Personal Maps Used As An Icebreaker

Mind Map DCIt’s always nice to start a learning session or workshop off with an icebreaker.  It gets the energy going and sets the stage for increased participation. There are a number of different icebreakers you can employ, but the one I would like to discuss today is “Personal Maps”.  This was first introduced to me by the Management 3.0 community and it has become one of my favorites because it brings the energy level up while also helping the team learn more about each other.  When I first started working, I was told to keep business and personal life separate, but we spend so much time at work that we should know more about our co-workers.  Many studies now show that establishing relationships with our co-workers creates a much healthier work environment and lays the groundwork for the creation of high performing teams. You develop trust and empathy for your colleagues and care about them.  A team that cares about each other works much better together and will rally to each other’s aid when a challenge arises. Personal maps can help to start or fortify these relationships with the use of just 15-20 minutes. 

Personal Maps is a very easy exercise to conduct.  You start by pairing people up. Two people working together is optimal, but you can have three people as a group if you have an odd number of people or want less groups.  The idea is for everyone to create a mind map focusing on themselves at the middle of the map. Stemming from the map can be any number of things such as family, companies worked for, education, interests, likes, dislikes, etc  Mind maps can go one or multiple levels deep, but I don’t place any rules on the number of levels. I also have different color markers available for the more artistic.

I usually give everyone 5 minutes to create their Personal Maps.  As with a lot of my exercises, at the end of the 5 minutes I ask if they need two more minutes to complete and if so then I give them the time. Once they have created their personal maps then they place them on the table and take a look at each other’s maps.  I give them about eight minutes to ask questions and discuss the maps. My particular preference is for both of them to look at each other’s maps at the same time and ask questions to each other rather than each person presenting their map to the other in sequential fashion. I feel that it creates a more ad hoc and interactive conversation which seems to keep people’s attention and interest.  At the end of the exercise, people know more about their co-worker enabling the relationship to grow and are invigorated and ready to participate in whatever comes next in the session.

As a facilitator, you may run into some challenges or you may want to know about some variations you can use when creating the personal maps.  Below are a few I’d like to share.

Some participants may have trouble getting started and in those cases I employ some techniques to get them going. One such technique is to give them a small beach ball that they can toss to each other.  The beach ball has personal map subjects written on it. Wherever their thumb is when they catch the beach ball is the next subject area they can address on their personal map. A thumb ball can also be used as its own separate icebreaker when you have less time, but I like leveraging it here to get challenged participants started.  I try not to write too many subject areas on the beach ball, so they don’t continue to use it for all their personal map questions.

Also, a way to change up the exercise a little is to have each person create their partner’s personal map instead of creating their own.  This creates the interaction with your partner from the start and allows you to ask questions of your partner or of course just collaboratively create the personal map. Some studies also say that there is better participation and retention when you are listening and then writing down what you hear since you are using multiple senses and actions together.

Another variation is to have the person identify an avatar for themselves and draw it in the circle at the center of the map.  This could be a dragon, an animal, a superhero, etc. This creates additional conversation around why they chose that avatar.

If people are creating their partner’s personal map then we can also have them draw what their partner looks like in the center circle.  This reinforces some other learnings where we can have fun and not feel that we have to have something perfect before sharing. This variation tends to be a lot of fun.

Mind Map PZ

Also, if you have some extra time then you can ask each person to create a spoke of the map to be “A little known fact about me” and then ask that they also write that on a sticky with their name on the back.  At the end of the learning session you can then read them and ask people who they think it was who wrote that fact. This is a good way to tie everything together from the start of your session to the end.

I enjoy using personal maps as an icebreaker for my learning sessions and workshops.  I display them on the walls proudly and take a group team picture with them at the end of the session.  It’s a great way to have fun and get to know your teammates.

Delegation Poker

Delegation Poker Collage 2

I’ve been using Delegation Poker with the organizations and teams I work with. I also share it at meetups and other community events.  I have found the Management 3.0 tool to be valuable in the collaboration and facilitation of discussions surrounding the efficacy of delegation.

First, we need to understand that delegation is not a binary switch where we either delegate something or we don’t.  I remember when my son was a young boy and he wanted me to allow him to cross the street by himself. I didn’t just one day delegate the self-responsibility to him and say, “Fine, you can cross the street yourself now”.  There were levels of trust that needed to be cultivated until I was secure with him handling it by himself. So first I instructed him on what to look for and then asked him to cross. I then graduated to having him look and tell me when he thought he would cross before I would let him cross.  Eventually, I felt comfortable enough to allow him to make his own decision.  

Jurgen Appelo and Management 3.0 have created a tool called Delegation Poker which can help us with the delegation process.  They employ seven cards representing the different levels of delegation. As a team, we can list activities that require a decision (ex: new hire, product release, etc.).  We can then use these cards in planning the delegation level (planning poker style).

There are many different ways to leverage Delegation Poker, but most of my experience relates to assistance growing organizations on their agile journey.  Hopefully my examples will assist you in getting started and provide inspiration to also experiment with your own uses.

A lot of the organizations in the beginning of their agile journey are command and control. They strive to be agile, but their existing processes are predominantly command and control.  They start to recognize that they want to be more autonomous at the team level.  As they mature, they question their existing processes in discussion and retrospectives.  This is one of the times where I leverage delegation poker.

I usually leverage a retrospective or schedule separate time with the team.  I have the teams list current activities requiring decisions.  I have them quickly prioritize them in order of importance to address.  We timebox and go through the items in priority order.  For the first item, I have everyone flip their representative card at once for what they thought the current level of delegation was.  As in planning poker, we would discuss everyone’s opinion and come to a collective decision to the current delegation level for that item and record it.  We would then flip the cards again as to the delegation level they felt we should be using forward and discuss.  As usual, the value is in the discussion.  As a facilitator, I find it useful to capture some quotes from the discussion and read them back to the team when they are done.

  • C’mon – can we just make a decision already!
  • That requires to much time!
  • Person 1: Please be patient!  Person 2: Patience is a waste of time!
  • Well, I don’t trust that it will get done correctly.  
  • We don’t have the expertise.
  • You’re killing me with this re-voting.
  • Cool – that definitely works.
  • Why don’t we ask them?
  • Great point – do you all agree with that?
  • If we take the “approval” step out, they won’t do it right.

I try to allocate extra time to discuss the quotes I captured because sometimes they are quick statements that are overlooked and can provide value in further discussion towards root issues.  Many times it also provides some comic relief.

After we determine the aspired delegation level, we then discuss a plan to move from the current level of delegation to the aspired delegation level, recording action items along the way.

In addition to using Delegation Poker actively with teams, it is also useful for learning agile principles.  I have used it several times in organizations just starting their agile journey.  I conduct mini 90 minute workshops which go through an exercise where the participants split up into teams and make boxes (see picture above).  I first give them a box making process to follow and ask them to use delegation poker to identify the level of delegation for the current process activities.  I then also ask them to use delegation poker to identify the delegation levels they aspire to be at for those activities.

Once that is done, I tell them that they can now create their own process to making the boxes.  They create their new process and proceed to build the boxes following their new process.  When they are done, I ask them to use delegation poker to assess the delegation level of the new process’ activities.

We compare the original, updated and aspired delegation levels and discuss delegation state relationships and experiences.  You would be surprised how many times the teams do not reach their aspired delegation level with their own newly created process.

I have several stories from these workshops, but one is my particular favorite.  Teams started getting into a discussion about their updated processes.  The conversation between me (facilitator), Team 1 and Team 2 went as follows:

  • Facilitator:  Why did you decide to have a quality control person examining and signing approval for the box at the end?
  • Team 1:  Well, we need to make sure it is a quality product?
  • Facilitator:  So did the quality control person find any boxes that weren’t acceptable?
  • Team 1:  Well, no – not these times.
  • Facilitator:  So why not experiment and eliminate the quality control check and use the quality control person to build more boxes?
  • Team 1:  Because if we did that and took away the quality control person then people would definitely not make good boxes.
  • Team 2:  We didn’t have a quality control person and our boxes look pretty much like yours.
  • Team 1:  Ha Ha Ha!

In this specific exercise, there was no convincing Team 1 that taking away the quality control person could result in the same good quality and was worth a try.  It was so different than their understanding and the way they worked all theses years.  Even when there was proof of another team’s success doing it, they could only laugh (like “no” that couldn’t be – they’re tricking us).  Change is a tough thing and this was one lesson (like many) that was going to need follow-ups.

There are different ways to use Delegation Poker, but this is the way I tend to use it most.  We can be most effective if we can conduct the decision making with the people that have the information.  Just like my son wanting to cross the street though, this requires competency from the doers and trust from the management involved. Conscious steps can be taken to get to the best delegation level for that item in your team.

So whether you’re a startup or an established team at a large company, take a look at Delegation Poker to facilitate the right level of delegation growth for you.

Delegation Poker

Moving Motivators: Get to Know What Motivates Your Teammates


It is sometimes surprising what we don’t know about our co-workers.  Favorite movie? Favorite food? In the past, people said keep your personal life and preferences to yourself because this is the workplace. We now realize that knowing and empathizing with teammates is a catalyst for high performing teams.  We’re not saying to expose your deepest darkest secrets, but a friendly relationship, understanding and caring for your co-workers creates a much better working environment. 

What may especially help you as a manager or a teammate, is to learn what motivates your colleagues.  A very useful free tool/exercise developed by Jurgen Appelo of Management 3.0 is Moving Motivators. I have employed this tool in the organizations and teams I work with and have received very positive feedback. 

Motivation can be intrinsic or extrinsic.  Extrinsic motivation is rewarded by an external and most times tangible reward (ex: salary increase, bonus, etc.) whereas intrinsic motivation comes from within and is personally rewarding. So, extrinsic motivation arises from outside of the individual while intrinsic motivation arises from within. 

Moving Motivators concentrates on intrinsic motivation. Management 3.0 has created 10 cards of intrinsic motivators. Each person is asked to place the intrinsic motivator cards in order of importance to them.  I’ve used the tool in workshops for different organizations and many teams, and as you might expect the “gems” are found in the ensuing conversations. People discuss the order of their cards and why they ordered them that way, along with related stories as to why they feel that way.  Much insight is gained through the tool and exercise. Not only can you learn about your teammates, but you can also note popular motivators across the team and thereby team motivators.

Once the team has gone through that exercise, they can also look at their cards and move their cards above or below existing cards depending on how they are feeling the intrinsic motivator is being met.  As an example, if you don’t have the opportunity to investigate different things then your “curiousity” card would be moved lower below the existing horizontal card line. Again, a priceless discussion ensues and depending on the level of trust and transparency, this can be very enlightening.

So, take a look at Moving Motivators and understand what motivates your teammates.

Celebration Grid!

What should we celebrate?  Previous management practices had no tolerance for failure and concentrated only on celebrating successes.  Lately though, the pendulum has been swinging in the opposite direction, wanting people to understand that it’s OK to fail and to celebrate their failures. People will say “Fail Fast”.  We really need to understand the full intent here though because it’s not that we want to concentrate on failure, but more on learning. A better and more accurate phrase would be “Fail Fast to Learn”.  After all, failing without learning really provides no benefit.

If we do the same thing over and over again and continue to fail this is not beneficial and we have certainly not learned anything.  Albert Einstein dubbed this “the definition of insanity”. We can be successful by following a standard practice, but again we have not learned anything since the successful outcome was expected.  So these are examples of when we have failed and succeeded, but have not learned. We can sometimes, however, learn from failure, such as the way post-it note adhesive was produced while trying to produce a super strong adhesive (see the story here).  We can also learn when a standard practice which has led to much success in the past then suddenly fails us and becomes obsolete. These types of learning occur, but are certainly less likely.

The most likely way to learn is to experiment. When conducting an experiment we learn if it fails and we learn if it succeeds. No matter what the outcome, conducting experiments increases our knowledge. Hence it would behoove us and our organizations to place more emphasis on experimentation and to celebrate learning.

A good way to gauge the level of experimentation and learning within your team or organization is to use Jurgen Appelo’s Management 3.0 “Celebration Grid”.  

Celebration Grid - Updated

The first way I utilize the “Celebration Grid” is for retrospectives.  This gives my teams a break from the ordinary “What went well?” and “What needs improvement?” retrospectives and changes their mindset from concentrating on failure and success to one of learning.  Sometimes during retrospectives you can have participation challenges. Conveniently, there are 6 areas on the Celebration Grid, so when I run into a participation challenge I number the areas of the grid and have each person roll a die.  They are then to identify an item for the corresponding numbered area of the grid that they rolled on the die. This leads to more engagement because then conversations even start such as “oh wow, I rolled a 4 – I can’t think of one for that – I think I’ll do area 2 though”.  I have also implemented this with distributed teams using Google or spreadsheet along with an online random die roller.  Have fun with it!  After all, it is a Celebration Grid!

