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How to unsuck (big) organizations


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Conventional wisdom dictates that the bigger companies are, the slower and less effective they operate. Hence, corporations adopt agile and lean, they flatten their hierarchies and urge their employees to "fail". And still, many are utterly missing the point. What does it really take for complex organizations to act quickly and decisively?

Published in: Leadership & Management
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How to unsuck (big) organizations

  1. 1. How to unsuck Big Organizations Hamburg (UX Roundtable), 02.09.2019 Customer value & business success without all the hassle Shared under Creative Commons (CC-BY-ND).
  2. 2. Anger. Frustration. . Heroism. Burnout. It‘s us against them.
  3. 3. 3 I got you covered! Source: Shutterstock
  4. 4. 4
  5. 5. 5 „Elitist Crap?“ !
  6. 6. Agility (a dog sport)
  7. 7. 77
  8. 8. One fat hairy part of the problem is this:
  9. 9. "I know more about courts than any human being on Earth. "I know more about people who get ratings than anyone. "I know more about ISIS than the generals do. "Nobody knows more about trade than me. "I know more about renewables than any human being on Earth. "I think nobody knows more about taxes than I do, maybe in the history of the world.
  10. 10. No, of course not Trump! But the archetypical MANAGER. (Sometimes even called Leader.) Anyway, this is cool:
  11. 11. 1111 „It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.“ Steve Jobs Photo by MatthewYohe
  12. 12. 1212
  13. 13. 13 Anyway. We need to think systemic and face an uneasy truth. !"#$# %& '()*+,-#.)/"0# #- 1-23(42"
  14. 14. Companies are complex social systems. Big companies more so.
  15. 15. Social Systems are messy. Self Persistent Intransparent Unpredictable
  16. 16. Ever tried to get a timely reaction from a complex social system?
  17. 17. The truth is … It is actually possible to have very nimble, very effective big organizations.
  18. 18. The Napoleonic Wars 18 A contest of different organizational models Prussia " Centralized decision making " Mercenaries (low motivation) " High tactical competence (extensive drill) 18 France " Decentralized, highly dynamic action " Conscripts (high motivation) " Unexperienced, unskilled
  19. 19. Somewhat like incumbents vs. startups 19
  20. 20. 20
  21. 21. 21 Militär-Reorganisationskommission, Königsberg 1807
  22. 22. 2222 No plan survives first contact with the enemy. “No plan of operations can extend with any degree of certainty beyond the first encounter with the enemy’s main body.“ (Helmuth von Moltke the Elder)
  23. 23. 23
  24. 24. 24
  25. 25. 25
  26. 26. 26
  27. 27. The three gaps of achieving collective purpose 27 Depiction based on Stephen Bungay, The Art of Action
  28. 28. 3031
  29. 29. Alignment Gap Knowledge Gap Effect Gap Alignment Gap Alignment Gap
  30. 30. 3232 “Very expensive robots”
  31. 31. 3333
  32. 32. 34 Command & Control Hierarchy " Slow to react and adapt " Crititical information loss " Single point of failure (top leader) Autonomous Teams " Complex communication " Laborious decision process " No central point of alignment
  33. 33. 35
  34. 34. 36
  35. 35. 37
  36. 36. 38 Alignment enables Autonomy
  37. 37. 39 ! What (to achieve) and why? ! How? Auftragstaktik (Mission Command) Instead of precise orders communicate intents and purposes “Do not command more than is necessary, or plan beyond the circumstances you can foresee.” Leave the concrete solution to the experts “... an order should contain all, but also only, what subordinates cannot determine for themselves to achieve a particular purpose.” (Helmuth von Moltke the Elder)
  38. 38. 40 We are on a mission! 40 What: Save Private Ryan! Why: Avoid further morale issues at home. How: Left to the team (within certain constraints). Alignment Autonomy
  39. 39. XING „Auftragsklärung“ 41 Practiced and refined by XING since 2015 Framework for Collaborative Alignment Talk: Structured discussion of new product initiatives " Aligning the product team and stakeholders " Enabling more autonomy for the product team (”Autonomy through alignment”)
