As Taleb advocates in Antifragile: “Everything that has life [the organic and complex versus the mechanical and non-complex/complicated] in it is to some extent antifragile (but not the reverse)” — “the secret of life is antifragility.”
Appreciating Taleb’s work involves initially recognizing it (Antifragile, Flexibility, Robust, Resilience, Agility, and Fragile) and then translating it into practice (The Emergence of the Antifragile Organization), and continuing to evolve . . .
Antifragility provides a “guide to non-predictive decision making under uncertainty,” that is, “anywhere the unknown preponderates, any situation in which there is randomness, unpredictably, opacity, or incomplete understanding of things.”
Volatility shocks individuals, teams, and organizations — any entity! Black Swans are “large-scale unpredictable and irregular events of massive consequence” that harm an entity. Antifragility is the “antidote to the Black Swan”!
Antifragility and fragility are a property of an entity and are degrees on a spectrum. Anything can be classified into three categories (called the Triad — Fragile, Robust, and Antifragile) where Antifraglity is relative to a specific situation, limited to a specific source of volatility and range of exposure (or up to a point).
Some entities resist shock and stay the same:
- Fragile entities suffer because they want tranquility (volatility has a negative impact) — more downside than upside from volatility (concave) — and
- Antiagile entities simply don’t necessarily adapt (unchanged due to the impact of volatility).
Some entities absorb shock and change:
- Antifragile entities evolve and grow from disorder (volatility has a positive impact) — more upside than downside from volatility (convex) — and
- Agile entities simply necessarily adapt (changed due to the impact of volatility).
And Robust entities simply sustain and don’t care too much (temporarily change due to the impact of volatility and return to their original condition)!
Resilience, Fragilizing, and Antifragilizing
Antiagile entities are resilient within a normal range of change, but Fragile entities are not! Antifragile entities are resilient within periods of unusual change, but Agile entities are not!
Fragilizing entities involves depriving them of or suppressing volatility and shock, which makes them more fragile. Anitfragilizing entities involves exposing them to the right amount of stress and disorder, which makes them more antifragile. Fragilzing Robust entities makes them more Antiagile (less Agile) and ultimately more Fragile. Anitfragilizing Robust entities makes them more Agile (less Antiagile) and ultimately more Antifragile.
Fragile, Antiagile, Robust, Agile, and Antifragile
Agile entities embrace change (as their worldview) and inspect & adapt (as their modus operandi) with the intent of fostering continuous responsiveness in a world where sustainable advantage empowers them to confront future shock.
Antifragile entities embrace disorder (as their worldview) and adapt & evolve (as their modus operandi) with the intent of continuous transformation in a world where transient advantage empowers them to confront present shock.
While Fragile entities resist disorder and thus endure sustainable disadvantage and permanent shock, Antiagile entities resist change and thus endure transient disadvantage and temporary shock; and Robust entities simply manage change.
Fundamentally, heuristics, “simplified rules of thumb that make things simple and easy to implement”, which “are not perfect, but expedient” can be used to foster Antifragility.
The Triad and the Antifragile Entity (Individual, Team, and Organization)
Here are a few categories from Taleb’s Antifragile and the characteristics that foster fragility, robustness, and antifragility.
- Biological & Economic Systems [Efficiency, optimized; Redundancy; Degeneracy (functional redundancy)]
- Errors [Hates mistakes; Mistakes are just information; Loves mistakes (since they are small)]
- Errors [Irreversible, large (but rare) errors, blowups; ; Produces reversible, small errors]
- Science [Theory; Phenomenology; Heuristics, practical tricks]
- Ethics [The weak; The magnificent; The Strong]
- Ethics [System without skin in the game; System with skin in the game; System with soul in the game]
- Regulation [Rules; Principles; Virtue]
- Systems [Concentrated source of randomness; ; Distributed sources of randomness]
- Mathematics (probability) [Left-skewed (or negative skewed); Low volatility; Right-skewed (or positive skewed)]
- Knowledge [Explicit; Tacit; Tacit with convexity]
- Political Systems [Nation-state, centralized; ; Collection of city-states, decentralized]
- Science [Theory; Phenomenology; Evidence-based phenomenology]
- Psychological Well-being [Post-traumatic syndrome; ; Post-traumatic growth]
- Decision Making [Model-based probabilistic decision making; Heuristic-based decision making; Convex heuristics]
- Economic Life (effect on economic life) [Bureaucrats; ; Entrepreneurs]
- Philosophy / Science [Rationalism & Separable; Empiricism; Skeptical, subtractive empiricism & Holistic]
- Stress [Chronic stressors; ; Acute stressors, with recovery]
- General [Large; Small but specialized; Small but not specialized]
- Model Error [Concave to errors; ; Convex to errors]
Fundamentally, an entity . . .
- with many non-specialized small parts that are functionally redundant interacting via decentralized control that may make small errors that are reversible
- that relies on heuristics, tacit knowledge, and growth with many (versus a few) distributed (versus concentrated) sources of randomness that cause acute (versus chronic) stress (with recovery time)
- that appreciates reality-gaps/errors/mistakes and relies on empirical (evidence-based) feedback to fine-tune its essential/subtractive view of the world
. . . is more antifragile.
Taleb’s (@nntaleb) (Homepage) work is revolutionary! Taleb’s The Black Swan focuses on the impact of the highly improbable — reality is unpredictable (Black Swans). Taleb’s Antifragile focuses on things that gain from disorder — how we thrive in uncertainty. “Antifragile is a blueprint for living in a Black Swan world. . . . The antifragile, and only the antifragile, will make it.”
Appreciating Taleb’s work involves initially recognizing it (Antifragile, Flexibility, Robust, Resilience, Agility, and Fragile) and then translating it into practice.
— — — The Triad: Fragile, Robust, and Antifragile
(a more recent blog) may be of interest — — —
The Agile Organization
Nearly 90% of executives surveyed by the Economist Intelligence Unit believe that organisational agility is critical for business success. One-half of all chief executive officers (CEOs) and chief information officers (CIOs) polled agree that rapid decision-making and execution are not only important, but essential to a company’s competitive standing. Agility may also be linked to profitable growth: research conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) suggests that agile firms grow revenue 37% faster and generate 30% higher profits than non-agile companies.
What are the critical traits of an agile business? 60% of CEOs suggest rapid decision-making and execution (60%) and 45% suggest a high-performance culture!
[Source: The Economist]
For CEOs, Agility and being an Agile Organization is vital — with an emphasis on rapid decision-making, execution, and culture — and demonstrably grows revenue faster and generates higher profits.
Beyond the Agile Organization
During the past decade, we’ve seen economic volatility and disruption escalate to arguably unprecedented levels. . . . For business leaders across the world, “expect the unexpected” has become the mantra.
To navigate through this environment, companies need to develop resilience. This combines an ability to ride out the immediate impact of shocks with a long-term capacity to adapt to constantly changing conditions . . . achieve this blend of qualities not only to survive through new and emerging challenges, but to thrive in this environment.
The only way forward is to build organisations that can survive and thrive amidst disorder: organisations that are agile and adaptable, able to cope with disruption and emerge stronger than before.
Trust isn’t just an essential part of the customer relationship, it’s the glue that binds an organisation and all its stakeholders together — and there are now many more stakeholders to consider. Thanks to the social media revolution, many of these stakeholders also have an unprecedented amount of clout.
[Source: PwC Global CEO Survey]
Business leaders are embracing disorder and oriented towards “expect the unexpected” while recognizing that survival requires being agile and adaptive to ride out the immediate impact of shocks (volatility and disruption) and thriving requires coping with disruption and emerging stronger than before (that is, Antifragility) for the long-term. Furthermore, business leaders are embracing that trust may be that “glue” or “elusive elixir” that binds stakeholders together so we can navigate our new reality.
Opportunities, Customers, Effectiveness, and Trust
In conclusion, trust is the prerequisite for everything CEOs hope to achieve as they move from risk management to resilience. Businesses’ efforts to target the right opportunities, increase customer demand and loyalty and improve operational effectiveness are only as effective as their ability to build trustworthy relationships with all their stakeholders.
