Thursday, December 01, 2011

Viva la Pasta! - Spaghetti Management

Bo Hagström is a well known chef, and hosts Sun Food (Swedish: Solens Mat), a Swedish TV show. I met Bo when he signed books in a bookstore. His latest book, Viva la Pasta! is about, you guessed it, pasta!

Bo is on a mission: He wants to teach Swedes about pasta. As it turned out, with good reason. I got a short but interesting lesson.

Bo handed me two strands of pasta and asked me to feel them. One strand was very straight, and felt completely smooth. The other strand was different, slightly crooked. The surface felt slightly rough.

The straight, smooth strand is bad pasta, Bo told me. It is low on nutrients. It does not taste very good either. Because of the smooth surface, it does not absorb flavors from other ingredients.

The slightly crooked strand with the rough surface is great pasta. Much more nutritious. Because it is porous, it can absorb flavors from sauce and other ingredients.

The two kinds of pasta cost the same in the store. The bad pasta outsells the good pasta many times over. Pasta buyers lack the knowledge they need to distinguish between good and bad pasta.

"The cost isn't important," Bo said. "What is important, is the value you get."

I couldn't help laughing, because I realized it's exactly the same thing in my job. In your line of work to, I'm sure.

Imagine that you are a pasta-consultant. You want to teach manufacturers how to make really good pasta, and buyers how to choose the best kind. How would you do it? How would you convince manufacturers to make better pasta when the consumers don't know the difference between good and bad? When the consumers have never tasted good pasta, don't even know there is good pasta.

We can distinguish good from bad only when we have different things to compare with each other. With pasta, you can taste and feel the difference. And, it is no big deal if you buy a package of some brand you haven't tried before, and discover you don't like it.

It is much more difficult to try something new if it is expensive, if the stakes are high, and if it is difficult to assess the result. Picking the right ideas about leadership, management, and process design would fall into that category.

What I learned from Bo, besides choosing pasta, was this: I need to show potential customers something simple, like two strands of spaghetti. It must be something that can be felt, so the difference can be experienced.

Something to think about.

Of course I bought a copy of Bo's book. Pasta experiments await!

Oh, there is one thing more:

Suppose you have a pasta factory, and you want to make the very best pasta. For this, of course, you must have the very best process, so you start a Six Sigma program.

Will that Six Sigma program give you straight, smooth pasta, or crooked, rough to the touch pasta?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Beyond Budgeting - Fixing the Budget Mess

The audience at LESS 2011 conference was fantastic. Interested, educated, bright, and enthusiastic. Great people to meet and speak with.
The chief cause of problems is solutions.
–Eric Sevareid
At the LESS 2011 conference an entire track was dedicated to solving the problems caused by the annual budgeting systems most organizations use.

Yes, caused! We have used annual budgeting for a long time. This means annual budgeting was created to solve problems in a world quite different from ours: The world moved slower, in more predictable cycles.

Today, the world changes very quickly, and is a lot more unpredictable. This is not a bad thing per se. You can turn it to your advantage (which is what I talked about at the conference), but doing that while hanging on to an antiquated economic model is very difficult, to say the least.

Does this sound familiar:
  • "Great idea, but we can't do it right now. Let's wait for next year's budget." The great idea will be delayed, which means your company will lose the money it could have earned during that delay. Even worse, delaying implementation means someone else may get there first, and take your market away. Or, the great idea may simply be forgotten. The employee who had the idea may get tired of waiting and move on to another company, or start up a business of her own.
  • "To ensure that we get the budget we need next year, we need to spend the money we have budgeted this year." Utter insanity from the point-of-view of the whole organization. And yet it makes sense from the point-of-view of a department or a project.
  • "Unfortunately cross-the-board budget cuts forced us to close down X. Without X, so much revenue was lost that we had to cut Y. We lost the company in the end, but there was really nothing else we could do." To put it very frankly: Bull! Truly hopeless situations are rare. Most of the time, the real problem is that the way we solve problems isn't very good. At the LESS conference, I demonstrated a Chinese problem solving method with the cut-the-budget method common here, and showed how the Chinese method can generate solutions simply not available to a person with a focus on the budget. (We also used the Chinese method, very informally, at a breakfast meeting to generate some nifty strategic moves for next year's LESS conference. That was fun!)
There are of course upsides to budgeting, primarily the feeling that you are in control. If you control the numbers, you control the organization, right?

No, you do not! Controlling the numbers is actually a very weak form of control. Look at this model of leverage points you can use to lead an organization (or change any system):
The picture shows Donella Meadows model for changing organizations and other systems. This model has been used for many years now. Unlike budgeting systems, it has stood the test of time.

Note that setting constants, parameters, and numbers, and setting buffer sizes, are the two weakest forms of controlling a system. In other words, relying on making a prognosis and setting a budget is like bringing a couple of knives to a gunfight. Moving Beyond Budgeting frees you to use more powerful means to lead the organization.

The weakness inherent in how most organizations are managed and lead shows up in the statistics. I find this little piece of information more than a little worrying:

The slide above is from my own presentation at LESS 2011: In 1937, an S&P Fortune 500 company had a life expectancy of 75 years. Today, the life expectancy is 15 years, and still dropping.

If you just sit and wait, you will join the growing casualty list. Moving from a budget based system to a more flexible Beyond budgeting system is not the only thing you will have to do, but it is an essential part of it.

