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Agility and Separation of Powers. Or: What Is the Boss Actually Doing?

In most hierarchical organizations the spirit of absolutism still prevails. All power is with the boss. He or she manages and controls, imposes rules, monitors their compliance and punishes misconduct. Even today there are still enough small and big Sun Kings: L’état c’est moi! This is because people are still susceptible to excessive power on the one hand and on the other because the Enlightenment apparently had little influence on the design of modern organizations. The advance of knowledge work and the increasing striving for agility also lead to a new Enlightenment with a more pronounced separation of powers.

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10 Insights from Google’s Search for Good Leadership

In 2008, a team at Google launched Project Oxygen. The aim of the project was to find out what defines good leadership and what behaviors characterize a good manager at Google. Being a data-driven company the team approached this question on the basis of data from employee surveys and the managers’ annual performance reviews. The original eight behaviors have recently been reworked and two new behaviors have been added. At first glance, they still seem quite trivial or, as the New York Times noted in its 2011 article, almost like a gag on the whiteboard in the television series “The Office”. But one must not be deceived by this simplicity. Google has seen positive effects in recent years in terms of employee satisfaction, turnover and performance through incorporating these finding into trainings and through the intense focus on leadership that accompanies the publication. This is reason enough for a second look.

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The Scrum Master: Three Popular Anti-Patterns

Scrum is a deceptively simple framework for agile product development. Besides the development team there are only the roles Product Owner and Scrum Master. The process is lean and requires only a few artifacts and events (as the meetings in Scrum are called). This simplicity leads in practice to all kinds of fake agile and cargo cult – lovely but rather ineffective drama. To prevent this from happening, there is the Scrum Master. Unfortunately, this important role suffers from many misinterpretations, as the following three anti-patterns illustrate.

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The Prime Directive for Successful Retrospectives

Agility means adaptability. First and foremost with regard to the product being developed. Step by step, usable interim products are created, which help to explore the problem domain and the possible solutions. However, adaptability not only covers the product, but also the way the team works. “At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.” Among the Principles behind the Agile Manifesto this is one of the most important. Agility is therefore much more than just a method, but rather means taking responsibility for the product as well as the way people work together. However, especially the latter requires the right stance to be successful and not to end up in blaming. It is exactly this stance that Norman L. Kerth beautifully described as the Prime Directive in his book “Project Retrospectives: A Handbook for Team Reviews” (Amazon Affiliate Link).

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No More Elephant Carpaccio!

How to eat an elephant? Exactly: In small slices. With this salami tactics you can master big tasks. Many recognize the iterative-incremental nature of agile methods like Scrum and therefore feel reminded of this elephant carpaccio — a fallacy which is based on the fundamental confusion of complicatedness and complexity.

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