Celebration Grid Retro

You don’t necessarily have to use the Celebration Grid during a retrospective.  I have also created a giant poster of the grid in the team areas and let them add stickies to it.  We can make observations and have discussions surrounding what is posted. Are we conducting enough experiments?  Do we feel we are learning? Are we being innovative? You can have ad hoc discussions or carve out some time to discuss the grid.  More mature teams will refer to the grid and discuss impulsively. If you wish, you can have team members initial their stickies to facilitate conversation.

I also use the Celebration Grid to bring awareness to continuous learning and the growth mindset. I use it at the organizations I work with, at meetups and lightning talks. I feel it is a good illustration which can assist agile coaches in explaining the different opportunities for learning and how important it is to experiment.  I show and explain the different areas of the grid and provide stories of what I’ve experienced in other organizations. This helps bring experimentation and innovation to the forefront for people and organizations that just say they have no time for experimentation.

No thanks we are too busy

Remember, it’s all about continuous learning!  Progress is dependent on learning. Develop a learning mindset and follow the path to knowledge!

Grow Your Organizational Structure


Many experts would agree that structure plays a crucial role on how people in your organization communicate. Melvin Conway, a computer programmer, introduced the idea in 1967 that “organizations which design systems will inevitably produce a design whose structure is a copy of the organization’s communication structure”. In other words, how you structure, disseminate information and influence communication paths will have an impact on how you design and produce your systems.

Two chapters in an excellent book, Management 3.0 by Jurgen Appelo, is devoted to the theory and practice of growing organizational structure. Jurgen synthesizes thought leaders’ conclusions and adds a bit of his own. I mention some of the messages I got out of these two chapters below along with a later reference to a tool called “Meddlers” which was created by Jurgen to assist in growing your organizational structure.

We say that communication is a prerequisite to collaboration.  Communication, however, is miscommunication unless it is correctly interpreted. Alistair Cockburn would say that a one-way communication doesn’t constitute communication and that communication requires that the recipient understood the message as the communicator intended.  

Many things can disrupt communication along its path. It would behoove us to create an environment and structure that would minimize this.  You can see, several environmental factors could impact communication. The number of hand-offs and the medium utilized before reaching the message’s final destination could increase the probability of miscommunication. That is one reason why most experts advise we limit hand-offs, dependencies and long communication chains and would look to create structure and teams that would also limit these factors.

How we grow our organizational structure is influenced by several factors though and is in itself complex.  How mature is our organization? What types of products/solutions are we creating? How big is our organization?  Do we have a substantial amount of new people? These are some of the questions we can ask ourselves.  And no solution can ignore time and context. This is why it may be all right to frequently change structure, as long as it is driven by a purpose.

Management 3.0 lists some heuristics to consider:

  • A preference towards generalizing specialists which are people who have one or more specialties and also general knowledge in other useful areas.
  • Widen people’s job titles and don’t pigeon-hole them into a specific skill set via title.
  • Cultivate informal leadership outside of line managers.
  • Depending on maturity, draw constraints and then let the team self-organize.
  • Limit/exclude multi team membership.
  • Keep team size small with a guideline of 4-7 people. Communication increases exponentially with additional team members.
  • When choosing whether to form a functional or cross-functional team determine the most important path of communication.  Do the people need to communicate more with others with their same skill set or with the people working on the same product?

As we think about these questions and others, we can best grow our organizational structure.  A tool from Management 3.0, “Meddlers”, assists us in designing our teams. Meddlers allows us to represent our people and their skill sets.  Hats represent skill sets and we can label the people with names if we want. We can then place them on teams and position the team hexagon with their sides against other teams they frequently collaborate with.  This helps us visualize the structure. Personally, I’ve used Meddlers to first show the existing team organizational structure, noticing the cross-team dependencies.  The visualization really helps and most of the time you would not think there were that many dependencies.  Once seeing these dependencies, we could work to understand them and work on reorganizing the team using Meddlers to reduce the dependencies.  There are other creative ways people are using Meddlers and you can feel free to invent your own.

