Archive for March, 2016

The (not so) hidden key to integrating business units

“I’ve got some issues between my two key General Managers” said Ingvild, the CEO.

“Lucky there’s a CEO then” I replied, “but I guess you’re not exactly feeling lucky”.

She laughed.  “Not so much.”

“Tell me what’s happening”

“Well you know Sue, she’s our GM of Development.  Her job is to come up with what’s next.  We discuss as an Exec team, in the end I make decisions about where we want to be in five years or so, whether it fits our purpose,  and her area is there to develop the offers and the opportunities in those new areas.”

“OK.  Who else?”

“Janet.  She’s our GM of Operations, and she’s there to bring into existence the stuff that Sue is confident is viable as well as deliver the usual stuff.  So it’s sort of like ‘Sue tests and learns, confirms viability, Janet plays a part in this, then once we’re go, Janet’s area integrates the new stuff into Operations.  How she does this is up to her, sometimes it changes one of her areas, other times she starts a new area.”

“Right.  So what’s the problem?” I asked.

“Well, it’s basically infighting.” Ingvild continued. “And the crux of it is that Janet’s Ops area thinks Sue’s Development area is unreasonable.”

“Are they?”

“Well…I don’t think so.  I’ve seen R&D or Development areas before, and Sue is solid.  Not slow by any means, but not churning stuff out at a rate that’s unreasonable.”

“And what does Janet say from the Ops view?”

“She and her people say that Sue’s area has no idea the pressure they are under, that they don’t have time for new stuff all the time.  But I’ve got a problem with ‘no new stuff’, because as you keep reminding us, without development this is going to eventually lead to us falling gently off a cliff as our offerings gradually become old school.”

“Is Ops right in their view.  Do they not have time for new stuff?”

“Well, that’s the thing.  I look at what Operations produces, they’re working hard, getting stuff done at a rate that’s pretty impressive”.

I sat and waited for her to go on.  After a while she continued.

“So I’m at a loss.  I’ve got a situation with two competent GMs, I’m happy with both of them, but together, it’s just not happening.  And before you go on…” she smiled….”I am fully aware that this is my problem and no one else’s.”

“That will save us a lot of time” I laughed.  “So here’s what happening.  The work of your team is not integrated“. Read more…

Self-organising doesn’t mean self-directed

“The thing about Scrum” I was saying to Melinda, one of my ex-colleagues and also one of the kindest and nicest people I’d ever worked with….”is that nearly all of it makes sense in a way that’s totally requisite.”

“Scrum?” she asked.

“Sorry, what I mean by Scrum is the software development method that’s based on principles of Agile.  The Agile stuff is about frequent checking in with the customer, that developers can sort themselves out, a whole approach that makes sure a team’s collective capability is used well.  What Scrum does is nicely define roles within a team under the Agile philosophy so that everyone knows what they’re doing.  That’s my potted overview anyway.”

“Isn’t that the stuff you teach with requisite?  That by clearly defining the role relationships in terms of who can ask who to start or stop things, people can be freed up from one of most common sources of conflict?”

“Yep, all the role relationships in a Scrum Team are a version of natural requisite role relationships.  No issue there.”

“So what’s the problem?” Read more…

Why do you use this ‘requisite’ stuff?

“So you’re telling me you want to help me to get my 1,500 people to align behind delivering the strategy I’ve put in place and you’re going to use thinking from the 1950s?”

It was a fair point!  I’d known Mary for a while, she loved to learn by challenging.  “Let me ask you this.” I ventured carefully.  “Would you say gravity existed in the 1950s?”


“And would you say it’s a relevant principle to be observed by those doing work that involves things falling?”


“And do you know when Newton first put forward his concept of gravity?”

“Well I know it wasn’t yesterday” said Mary.  “When was it?”

“It was the late 1600s.” I answered.  “So anyone using gravity is using principles that were first written about over 300 years ago.  And they are still using them today.  So I wouldn’t call that an old theory, I’d be more likely to call that a well-founded and useful theory”.

“But Einstein showed that a lot of Newton’s work wasn’t quite right didn’t he?”

“Sure….if you’re getting near the speed of light Newton doesn’t hold up so good.  And particularly if you’re Neo and you swallow the red pill.  But remember, when we’re choosing principles, it’s about which ones work best in terms of explaining and predicting what’s going on.  And Newton’s law of gravity does a pretty good job in most cases.”

“OK….so what’s this got to do with the price of eggs?”

“Well, let me go back one more step first.  Did gravity exist before Newton?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, were things floating around all over the place until that supposed apple happened to hit Newton on the scone, then suddenly he wrote stuff down and things stuck to the ground?”

“I see what you’re getting at.  Connect the dots for me”.

“The principles we use explain why organisations are going the way they are and predict how they are likely to go in the future in terms of letting their people deliver effectively and allow them to use their full capabilities.  The principles were always there.  A guy called Elliott Jaques pieced a lot of it together, others such as Gillian Stamp, another researcher named Luc Hoebeke and countless more all combine to uncover the principles of how human capability works within organisations, and how to arrange and organise things so people can do their best work.” Read more…