Tag Archives: agility

Review: How to survive the organizational revolution

9789063695217-480x600Ard-Pieter de Man, Pieter Koene and Martijn Ars wrote the book How to survive the organizational revolution – A guide to agile contemporary operating models, platforms and ecosystems. In this book you get an overview of the new organizational design landscape. Forget the business unit or matrix organization. Self-organized, dynamic and externally oriented structures replace hierarchical, stable and internally oriented structures.

The book is divided in three parts. The first part gives insights why there are new organizational model (needed)? Trends that affect the way we think about organization like the competition is driven by speed and innovation. The rise of information products replacing physical products. The focus on shared value and not on shareholder value. The existence of highly educated workforce and the integration of technologies.

On the other hand, the authors see several trends around organizational forms:

  • Departments are out; processes are in
  • Hierarchy is out; self-organization is in
  • Internal is out; external is in
  • Planning & control is out; experiment is in
  • Mechanistic is out; organic is in
  • Orders are out; information is in

Part two focuses on the different organizational models. You get a concise and practical analysis of new organizational models like holocracy, the Spotify model, the multidimensional organization, value proposition-based ecosystem, open source organizations and platform organizations fostering online ecosystems. For each model you get a practical analysis, practical examples, enlightening case studies and a deep dive in one or more related themes (excursion). In the analysis you get answers for the following four questions: how are tasks divided? How are tasks allocated to individuals? How are rewards provided to motivate people? And how is information provided so people can take the right decisions. Attached to each model you get a sort of ‘information leaflet’ like you get from your pharmacist when you pick up your medication. In this leaflet gives answers to items like problems solved, disadvantages, suitable for, not suitable for, key ingredients, risks and leadership.

The multidimensional organization

  • Balances several dimensions rather than only one or two
  • A manager is responsible for each dimension
  • Conflicts are solved and priorities are set based on profitability per client
  • Supported by one undisputed source of information and a collaborative culture

The Spotify model

  • Aims to speed up software development
  • It scales agile by using autonomous multifunctional teams (squads)
  • Each squad is part of a tribe (department focusing on a certain business issue)
  • Each squad member is part of a chapter. Chapter lead is their hierarchical boss
  • Model is suitable for software development, non-routine activities and requires a streamlined IT architecture


  • Radical decentralization of decision-making is achieved by grouping in a circle
  • The circle divides roles among individuals
  • Each employee can decide anything within her role, unless it affects somebody else’s role
  • A tension gets resolved via a structured meeting process in the circle, using consent decision-making
  • A circle and its next higher circle elect people to represent them in the other circle to ensure cross-circle alignment and a vertical flow of information

Value proposition-based ecosystem

  • Gather a limited set of firms around one value proposition
  • This value proposition can be aimed at one or more clients
  • As the value proposition is likely to change over time, managing the dynamics of these ecosystems is an important skill

Open source organizations

  • Are organizations in which volunteers develop a resource for the whole world to use
  • The main governance mechanisms are benevolent dictatorship, consensus based democracy and information transparency
  • Their strengths lies in the high motivation of the volunteers to contribute; their weakness in the lack of formal control mechanisms to ensure alignment
  • ‘Innersourcing’

Platform organizations: fostering online ecosystems

  • Offers a set of shared assets that can easily be recombined into diverse applications
  • Require a high level of internal transparency
  • Complementors are organizations that make use of platforms to develop their own apps, services or products
  • The ecosystem of complementors participates in the decision-making around the platform
  • Are typical for an online world but occur offline as well

QRC (organizational forms, 191122) v1.0To download: QRC (organizational forms, 191122) v1.0

The final part puts the dark side, the internal governance and what it means if you select, tailor or combine one of these models in the spotlights.

In the dark side the authors elaborate on the limits of new organizational forms like the totalitarian organization and the privacy/performance tradeoff, disappearing middle management, the algorithm says you are fired being permanently in Beta, norms and values as totem poles, systems as straitjackets, the information overload and best practice sharing.

Another topic of the dark side is the institutional challenge. How to cope with labor relations (the (in)equality paradox) and corporate governance (the responsibility paradox).

