At the Stoos Gathering we will discuss how to accelerate change in management and organizational transformation.
In my interpretation, our goal for the gathering was to achieve an understanding of the problem, an agreement on the desired future, and at least some suggestions for how to get there faster.
The participants defined the problem in the form of “a fifty-dimensional mind-map”, as Steve Denning calls it. It is rather comprehensive in terms of root causes and consequences. But we intentionally call it a “work in progress”, not in the least because the problems themselves are evolving too.
Organizations can become learning networks of individuals creating value, and the role of leaders should include the stewardship of the living rather than the management of the machine.
Some would say this is not measurable, and they would be right. But the Agile Manifesto was not measurable either, and yet it inspired many. The 21 participants found the communiqué that emerged at the end properly reflected their hopes and dreams, and we can only hope others find it inspiring too.
How to Get There Faster
So far so good.
Of course, for many people the heart of the issue is “how to get there faster”. Plenty of our discussions were not about the problem nor the goal, but about what we can do to accelerate change. Here’s what we came up with:
We’ve decided that no “guiding coalition for change” can succeed without trust among its members. That’s why we invested heavily in developing trust among the 21 participants. (And yes, that took us some time.) We’ve seen earlier events fail because of clashes of egos trying to promote their own approaches. We did not want to go that way.
We also concluded that we cannot achieve this acceleration ourselves. We can only achieve it by catalyzing and connecting the initiatives of others. And so we decided that we should not compete with existing models, groups, or events, and we should not support one approach over the other. Granted, some models were briefly talked about, such as Lean Startup, Spiral Dynamics, Elastic Leadership, and Cynefin, but agreement was only on the fact that none of them has truly changed the world, and in order to succeed we may need them all.
Considering that we aim to be inclusive, and not divisive, we spent considerable time discussing stakeholders (the ones who need change) and change agents (the ones who drive change). In both cases we barely had time to complete a first iteration. More work is needed, hopefully involving other people, to arrive at useful outcomes. (The change agents topic is still awaiting publication.)
Our hope to connect and catalyze existing ideas and initiatives led to the creation of the LinkedIn group, which has attracted 350 members in less than a week. We discussed alternatives, including Google Groups, but considered that most people among our target audience are on LinkedIn. We also noted that reaching out to the stakeholders and change agents will be crucial, but this effort could logically not be part of the gathering itself. This will require a follow-up in the wider network, with other people.
We discussed that a movement will probably require an identity. We did not succeed at inventing a name, and we also have not discovered an existing name that we all can identify with. Personally, I think this matter should now be left to the network. A name and identity will emerge if there is sufficient need among the enthusiasts to have one.
Last but not least, we are all aware that people want to know more about what we did during the Stoos Gathering. This is why some of us have committed to publish blog posts and videos about the event. These are not the “official” outcomes, but should be seen as our personal reflections.
From emails with the other participants I know that more content about specific topics is forthcoming, but I can’t say when or where.
One lesson from earlier events has been that “less is more”. Agreement on the problem, agreement on the desired outcome, and agreement on first steps that can help us to accelerate change, will be more effective than hundreds of pages of content. The constraints matter much more than the content.
I think only in a year or so we will be able to say if the Stoos event was successful. If our event is the main trigger for successful follow-ups by other people (some of whom thinking they can do better than us), then we will have succeeded at accelerating change.
On the other hand, it could be that people find our statements of the problem, the desired future, and our suggestions for acceleration very inspiring. But if nobody actually takes some next steps, my opinion is that we will have failed.
For now, I think we made some progress. It is too early to cry victory or defeat. The Stoos Gathering must be seen as a first step on a road that is probably longer than all of us like.