Sunday, November 27, 2016

Let’s be Pirates... or Privateers

I've written a lot about self-organization lately and how difficult it is to garner the right ‘amount’ of self organization.

An interesting side-note was brought to me at a dinner conversation in a dark and shady tavern by sea, illuminated by the flickering light of the candles while the sea roared on the cliffs and a chilly wind... oops ... sorry... I got carried away.

The side-note has to with pirates though. Or, more to the point, with privateers and how self-motivation and extrinsic motivation can go hand in hand.

It has often be quoted that the real pirates of the Caribbean where amongst the first in modern times to have democratic organizations. For example the captain - although master over life and death during his tenure – was actually elected and the loot – pardon me, the prize) – was divided fairly (not evenly!) amongs those who participated in the venture.

But there is another aspect that I failed to see earlier. From what my friend told me, one of the reasons for the demise of the once great armada was the utilization of small independent, autonomously acting, self-motivated units. Privateers. Though historically this was certainly not the only reason the idea has a strong resonance with me and it nicely ties in with a lot of modern management approaches.

  • The privateers did what they loved to do. (The love for the seas amongst sailors is proverbial. And privateers – unlike the official Navy – were not in the habit of pressing people to service) => Purpose
  • The better they were, the more rewarding hires were available and the higher the compensations were => Mastery
  • If the results of their actions fitted within the Letter of marque the privateers were at liberty to do whatever they deemed necessary or helpful. (No dress-code, no imposed rules on how to change the guard etc.) => Autonomy

When I look at Privateers this way, they really have a lot in common with modern teams – although they usually had a way more grim work than our teams have nowadays.

Nonetheless the autonomous teams overthrew their centrally organized counterpart by a huge margin. Despite the fact that they were heavily outnumbered. I see some similarities with modern organizations.

till next time
  Michael Mahlberg

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Why self-organization is not like ’60 paces’ ::spoiler alert::

There is this game that people play during agile trainings called ‘60 paces’.

It is well known and shows how much more efficient self-organization is compared to a command and control environment.

I'll leave out the details of the game here. You can look them up on via the link above, but if you haven't played the game yet, you would be depriving yourself of a great learning opportunity by looking it up. Allow yourself to be surprised, I think you will get much more out of it that way.

So this is more like an inside blogpost for people who have either played or conducted the game in the past.

In my opinion there is one thing missing in the game – a round zero. Where you just let people do whatever they want for two minutes. And ask the control questions (see game description) afterwards.

Then continue playing as described in the original description.

From my point of view this approach illustrates one aspect that is not addressed by the original simulation and which is also very often forgotten in naive lean and agile implementations:

Without a known and clear unifying goal there will be no progress towards any goal.

till next time
  Michael Mahlberg