Notes from Stoos Stockholm



Last week I had the pleasure to attend the third physical Stockholm Stoos meet up. For those of you who don’t know what Stoos is, you can read up here.

The topic of the evening was AgileHR, which I have touched upon previously, and the insightful Peter Antman from Crisp talked around a selection of slides from his extensive deck about AgileHR. The slides can be found here.

The material can also be found in his work-in-progress book “Riv Pyramiderna – igen” (Tear down the pyramids – again), which is a play on the 1985 book “Riv pyramiderna” (Tear down the pyramids) by the former SAS CEO Jan Carlzon. Carlzon made a bit of a bang back in the roaring ’80’s with his suggestion that hierarchies ‘aint all that and customer focus is a good thing. A message that rings true to this day, I’d say.

It was a great evening with great people and good discussions. The major themes that were discussed are listed below, and I try to give my thoughts on each one.

Theme: From titles to roles

Why not titles, you may ask. Here I’d like to recycle one of my most worn out metaphors. Any word or concept is a just a sticker placed on a bucket, and it’s what you put into that bucket that we should be talking about. Disagreeing about the bucket stickers are for consultants selling similar stickers. So, a role will always be something that you do (value you deliver) not what you are (a title). Focusing on what value you bring means you can add new variants of value at any time without changing the sticker. The command and control folks are sticklers for stickers. We don’t need that, as titles risk killing the flexibility that we need in the complex adaptive systems that are our organisations.

In my shop, we care little for titles. We do have roles, though. Easy as that.

Theme: Shut down the yearly performance reviews

The beef with the yearly reviews is primarily that a year is a hell of a long feedback cycle. To those of us who work to reduce the length of just about every feedback cycle we see, the one year cycle is nothing short of ridiculous. Another problem with the yearly review is that underneath it all we usually find some weird metrics or targets that the chiefs try to measure against in order to adjust the salary in some direction. Those things usually don’t work that well, to tell the truth.

At our shop, we do have a look at the salary yearly, but the feedback cycle about how we’re doing is much shorter. Informally they happen daily or weekly, and “arranged” talks happen about monthly, or on demand.

And if you’re interested: Adobe stirred up some buzz with their recent decision to remove the yearly reviews, you might find that interesting.

Theme: Make salary a non-issue

Here we discussed various ways we can change how we think about salary. As I’m not in a position to decide on anyone’s salary, I don’t have much input. The basics concept here though, is the insight that salary is a bad case of extrinsic motivation, and we’re pretty aware that intrinsic motivation is far more powerful. No surprise there, for all you Daniel Pink readers out there.

Theme: Help the teams recruit

The discussion here was regarding the “how” of recruiting. As “agile” shops push a lot of “power” down to the team, and what is being recruited is a new team player, it makes perfect sense to have the team handle the recruiting themselves as much as possible. This is also a consequence of understanding the role the “boss” plays in knowledge work. The team has a better understanding of what kind of skills we need. So, pushing this down to team level and helping them out with it is a good idea.

In my shop, the most recent hire came about like this:

1. The boss finds suitable candidate using various networks
2. The boss and a team member interviews suitable candidate
3. The candidate is invited to spend a day with the team, working side by side with them, solving actual problems. This is basically a simulation of what it would (roughly) be like to work with the recruit, should s/he become one of us
4. The recruit does a personality assessment (facet5)
5. The boss does the salary thing, and if everyone’s happy we are a go.

So there we have it.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *