Agile2016 – Recap Day 5

What a week! It was a slow start to the morning, and I enjoyed the Open Jam space session. The table I joined was on Communities, both internal and external, because we’ll I’m pretty active in external communities, I love hearing stories of how to inspire more internal self-organizing communities.

Then it was time for the final keynote, Leadership for Genius Tribes with Carrie Kish. She explains that based on her research, what separates successful teams from other teams was the culture, but what does that mean? The content is based on the book Tribal Leadership.

She talks about tribes as having 20 or more people because less than that you have the individual effect – think of a small group at a table, if another walks up, we say hello. In a large room, the individual just sits down.

The did research into the language that people used and the way that they interacted.

She shared the four Stages:

  • Stage 1 – Life Sucks (2% of Organizations)
    • In this stage, the general language is “it sucks.” It’s a culture that allows embezzling, fancy math, stolen IP, workplace violence. The advice in this stage is “get out.” There is a lot of disinfranchisation, separation, and isolation. It’s a collection of individual, and the tribe isn’t one that wants to be around.
  • Stage 2 – My Life Sucks (25%)
    • Other have it going on, and I have problems. The story of a DMV where there is a policy of no food or drink, and a person with a coffee is asked to leave, not just throw out their coffee. People silently glad that another person from the line is gone. There are complaints about the system, and this can devolve into Stage 1. People in Stage 2 want to hear “are you going to make my life suck less?” Complaints about the system and others in small pockets is another sign of Stage 2.

She shared that culture is less stable in small organizations, and people can only hear one stage above or below where they are.

  • Stage 3 – I’m Great (49%)
    • This is where the genius happens. The LA Lakers coach (Phil Jackson) on how he went from being a team of experts to a winning team – shift away from Kobe. Language and actions are “if there’s a problem, I’ll solve it,” and team members need to learn how to pass the  ball. In Stage 3, information is hoarded and there is a need to get credit. Bottlenecks are created because everything needs to pass through one person. The brain surgeon and the rocket scientist (there’s a fun video showing this behavior).
    • There is a need to prove I’m better, and people react with “you’re right, but no one cares.”
    • The goal is to be good at something and transcend it vs. everything going through me.
  • Stage 4 – We’re Great (46%)
    • Language is We, Us, Them (we know who are competition is)
    • Carrie shared the story of the LA SWAT team that she meets with and their values based negotiations, and the requirement that everyone is able to do all jobs. She shared the example of the junior team member telling a senior team member that he’s unfit for duty because the senior team member told the team that he took cold medicine that morning. This was possible because they were all thinking the same and had the same values.
    • Decisions are able to be made using the same values – there isn’t any checking with anyone.
    • This team outperforms a Stage 3 team.
  • Stage 5 – Life’s Great (2%)
    • Carrie warns that you don’t want all Stage 5 teams because it’s so chaotic. These are teams that are changing the world every day, and they are incredibly unstable. Every day is changing the world.

The goal is to have Stage 4 teams that can do Stage 5 plays.

Other tidbits include:

  • At Stage 3, you don’t need to have accountability, just manage the system and process and lead people.
  • Most people will yield their position if you give them a way to honor their values. Most people will be pissed off because their values have been hurt.
  • At Stage 4, triads (more than just 1:1 relationships), each endpoint can strength the relationship of the other endpoints. How do we all have each others’ backs?
  • Under stress, we go to Stage 3, and we need a constant reminder to go to Stage 4.

Then she gave us the Four Questions (note that the syntax for “What can be done” is deliberate and important.

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If interested in going to Stage 5, she offered these methods:

  1. Discover your outrage – for example, there is a group that’s so outraged that not all people have access to clean drinking water.
  2. Upgrade your competition – when Pixar was asked what their competition was, they said “hair.” After a lot of team effort, they figured it out, and Brave was made.
  3. Create some time pressure – Steve Jobs knew that time was limited when he became sick and put pressure on at Apple. There are also ways to gameify time and create constraints.
  4. Make History – How we do something differently than others; Virgin Galatic.

Some points on how to move between Stages:

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It was a great keynote to end the session, and after all the thank yous, applause and goodbyes to my new found friends and connections, I headed to the airport for my flight home.


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