Take a look at the meddlers web page to see more information and start growing your organizational structure!

Sampling of Practices to Build Worker Relationships

Worker Relationship

Humans are social beings and relationships at work impact a person’s morale, productivity and quality of life.  Years ago many workers were advised to keep their personal lives to themselves and only discuss business with fellow workers.  Since then many business and mental health experts recommend that workers form relationships with their fellow workers. Developing relationships in the workplace creates empathy and moves towards a more transparent, caring and open environment.  Experts recognize the presence of these attributes in high performing teams and organizations.

Given the amount of time we spend together at work, we should enjoy what we do and working with our teammates. Friendly relationships at the workplace can promote a helpful and positive attitude.  People care about other people and have a genuine interest in their well-being. Trust, the main ingredient for healthy high performing teams, thrives in this type of environment.

So how can we foster good working relationships?  Well, we can get to know our fellow workers better.  There are a number of techniques and practices that can assist here.  

As is usually the case, the discussion that takes place from doing the activity is the important and useful part.

One activity is a short Star Wars Myers-Briggs type personality test.  Another practice is to use ice breakers before starting team meetings such as a thumb ball where you catch the ball and answer the question your thumb is positioned on.

star wars            Thumb Ball

Management 3.0 has some great practices and activities for getting to know your fellow workers such as Moving Motivators and Personal Maps to name two.  I use personal maps with my teams and as training ice breakers. Each person creates a mind map representing themselves.  They draw themselves in the middle and then flesh out the personal map with categories such as family, work, education, hobbies, etc.  It is purely their choice as to what they draw. The group then inquires and discusses different areas in others personal maps. Again, the “gold” is in the discussion and relationships you build as you learn more and have fun discussing the personal maps.  I recently had a team that worked with each other for awhile do this exercise and it was amazing how much new discussions it prompted.


Establishing relationships and building trust within your teams and organization is key.

What are some activities, practices and tools that you use to build work relationships at your organization?


Guilds and Communities of Practice

If your organization has started its agile journey then it’s probably concentrating on forming cross-functional teams.  Cross-functional teams are great to reduce hand-offs, foster diversity, creativity and innovation, but there are also advantages to gathering with like-minded people and honing your craft through the use of Guilds and Communities of Practice (COP). Although Guilds and COPs can also be cross-functional, we can certainly leverage them in this case for like-minded people.

Guilds and COPs can be formal, informal, led or grass roots.  Our objective here is to create a forum to share knowledge and discuss solutions to challenges within a specific practice.  As we create more and more cross-functional teams our work can begin to become more siloed. The Guild and COP can be used to break down those silos and engage in cross-team collaboration.  

We’ve been participating in user groups and similar gatherings for awhile, but the first I saw the model of Guilds introduced was within the Spotify Model.  The premise was to have people from different teams within a specific practice come together. They could share knowledge, discuss solutions to common challenges and sometimes even go so far as to identify agreed upon standards.

Guilds can go beyond just meeting on a regular basis and can also create websites, chats and social media channels.  These mediums can be used to share knowledge and collaborate on certain real-time challenges and provide instant consultation with experts within your vertical area of practice. At my current organization we have several COPs, webinars and channels to discuss areas of interest. Some are more formal than others, but they all contribute to furthering the availability of cross-department knowledge.

Often one of the big complaints I receive is “We have too many meetings!”. My first question is “Well, does the cost of any of these meetings outweigh the value you are receiving from them?”.   I usually don’t receive a straight answer because unfortunately very rarely have people already made that assessment.  My next course of action is to ask them if they are willing to experiment and cancel all standing meetings besides the defined agile core events and those meetings required by the organization.  Once this is done, I tell them that anyone can create a standing meeting and select invitees, but the invitees must be optional. If the invitees are optional then they do not need attend if they feel they are not getting ample value. This usually forces the meetings to be valuable or disappear. You find out real quick which meetings are valuable and worth people’s time.  If a group of people get together to share information they need to feel that the time they are spending is worth the value they are getting out of it.  So a good/needed chapter, guild or CoP will stay together as long as it is providing value to its members.

