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In February 2013, Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo, sent a memo to her employees saying that working from home was not acceptable anymore, and all Yahooâs remote workers would soon be expected to either relocate to the office or else quit their jobs. She said the main reason for this decision was that collaboration and communication are improved when people work together in the office, and when they can see each other face to face. Marissa Mayer was right.
She was also wrong. Plenty of research and case studies confirm that creative people who work remotely are on average more productive than their colleagues who work at the office. Marissa Mayerâs claim that âspeed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from homeâ might have been true for herself, or for some of Yahooâs employees, but in general this claim doesnât stand up to scientific scrutiny.
The answer to the question, âShould people work from home or in the office?â is as always, âIt depends.â People can be more creative on their own when they work remotely, but creativity is fruitless without a frequent gathering of minds and mixing of ideas. On the other hand, communication can be improved when people are collocated most of the time, but communication is useless without good productivity, which many people often best achieve alone. Somehow you must optimize both. Anyone who optimizes one over the other is missing the point.
The best approach for your organization is to find your own optimum. This includes instructing people to optimize both creativity and communication in ways they believe is best. It also means giving them the means for high-bandwidth communication across distances, in the form of Skype calls, Google hangouts, telepresence robots, and any other tools you can think of that include both audio and video.This text is part of Personal Maps, a Management 3.0 Workout article. Read more on myÂ mailing list.
The more I thought about the idea of walking around, the more I got the feeling that the practice is suboptimal. Years ago I realized that the concept of âbeing there where the work happensâ can be taken a step further. I solved it by picking up my stuff to go and sit with my team, at an ordinary desk, just like everyone else. It might have been the best management decision I ever made, vastly increasing the amount of social time I could enjoy with my team members.
Social time turns out to be deeply critical to team performance, often accounting for more than 50% of positive changes in communication patterns.
- Alex Pentland, âThe New Science of Building Great Teamsâ
After I had moved my desk, whatever happened, I was always around. This allowed me to pick up much more of what was going on, and understand much better what other people cared about. They regularly asked for my opinion, when otherwise they only did this when I happened to be walking around. And I picked up signs of joy and frustration, which I wouldnât have noticed if I had not been there. This convinced me that MBSA (Management by Sitting Around) can sometimes beat both MBWA and MBFA.
Interestingly enough, not everyone is of the same opinion. Richard Branson, the famous founder and chairman of the Virgin Group, has always practiced the opposite approach. He prefers not to sit with his management teams, because in his view this could inhibit their creativity and self-reliance. Instead, he prefers to leave them to their own devices most of the time, but guarantees regular face-time with everyone by flying around all the time.
But of course, thatâs easy to do when you have your own airlines.This text is part of Personal Maps, a Management 3.0 Workout article. Read more on myÂ mailing list.
The advice to walk around in the organization is often presented under the Japanese name Gemba, which says that one ought to be there where people are working, in order to understand how well they can do their jobs and what they need from you. But you also do it to help solve any problems people might have, using facts and not assumptions.
Other names you may find in literature are Genchi Genbutsu, Go and See, Face-time, and Management By Walking Around. And, in the case of distributed teams, this could easily become Management By Flying Around (MBFA). The practice has more names than His Majesty King Willem-Alexander Claus George Ferdinand, King of the Netherlands, Prince of Orange-Nassau, etc. etc. Therefore you can assume it is pretty important.
Make face-to-face employee contact part of everyday life in your office. The Australian term for it is âgoing walkaboutâ; many business management consultants call it âmanagement by walking aroundâ. Whatever you call it, it works, and if you and your senior staff arenât doing it, you are missing out on one of the most inexpensive and effective management tools around.
- Richard Branson, Like a Virgin
Some experts suggest that, when moving around the people that are important to you, you should not follow a strict schedule, but you should try and do this randomly. You listen to them, talk to them, consult them, and advise them. At random moments you may decide to attend a teamâs planning meeting, stand-up meeting, or demo meeting, or you may catch them near the water cooler. It is important that you do not give the impression you are checking on them, because your aim is better communication and understanding, not better instruction. Itâs about managing, not programming. And face-time doesnât have to focus on just work. Social time (during lunch breaks, near the coffee machine, and after work hours) counts as well.This text is part of Personal Maps, a Management 3.0 Workout article. Read more on myÂ mailing list.