When you do that, you will suddenly be able to deal with many other problems concerning organization, employee motivation (, and your own motivation, I might add. You'll be a lot happier.), strategy, customer satisfaction, profitability, innovation,... the pieces will begin to fit. This immensely increases your chances to survive and thrive.

They are moving Beyond Budgeting right now!

Many organizations have moved beyond budgeting, or are doing it right now.

Bjarte Bogsnes, a keynote speaker at LESS 2011, is heading the Beyond Budgeting project at Statoil. He has also implemented Beyond Budgeting at Borealis. In his presentation he mentioned more than thirty companies using or currently moving to Beyond budgeting. These companies include:
  • Statoil
  • Borealis
  • Handelsbanken (a very successful Swedish bank)
  • Google
  • Telenor
  • COOP
  • Arla
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Gore & Associates (makers of Gore-TEX)
  • Kongsberg Automotive
  • American Express
  • Sparebank
  • Jernia
  • Ahlsell
...and the list goes on.

You too can move Beyond budgeting!

Leaders in these companies are facing reality, and have determined to break the bad habit of budgeting. After all, budgeting is not a necessity. There are proven alternatives. Budgeting is a bad habit, like smoking. Changing bad habits is difficult, but it can be done. Survivors do it all the time.

The first step: Find out more!

Start by finding out a bit more about Beyond Budgeting:

Beyond Budgeting Round Table is a web site dedicated to Beyond Budgeting. There you will find more information, and links to books.

Implementing Beyond Budgeting (link to Kindle edition) by Bjarte Bogsnes is a very good book on Beyond Budgeting. Bjarte heads the Beyond Budgeting project at Statoil. He also implemented Beyond Budgeting at Borealis.

Beyond Budgeting: How Managers Can Break Free from the Annual Performance Trap (link to Kindle Edition), by Jeremy Hope and Robin Fraser is also a good book.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Survival – The Reason I am going to LESS 2011

There are plenty of good reasons to go to the LESS 2011 management conference. Most of them have to do with fun–not clowning around fun (which has its merits)–but with the doing-meaningful-work and living a life of purpose kind of fun.

However, there is another reason: Survival!

According to John Hagell III, in 1937 the average life expectancy of a Standards & Poor Fortune 500 company was 75 years. Today, it is about 15 years. Let's be a little bit simplistic about this, and draw a straight line between the two data points. Then let's be a bit adventurous, and extrapolate into the future.

If this simple projection holds, by 2030, there won't be any S&P Fortune 500 companies.

I am sure you can see the flaws in this simple model as well as I can:

  • There are only two data points. It is very easy to draw the wrong conclusions when using to few data points. (Though many companies are perfectly happy to use a single data point, which enables them to interpret it anyway they want. But I digress.)
  • The model is linear. Reality is rarely linear.
  • It'll never happen because something else will happen that changes the game.
All true. Nevertheless, this simple projection does indicate that we are heading for some serious change, one way or another.

The change may be good or bad, but it will happen. Shift happens!

If you are in the water, and a great wave comes along, two things can happen: You are crushed by it, or you surf on it.

Which would you rather do?

I am going to LESS 2011 to meet with a gang of surfers, to talk about surfing the waves of change, and to have a blast while doing it.

If you want to be a surfer to, join in at LESS 2011. If you can't be there, why not check out the people speaking there, and ask a couple of them to visit you and share what they know. About surfing the wave of change. About survival. About having fun and meaningful work.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Tim Morrison at the Halmstad City Library

Tim Morrison at the Halmstad City Library
Tim Morrison played at the Halmstad City Library tonight. I had been sitting there working, most of the day. Luckily, I decided to stay a bit later than usual.

I have no idea how to write about music, so I won't. Instead, I'll suggest you check out Tim's band, The Manglers. You'll find some sample songs at The Mangler MySpace page.

Tim and I talked a bit after the gig. I bought a CD, which I am listening to as I write this. When Tim talked about writing lyrics, I recognized what I experience when writing a book or working on a presentation. It never ceases to amaze me how things that are very different on the surface, can be very similar on a deeper level.

Some people can't help horsing around...
As you can see above, there were other things happening at the event. In all, a very enjoyable evening.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Gothenburg Book Fair (A brief guide to mingling, Part 2)

This post continues the networking story from A brief guide to mingling. I strongly recommend you read that post first, because in it, I describe why I network. Having that perspective is important. If you read  A brief guide to mingling, I think you will agree.

I went to the Gothenburg Book Fair today. The book fair is a yearly event. I go to look for interesting books, and to meet interesting people. Let's dive right in and see what happened:

Erik Lundh, a friend of mine, and I had agreed beforehand to meet at the fair. Anna Sigvardsson, the photographer I met at the mingle last week and I had also decided to meet and have a cup of coffee at the fair.

When I arrived, I had plenty of time before meeting either Erik or Anna, so I did what everyone else at the fair does: I went looking for anything interesting that might catch my eye.
Kersti Ingeborn works at the Mediapool's School Library Service
Pretty soon I found myself talking to Kersti Ingeborn at the Mediapool  School Library Service. We found we had some interests in common. In addition to working at the School Library Service, Kersti is also engaged in health care. After talking briefly, I promised to email her a link to this blog post, and moved on.

Stefan Olsson at Universe Imagine is an author, so we did what authors do when they meet: We swapped books.
One of the nice thing with the book fair is that it is an opportunity for me, as a writer, to meet and speak with other writers. Thus, when I saw Stefan Olsson at Universe Imagine, I went over and talked to him.

Stefan and I swapped writing and publishing experiences for a couple of minutes. Then Stefan suggested that we should swap books, so we did.

It is not fair to hog the time of someone working at the fair, so I told Stefan I would email him a link to this blog post, and moved on.

Astute readers may notice a pattern developing here. I follow up the connections I make, and I offer a reason to continue with some sort of contact. I only do this when I believe there really is some reason to keep in touch. The decision to continue the contact, or not rests entirely with the other person.

As I wrote in  A brief guide to mingling, the purpose is not to sell or advertise anything, but to find and connect with interesting people.

Anna Sigvardsson is a photographer. I wrote about meeting her in A brief guide to mingling.
Of course, if you have agreed to meet two people at a book fair that lasts all day, they will arrive within a few seconds of each other. Erik beat Anna by about 30 seconds. Erik and I needed to talk about a few work related matters, so we did. Then I went to have a cup of coffee with Anna.

You wouldn't believe the size and weight of the backpack I had lugged around all morning. Putting it down, having a cup of coffee, and talking photography and books was a relief you cannot imagine. Unless you to carry around a similar backpack, of course... Thanks Anna!

After meeting with Anna, I hooked up with Eric again. Eric mentioned he wants to meet with a photographer, so I fired off an SMS to Anna to see if she would be interested in meeting Eric. She was, so I helped Eric and Anna set up a meeting. The cellular phone network was a bit overloaded, so we did everything by SMS. SMS wasn't altogether reliable either at the fair, but it worked out OK.
Erik Lundh is a co-author of The System Anatomy, and Jens Fredholm at Studentlitteratur is the publisher.
Eric had a meeting with Jens Fredholm at Studentlitteratur. Eric is a co-author of a recently published book, The System Anatomy. Jens is one of Eric's main contacts. Eric invited me to an after-the-fair for-people-in-the-publishing-business mingle, and off we went to see Jens.

I have met Jens once before, but that was briefly a year ago, so Eric re-introduced us.

It was nice meeting Jens again. Eric, Jens and I had an interesting talk. We decided to go and eat something, and that is when I suddenly saw Alf Fyhrlund and his wife Saga.

From left: Alf Fyhrlund, Saga Fyhrlund, Jens Fredholm, and Erik Lundh.
Alf is the statistician I wrote about in  A brief guide to mingling. Introductions were made all around, and business cards were exchanged. (Just so you know: Alf and I will go to a BNI meeting together on Tuesday.)

After that, the only new connection I made the rest of the evening was with a humungous shrimp sandwich. (Thank you Jens.)

Let's update the network diagram from  A brief guide to mingling:

There are new connections, and some old ones have been maintained (Jens and me). One thing I like about having a diagram like this, is that the people in the diagram are likely to read this post and see it. That increases the probability that they will discover a reason to connect.

If one is steeped in Command & Control culture, it is easy to believe that one should somehow be in control, or "own the network". That does not work. Nobody owns the network. I belong to the network. So does everyone else in the diagram.

Thus, I am not at the center of the network, even though it may look like that in the diagram. It is just that the diagram is drawn from my perspective, and contains the connections I know about.

Draw diagrams from the perspectives of Eric, Jens, or Anna, and they will look quite different, but they will be just as valid. (Try drawing a complete diagram, and you will end up with a mess and go bonkers in the process.)

The network will change today, like it changed yesterday. I know Alf and Olle are likely to talk to each other, and I know Anna and Erik will too. I will ask them how it went, because these are people I like, and I have an interest in their connections working out for the best. Other things will happen too, lots of connections will be made I don't know about, and never will know about. That is as it should be.

What is of interest to mingle event goers is that many of the things I described here, happened because of the mingle event, Göteborgsminglet, but they did not happen at the event. Mingle events are powerful because they generate sparks that may ignite something larger and longer lasting.

Oh, perhaps I should mention: The fair itself was fun too. Lots of interesting books.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Brief Guide to Mingling

Anna Sigvardsson is a photographer. Martin Richards is an English language coach. Martin I know from before. He brought me to my first BNI business meeting a couple of years ago. Anna I met for the first time at the mingle, but we have both been BNI members, and have acquaintances in common.

I was at a mingling event, Göteborgsminglet a couple of days ago. Such events have become an increasingly important way of meeting people and developing business relationships.

I left the event with one solid lead and more than half a dozen meetings booked. This is a marked difference from the first mingling event I went to about two years ago. When I left that first mingle, I had an enormous stack of business cards, but didn't really know what to do with them. Last Thursday, I had a much smaller stack of cards, but I knew what to do.

What is the difference between now and then? Mainly, me: My own expectations, my understanding of what an event like this is, and its purpose, have changed. A lot!

The first time I went to an event like this, I went to do business. In other words, I went there to sell my services.

Of course that didn't work! There were no buyers. There were two main categories of people there: One category were greenhorns like me, who tried to sell stuff, or advertise stuff. The other category were networkers.

Mingling events are not about selling or buying, they are about meeting interesting people. You don't sell them stuff, you talk to them. If they are interesting, and if they feel the same way about you, you set up a meeting.