In organizing guilds a lot of times it is useful to spread out facilitation and responsibilities. Some things you can do to keep the guild healthy is to create a calendar for guild volunteers to select a week to facilitate. Having volunteers from different areas sign-up to facilitate a specific weekly guild meeting ensures that just a couple of people aren’t taxed with always organizing. Conducting sessions when needed to capture topics of interest is useful.  You can hold lean coffees from time to time to share information and they don’t need much preparation.  Conducting a retrospective with the group on a regular basis assists in continuous improvement of the guild.

Guilds and COPs can also be multi-organizational or area based.  Here in the Tampa Bay area we have an active Scrum Masters’ Guild which meets every first Wednesday of the month. One of my favorite exercises with that group was when we partnered with the Denver Scrum Masters’ Guild to simulate a distributed environment. We identified and worked through first-hand the challenges.

In my current company and community we have established several successful Guilds and COPs (ex: Nielsen Agile CoP, Nielsen DevOps Guild, Tampa Bay Agile Meetup, Product Owner’s Meetup, Scrum Master’s Guild, PwC Service Delivery Managers Guild, etc.). 

If your organization is on its agile journey then you should consider Guilds and COPs as another means to collaborate, share knowledge and break down silos. If you’re a person that is passionate about your craft then consider starting a Guild within your organization. You could bring some food and start by meeting for lunch.  You might be surprised how many people join you and how much you can accomplish. And again, this is a great way to get like-minded people together in a cross-functional team environment so they do not lose the opportunity of learning from each other in their top areas of expertise.

Using Kudos Cards !

Kudos 2

The Harvard Business Review cited a study by Losada and Heaphy evaluating team effectiveness measured by financial performance, customer satisfaction and 360-degree feedback of team members and found that the most effective teams had nearly six positive comments for every negative one. Medium performance teams had almost twice as many positive vs. negative comments and low performing teams had an average of almost three negative comments for every positive one.

In light of this and other studies, a great way to increase positive feedback within teams is the use of Jurgen Appelo’s Management 3.0 “Kudo Cards”.  I’ve had my teams use the cards to thank others on the team.  They fill out a Kudos Card and post it on the Kudos Wall.  Team members also announce any new cards at the beginning of their retrospectives, putting the team in a very collaborative and positive mindset.

Everyone wants to have a feeling of autonomy, mastery and purpose.  It provides intrinsic motivation.  Providing sincere positive feedback to your teammates can increase their feelings of mastery and purpose and make them more happy at work.

So why not grab some Kudos Cards for your team, create your Kudos Wall and watch the people on your teams smile more!

HiPPOs Impede Productivity


Does your organization make decisions at the appropriate levels or do they run every decision up the flag pole to seek the “Highest Paid Person’s Opinion” (HiPPO)?  Are the people doing the work consulted or are all decisions mandated from above on how they must do their work?  Is there a “HiPPO” in the room or meeting that comes out of nowhere and adds a new mandatory condition without being involved in all the previous discussions or research?  Not making decisions at the appropriate level is inefficient and ineffective; not to mention demotivating for workers.  As a manager, create autonomy within your teams!

You can imagine the time wasted if workers need to seek approval for all or most of their decisions; sometimes even having to pass through multiple levels of approval just for the HiPPO to then put the “kabash” on it.  Beware of HiPPOs that use buzzwords and mandate implementation of ideas without much if any research or validation.  If you think you may be acting like a “HiPPO” then do the following:

  • Check your ego at the door.
  • Think three times before telling people how to specifically do something, especially if you are an executive leader.  Tell them what you want to happen instead of how you want them to do it.
  • Listen, listen and listen – the best executive leaders take in as much information as possible from their people.
  • Ask open questions and explore the information you are given.
  • Create a safe environment for discussion in the workplace.
  • Establish a trusting environment and progress towards moving decisions down to the proper level.

Jurgen Appelo, author of Management 3.0, identified that not only does empowerment improve worker satisfaction, but it enables the management of complex systems.  Complex systems are not sustainable and collapse without empowerment.

General McChrystal’s troops had to be autonomous and make decisions in the moment, since Al Qaeda would change tactics constantly.  There was no longer time to assess the situation and run it up to command for a decision. The troops needed to react on their own.  They just couldn’t call back for instructions every time they got in a fire fight where things were changing by the minute.  Heuristics could be set by command, but the troops needed the autonomy to make their own decisions and at a later time share their experience and knowledge with command and other troops.

