Category Archives: Unmanagement

Informal learning and Stoos management in four slides (Netflix)

Harold Jarche posted this to the internal Internet Time Alliance network yesterday: “Check out slides 115-118″ I did. I was blown away.

Here ’tis:

Culture (Original 2009 version) from Reed Hastings

I’m writing the sequel to Informal Learning. Yet here, the CEO of Netflix gave most of my message four years ago in four slides. Continue reading

Reinventing management, the Stoos movement

Full house (10) for today’s Hangout on Air. I don’t know how many watched on YouTube.

We had a good discussion of the Stoos Movement and combining agile with management. Or replacing management with agile.


Slides from Hangout:

Transcript from Hangout:

You invited people into the hangout.

Peter Isackson

9:49 AM

Hi Jay

You invited people into the hangout.

Loretta Donovan

10:37 Continue reading

World Stoos Day

Stoos (rhymes with close or dose) is a mountain village of 100 inhabitants at 1,300 metres in the center of Switzerland. People come to ski.



A year ago, twenty of us met on the mountaintop in Stoos to imagine management and business anew. Peter Stevens sent invitations:

Steve Denning, Jurgen Appelo, Franz Röösli and Peter Stevens are pleased to personally invite you to a spontaneous weekend Continue reading

Management 3.0 from Jurgen Appelo

Jurgen Appelo plays with more models of how things ought to work than anyone I else I know. His book Management 3.0 presents, assesses, and sometimes interconnects with agile, people-oriented processes relentlessly. I’m a fan. See his blog. And this presentation:

Jurgen and I met at the Stoos gathering. I just bought his latest, How to Change the World, to read on vacation.
Here’s the Stoos bookshelf. This is about as close to a definition of the spirit of Stoos as you’re going to get.

Now is the Time for India to Democratize Learning

A synopsis of my remarks to Emerging Directions in Global Education 2011, Delhi, India

For the first 60 seconds, we listened to Yoyo Ma playing Bach’s Cello Suite #1 in G as the flowers unfolded.


As time speeds up, we perceive that what once appeared rigid is actually fluid.

Progress is unfolding at an unprecedented rate. More happens in one of your minutes than in one of your grandfather’s hours. More information has been created in the three days I have been in Delhi than in the sweep of human history from the dawn of civilization until 2004. Futurists tell us the 21st century will not contain a mere one hundred 20th century style years but tens of thousands of them.

As the years speed by, we can appreciate that educational systems that once appeared rigid are actually fluid. We can nurture them to grow this way or that. We can “flip” them, that is, reconfigure the pieces. I’ll suggest that we can, and should, rearrange the components of schooling to democratize learning.

By democratize, I don’t mean giving students the vote. Rather, democratizing learning means giving students the knowledge and permission to realize their full potential. Democratization gives students a voice in their own learning.

Be forewarned: I am an alien in your midst. I am an American, a Californian, with scant knowledge of India. My specialty is corporate learning, not higher education. And I tend to live in 2016, not the present.

Nonetheless, I’d like to share a few stories with you. Perhaps they can serve as catalysts as you consider how to reshape India’s educational systems and policies to meet the demands of the future.


Hewlett Packard Engineers

Let me tell you a story that predates the internet. In 1974, a group of Hewlett Packard engineers who had been watching lectures on electrical engineering on the Stanford Instructional Television Network were reassigned to an HP facility in Santa Rosa, California, two hours to the north and out of television broadcasting range.  An instructor, Jim Gibbons, sent videotapes of the lectures to Santa Rosa. It didn’t work; the engineers weren’t learning. Accompanying the tapes with a graduate assistant didn’t work either.

Next the engineers tried something that did work. Whenever anyone did not understand a concept in a lecture, he would raise his hand. This stopped the tape. Most of the time, someone else in the group had the answer. They proceeded this way, learning without a teacher, until the end of the semester. Then Jim Gibbons carted the engineers to the Stanford campus to take the final exam.

