Changing the culture through invitation and engagement

Some of you know my phrase: “People are remarkably good at doing what they want to do.”

It is a down to earth way of saying: I think self-organization is the right thing. Or, I believe in freedom.

Believing in freedom does not mean Congress will always vote the way you want.  Or even vote ‘correctly’ (in 20-20 hindsight).

But it does mean that usually ‘two heads are better than one’, especially if we are reasonable in picking the Team. (I want a Team of 7 usually, not a team of 2.)  We (the leaders) put some basic constraints on the Team (eg, the Vision and ‘don’t break the law’) and NOT too many constraints, then let them run.  Let the horses run!

This also applies to how we broaden the adoption of Agile.

Here is a typical scenario….

We do a pilot project in agile, with some success.

The Leader then says: I want more of that!

The Leader must set a vision.  Usually tied to normal business goals, such as increasing customer satisfaction, higher quality, faster innovation, etc, etc. The usual stuff.  (Steve Denning talks about profits as the wrong, main goal, and some firms put too much emphasis there.)

Then the Leader needs to say something like ‘We have tried some small Agile experiments with success.  And it looks like more ‘agile’ will help us.’  Also, he needs to roughly provide a vision of Agile.  Maybe that is the Agile Manifesto and the Agile Principles or something like that.  He needs to say “Let’s see if more Agile leads to better business results. Let’s experiment more…”

He needs to get his people some education on agile.

Inviting them to come to an  Open Space to let them ‘figure it out’…or self-organize, and decide on the details of the experiments for the next 3 months.

They then start to do what they want to do.  And they tend to do it well.

Now, this means they need to know what they are talking about.  If they don’t know anything about physics, I think it will take them a long time (too long) to come up with E=MC(2).  So, somehow they need some education on what agile really is; not forcing them to do agile or any specific practices, just education.

If they allow in good agile ideas, they will self-organize well.

In any case, they will do whatever they do better than something that was forced upon them.

One of the keys to success of change is engagement of the people involved in the change.  This approach gets them engaged.  They all contribute to making the change happen.

One of the key phrases about change is: People do not resist change; they resist being changed.  Our knowledge workers are all pretty darn smart people.  Maybe some are stubborn, but all are smart.  They can figure this out, with a little reasonable help.


Related to all this is a set of ideas called “Open Space Agility.”  I invite you to check them out here:



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