CEOs are recognising the need to align their strategies around a stronger social mandate — starting from the top — and through it create organisations that are more agile, adaptable and resilient.
This means developing a deep understanding of the changing needs of a growing range of stakeholders across existing and new markets, and investing to engage and empower them. Networks of trusted relationships, with shared vision, values and objectives, are helping to build strong yet flexible ecosystems that can not only survive, but flourish amid disruption.
[Source: PwC Global CEO Survey]
CEOs are recognizing that trust is the “prerequisite for everything, including seizing the right opportunities, increasing customer demand and loyalty, improving operational effectiveness,” and creating organizations that are more agile, adaptable, and resilient (that is, more Antifragile). Furthermore, only a “deep understanding of the changing needs of a growing range of stakeholders” while “investing to engage and empower them” will “build strong yet flexible ecosystems that can not only survive, but flourish amid disruption.”
Antifragility is realized through trust.
People and Trust
Low-trust fosters redundancy, bureaucracy, politics, disengagement, turnover, churn, and fraud within organizations.
High-trust fosters increased value, accelerated growth, enhanced innovation, improved collaboration, stronger partnering, better execution, and heightened loyalty.
Watson Wyatt’s research suggests that high trust organizations outperformed low trust organizations by 286% . . . value in high-trust organizations.
Gallop’s research suggests that 70% of people are not engaged in their jobs, with a $450 to $550 billion lost each year in productivity . . . disengagement in low-trust organizations.
[Source: Chief Executive .net]
Trust is at the root of engagement and performance.
People and Happiness
Gallup research shows that while keeping employees happy or satisfied is a worthy goal that can help build a more positive workplace, simply measuring workers’ satisfaction or happiness levels is insufficient to create sustainable change, retain top performers, and positively affect the bottom line. Satisfied or happy employees are not necessarily engaged employees. Engaged employees have well-defined roles in the organization, make strong contributions, are actively connected to their larger team and organization, and are continuously progressing.
By shifting the focus to employee engagement, organizations are more likely to motivate their workers to expend discretionary effort and reach their performance objectives. Gallup research has linked employee engagement to nine specific business outcomes such as higher productivity, profitability, and customer ratings that directly affect or reflect the bottom line.
While happiness and satisfaction foster a more positive workplace, they are “insufficient to create sustainable change, retain top performers, and positively affect the bottom line.” Engagement, however, does “directly affect or reflect the bottom line.” Happiness does not imply engagement, and happiness is insufficient to impact the bottom line while engagement directly impacts the bottom line!
The dimensions of customer engagement include a Rational Foundation, Confidence, Integrity, Pride, and Passion [Gallop]. Confidence and Integrity essentially constitute Trust and Pride and Passion essentially constitute Love [Leading the Starbucks Way] — “Love and Trust” [Leading the Starbucks Way]. There is significant interplay among these dimension, including passion and engagement [Bloomberg].
The dimensions of Employee Engagement include Basic Needs, Individual Contribution, Teamwork, and Growth [Gallop].
The idea that businesses might be experiencing an unprecedented amount of “stress and disorder” should come as no surprise. CEOs and other senior executives consistently describe uncertain future business conditions as a key concern.
The term “antifragility,” coined by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his book Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder, is defined by the source of its strength. Like the human body, whose immune system gets stronger from exposure to germs and diseases, the antifragile system improves or responds positively when shocked.
While fragile systems are easily injured and suffer from volatility, antifragile systems grow stronger in response to volatility. So-called robust systems remain unchanged.
- The fragile are susceptible to large lethal shocks.
- The robust can handle adversity but stay the same.
- The agile move and adapt rapidly.
- The antifragile grow and improve (evolve) from external shocks.
Antifragile is beyond stable, beyond robust; stable and robust systems resist shocks but stay the same . . . antifragile systems as those capable of absorbing shocks and being changed by them in positive ways . . stable systems, because they don’t change, eventually experience shocks large enough to cause catastrophic failure. Antifragile systems break a little all the time but evolve as a result, becoming less prone to catastrophic failure. . . . Antifragile systems adapt and evolve in response to stress and changes to their environment.
When the magnitude of change stays within a normal range, robustness can be a state that seems resilient. During periods of unusual change, only the antifragile organizations prove to be resilient.
Life, Taleb says, is not as predictable or explainable as the rationalists would have us believe; instead, simple sets of rules help us to navigate through a complex and constantly changing landscape. He argues, “We have been fragilizing our economy, our health, education, almost everything—by suppressing randomness and volatility…If about everything top down fragilizes and blocks antifragility and growth, everything bottom up thrives under the right amount of stress and disorder.”
[Source: PwC Technology Forecast]
Volatility shocks organizations! Some organizations resist shock and suffer (negative impact of volatility) or sustain (are unchanged due to the impact of volatility) while other organizations absorb shock and adapt (are changed due to the impact of volatility) or evolve (positive impact of volatility)!
Robust organizations are resilient within a normal range of change, but fragile organizations are not! Antifragile organizations are resilient within periods of unusual change, but agile organizations are not! And their is fragilizing and antifragilizing!
Given the unprecedented levels of volatility, disorder, disruption, and stress, Antifragility is quintessential (and Agility is no longer enough) and ultimately founded on trust and engagement!
The Anatomy of the Antifragile Organization (versus the Agile Organization)
Agility and Antifragility are driven by “thinking” in the Technology world and Business world.
Agility has been founded on expressions such as “embrace change” (Kent Beck) and “inspect and adapt” (Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland) with the overall intent of fostering continuous responsiveness (John Boyd) in a world where “sustainable competitive advantage” (Michael Porter) empower us to confront “future shock” (Alvin Toffler), and Agility is ultimately reified in various business practices.
Antifragility must now be founded on expressions such as “embrace disorder” or “embrace chaos” (Taleb’s Antifragile) and “adapt & evolve” (Taleb’s Antifragile) with the overall intent of fostering continuous transformation (John Boyd’s OODA) (and renewal) in a world where “transient competitive advantage” (Rita Gunther McGrath) empower us to confront “present shock” (Douglas Rushkoff), and Antifragility is ultimately reified through a unique transformative journey that catalyzes antifragility — This is Conscious Agility!
The tenets of Antifragility versus Agility:
- “Embrace Disorder” or “Embrace Chaos” versus “Embrace Change” — Change alone is not enough, only disorder fosters antifragility!
- “Adapt & Evolve” versus “Inspect and Adapt” — Inspecting and adapting is not enough, only adapting and evolving foster antifragility!
- Continuous Transformation versus Continuous Responsiveness — Being responsive is not enough, only transforming (continuously) fosters antifragility!
- Transient Competitive Advantage versus Sustainable Competitive Advantage — Nothing is sustainable in a Black Swan world, but everything is transient!
- Confront Present Schock versus Confront Future Shock — Shock is no longer in the “future” but always in the present!
- Reified through a Journey versus Practices — In a Black Swan world, its always a journey of emerging practices!
Conscious Agility is a means to Antifragility!
Leading the Starbucks Way “outlines the foundational principles that have guided Starbucks leaders during sustained periods of meteoric growth, economic downturn, recovery, and transformation” where “the foundation for Starbucks leadership is reflected in terms like connection, humanity, humility, passion, and yes, even love.”
Starbucks’ Mission, Transformation Agenda, and Seven Bold Moves provides more background!
When you’re sitting across from Howard Schultz, it doesn’t take long for him to get to the heart of leadership excellence. From Howard’s perspective, much of leadership comes down to three traits: “Take love, humanity and humility and then place it against a performance-driven organization; these are in conflict to the naked eye. But I believe that performance is significantly enhanced by this kind of leadership. I am so convinced of it because we have become more performance driven than at any other time in our history and the values of the company are at a high level. If we can infuse love, humanity, and humility on a global basis and build it into a performance-driven organization, we are unbeatable.”
At Starbucks, leadership champions the human connection in all aspects of business. Additionally, leaders build their business strategies based on opportunities that emerge from connections with partners, customers, communities, and shareholders. Ultimately, they manage through a lens of humanity and high performance expectations.
This book shares essential principles used by Starbucks leaders as they forge emotional connections that drive innovation, grow new business product lies, and foster employee and customer loyalty.
Call it what you want — kindness, compassion, or love. I call it the Starbucks connection and leading the Starbucks way.
Starbucks’ unbeatable success can perhaps be distilled:
- How does Love, Humanity, and Humility relate to a performance-driven organization?
- Performance is enhanced by this kind of leadership!
- Manage through a lens of humanity [human connection and emotional connection] and high performance expectations.
Principle 1: Savor and Elevate
“Savor and Elevate” is a business principle that emphasizes the importance of maximizing enthusiasm for the products, services, and experiences your company provides.
Chapter 2, “If You Don’t Have Passion for Your Product, Why Should Your Customers?,” focuses on how Starbucks leaders communicate and demonstrate their personal passion for their product.
Only passions, great passions, can elevate the soul to great things. — Denis Diderot, French philosopher
Chapter 3, “From Replicable and Consistent to Magical and Unique,” sets product passion and consistent service execution as the foundation for fostering craveable customer experiences.
Men are rich only as they give. He who gives great service gets great rewards. — Elbert Hubbard
When good is not good enough, it’s time to lead your people to “Savor and Elevate.”
The principle of “Savor and Elevate” emphasizes maximizing enthusiasm — while we can communicate and demonstrate personal passion, execution is the foundation!
Far too many enterprises have enthusiasm and are able to express it, but don’t maximize it, that is, they ultimately lack execution.
Principle 2: Love to be Loved
At the center of these sustained emotional bonds is a leadership principle that I refer to as “Love to Be Loved.”
Chapter 4, “It’s a Matter of Trust and Love,” explores the hierarchical nature of customer engagement and how Starbucks leaders model integrity to secure stakeholders’ trust. In addition, the chapter explores the role that leaders play in charting a course toward brand passion.
Trust is . . . the beginning place, the foundation upon which more can be built. Where trust is, love can flourish. — Barbara Smith
Chapter 5, “It Must Thrive Inside to Be Experienced Outside,” takes a broad look at the many and varied efforts that Starbucks leaders deploy to maximize the company’s connection with partners.
Treat employees like partners, and they act like partners. — Fred Allen, American radio personality
You will come to appreciate that in order to be a viable force well into the future, you will most likely need to “love to be loved.”
This principle of “Love to Be Loved” emphasizes sustained emotional bonds — the nature of customer engagement and connections with partners are essential to being a viable force!
Far too many enterprises use relationships and bonds to advance themselves, but the bonds aren’t emotional or sustained, that is, they can’t ultimately become a viable force!
Principle 3: Reach for Common Ground
Chapter 6, “Assume the Universal: Serve the Unifying Truths of Humans, “examines how Starbucks leaders create connection with maximum global appeal.
All things are the same except for the difference, and different except for the similarities. — Thomas Sowell
Chapter 7, “Respect, Celebrate, and Customize: Listening and Innovating to Meet Local, Regional, and Global Needs,” looks at how leaders localize certain aspects of their products, environments, and service delivery to forge relationships that are relevant to local customers throughout the world.
Our Similarities bring us to a common ground; Our Differences allow us to be fascinated by each other. — Tom Robbins
Whether you are considering customers in the next town, in an adjacent state, or through online delivery in this global economy or even if you are opening a location in a country that is half a world away, this is your opportunity to “reach for common ground.”
This principle of “Reach for Common Ground” emphasizes reach — global appeal with localized aspects are essential in this global economy!
Far too many enterprises behave as global or as local, but don’t integrate these aspects, that is, they only limit their reach!
Principle 4: Mobilize the Connection
“Mobilize the Connection, ” looks at how Starbucks strengthens the relationships formed in Starbucks stores and extends them into the home, office, and supermarket experiences of customers.
Chapter 8, “Growing the Connection Through Technology,” explores how the leadership has improved the in-store experience through the use of technologies such as the Starbucks Digital Network. It also examines the comprehensive digital strategy that Starbucks deploys, including internal assets like mobile apps and external resources like social media.
