The Self Aware Organization

September 15, 2014

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(Picture by Spencer Tunick)

This is yet another topic that has been running in the background of #hypertextual for a while now. Three events have contributed to promote it to the foreground.

First is the insightful essay by Freddy and Michael Ballé : Lead With Respect, and the subsequent conversation we had with Michael, Luis, Claude [FR] and Céline. The latter made an enlightening point.

“Leading with respect is not just a matter of personal ethics. It has to show, in actual behaviors and practices. It requires a constant effort of self-awareness, self-demanding mindset, and empathy with the diversity of team members.”

Second is the title of talk of Mary Poppendieck at the next edition of Lean IT Summit on 16th and 17th October : The Aware Organization. Last is this talk by Mike Rother, at Lean Summit 2012 where the author of #hypertextual favorite Toyota Kata establishes some interesting connections between neuro-sciences and our ability to learn.

The proposition of this post is that self-awareness is critically important for an organization to succeed, that it has to be deployed throughout the whole organization and, this deployment is the job of managers (and coaches).

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Sunday Quote : John Medina

September 14, 2014

“Using visual support is also a more efficient way to glue information to a neuron, there may be strong reasons for entire marketing departments to think seriously about making pictorial presentations their primary way of transferring information.”

Brain Rules is an awesome book explaining how our brain works and how brain science may influence the way we teach, learn and work.

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In 1944 George Loewenstein, a behavioral economist at Carnegie Mellon University, provided the most comprehensive account of situational interest. It is surprisingly simple : Curiosity, he says, happen when we feel a gap in our knowledge.

Made to Stick, the book from which this quote is taken, is a great book to benchmark and design your communication strategy whether it is to sell washing machines or lead changes in an organization.

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This is an awesome video by Mike Rother at Lean Summit 2012. It’s not a friendly format as 18 mns TED’s. It is one hour 15 minutes long but it is worth every second of your time.

I have been interested for the last year or so in neuro-sciences and how they can help in understanding organization culture and how to change it. Mike Rother also had.

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Surf Lacanau

(Version Française)

When I decided last year to take a new turn in my career, I was lucky enough to be able to choose from two different options, both very exciting: Enterprise 2.0 / Social Business on one hand , lean on the other.

After much thought, I have chosen the second option because it seems to me more deeply aligned with the challenges of today’s business, namely the need to navigate through the turbulences of our uncertain world. These turbulences and uncertainty are largely related to the digitization of our daily lives: the digital transformation of the organization therefore seems inevitable.

My hypothesis is that today, Lean is the obvious strategy to carry out this transformation, for the following reasons:

  1. digital transformation actually means a radicalization of the use of new technological opportunities,
  2. it’s all about management principles
  3. a model exists, embodied by the born digital companies (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Pixar, Twitter etc. …)
  4. their management cultures are explicitly or implicitly aligned with the principles of Lean.

(Warning, long truck ahead : more than 1800 words) …

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“Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging of an uncompleted task.”

William James was an American philosopher and psychologist, often referred to as the “Father of American Psychology”.

This quote resonates quite vividly for me as it echoes one of the main lean principles : to get things done, reduce work in progress.Why is it so fatiguing ? My take is that until it is completely done a task uses some of your background cognitive power.

A principle also referred to as “Stop starting and start finishing or “Multitasking is the first step in multi-failing”. I sometimes feel multi-tasking could be considered as self-inflicting the Sisyphus curse : going back to an uncompleted task is somehow like having to roll the boulder all the way up the hill, again.

There is some sort of mythology about alleged millenials ability to multi-task but this is just wishful thinking. I am currently enjoying reading Brain Rules and the author John Medina makes it clear that the brain is not able to share attention on two different tasks.

On top of an expert newbie, I rate myself a rather productive person, able to achieve things. [humblebrag] As an example in 2013 : one massive project, one e-book, one new album with my band and a major change in my professional career all the while attempting to have my family not to hate me too much [/humblebrag].

This principle is my north star. I try my best not to keep tasks hanging around and to complete them before moving to something else. How about you ?

Skate Race 2-600

I have seen this situation happening quite a few times in my career in Information Technology. I am pretty confident that it can be generalized to other types of industry as well.

Here is the scene. The executive has a vision and strategy. But the teams just do not deliver : delay in delivery, quality problems requiring unplanned correction releases at an unforeseen costs, an eventually reduced scope of what is delivered etc… Executive is subsequently disappointed and struggles in adjusting the vision as she doesn’t have a clear understanding of the capacity of the teams : how to set a vision when the outputs are unpredictable ? The trouble with adjusting the vision then impact the teams : how to set clear priorities when a strategy is no longer clear enough?

The organization has entered the vision – execution deadlock : no clear strategy > no clear priorities for delivery > no predictable outputs > no clear strategy … and so on. As a result people feel overwhelmed with the issues and the problems they are facing, not knowing which one to start with as they all seem intricate.

How to break the deadlock ? I have seen Lean helping in fixing this while addressing both perspectives …

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