At the start of the year I wrote about 5 Things I Will Change in 2013. One of them concerned the delegation of more Management 3.0 courses to co-trainers. Since that post I co-trained with Mads Troels Hansen (in Denmark), Kai Simons (in Poland), and Mischa Ramseyer (in Italy), and next week it will be with Jason Little and FranĂ§ois Beauregard (in Canada). I am so pleased with the outcome (more free time, richer discussions, less stress) that the courses in Singapore, Sydney and Auckland (end of June/early July) will be the last courses I will do by myself. I will practice what I preach by delegating almost everything to theÂ 50+ licensed facilitators.
I also wrote I would be delegating more creative work to more people, by âgrowing a business network, a community of entrepreneurs working together under one nameâ. Well, Happy Melly was launched not long after that, and by this time already dozens of facilitators, business owners, freelancers, and other stakeholders are involved in running business experiments together in a true lean startup fashion. Work has started on a few apps, videos, books, and of course, a conference. Iâm sure you will see more results soon. And if not, weâll share stories of our inspiring failures. :-)
All these activities have made me decide to invest in an online system for Happy Melly. It's job will be to help us keep track of entities, stakeholders, facilitators, licenses, brands, content, translations, events, courses, certificates, customers, apps, and more... Right now I have such data spread all over websites, spreadsheets, Word files, wiki pages, etc. and I'm afraid it's going to explode soon. (Or else my own head will explode!) Therefore, I am looking for a supplier to whom I can delegate the creation of such a platform. What I will be looking for in a supplier:
And just to be clear: I want the company as a whole to be qualified, not just individual people. It will become a very important piece of software for me, therefore (in this case) I require a supplier with a proven track record of working as a team. Freelancers and startups donât need to apply for this particular project.
Your suggestions are appreciated.Â
In case you didnât know yet, I post plenty of interesting links to other peopleâs blog posts and magazine articles via the social network streams of Management 3.0 on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.
To give you an idea:
Networked Individuals Trump Organizations (Harold Jarche) http://ow.ly/lqd6U
Why Everyone Is an Entrepreneur Now (Inc.) http://ow.ly/lqcV0
How to Lead When You're Not in Charge (HBR) http://ow.ly/lqcRl
Why We Shouldn't Be Surprised That Managers Don't Embrace Complexity (Forbes) http://ow.ly/lplCg
Shifting the Learning Zone (The Lean Thinker) http://ow.ly/lkvLp
Agile is Not Democracy (Business Craftsmanship) http://ow.ly/lhzZN
Memo to CEOs: Your Workforce Can Handle the Truth (Build) http://ow.ly/lhzFw
Itâs Official: Unhappy Employees = Corruption and Fraud (Quarz) http://ow.ly/lezoa
What Value Creation Will Look Like in the Future (HBR) http://ow.ly/lc2el
Why Entrepreneurs Choose Freedom Over Money (Entrepreneur) http://ow.ly/lc2ab
Increasing Well-Being in Organizations â Therapeutic Interaction (Fractal Sauna) http://ow.ly/kXJUM
How to Write a Plan (thinkpurpose) http://ow.ly/kXJLZ
Money Can Buy Happiness (Economist) http://ow.ly/kL68j
p.s. If you like my icons, you can download the complete set of icons here.
Ernst & Young recently âdiscoveredâ that employees will resort to corruption and fraud when they are squeezed by management. Or, in other words, when you treat them unethically they will behave unethically.
It is hard to count the number of similar discoveries people have made over time. Patrick Hoverstadt, author of The Fractal Organization, wrote that Theory-X managers get constant feedback that their world-view is correct. They treat employees as people who cannot be trusted. Et voilĂ , the result is indeed that nobody can be trusted! You get what you measure! (Goodheartâs Law). Ralph Stacey, author of Complexity and Management, called it reflexivity. There is no objective observer.
The observer influences the system, and the system influences the observer.
