On January 6-7, 2012, I will be in Stoos, Switzerland as part of a gathering of management enthusiasts. Organized by the core team of Jurgen Appelo, Steve Denning, Peter Stevens and Franz Roosli, we have a lofty goal: we are seeking to accelerate the transformation of management. As Steve Denning and Jurgen Appelo posit, the pace of change in the world of management has been – glacial. So now, there is much interest in catalyzing that process to accelerate change in this area.

In preparation for the gathering, Jurgen has prepared a short list of models, and others are adding their thoughts. Before we can begin looking forward, I want look back in Agile tradition to make sure we are taking the past into due consideration, and that we can build on and synthesize different models.

In my own book, Managing Agile Projects, I shared my three guiding management principles for agile teams and projects:

  1. Foster alignment and cooperation
  2. Encourage emergence and self-organization
  3. Institute learning and adaptation
Most everyone familiar with agile methods is likely able to trace things back to the seminal Manifesto for Agile Software Development. However, lesser known, but perhaps a “nearer neighbor” to the world of management is the Declaration of Inter-Dependence. In 2005, several of us within the agile movement were convened by visionary leader Jim Highsmith and hosted by David Anderson in Redmond, WA and emerged from that gathering with these six management guidelines that constitute the DOI:
  • We increase return on investment by making continuous flow of value our focus.
  • We deliver reliable results by engaging customers in frequent interactions and shared ownership
  • We expect uncertainty and manage for it through iterations, anticipation and adaptation.
  • We unleash creativity and innovation by recognizing that individuals are the ultimate source of value, and creating an environment where they can make a difference.
  • We boost performance through group accountability for results and shared responsibility for team effectiveness.
  • We improve effectiveness and reliability through situationally specific strategies, processes and practices.

©2005 David Anderson, Sanjiv Augustine, Christopher Avery, Alistair Cockburn, Mike Cohn, Doug DeCarlo, Donna Fitzgerald, Jim Highsmith, Ole Jepsen, Lowell Lindstrom, Todd Little, Kent MacDonald, Polyanna Pixton, Preston Smith and Robert Wysocki

Alistair Cockburn’s later commentary and explanation capture the thoughts of that group best, in my opinion. The DOI has certainly been my touch stone as I’ve applied Lean Thinking along with agile values and practices since then. I’ve found it especially useful when applying agile methods at the enterprise level, because of its lean-infused thinking and language. For example, phrases like flow of value, situation-specific strategies, and environment to make a difference help ensure that we simultaneously take both a humanistic and systemic approach to management.

That humanistic and systemic approach underlies the approaches postulated by both W. Edwards Deming and Peter Drucker, upon which we have built the foundations of modern agile management. Tellingly, at the core of Lean Thinking are these two fundamental principles: respect for people (humanistic) and continuous improvement (systemic).

Even if these principles are not yet manifested in a widespread fashion globally, there are certainly brilliant pockets of adoption world-wide. In North America and Europe, I’ve witnessed the power of agile methods to drive tremendous results, including some monumental agile adoptions. I’m now on vacation in India, and one model that has caught my interest here is the one practiced by Vineet Nayar at HCL Technologies, “Employees First, Customer Second.” Definitely sounds like a humanistic and systemic model, doesn’t it?

Finally, over the past year, since I was introduced to the concept by Jeff Sutherland, I’ve been captivated by the notion of wise leadership, as proposed by Takeuchi and Nonaka. Takeuchi and Nonaka recommend the quality of phronesis as the quintessential quality of wise leaders, and pinpoint these six abilities of a wise leader:
  1. Wise leaders can judge goodness
  2. Wise leaders can grasp the essence
  3. Wise leaders create shared contexts
  4. Wise leaders communicate the essence
  5. Wise leaders exercise political power
  6. Wise leaders foster practical wisdom in others

Earlier this month, as 2011 drew to a close, I was privileged to attend a remarkable event in Milan, Italy hosted by the PMI’s Northern Italy Chapter (PMI NIC). Organized by Tiziano Villa and Walter Ginevri from PMI NIC and bringing in Victor Carter-Bey and others from the PMI Global, Tiziano later remarked that we were able to create a “ba,” or place where relationships are forged and interactions occur as participants try to create new meaning.

As we usher in the New Year, I am now looking forward with eager anticipation to the trip to Stoos, and I’m hoping we can create a similar “ba” that helps accelerate the pace of management warming.

To reiterate the #Stoos gathering organizers’ call to help transform management, please help us by sharing your thoughts in less than 100 words, either via the comments box below or by email at sanjiv DOT augustine AT LitheSpeed DOT com.

Thank you, and Happy New Year!

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