Author: Marcus Raitner

Hi, I'm Marcus. I'm convinced that elephants can dance. Therefore, I accompany organizations on their way towards a more agile way of working. Since 2010 I regularly write about leadership, digitization, new work, agility, and much more in this blog. More about me.

The Art of Simplification

Per­fec­tion is achieved not when there is noth­ing more to add but when there is noth­ing left to take away. This stan­dard, craft­ed by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, sug­gests some poten­tial for improve­ment in pub­lic admin­is­tra­tion and large cor­po­ra­tions. But what is the rea­son that the rules are becom­ing more and more and the process­es more and more com­pli­cat­ed? Per­haps, in the end, it is sim­ply due to our ten­den­cy to seek solu­tions by adding rather than solv­ing the prob­lem by omit­ting, as demon­strat­ed in recent research.

Hybrid working: A matter of time, not location

Com­pa­nies are cur­rent­ly grap­pling with the ques­tion of how much their employ­ees should work in the office and how much home office or remote work­ing should be allowed. After the expe­ri­ence of the last two years of the Coro­na pan­dem­ic, the desire to com­bine the best of home and office in hybrid forms of work­ing is laud­able. Still, it should not be reduced to the ques­tion of the pos­si­ble and per­mit­ted place of work. In essence, it is more about flex­i­bil­i­ty in terms of time than location.

How the Pandemic Disrupted the World of Work

Strokes of fate often cause peo­ple to pause and reflect on their own lives, fol­lowed by a reori­en­ta­tion. Due to the Coro­na pan­dem­ic, many employ­ees are now ask­ing them­selves how they want to work in the future. Their answer is already emerg­ing in the USA as the “Great Res­ig­na­tion.” Although this wave is flat­ter in Ger­many, it is still rea­son enough to think about the cru­cial role of lead­er­ship in the post-pan­dem­ic age.

First the Problem, Then the Solution!

Agile frame­works are col­lec­tions of gen­er­al­ized solu­tions to typ­i­cal prob­lems in agile orga­ni­za­tions. Apply­ing these solu­tions works best when the pain of the prob­lem is felt instead of just under­stood the­o­ret­i­cal­ly. An agile trans­for­ma­tion is not an intro­duc­tion of a frame­work but a joint jour­ney on which obsta­cles are dis­cov­ered and solved with the help of the known frameworks. 

He Who Says A Does Not Have to Say B

When real­i­ty con­tra­dicts our beliefs and world­views, we have sev­er­al ways to resolve this cog­ni­tive dis­so­nance. Most peo­ple tend to cre­ative­ly rein­ter­pret real­i­ty to make the expe­ri­ences fit into their men­tal mod­el pic­ture. Yet, it is more help­ful to use the dis­crep­an­cies as a source of insight and adjust one’s world­view. Espe­cial­ly for lead­ers whose world­views and beliefs affect many others.

The Mechanisms of Fear

Ini­tial­ly, the fear of Coro­na was sup­posed to unite the peo­ple in the joint fight against the pan­dem­ic. This fear is increas­ing­ly turn­ing into hatred, agi­ta­tion, and sep­a­ra­tion. It is time for us to con­front this cor­ro­sive ten­den­cy with deter­mi­na­tion and unity.

Efficiency Through Nimbleness

Agile meth­ods do not direct­ly affect effi­cien­cy. Agile stands for nim­ble. Agili­ty ensures effec­tive­ness through nim­ble­ness. This adapt­abil­i­ty min­i­mizes the risk of unnec­es­sary work and rework. The effi­cien­cy of agili­ty comes only indi­rect­ly through reduc­ing risk and avoid­ing waste.

When the Method Becomes the Problem

When a com­pli­cat­ed prob­lem stub­born­ly resists attempts to solve it, it may be more com­plex than ini­tial­ly thought. In this case, a change of method from ana­lyt­ics to empiri­cism, from a plan-dri­ven to a more agile approach, can work won­ders. In this way, a lay­man in the field of air­craft con­struc­tion suc­ceeds in doing what legions of engi­neers before him have been unable to do.

The Art of Getting the Right Things Done

Time is our scarcest resource. It runs out irre­triev­ably. Already the ancient Romans gave the advice: Carpe diem! In the age of knowl­edge work with a thou­sand pos­si­bil­i­ties and just as many dis­trac­tions, how­ev­er, this is eas­i­er said than done. In about twen­ty years of knowl­edge work, I have tried out a few things and learned a lot about how to orga­nize myself well.