This makes it all the more strange that some complexity thinkers aim to provide a framework for dealing with different kinds of systems. If the observer judges the system to be âcomplicatedâ then he should apply âSense-Analyze-Respondâ, and if the observer thinks the system is âcomplexâ then she should use âProbe-Sense-Respondâ.
Sorry, but that just doesnât make much sense to me when I take into account reflexivity and the influence of observers. Because maybe, when I treat a complex system as simple, this is exactly how it will behave to me. Or when I judge the system to be chaotic, this could indeed be how it will respond, but only because that's how I treat it. The way I treat the system will influence how it behaves. The observer influences the system. For example, why bother deciding if the behavior of a system is chaotic? Simply the act of ignoring chaos could make it go away! Problem solved. (It could also blow up in your face. You just canât predict the cascading effects of your actions.)
Itâs much easier just to assume complexity everywhere.
You can always reduce the universe to a few domains or categories later. When you have time, over a cup of coffee. With a delicious slice of Welsh tea cake, as I just enjoyed.
(image by Jonathan Lidbeck)Â
Iâve been asking around on email and on the social networks what makes a conference memorable, special, or amazing.Â This topic has my special interest, not only because I attend between 20-25 conferences per year, but also because Iâm trying to help make the DARE 2013 conference in Antwerp, Belgium a great experience.
The obvious replies that people usually have are âamazing speakersâ and âgreat hallway conversationsâ. I agree, and thereâs plenty that organizers already do (or should do) to make that happen. But personally, I am more and more convinced that âgreatnessâ is an emergent result of the complex interplay of little things.
Here are some suggestions I received:
And thereâs much more, ranging from the very obvious, such as give away free books, to the somewhat-less-obvious, such as invite a circus act.
There are three weeks left until DARE 2013. The number of participants is growing steadily, while time is shrinking fast. Iâm afraid we cannot implement all ideas people have suggested. But weâre trying hard to hear at least those three most important words, âThat was great!â
p.s. I have a discount code for friends. Contact me.
Imagine that the government decided an intake of 2.500 calories per day should be the maximum for each person, regardless of age, gender, health, metabolism, dietary habits, etc. And imagine that the government also measured and enforced this every day, claiming it is âfor your own healthâ, and handing out daily fines for each person who went over target. How would you feel about this practice?
Now imagine that the government decided that a speed of 130 km/hours should be the maximum for each driver, regardless of age, health, mental condition, road condition, traffic condition, weather condition, or the condition of their cars. And imagine that the government measured and enforced this, claiming it is âfor your own safetyâ, and handing out fines to anyone who went over this âtargetâ. How would you feel about that? Oh, waitâŠ this is an actual practice in many countries!
I drove 14 hours from Bologna to Brussels yesterday, with a proper break every 2 hours, good nutrition, a healthy mind, a well-serviced car, and an excellent track record as a driver. During that trip I saw people not using their indicator lights when switching lanes, people overtaking others on the emergency lane, people using their mobile phones, and people driving vehicles that barely deserved the name âcarâ. And among those many thousands of drivers, Iâm sure there were also some with mental problems, physical problems, mechanical problems, etc. However, the one who got picked out by the government was me. I got flashed twice because I drove âtoo fastâ.
For every complex goal, there is a metric that is clear simple and wrong.
In organizations we see this all the time. Managers have a goal, such as faster time-to-market or higher productivity. But productivity is a very complex thing. It depends on motivation, creativity, innovation, collaboration, etc. And managers canât measure all that stuff easily. So they reduce the metric to the simplest possible thing that can be measured with a computer: the number of hours people are physically at the office. And then they turn it into a target: the computer requires at least 8! Or elseâŠ
Measuring something meaningful is hard, so letâs measure something that is meaningless but easy.
Measuring real safety on the streets for everyone is next to impossible, so the government reduces it to the simplest possible metric that can be delegated to computers: speed.
I fear the day when governments find a way to have computers measure our daily intake of calories.
Actually, the previous blog post was number 700. This is blog post #701.
I wrote blog post #600 almost a year ago. In that year my readership has dropped from 1528 to 853 page views per day, and from 1078 unique visits to 629 per day.
Why? Well, I can make an educated guess.
I have changed my focus to writing the Management Workout articles, which of course means less time for my blog. And there are other new side-projects, such as Happy Melly and DARE. And I stopped making the Top 100 lists, which have traditionally been the biggest traffic magnets on my blog.
But Iâm not complaining!
The Management 3.0 book has sold 17,000 copies in its first two years, and my self-published How to Change the World sold 3,600 copies in its first year. (Most self-published books sell less than 150 copies.) The number of RSS feed subscribers of my blog climbed from 6,600 to 7,290, and the number of Twitter followers climbed from 6,800 to 8,700. And the articles of my upcoming book, Management Workout, have (so far) been viewed or downloaded 37,000 times.
You win some and you lose some. :-)
I got myself involved in co-organizing a conference.
But this is not just any conference. This is DARE!
DARE is a conference conceived by Maarten Volders, the organizer of the wildly successful Lean Kanban 2011 Benelux. Maarten has teamed up with the initiator of the weirdly successful Stoos Stampede (Amsterdam) (thatâs me) and the Happy Melly business network.
DARE is for people who dare to discuss wild ideas about organizational change. For people who dare to introduce bold new practices in their businesses. For people who dare to make work more engaging. And for people who dare to quit their jobs.
DARE has a great line-up of speakers: Dean Leffingwell, Jim Benson, Benjamin Mitchell, Ken Power, Paul Klipp, Hakan Forss, Karl Scotland, and many more. AndâŠ it has a great looking website, launched yesterday! I find the layout quite daring actually.
DARE is for agile workers, lean practitioners, systems thinkers, Scrum coaches, Kanban experts, change leaders, complexity thinkers, culture hackers, lean startups, and Stoosians. Only the people who donât dare to make at least something better in their organizations are not invited.
Will you dare to be there?Â
I needed a new agreement because: A) I want to allow other people to create Management 3.0 courseware modules; B) I needed a new pricing model that is more fair; and C) The licensing is taken over by the Happy Melly business network.
Here are 12 reasons why itâs a contract Iâm proud of.
If youâre interested in creating content for Management 3.0 or facilitating Management 3.0 workshops or courses, go to the Management 3.0 website and fill out the form.
If you have your own brand and content and youâre looking for a way to adopt a similar licensing approach that is fair, simple, transparent, and scalable, contact me or the Happy Melly team.Â
In many working environments peopleâs focus is usually is on fixing problems. This makes sense, because continuous improvement allows organizations to survive and thrive. However, a focus on things that could be improved usually comes down to a focus on failures and mistakes, and this mindset can have some serious side effects. Being a perfectionist, I have sometimes been guilty of this myself. I have âraised the barâ for me and for others until the bar was so high that Godzilla could do a limbo dance underneath while carrying a space shuttle.
However, I noticed a strange thing when I urged people to stop screwing up. I found this didnât motivate them at all! I realized getting better isnât just about reducing what goes wrong (making mistakes). Itâs also about increasing what is right (using good practices). And every now and then people need a reminder that theyâre doing just fine.
Itâs no wonder the culture in many organizations feels negative when the focus of discussions is mainly on mistakes and problems. Workers feel they are held accountable for not being perfect. Instead of having a constructive view on improvement, people end up with a defensive frame of mind. They evade taking responsibility, and for every perceived problem they point at others who must have caused it. Because peopleâs minds are focused on self-defense instead of improvement, things will not get any better, and the organization will just make more mistakes.
I believe we should emphasize the good recipes over the mistakes, because you get more of what you focus on. If you focus on mistakes, people will make more mistakes. If you focus on good practices, people will invent more good practices.
It seems evident to me that we should emphasize the good behaviors, not the bad ones. We should celebrate good practices, not punish mistakes.This text is part of Yay Questions, a Management 3.0 Workout article. Read more on myÂ mailing list.
A few years ago I discussed some organizational challenges with my former CEO, and I noted the employees in our company rarely took time to enjoy their successes. People were always working hard and they never seemed to celebrate the things that went well. I suggested that maybe we should have a big bell in the office, so that we could ring it whenever there was something to celebrate. The idea of a bell came to my mind because I wanted something that would be visible, inviting, and impossible to ignore when used.
