Why Now?

One of the standard pitch deck slides is called “Why now?” Why is now the best time to start the new business you have in mind? I cannot answer this question for you, but I can explain it for Mind Settlers.
Now is a good time because top-down organizational transformation doesn’t work. We know that by now. We don’t need any more evidence of failed change programs. What does seem to work all the time is crowd-fueled change. Tribes achieve more than CEOs. Communities make more of a difference than companies. Change starts with crowds caring about a better future. Now is a good time because the world is learning a lot about intrinsic motivation through purpose, storytelling, and gamification. Employees and customers don’t like old organizations where management treats everyone as replaceable parts. The employee experience and the customer experience require relentless innovation. People want their interactions with businesses and tools to be meaningful and joyful. Now is a good time because the network economy is creeping into all kinds of products and services and it’s making traditional business models scalable. As a coach or consultant, why would you want to get paid by the hour by one client when future technology allows you to get paid for new behaviors that you created in people around the world? Now is a good time because offering people good advice, at the right time and in the right place, is best done through portable devices. And nowadays, almost everyone has a smartphone or tablet, maybe even both. Nobody goes to a desktop computer anymore for advice about restaurants, movies, or holiday trips. Likewise, they expect information on how to work with teams to arrive in their hands. Now is a good time because platforms have been taking over entire industries, one by one. First, it was simple consumer products like books and CDs, then came simple B2C and B2B service markets for taxi rides, food, house cleaning, etc. The next step will be the introduction of marketplaces for even more complex B2B services such as coaching, consultancy, law, and accounting. Now is a great time to make a crowdsourced platform for business advice. Now is an excellent time to support it and become its co-owner.

Why Now? was originally published in Agility Scales on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

To Seedrs or Not to Seedrs?

Why are we not using Seedrs in our current crowdfunding round? In our previous crowdfunding round one year ago (gosh, how time flies!), we successfully made use of the crowdfunding platform Seedrs for European crowd investors and our own Agility Scales Foundation for non-European investors. This time, we decided to use only our Foundation for everyone. A lot of thinking went into this decision and, in the spirit of full transparency, I want to share with you our decision process: There are several arguments in favor of using Seedrs for additional crowdfunding rounds:
  • Working with Seedrs makes things easier for existing Seedrs investors who want to participate in new funding rounds. It can be annoying and confusing for them to own shares through two different entities.
  • It is an excellent signal to the market when an existing shareholder participates again in next funding rounds. Therefore, it would be good when Seedrs joined again soon.
  • We want to keep a good working relationship with all shareholders, including Seedrs. If they’re going to be part of our growth, then we should let them.
  • We asked crowd investors who used the Seedrs platform about their satisfaction scores, and the ratings for Seedrs turned out to be good (with an average and median score of 8 out of 10). (However, considering that some people dropped out, this might be called survivorship bias.)
There were a few other arguments against the use of Seedrs in our current crowdfunding round:
  • Seedrs requires that we set a minimum investment target for each round. All crowd investments are uncertain and can be rolled back until we reached this minimum amount. This uncertainty causes a bit of anxiety for our team members.
  • Working with Seedrs requires additional company shares to be issued which would result in dilution of existing shares. However, the Foundation still has a pool of unsold certificates (which correspond to shares). As long as we sell those first, there will be no dilution.
  • Last time, completion of the funding round with Seedrs took far longer than anyone expected, and all that time we had no access to the cash that investors had committed to pay us. But the money paid to our Foundation is available immediately!
  • Last but not least, several crowd investors canceled their investments through Seedrs because they found the legal process to be too complicated and demanding. We received no such complaints about the more straightforward process that we used with our Foundation.
As always, there were pros and cons that we had to consider. For us, the flexibility of the process applied by our Foundation, and the lack of dilution for existing investors, were the decisive factors in our decision to work exclusively with the Foundation in the current crowdfunding round. This approach helps us to be as agile as possible. However, when the Foundation runs out of certificates, and we issue new shares in a future round, I’m pretty sure that we will invite Seedrs to participate again. Hopefully, by that time, they will have been able to make their legal process somewhat less constrictive. For crowd investors who invested through Seedrs last time and who decide to reinvest through our Foundation this time, we may try to swap their certificates later so that they own all Agility Scales shares through the same entity, either Seedrs or the Foundation. In a future funding round, we will check with Seedrs to explore the possibilities. Interested in participating in the current round? Check out the offering here!

