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Do you focus on the right thing?

It strikes me that it is totally important for most companies that their staff is working. “Yes, I’m working on it” is the answer you want to hear. To be honest, I would get totally worried if I heard from people all the time that they were “working on it”. Working is far too expensive! I don’t want them to work, I want them to deliver!

The idea that working is a good thing is so deeply anchored in us that we align our actions accordingly. What is usually prioritized? Right, what is to be worked on. Wouldn’t it be smarter to look at the board from back to front and prioritize what we will deliver next and not what to work on? And what do people often talk about at stand-up meetings? Right again: What did I work on yesterday and what will I work on today? Isn’t that weird? Shouldn’t we rather ask ourselves what was delivered yesterday and what will we deliver today? As a customer, I don’t care what anyone is working on.

Working costs money, delivering makes money.


–> Download #asareminder poster as PDF <–


Cross-functionality has nothing to do with team setup

Since my new book Rethinking Agile was published, readers have been posting excerpts from it many times. I have noticed that many readers are particularly interested in the topic of cross-functionality. Like the Spotify model, cross-functional teams belong to the inventory of the agile reliquary shrine: their existence is usually worshiped without reflection, but often they are nothing more than silos whose walls have been repainted. I am of the opinion: True cross-functionality does not arise from simply throwing people from different disciplines together in a team. For all those who have not yet read Rethinking Agile: Here is the section from the book that deals with it.

Cross-functionality has nothing to do with team setup
It all sounds very romantic, doesn’t it? The fact is, though, this is about enormous change. Why should the business departments simply go along with it? The demarcation between “us” and “them” is a fundamental historical problem that exists in most organizations, regardless what type of organization it is. This can be attributed to specialized splinter groups that typically organize themselves into departments. They split themselves apart from each other and the whole organization. Requests and results are usually “given over” (or tossed over) to the other departments, whose approach and requirements might be completely different than in their own department. Then the demarcation can be seen: the departments are a red flag for product development, software developers are better than software testers, the business departments see everyone else simply as suppliers, and so on.

Trying to make a company agile does not inevitably make this situation better. Cross-functional teams are great to have and an important part of the company. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that old prejudices just disappear. Now you just have cross-functional Team A that performs better than cross-functional Team B. Instead of functional silos, there are cross-functional silos. Congratulations! If you reduce the dependencies and combine teams according to product lines, Product Y is naturally more idiotic than Product Z. And taken from the portfolio point of view, there are only complete morons sitting at the top. With “performance” bonuses, you can easily reinforce this animosity or even make it worse. In doing so, only individual parts of an organization will be optimized, but not the value creation for the customer.This competition must first be removed. As I have shown with this company, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. It is a cultural process that already starts with recruitment. The required maxim should be “don’t hire skills, hire attitude”. Sure, subject matter expertise is important, but it is much easier to acquire subject matter competence than it is to change attitudes. Cross-functional teams are in no way the Holy Grail of agility making social points of friction between the performance areas of a value stream just magically disappear—sometimes they just shift. Bringing together various schools of thought in one team is still better than focusing on individual performance or on the performance of individual specialist silos. When it’s about focusing on the customer, integrated value generation is only a small drop in a very large bucket.

Cross-functionality is a company mentality and not an organizational setup for teams. It means creating an environment where it is ok, or even desired, to perform poorly locally (whilst learning) if it helps the overall performance of the organization. It isn’t enough having everyone is pulling on the same rope—they must all pull in the same direction, too.


–> #asareminder picture as PDF download <–

TWiG Speaks Portuguese

TWiG adds another language to its portfolio: Portuguese. Many thanks to Wellington Tonquelski Ferreira and Wilhelm Meier for the translation!   

We also fixed some minor errors in the Italien version.

So don’t wait and download it from the TWiG-Page!

Flight Levels and Business Agility in Bangkok

First of all, the clocks tick differently in Bangkok – the jet lag has really got to me this time. Apart from that, I was overwhelmed by the enthusiasm I experienced during two Flight Level classes, a top management workshop, an Applying Kanban training and a talk in 12 days Bangkok. My two Flight Level classes had three special features:

  • Nearly consultant-free. Apart from me and organizer Kulawat Wongsaroj and Kamon Treetampinij from Lean in Consulting there were almost no consultants. Nevertheless, the first training was sold out within a very short time and we had to set a second date because many managers wanted to know more about the Flight Levels. I think it’s best not to have more than 15 people in such intensive classes. Anyway, we also succeeded with once 18 and once 23. The fact that the Flight Levels went beyond the participants’ limits also had to do with my talk on business agility at the Agile Bangkok Meetup. 150 people were in the audience, but what I didn’t know was that more than 1000 more were watching my talk via the Facebook live stream!
  • Nearly tech-free. We have mainly focused on the Flight Level idea in rather non-technical areas: marketing for beauty products, medical supply management for hospitals, real estate development and wholesale of sexy underwear. An insurance company and a bank were also there.
  • C-leveled. Amazingly many representatives from the C-level found their way to the Flight Level classes in which they were exactly right. Many said after the training that they finally have something totally practical in their hands. In Kanban classes or in Scrum training you learn how to build and run boards – but especially top managers can’t do much with that. Their feedback was that thanks to the Flight Level training, they now know which boards are needed in the organization, how to connect these boards and who should coordinate with the systems. The trick is not to optimize the organizational structure, but to maximize value delivery to customers. We used three examples from completely different areas to see how this works in practice.

You can laugh – as loud as possible!

Who ever has the possibility to play the ship folding game or TWiG with a group of Thais, absolutely should do that. I rarely experience so much positive energy: people have bent over with loud laughter, discussion and explanation. Unfortunately I didn’t film it, it was a real highlight for me. According to all the feedback I got, TWiG was great fun for them, because it summarized everything they had learned during the two days. Thai people are really the best example of fun at learning and that’s why I’m very happy that I’ll be in Bangkok at least one more time this year.

Thanks Kulawat for the great pictures…