One week later, to my big surprise, the CEO brought me a copper shipâs bell and said, âHereâs your bell. Now do something useful with it.â I convinced the office police manager to hang it in the middle of our big open office space, and I let everyone in the company know that every employee was allowed to ring the bell, if they had something to celebrate.
From that moment, every few weeks or so, someone would enthusiastically yank on the rope, for signing a government contract, deploying a .NET web application, or for something less strenuous, such as running a marathon, or birthing a baby. Any reason was valid. (I once rang the bell for having more visitors on my blog than the company had on its website. It was just my excuse to enjoy another celebration.)
When the sound of the shipâs bell blared through the office, all employees immediately got together for a 10-minute celebration. Our people knew that the bell was often a signal for free cake or cookies, which probably contributed to the quick and easy gathering of the entire work force around the coffee machine. The person who rang the bell then usually took a few minutes to explain what was being celebrated. There was enthusiastic applause. Yay! And then the eating started. The last time I heard the bell was when the CEO announced my departure from the company.This text is part of Yay Questions, a Management 3.0 Workout article. Read more on myÂ mailing list.
I try to practice what I preach.
I think itâs the only sustainable way to grow a business.
When a consultant says âmanagement should trust people to self-organizeâ, it is wise to wonder about any forms of command-and-control the consultant might apply to his business.
When an organization promotes Scrum or Kanban, it is useful to seek any evidence that the organization is indeed using Scrum or Kanban to manage its own workflows.
When a speaker promotes complexity or systems thinking, you would be wise to wonder about the nature of his presentation style and personal communication, and how this affects a greater whole.
My own goal is to help people be happier in their jobs. Therefore you could ask yourself whether Iâm happy in my own job (I am!), and what I do for the people I work with.
The proof is in the pudding.
Yesterday someone in Finland asked me, âOur sales team sells products to customers that I donât want to use myself in our organization. What should I do?â
I said, âMaybe you should quit your job.âÂ
Friday was an important day for me. After months of preparations, announcements, and discussions Happy Melly finally took a small but significant step forward with the meeting of the five team members who will be leading the Happy Melly business. (There is probably a 6th team member joining soon, but he couldnât attend this time.)
The current team members are (left-to-right)Â Lisette Sutherland (from USA/Netherlands),Â yours truly (Netherlands/rest of world),Â Maarten Volders (from Belgium), Sergey Kotlov (from Russia), and (bottom-row-all-by-himself)Â Vasco Duarte (Portugal/Finland/Germany).
At nine in the morning we started with a backlog of things-to-discuss-and-decide on stickies, about publishing, events, freelancers, marketing, social networks, fees, licensing, and much more. And to my big surprise, we had completed it all by five in the afternoon.
We also used the day to ask each other personal questions, such as âWhat part of your culture do you recognize in yourself?â, âWhat is your favorite movie and what does that say about you?â, âHow do you exercise physically?â, âWhat is it you donât understand about other people?â and âWhat happened in your past that made you join this team?â
Of course, this is all just the start. There will be a lot of things to do this year, most of which we intend to delegate to others, because it turned out all of us preferred drinking coffee over doing real work. The real work would include the making of apps, websites, services, the publication of articles, videos, books, and the organization of events and courses. Anything is possible, as long as it will help Melly be happier in her work.
If you want to be involved doing real work, join our Google group. Our ideas and calls for help usually start there.Â
I once made some simple cartoon strips and sent them to several national newspapers, asking them if they wanted to publish my outbursts of creativity on a daily basis. They all kindly rejected my offer. It was one of my first disappointments in business. I was twelve years old.
I also placed a free advertisement in a local newspaper, announcing that I could draw things for people. For a small fee, of course. I received exactly one phone call from someone requesting a caricature drawing based on a photo. Unfortunately, this was beyond my talents, and I had to decline. I was fourteen then.
I tried launching my own little paper magazine about dance music. I spent a whole afternoon asking a dozen or more retailers if they wanted to advertise in my magazine. Nobody wanted to work with me, except one. But this one store manager asked me to come back another time, and I basically had already given up. I must have been fifteen or something.