To Seedrs or Not to Seedrs? was originally published in Agility Scales on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

If We Had a Platform for Crowdsourced Business Advice

If only we had a platform.

If we had a platform for crowdsourced business advice, I would be able to add suggestions that I usually offer in my books and blog posts. I would then tag them with a rich context, such as roles, industry, and region so that they were easier to find by coaches, consultants, and teams.

If we had such a platform, anyone else with a good practice, game, or exercise would be able to add it, define in which situations the advice would be applicable, and share it in a peer-to-peer manner. Even if it were just one useful tool or idea, it would reach everyone who needed it, in the right context.

If we had such a platform, its users could search practices for their teams and filter them based on a problem area, framework, product type, time investment, and many more variables. Finding the best ideas for Scrum teams making mobile apps for banks in Eastern Europe would be as easy as finding books, films, and music.

If we had such a platform, an organizational change could happen bottom-up because any team member would be able to find new practices, try them out with their teams, and share their findings with colleagues. At some point, managers might only be needed to pull out the corporate credit card to access the enterprise features.

If we had a platform for crowdsourced business advice, the organizational transformation might become measurable because of all the practical advice shared, consumed, and applied in a company. Through proper motivation and a bit of gamification, the change would be seen as an enjoyable experience rather than an anxiety-inducing change program.

If we had a platform, I would have a better feedback cycle. Instead of waiting for people to tell me in an email, or at an event, that they had used one of the practices from my blog or my books, the platform would inform me continuously about usage, reviews, and ratings. This would allow me to improve faster and continually.

If only we had such a platform.

Do you want to help my team build it?

If We Had a Platform for Crowdsourced Business Advice was originally published in Agility Scales on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

It Depends. But on What?

The most honest answer that coaches and consultants can offer their clients is often, “It depends.” The phrase applies to almost any problem. But that makes me wonder, on WHAT does IT depend? Almost everything that coaches and consultants do can be boiled down to this generic statement: WHEN context THEN advice There is a tremendous amount of business advice available in the world, spread out over books, blogs, presentations, articles, videos, podcasts, and much more. Good advice has never before been so easy to find. But the same applies to bad advice as well, maybe even more so, and good advice offered at the wrong time is indistinguishable from bad advice. This means that, at any moment, people are surrounded by bad advice. So, how can people find good advice? The problem is that half of all advice is offered without context. (“Listen to me. Continuous flow is better than timeboxes!”) And the other half of all advice is given with context that is near-impossible to parse, search, or filter on. (“Check out the blog posts I wrote for startups!”) How can we do better? The Mind Settlers app that my Agility Scales team is building looks better every day. It offers excellent agile and lean practices from all over the world. One complaint that we now frequently get is that it’s “too much”. The advice is “overwhelming”, and the relevant things are “hard to find”. And this feedback intrigues me.
Does anyone think that there is “too much” music on Spotify? Are users complaining about the Amazon bookstore being “overwhelming”? Are the most interesting dates on Tinder and Grindr “hard to find” because of the large numbers of users? I doubt it. Large databases attract users; they don’t deter them. However, extensive filtering capabilities are needed to prevent information overload. And filtering requires context. As a coach or consultant, the more you know about the context of a person, team, or business, the better you can filter the available advice and offer only that what makes sense. Offer the right help at the right time. WHEN something is true THEN you offer them a specific suggestion.
What are the context variables that coaches and consultants use when suggesting good practices to clients?
Now the Big Question is, what kinds of context are we looking for? What type of information do we want to filter on? Tinder allows users to filter on location, distance, age, and gender. Spotify gets us to filter by genre, mood, playlists, and artists. But how do we want to filter business advice? What are the context variables that coaches and consultants use when suggesting good practices to clients? Here is my wishlist (in random order):
  • Industry: What works for a bank may not work for a railroad company.
  • Region: What works in France may not work in Japan.
  • Job role: Product designers have different needs than project managers.
  • Problem area: What works for design may not work for development.
  • Team size: Big teams operate differently from small teams.
  • Team location: Co-located teams work differently from remote teams.
  • Team lifecycle: A newly formed team is not yet a high-performing team.
  • Business lifecycle: A startup is not yet a scaleup.
  • Method/framework: What works in Scrum may not work with Kanban.
  • Product/service type: A web shop is not the same as an app.
  • Experience level: A novice needs other advice than an expert does.
  • Timing: Some practices depend on the previous time that you did them.
  • Dependencies: Some practices depend on which other ones you use.
  • Age: Young graduates often work differently from near-retirees.
  • Attitude: Enthusiastic people need other advice than hostile workers.
  • Time investment: Some things are easy fixes; others take a lot of time.
  • Budget: Some advice requires an available budget; other things are free.
  • History: After three failed transformations, a different approach is needed.
  • Autonomy: A self-organizing team is not a team under command-and-control.
  • Success rate: Unvalidated advice is different from highly-rated advice.
Did I forget any? When you say, “It depends” to your client, what kinds of context do your favorite practices depend on? Let me know in the comments! Your ideas may find their way into the Mind Settlers platform soon.

