The Projekt Magazin invited me to enter in this year’s blog parade.
Since I like the organizers of Projekt Magazin, Petra Berleb and Regina Wolf-Berleb very much and since I also love their product, I agreed with pleasure and will write down my ideas here.
The Blogparade topic is:
Our work is now agile/digital/self-organized! More success through new freedom in the project, or just much ado about nothing?
I will just copy and paste the questions and ideas from the invitation and then give my own comments.
Here are the questions and my answers:
What flexibility for trying other approaches and consciously choosing new and easier ways do you have in your projects?
During my years as an employee at Siemens and Softlab, I was extremely lucky in that there was a cooperative trust culture in the areas I worked in, which means I had a lot of leeway. And since I usually worked successfully, the freedom grew.
;-). Because if you are a success, you are mostly right. That was in the 1970ies and the early 1980ies.
Except that the situation in the enterprises started to get worse. As I understand it, the reason for this lay in the widespread systemic increase of various trends that complemented each other. For instance when priority was given to the shareholder value and when there was an increased belief in the introduction of processes. I also mean the use of Key Performance Indicator systems (KPIs) for enterprise control that increased bureaucracy and the certification of all sorts of processes. More and more Taylorism created silos that paralysed each other.
The goal was to get rationally controlled, perfect and powerful enterprises that were thus brought into a position that gave them the chance to not only survive, but also become number one in the harsh competition. The employees were provided with target agreements, which was based on the assumption that you could motivate people through material promises. What a concept of humanity is that?
The enterprises wanted to be in a position where they can control (manipulate) the market – and eventually the consumer. Today, they look like over-regulated and trained powerful elephants. Creativity, courage and joy have disappeared like the multitude of species in nature. To these enterprises, it comes as a surprise that they are now overtaken and left behind by new enterprises.
As a small programmer, I was not able to change my elephants. In order to prove that shared work is also possible with another philosophy, I had to found my own enterprise.
My first step towards founding an enterprise was trying to find a like-minded partner. That was not easy. After I had found him, Wolf Geldmacher and yours truly founded the InterFace Connection GmbH (today: InterFace AG) in 1984. In the IT sector, it was easy to found an enterprise, partly because we were in the possession of superior knowledge that was very well paid.
The name Connection stood for a group of conspirators who wanted to move together and do something great in an agile way and at eye-level. And I still believe that you have a lot more leeway as an entrepreneur – if the incoming money is more than the outgoing money. And in those days, this was certainly possible in the sector digitalization, even and especially if you did some unconventional things.
To what extent do enterprises leave their project leaders, scrum masters and product owners and counsellors enough leeway when it comes to their choice of procedure in project planning, communication and the way they organize the cooperation in the team (self-organization)?
Naturally, this depends very much on the enterprise. Especially huge concerns have problems with this. For a successful medium-size enterprise, it is often something that goes without saying. For instance, some huge enterprises have decided they want more agility and want to achieve this through Change Management. They often invest a lot. More often than not (almost always), the concept fails. If they are lucky, they get biotopes, but those will soon dwindle and disappear.
I get the impression that it is very hard or even impossible to change huge, often non-personalized social systems. Especially, it will not be a success if the initiative comes from above. Personally, I am not sure if you can actually teach the elephant to dance (Elefanten tanzen lernen cited: Dr. Marcus Raitner).
And what are the successful approaches?
That is very easy: you have to trust that the people in the enterprise can actually do it. You need no experts. Everybody must be competent in their specific trade (in our company, this was programming). But everybody should also be willing and allowed to also deal with the special topics, such as delivery on time, quality, knowledge about the customers, integration, the building, security,… And you want to ask everyone to participate in everything: writing the manual, teaching customers and planning the product. Even ambitious goals. And you will want to let people participate when you get the result. You will celebrate successes, but you will also have a party after a downfall, by way of consolation.
The underlying question is also whether or not the hype about agile enterprises and the demand to have a culture that puts more the humans into the centre will be taken up and realized in the long term by organisations. Project teams in particular have the chance to initiate change in an enterprise. Can and should they simply work changes? Will anybody appreciate it if they try to break obsolete processes, strict hierarchies and silo-thinking – or will they then be considered saboteurs who bring disorder to an enterprise?
I am trying, both in private life and in projects of my professional life. After all, I want to be happy, don’t I?
What you need is joy at what you do. That includes work. For joy, you need courage. If I am in a situation that I do not love, then I need to change it. And if I can see that this will not be possible, then I need to leave it.
However, I am well aware that the principle “love it, change it, or leave it” is often easier said than done if you are dependent upon someone. The problem is that you are dependent.
Apart from this, I am interested in your motivation if you try innovations in your projects. Are you doing it because you get the impression that the old processes are not what we need in the future? Or are you doing it because you want to have a sharper profile as an project manager and entrepreneur? Or is it because it is what your boss and the members of your team want?
For me, this does not need motivation. All we need is openness. And if I attend a Barcamp such as PM-Camp where other people report what innovative things they did and if I like what I hear, then I am keen to try it myself.
(Translated by EG)