The Year of 2020: There Is a Time for Everything

The year 2020 was extra­or­di­nary in many respects. There were many chal­lenges, but also oppor­tu­ni­ties and bright spots. The cri­sis accel­er­at­ed many things — includ­ing my pro­fes­sion­al reori­en­ta­tion. In this respect, the cri­sis real­ly is a pro­duc­tive state, as Max Frisch once wrote.

On the Cognitive Dissonance of Modern Leadership in Traditional Organizations

To have devel­oped a coher­ent mod­ern lead­er­ship atti­tude is one thing. How­ev­er, to endure the ten­sion between this aspi­ra­tion and the sober­ing real­i­ty of every­day lead­er­ship in most­ly more tra­di­tion­al struc­tures is some­thing com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent. In many cas­es, this ten­sion, known from social psy­chol­o­gy as cog­ni­tive dis­so­nance, can only be resolved by sac­ri­fic­ing one’s own aspi­ra­tions. But there are also oth­er pos­si­bil­i­ties than will­ing­ly sub­mit­ting to one’s fate.

Agility is Team Sport

The end of the year is the time of appraisal inter­views. Usu­al­ly the per­for­mance of the indi­vid­ual is eval­u­at­ed. How­ev­er, the cre­ation of val­ue in orga­ni­za­tions and espe­cial­ly in agile teams is actu­al­ly always the result of team­work. This focus on indi­vid­ual per­for­mance leads to loose groups of mediocre soloists instead of excel­lent team performance.

The Logic of Agility

When peo­ple talk about agili­ty, some rave about cus­tomer ori­en­ta­tion and speed, while oth­ers invoke the self-orga­ni­za­tion and auton­o­my of the team. Most­ly these and some oth­er con­cepts float more or less inco­her­ent­ly in a mys­ti­cal cloud around the cen­tral con­cept of agili­ty. An attempt to put these ideas into a log­i­cal context.

Three Inspiring Stories on New Leadership

What we can learn from the sug­ar con­sump­tion of Gand­hi, from Netflix’s sur­pris­ing resem­blance to a nuclear sub­ma­rine, and from the fright­en­ing team dynam­ics of super chick­ens about new lead­er­ship. On the occa­sion of the X‑Conference 2020 I tell my three favorite sto­ries about role mod­els, respon­si­bil­i­ty and trust — also as video for lis­ten­ing, think­ing and imitating.

Personal Responsibility Instead of Obedience

Lone­ly Christ­mas? How does the Bavar­i­an Prime Min­is­ter Markus Söder actu­al­ly talk to us? I’m sick of being admon­ished like a child, threat­ened and occa­sion­al­ly praised. With this ongo­ing infan­tiliza­tion of mature cit­i­zens, the gov­ern­ment is under­min­ing the self-orga­ni­za­tion and per­son­al respon­si­bil­i­ty that we urgent­ly need for a sus­tain­able con­tain­ment of the pandemic.

The Corrosive Effect of E‑Mail

Fast com­mu­ni­ca­tion with e‑mail should sup­port the actu­al work. And being able to book a meet­ing quick­ly should also be a relief. In fact, how­ev­er, e‑mails and meet­ings unin­ten­tion­al­ly became the core work con­tent of many knowl­edge work­ers because their sim­plic­i­ty replaced and cor­rod­ed struc­tured workflows.

The Agile Transformation and Its Metrics

In ret­ro­spect, I con­sid­er it one of my biggest mis­takes to have always cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly reject­ed met­rics for the agile trans­for­ma­tion. Although I still see the dan­ger of an explo­sion of car­go cult if phe­nom­e­na of agili­ty are mea­sured and reward­ed instead of the essence, I would con­scious­ly take the risk today. For soon­er or lat­er, in every trans­for­ma­tion, there comes a time when the ques­tion is raised very insis­tent­ly as to what all this is meant to achieve and what it brings. And then you have to beat the sys­tem with its own weapons.

Practical Constraints: Resistance is Futile

Every trans­for­ma­tion entails fric­tion with the sta­tus quo. Those who sim­ply accept the prac­ti­cal con­straints that are brought into play dilute the trans­for­ma­tion. The new is then only some­how amal­ga­mat­ed with the col­lec­tive with­out bring­ing about a sig­nif­i­cant change. The trans­for­ma­tion itself is trans­formed and its pro­tag­o­nists are either assim­i­lat­ed or repelled. 

Creatures of Habit

Chang­ing behav­ior and habits is often tedious. The spir­it is will­ing, but the flesh is weak, it is said. And that is exact­ly where the prob­lem lies. Behav­ioral change is not only a ques­tion of will and moti­va­tion, but can be strate­gi­cal­ly bet­ter addressed with a dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed under­stand­ing of human behav­ior. The behav­ioral mod­el of B.J. Fogg pro­vides the basis for this.

