Leaders and Followers

When adopting any method or framework (e.g. Scrum, lean, orTameFlow), organizations need a leader that believes in both the journey and the destination. The recent thread on enlightened self-interest and enlightened leaders cast doubt on how much enlightenment is really going around.  Whether a leader is enlightened or just seems that way because they are on the right side on an issue we are passionate about is less important than studying how they behave. There are five attributes of a leader that impact the direction and adoption of change. They are: (more…)

I grew up singing Monty Python’s Philosopher’s Drinking song (YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9SqQNgDrgg) so of course, I read most great philosophers. The song was funnier, but the ideas of Kant, Nietzsche, Plato, and Aristotle have been more useful for understanding change and how people react. All of this leads me to point out that I finally get to quote Kant.

“Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s own understanding without the guidance of another.”


Enlightened Self-Interest Lights A Fire

As a change agent, coach, and guide I often help find how a change will benefit the people that management is asking to change. I have often heard that you have to find “what is in it for them” (WIIFT). The idea is that if something is in it for them, they will be more likely to embrace the change, or do the right thing. The ethical or philosophical concept is often called enlightened self-interest. Steve Tendon, author of Tame Your Work Flow (currently the focus of our Re-read Saturday Feature), had an exchange in which he suggested that enlightened self-interest would lead product owners and leaders to put the good of the firm in front of their own interests. The idea of enlightened self-interest is not commonly understood (I have struggled with it) and is not a panacea.   (more…)


Power cables are an important part of laptop usage . . . I am glad that Amazon has great delivery options.  A reprint while I charge my laptop!

A significant amount of transformation and leadership literature centers on establishing or changing the culture centered on values. Instant problem.  According to the Harvard Business Review online article on organizational culture (May 2013)  “there is little consensus on what organizational culture actually is.” There are two common threads in the definition of organizational culture; definitions that center on value, and definitions that center on behaviors. Many change leaders espouse value-centric definitions.  This decision causes them to focus their efforts on changing values in order to change the culture. These change programs are immediately starting in a difficult position. Values are amorphous.  Every individual interprets specific values differently.  For example, I asked several friends to define creativity.  Each person had a different definition.  Some of the differences were more than mere nuances.  Our individual interpretations would make the outcome of embracing the value of creativity unpredictable.  The variability of how we interpret values that make it difficult to create a common vision and then elicit a common outcome. Diversity makes this issue even more problematic.   As someone schooled in the need for measurement and feedback, the lack of a clear definition makes monitoring and measuring a change in the values at best difficult and often outside of the expertise of most internal measurement groups.  Without a clear definition and without a mechanism for monitoring change, talking about values is merely window dressing. (more…)

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SPaMCAST 551 features our interview with Michael (Mike) Lynn.  Mike and I talked about leadership and agile. Leadership is important any time two or more people get together to pursue a goal. Mike shares his expertise, experience, and wisdom to help shine a light on the relationship between agile and leadership.   (more…)

Book Cover

Turn the Ship Around

We will complete our re-read of Turn The Ship Around next week with a few final thoughts.  The next book in the series will be The Checklist Manifesto  (use the link and buy a copy so you can read along) by  Atul Gawande. Today we complete re-reading the chapters in  L. David Marquet’s Turn the Ship Around!  Chapter 28, 29 and Afterthoughts complete Marquet’s reflection on the leader-leader model and his journey of discovery.

Chapter 28: A New Method of Resupplying

The setup question for this chapter is, “Do you want to empower employees but find that empowerment programs don’t help?”

The story Marquet uses to drive the ideas in the chapter home centers around the Santa Fe’s need for oil to be resupplied due to a leak. If the Sante Fe is not resupplied the boat will not be able to keep its perfect record of meeting all mission goals.  The supply ship Rainier is also transiting the Straits of Hormuz (another one of those busy scary places). Using the normal channels getting supplies from the Rainier would have taken too long. Personnel on both vessels found a way to get the Santa Fe the oil, trade mail and also some fresh fruit.   (more…)

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SPaMCAST 502 features our interview Marcus Hammarberg.  Marcus returns to talk about his new book Salvation: The Bungsu Story (https://amzn.to/2u1ndYs).  The story provides a real-life example of how agile can save the world — or at least part of it. This is one of the most important and inspirational interviews I have done.  

