Revolution At Work

<a href=Steve Denning" width="77" height="96" />Today in Washington, DC, I am working with Steve Denning, author of The Leaders' Guide to Radical Management. We are leading a collaborative workshop that portends the coming revolution in the workplace, Revolutionizing the World of Work (tweeting now at #RevWork).

Steve's keynote this morning highlighted what successful companies (Apple, Amazon, Salesforce.com) are doing vs. those recognizable behemoths whose share prices are dropping or flatlining (GE, Walmart, etc).

The audience is rapt as they listen to Denning, a former World Bank program director who received international recognition for his successful transformation of the old-school, decentralized, multi-cultural lending international agency in the 90s. In the group are people from NASA, Homeland Security, Deloitte, Kaiser Permanente, American University, and several other well known agencies.

I asked two of the participants why they came. Here is what I was told by a manager from a Fortune 50 health care company:

These ideas resonated with me. I work in a large organization and it's obvious that command and control is a disaster and we need to aspire to these ways of working. In my company we just went through a change initiative that was about saving $10 million, but it was billed as bringing us closer to the customer. It was a complete lie. We are getting this wrong and the stakes are really high. We need this kind of thing so badly.

Jim Hays, a consultant for Cisco, said, I came because I believe in the revolution and I'm trying to learn how to apply it to the world of technology, the way its sold, the way its bought, and the way its leveraged. I want to know how do we get better business outcomes out for technology. How we do it better. It's been a push model and we need to turn it into pull model.

Denning tells people the key difference between the two styles of management can be encapsulated in qualitative differences. Here are four:

Steve is joined by Rod Collins, the former chief operating executive of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Federal Employee Program (FEP). Rod is the author of Leadership in a Wiki World: Leveraging Collective Intelligence to Make the Leap to Extraordinary Performance.

Rod tells the amazing story of how he implemented an innovative process that successfully identified the collective intelligence among his stakeholders and produced extraordinary impact in the nation's largest (and most successful) health insurance alliance, with over $19 billion in annual revenues.

The group breaks out and applies Denning's and Collins's ideas to health care, education, government, and associations—all complex systems with multiple stakeholders.

Michelle JamesMichelle James, Chief Emergence Officer of the Center for Creative Emergence and the Creativity in Business Conference, is working throughout the day, providing techniques of "pattern disruption" to ensure that the group is thinking creatively, not caught in a rut or trapped by unquestioned assumptions.

She led the group this morning in an experiential exercise that not only increased the rapport in the room, but gave us a new angle on each person present so we were ready to think and work creatively together.

Peter Stevens, author of the blog, Scrum Breakfast, came from Switzerland to interject principles derived from his experience with Scrum, an iterative, incremental framework for project management that has been extraordinarily successful at systematically generating results that delight customers.

He lead a participatory exercise that made visible the power of radical management techniques, showing them to be vastly superior to traditional management when it comes to performance improvement.

Madelyn Blair, author of Riding the Current: Dealing with the Daily Deluge of Data, shared a case study from her work at the World Bank where she was a Division Chief in the Information Technology department for ten years. Her story centered on the turnaround of the customer service/hotline division and the importance of transparency and enabling staff. She said, "I have always felt a deep respect for other people. You cannot achieve your contribution to the world without knowledge of that."

Revolutionizing the World of Work is being facilitated by a total of seven "practice partners" that includes Deborah Mills-Scofield, business innovation maven, along with those listed above. More to come as the two days unfold.

Seth Kahan (Seth@VisionaryLeadership.com) is a Change Leadership specialist. He has consulted with CEOs and executives in over 50 world-class organizations that include Shell, World Bank, Peace Corps, Marriott, Prudential, American Society of Association Executives, International Bridge Tunnel and Turnpike Association, Project Management Institute, and NASA. He is the founder of Seth Kahan's CEO Leaders Forum, a year-long learning experience for CEOs in Washington, DC. His book, Getting Change Right: How Leaders Transform Organizations from the Inside Out, is a Washington Post bestseller. Visit GettingChangeRight.com for more info and a free excerpt. Follow Seth on Twitter. Learn more about Seth's work at VisionaryLeadership.com.

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3 Comments

  • Bonardi

    Hello,

    I'm sorry, but I am really chocked to see serious people thinking and saying that companies like Apple choose to enable self-organizing team vs controlling people. 

    Honestly, have you ever worked at Apple ? Have you ever visited and spent time with Apple employees ? Do you understand how Apple culture works ? This show very little understanding of how this company works, and very little in-depth research about it. Very disappointing from a guy like Denning. Apple would be one of the best example of internal control at every level. As are most of the big brand companies.

    Secondly. Interactive conversation with customers ? Again. Even though Apple has a great support center, do you think this firms engages in a conversation with customers ? To get an idea, look at how they "engage conversation" with the press ! This is a one way communication. it has always been, it will always be. If the press don't play the game with them, they just atom being invited and being informed of new products etc...

    Denning is selling a beautiful theory based on very bad examples. 
    Please next time Mr Denning, try to be a little more serious. Business is not a fairy tale. 

    Well, when i think about it...maybe yes it is when you start to launch big ideas with weak basis,  and you get a lot of dollars out of it. Well done Oz. 

  • Seth Kahan

     Thanks, David. We're in Day 2 now - will write it up later in the day. Love to have you join us next year.

  • David Kaiser, PhD

    This sounds like a blast, I wish I had been there. I am looking forward to the spreading of the revolution. The old command and control way of doing things just doesn't work anymore, and even when it did, it was pretty soul-crushing.

    David Kaiser, PhD
    Time Management Coach to Authentic Leaders
    www.DarkMatterConsulting.com