Self-Organization & Subtle Control: Friends or Enemies?


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Self-Organization & Subtle Control: Friends or Enemies?

  1. 1. Self-Organizing & Subtle Control:Friends or Enemies?19 October 2009Mike Cohn1
  2. 2. © 2003–2009 Mountain Goat Software®®What is a self-organizing team?Self-organizing does not meanthe team gets to decide what goal they pursueor even necessarily who is on the teamSelf-organizing is about the team determininghow they will respond to their environmentenvironment)2
  3. 3. ® © 2003–2009 Mountain Goat Software®Complex adaptive systemsA dynamic network of many agentsacting in parallelacting and reacting to what other agents aredoingControl is highly dispersed and decentralizedOverall system behavior is the result of a hugenumber of decisions made constantly by manyagentsA CAS is characterized by:John Holland in Complexity:The Emerging Scienceat the Edge of Order and Chaos by Mitchell Waldrop3
  4. 4. © 2003–2009 Mountain Goat Software®®Some examplesAnt colony or bee hiveFlock of geese heading southUs right nowA crowd batched up to get into a concert orsporting eventA family preparing, eating, and cleaning up after amealCars and drivers on the highwayA software team4
  5. 5. © 2003–2009 Mountain Goat Software®®Control is not evilSimple rules or incentives are used to guide ordirect behavior“Drive this direction and on this side on thehighway.”For bioteams, these are provided by nature“Produce honey”For our teams,Rules and incentives can be added by managers orleaders...or in some cases by team members5
  6. 6. ® © 2003–2009 Mountain Goat Software®~Philip Anderson, The Biology of BusinessSelf-organization does not mean that workersinstead of managers engineer an organization design.It does not mean letting people do whatever theywant to do. It means that management commits toguiding the evolution of behaviors that emerge fromthe interaction of independent agents instead ofspecifying in advance what effective behavior is.6
  7. 7. ® © 2003–2009 Mountain Goat Software®~Takeuchi & NonakaAlthough project teams are largely on theirown, they are not uncontrolled. Managementestablishes enough checkpoints to preventinstability, ambiguity, and tension from turninginto chaos.At the same time, management avoidsthe kind of rigid control that impairs creativityand spontaneity.“The New New Product Development Game”,Harvard Business Review, January 1986.7
  8. 8. ® © 2003–2009 Mountain Goat Software®~Peter DeGrace & Leslie StahlWicked Problems, Righteous SolutionsTo be sure,control is still exercised;but, it is subtleand much of it is indirect.8
  9. 9. © 2003–2009 Mountain Goat Software®®What this is notWe’re not talking aboutBeing deceptive or sneakyManipulating peopleNothing I’m going to advocate needs to besecretBut there may be reasons why you don’tbroadcast your reasons9
  10. 10. ® © 2003–2009 Mountain Goat Software®Two models of subtle controlContainers, Differences &Exchanges1Anderson’s Seven Levers210
  11. 11. ® © 2003–2009 Mountain Goat Software®A boundary within which self-organization occursCompany, project, team, city, role, nationalityContainerThere must be differences among the agents acting inour systemTechnical knowledge, domain knowledge, education,experience, power, genderDifferencesTransforming ExchangesAgents in the system interact and exchange resourcesInformation, money, energy (vision)Glenda Eoyang: Conditions for Self-Organizing in Human Systems11
  12. 12. © 2003–2009 Mountain Goat Software®®Using the CDE modelby altering the:Containersformal teams, informal teams, clarify (or not)expectationsDifferencesDampen or amplify them within or between containersExchangesInsert new exchanges, new people, new techniques ortools12
  13. 13. © 2003–2009 Mountain Goat Software®®ContainersEnlarge or shrink teamsEnlarge or shrink the responsibility boundaryof teamsChange team membershipCreate new teams or groups13
  14. 14. © 2003–2009 Mountain Goat Software®®DifferencesDon’t require consensusCreativity comes from tensiondebate that leads to behavior changeAsk hard questions14
  15. 15. © 2003–2009 Mountain Goat Software®®Transforming exchangesEncourage communication between teams andgroupsWho isn’t talking who should?Add or remove people from exchangesChange reporting relationshipsRelocate peopleCompliance with external groupsEncourage learning15
  16. 16. ® © 2003–2009 Mountain Goat Software®An ExampleWould you alter a Container, Difference orExchange in this case?The team consists of four developers, twotesters, a database engineer and you.Thedevelopers and testers are not workingwell together. Developers work in isolationuntil two days are left in the iteration.Theythen throw the code “over the wall” to thetesters.16
  17. 17. ® © 2003–2009 Mountain Goat Software®Two models of subtle controlContainers, Differences &Exchanges1Anderson’s Seven Levers217