  40. 40. Cascading strategic intent („Briefing“) 42 How to mission-command the whole organization "The strategy of the organization cascades down as strategic intents: " What to achieve? " Why? "The org unit decides on the how.
  41. 41. Aligning understanding („Backbriefing“) 43 Tell me what and why, and I will tell you how "The org unit breaks down the strategic intent into tasks („how“). "Tasks and possible impediments are discussed with the manager („backbriefing“) "Once agreed, the tasks become the „what“ of the next level.
  42. 42. 44 Photo by Mahir Uysal on Unsplash Where to go from here?
  43. 43. 45
  44. 44. 46 Explore and iterate to success
  45. 45. 47 How do insights get back “up“? How to avoid rigid plans?
  46. 46. 48 Strategyprovides direction. Photo by Wolfgang Rottmann on Unsplash
  47. 47. Strategy ≠ Plan Strategy = A framework for decision making. Central idea(s) giving direction and focus.
  48. 48. 50 1st Advice Plan less, Strategyze more §Invite active and open discussion of company strategy. §Actively assure that everybody in the organization understands their part in the strategy. §Communicate strategic intents instead of detailed plans. §Use backbriefing and other formats to enable insights to trickle up to management. Refine strategy, if necessary.
  49. 49. 51 2nd Advice Develop a culture of granting and taking responsibility L. David Marquet: Leader – Follower Leader – Leader
  50. 50. Action is frozen Mercenaries self-optimize Leading by choking 52
  51. 51. Action is frozen Mercenaries self-optimize Leading by choking 53 Leading by choking Mercenaries self-self-self optimize Humble Leader Competent Missionary Structure & Process " Emphatic " Integrative " Growth Mindset " Competence " Initiative " Personal Maturity* (aka Team Player) " Support efficacy over efficiency * See
  52. 52. 54 3rd Advice Do not rely on heroes Bad alignment is often compensated by hero roles: §Project Manager (in former times) §Product Manager §Also: Designer, DevOps, Hero Developer etc. è Burning out some of your best resources. è “Lateral Leadership” will not resolve organizational issues.
  53. 53. „The intelligence of an organization is never equal to the sum of the intelligence of the people within it.“ Stephen Bungay
  54. 54. 56 I dare you to make it greater.
  55. 55. You still got questions? 57 @minutefforts / @Anstrengungslos
  56. 56. Further Reading Where to go from here, if I peaked your interest. 58
  57. 57. Meine Artikelserie bei 59 Der bald erscheinende zweite Artikel beschäftigt sich mit Management und Strategie als Voraussetzung für modernes Produktdesign. Einige der Konzepte dieses Vortrags werden hier vertieft diskutiert. das-naechste-jahrzehnt-teil-1-produktdesign- prozesse-im-agilen-kontext/ Thema „Moderne Designprozesse“ Sorry, German only
  58. 58. Books developing central concepts of this talk
  59. 59. Books about product management facilitating the concepts of this talk 61
  60. 60. What is strategy? 62 " 5 Myths About Strategy, Stephen Bungay " The Big Lie of Strategic Planning, Roger L. Martin " Can You Say What Your Strategy Is?, David J. Collis and Michael G. Rukstad " How to Run a Quarterly Product Strategy Meeting: A Board Meeting for Product, Gibson Biddle meeting-for-product-3a14c4d53d1b And what is it not? – Some articles about strategy
  61. 61. Empowering teams, developing people 63 " Empowered Product Teams, Marty Cagan + (talk at mtp) How to shift responsibility and initiative down to the edge
  62. 62. Backup 64
  63. 63. Strategy is layered Based on Build Trap by Melissa Perri - created by Charles Lambdin
  64. 64. This may sound familiar … 66 Jeff Gotthelf "Output over Outcome! "Stop shipping features "Escape the Build Trap! Melissa Perri John Cutler "Feature Factory "Success Theatre
  65. 65. 67 The two modes of an employer Activity All stuff not creating value for the company and/or the customer. If this gets bad, people start to run in autopilot. Getting from 9am to 5pm as painless as possible. Doing stupid things without questioning the status quo. Action Creating the most value possible in the given situation. People know the companies intent and are allowed to figure out the best possible way they can support it.They feel empowered and effective.