I was also briefly in contact with a leading Dutch music trade magazine, after I had sent them some of my carefully calculated hit statistics and pop chart analysis. At first they seemed interested in publishing my insights on a regular basis. But, while I waited anxiously by the phone for several days, they never called me back. I was sixteen then.
I once put an ad in the local newspaper offering my services to fellow high school students who had difficulties with math and physics. I hit the jackpot. The phone never stopped ringing. I made myself a nice amount of extra pocket money, optimizing my income with my friendly face and mathematical mind. The parents paid eagerly, and offered me coffee, cakes and mathematically-challenged children to work on.
My fifth idea was a success.
Maybe thatâs why my lucky number is five.
I bought my first computer (a Commodore 64) with the revenue. And a monitor. And a tape recorder. And books. Armed with my new computer, I had ideas for several new ventures and businesses. And the cycle of failures started all over again. But (roughly) once every five times, I did something that actually worked.
Donât worry if your idea doesnât catch on. Try something else. One out of five is not a bad score.Â
Frequently people ask me, âHow can you be so productive?â The question seems a bit strange to me, because I often consider myself not productive at all! But yes, I am better organized in my work than some other people. (Not giving any names here, but you know who you are!) So Iâve decided to share with everyone how I organize my work. Maybe it helps you. It certainly helps me. :-)
I have a (lot of) system, and I have (a bit of) discipline. I have implemented my system with Remember the Milk (RTM), of which I have the Pro version installed on all my devices. It is the most important thing I need (after Internet, and before coffee).Tasks and Priorities
In RTM I have all my tasks and ideas organized in lists. Each list represents a project. I gave them all an initial letter to group them together.
The lists starting with j- are my business projects (J is for Jojo Ventures, my own company), and the ones with p- are my private projects. The lists beginning with s- are for the various sites that I manage myself, and the ones with w- contain things to do for my book projects (for W as in Writing).
Note: I also have separate spreadsheets and Trello task boards for some of these projects. On RTM I only keep track of simple private tasks, not an overview of work-in-progress.
On each list I prioritize my tasks with RTMâs four standard colors.
The orange tasks (prio 1) are the ones I hope to do within a week. Dark blue (prio 2) is for tasks I want to do within (roughly) a month, while light blue (prio 3) is what I want to do (again roughly) within a quarter of a year. I assign the color white (prio 4) to ideas that Iâm not even sure I will have time for at all. But I keep them for as long as I find the ideas interesting. Sometimes they become blue, sometimes they donât.Recurring Tasks
I have some recurring tasks that function as reminders to check and update other systems. For example, âcheck statuses Training Calendarâ reminds me each Sunday to open my separate Training Calendar spreadsheet of upcoming courses, where I have a checklist with details about all classes. RTM is not the right tool to keep such detailed information. I have similar recurring tasks for âcheck statuses Speaking Calendarâ, âcheck invoicesâ, etc.
Likewise, I have a recurring task every Sunday that simply reminds me to update RTM itself. A meta-task, you could call it. In 10 or 15 minutes I simply go through all the lists in RTM and I update the priorities of various tasks, because usually things have changed since the week before (including my own opinions, needs, and estimates). I also use this opportunity to prioritize what I would like to do in the upcoming week, setting all those tasks to prio 1 (orange). By focusing on orange tasks I can ignore everything else for the remainder of the week. In the next seven days I will only do things that have a high priority.Locations and Searches
Each of my tasks also has a location. Int means I can do the task anywhere, but I will need Internet access (for example, pay an invoice). Any means I can do the task without Internet, anywhere in the world (for example, buy new batteries). Rdm means I have to do the task in Rotterdam (for example, ship packages), while Bxl means I must do it in Brussels (for example, buy chocolates).
I have defined a custom search list for each of these locations. For example, do-Any has all the priority 1 tasks, without a specific due date, that I can do anywhere, and do-Bxl has the dateless priority 1 tasks I can only do in Brussels.
This way I can easily look at what I could do next, depending on where I am and whether I have Internet.
In case youâre interested: the custom search query is status:incomplete and location:any and priority:1 and due:never.Today
Last but not least, there is do-Today (also supported by default on the Home screen of the RTM app).
