Prelude to #Stoos: Looking for the Great Thought

What is the Great Thought that everyone will want to be part of? What is the Big Message that we all can believe in?

This Friday and Saturday some 20+ management thinkers and practitioners will gather in Stoos (Switzerland) and talk about management. In particular, we will discuss why management isn’t changing fast enough.

A New Attractor

The difficulty of changing a system is related to what complexity scientists call an attractor. No matter how you try to push the system away from the attractor (with great new ideas), the attractor (hierarchical bureaucracy) is too strong and always pulls the system back. That's why systems thinkers are often looking for leverage, or the one single change in a system that dissolves the attractor and creates a new one.

I now spend my time and energy wondering if we are able to create a new attractor.

In a practical sense that means (for me) coming up with something that will appeal to almost anyone, but for different reasons. We're dealing with many different kinds of managers, with many different needs. Agile was great for software developers because it gave them higher quality and sustainable pace. But it was also great for management, because it promised accelerated time to market, and ability to respond to change.

Likewise, if a Grand Idea will emerge in Stoos I think it should cater to different people.

A Grand Idea

We must cater to both traditional managers and young MBA students, both conservative and creative industries, both top management and middle management. For example, some values (like transparency) sound attractive for some groups (creative people), but definitely not for others (investment banks). If the gatherers in Stoos come up with a Big Message, it should be something that everyone can believe in. And then different flavors (like Beyond Budgeting, Radical Management, Management 3.0, etc) could all focus on certain groups. Just like Scrum and XP and Kanban target different people with different needs. But they are all part of the same movement.

So the question is…

What is the Great Thought that everyone will want to be part of?

What change will look so interesting that it dissolves the current attractor and creates a new one?

A Stakeholders’ Revolution

I am sometimes reminded that revolutions that toppled totalitarian regimes usually did not start within those regimes. That's why the pessimistic part of me thinks that some groups of managers may have to be written off. They will never want to give up what they have now. Just like very few monarchies were eager to embrace democracy.

The revolution may have to come from other stakeholders (employees, customers & communities). After all, they are the ones suffering most from badly managed organizations.

p.s. If you want to keep yourself up-to-date: follow the #Stoos tag on Twitter.

(picture: Nicolas Desprez)

(Jurgen Appelo is author of Management 3.0, a best-selling management book for Agile developers. It has a picture of a monster in it.)

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