Stoos Network (part 5): Complaints & Complexity

Aside from many enthusiastic messages we’ve also experienced a bit of a backlash, both during and after the Stoos Gathering.

What did we do wrong?

Both Steve Denning and I are guilty of announcing publicly that we were organizing a private event, and asking for input. Such public announcements (and requests for input) have not happened with earlier private events, such as the ones that led to the Agile Manifesto and the Declaration of Interdependence. The consequence of our openness before the event conflicted with some participants’ need for privacy during the event. And, while other events before didn’t broadcast anything, some people found our sudden silence unsettling. We did not anticipate this.

The four organizers, including me, are also guilty of selecting participants and achieving diversity in limited dimensions. We did our best to invite men and women, people from various continents, both thinkers and practitioners, different professions and age groups, and representatives of multiple stakeholders. As a result we’ve been accused of not inviting enough people who are currently acting as managers. I have not heard such complaints about lack of diversity about the Agile Manifesto, which was primarily created by young white male Americans. But maybe the stakes and expectations for our event were higher.

Finally, the whole Stoos group is guilty of delivering results that are not world shaking. This complaint was voiced several times even before the event was finished, and before some of us had a chance to sleep, travel, and prepare and publish blog posts or produce video. In my mind, our event was only meant to make a first step, and to discuss how to make next steps. It was not intended to solve the world’s biggest problems in only 1.5 days. But maybe we were too enthusiastic in our announcements, raising everyone’s expectations. Furthermore, in this new age of real-time news and social network sharing, people expect more and they expect it faster. And if you don’t deliver they will publicly announce that you’ve failed.

Of course, I’m not complaining.

Like the critics, I’m just observing.

In hindsight, the feedback is understandable and obvious. In complexity thinking we call it retrospective coherence. None of us had predicted such complaints, but in hindsight it is perfectly comprehensible. But without direct experience organizing such an event, it is impossible to manage the unknown unknowns. We can only learn and iterate, inspect and adapt.

Nevertheless, we’re happy about all discussions. Because, when people criticize what you’re doing, it means they care about the topic. It would have been worrying if the silence among our readers and followers was more deafening than our own. Furthermore, as someone pointed out, these discussions are a reflection of the complexity of the problem we are trying to address. If everyone simply agreed, there wouldn’t be a problem in the first place!

For now, I want to send thanks to all who have supported us, but also those raising concerns and steering us in a better direction. In some cases, you could improve your language, but maybe so can we. 🙂

And don’t forget the prime directive:

"Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job they could, given what they knew at the time, their skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand.

"At the end of a project everyone knows so much more. Naturally we will discover decisions and actions we wish we could do over. This is wisdom to be celebrated, not judgment used to embarrass."

Now, let’s move on to phase 2… 🙂

Tomorrow: Stoos Network (part 6): What’s Next?

Yesterday:  Stoos Network (part 4): Name & Identity

For more information: Stoos Network website, Stoos Network group

  • Stoos Network (part 4): Name & Identity
  • Stoos Network (part 6): Goal & Outcomes
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  • VFQDev

    An excellent blog, reflecting on the passion from both organisers, supporters and critics.

  • John Styffe

    Hi Jurgen
    Nice post. After reading your message you made me think that maybe I should have kept the comment of my friend to myself.
    In my self sustainability model one of the objectives is to come to an independent, self confident state of mind where one can be positive, supportive and encouraging and not feel threatened by empowerment.. Unfortunately, negativity and cynicism is often felt as a sign of superiority and is pervasive in society. (May I also add that social media allows this and makes it so easy).In my opinion much of this negativity is a result of fear and of course in these challenging times there will be a lot of fear.
    I was talking to someone some time ago. I asked them why they criticized so much and their reply was “Somebody has to tell the person where they were wrong and my reply was they know where they were wrong; they just do not know where they went right. When continue with this person and suggest we need to be more positive and encouraging then the may respond that this is unrealistic. And on it goes.
    In my opinion we need to try to be objective and unemotional and focus on where we went right. AND we did go right, a lot!
    In the meeting Michael suggested we focus on those who are interested rather than those who are the detractors. So true.
    I know that the organizers did their best and I appreciate their work. The Stoos adventure cost many of us great expense and time. We put a lot of time, energy and effort into this. We need to be patient. It is the beginning. I hate to use an old cliché but Rome was not built in a day. In the back of the minds of some is the Agile manifesto. A completely different time and set of circumstances. We have taken on a huge and daunting task. We must remain true to our vision in adversity.
    I was going to post this on the LinkedIn site but thought maybe I wil try it out here first.
    For me, I was honored to be invited; to participate in an event where I was going to be challenged, learn and meet new people. My expectations were met.

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