices organizations can do ranging from collaboration techniques to customer and innovation practices.  All of it is optional and the practices are straight forward.

Lewin’s law states that a person’s behaviour is the function of the person and their environment:  b = f(p,e).  Given how people process change, behaviour change cannot be forced on a person.  Behaviour change is enabled when the environment is changed.  In other words, change the system, not the person.  All of the elements of AMI is focused on changing the environment and they recommend experiments and patience!

My Take:  This is a no nonsense, “what-you-can-do-now” set of practices in your organization.  The concepts in the model are, to me, similar to Jurgen’s management 3.0 model.  Both have goodies you can start with right away, AMI gives you exactly what to do and try so for those who thirst for “best practices”, you won’t have to think too much. Yes, that was a joke. Relax.  If you’re a manager struggling to adjust to an Agile environment, read their primer and figure out how to change the environment for your employees.  Ditto for execs.  Often managers get criticized about “resisting Agile” because “Agile” is mostly agnostic about the role of the manager, AMI can help with that problem.  I’m going to try Peer Feedback when I get back to work.

More info:

AMI Primer
Slides from LESS 2012

Culture Culture Culture

Dawna Jones‘ session on changing Business culture blew my socks off!  The Agile community needs more people like Dawna involved to bridge the void between “Agile Coaching” and, well, the organizational change stuff that has been around for decades.

Instead of the usual fluff about culture (and yes, I’ve been guilting about posting such fluff), Dawna’s model describes “Traditional” and “Stewardship” business culture types and I would relate those to “Control” and “Cultivation” cultures as described by William Schneider.   The difference is that her model is adapted from the work of Joseph Braydon’s Global LAMP (Global Living Asset Management System). It describes characteristics of traditional vs stewardship cultures and you can use it to plot where your organization is as well as where department and teams are to look for patterns.

My Take: I won’t pretend to know much about GLAMP but what I’ve read so far is that organizations that mimic living systems, such as Toyota and Southwest Airlines, far outpace their peers in terms of longevity, profitability and credit rating.  I will be reading the book to learn more about this and I will be trying the model at work as well.  I’ll definitely be blogging about this more as I learn more.

More Info:

Dawna’s Blog  |  Dawna’s Website  |  Profit for Life  |

System Agility – Ken Power

This will be a bit short because due to jet lag I was up all night and overslept so I missed the opening of Ken’s session.  Holy scale Batman!  This was a story of a real enterprise Lean/Agile implementation that is quite similar to the environment I’m working in, albeit at a much larger scale with much higher complexity.  For the best description of this session, check out Ken’s post here.

My Take: I love the concept of “Value Stream Manager”.  The Value Stream Manager is a person who understands the complexity of the organization, it’s product lines and it’s customers.  This is something I want to explore right away at work, what Ken described was largely where I see my company evolving to in 6-months to a year.  If you are working in a complex environment (systems, technology and hierarchy), this is a great read.

More Info:

Ken on twitter | Ken’s blog

Culture Hacking!

I was skeptical of going to this session simply due to my dislike of the word “hack” being attached to just about everything nowadays.  I’m glad I went.  If you’ve ever worked with me you probably know I can be weird sometimes.  I’ll tend to brush against the cultural norms simply to disrupt the system and make the system aware of it’s patterns.  Stated another way, organizations, when viewed as living systems, will fix themselves once they become self-aware.  To simplify it a bit more, I am a control freak but I never thought I was a control freak until I went to AYE and discovered that I’m a control freak.  Now that I’m self-aware, I can manage my emotions better and ‘let go’ more frequently.

There are 4 elements to culture hacking that I will elaborate on in future posts, here a quick overview:

Cracks: Where is there a crack in the system you want to expose?  For example, during an open space “the law of two feet” is rarely applied.  That’s a ‘crack’ the hacker wants to fill.

The Hack: What’s the hack you want to do in order to ‘fill in the crack’.  Using the open space example, a group of people would move to different open space talks every 5 minutes to make the whole open space group aware.

Safety:  I don’t know the exact name for this but there is a green, blue and red zone.  A “red zone” hack is likely to get you fired.  A “green zone” hack is a safe hack and a “blue zone” hack is somewhere in the middle.

The Wall: What impediment stands between you and your hack?

My Take: Turns out most of what I’ve done in my career can be considered ‘culture hacking’ and the concept of culture hacking isn’t new.  An example of ‘culture hacking’ is the time I posted a visible feedback board for people who had recently been co-located and were not happy about it.  Making anonymous and brutal feedback was an act directly against the grain of the organization’s culture. I know that because I got in trouble for doing it.  I step outside cultural norms often and there’s always been a reason for it.  Now you know, so get ready for more.  Culture Hacking FTW!

More Info:

Stefan Haas on twitter | Stefan Haas’ Website | Biz Culture Hackers website

Overall Impressions

I loved LESS 2012 and I would like to go again next year if it’s in the cards.  The difference for me was the advanced topics of complexity theory, organizations as living systems and the STOOS conversations.  Agile 20XX conferences are massive and do provide value but I feel the topics are ‘safe’ picks and not really on the cutting edge of what’s going on in the world of Lean and Agile.  I feel that LESS 2012 gave me insights I’m excited about as well as a whole bunch more stuff to learn about.

Oh, and my session went pretty well too.  Packed room and great feedback!  My slides are here and you can learn more about Lean Change here:  |