Welcome to our interview with Bob Schatz. Bob is a leader in Agile Product Development, Process Improvement, Organizational Fitness, Scrum Training, and Lean Management at Agile Infusion, LLC.
Bob specializes in training, consulting, and coaching in the practice of successfully using agile project management techniques to transform organizations and improve the performance of their software development project teams. He is a long-time Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) with the Scrum Alliance. He began his practice as a result of leading the first large agile transition at Primavera Systems in 2002. Since then he has helped many other companies do the same.
Welcome Bob, and thank you for contributing to the questions that are at the heart of the Exploring Forward Thinking Workplaces 2.0 conversation.
How can we create workplaces where every voice matters, everyone thrives and finds meaning, and change and innovation happen naturally?
Bob: This is a great question. I’ve always been someone that really wants to create a workplace described in those words. I know in my career as a leader, I’ve tried to create that type of environment for people. Now, as a consultant, I go from company to company and see what they’re doing, and I try to help them get to a better place where continuous improvement is the daily goal. In my heart, I want to believe something like you’re describing here can happen, but then I think about it and see what the reality is.
I don’t think this type of workplace will emerge in most organizations. It takes a lot of work, excellent leadership, and a special culture all being in alignment at the same time. What we can do as leaders is put people that want that type of workplace into an environment that fosters that kind of culture. But I also think there are some people that might not want that—or it may not fit every situation. Some people just want to show up. They want to do good work. They want to know that the work has some meaning to it, but they may not feel the need to own the process. There are some types of work that fit well with these people. I don’t think everybody needs to be a hard charging change agent and an innovator, and if there are too many, is that a good thing?
I also think that some people at different levels of the organization—all the way from the top to the bottom—might not have that gear. They just don’t have that gear to get to where they can do this. It doesn’t really match every type of situation. I’m thinking in highly structured operational environments where the work is more standardized and procedures must be followed. It’s just about getting things done.
In John Kotter’s latest book, XLR8 he writes about organizations developing a type of dual operating system. One operating system is for “keep the lights on” type of work and execute the steady state business while the other operating system is for innovating new products and services, which requires a whole different culture. A lot of companies are trying to build in these dual operating systems that have a connection—one feeds the other, but it’s a very hard thing to do with companies having the pressures they have today. It’s becoming more and more a need but trying to figure out how to make it happen is something fully different.