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InfoQ Homepage Articles Q&A with Jurgen Appelo on Management 3.0 Workout

Q&A with Jurgen Appelo on Management 3.0 Workout


The book Management 3.0 Workout by Jurgen Appelo contains games, practices, stories and tools that can be used to improve management in organizations.

Managers can use the book to develop skills for servant leadership and increase employee engagement.

Agile teams can adopt management practices described in the book to improve team work and collaboration helping them to become self-organizing.

InfoQ interviewed Jurgen about rewarding people and celebrating successes, result only work environments, delegation and coaching, and techniques for helping people to do their work better.


InfoQ: What made you decide to write a second book on management 3.0?

Jurgen: Actually, it is my third! I count my little book How to Change the World as the second. :-) However, the reason for writing this book is primarily the requests that I received from people for "more concrete practices". In my first book, Management 3.0, I covered both theory and practices. My travels around the world made it clear that people like sound principles and scientific references for better management and leadership, but what they need most is actionable ideas. They want practices they can start experimenting with next Monday morning. As I often say, being a "servant leader" is great, but not concrete. Buying your team great coffee is something practical you can do tomorrow morning.

InfoQ: The book is called Management 3.0 Workout. Why "workout"?

Jurgen: I don't like the concepts of methods and frameworks. They always communicate a rigid set of practices, and people can get dogmatic about whether a method or framework is understood or implemented "correctly". I like the metaphor of workout exercises much better. Everyone knows there are hundreds of workout exercises for people to get healthier. There is not a best method or framework for working out. You can do yoga, Pilates, power training, and much more. Basically, you have to pick and choose from a rich set of options, and maybe you can even invent your own workout exercises. In business, it's the same. We are all aiming for healthier organizations. And to achieve that, we need to apply good practices. In my new book, I offer a good collection of healthy workout exercises for better management. Now it's up to people themselves to pick the ones that suit them best, and maybe even invent their own.

InfoQ: Can you explain to our readers what management 3.0 is? What makes it different from management 1.0 and 2.0?

Jurgen: Management 1.0 is doing exactly the wrong thing. For example, treating people as if they are merely cogs in a machine and calling them "resources". Management 2.0 is doing the right thing wrong. For example, starting an Agile transformation, but in a top-down planned approach, with targets and rewards. Management 3.0 is doing the right thing right. In my opinion that means, treating the organization as a community of people working together toward a shared purpose.

InfoQ: In your book you describe how you can use kudos to reward people. Can you elaborate on that?

Jurgen: It's about giving people a token of appreciation, as a physical card or in any other form. The idea is to focus on the good stuff that people are doing, and getting rid of a culture where people are always talking about mistakes and errors. Systems thinking suggests that you get more of what you focus on. If you focus on bad things, you just get more bad things. Maybe it's good to remind ourselves to focus on the good things instead. We might get more good things!

InfoQ: Delegation can be hard, but I think it's important when you want to establish self-organizing teams. Any suggestions what managers can do to become effective delegators? Are there also things that teams can do to become self-organizing?

Jurgen: When people have problems with their workflow, we suggest that they visualize the workflow, usually with a task board. When people struggle with their business model, we suggest that they make a business model canvas. Therefore, when people have issues with delegation, empowerment, and self-organization (either too little or too much), why not visualize it with a delegation board? Simply discuss what the level of delegation is per key decision area, and visualize it on the wall. For example, what about vacation days? Can employees take vacation any time they want? Do they need to ask permission from a manager? Is it a team decision without the manager? You can visualize such management boundaries with a delegation board. Both managers and self-organizing teams can set one up, not only to clarify what the current status is, but also where they want to go.

InfoQ: You stated in your book that business should start with the "why". It sounds logical to me, why isn't every organization doing this?

Jurgen: Because people are taught that making money is the "why". Therefore, the focus of management in most organizations is on profits, revenues, etc. They don't realize that making money can also be the side-effect of doing a great job pursuing a worthier purpose. Interestingly enough, I've made more money since I stopped focusing on trying to get rich and started focusing on how to be better. :-)

InfoQ: Employee self-learning is important. Management 3.0 provides several ways to organize it and make it happen. Can you name some of them?

