We are wired for searching solutions by adding things. This leads to rules, processes and ultimately organizations being overly complex and bureaucratic.

What happens to the administration when the work diminishes? Cyril Northcote Parkinson asked himself this question and his subject of investigation was the British Colonial Office, an independent department of the British government that was responsible for the administration of the British colonies from 1854 to 1966. Parkinson found that the number of civil servants in this Colonial Office grew regardless of the work at hand. This office had the most civil servants when it was integrated into the Foreign Office in 1966 for lack of colonies to administer. …


What counts is the per­for­mance of the team. How can indi­vid­ual per­for­mance be assessed then? And should one do so at all?

Those who mea­sure indi­vid­ual per­for­mance con­tri­bu­tions and dis­trib­ute vary­ing rewards depend­ing on them, not only receive demon­stra­bly poor­er results for any non-triv­ial task, but also dis­rupt the team struc­ture in par­tic­u­lar. Each team mem­ber is then pri­mar­i­ly con­cerned with his or her own area of respon­si­bil­i­ty. This loose group of mediocre soloists does how­ev­er not make a good orchestra.

Yes, but …

What about “low per­form­ers”? And what about key play­ers? How can the for­mer be pun­ished and the lat­ter reward­ed? …


For your agile transformation you have to think big to break up silos, but at the same time start small to learn together.

Lan­guage is some­times reveal­ing. Tra­di­tion­al hier­ar­chi­cal orga­ni­za­tions con­sist of func­tion­al divi­sions that areas of respon­si­bil­i­ty, divide pow­er in terms of bud­get and head­count, and sub­di­vide val­ue cre­ation. Divide et impera, divide and rule, is a time-test­ed max­im since the Roman Empire, the core of which is to encour­age “divi­sions among the sub­jects to pre­vent alliances that could chal­lenge the sov­er­eign” ( Wikipedia). The result is silos whose walls become thick­er and thick­er every year due to eval­u­a­tion and incen­tive sys­tems that are based on this maxim.

Think Big

With­out tack­ling this struc­ture and the under­ly­ing max­im, agili­ty will silt up with­in these…


What we can learn from the sugar consumption of Gandhi, from Netflix’s surprising resemblance to a nuclear submarine, and from the frightening team dynamics of super chickens about new leadership.

The X‑Conference on “Cor­po­rate Dig­i­tal Respon­si­bil­i­ty and Dig­i­tal Ethics” took place on Octo­ber 30, 2020. My keynote, which is now also avail­able as video, revolved — as expect­ed — around the Man­i­festo for human(e) lead­er­ship and specif­i­cal­ly around the ques­tion what (cor­po­rate) dig­i­tal respon­si­bil­i­ty has to do with mod­ern lead­er­ship. My core the­sis: Con­cepts like dig­i­tal ethics, com­pli­ance or self-orga­ni­za­tion in agile orga­ni­za­tions require all dis­ci­pline beyond obe­di­ence. They can­not sim­ply be imposed, but are based on the per­son­al respon­si­bil­i­ty of the employ­ees. …


Productivity

E-mail was intendend to make work easier. In fact, the simple communication corrodes structured workflows and becomes the work itself.

In com­plex social sys­tems, tech­nol­o­gy always unfolds unex­pect­ed side effects. When IBM intro­duced an inter­nal e‑mail sys­tem in the 1980s, the very high cost of com­put­ing pow­er at the time made it nec­es­sary to ana­lyze very pre­cise­ly how peo­ple were com­mu­ni­cat­ing with mem­os and phone calls. It was assumed that this com­mu­ni­ca­tion would shift to the e‑mail sys­tem and, based on this, the main­frame com­put­er was gen­er­ous­ly sized. Nev­er­the­less, the sys­tem was already mas­sive­ly over­loaded in the first weeks. ( Cal New­port, When Tech­nol­o­gy Goes Awry. In: Com­mu­ni­ca­tions of the ACM, May 2020, Vol. 63 №5).

Because it was so…


Beat the system with its own weapons

Is it pos­si­ble to mea­sure agili­ty? And if so, how and with what? Orga­ni­za­tions that have been oper­at­ing very suc­cess­ful­ly in a plan-dri­ven man­ner for many years and are there­fore used to think­ing in terms of met­rics will raise these ques­tions soon­er rather than lat­er in their jour­ney towards more agili­ty. Unwa­ver­ing is the belief in the dog­ma that you can only man­age what you can mea­sure. But is this dog­ma actu­al­ly true? And is it some­how use­ful and applic­a­ble to agile trans­for­ma­tion?

It is wrong to sup­pose that if you can’t mea­sure it, you can’t man­age it — a…


Practical Constraints

Every transformation entails friction with the status quo. By accepting the practical constraints too willingly the transformation itself is transformed and its protagonists are either assimilated or repelled.

A lit­tle change, reor­ga­ni­za­tion and opti­miza­tion has not been enough for a long time now. Today, trans­for­ma­tion is the name of the game. Trans­for­ma­tions are there­fore every­where, in many forms and shades. A dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion for the busi­ness mod­el, because data is sup­posed to be the new oil. An agile trans­for­ma­tion for the orga­ni­za­tion because of its flex­i­bil­i­ty and speed in times of great com­plex­i­ty and uncer­tain­ty. A cul­tur­al trans­for­ma­tion, because self-orga­ni­za­tion and cre­ativ­i­ty sim­ply won’t thrive in stale cor­po­rate cul­tures.

How­ev­er, there are worlds between the equal­ly jus­ti­fied and rad­i­cal aspi­ra­tions of these endeav­ors and the drea­ry real­i­ty. Instead…


Leading yourself

Changing habits requires more than motivation. B.J. Fogg’s behavioral model provides the basis for sustainable personal change and growth.

Humans are creatures of habit. And that is a good thing. Habits make our lives easier by automating decisions. On the one hand. On the other hand, habits necessarily eliminate other options for action. If we perceive those habits as good, we gladly accept this loss of alternatives. Of course, the situation is completely different for habits that we have recognized as harmful or inappropriate and that we honestly try to change — mostly in vain

That’s why the list of New Year’s res­o­lu­tions is long and seems to get longer with each pass­ing year. More exer­cise, more mind­ful­ness, less…


Agile Transformation

Entire organizations also suffer from the Dunning-Kruger effect and are stuck in transformation at the peak of Mount Stupid.

Orga­ni­za­tions are made up of peo­ple and peo­ple tend to have many cog­ni­tive bias­es. One of these is the Dun­ning-Kruger effect ( Wikipedia), first described by the two social psy­chol­o­gists David Dun­ning and Justin Kruger in an arti­cle pub­lished in 1999. In essence, the Dun­ning-Kruger Effect states that less com­pe­tent peo­ple tend to clear­ly over­es­ti­mate them­selves and con­se­quent­ly are not able to cor­rect­ly assess the supe­ri­or skills of tru­ly com­pe­tent peo­ple.

But when you’re incom­pe­tent, the skills you need to pro­duce a right answer are exact­ly the skills you need to rec­og­nize what a right answer is. In log­i­cal rea­son­ing…


The credo of the start-up culture, “Fail fast, fail cheap”, still has the bland aftertaste of sloppiness for German engineers and their managers. This typical German fixation on gap sizes prevents agility and slows us down.

Many companies that have been accustomed to success for years and decades feel that they have to reinvent themselves in the face of an ever faster changing and increasingly digital world. They want to become more innovative, faster and more agile. Unfortunately, one of our undisputed strengths stands in the way of this in Germany: our penchant for perfection. The credo of the start-up culture, “fail fast, fail cheap,” still has the bland aftertaste of sloppiness for German engineers and their managers. …

Marcus Raitner

Agile by nature | Rebel without a pause | Working out loud | Author of https://fuehrung-erfahren.de

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store