  18. 18. © 2003–2009 Mountain Goat Software®®Self-organization is not something thathappens one timeA team is never done doing itThe team continually re-organizes in a sense-and-respond manner to its environmentAs you see the team self-organize you canWe can view this as the evolution of a teamThe self-organizing path18
  19. 19. ® © 2003–2009 Mountain Goat Software®~Philip AndersonSelf-organization proceeds from the premise thateffective organization is evolved, not designed. Itaims to create an environment in which successfuldivisions of labor and routines not only emerge butalso self-adjust in response to environmentalchanges.This happens because management sets upan environment and encourages rapid evolutionmastered the art of planning and monitoring“Seven Levers for Guiding the Evolving Enterprise,” inThe Biology of Business edited by John Henry Clippinger III.19
  20. 20. © 2003–2009 Mountain Goat Software®®Variation,selection & retentionEvolution is the result of three elements:Variation, selection and retentionConsider a giraffe:Variation: A random mutation that leads to a longer neckSelection: The long neck helps it reach food others can’t; so it it more likely to survive and breedRetention: The mutation is passed to its descendants20
  21. 21. © 2003–2009 Mountain Goat Software®®team evolution1. Selecting the external environment2.3. Managing meaning4. Choosing people5.6. Evolving vicarious selection systems7. Energizing the systemPhilip Anderson,“Seven Levers for Guiding the Evolving Enterprise.”21
  22. 22. © 2003–2009 Mountain Goat Software®®Select the external environmentMore than just the physical environmentWhat business are we in?(OK, maybe youcanThe company’s approach to innovationFast follower or innovator? Are mistakes OK? When?Types of projects worked on and the rate at whichthey are introduced to the organizationExpectations about multitasking and focus22
  23. 23. © 2003–2009 Mountain Goat Software®®Define performanceThe principle of selection tells us that the traits thathelp us survive will be the ones retainedManagers and leaders send messages about which traitsshould surviveWhat message is your organization sending about therelative importance of short vs. long-term performance?What messages are sent if the organization:Provides trainingSupports working at a sustainable paceAllows employees time to explore wild ideasDoesn’t exchange meeting a deadline for unmaintainable code23
  24. 24. © 2003–2009 Mountain Goat Software®®Manage meaningIndividuals in a CAS respond to the messages theyreceive; e.g.,bees responding to a “danger” messageants responding to a “food found over here” messageLeaders can push messages into the systeme.g., putting the the team in touch with customersOr keep messages outMeaning often comes from the stories, myths and ritualsthat are repeated“Our GM counts the cars in the lot every day at 5 PM”24
  25. 25. © 2003–2009 Mountain Goat Software®®Decision-making styleGenderMotivationEye colorChoose peopleorganizeAdjustSome people are like “glue” and pull a team togetherand keep it thereTeam sizeLocationBackgroundExperienceSkepticism25
  26. 26. © 2003–2009 Mountain Goat Software®®Reconfigure the networkCommunication paths (formal and informal) can bemore important than the individualsTo other teams, experts in the organization, customers26
  27. 27. ® © 2003–2009 Mountain Goat Software®US RussiaTeam 1 Team 2US RussiaTeam 1Team 2Reconfiguring the network fora global teamDistributed Scrum:Agile Project Management with Outsourced DevelopmentTeamsat HICSS 2007 by Jeff Sutherland, et al.27
  28. 28. © 2003–2009 Mountain Goat Software®®Evolve vicarious selection systemsVariation—Selection—RetentionSelection was determining which variations will be retainedCan take a long timeSo we often use vicarious selection systemsThis is an animal that can smell that a food is poisonous,rather than eating itUsing only the marketplace as our selection mechanismtakes too longOrganizations also evolve vicarious selection systemsRetrospectives, Google’s 20% policy, compensation28
  29. 29. © 2003–2009 Mountain Goat Software®®Energize the systemUnless energy is pumped into the system, entropy will set inMake sure the group has a “clear, elevating goal”† or an“igniting purpose”‡MotivationProject chartering:Vision box, press release, magazine review,elevator statementOpportunityTo learn, a bigger role, to go onto even better projects, and so onInformationCustomer visits, training, conferences, brown-bags†Larson and LaFasto: Teamwork and ‡Lynda Gratton: Hot Spots29
  30. 30. ® © 2003–2009 Mountain Goat Software®To:All Microsoft EmployeesSubject: Internet Tidal WaveThe Internet is a tidal wave. It changesthe rules. It is an incredible opportunityas well as an incredible challenge. I amlooking forward to your input on how wecan improve our strategy to continue ourtrack record of incredible success.May 25, 1995Bill G.30
  31. 31. © 2003–2009 Mountain Goat Software®®Mike Cohnmike@mountaingoatsoftware.comwww.mountaingoatsoftware.comtwitter: mikewcohn(720) 890−611031