Internal governance gives answers how you can replace planning and control by reducing the coordination load (modularization, information sharing, internalized behavior, procedures and processes, role-based coordination). By using new techniques like discovery driven planning (testing of assumptions), Quarterly Business Reviews, Obeyas meetings and gamification. Using budgeting and resource allocation, the Spotify rhythm and use expertise and advice for decision-making. And last but not least how to move from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation of your people. In the deep dive an explanation of three HR trends to support the new models like an increased emphasis on developing the skills of employees, more use of vision and values as a coordination mechanism and an increasing objectivity in human resource processes.

The last chapter shows what happens if you copy/paste one of the models for your own organization in terms of a mismatch with overall objectives, type of work, organizational interdependencies, size of the organization and to organizational culture and leadership. You have to see each model as a source of inspiration. You have to tailor the organizational forms to your own context and needs (tribe size, co-location, self-service) or create your own hybrid structure as mix of two or more forms. To support your thinking you get an overview of the unique characteristics and applicability of all models

Conclusion. A great book to understand what is happening in the world of organizational design and it will help to understand if, and if yes which organizational model or a mix of these models is appropriate as a guide to design your own organizational model.

To order: How to survive the organizational revolution

Youtube: Ard-Pieter de Man – Agile for Excellence: Agile Ecosystems @ Leiden University


A Bird’s eye view on the agile forest article published on PM World Journal

The PM World Journal has published the latest version of my Bird’s eye view in the agile forest article. For sure there will updates in the coming months.

Some years ago, you could say “Scrum is agile” and ask “is agile Scrum?” Now we know there is much more flesh on the bones. At this moment there are more than fifty known and less known agile approaches, frameworks or methods available. To get a first impression of the different approaches, I try to bring some structure in the jungle to approaches, methods and frameworks. In Figure 1, I position the best-known agile approaches in a structure. The approaches, frameworks or methods are positioned within the ‘One-time programs / projects’ sections or within ‘Business as usual’ / indefinite, or both.Agile (50 shades of grey Clarity User Society, 191105) v1.0On the other side the approaches, frameworks or methods are clustered around team, product or programme and portfolio level. In the dark blue boxes in Figure 1 we see agile approaches that are only applicable in IT-focused organizations. All other approaches can be used within IT and non-IT-oriented organizations (light blue coloured). I haven’t mapped all the known approaches, frameworks and methods in this figure, and to be honest, I think there is a lot of duplication and probably commercial drivers play a role too to ‘develop’ the next kid on the block without added value in comparison with the existing approaches, frameworks or methods

Have a look for the latest version: Portman, H. (2019). A bird’s eye view on the agile forest; PM World Journal, Vol. VIII, Issue X, November


Review Brave New Work

9780241361801-480x600In his book Brave new work, Aaron Dignan shows how he views evolutionary (agile) organizations and what you can do to become a more agile organization.

The book is made up of three parts. The first part – The future of our work shows how our work has changed as a result of technological progress and on the other hand that for many organizations this does not apply to management. An organization chart of an organization from 100 years ago is still comparable with many organizations of today. But there are also organizations that do it completely different. The illusion of control is exchanged for something much better. The author calls these pioneering organizations evolutionary organizations. Evolutionary organizations are people positive and complexity conscious and use these mindsets to collectively and continuously improve their shared operating system (how the organization works).

Based on comments throughout the book, evolutionary organizations can be characterized as follows:

  • grow without losing the culture they love
  • work fewer hours but get more done
  • protect the planet but maintain outsized profitability
  • create prosperity, not just for their shareholders but for employees, customers, and communities
  • know that if you treat people like mercenaries, they will become mercenaries. Treat them like all-stars and they will become all-stars
  • aspire to eudaemonic purpose-missions that enable human flourishing
  • ensure that everyone has the freedom and autonomy to serve the organization’s purpose
  • focus on their value-creation structure
  • favor units or “cells” of 10 to 150 people who are self-sufficient
  • are transparent
  • have a responsive structure in place
  • Have a certain level of maturity and competence
  • make better decisions faster
  • anyone can make a big decision, but first they must seek advice from colleagues who have experience with or will be affected by their choice
  • allocate resources dynamically
  • form and disband teams fluidly
  • innovate both product and process
  • converge on twelve domains (the OS canvas)

This last point, evolutionary organizations converge on twelve domains, is elaborated in part two – The operating system. These twelve domains form the Operating System Canvas (OS canvas).