Information technology and business are becoming inextricably interwoven. I don’t think anybody can talk meaningfully about one without talking about the other. — Bill Gates
Chapter 9, “Personal Relationships Translate: Sharing the Love from People to Products,” explores the multichannel strategy adopted by Starbucks leaders that has results in Starbucks products being available for customers not only in Starbucks stores but also in their homes, their offices, other businesses, and virtually anywhere they go.
Advertising moves people toward goods; merchandising moves goods toward people. — Morris Hite
This principle of “Mobilize the Connection” emphasizes extending — with technology, we can be virtually anywhere!
Yet, far too many enterprises simply don’t extend!
Principle 5: Cherish and Challenge Your Legacy
This principle, “Cherish and Challenge Your Legacy,” addresses both the success and the significant ambitions of leaders, while also examining how the leadership at Starbucks approaches these goals.
Chapter 10, “Honor the Past, but Don’t Be Trapped in It,” demonstrates how Starbucks leaders have renewed the entrepreneurial spirit that led to the company’s success as a start-up.
The day before something is a breakthrough, it’s a crazy idea — Peter Diamandis
Chapter 11, “Taking the Long View: Building Success That Lasts,” explores how Starbucks leaders make choices to achieve a lasting positive impact on partners, customers, and communities.
Your are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. — Woodrow Wilson
Ultimately, “Cherish and Challenge Your Legacy” should encourage you to define the legacy you wish to leave and evaluate your leadership performance, in part, based on your progress toward that legacy.
Chapter 12, “Forging a Real Lifestyle Connection”
It is important to remember that Starbucks started out as a single store and that anything is possible if we take the lessons learned from Starbucks as a nudge to think about how we can innovate and expand our products, services, social media tools, technologies, and channels. The leaders at Starbucks also demonstrate what is possible when you foster product passion, teach your people the importance of human connections, seek operational excellence and efficiency, and engage in a never ending pursuit of relevance.
Howard Shultz puts it this way: “Any consumer brand today — whether Starbucks or a product like Tide — . . . [must] create relevancy in all aspects of your customers’ lives. . . . The price of admission is not good enough if your relevancy and market position is only where the product is sold. We said to ourselves that we have to be as relevant socially and digitally as we are when the customer is inside our four walls . . . companies that don’t understand [that] are going to [be] left behind.”
This principle of “Cherish and Challenge Your Legacy” emphasizes legacy — as Steve Jobs is often quoted “We’re here to put a dent in the universe; otherwise why else even be here?” — an entrepreneurial spirit and a lasting positive impact will define your legacy!
Far too many enterprises focus so too much on the short-term or too much on the long-term, but don’t integrate these aspects in how they define a legacy!
Starbucks Connection and Leading the Starbucks Way
Connection and leading can perhaps be distilled into — Maximize Enthusiasm, Sustain Emotional Bonds, Reach, and Extend to create a Legacy!
In Chapter 1, “The Starbucks Connection,” Joseph reminds us of Starbucks’ mission, Howard Schultz’s “Transformation Agenda”, and its tactical “seven bold moves” which are focused on long-term viability. The Transformation Agenda is detailed in Onward: How Starbucks fought for its Life without Losing Its Soul.
Mission: “To inspire and nurture the human spirit”
Transformation Vision: “To become an enduring, great company with one of the most recognized and respected brands in the world, known for inspiring and nurturing the human spirit.”
The seven bold moves:
- Be the undisputed coffee authority.
- Engage and inspire our partners.
- Ignite the emotional attachment with our customers.
- Expand our global presence — while making each store the heart of the local neighborhood.
- Be the leader in ethical sourcing and environmental impact.
- Create innovative growth platforms worthy of our coffee.
- Deliver a sustainable economic model.
Consider the elegance of nurturing the “human spirit” to create an “enduring, great company” by being an authority  and leader with impact  while inspiring partners  and emotionally connecting with customers  through an innovative growth platform  that fosters presence  and is founded on a sustainable economic model .
