Category: Uncategorized

Business Agility: What Every Leader Needs to Know

There is a lot of hype, confusion and conflicting messages around Business Agility. Organizations know that they need to evolve to compete in the dynamic marketplace yet are struggling to make real progress. In this article, we will cut through the noise to give you the understanding and practices needed unlock Business Agility in your organization.

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Unleash the Power of the Whole Person

In this post I will share how to unleash the power of individuals in your organization by inviting in the whole person.

Below is the visual summary. People are powerful when we invite the whole person to work: spirit, heart, body, and mind. Key environmental ingredients are: safety, trust and valuing people as human beings.

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Teal Organization – Future of Work

Here is a visual that captures the essential elements of Teal Organizations as described in Frederic Laloux’s book “Reinventing Organizations”. This describes the Future of Work. Except that it has been here for decades. We never noticed how to have radically successful organizations. Enjoy.

Evolutionary Purpose

The foundation element is that the organization has clear sense of purpose that transcends profit, employment, shareholder returns. Instead, it looks towards supporting society and humanity as a whole. Evolutionary Purpose means that people in the organization listen and help the organization grow into what it needs to be rather than try to control or shape it based on their preferences.

The results and research supports that by focusing on something worthwhile in a soulful way that profits will follow.

Self-Managing Teams

People and teams are self-managing. Guided by the evolutionary purpose, people make decisions that support the organization and it’s purpose. Some Teal organizations are structured as independent loosely-coupled teams while others have a more intricate web of commitments based on the nature of the work of the organization. In either case, there is a high degree of autonomy.

This is a radical departure from the way most companies are run with a traditional hierarchy to control decisions within the organization.

A key characteristic of an organization filled with autonomous workers is that there will only be a bare minimum of staff functions (IT, Legal, HR, Marketing, etc) required. In Teal, these staff functions see themselves as support – they are at the service of the people on the front lines delivering value.

Self-Governance Structures

In this section, we highlight three key self-governance structures.

In place of a hierarchy with fixed roles and titles, many Teal organizations have roles that evolve and change dynamically over time. These are often “micro” roles that are about taking on specific responsibilities whereas traditional roles may have a dozen or more such micro-roles. Sometimes these are specified through contracts or agreements between workers or teams.

The advice process is a decision-making process where the owner of a decision seeks advice from all people who are significantly impacted or those who have experience with the matter. Although all advice must be considered, the decision owner has full autonomy to make the decision. This process allows the organization to move forward and avoid the potential trap of consensus-based decision-making.

With autonomous people we will invariably have some level of conflict. People are treated as adults and expected to sort out there own conflicts through a well-understood conflict resolution mechanism. This often takes the basic structure: go talk to the person. If you can’t work it out directly, get help resolving the conflict. Of course, there is is training and support to help people develop the necessary skills.

Certified Agile Leadership

Responsible & Accountable People

Now we get to the underpinnings of how Teal organizations can actually function.

Teal runs on people feeling responsible for their actions and for helping the organization serve it’s purpose. They hold themselves and their peers accountable for behaviours and actions. Although this may seem radical in a traditional organizational context, this is very natural in Teal organizations. Once there are no bosses and everyone is a leader that makes decisions and is responsible for moving the organization forward, these properties naturally emerge in most people. Of course, some people don’t like this and choose to leave Teal environments.

Wholeness and Trust

At a deeper level, there are other foundational elements.

In Teal organizations, we invite the whole person to the workplace: Mind, body, heart, and spirit. Here we see that people are complex, deep and rich. We do not try narrow or confine to only the analytical left-brain view in Orange organizations. Here we see that by welcoming the whole of people including intuition and sensing we may advance our purpose. We also look after people – in all aspects – so that our organization may flourish.

It is an ongoing act of trust for the most senior leader/owner to give away all their power to people in the organization. To trust that something better will emerge from an organization filled with leaders than with retaining power and control. Also, for Teal organizations to function there needs to be a high level of trust for the people we work with.

Context for Teal

I want to clarify a few things about the information I am sharing here:

  • I created this infographic to help people grasp how substantially Teal organizations differ from traditional organizations.
  • It is an illustration of Teal. All Teal organizations differ since they evolve organically. It’s not a blueprint. There is no blueprint.
  • Although much of this is based on Laloux’s model there are some elements that have been added as part of my sense-making of Teal. e.g. emphasis of Responsibility, Trust.
  • I am touching on some essential elements, not the full richness of how Teals organizations may function


I see Laloux’s concept of Teal as a very rich territory for inspiring how we might want to re-invent our organizations. My closing invitation is for people to use Teal and Teal organizations as inspiration for finding your own unique paths for growth rather than as a blueprint to be copied.

Structure of Kanban, Energy of Scrum

One of my clients was struggling with Kanban vs. Scrum as a starting place. They really like the energy of Scrum: teams, collaboration, learning but from a workflow perspective needed the adaptability of Kanban: urgent requests, different ticket types, able to change direction quickly. This happens when the management and culture is there but there are too many short-term needs and/or external dependencies.

This is not new for me. I have been helping clients with this situation for the last few years – finding a comfortable hybrid between Scrum and Kanban. What is new, is that I finally made a drawing that summarizes what the flow looks like. Hope you enjoy it.


The left side of the diagram illustrates what typically happens with most Agile teams I work with. It doesn’t matter whether you are using Scrum or Kanban, teams usually benefit from:

  • Sense of purpose (vision)
  • Inception Deck – this will save hours or days if you have a month long project. Skip at your peril.
  • Stories (or tickets)
  • Effort estimates (Story Points or S, M, L)
  • Rough plan (backlog) – here it is depicted with a form that matches the structure of the work – by feature area what we do now, later and even later.
  • Ability to make forecasts on work

In the diagram, artifacts are in dark green and activities are in light green.


This diagram shows a physical board that helps teams collaborate to get work done. It is essentially a Scrum Board that where the team uses a single story pull model instead of a sprint batch model. One big difference is that there’s an expedite lane for urgent work. Let’s walk through the columns.

  • Next: Here we see the stories for the team to work on next. Often this box sits on the backlog board – doesn’t really matter where it is as long as everyone knows what to do. Some teams skip this an pull directly from the ordered and prioritized backlog.
  • Planned: A Planning meeting may structurally be the same as a Scrum Planning meeting, but here we are only planning one story at a time. Stories are broken into tasks to increase shared understanding of the work. So it may be the whole team but more likely just the subset of the team that needs to be involved in that story. Of course, very simple, small tickets or stories, may just go to in-progress without creating tasks.
  • In-Progress: What tasks/tickets are getting worked on by whom. The Daily Standup meeting is where we make our best plan for the day. We may walk the board backwards to focus on completing work.
  • Done: What tasks/stories are done. We may have Demo and Review meeting on a weekly or bi-weekly basis to check against our definition of done and show our progress.
  • Retrospective: We meet at some regular frequency to learn how we can work better.
Agile Transformation Keys

Structure of Kanban, Energy of Scrum

“Energy of Scrum” means keeping the essential bits of Scrum that makes it unique and valuable. These are:

  • Shared Ownership – the team is collectively responsible for delivering. One small example is that we may have a task labeled “testing” (that anyone can do) but there is no Kanban step for “QA”.
  • Learning – there is a large focus on learning culture. This comes through retrospectives and Scrum Master(!).
  • Scrum Master – A Scrum Master represents and investment in learning and getting better. It’s about having someone focused on growing the system. This role works great with Kanban!
  • Team Alignment – In Scrum a premium is placed on keeping a team in sync through planning, review, standup. Keeping these meetings let’s us keep the high levels of alignment.

Here’s the full diagram if you want to use it:

Secrets of Specification By Example

I was fortunate to attend Gojko Adzic’s Specification By Example training. Although I was familiar with the topic and the content of his book Specification By Example, I learn a lot. In this post, I will share insights around:

  1. How to build software right the first time.
  2. How to facilitate a specification workshop
  3. The secrets of great test automation

By the way you may have heard of Specification By Example through it’s other pseudonyms: Acceptance Test Driven Development, Story Testing, Feature Testing.

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Top 10 Agile Gotcha’s

It turns out that most teams have similar types of problems that prevent them from getting the full benefits from Agile. In this presentation, I review the top 10 Agile gotcha’s I have discovered as an Agile Coach and how you can recover from them.

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Get Your Stories “Ready” to go Fast

I was at a client recently and one VP was convinced that Agile was “untrue” and there was no way it could possibly work. The problem was that he had never heard of backlog grooming or getting stories ready. Once he saw the infographic below, the penny finally dropped and he understood how this crazy thing called Scrum can possibly work with user stories.

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Temenos – A Workshop for Healing, Connection and Relational Flow

(Joint post with Olaf Lewitz)

What is Temenos?

Temenos is also the name of a special kind of experiential laboratory (usually delivered as a weekend lab) that Siraj Sirajuddin has created over many years integrating diverse influences. He’s been using these labs to support lean and agile transformations in his practice as an Organisational Transformation Mentor. Read More

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