The OS Canvas:

  • PURPOSE: How we orient and steer; the reason for being at the heart of any organization, team, or individual.
  • AUTHORITY: How we share power and make decisions; the right to make decisions and take action, or to compel others to do the same.
  • STRUCTURE: How we organize and team; the anatomy of the organization; formal, informal, and value-creation networks.
  • STRATEGY: How we plan and prioritize; the process of identifying critical factors or challenges and the means to overcome them.
  • RESOURCES: How we invest our time and money; the allocation of capital, effort, space, and other assets.
  • INNOVATION: How we learn and evolve; the creation of something new; the evolution of what already exists.
  • WORKFLOW: How we divide and do the work; the path and process of value creation.
  • MEETINGS: How we convene and coordinate; the many ways members and teams come together.
  • INFORMATION: How we share and use data; the flow of data, insight, and knowledge across the organization.
  • MEMBERSHIP: How we define and cultivate relationships; the boundaries and conditions for entering, inhabiting, and leaving teams and organizations.
  • MASTERY: How we grow and mature; the journey of self-discovery and development; our approach to nurturing talent, skills, and competence.
  • COMPENSATION: How we pay and provide; the ages, salaries, bonuses, commissions, benefits, perquisites, profits, and equity exchanged for participation in the organization.

QRC (Brave new work EN, 191101) v1.0To download: QRC (Brave new work EN, 191101) v1.0

Each domain of the OS canvas is further elaborated in its own chapter. You get an extensive explanation based on concrete examples. Many to be applied techniques and step-by-step plans are provided too. In addition, you will receive for each domain a questionnaire that can be put to the entire organization or to individual teams. The canvas can provoke incredible conversations and powerful stories to determine which elements in your culture need to be strengthened and what needs to be done differently. Each chapter is concluded with an explanation of the two mindsets. How can you incorporate a people positive and complexity conscious mindset in the domain described?

In the third part – The change, the central question is how an operating system transformation works. This is based on a continuous participatory change. Within this continuous participatory change are six important patterns (Do not mistake these for steps. They’re more akin to thresholds):

  • Commitment: When those with power or influence commit to moving beyond bureaucracy (autonomy, consent, transparency)
  • Boundaries: When a liminal space is created and protected
  • Priming: When the invitation to think and work differently is offered (complexity, emergence, self-organization, organizational debt, agility, leanness, motivation, self-awareness, mastery, trust, generative difference, psychological safety, and more)
  • Looping: When change is decentralized and self-management begins (sensing tensions, proposing practices, and conducting experiments)
  • Criticality: When the system has tipped and there’s no going back
  • Continuity: When continuous participatory change is a way of life, and the organization is contributing to the broader community of practice (the role of the leader: creating space, holding space).

Conclusion: A book that shows what it means to achieve more business agility without getting bogged down in a description of implementing a (scaling) agile framework, because that alone won’t get you there. A must read for managers, with many practical tools to get started.

To order: Brave New Work

Youtube: Talk at Google: We were joined by Aaron Dignan, the founder of The Ready, an organization design and transformation firm, and author of “Brave New Work” to discuss better ways of working and how to ignite the energy in an organization, building a company that runs itself.

Zie verder mijn blog voor een recensie van de Nederlandse uitgave.

Review: Exponential organizations

9781626814233-480x600Salim Ismail wrote, together with Yuri van Geest and Michael S. Malone, Exponential organizations – Why new organizations are ten times better, faster, and cheaper than yours (and what to do about it). These exponential organizations are able to show an exponential growth curve due to the integral application of communities, big data, smart algorithms and new, innovative technologies. The authors used research into hundreds of startups and interviews with CEO’s of the fast-growing companies (Airbnb, Netflix, Tesla, Waze, et cetera).

The book consists of two parts and an introduction. The first part explores the characteristics and implications of exponential organizations. The second part deals with the practical implementation and future vision of these organizations. You get tools to implement the exponential organization model in your own organization too.