Then consider: Are you an authority?  Are you having an impact?  Are you inspiring partners?  Are you emotionally connecting with customers?  Are you fostering an innovative growth platform?  Are you achieving presence  atop a sustainable economic model ? Fundamentally, how are you catalyzing the human spirit into an enduring, great company?
As many organizations embark on the journey to achieve greater agility, they adopt the Scrum Master role (or a similar role via Tribal Scrum, Lean, Kanban, XP, etc.) and are readily confused by who ought to play the role and the nature of the role.
Note, the Scrum Guide uses the roles of Product Owner, Development Team, and Scrum Master to form the Scrum Team in the Agile “software development” world (Letter of Agile), we generally use the roles of Product Manager, Development or Engineering Team (encompassing the define-detail, build, and test perspectives creating the product or result), and Scrum Master to form the Whole Team in the Agility world (Spirit of Agility).
Additionally, this confusion is further heightened with such expressions as “a key part of the Scrum Master’s role is to protect the Development Team”. Such confusion plagues many organizations with an us-versus-them mindset where the Scrum Master adopts a team versus organization perspective or agile is about the team perspective (Google the second phrase end explore the results). And the confusion perpetuates into who ought play the role — should a project or product manager take on this role or should a technical or team lead take on this role!
However, success is only readily achieved via a win-win where the Scrum Mater role is not about “protecting” anything — and — Agility is not only about “the team”, but about the Product Owner, Development or Engineering Team, and Organization. The Scrum Master is a neutral party commonly known as “Switzerland”.
The Scrum Guide emphasizes that “the Scrum Master is a servant-leader for the Scrum Team”, which includes the Product Owner and Development or Engineering Team. The Scrum Guide organizes the Scrum Master’s services to the Product Owner, Development or Engineering Team, and Organization.
Scrum Master Service to the Product Owner
The Scrum Guide emphasizes that the Scrum Master serves the Product Owner in several ways, including (with emphasis added):
Finding techniques for effective Product Backlog management;
Clearly communicating vision, goals, and Product Backlog items to the Development [Engineering] Team;
Teaching the Scrum Team to create clear and concise Product Backlog items;
Understanding long-term product planning in an empirical environment;
Understanding and practicing agility; and,
Facilitating Scrum events as requested or needed.
Generally, the first three points emphasize Collaboration and Results, the next two points emphasize Responsiveness, and the last point emphasizes Collaboration. If you have a different interpretation, please share!
Naturally, Agility heightens a product owner’s awareness of the synergy between collaboration & results (in working with the development or engineering team) and responsiveness (relative to the organization).
Scrum Master Service to the Development or Engineering Team
The Scrum Guide emphasizes that the Scrum Master serves the Development or Engineering Team in several ways, including (with emphasis added):
Coaching the Development [Engineering] Team in self-organization and cross-functionality;
Teaching and leading the Development [Engineering] Team to create high-value products;
Removing impediments to the Development [Engineering] Team’s progress;
Facilitating Scrum events as requested or needed; and,
Coaching the Development [Engineering] Team in organizational environments in which Scrum is not yet fully adopted and understood.
Generally, the third and fifth points emphasize People, the second point emphasizes Results, and the first and fourth points emphasize Collaboration. If you have a different interpretation, please share!
Naturally, Agility heightens awareness among a development or engineering team’s members (people) and how they collaborate to achieve results.
Scrum Master Service to the Organization
The Scrum Guide emphasizes that the Scrum Master serves the organization in several ways, including (with emphasis added):
Leading and coaching the organization in its Scrum adoption;
Planning Scrum implementations within the organization;
Helping employees and stakeholders understand and enact Scrum and empirical product development;
Causing change that increases the productivity of the Scrum Team; and,
Working with other Scrum Masters to increase the effectiveness of the application of Scrum in the organization.
Generally, all the points but the third emphasize People and the third point emphasizes Responsiveness. If you have a different interpretation, please share!
Naturally, Agility heightens an organization’s awareness of the value of its people and the organization’s ability to be more responsive to customers and the marketplace.
