New Ways Of Managing

New Ways Of Managing will be a book!
....we hope. We're working on it. Let us know if you want us to land it soon.

Agile thinking is transforming IT, enterprises, government, and society. Its impact is far reaching enough to talk of it as a renaissance in thinking, a refresh or step change that comes only once or twice a century. This is not an exaggeration.

Agile thinking empowers people to be knowledge workers, to design the work and make the decisions. It treats them like they are over 18 and on the same side. Conventional management too often treats people like clerical workers, like plug-compatible wetware, like Human Resources, who can't be trusted, who are evaluated numerically, who are an overhead to be minimised, who need to be told what to do and how to do it. Which one is more condusive to satisfaction and mental health?

The Agile movement is leading to New Ways Of Working: iterative, incremental, experimenting, exploring complex systems (our discussion of New Ways Of Working here, with reading list). These are displacing the ideas of big-bang projects; zero risk; certainty and accuracy; plan once execute perfectly; failure is not an option.

At least as important, though, is New Ways Of Managing™. Too often, management views the transformation to New Ways as something done to improve the practitioner workforce, not management. This can't be. For an organisation to change, the management must change. This is one of the biggest issues facing organisations moving to agile ways of working. Managers must understand and focus on empowerment, collaboration, agility, and flow. We Imagemake NWOM a special focus for Teal Unicorn when we transform organisations and IT functions. We provide coaching and training to get there.

This is our thinking we use:

Target state

There isn't one. Too many frameworks and methodologies and bodies of knowledge want to tell you what the ideal state looks like. Having some aspirations - some navigational stars - is useful and gives us a direction, but there is no state that we seriously expect to arrive at. New Ways of Managing is a transformational approach, so it is a means of improving work. As such it is a journey which is never ending. As fast as we improve towards some aspirational state, we will never reach it because the world changes and that aspirational goal moves. The Toyota Improvement Kata has always recognise this by setting short term goals that we iterate towards, but each time we reach that short term goal we revalidate the long term vision because it is likely to have moved in the interim. If expensive kids in suits claim they can tell you what your operating model will look like in 2 years time you should show them the door. Nobody can know that. We are dealing with complex systems and in a complex system we can never know what the future state will be at any point in time nor do we expect that state to ever be a static one. The concept that our operational state is ever a static stable one with brief interim periods of change is outdated and outmoded. We must understand that change is the permanent state and that future conditions are arrived at by exploration experiment and iteration

The Teal Unicorn solution

We haven't got one. Again, if some consulting firm claims that they have a solution that fits everyone you should show them the door. Exactly what approach will change the behaviour of a group of hundreds or thousands of people can only be discovered by experiment. Every organisation uses different methods to follow a different journey. The only things that are common across organisations pursuing new ways of working and managing are the principles and general theoretical models which we apply along the way.


Managers must get their heads around ten major principles (and more principles associated with them):
• More important to improve work than to do work
• Work must be sustainable
• Do less to do more
• It’s a complex system
• Navigate uncertainty and ambiguity
• Trust people
• Success is achieved through failure
• Product not project
• Shift quality left,  bake it in
• Get out of the way of the flow of value


These principles lead us to new models of managing:
• Kaizen
• Networked
• Servant leader manager
• Agile management
• Transformational leadership


In order to get there we manage with new methods:
• Lean
• Theory of Constraints
• Scrum
• Kanban
• SAFe (the trainer wheels of legacy orgs), Disciplined Agile, LeSS, Scrum of Scrums...
• DevOps

How to get to NWOM

This is the nub of our NWOM approach: the realisation that the most important aspect is not the target state or some template solution or even distilling out a set of principles. The key to success in getting a legacy organisation to new ways of working, to agility, is understanding how to create the transformation and in particular understanding that the focus of the transformation has to be the management layer, rather than the work.

The high level executives are more likely to be risk takers and big thinkers and will embrace new ways of working more quickly than the middle management will.

Likewise the practitioners at the worker level are generally keen to do something better once you work them through their initial resistance to being changed. But that middle layer - sometimes colloquially known as the permafrost - is usually the slowest to move in any organisation. So while other bodies of knowledge emphasise executive support and new ways of working for the teams, we think that those two aspects actually sandwich the most important and most neglected area, moving the management.

