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The biggest challenge

Just to make it clear from the beginning: There is no easy change or transition. In the human language „known“ has the meaning of „safe“, while „unknown“ always means kind of a risk or threat. Thus change has always to do with letting something that is already known go while not having absolute confidence in a successful ending of your journey. If its outcome is obvious, it wouldn´t be a change – it would simply be named an improvement.

Let alone that this experience is a shared one between all members of the team – not just me. This means that it is a shared level of uncertainty of the Outcome between people. And since people are dynamically evolving creatures, one has to consider their own fears and their own ambitions in the equation of how complex it is of an experience and how uncertain are its outcomes.

I had one advantage compared to the rest of my department: It was clear enough to me that our situation can’t be easily solved with a “keep it up” attitude. However, my biggest challenge was not our decision to implement scrum boards, nor the aim to make work transparent and focus on flow and customer needs. This was the easy part of the transition.

Much harder was that we had to reorient our teams to hold up planning, reviews and retrospectives. Those are all valuable meetings or communication platforms. And of cause they need one holding them to be flexible yet efficient enough to meet the goals of the meeting – and I’m not saying that’s easy. But what I mean is that those challenges are relatively a different level of challenges since they don’t include the intensive level of letting go as to what I personally was facing.

If you want to experience an agile culture and aim for self-organizing teams, it is an essential step to understand that as the organizations leader it cannot be you who steers the destiny and future of your organization. It is essential that you realize the shift in your role: to that it’s important that you nourish the culture with the needed networks and information and set boundaries to help the individuals and teams to effectively collaborate in order to enable them to make better decisions for the organizations future profit instead.

As the former Manager the hardest part was to give up responsibilities and to understand, that I have to completely change my own mindset and behavior within the group. – #EMPOWERING.TEAM

Considering our egos and our cultural understanding of power through physical ownership of decisions and things, this awareness is very unusual and challenging for Managers used to assert themselves in the hierarchy. In most cases, the department manager is promoted as he or she appeared competent to lead and develop others and – at the end of the day – to make wiser decisions as their teammates would make.

That´s a fact: Leading in an Team-empowered environment means exactly the opposite. Especially at the beginning of the transition the former manager has to face that him making the decision is like the department is thinking with ONE brain. So with this picture in mind one might say: „Since I know that I´m the smartest guy in my department I think this picture validates that for us the hierarchic system might work well.“ And this guys view might work in some environments where only identically repeatable and not innovating, growing and complex networks are needed – and where agility is extremely valuable.


There are several authors and coaches having easy, complicated, funny or boring definitions for complexity – and I really don´t want to bother you with a new boring one. But there are some thoughts I found in a book of Maria Pruckner that really helped me in that matter:

Our brain tends to interpret and recognize circumstances by comparing acquired information to experiences and information it gathered in the past. This means that in each brain, the acquisition and interpretation of what is happening right NOW, depends on what this brain had already been through. It would be naive to conclude that one could experience THE complete reality just because he has ability for sanity and reason. Depending on its past experiences, the brain will always leave out information that it deemed to be of no value and filter the reality based on what it already knows.

If you think of complexity just in a way that it is the circumstance that more things are acting and interacting than a brain is able to cope, the logical consequence is quite easy to find.

„How should someone manage something that even the most genius human brain can not cope with“ – Maria Pruckner

So if there is no chance to analyze, anticipate or at least imagine the complexity of the reality we live each second with one brain, the chances to make better decisions in that situation will rise with each brain you add to the equation. And since complex systems are self-steering and self-regulating one has to simply let go of the idea of managing such a system and give way for a self-reinforcing functionality of the organization.

Instead of using one brain to progress I believe I should use all brains of our organization: The network that steers and my own to support the people to do a better job today then they have been able to do, yesterday. It is more valuable to just focus on how I can feed the network with what they need in order to enable making decisions more frequent and to continuously learn from one decision to the next. This is, what I define as Agile Leadership.

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