Mind you, these engineers lacked the test scores to become Stanford students, yet they scored significantly higher grades   on the exam than the resident students. Why? I think it’s because they took charge of their own learning. They learned from one another, in the course of conversation. Furthermore, they were learning in order to become better engineers, not to earn a credential.

The HP engineers had flipped the educational process. They did away with face-to-face lectures. They set their own pace and answered their own questions. They took charge of the way they learned. In other words, they democratized their learning.



Western corporations are broken. Workers hate their jobs; customers complain of lousy service; investors receive meager returns. There has to be a better way.

In January 2012, two dozen authors, managers, and agile software developers met on a mountain top in Stoos, Switzerland, to try to reverse the situation. How could the practice of management be updated to work in a complex, unpredictable world?

The organization-as-machine, the model that served us from the dawn of the industrial age until the beginning of the 21st century, leads to a quest for efficiency. That works in stable, unchanging times, but it’s a formula for disaster amid incessant, disruptive change. The living network is a better model for today. Organizations need to conceptualize themselves as networks of individuals and teams who perpetually strive to create more value for customers.

This flips the corporation into an organization that respects people for their contributions rather than seeing them as cogs in the machine. The new order democratizes the workplace.


Corporate Learning

In America and Europe, the corporate learning function is dead or dying. A 2011 study by the Corporate Leadership Council reported that 76% of managers are dissatisfied with their corporate training function; 85% deem training ineffective; and a mere 14% would recommend training to their fellow managers. Workers and managers learn their work though conversation, collaboration, and on-the-job experience. My colleague Jane Hart calls this “learning without training.”

Enlightened corporations trust their people to pull in the resources they need. They’ve flipped corporate learning by putting the learners in charge of defining the curriculum. These corporations concentrate on building self-sustaining learning ecosystems, what I’ve called workscapes, instead of individual programs.


Education in India

India needs to train 500 million people in the next ten years. Some have proposed building thousands of new schools and challenges. Yet if the building program began in earnest tomorrow, there still wouldn’t be enough time to build the required  classrooms — some six times what India has today.

What would those schools teach? The half-life of a professional skill is down to five years and is shrinking fast. It makes no sense to train people on skills that will become obsolete in short order. I’ll suggest that people need to learn meta-skills, such things as:

  • learning how to learn
  • critical thinking and conceptualization
  • pattern recognition
  • design thinking
  • working with one another
  • navigating complex environments
  • software literacy

India has neither time nor resources to prepare teachers to transfer these skills to hundreds of millions of people. The answer? Flip Indian education. Delegate the delivery of content to electronic means, and focus teachers on coaching, leading discussions, helping people over hurdles, and relating lessons to real life. Also, teach students and workers to help teach themselves.

The time is ripe for India to democratize education, to help students to think for themselves and realize their potential.



A couple of days after my talk, nine of us piled into a van to visit the Taj Mahal.

Hour after hour, we honked and careened our way through chaotic traffic. We passed numerous private schools and academies. Mostly, we saw tens of thousands of abjectly poor people passing the time of day in hole in the wall kitchens and shops, wandering around in rubble, or defecating in fields. I wondered what comes first, educating the millions or giving them toilets.

By 2030, India’s population will outnumber China’s. The people we talked with at EDGE are entrepreneurial and optimistic. They are accustomed to thinking things over on an enormous scale. Never before in human history has a democracy of 1.3 billion people tried to reform education. Such transformation is mind-boggling.

Where is this headed, I wondered. By this time, our discussions about educational systems were over. I tossed about in bed in anticipation of an early morning flight home and reflecting on India.

What change does India want to see? Do we expect education to flatten a highly stratified society? Will the boys and girls playing in the dirt lead more productive, fulfilling lives because they can read and write? Will they have the patience to put up with the conservatism and cronyism of the Government of India? How will India create the jobs to challenge their young minds? Might not educating the masses be akin to showing the people of the former Soviet Union the riches of the west on television?

The more I learn about India, the less I understand India. I wish my new friends and their country well. They face the largest challenge I have ever seen.

The Agile Learning Train is Leaving the Station

I’d planned to begin posting my thoughts about how this Unmanagement/Stoos business impacts the administration and operation of corporate training. My friend Dawn Paulos at Xyleme beat me to the punch.

Today, the expectations of learners are much different than they were only a few years ago. Much of what is currently rolled up monolithic, one-size-fits-all courses must give way to small but relevant content updated and delivered continuously to learners based on their individual profiles or needs. In other words, learning needs to go Agile.

What’s in it for us?

Agile Development is an approach where vendors deliver very fast, iterative product development through close collaboration with its user base (i.e. training organizations).

Dawn describes the basic Agile Development process and promises to come back with implications in a subsequent post.

Dawn references Josh Bersin’s insightful post last fall which goes beyond the training function to examine the benefits of agile in HR.

The Agile Model comes to Management, Learning, and Human Resources

Over the last five years the business of software development has been totally transformed by the concepts of agile development So is the business of Management and Human Resources.


Josh lists the benefits of embracing agile:
  • Traditional annual performance appraisals use an older “waterfall” method – continuous feedback and recognition is an “agile” approach.
  • Traditional formal training and certification is a “waterfall” model –  rapid e-learning and informal learning is an “agile” approach.
  • Top down cascading goals are a “waterfall” approach – rapidly updated “objectives and key results” (sometimes called OKR – widely used at Google) is an “agile” model.
  • Traditional annual rewards and bonuses are a “waterfall” model – continuous recognition and social recognition systems are an “agile” model.
  • The annual employee engagement survey is a “waterfall” model – continuous online idea factories and open blogs are an “agile” model for employee engagement.
  • The annual development planning process is a “waterfall” model – an ongoing coaching relationship is an “agile” model for leadership.
  • The traditional recruiting process is a “waterfall” model – this is being replaced by a continuous process of social recruiting and referral-based recruiting which can be rolled out in a few hours.

Social Business is becoming the new normal
2012 is the year of Social Business. My Internet Time Alliance colleague Jane Hart aptly describes the coming environment:

Predictions for an upcoming new year are inevitably based on the “flow” from the current year, so if you have taken a look at my Top 100 articles of 2011 (or even my complete 2011 Reading List), you will not be surprised to hear that many predict that 2012 will be the “Year of Social Business“.

Up to now, for many organisations, Social Business has been about social media marketing and engaging customers, but as IBM explains …

“A Social Business isn’t just a company that has a Facebook page and a Twitter account. A Social Business is one that embraces and cultivates a spirit of collaboration and community throughout its organization—both internally and externally.”

And as Amin points out in Thriving as an HR professional in a social business era,

“With a 10-year delay, the social media revolution is finally entering the workplace and its influence is going to be comparable to the consumer social media revolution.”

As many others explain, social business will change the way we do everything, as organisations move from being traditional hierarchical businesses to networked organisations.”Social” will not just be something that is bolted-on to traditional processes but will underpin a fundamental new approach to working – and learning.

Paul Adams summed this up nicely in Stop talking about “social”.

Social is not a feature. Social is not an application. Social is a deep human motivation that drives our behavior almost every second that we’re awake … The leading businesses are recognizing that the web is moving away from being centered around content, to being centered around people.That is the biggest social thunderstorm, and all of us are going to have to understand it to succeed. So stop talking about social as a distinct entity. Assume it in everything you do.

Leveraging Learning in Social Business
Installing social network software and encouraging people to exploit their connections is not enough. The fabric of a social business, its workscape, must incorporate structures and guidance to help people learn. After all, learning underpins continuous improvement and that’s what this is all about.

A sustainable workscape must provide the means and motivation for corporate citizens to learn what they need: the know-how, know-who, and know-what to get things done and get better at doing them. This takes more than access to social networking tools, blogs, and wikis. Self-organization helps but L&D professionals need to supplement social systems with scaffolding that focuses on learning. Without that, many organizations will descend into an aimless world of social noise and meaningless chit-chat.

