Quantum Monkeys Blog

Of the 3 leader roles, which one are you perfect for?

There are a lot of articles out there about different leadership styles. No matter what you do, there’s probably a style that defines it very clearly.

I don’t care much about those.

I’m a practical man. I don’t care how unique you are. I want to know what you are good for. So should you: knowing what kind of role suits you better will help find a place where you can be both efficient and yourself.

I have noticed that leaders end up in one of three roles, plus one extra. Yep, for all of the uniqueness of your style, I pile leaders into a handful of heaps.

Good leaders understand one simple truth about their role: it’s not about them. It is never about them. It’s about a greater cause, which itself is usually about other people.

Keeping that thread in mind, let’s have a look at my three (plus one) heaps of leaders.

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By Maurice Lefebvre, ago
Quantum Monkeys Blog

How to be an awesome change leader

Change management is not an easy thing.

If you have ever lead a change endeavor, you had the pleasure to face some challenges. The fear and confusion brought by poor communication. The awakening of the organization’s immune system and the blanket resistance that comes with it. Or the planning is ridden with as many potholes as a Montreal’s street (believe me, that’s quite a lot).

One of the largest challenges is the sheer volume of situations you need to pay attention too, regardless of what they might be. It forces you to dilute your energy and often makes you lose sight of the goal or purpose of the change. There’s just too much noise.

The problem, however, isn’t that there’s too much to cope with. It’s just that we lose sight of what matters in all the noise. You can’t do everything, win every argument, convince everyone or even fight every possible battle.

The solution isn’t complicated, although it’s not easy. You have to learn to let go.

My younger self-learned that through a Zen practicing teacher of mine who would answer nearly all of my rants with the most frustrating questions ever: “Why?” and “Does it matter?” If you can’t answer those questions in a satisfactory way, then you have to let go.

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By Maurice Lefebvre, ago
Quantum Monkeys Blog

An innovative way to improve team creativity

Let’s say that you are a manager with the nagging feeling you are not getting the most out of your team.

You hired talented people, and yet, no matter how exhaustive and precise your work orders are, they keep delivering results that are unexciting, limp, mediocre?

Have you thought that maybe your highly detailed work orders are what’s to blame? That a bit of vagueness, that breathing room is what your talented people need to deliver bottled awesomeness?

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By Maurice Lefebvre, ago
Quantum Monkeys Blog

Using narrative to ease change

A good story is a powerful thing.

It can move us, persuade us, makes us relate to another’s plight. Good narratives follow a structure that has been passed down from one generation to the next, making the most frightening things clear and somehow reassuring. Even surprise turns of events are expected and accepted.

Change management, on the other hand, is the polar opposite. Information is lacking, communication breaks down, and structure is often lacking or is indiscernible.

Intuitively people perceive the events around them as stories, and change management initiatives are too often partial stories, filled with cracks and uncertainty. The mind being a powerful storytelling tool, it will naturally fill those cracks and, being geared for survival, it will fill them with dreadful things.

Using storytelling as a means to communicate change, make people empathize with it, and fill the blanks with something a bit more positive than dread.

How can you do that?

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By Maurice Lefebvre, ago
Quantum Monkeys Blog

How to hire the best Agile professionals

I’m seeing a lot of job postings for agile professionals lately. However, the way they are worded and the requirements listed often do not make sense in an agile context.

In fact, a large number of them seem to be copy and pasted from a project manager job posting with the additional requirement of a scrum master certification and possibly some agile experience. If that is your case, your agile endeavor is in a heap of trouble.

The goal of this article is to shed some light on what to look for in an agile professional. There are a lot of emerging titles, certification acronyms and different frameworks out there. It is also easy for the non-initiated to see scrum masters and product owners as nothing more than traditional project managers with a fancier name.

The situation is not helped by the fact that many companies who ask for agile personnel have a limited understanding of what agility is, believing it to be simply a new delivery method involving only superficial changes.

I hope the following will shed a bit of light on how best to approach hiring agile professionals.