On Top of Mount Stupid

Entire orga­ni­za­tions also suf­fer from the Dun­ning-Kruger effect. After the first steps of trans­for­ma­tion and the first insights, they are stuck at the peak of “Mount Stu­pid”, where they enjoy all kinds of car­go cult gross­ly over­es­ti­mat­ing what they have already achieved.

Gap Size and Agility

The cre­do of the start-up cul­ture, “Fail fast, fail cheap”, still has the bland after­taste of slop­pi­ness for Ger­man engi­neers and their man­agers. This typ­i­cal Ger­man fix­a­tion on gap sizes pre­vents agili­ty and slows us down.

Digital Decluttering — Get Out of the Rabbit Hole

Thir­ty days with­out social media apps on my smart­phone. Thir­ty days of not enjoy­ing likes on the side and quick­ly answer­ing a com­ment. Why should I do some­thing like that? To redis­cov­er the impor­tant moments of idling, for exam­ple. And gen­er­al­ly for a more mind­ful use of my atten­tion. A report about the escape from the rab­bit hole of the atten­tion industry.

Caution. Future.

How do peo­ple cope with change? In Vir­ginia Satir’s Change Mod­el, the phase of chaos and uncer­tain­ty is cru­cial. This is where the seed for the new and bet­ter sta­tus quo lies, pro­vid­ed that it is pos­si­ble to exper­i­ment with the new and inte­grate it prof­itably on the basis of a feel­ing of psy­cho­log­i­cal safe­ty. This can be well observed at the moment with the top­ic of the home office. 

Just Sitting Here

What do humans do when they do noth­ing? They think about their social life. So what hap­pens when all idle­ness is more and more clev­er­ly sup­pressed by the atten­tion econ­o­my and its apps on the smart­phone? About the anti­so­cial side effects of the unin­ter­rupt­ed dis­trac­tion through social media.

Leading with Trust

Trust is the foun­da­tion of mod­ern lead­er­ship. Vol­un­tar­i­ly and with all our heart we only fol­low whom we trust. Frances Frei and Anne Mor­riss describe three dri­vers for trust: log­ic, authen­tic­i­ty and empathy. 

Leadership Creates Safety

Trust and coop­er­a­tion emerge in a cli­mate of psy­cho­log­i­cal safe­ty. Where, con­verse­ly, com­pe­ti­tion and fear have been the pre­dom­i­nant themes, strong uni­ty can­not be expect­ed in a crisis.

The Five Pillars of Well-Being

In which envi­ron­ment do peo­ple flour­ish and what makes them with­er? And what essen­tial cat­e­gories are there, any­way, to influ­ence this process. Where can lead­er­ship exert its influ­ence? The PERMA mod­el by psy­chol­o­gist Mar­tin Selig­man offers some very good answers.

Purpose and Trust in Crisis

Remote work and lead­er­ship at a dis­tance is based on pur­pose and trust. Where these are miss­ing, the coro­na cri­sis becomes a cri­sis of pur­pose and trust. One can learn from this — or reboot the pre­vi­ous oper­at­ing sys­tem of the orga­ni­za­tion as quick­ly as possible.

Blog Parade #remoteworks

After weeks of dis­trib­uted coop­er­a­tion it is time to draw a bal­ance. This blog parade is itself an exer­cise in dis­trib­uted asyn­chro­nous col­lab­o­ra­tion, a vir­tu­al ret­ro­spec­tive to reflect on the oppor­tu­ni­ties and lim­i­ta­tions of home office and remote work, in order to iden­ti­fy suc­cess fac­tors and pre­vent us from falling back into the old rut. 

Cynefin and Corona

Although the SARS-CoV­‑2 virus is cer­tain­ly not a wel­come but nev­er­the­less a good rea­son to reflect on how to deal with com­plex­i­ty and deci­sion-mak­ing in com­plex to chaot­ic sit­u­a­tions. The Cynefin frame­work by David Snow­den pro­vides a very help­ful frame­work to this end.

Setting the Right Course in Times of Crisis

Is this art, or does it need clear­ing away? The cri­sis is lead­ing to con­sol­i­da­tion in many places. Short-term earn­ings today are inevitably gain­ing the upper hand over spec­u­la­tive ideas for the day after tomor­row. The art of ambidex­ter­i­ty, how­ev­er, can­not be cleared away for this very rea­son! Diver­si­ty and dis­sent are espe­cial­ly impor­tant now to find the right balance.