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Elastic Leadership Team Survival Vs. Team Chaos Vs. Cynefin


I've decided that the word 'chaos' isn't a good match to describe the phase where a team has no time to learn.
Instead, the word 'survival' is going to be used from now on.
There are several reasons for this:
1) The word 'chaos' is already used in the context of another decision framework called 'Cynefin'. 
 Cynefin is a powerful framework that uses scientific arguments to describe various states teams and systems are in. 'chaos', in the context of Cynefin, is a state where given an action in the system, the results will be totally random.  In that sense, 'chaos' in the elastic leadership framework as I present in this blog, means something else. 'chaos' (or 'survival' from now on),
is a state where decisive action is needed, and a specific set of results is expected. 
My notion of elastic leadership does not deal with a state where there is no telling what action needs to be taken. It divides the world of states into 'survival' (no time to learn), 'learning', and 'self organizing'. 
In terms of Cynefin, I only deal with complex and complicated systems. Though I'm not sure where 'software team' as a system lies between these two notions.
2) The word 'Chaos' was initially chosen out of necessity. I had no better word to describe this phase. After  discussing the Cynefin framework ideas with Dave Snowden via email,
the word 'survival' came to me, and I think it much better described the phase I believe most software teams are, unfortunately, in.
There for, a team can have three phases:


  • Survival phase (where most teams I see are in) -- in which team has no time to learn -- requires a more command and control type of leadership to create that learning time from nothing.
  • Learning phase  -- where a team has time to learn and is using it -- requires coach like leader, with bursts of control when things will take too long to learn the hard way (choosing no source control, for example)
  • Self Organization Phase -- Where teams can solve their own problems -- requires more of a facilitator type of leader, that does not tell people what to do, but simply provides constraints and end goals. The team will get there on its own.


A team can move between all three phases in a matter of days, really.  The leader should detect this phase change, and change their leadership type accordingly.


Assume you are wrong

Here's a chat conversation that actually happened. See if you can find all the places where each person is telling themselves a story about the other person, and then assuming its true, and notice how volatile the conversation can get in such situations:

A: is it some kind of disrespect @B? nice...
B: what?
A: nothing, I've just asked u a question that u just ignored, so i asked if it some kind of disrespect. i guess so
B: and the answer is in the hipchat which you supposed to have open. you are welcome to open it now and read the answer
A: it is opened, and was opened all that time
B: well, you are not in the room
B: the name of the room is [something] you know.. like the company ;)
You can never assume what the other person's reason for behaving in a specific way is. But we like to tell ourselves stories about why they did or didn't do something, so that we don't have to engage in "real" conversations. 
Always try to assume that the other side means well and has good intentions, and is trying their best, and they have good reasons. Under that assumption, you could see that you'd be right most of the time.
People don't intentionally try to "hurt the project" . You'd be usually wrong to thing someone "doesn't care" or "isn't smart enough to get it" or that "they did it wrong". 
Many times the fault is miscommunication, and if we understand that, we can disarm many conversations that naturally we tend to make worse, when they can be quite pleasant as figuring out a misunderstanding on our part.
How to fix this:
Instead of "is it some kind of disrespect?" you can say "I can't see any answer from you". Simply describe your reality from your side. 
Instead of "The answer is in the hipchat you're supposed to have open" you could say "I did answer. it's in the hipchat room. Does anybody else see my answer? start with "bla..." "
you can see that this can disarm the chat quite easily, because nobody is being blamed for being an idiot here. There are only facts, and tries to figure out why they are different on both sides.
It is much like debugging a situation:
"I can see X on my side. But you can't. Let's see what we missed" 

Upcoming leadership 1 day courses in sweden

I will be joining foo-cafe in sweden to do some one-day courses with them. If all goes well, this will be a continuous schedule every month :

These courses are based on the currently-in-progress book: From chaos to self organization


Submit your story about a team leader you had - good or bad

Have something really important to say to software team leaders out there? Why not publish it in my upcmoing book?  It could be anything, as long as there is a PERSONAL story in it.

Outline why you liked/disliked that team leader's behavior. Explain how things could have been better, or worse.

If it's about you, and a lesson you've learned about being a team leader - tell it, so others can learn from your experience!


New chapter: "Learning" in the book "From chaos to self organization"

I just added a new chapter to "From Chaos to Self Organization" . You don't know that book? You would have known it by it's previous name "Elastic Leadership" , and before that it was part of "Notes to a software team leader". 

Now I've split them into two different books, because I wanted each one to be "purely" about either notes from other team leaders, or about my specific framework for growing effective teams.

NOTE: if you are an existing owner of "notes to a software team leader" you should have gotten a FREE code by email a few weeks ago for the split book which was then called "elastic leadership". this code should still work with the book even though its name has changed.

Here's the link to a bundle for both books together:

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