Moore’s law will be known to many. Every eighteen months the price / performance of computing power doubles. And this has already been applicable for the last sixty years. However, this exponential doubling is much more common, but predicting a technology when it doubles is always dangerous. The Human Genome Project was set up in 1990 with the aim of completely unraveling a single human genome. According to various predictions, the project would take 15 years and cost $ 6 million. Every expert called the project a failure in 1997, pointing out that if only 1 percent were unraveled in 1997, it would take seven hundred years for the entire genome to be mapped. According to Ray Kurzweil, the 1% meant they were halfway. Double 1% seven times was 100%. The project was completed in 2001!

Almost by definition, exponential organizations (ExOs) all think big and this is reflected in the higher ambitious goal of the organization. The massive transformative purpose (MTP) statement is formulated for this purpose.

QRC (ExO EN, 191021) v1.0To download: QRC (ExO EN, 191021) v1.0

ExO’s are described by five external (SCALE) and five internal (IDEAS) elements. To classify as an ExO you need to have a Massive Transformation Purpose (MTP) and at least 3-4 of the ExO-elements. In the appendix you can find a questionnaire to calculate your own exponential score. SCALE- and IDEAS-elements are self-reinforcing and integrating.

The external elements (SCALE) to improve your performance are: Staff on demand, Community & Crowd, Algorithms, Leveraged assets, Engagement. ExOs scale up beyond the boundaries of their own organization by using or gaining access to people, assets and platforms to maximize flexibility, speed, agility and learning processes.

In addition, the controlling framework of the five internal elements (IDEAS) is described, which manages the abundant output of the external SCALE elements: Interfaces, Dashboards, Experimentation, Autonomy, Social.

In addition to the aforementioned characteristics, the authors have determined nine key dynamics at play for the ExO ecosystem:

  1. Information accelerates everything
  2. Drive to demonetization
  3. Disruption is the new norm
  4. Beware the “expert”
  5. Death to the five-year plan
  6. Smaller beats bigger
  7. Rent, don’t own
  8. Trust beats control, open beats closed
  9. Everything is measurable and anything is knowable.

In the second part the authors explain how to start an ExO by using examples and they offer a step-by-step plan:

  1. Select a massive transformative purpose (MTP)
  2. Join or create relevant MTP communities
  3. Compose a team
  4. Breakthrough idea
  5. Build a Business Model Canvas
  6. Find a business model
  7. Build the MVP
  8. Validate marketing and sales
  9. Implement SCALE and IDEAS
  10. Establish the culture
  11. Ask key questions periodically
  12. Building and maintaining a platform.

In addition to setting up, attention is also paid to how you can grow an organization in the mid-market company segment, exponentially. Through examples from TED, GitHub, Coyote Logistics, Studio Roosegaarde, GoPro and how they score on the ExO elements, you get a good overview of what is possible. Finally, a number of strategies are discussed with which large organizations can align themselves with ExO concepts while retaining their core activities transform leadership, partner with, invest in or acquire ExOs, disrupt and implement ExO lite internally.

By using examples from Bridgewater, Coca-Cola, Haier, Xiaomi, The Guardian, GE, Amazon, Zappos, Tangerine, and Google Ventures, among others, the authors explain how these strategies have been put into practice by showing their exponential score. The book concludes with a chapter on exponential executives including the CEO, CMO, CFO, CTO / CIO, Chief Data Officer (CDO), Chief Innovation Officer (CIO), COO, Chief Legal Officer (CLO), and the CHRO.

Conclusion. Is this era of agile transitions, a must read for senior management to understand that scaling of agile teams is not enough to survive in this twenty first century? The book offers a practical framework to experiment with one or more of the ExO elements.

To order: Exponential organizations

See my blog for the Dutch translation of this book.

Heart of Agile: a missing tree in my bird’s eye view on the agile forest

heart of agileOn linkedIn I received a remark that the Heart of Agile was missing in my bird’s eye view (kudos to Milvio D.).

The Heart of Agile is a radically simpler approach to achieve outstanding outcomes. The founder is Dr. Alistair Cockburn, one of the Agile Manifesto co-authors.

Whatever your initiative, it involves changing the world just a little bit. The world, however, is remarkably resistant to interventions. The best ideas fail because of misunderstandings of how the world will react, or because of errors in implementation.