At the start of each new day I go through my four custom search lists (do-Any, do-Int, do-Rdm, do-Bxl) to look at the options (reminding me of things Iâd like to do this week), and I set the due date of some tasks to âtodayâ for whatever I would like to finish that same day. Of course, Iâm often too optimistic, like almost everyone else, but thatâs OK. What I cannot complete simply rolls over to tomorrow, or I set the due date back to empty, which means the task goes back to do-Int, or wherever it came from. It might get another chance later that week.
At the end of the week I usually have a couple of tasks left that I was unable to complete. Again, itâs not a big issue. They can get another chance next week, or I reduce their priority back from orange to blue.System and Discipline
This is the system I use to manage my work. You may notice it is influenced by the Getting Things Done method, which may explain peopleâs surprise that Iâm actually getting things done!
Donât be fooled if this all looks daunting to you. Once youâve set it up, it takes only 15 minutes for the weekly planning, and a minute per day for the daily planning. Thatâs all. Oh, and of course a little bit of discipline in actually using it for everything! I often shake my head in disbelief at those who claim to use Remember the Milk, and then write their ideas, tasks, and reminders in a Moleskine journal, on their hands, or on sticky notes. (Yes, donât deny it!)
The system I just described is effective.
And it works. For me.
p.s. Ticking "write blog post" off today's list, and I notice I still have a lot on there. I expect some rolling over tonight...Â
Some of my friends struggle with money questions.
I have asked myself such questions several times, without learning any good answers. Until I was confronted with the unfair consequences of the flat fees in the Management 3.0 licensing program. The simplicity of flat fees worked well in the startup phase, but now that weâre scaling Management 3.0 globally we need a smarter system. We must take into account the local pricing of courses. And so I finally committed to solving this problem.Purchasing Power Parity
The idea to adjust prices for local economies is called purchasing power parity. There are different ways of doing this. The basic idea is: you look at how much people are willing to pay locally for a collection of goods or services, compared to another country, and you adjust your prices accordingly.
The easiest and most popular way to do this is to use the Big Mac Index, regularly published by Economist magazine. It lists the price of a big mac in many different countries. But there are several problems with this approach. First, it treats all countries in the Eurozone the same, because they share one currency. Maybe with big macs this is not a big issue, but with workshops and courses it is! Second, what people are prepared to pay for a big mac can hardly be compared to what people are prepared to pay for training or a conference. They are entirely different target audiences (I hope), with different budgetary waistlines.The CSM Index
Thatâs when I came up with the idea to create a âCSM indexâ. It lists (roughly) the average price of a standard Certified Scrum Master course, per country. Itâs an easy choice because CSM classes are given by many people all over the world. One could say itâs the most basic commodity in the Agile community. (After stickies.)
This is how it works...
Suppose you do workshops in Germany and you are now invited to do the same workshop in Sweden. How much could you charge, given that price levels in Sweden are a bit different? Well, let's say you charge EUR 2,000 in Germany for your workshop. In the spreadsheet you divide that number with the ratio you find behind Germany (73.36%) and then you multiply it with the ratio for Sweden (842.06%). The result is 2000 / 73.36 * 842.06 = 22957. In other words, your EUR 2,000 in Germany is roughly the same as a SEK 22,957 workshop in Sweden. Note that SEK 22,957 converts to EUR 2,740 EUR, so your workshop in Sweden is actually more expensive than in Germany. But it is what those crazy Swedes will pay, compared to the somewhat tighter pursed Germans. Price levels in Sweden are higher on average.
You charge EUR 5,000 for a 2-day in-company class in Belgium. What can you charge when you do the same one in China? Well, 5000 divided by 73.03 (ratio for Belgium) and multiplied by 363.33 (ratio for China) results in RMB 24,875. This converts to 3,085 EUR, because price levels in China are lower.
Easy isnât it? :-)
*** DISCLAIMER ***
My spreadsheet is just a first version which is barely good enough for my own purposes. For a number of countries I did not find enough data points of CSM classes. It would probably be useful to extend this tool with other popular classes (Personal Scrum Master, PMP Practitioner, Management 3.0) so that we have a wider dataset and more accurate indexes.