Marcus’s bio:

For 15 years Marcus Hammarberg has been doing agile and lean software development and helping others do it. He has worked in many different settings, from big banks and insurance companies to start-ups and within retail. At one big insurance company, the first agile team, started by Marcus, eventually spread to a lean initiative across the business. As a consultant, Marcus helps individuals, teams, and whole organizations improve their value delivery flow.

Marcus is still a keen programmer and continues to practice and teach the concepts that helped him become a good programmer: TDD, Specification by example, functional programming and Node.

Marcus is a keynote speaker and co-author of Kanban In Action, which has been translated into 5 languages across the globe. He has blogged since 2006 at www.marcusoft.net and spends his spare time playing euphonium in the Salvation Army band at Vasakåren, Stockholm.

2014-2015 Marcus moved to Indonesia with his family to work for the Salvation Army. Unexpectedly his previous experience with lean, agile and kanban was soon put to great use there too. This story is retold as it happened in his second book; Salvation: The Bungsu story

FYI Marcus first appeared on SPaMCAST 414 https://bit.ly/2KZoxBN 

Twitter: @marcusoftnet

Blog: http://www.marcusoft.net

Re-Read Saturday News

This week we are full ahead in our re-read of L. David Marquet’s Turn the Ship Around!  Today we tackle two more chapters, 26 and 27, which are titled: Combat Effectiveness and Homecoming.  

The next book in the series will be The Checklist Manifesto  (use the link and buy a copy so you can read along) by  Atul Gawande.

Current Installment:

Week 17: Combat Effectiveness and Homecominghttps://bit.ly/2u3j8TI (more…)

There are four leadership concepts that can double the chances that your Agile transformation will be effective and stay that way! These four concepts are not new, but they require a degree of passion and constancy of purpose that are often missing. The idea of constancy of purpose was the first point in W. Edward Deming’s 14 points for management (Out of The Crisis – 1982 MIT Press) that has rewritten management and leadership philosophy across the globe. Deming’s philosophies form the bedrock for the Agile and lean revolution in which we are currently engulfed, so we ignore Deming at our own peril. Agile delivers great benefits, but those benefits require leadership and vision to provide motivation and constancy of purpose. The four cornerstones that define Agile leadership are:

  • A focus on behavior;
  • setting the bar high;
  • developing self-awareness; and
  • deploying measurement.


Picture of things not allowed on plane

What’s your dysfunction?


As part of the research on diagnosing when teams need to be rebooted teams, I have had several conversations focused on the circumstances that cause team dysfunction. An understanding of circumstances is important because how a team got to where they are will influence the type of reboot needed. Team problems are generally caused by one or a combination of four overarching problems. The four problems are: (more…)

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SPaMCAST 461 features our essay – Agile — Leadership Required.  For an Agile transformation to be be effective and then stay effective there are four cornerstones of Agile leadership constancy that must be addressed with passion and constancy of purpose.

Our second column this week is from Kim Pries (The Software Sensei). Kim fills in the middle of the cast with a discussion of the conceptual skills a software developer should have. To be good in this industry you need to be more than set of coding languages or testing techniques.  

Steve Tendon, brings chapter 19 of Tame The Flow: Hyper-Productive Knowledge-Work Performance, The TameFlow Approach and Its Application to Scrum and Kanban published J Ross (buy a copy here). We tackle Chapter 19, which is titled Understanding Common Cause Variation.  Steve share insights that caused me rethink the whole idea of common cause variation.

Here is a promo for my appearance during the Denver Startup Week.  On Thursday September 28th at 8AM I will be sharing Storytelling: Developing the Big Picture for Agile Efforts.  The presentation, in Denver, Colorado, will be at held at Industry.  Register and be there!!!! (more…)