The Heart of Agile simplifies two decades of practice into four critical imperatives that amplify your effectiveness:

  • Collaborate (collaboration, trust): closely with others to generate and develop better starting ideas. Communicate often to smooth transitions.
  • Deliver (learning, income): small probes initially to learn how the world really works. Expand deliveries as you learn to predict and influence outcomes.
  • Improve (experiment, change): the direction of your ideas, their technical implementation, and your internal processes.
  • Reflect (insights, improvements): periodically, along the way. Think about what you’ve learned in your collaboration and from your deliveries.

See https://heartofagile.com for more detailed information.

In my bird’s eye view I positioned the Heart of Agile in the culture-targeted box.

Dia25See my blog for the complete Bird’s eye view on the agile forest article.


Agendashift, a new tree in the agile forest

logo_loresI thought I now covered all agile ways of working but I failed (again). I found a new one. This time it’s Agendashift. A 21st century modern engagement model (developed by Mike Burrows) that is needs-based, outcome-oriented, continuous and open to help organizations grow wholeheartedness.

The model Agendashift does:

  • Help the change agent structure their engagement with their client organisation and its staff
  • help the client organization engage its staff meaningfully in change-related work
  • Help the transforming parts of the organization engage constructively with the rest of the organization, so that both will thrive.

overview 16x10

Agendashift is based on five principles:

  1. Start with needs
  2. Agree on outcomes
  3. Keep the agenda for change visible
  4. Manage options, testing assumptions
  5. organize for clarity of intent, speed of decision-making, and alignment of impact (mutual accountability).

in Agendashift we see five activities:

  1. Discovery (where we would like to go: remember the future, 5W, True North, 15-minute FOTO, Clean language)
  2. Exploration (prospecting for opportunities: 15-minute FOTO, Clean language, Cynefin)
  3. Mapping (plans & priorities visualized: (User) Story mapping, reverse STATIK, impact mapping, X-matrix)
  4. Elaborating (framing actions, testing our thinking: hypothesis-based change, Lean Startup, A3, Cynefin)
  5. Operation (change as real work: Lean Startup, Kanban, Scrum).

On the Agendashift website you can find more details, set-ups of workshops, templates, books, et cetera.

In my bird’s eye view in the agile forest I added Agileshift in the Culture-targeted box.

Agile (50 shades of gray Clarity User Society, 191105) v1.0

See my bird’s eye view blog for the complete article.

SAFe 5.0 brief preview

In the beginning of 2020, a new version of SAFe will be available. It’s, as usual, fully backward compatible with SAfe 4.6, allowing a smooth migration.

There are now seven core competencies that enable business agility. Some are reframed and restructured and two new competencies to expand SAFe to encompass the entire enterprise and enable business agility. See the new SAFe big picture.

SAFE50The two new competencies are: Continuous Learning Culture (CLC) and Organizational Agility (OA).

Continuous Learning Culture is based on three dimensions: Learning Organization (shared vision, systems thinking, mental models, team learning, personal mastery), Relentless Improvement (constant sense of danger, optimize the whole, problem solving culture, reflect at key milestones, fact based improvement), and Innovation Culture (innovative people, time & space, go see, experimentation & feedback, pivot without mercy or guilt, innovation riptides).

The three dimensions of Organizational Agility are: Lean-thinking people and agile teams (house of lean, SAfe principles, Agile Manifesto), Lean Business Operations (process time – delay time – process time) and Strategy Agility.

The old competence DevOps and Release on Demand is now called Agile Product Delivery. Here we see Develop on Cadence, Release on Demand, DevOps and the Continuous Delivery Pipeline. New is Customer Centricity (understand: market research, design: user research) and Design thinking within the Agile Product Delivery competency.

Enterprise’s business teams are now ‘on the train’ and participate in delivering and supporting innovative business solutions. These teams adopt the Lean and Agile values, principles and practices.

A tenth SAFe principle is added: Organize around value. This principle is based on Kotter’s ‘dual operating system’ as described in his book XLR8 – Accelerate. Building strategic agilty for a faster moving world. See my review.

If I look at my bird’s eye view on the agile forest, I have repositioned SAFe to emphasize that SAFe is now covering, within the product-level, the product-targeted as well as the culture-targeted selection.

Birds eye viewSee the Bird’s eye view on the agile forest blog for the complete article.

See the Scaled Agile website for more information on SAFe 5.0