I take chief learning officers’ abysmal track record with informal learning to-date as a warning shot. In today’s fast-paced world, people who do not learn continuously, on the job, rapidly fall behind. Yet CLOs continue to focus on formal classes, as if they’re running schools instead of creating business value. Formal classes and workshops are necessary, but they constitute a tiny slice of the overall learning pie.

Several years ago, L&D professionals began to accept the fact that learning by experience and informally, with others, has many times the impact of traditional training.

What did CLOs do with the insight that informal learning matters? Next to nothing. They left informal learning to chance. Even now, with the cost-effectiveness and responsiveness of informal learning pushing it to the top of CLO’s priority lists, most are taking baby steps if any steps at all. This is extremely disappointing. We who understand how people learn need to be at the vanguard of establishing social networks, expertise location, online communities, information streams, agile instructional design, help desks, federated content management, continuing reinforcement, peer development, and so on.

CLOs who do not make it easier for social business people to learn are toast.

Making the transition from command-and-control training operations to vibrant social learning workscapes is where I think Internet Time Alliance is going to make a major contribution. I envision us providing hand-holding, models, and advice to help Chief Learning Officers and HR executives make the journey from pushing curriculum and instructor-led events to nurturing systems for co-creating knowledge and competence with workers. Time will tell.
It would be irresponsible for chief learning officers and HR executives to leave learning to happenstance.


Working Smarter
Agile Development is but a piece of the practice of making social business work. The entire environment is morphing into something new and different. As I wrote in my reflections on the Stoos Gathering,


These days it’s more productive to think of organizations as organisms. Managers become stewards of the living. Their role is to energize people, empower teams, foster continuous improvement, develop competence, leverage collective knowledge, coach workers, encourage collaboration, remove barriers to progress, and get rid of obsolete practices.


Living systems thrive on values that go far beyond the machine era’s dogged pursuit of efficiency through control. Living systems are networks. Optimal networks run on such values as respect for people, trust, continuous learning, transparency, openness, engagement, integrity, and meaning.


When an enterprise commits to becoming an organic, value-creating network of diverse individuals, the training department has to join the fray.

Beyond Budgeting

The Leader’s Dilemma: How to Build an Empowered and Adaptive Organization Without Losing Control by Jeremy Hope, Peter Bunce, and Franz Röösli

The Leader’s Dilemma describes a practical new approach to management that has grown out of a dozen years of discussions by an outfit named the Beyond Budgeting Roundtable.

Franz Röösli, who suggested Stoos as the locus of our gathering 

Franz Röösli, co-director of the Roundtable and a co-author of the book, handed out copies at the Stoos Gathering. I haven’t been able to put it down.

The BBRT is an international shared learning network of member organizations with a common interest in transforming their performance management models to enable sustained, superior performance. BBRT helps organizations learn from world-wide best practice studies and encourages them to share information, past successes and implementation experiences to move beyond command and control.
The BBRT is at the heart of a movement that is searching for ways to build lean, adaptive and ethical enterprises that can sustain superior competitive performance. Its aim is to spread the idea through a vibrant community.

The Leader’s Dilemma is organized around the Beyond Budgeting Principles:

12 Beyond Budgeting Principles (2011)
Governance and transparency
Values Bind people to a common cause; not a central plan
Governance Govern through shared values and sound judgement; not detailed rules and regulations
Transparency Make information open and transparent; don’t restrict and control it
Accountable teams
Teams Organize around a seamless network of accountable teams; not centralized functions
Trust Trust teams to regulate their performance; don’t micro-manage them
Accountability Base accountability on holistic criteria and peer reviews; not on hierarchical relationships
Goals and rewards
Goals Encourage teams to set ambitious goals, don’t turn goals into fixed contracts
Rewards Base rewards on relative performance; not on fixed targets
Planning and controls
Planning Make planning a continuous and inclusive process; not a top-down annual event
Coordination Coordinate interactions dynamically; not through annual budgets
Resources Make resources available just-in-time; not just-in-case
Controls Base controls on fast, frequent feedback; not budget variances


The Roundtable believes that by replacing the command and control model with a Beyond Budgeting alternative (that is, an Empowered and Adaptive Organization), leaders can create an organizaiton that:

  • Responds rapidly to threats and opportunities. Adaptive organizations operate with speed and simplicity and this can best be achieved by giving managers the scope to act immediately and decisively within clear values and strategic boundaries. Making strategy an open, continuous and adaptive process is the key. It enables the firm to react to emerging threats and opportunities as they arise rather than being constrained by a fixed and outdated plan.
  • Attracts and keeps the best people. It is no coincidence that Adaptive Organizations such as Google, Handelsbanken and W.L. Gore regularly appear in the lists of “best companies to work for”. The reasons are obvious. From the employee perspective, talented people want to learn and develop; they value time to think, reflect and try new ideas; they want decision-making responsibility and they want a friendly, collegiate culture. From the employer perspective they want people who have the right attitude, have ideas and can add value, want to participate in decision-making, are good team players and have the talent to become leaders at any level.
  • Enables and encourages continuous innovation. Innovation is about thinking and acting differently whether it is about strategies, business models, processes, or management practices. In adaptive organizations, people work within an open and self-questioning environment. Clear governance principles set the right climate and builds the mutual trust needed to share knowledge and best practices. This is also encouraged by the move away from rewards based on budgets and toward rewards based on a business unit or group.
  • Drives operational excellence. Adaptive organizations have lower costs. Not only do they connect the work that people do with customer needs, but they also align products, processes, projects, and structures with their strategy. Operating managers also challenge resources used rather than seeing them as ‘entitlements’. Just asking the question, “Does it add value to the customer?” is often sufficient to ensure that unnecessary work is eliminated.
  • Leads to loyal and profitable customers. Adaptive organizations know how customers want to conduct business with them. Key issues are whether customers just want the lowest-cost transaction, added-value services, or customized solutions. Under this “outside-in” approach, firms know how to satisfy customers’ needs profitably. This means not only knowing their needs, but also their net profitability.
  • Support good governance and ethical behavior. Adaptive organizations are held together by strong values and inviolate principles. But it is not a soft option. It exposes nonperformers. It challenges people all the time. You can’t just agree on a number. You have to show people that you can actually achieve real performance improvements, and must always be prepared to be judged against others with similar problems and opportunities.
  • Leads to sustained value creation. Leaders in Adaptive organizations focus their attention (either explicitly or implicitly) on creating wealth over the longer term. In particular, they focus on setting high performance expectations and stretching people’s ambitions. Those companies that operate this way tend to beat the competition not just this quarter or this year but year after year.

The Adaptive Organization relies on teams:

Some leaders struggle with the idea that many small teams can actually cost less than a few large units. While economies of scale can look seductive on spreadsheets, creating many small teams leads to a more flexible and innovative organization that, with more accountability and less management, actually consumes fewer costs.

What do we mean by ‘teams’? In Beyond Budgeting organizations we believe there are three kinds of team (excluding ‘project’ teams that are usually temporary). The executive team is the C-level suite responsible for setting purpose, goals and strategic direction as well as challenging other units to maximize their performance. Support services teams (strategy, finance, human resources, marketing, supply chain management, design, production, logistics, sales and service teams, information technology and so forth) are responsible for serving and supporting value centers. Value centre teams are responsible for formulating strategy, investing capital and delivering value (or profit). They invariably have their own profit and loss accounts and are typically created around lines of business, brands/product groups, regions/countries and plants/branches.


The aim is to create as many value centre teams as possible by sub-dividing them and adding new ventures. They should be based round a clear market niche and have a distinctive customer value proposition. On the other hand, the aim is to reduce the numbers and size of support services centres. In other words, the aim is to have as many direct costs within value centres and as few indirect costs as possible.

With a tip of the hat to Meg Wheatley, BBRT argues that the appropriate mental model for the new-age organization is the complex adaptive system:

Putting this into practice is tough. The Leader’s Dilemma offers suggestions but I’m hungry for more. Of course, finding a way to turn dreams like these into reality was the whole purpose of meeting in Stoos.