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By Maurice Lefebvre, ago
Quantum Monkeys Blog

What makes startups special?

It doesn’t matter in which market your company is operating, if there are successful startups in the same domain you most probably have felt their impact.

Startups are a force to be reckoned with. They face harsh constraints on financial, material and human resources, they begin with no name for themselves. And yet those very constraints propels them. Their products evolve faster, they generate more buzz than anyone else and they gain market shares at an amazing speed. They call it “disruption” and if they can sustain it long enough, they will hurt you.

To be clear, I’m not talking about those startups with a focus on pure growth rather than profits in order to be bought off. Those will hurt you too, but they will disappear at some point. No, I’m talking about financially viable startups. Those are the ones that will be the mainstream companies of tomorrow. But the very way they operate means that tomorrow’s way of doing business will be very different from today’s.

It is crucial for any company to understand how those successful startups operate, regardless if you are a giant multinational, an established local company or even a startup yourself.

So, what makes successful startups so special?

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By Maurice Lefebvre, ago
Quantum Monkeys Blog

VUCA training with boardgames

In this post, we will talk about the concept of VUCA. If you are not familiar with it, I recommend that you read my post Five emerging concepts in agile beforehand for a short overview.

The idea that we live in a VUCA (Volatile Uncertain Complex Ambiguous) world has been making its way into the business world for a few years now. It has been used to measure how stable (or not) and known (or not) any given context actually is.

It is human nature to seek stable and known environments, often to the point of blinding ourselves to variability in order to maintain an illusion of stability. By ignoring the variability that is there, we are not doing ourselves any favor. It simply means that we will be woefully unprepared when our artificial bubble of safety bursts under the pressure.

Since it is natural for us to seek stability, living in a VUCA world requires some training. In this post, I will show you how we can train for high VUCA environment in business using an old human training tool: games.

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By Maurice Lefebvre, ago
Quantum Monkeys Blog

Intrapreneurs, pirates on the corporate sea

Innovation is key to success. We often see startups as hotbeds for innovation while larger companies are too mired in process, politics, and regulations to innovate, preferring to simply buy startups with a good product.

But it does not have to be that way. Very large companies such as Google, Apple, GE, Lockheed-Martin and so many others make good use of intrapreneurs to innovate in a manner similar to startups, without as many risks.

Intrapreneurs share the thirst for exploration and strange waters that their entrepreneur cousins have, while also enjoying breaking the rules of the calcified organizations they work for. Back in the early ’80s, Apple’s Macintosh team took up the pirate imagery and followed the maxim “Better to be a pirate than join the Navy”. That same renegade spirit inhabits intrapreneur teams everywhere to this day.

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By Maurice Lefebvre, ago
Quantum Monkeys Blog

The emerging face of the 21st century organization

Different models compete to be the next big thing: “classic” Agile (and its frameworks such as Scrum, XP, SAFe), Modern Agile, Lean Kanban, Lean Startup, Management 3.0, Teal Organizations, Design Thinking, Podularity, Holacracy, Sociocracy, “flatarchy”, Deliberately Developmental Organizations, and more. Many of these models emerged to address specific contexts, and many of them are complementary to each other. This can become confusing fast.

What I notice is that what differentiate these models is often far less interesting than what they have in common. We can see these commonalities in their approaches to evolution and in their application in real companies.

A portrait of the new face of 21st-century organizations is slowly emerging through the fog of competing models. At its core are the elements shared across several models, often completed by individual elements taken from different models to better customize the approach to a particular business context.

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By Maurice Lefebvre, ago
Quantum Monkeys Blog

When safety turn toxic

Last week we looked at the advantages of a culture of safety in my post Safety is not immunity. This week we will explore the pitfalls of a badly implemented safety culture.

I want to start by saying right from the get-go that a culture of safety is always more desirable than a culture of fear. That being said, it is possible to create a corrupted or toxic culture that gives the illusion of safety. Sometimes this false safety puts people in danger. Other times, it is the organization that is at risk.

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By Maurice Lefebvre, ago