"Ok, and at that meeting, I get to sell!" No! You don't! You go to the meeting to figure out a few things:

  • Is this a person I want to spend time with? For example, if we go out and have lunch ten times, will we have more or less to talk about the tenth time than the first time? Will I enjoy listening to this person on a more or less regular basis?
  • Can I be of value to this person? One thing you can do, is to connect them with other people in your network. That is good, but don't rush it. Get to know the person first. You do have a responsibility to weed out the kooks (or make connections to compatible kooks). You can do other things. For example, if you meet me, and recommend a particularly interesting book about management, systems thinking, photography, or a good Fantasy book, you are of value to me. One of my favorite clients put me on to the Obiter Dictum podcasts. I walk two hours every day, and I often listen to Obiter Dictum while doing it. Now that is value... (When do I get to sell? When do I get to sell? Not yet!)
  • Does this person want to be of value to me? Not can, want. Does this person have a desire to play by the networking rules? If they do, they'll figure out how to help you with something, sometime. In the unlikely event they don't, they will still figure out how to help someone else. If you build connections with people like that, you will eventually end up with plenty of good business leads.
Some people are just naturally good at this. I am not. I have to study and practice. There are lots of places where you can do that, but Business Network International is my favorite. It's ordinary people helping each other out in ordinary ways. They just happen to be very good at it.

At the meeting last Thursday, I set two goals for myself:
  • Have good, interesting conversations with people. One would be enough. Not too long conversations though, because people have limited time to spend on a single conversation at these events. I got lucky and met several people I wanted to listen to.
  • Have dinner with someone well worth listening to after the mingle. I almost made it: I had a cup of coffee with someone very interesting to speak with and listen to. Very enjoyable. 
In the beginning of this post, I told you I got one very solid lead. Here is a key point:

I got the lead from someone I have known for the better part of two years. We met through Business Network International (BNI), we became friends, and we have dinner together on an irregular but fairly frequent basis. This person has a lot of integrity, and he is very careful about recommending people. He is a highly valued friend of mine.

Most of the meetings I booked during the mingle were with people I have met before. Some are friends. Some are acquaintances. Only two were with people I haven't met before, and one of them know people I know.

Good networkers often say networking is like gardening. Now you know why: It does take time, patience, and genuine interest. Some relationships grow, others wither.

Alf Fyhrlund is a statistician.
Speaking of growing relationships: Meet Alf Fyhrlund. I met Alf for the first time at the mingle. We had a brief chat, and I gave him my business card. Alf is a statistician. He does research, and he is also a consultant. I happen to know something most people don't: Statisticians can be very useful to companies and other organizations. Also, statisticians are well aware that the mere thought of statistics make most people's eyes glaze over. Thus, they are searching for, and developing, ways of making what they do easier to understand, more interesting, and easier to apply in practice.

Alf and I decided to have a cup of coffee together. We did, and I had a very interesting afternoon. Alf and I connected on Twitter and Facebook.

Another acquaintance of mine, Olle Ebbinghaus, posted a message on Facebook, saying that he wanted to talk to a statistician.

I talked to both Olle and Alf to see if they would like me to connect them. I usually don't connect people like this unless everyone has said it is OK. Both said yes. In a couple of days, I will follow up by asking them how their meeting went.

At the mingle I also talked with Anna Sigurdsson and Martin Richards, whom you can see in the first picture in this post. Martin invited me to a networking event, and I invited Anna to meet a Mystery Friend of mine. (A mystery to you, that is. Anna knows whom she is meeting, but I haven't obtained my friend's permission to use her name and picture in this post.) Anna, in return, offered to connect me with some people she knows.

Let's look at a diagram. If you follow this blog, you know there will, sooner or later, be diagrams:
During the mingle, our social networks began to reconfigure. That is, we made new acquaintances.

Before the mingle, we had several disconnected networks, like this:
This is the network before the mingle. The people in green circles attended the mingle. The people in blue circles did not attend the mingle, but their social connections are affected by it. Note that there are three disconnected network islands.
During the mingle, the social networks we have begin to connect, but the really interesting stuff happens after the mingle itself. After couple of days, with some follow up work, the network looks like this:
After the mingle, and a bit of follow-up, we have a new set of connections, and a world of new possibilities.
Good networkers follow up. I have spent more time following up the mingle than I spent going to the mingle itself. So did Alf, Anna and Martin.

For simplicity's sake I have left out a bunch of stuff. For example, I didn't mention how, when I checked out Alf on the Internet, quite a few recommendations popped up. Same thing with Anna. Plenty of recommendations.

I haven't mentioned the other people I met either. A complete diagram describing the changes in my social network would take longer to draw than the two hours the event itself took. The changes are ongoing. At the time I am writing this, I haven't had all the follow-up meetings yet. I have some interesting people to meet next week.

I have described only a part of how my social connections changed because of the mingle. Imagine the total number of new connections created or old ones strengthening during the event.

There is a huge amount of change going on. Most of it is short-lived, to be sure, but some of it isn't. Some of the change will be permanent. Some of the change will open up great new opportunities.

Here is a thing you might find interesting: There is an organization that organizes the mingle, sets the date, determine rules for the mingle (like: wear A4 size papers naming yourself, your company and describing your goal for the mingle), handles catering, etc.

Within that framework, the mingle is self-organizing. Nobody tells people whom to speak to, what to say, or what to do. People figure it out, it works, and it is fun.

Self-organization is interesting, because it may be the key, well, one of the keys, to building better business organizations in the future. Thus, mingling like this has an important social function that may not be obvious: It makes people more used to self-organization, which is a key to building competitive organizations today and in the future.

When people who learn to mingle like this, take what they learn, and apply it to their own work, and their own private lives, that is when the really interesting stuff will happen.