The Effective Scrum Master
An effective Scrum Master must be very deliberate in fostering the natural healthy tension between the Product Owner, Development or Engineering Team, and Organization while navigating the natural un-healthy tension to ensure it does not manifest into utter darkness (generally via the six diseases)!
While our notation and practice of Agility predates the Agile Manifesto (“Manifesto for Agile Software Development”) and transcends technology or “software development” — with roots in Boydian Agility in John Boyd‘s OODA loop (Observe-Orient-Decide-Act) and Sun Tzu’s The Art of War (see the Denma Translation Group) — our Manifesto for Agility expresses the alignment with the Agile Manifesto and is commonly visualized below. See The Spirit of Agility and the Letter of Agile for more!
In Delivering Happiness, Tony Hsieh advances a notion of happiness (positive psychology) that involves a Sense of Control, Sense of Progress, and Sense of Connectedness along with Purpose, Culture (Control, Progress, and Connectedness), and Profit.
In Authentic Happiness, Martin Seligman advances a model of positive psychology (happiness) that involves Positive Emotion (pleasant life), Engagement (good life), and Meaning/Purpose (meaningful life).
In Flourish, Martin Seligman advances a refined model of positive psychology (well-being) that involves Positive Emotion (pleasant life), Engagement (good life), and Meaning/Purpose (meaningful life), Accomplishment, and Positive Relationships.
Seligman also expresses his “rethinking” of happiness.
When I wrote Authentic Happiness a decade ago, I wanted to call it Positive Psychology, but the publisher thought that “happiness” in the title would sell more books.
I also dislike authentic, a close relative of the overused term self, in a world of overblown selves.
I actually detest the word happiness, which is so overused that it has become almost meaningless. It is an unworkable term for science, or for any practical goal such as education, therapy, public policy, or just changing your personal life.
The primary problem with that title and with “happiness” is not only that it under explains what we choose but that the modern ear immediately hears “happy” to mean buoyant mood, merriment, good cheer, and smiling.
Positive psychology, as I intended it, is about what we choose for its own sake.
Seligman summarizes that Authentic Happiness Theory focuses on Happiness, measured through life satisfaction, and with the overall goal to increase life satisfaction.
Seligman summarizes that Well-Being Theory focuses on well-being; measured through positive emotion, engagement, meaning/purpose, positive relationships, and accomplishment; and with the overall goal to increase flourishing by increasing positive emotion, engagement, meaning/purpose, positive relationships, and accomplishment.
Seligman references Felicia Huppert’s and Timothy So’s definition of flourishing: “to flourish, an individual must have all the ‘core features’ (positive emotions; engagement, interest; meaning, purpose) and three of the six ‘additional features’ (self-esteem, optimism, resilience, vitality, self-determination, positive relationships).”
How do Hsieh’s and Seligman’s theories relate?
- Meaning and Purpose: Purpose (Hsieh) and meaning/purpose (Seligman) are well aligned.
- Self-organization: A sense of control (Hsieh) fosters positive emotions (Seligman). Organizations commonly promote a sense of control by employing self-organizing groups or teams.
- Feedback: Accomplishment (Seligman) fosters a sense of progress (Hsieh). Organizations commonly promote a sense of progress by providing groups or teams with feedback (from outside the groups or teams) regarding their progress (or lack thereof).
- Collaboration: Positive relationships (Seligman) foster a sense of connectedness (Hsieh), and a sense of connectedness (Hsieh) fosters engagement (Seligman). Organizations commonly promote a sense of connectedness by empowering groups or teams to collaborate and co-create with other groups or teams.
Organizations commonly promote a sense of connectedness by empowering individuals to collaborate and co-create within groups or teams and by empowering groups or teams to collaborate and co-create with other groups or teams. By employing groups or teams, providing them with feedback, and empowering people to collaborate and co-create within groups or teams and with other groups or teams, why aren’t all such organizations successful?
Are organizations not employing teams, providing feedback, or empowering people? Are people not leveraging how they are being empowered? Is there not a way for organizations to transform from where they are to where they want to be? Or is something else missing!