But I donât have the time to do that. :)
*** DISCLAIMER ***
With this informal CSM index we can now calculate prices that are more fair, considering local price levels. However, two problems remain: the converted prices now heavily depend on the rough averages of CSM classes. And our nice round original prices end up becoming ugly converted prices. Thatâs why I prefer to round all my prices to a fixed set of âeasy numbersâ:
100, 150, 200, 300, 400, 600, 800,
1000, 1500, 2000, 3000, 4000, 6000, 8000,
10000, 15000, etc...
By rounding up and down to easy numbers there is less concern about whether I used the âcorrectâ data points in the CSM index. After all, small differences donât matter (in most cases), because everything is rounded to easy numbers anyway.
By using the CSM index, and applying the easy numbers, I can now finally calculate the answers to the three questions posed earlier:
My friends will be so happy!Website, App or Service?
I created a barely-enough version of the spreadsheet for myself (and you are free to use it), but now Iâm wondering if anyone is interested in taking this a bit further...
I know I would be a customer.
p.s. In the spreadsheet I used Switzerland instead of the USA to normalize all prices against, because... Well, why not?Â
What scientists call distributed control is usually called empowerment by management consultants. However, some experts donât like the term. The word seems to suggest that people are âdisempoweredâ by default and need to be âempoweredâ by their managers. Perhaps that was indeed its original meaning, and I agree that this could be seen as disrespectful.
On the other hand, I believe networked systems are more powerful than hierarchical systems, because itâs so much harder to destroy them. By distributing control in an organization we not only empower workers, we also empower the managers. Maybe we should see it as empowerment of the system, not of the people. Remember the last time you were sick? I bet you felt quite powerless as an individual person against that tiny distributed virus. Iâm just glad your distributed immune system was even more powerful, or else I had one reader less!
Plenty of arguments in favor of empowerment are cited in management literature, such as improving worker satisfaction, increasing profitability, and strengthening competitiveness. All of it is true. But never forget that the real reason for empowerment is to improve system effectiveness and survival. We enable the organization to be more resilient and agile, by delegating decision making and distributing control.
All over the world, knowledge workers are becoming better educated and more able to take matters in their own hands. And the more educated people are, the less effective authoritarian power works. In many organizations teams understand their work better than their managers do. Therefore the primary concern of management should be empowerment, not supervision. We aim for a more powerful system, not better controlled people.This text is part of Delegation Boards, a Management 3.0 Workout article. Read more on myÂ mailing list.
All I know about horses is what I picked up from fantasy literature. I know they often have saddles, bridles, spurs, bits, shoes (not Italian), and long beautiful manes that always blow the right way when warriors need to stab an enemy to death. The ones who just go and sit on a wild horse and yell âyee-haw!â are usually dead before page 50.
The caretaking of horses includes giving direction and setting boundaries. Quite often, when managers delegate work to teams they donât give them clear boundaries of authority. By trial and error teams need to find out what they can and cannot do, usually incurring some emotional damage along the way. This was described by Donald Reinertsen as the âdiscovery of invisible electric fencesâ [Reinertsen, Managing the Design Factory p.107]. Repeatedly running into an electric fence is not only a waste of time and resources, but it also kills motivation, and it ruins the coat of the horse. With no idea of what the invisible boundaries are around it, the horse will prefer to stand still and just eat some biscuits.
Reinertsen suggests creating a list of key decision areas to address this problem. The list can include things like âWorking hoursâ, âKey technologiesâ, âProduct designâ, and âTeam membershipâ. A manager should make it perfectly clear what the teamâs authority level is for each key decision area in this list. When the horse can actually see the fence, there will be less fear and pain. And the farther away the fence, the more the horse will enjoy its territory.
It also works the other way around, because of the reflexive relationship of responsibility and accountability. A team usually delegates work to management, such as âRewards and remunerationâ, âBusiness partnershipsâ, âMarket strategyâ, and âParking spaceâ. The horse is not required to simply accept any kind of boundaries, constraints, and abuse.
Nature gave the horse strong teeth and hind legs for a reason.This text is part of Delegation Boards, a Management 3.0 Workout article. Read more on myÂ mailing list.