Happy mingling!

There is a follow-up to this article, connecting what happened at the mingle event with things that happened at the Gothenburg Book Fair a week later.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

I promise to do LESS in 2011!

The LESS 2011 conference in Stockholm, October 30th to November 2nd, looks set to be a lot of fun. A highly inspirational and useful kind of fun.

If you go, you get to see and listen to keynote speakers like Steve Denning, former director of knowledge management at the World Bank, and Bjarte Bogsnaes who head's Statoils Beyond Budgeting project. You can hear systems thinker Peter Middleton, and Shingo Prize winner James Sutton.

Check out the speaker lists and the topics, and you will understand why this is an event I do not want to miss. There is a long list of interesting speakers. I'll mention only a few, and I'll not even try to be unbiased about it. Instead, I'll pick those with whom I have had some contact, via social networks or otherwise, over the years:

Jurgen Appelo has a talk titled Complexity Thinking? Or Systems
Thinking++ ? Jurgen will talk about similarities and differences between Systems Thinking and Complexity Thinking, and he aims to connect them with Agile software Development, and the real world of business. Jurgen wrote the book Management 3.0: Leading Agile Developers, Developing Agile Leaders, and he is a very popular speaker.

Ola Ellnestam will talk about Real Options. Ola is the CEO of Agical. I met Ola about half a year ago when I made a presentation at an Agical Geek Night. He is going to talk about how to keep options open in a project until the last responsible moment, without crossing the line and turning the project into a game of chicken.

Torbjörn Gyllebring, is one of the most interesting people I have met on Twitter. Sharp, accurate, concise observations about software development and developers. His talk is titled Kanban is not your process (let me tell you why).

Bob Marshall's talk is titled Keep it Light-Hearted. Bob is experienced, courageous, and has boundless energy. He is going to talk about Rightshifting and the Marshall model. I don't know much about what Bob will say, and I hope he doesn't tell me, because I want to hear it for the first time when I listen to his session.

There are plenty of other speakers, and because my sample was 100% biased in favor of social connections and friendship, you can be assured there are many interesting speakers among the ones I did not mention too.

Oh, perhaps I should tell you, I got a submission accepted too. You can read about it if you go to the Transforming Organizations page and scroll down a bit. I won't tell you about it in this post, because I would like you to scoot over to the LESS website.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fugue for Norepinephrine, Dopamine, and Oxytocin

I have written before about two very different ideas of management, Theory X and Theory Y, and how they engender different organisational structures, and very different working environments.

Most of what I, and others, have written about Theory X/Y, uses the model as a basis for exploring outwards, from the individual to the organization.

I believe it is just as important to explore in the other direction, going inwards. There are several paths open to inwards exploration: psychology, philosophy, religion, ethics, but in this article, I’ll take a short but brisk walk along the path of neuroscience.

Let's recap Theory X and Y very briefly:
Theory X and Y represent endpoints on a spectrum of attitudes managers may have towards the people who work for them. Theory X says people are basically lazy and motivated by self-interest and external rewards only. According to Theory X, people will always seek to maximize the monetary rewards they get, and minimize the work they put in. 
As a consequence, workers must be told what to do and how to do it. They must be monitored closely to ensure that they don’t shirk their work. 
Theory Y, on the other hand, says people can be highly motivated, that they are both able to, and desire to, act responsibly. 
As a consequence, workers can, when the circumstances are right, be self-directed. They are able to self-organise and can and want to take responsibility. They are also able to figure out how to do their own work.
As you can imagine, a Theory X manager will create a very different work environment from a Theory Y manager.

Theory X leaders and managers create tightly controlled, hierarchical organisations. Authority is delegated as little as possible. Mistakes are strongly discouraged. Punishment as a means of control is common.

Theory Y leaders delegate authority and responsibility. Since they believe people are usually doing their best, they are more inclined to look for systemic root causes of problems than Theory X managers are. Theory Y managers build decentralised organisations. They are much more likely to build network organisations than Theory X managers.

Good examples of Theory Y organizations would be Gore & Associates, the Virgin Group, Zappos, Business Network International, and Semco. A bit surprisingly, unless you are a strategy and organization buff, some military organizations exhibit strong Theory Y characteristics.

Theory Y companies are more pleasant to work for than Theory X companies. No surprise there.

There is plenty of research showing that Theory Y companies are also more profitable than Theory X companies. Theory Y companies also have a lot more survival potential in times of rapid change or hardship.

However, there is a very big problem with this picture of X and Y organisations:

Why, if Theory Y companies are so superior, do most companies lean towards the X end of the spectrum? Why don’t we see more, many, many more, Theory Y organisations?

Here are the reasons offered most often:

  • People starting new organizations copy the organizational models they know. Since Theory X organizations are dominant, they remain dominant.
  • Theory X is self-fulfilling, so once an organization is started on the X side of the spectrum, it is very likely to remain there.

I believe both of those reasons are valid, but I also believe there is a piece missing in the puzzle.

What might that missing piece be?

Here is my hypothesis, and I do want to stress the word hypothesis:

Norepinephrine and Dopamine – The Fear Cocktail

We do know from neuroscientific research that when people first meet, the default response of the human brain is a threat response. If there are no indications that the person we meet is friendly, a tiny dose of norepinephrine (noradrenaline), is released into the brain, making us ready for flight, or a fight.