Some roadblocks for managers empowering teams is that they feel a loss of control or insecurity.  You do not diminish your worth as a manager by empowering your people.  Your worth as a manger is measured by how well your team performs and a well empowered team is a much more efficient and effective one.

In some instances, management does not trust their subordinates to make the right decisions or they’re just plain entrenched in command and control.  Hopefully, if you are a manager reading this, upon reflection you recognize the efficiency of empowering your people and teams and will work towards that end.  If you are not completely comfortable empowering your people then start out with low risk activities and build up as you progress, but you need to start.

As a manager, consider the correct empowerment decisions based on the competence level of your people. Don’t misunderstand empowerment. It is not something that is either present or not. Below are seven authority levels that have been extended by Management 3.0 from Situational Leadership Theory; each with a different level of empowerment:

  • Level 1: Tell: You make decisions and announce them to your people. (This is actually not empowerment at all.)
  • Level 2: Sell: You make decisions, but you attempt to gain commitment from workers by “selling” your idea to them.
  • Level 3: Consult: You invite and weigh input from workers before coming to a decision. But you make it clear that it’s you who is making the decisions.
  • Level 4: Agree: You invite workers to join in a discussion and to reach consensus as a group. Your voice is equal to the others.
  • Level 5: Advise: You attempt to influence workers by telling them what your opinion is, but ultimately you leave it up to them to decide.
  • Level 6: Inquire: You let the team decide first, with the suggestion that it would be nice, though not strictly necessary, if they can convince you afterward.
  • Level 7: Delegate: You leave it entirely up to the team to deal with the matter.

The bottom line is that as a manager you need to get the HiPPO out of the mix and start finding a way to empower your people.  In doing so, you’ll find that their motivation will increase.  Daniel Pink, world renown author and business thinker, tells us that the three factors that lead to better performance are Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.  The first, “Autonomy”, (click here for Dan Pink’s video), is ones desire to be self-directed.  People and teams can accomplish amazing things when given autonomy and this greatly contributes to intrinsic motivation.

If you are a worker, the best way to battle a HiPPO is with facts.  If the HiPPOs ego does not allow them to relinquish their position, especially with an audience present, then do whatever you can to try and gain more trust from them in the future and increase levels of empowerment for you and your team. Another tactic is to have a set of objective criteria in selecting ideas or setting priority.  If the door is open to an opinion then the HiPPO can certainly insert theirs at the top of the list, even if it will not provide the most value to the organization.

So as we move forward with our organizations, let’s concentrate on empowering our people (see empowerment video “Greatness“) and reducing those HiPPO moments. If we do then we will find we have benefited by having more motivated workers and a more efficient and effective work environment.

Agile Open Florida


Have you ever been to a conference where you don’t know the specific topics of discussion until the morning of the conference?  That’s what Agile Open Florida and other OpenSpace Conferences are all about.  OpenSpace conferences rely on the attendees through self-organization and spontaneity to create the agenda as part of the conference’s opening ceremony.  An overall arching topic is designated for the conference.  Meeting rooms are allocated and time slots are defined.  At the beginning of the conference, any attendee can write their discussion topic on a piece of paper, get in line, announce it on the microphone to the group and then tape their paper on the big board in an available time slot and room of their choice.  You may be an expert on the topic looking to educate others or someone who knows little about the topic and is seeking to draw others opinions to the discussion.

There are four rules and one law of OpenSpace:

  1. Whoever comes are the right people.
  2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have.
  3. Whenever it starts is the right time.
  4. When it’s over – it’s over.

Law of Two Feet:  Use your two feet to take you where you can contribute, share and enjoy and feel free at any time to leave and join a different discussion.  It’s OK to move around.  It liberates you and keeps the energy level high.

Agile Open Florida has been utilizing this format in the past and this year was no different.  The conference was energetic.  Attendees were meeting new people, catching up with old colleagues and exchanging ideas both in and outside of the sessions.  You learn so much from hearing others situations, ideas and remedies and just being part of the community outside of your own workplace.

Agile Open Florida was one of many events in the community that allows you to draw from different people’s experiences and expertise. There are also Meetups, Guilds, Slack channels, etc. that are open to all with little to no fees.  So if you’re not involved in your community, think about doing so.  Find out what’s available in your area.  You’ll find you have a wealth of knowledgeable people out there willing to share their experiences.