måndag 25 mars 2013

Anything beyond the savannah is a loss

(I got some great feedback on this posting in Swedish: Allt bortom savannen är en förlust so I decided to translate it into English so that my friends outside of the country can comment on it too.)

Me and my partner-in-crime Jeff is writing a book that is to be used as course-material in the courses that we offer in cooperation with Informator (introduction to agile, agile leadership, product owners, scrum teams, kanban teams, scrum mastery/coaching, scaling agile).

As we don't sit in each others' laps when we write, we have to write different parts of the book. Right now, while Jeff is fiddling with a chapter on different agile practises, I have started to write the chapter on teams. It will be a chapter focusing rather heavily on group dynamics and neuro psychology, because those theories are needed if you want to think correctly about teams. But it occurred to me that the fundamental perspective is rather simple. It is a perspective I always use in my courses and coaching when it comes to the part about teams:

Anything beyond the savannah is a loss.

You can talk a lot about how a person finds their role within a team, how the team grows into self organization, how cognitive stress affects our ability to do creative work, how much information we lose when we use different forms of communication etc. etc. Science and studies are occupied with this, as we speak. And it is important that we - if we want our ways of working to remain smooth - make sure that they are synchronized with what science knows about human beings. But as a rule-of-thumb, this will take us a long way:

Anything beyond the savannah is a loss.

We are created to act in small, self-organizing teams of hunters/gatherers who work tightly together. We see each other face-to-face when we speak about our common goal and how to get there. We won't let our minds be occupied with more than a handful of things. The challenges and our goal ahead are specific. We stick together and support each other. We are standing next to the (cave) wall and draws what we want to achieve, so that everything becomes focused and crystal-clear. We trust each other, because the savannah is full of stuff that can't be trusted.

But this The Office parody we live in, a parody of abstract goals, messy documentation in large binders, no clear goals stated on the walls, large organizations with people you don't really know, collaboration with units on other continents where you don't even know what the people's names are or if they have kids or what they want from life, mistrust and passive aggressive language; all such things are taking us further away from what we really are: a group of hunters/gatherers on the savannah in north east Africa.

The sixth lean principle goes: Respect people! That includes more than just being polite. It is about understanding and conform to the fact that we are human beings, with cognitive abilities designed for another reality than destructive corporate culture. The smooth ways of working, let them be called lean or agile, are in a way a mission to bring us back to a way of work and be in accordance of what we really are designed for!

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