Under normal circumstances, we are barely aware of our own threat response, and it is quite easy to reduce the norepinephrine level to normal: A smile, a handshake, a bit of small talk to find common some interest (the weather will often do) is often enough.

When we see that smile, shake that hand, and find a bit of common ground, the brain does more than reduce the norepinephrine level. Perhaps most importantly, it releases another chemical, oxytocin. Oxytocin makes us feel friendly, and increases trust. We’ll get back to oxytocin.

Our brains release norepinephrine in situations where the brain judges fear to be an appropriate driver of behavior, for example if you are stalked by a lion, or a looming project deadline.

There is another chemical that is also released when you encounter something stressful or dangerous, dopamine. Norepinephrine increases your stress level, and dopamine makes you interested.

The norepinephrine-dopamine cocktail isn’t necessarily bad. Without it you would not get out of bed in the morning. Nor would you run from a charging lion, or try to fight it. There is actually a kind of healthy stress, called eustress, which is caused by the right mix of norepinephrine and dopamine.

The problem is that our brains have a tendency to overdo the dosage in many situations. The reason for that has to do with our evolution: Being easily scared had a lot more survival value 100,000 years ago than it has today.

Projects used to be fairly short, with clear goals: Hunt the mammoth, kill the mammoth, eat the mammoth. That is what the brain’s drug dispensing system has evolved to cope with.

Today, projects are longer and goals harder to define: Spend a year building a software thingy that makes the customer happy.

Often, there is no discernible goal, just do the same thing today that you did yesterday. Repeat until retired, fired, or just too tired.

In these situations, the brain continues to produce norepinephrine and dopamine at elevated levels for long periods of time. This is not healthy.

The point here is that too much epinephrine and dopamine creates fear and distrust. Fear and distrust are the fundament Theory X is built on.

Consider an entrepreneur trying to build a new company, or a manager dealing with problems in a department. These are very demanding activities with uncertain outcomes. Scary!

Picture in your mind how norepinephrine and dopamine permeat through the brain...

There is no wonder that most people opt for a Theory X approach in this situation.

The Norephrine-Dopamine-Oxytocin Fugue

If you describe a Theory X organisation and a Theory Y organisation, and ask people which kind they would like to work for, most people will pick the Theory Y alternative.

Thus, it is of interest to understand a bit more about the chemical makeup of a Theory Y entrepreneur or manager.

We are shooting for a high degree of motivation, which means we do need to hit the optimal, eustress, levels of norepinephrine and dopamine.

We also need a friendly atmosphere, so lets add a good dose of oxytocin to the mix. (In the book Your Brain at Work, David Rock writes about a scientific experiment where researchers found they could increase the level of trust in a room by spraying oxytocin in the air. Let’s not go quite that far.)

There it is: The norephrine-dopamine-oxytocin fugue. Hit the right levels, and people will fear less and trust more. Thus, we have the emotional foundation of a Theory Y organization.

Even more interesting, there are plenty of things we can do to influence the levels of norepinephrine, dopamine, and oxytocin in ourselves, and in other people.

More about that in a near-future article.

Friday, June 03, 2011

myLife with iPad

I bought an iPad 2 awhile ago. I am still working on figuring out why. Don't get me wrong, I had several reasons for buying it:

  • I travel a lot while working. Before the iPad, I always had 4-6 books with me. I wanted to reduce the weight of my luggage, and bring more books. I read a lot, but I also want to bring my favorite reference books with me wherever I go.
  • I want to use my time effectively, for example by reading email while on the go. I can do that on my phone, but I wanted a bit more convenience.
  • My next book will be published as an eBook. I want to understand, I mean really grok, eBooks. I want to take full advantage of the medium.
  • I was, and still am, curious. I wanted to know more about what an iPad is good for.
Here is what I have found so far. I do read a lot of email, and browse the web, with my iPad, but I'll skip writing about that. Instead, I will focus on the other things that has made my working life easier the past few weeks.
I've bought quite a few books the past few weeks. Mostly new ones, but I am also adding some books I already own as paper books to my eBook reference library.
First of all, I do use the iPad for reading, a lot. Reading a book on the iPad works surprisingly well. However, the reading experience varies depending on which eBook reader you use. So far, my favorite readers are Apple's iBook and the Amazon's Kindle.

There are two things about reading eBooks on the iPad that I do not like.

The first is that because iPad apps own the data they use, books are not shared between readers. If I buy a book from Amazon, I have to use the Kindle reader, whether I like it or not. Yes, there are workarounds, but there should not have to be. Which reader to use should be my choice, regardless of from where I downloaded the book.

The second thing is that it is impossible to organize the books I buy. In my bookshelf books are organized according to topic, but the eBook readers I have do not allow me to do that. For example, with the Kindle reader, I can organize books alphabetically by author or title, or by most recently read, but that is it. I cannot group my strategy books together, nor separate my management books from the children's books I buy for my son.

Apparently, Amazon expects me to buy only a few books from them. Unless they come up with a more convenient way for me to organize the books, they will be right. And of course, as I mentioned, grouping my books depending on where I bought them is absolutely ridiculous. Apple has got to fix it. Preferably very soon.

Here is one important thing I learned about eBooks: Pictures are fairly low resolution bitmaps. Some of the illustrations in my business books are more or less unreadable. This is disappointing. Still, it is a good thing to know. It is something I will need to work around in my next book. (Tempo! does not have that particular problem. The eBook version is in PDF format. It works pretty well if you read it in iBook. Slight drawback though: The book is available in Swedish only.) 

