Friday, September 29, 2017

SPaMCast Interview: How has adopting Holacracy changed your view on agile leadership?

Jeff, You recently leveraged, within your own firm, things like Holacracy. How has that changed your view on leadership? ~ Tom Cagley, SPaMCast

[Editor's Note: Over the coming weeks, this CMMI Appraiser will be sharing excerpts from a recent conversation with Tom Cagley on the Software Process and Measurement Cast (SPaMCast) about leadership, and whether leadership is more or less important in today’s Agile world. Listen to the full interview at SPaMCast 456.]

Tom, you and I have talked about our Holacracy journey before. Yes, we are still practicing and getting better at that. It’s a long journey, but one of the things that was really interesting in our embracing of Holacracy has been my realization that it’s so much like an orchestra. So I wasn’t shocked when I realized that we were starting to be successful with it. I said, “This really reminds me of something!” It really reminded me of when I was younger and making my living playing in orchestras. 

There are a lot of similarities. There are very clear role descriptions. People step up to the responsibilities that they have. There's a form of quasi leadership that’s helping you through the process. So many of the concepts in Holacracy are similar to being a professional orchestra musician. It really helped us reinforce the things that I wanted to do with the company, and gave me a language.

When I was introducing a lot of these concepts with my own company, I was having trouble expressing it. I often said to them, "You know, it's like an orchestra. It’s like you’re a section leader, and you’re practicing scales!" And they would all look at me, like, “I get it. Jeff is a little bit eccentric and he’s off on a music binge again.” 

But the cool thing with Holacracy is that it gives me a language that everybody understands. Now when I talk about accountabilities and roles and circles, it's a clear metaphor that makes sense. So I think Holacracy has really helped us establish a language, helped us with the discipline, and helped me get clarity around what I really wanted to do as a firm.

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I hope my readers have enjoyed this segment of my interview with Tom Cagley on SPaMCast #456. We'll be talking more about leadership, and whether leadership is more or less important in today’s Agile world, in the next segment. Please check back soon.

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Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, author and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff has taught thousands of students in CMMI training classes and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Visit for more information about engineering strategy, performance innovation, software process improvement and running a successful CMMI program.

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