Jurgen: Well, Google had their famous "20-percent time", which has been de-emphasized by Google since about a year ago, according to various sources. But other companies still report good results with this practice. Basically, it means that you allow your employees to work on their pet projects a certain percentage of their time. Other companies have Hackathons / ShipIt Days / Exploration Days (different names for the same idea) which means that everyone in the whole organization works on their pet project on exactly the same day, which is scheduled in advance. I also like the idea of internal crowdfunding, where companies let employees invest in the ideas of their peers, so that the most innovative ideas emerge from the wisdom of the crowd.

InfoQ: Your book talks about results-only work environments. What are they and which benefits can you get from them?

Jurgen: In a Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) you don't care where people work, what time they show up at the office, and when they have their vacations. You simply make them joint responsible for agreed-upon results, and let them self-organize. It is very much like treating your employees like entrepreneurs or freelancers. The benefits are a highly engaged workforce and much less bureaucracy. However, crucial prerequisites are trust and a shared purpose. In my opinion, a culture of trust and purpose needs to precede a ROWE, otherwise it probably won't work.

InfoQ: Why is personal coaching not a primary task for managers? To who can people go if they feel that coaching might help them?

Jurgen: When you assume that the role of the manager is to coach their team members, you make the assumption that managers can help creative workers do their jobs. This is a fallacy. Most managers I know have no clue how to teach or assist their team members. Management guru Peter Drucker already pointed out this fallacy decades ago. Managers cannot know how knowledge workers do their jobs, he said. And they shouldn't even try. Managers are responsible for providing the right constraints and creating an environment where coaching capabilities are available for everyone. It doesn't mean they should perform that coaching themselves. And even if they could, there a reason not to do it. Because a coaching relationship can reinforce the hierarchical relationship between a manager and a team member. As a manager, if you really want to coach someone, pick a person somewhere else in the organization.

InfoQ: Your book mentions approaches like appreciative inquiry and powerful questions to increase performance. Can you explain what they are and how they can be used?

Jurgen: They are different techniques for people helping each other do better work. What I learned is that sometimes it is best _not_ to ask questions, because the questions that you ask someone already steer that person in a certain direction. Sometimes it is better to have random things happen, and to respond to each other's contributions in an affirmative way. Another technique I mention in my book is Improvisational Theater (or Improv). Is has a similar message: Don't ask questions; don't deny what others have contributed; just build on top of it and let things emerge. Such techniques can be very useful for coaches, mentors, managers and pairing partners.

InfoQ: You mentioned that we should also celebrate successes more. Do you know what is withholding people to do this?

Jurgen: Busy, busy, busy. That's what I noticed myself several years ago when I was still managing 100 people. We were always hurrying from one project to another. Sometimes, it's good to stand still for five minutes, and savor the moment of a project successfully delivered, a new customer signed up, or an expensive but valuable lesson learned. Most businesses don't celebrate nearly enough.

InfoQ: Can you share some of the experiences from organizations that have adopted management 3.0? How can this new book help them to go further, and how can it help organizations that are exploring ways to improve themselves?

Jurgen: Sorry, these three simple questions require answers that could be books in themselves! :-) The one thing that I'd like to point out is that there's no such thing as "adopting" or "implementing" Management 3.0. As I said, it's not a method or framework. It's seeing the organization as a community with a purpose, and then finding the practices that help you engage people, improve work, and delight clients. I'm reading the book Creativity Inc. right now, by Ed Catmull, president of Pixar Animation Studios. It is very inspiring. I'm sure they have never heard of Management 3.0 at Pixar, but, based on the stories in the book, I say Pixar is a great example of a Management 3.0 culture. Of course, they haven't "adopted" or "implemented" the Management 3.0 practices that I describe in my book. They had to invent their own practices. But for any organization that wants to be a bit more like Pixar, Netflix, Semco, or Google, my book offers dozens of concrete suggestions, in the form of games, tools, and practices that you can start experimenting with today.

Jurgen Appelo is CEO of the business network Happy Melly, and co-founder of the Agile Lean Europe network and the Stoos Network. According to his own biased metrics, he is the most popular management & leadership writer across continental Europe.

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