So far, the advantages of eBooks outweigh the disadvantages.

I should mention a special kind of eBook though: Some eBooks, like Al Gore's Our Choice, come in the form of apps. Our Choice is beautiful: There are interactive animations, video, folding images... However, book-apps carry a significant penalty: It is large. I doubt I will ever have very many books like this one. Glad I bought Our Choice though.

When I read a particularly interesting book, I like to take notes. On the iPad, I have found that iThoughtsHD, a mindmapping program, works very well for this. Part of the reason I like iThoughtsHD is that it can import and export files in a variety of formats, including FreeMind and FreePlane, my favorite mindmapping programs on my computer.

Speaking of compatibility, DropBox has proven invaluable for transferring files between the iPad and my computer. iThoughtsHD can send files to DropBox, and so can many other apps. Unfortunately, because the iPad lacks a proper file system, there are plenty of programs that cannot save files to DropBox. Select your apps with care.

It is worth noting that you can get similar functionality by using other services. For example, many apps support Apple's MobileMe.

It is worth noting that I use services like DropBox and MobileMe for my personal files only. My clients generally don't allow them for security reasons. (No, this does not imply that these services have poor security, just that they have not been formally cleared for use by my clients.) If you use your iPad for work, you should consider what security restrictions may be in effect before using any cloud services.

 I draw a lot of diagrams, and my favorite program for doing that on the Mac is OmniGraffle. There is a version of OmniGraffle for the iPad, and I tried it out as soon as I could. The iPad version is good, but I do prefer drawing on the Mac. The diagram above was drawn on my Mac and exported to the iPad via iTunes.
The key to drawing on the iPad is keeping it simple. Fortunately, that is generally pretty good advice. The picture above shows a simple Venn diagram. Now, all I need to do is to write a couple of books that fit the intersecting area. Oh, well, maybe I should finish some of my other writing projects first...

Is the iPad any good for presentations? Depends on what you want to do. I bought Keynote for iPad, but I will probably stick to developing presentations on my Mac. However, in some situations, like when making short presentations for one or two people, Keynote on the iPad may come in handy.

When you travel a lot, keeping in touch with the people close to you becomes incredibly important. Skype is a sanity saver. Strangely, there is no iPad version of the Skype app. Fortunately, the iPhone version works very well on the iPad.

Of course I have Skype on my computer, but using Skype on the iPad is a lot more convenient. I'd really like to have a version designed for the iPad though.

In the evenings, I like to relax with a TED talk or two. The TED application can download TED talks so I can view them offline. Viewing a TED talk make traveling by train or plane a lot more fun than it would otherwise be.

I have tried a couple of different RSS readers on the iPad. At the moment, I prefer Byline. Byline downloads articles from Google Reader, so I need a Reader account to use it.
Sometimes, I just want to relax and have a laugh. The Swedish television player SVT Play has several episodes of Shaun the Sheep available. One of my evening projects over the next few weeks is watching them all.
My son Tim drew this picture of Stitch (the alien from the movie Lilo and Stitch) using Glow Paint
My son likes Glow Paint a simple drawing application. He is 5 years old, and learned to use the iPad in less than a minute. Granted, he already knew how to use my iPhone, but learning that didn't take long either. You know how you always throw away or just misplace your children's drawings? Well, when my son draws on the iPad, the drawing is never lost. years from now, provided that he is still interested in drawing, he and I will be able to follow how his style has developed over the years.

That is myLife with the iPad. What's yourLife like?

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Talking Tempo! at McNeil

I had an opportunity to hold my Tempo!–Vision to Reality presentation at McNeil AB, makers of the Nicorette line of nicotine replacement therapy products.

In short: Great audience, I got some very good questions, and there was an interesting discussion afterwards.

A great day!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Talking Tempo! at FRR

I used help from my audience to illustrate how changing the way we work can improve productivity while simultaneously reducing risk. Photo by Susanne Dahl.
I held a Tempo! talk again. This time at Framgångsrika Relationer, FRR, a business network.

This was (supposed to be) a short presentation so I focused on a single key topic: organizational design. You'd think that is a pretty dry topic, but it isn't. When you dive into why our companies are designed the way they are, it turns out that there is quite a bit of adventure involved: train crashes, dogfights between fighter pilots...

Judging from the mail I get following these presentations, people like it. Everyone has their own experience of organizational inertia. It is a relief to get to know what causes it, that it is possible to get rid of much of it, and be happier in the process.

Speaking of happiness: After each presentation, I get queries about where to buy Tempo! the book. Each time that happens, I know I have succeeded in sparking or fanning the flame of curiosity a bit. That's happiness!

Mingling with people from the audience is great fun. Also great feedback, so you can make the presentation even better the next time. Photo by Susanne Dahl.
Seth Godin came up with two really good criteria for business books that stand out. The same criteria hold for presentations:
  1. Does this change the way I think? Will it make me act differently tomorrow?
  2. Do I desperately want to share this?
Systems thinking, and I use the term very broadly here, is about a different way of thinking. The point of using systems thinking is that it enables us to do things we could not otherwise do. We can, for example, use systems thinking to save the world, create organizations that are both robust and delightful to work in, or make books and presentations that induce laughter, spark thinking and impel action.

