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Discipline Beyond Obedience

Children are awesome. And sometimes they are an awesome challenge. To be honest, our two daughters are this every single day – more than once. Young children in particular express their insatiable desire for self-determination without restraint. Especially when we as parents, for good reasons or because time is pressing, want to control them and demand obedience. However, they react to our threats and manipulation attempts all the more rigorously with refusal, the more forcefully we put these forward. This is exhausting, but in essence also very good, because the point is not obedience and subordination, but rather personal responsibility and (self-)discipline – neither when it comes to bringing up children nor in other leadership situations.

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In Titanic’s Ballroom

Several so called agile transformations ultimately end with people dancing rock ‘n’ roll instead of a slow waltz in Titanic’s ballroom and some beautifully decorated deckchairs. And even if it’s sometimes at least the engine room where rock ‘n’ roll is danced, it neither changes the course nor it increases responsiveness and adaptability.

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Man as Perpetually Wanting Animal

Successful collaboration in the age of knowledge work, especially in agile organisations with their high degree of self-organisation and self-responsibility, depends to a large extent on the assumptions about human nature. Douglas McGregor stated as early as 1963 in his seminal book “The Human Side of Enterprise” that we should no longer regard people as lazy and reluctant to work (Theory X), but as intrinsically motivated and willing to perform (Theory Y). McGregor clearly builds on the work of Abraham Maslow, which meanwhile has become an indispensable part of management literature in the form of the hierarchy of needs named after him. However, the representation in the form of a pyramid is a misleading interpretation that Maslow did not come up with himself.

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Setting Standards in Agile Organizations

Agility requires orientation. It’s exactly this alignment that enables effective autonomy and decentralized decisions, which make agile organizations so adaptable. But agility also requires common standards and conventions to ensure that effective cooperation of autonomous teams. So the question is not whether such standards are required in agile organizations, but rather how they are created and enforced.

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I have a dream!

The yearning for a new and better form of respectful and thereby profitable cooperation between people is greater than ever. Industrialization and Taylorism have transformed humans into resources. Initially only the labour of the unskilled worker was in demand, and Henry Ford even complained that he always got also a brain with every pair of hands. Today, in the age of knowledge work, the demands upon and roles of the knowledge worker have differentiated in many ways. However, the basic principle of treating organizations as machines and using employees as cogs mostly remained the same. Man is still a means. I have a dream that people, with all their potential, will really be at the core of organizations. And that this really makes the difference in digitalization.

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