It Depends. But on What? was originally published in Agility Scales on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Can Big Consultancies Deliver Agile Transformations?

Two years ago, an agile “tube map” published by Chris Webb from Deloitte caused a bit of a stir. There was a lot of criticism in the agile community about the inclusion, naming, and placement of various agile practices on this map. (I was also somewhat amused about the depiction of Management 3.0 practices.) To a lesser extent, similar critical feedback was hurled at Gartner’s annual Market Guide of Enterprise Agile Frameworks and other similar publications offered by the big consultancy companies. And I recently wondered if people trapped in formal dress codes should handle the modernization of businesses.

Do the large advisory firms really understand what Agile is?

I’m sure that Lean-Agile transformations are big business for large consultancy companies. 93% of CEOs say that organizational agility is a top priority. They all want their companies to change faster and innovate faster. They don’t want to end up like Borders, Nokia, Blackberry and Kodak.

The consultancy firms publish fancy insights, diagrams, and reports about Lean and Agile methods and frameworks because top consultants sell their services to senior executives. They are asked by a company’s executive team to “roll out” a top-down agile transformation. The big consultancies have plenty of models and templates ready for that, I’m sure. But we don’t hear many success stories of true agile transformations. You don’t create Agile mindsets with roadmaps in PDFs and PowerPoint.

Something better is needed.

What I often hear from coaches and consultants is that the most successful transformations happen bottom-up, with top-down support. Pushing change onto people in a top-down manner rarely works. Bottom-up change is more effective, but it stops at the team level when there is no support from above. That’s why the most successful coaches and consultants work directly with teams while developing buy-in at the executive level.

I trust that most advisors at large consultancies do their work with best intentions. But I don’t believe that any meaningful change will happen when they mostly work with the top of the organization, rather than the bottom. Colorful diagrams of the Lean-Agile space look very nice and might be an excellent way to get top management interested. But real change probably starts at the bottom of the organization, and then should work its way up without obstructions.

The opportunity that we are faced with is that nearly all organizations want more business agility, but top-down change rarely works, and Lean-Agile transformations cannot be delivered in PDFs.

When I look around me in cities, at airports, and on public transport, I can see with my own eyes that rapid behavioral change is possible. But it mostly happens as a voluntary, bottom-up shift in habits, powered with new technologies. I notice people using countless apps, devices, and platforms all around me. But nobody is reading about agile methods and frameworks in PowerPoint decks.

The world needs something else.

This blog post accompanies the Problem/Opportunity slide of our Agility Scales pitch deck. Do you want to learn more about investing in our app and platform? Continue your adventure here.

(slide from Agility Scales pitch deck)

Can Big Consultancies Deliver Agile Transformations? was originally published in Agility Scales on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.