I do believe we systems thinkers ought to do a lot more of those. Because we can!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Talking Tempo! at the University of Gothenburg School of Business, Economics, and Law Alumni Network

We had lunch before the presentation. It was a great opportunity to speak with some of the alumni members.
I've been talking Tempo! again. This time at thUniversity of Gothenburg School of Business, Economics, and Law Alumni Network. It was great fun. The alumni network meets up two to four times a month at the university. They have lunch, and follow up with a guest presenter.

Feeding the audience before a presentation is an excellent idea. As an added bonus, the presenter gets fed too, something I was in a position to appreciate very much.

Bo Ribbenholt
Presentations like these are often arranged through networks. A friend of mine, Joakim Olinder, whom I met through BNI, also knows Bo Ribbenholt of the alumni network. Joakim knew I look for opportunities to present, and he heard me talk about Tempo! at BNI World Trade Center in January. He contacted Bo and Bo contacted me.

I won't spill the beans about the content of the presentation. If you read Swedish, you can check out the CHV blog. Bo is writing an article about it. (I'll update the link to point directly to the article when it is published.)

I will write a bit about my approach to making presentations though:

I mentioned in an earlier post that I customize my presentations to suit my audience. I knew the audience this time would consist of experienced professionals with a strong background in economy. The presentation would be about 30 minutes.

My previous Tempo! presentation was at an Agical geek night, for a group of software developers with a strong interest in Agile software development. That presentation was more than two hours long.

Cutting a two hour presentation to 30 minutes while switching focus from software development to economy, while keeping it coherent and fun for the audience, is difficult. So I didn't.

Instead, I rebuilt the presentation from the ground up. I went back to the planning stage, and worked in FreeMind, my favorite mindmapping program. This allowed me to figure out what would be most interesting to my audience, and focus on that. I used my old presentations for source material, added some new stuff, and built the presentation slide by slide.

This approach made it a lot easier to design an entertaining presentation. It allowed me to tie in to some events that recently made the news here in Sweden, and it made it a lot easier to stick to the 30 minute time limit. I designed the presentation to be slightly more than 20 minutes. That way, I get a bit of margin, and ensure there is time enough for questions.

The most important part of a presentation: the audience. 
The most important part of a presentation is the audience. A presenter is there for the audience, not the other way around.

People want to hear you because they want to learn something new and because they want to be entertained. (Scott Berkun has a more complete list in Confessions of a Public Speaker. If you are interested in presenting, I recommend you read it.)

They want you to succeed in teaching and entertaining them, so you usually have the audience on your side from the beginning. What you need to do, is to take the best care of them you can. If you sincerely do your best, and let your passion show, you are off to a great start.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Tempo! presentation at Agical on Monday 31st of January!

I will hold my Tempo! presentation at Agical in Stockholm on Monday. The presentation begins at 18.00 hours (6.00 PM). The purpose of the presentation is to inspire people to think about the way we do knowledge work, and to provide a few laughs along the way.

This is a very fun presentation to do. I get to talk about the wild side of management. Yes, there is a wild side, and it has been very influential in how we build organizations and organize work.

I also use volunteers from the audience to illustrate different ways of working, and to show how the way we usually do things is not necessarily very effective.

The story I tell involves train crashes, the world's best fighter pilot, a mad economist that became a brilliant psychologist, a record company owner that decided to build spaceships, and of course VISA. And a few other things.

I always customize my presentations so that they fit my audience. This time most of the audience members will be involved with Agile software development. Next time, I'll speak to a group of economists. The time after that, to the general public, so each time I need to adapt the presentation a bit. Each time I do this, I need to look at the topic from a different perspective. I always learn something valuable.

I have held the full Tempo! presentation twice, and a short version once. If you are interested, you can check my event calendar, or just ask me to come and speak at your company or organization.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

New website focusing on John Boyd and IOHAI

Peter Hermann contacted me to let me know about the new web site. The site is in early development, but it looks interesting. You can download some of Boyd's original presentations from it, and more is coming. I am going to keep a close watch on it.

Just in case you haven't heard of Col. John Boyd:

Boyd is a leadership and strategy icon. He was one of the best U.S. fighter pilots ever, developed Energy Maneuverability Theory, fought corruption in the Pentagon, played an important role in the design of the the F-16.

His greatest accomplishment was the development of Maneuver Conflict, a strategic framework that has been highly influential. Boyd's decision loop model, the OODA loop, is famous, but he has much more to offer. IOHAI is Boyd's leadership model.

The U.S. Marine Corps, in particular, is known to use many of Boyd's ideas. Boyd's ideas can be directly translated to the world of business. In particular, they are important to value-driven organizations.

There is good reason to watch

Monday, January 17, 2011

IDEO Founder David Kelley on Creative Confidence, Innovation, and the Power of a Child’s Mind

I was poking around on the web a bit and found an interesting Swedish management blog. They have a blog post with a video where David Kelly speaks about Design Thinking. Here is the video. It is worth watching:

Here is the original page where the videocast was published.

Design Thinking is very close to Systems Thinking. My view is that Design Thinking is an excellent method, fitting right in with the Systems Thinking method package, or methodology. (A methodology is a set of methods based on common ideas.)

Design Thinking is both fun and powerful. Well worth studying, learning, and, not the least, enjoying!

Monday, January 03, 2011

Organizational Behavior course at NECB will use my three videos on change management.

The New England College of Business and Finance, NECB, will use my three videos on change management in its new course Organizational Behavior.

The Organizational Behavior course will begin on January 10th. It is completely online and was designed by Instructional Designer and Adjunct Professor Jean Marrapodi.