The second insight that we have learnt is that you can't change individual people whether they be executive, management, or team practitioners. People exist within a system so we must change the externalities to influence the system to change, rather than the people or some amorphous concept of "culture". Change the governance, policy, KPIs, products, services, and people development. The culture and work will then change.

Trying to change culture and work directly is futile.
It works at a team level up to a point, if you can create enough whitespace for change to survive.
But beyond that point, change must be systemic.
And fairly soon it must be systemic at an enterprise level.

It's the system, stupid.
Change the way we manage work, in order to change the system of work, to change the way we work. Trying to "make work agile" is futile.

Here is our model:
Copyright Two Hills Ltd  Creative Commons

New Ways Of Managing honours the principle that you can't change a complex system, you can only create the conditions for it to change itself. Management creates and manipulates those conditions. New Ways Of Managing also honours the Agile principle of "Let the people doing the work design the work". The system gives them the values, ways, and means, and lets the work be emergent.

It is almost never the individual. Unreasonable systems make unreasonable people. Fix the system.
Staff get labelled as lazy, negative, obstructive, when they're actually frustrated, bitter, disengaged, tired, afraid, unsafe. Most blossom when you get the system off them.

Nor is it the process that is the problem. Trying to improve a process is like fixing one cog in a gearbox. Even if you overcome that analogy by making a process more efficient, effective, and usually easier, that will often be a local optimum which degrades the system flow.

And of course improving tools never fixed anything, in isolation. Tools come last. Improve the system to free the people to improve the processes to identify tool requirements.

So long as the organisation is in an explore mode, you can do everything grassroots, below the rader, guerilla. But in order to move to "The New Way Of Managing For Our Organisation", you need executive support: a mandate to incubate that new way and adopt it widely in an iterative incremental manner.
As we adopt the new way of working, we pull new behaviour from the rest of the organisation, and we start to transform the operating model: new funding, strategy, planning, prioritisation, portfolio management, engagement between functions, governence, audit, measurement, reporting...

An explanation of the model:

Trying to change the way people work is futile. They work within a system. The system must change in order to allow the people to change the way they work. The system provides them values to guide them, ways of working to shape what they do, and the means to do their work. The system is built on people's behaviour and culture, practices, artefacts and tools, and suppliers / partners.

We change the system in order to change these inputs to the work. The way we change the system is by changing the way we manage the system. We do this in three primary areas: we change the people management, the governance and executive management, and the business management of the system.

The executive management provides the policy, priorities, vision, strategy, and funding, which in turn sets the values that the people use when doing their work.
We exclude leadership from this list: leadership comes from managers and non-managers alike. Not all managers are leaders. Leadership uses these same inputs, because leadership is part of the system to enable it.
The executive are themselves directed and monitored by the organisational governance, who should be concerned primarily with three system resources: people, money, and information - which they should govern equally.
The executive management receives feedback from the system, especially but not exclusively feedback on the risks present in the system, in order to allow them to manage risk.
In order to change the way executive management and governance think, we coach both governance and executive management in the new principles guiding the way they manage. There are 10 primary principles that we use and a number of subsidiary principles derived from them. For example, these principles include the ideas that success comes through failure, we should organise around products not projects, we need to do less in order to do more, and let the people doing the work design the work.

The people management function influences the system through KPIs, performance management, workflow definitions, and process designs. These shape the ways for people to do their work. People managers receive feedback from the system primarily around the performance of the work. The way that we influence people management is through introducing new models for behaviour, including kaizen cultural improvement, network management structures, servant manager (we don't like the term servant leader), agile management, and transformational leadership.

The business management function provides resources, capability, tools, and architecture, which practitioners use as the means to do their work. The business management function receives feedback from the system primarily but not exclusively around what are the constraints in the system that management can help remove.
To change the way business is managed we introduce new methods such as Lean, Theory of Constraints, value networks, Kanban, Scrum, Scaled Agile Framework or Disciplined Agile or Large-Scale Scrum or Scrum of Scrums, and DevOps.

Here is an alternative view of the same thinking:


it makes the same point that improvement is outside the work itself.