schedule Oct 30th 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM place 206B people 9 Interested

Abstract (280 chars)

What if you could organize and motivate people to double their highest-expected productivity goals? Lessons from a large, distributed, volunteer group of online video gamers offer practical 21st-century guidance for your workplace. Even if you aren't a gamer. Or a space pirate.

Abstract (full)

What if you could gather and motivate people to double even their highest-expected productivity goal? What if you had no authority over those people -- if they were all volunteers?

The future of leadership is emerging to guide 21st-century organizations beyond the small, cross-functional, green-field software development teams of the 1990s. Agile enterprises must respond to emerging markets, provide unity of purpose to workers with conflicting motivations, and foster order when change is the only constant. Agile leadership must cope with distributed teams, "gig economy," diverse skill-sets, and the impact to morale of unexpected changes. But the measure of success is still delivery to the market: volume, quality, reliability.

Early in 2017, a group of several hundred independent players of the online futuristic video game Elite:Dangerous faced all the above organizational challenges yet still managed unprecedented delivery to their market. And they did it despite the "me first" culture of online games.We'll explore the structural, social, and cognitive factors which enabled this large distributed team of casual volunteers to deliver twice as much as their nearest competition. And we'll uncover how to amplify those factors in your own workplace.

You'll learn the powerful effects of making individual contributions visible, expanding the scope of your regular team synchronizations, having a loose leadership hierarchy, and encouraging diffusion of innovation. And you'll see how community engagement is an essential quality of a servant leadership culture. This is a compelling story about leadership that's relatable to anyone regardless of their interest in or experience with Agile, online gaming, or space pirates.

 
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Outline/structure of the Session

NOTES TO THE REVIEW PANEL ON TIMING AND FORMAT:

This session provides maximum value as a 90m workshop, which allows adequate time for guided reflection and small-group interaction during the 5 "Discussion" sections at the end of each chapter.

This session can easily convert to a 60m semi-interactive lecture by replacing each chapter's Discussion time with a summary of each the main points and 1-2 minutes for audience members to jot down their individual learnings.

NOTE TO THE REVIEW PANEL ON STYLE:

This talk informs, entertains, and inspires: I use elements of good cinema -- including music and video -- to tell an emotionally engaging story about Agile leadership that's relatable to anyone.

The overall flow is the classic narrative story arc: characters/setting, disruption/rising action, major crisis, climactic resolution of the crisis, and epilogue. Each chapter shares just enough about the game and players for context, but the focus is leadership lessons. Each chapter highlights the lesson from the case study, generalizes it for all organizations, uncovers examples of how to apply the lesson at the workplace, and ends with discussion prompts for the audience to identify specific actions.

TOPIC OUTLINE & TIMING

As a 90m workshop, allowing 5m for variance and questions:

  • 8m -- Intro: Cinematic "Movie Trailer"
    • Speaker background/experience
    • Relevance of multiplayer games to real life: The Center for Disease Control studied a an epidemic in World of Warcraft to update their understanding of real life epidemics.
  • 12m -- Chapter 1: Seeing Complexity in Your Workplace
    • Relate the game story to real world: org size, mission, competition, distributed, coordination, unpredictable factors, volunteers with day jobs and families
    • Case study: Relate in-game individual affordances/constraints to those in modern organizations
    • Discussion 1: Elements that make your workplace complex
  • 15m -- Chapter 2: Visibility Means More Than Cards and Boards
    • Case study: The players' challenge and why it was hard. Best practices vs. emerging practices. Conflict between leadership and individual goals. Visualization of the workflow. Leadership recognition of individual contributions.
    • Discussion 2: Ways to foster visibility of organizational and personal goals so that both can align.
  • 15m -- Chapter 3: Direction is a Noun, Leadership is a Verb
    • Case study: A single rival player group halted progress of all player groups by using a subtle exploit of the game. Impact to morale, trust, and organization. Leadership communication to players in the face of the crisis.
    • Discussion 3: How to foster loose leadership networks and contribution.
  • 15m -- Chapter 4: Whoever Learns Fastest, Wins.
    • Case study: Player ideas for coping with the crisis. Adjustment to strategy using kanban principles when nobody knew kanban. Leadership communication. Lockdown lifted, protagonist group won! Double their hoped-for productivity. More than double their nearest rival's productivity.
    • Discussion 4: How to encourage learning in times of crisis and change
  • 15m -- Epilogue: Servant Leadership is More Than Removing Impediments
    • Case study: some statistics; survey feedback from players (e.g. their motivation); the current state of the player group (growing!)
    • Discussion 5: How the 4 lessons from the previous chapters reinforce each other. The role of "community engagement manager."
  • 5m -- Close.

Learning Outcome

At the end of this session attendees should be able to summarize in their own words and also identify opportunities in their own organization to apply the lessons highlighted by the case study:

  1. Seeing complexity in the workplace -- The leadership challenges in the modern workplace result from interactions between internal and external forces; from systems and people. Knowing what components make your workplace more complex will help you target your interventions.
  2. Visibility is more than cards on walls -- Expose opportunities for individuals to contribute emergent best practices to the whole organization.
  3. Self-organization doesn't mean chaos -- Leadership networks must be allowed to form and be visible. Hierarchy isn't all bad. It takes "just enough."
  4. Learning is the new productivity -- To be a fast, resilient organization, encourage experimentation over compliance.
  5. Servant leadership is more than removing impediments -- It's actively working to create a culture of engagement

Target Audience

Managers, Senior Leaders, Volunteer Coordinators, change agents -- anyone who needs to develop high-performing teams.

Prerequisite

Some experience leading/managing a diverse group of people to a common goal.

Curiosity about leadership styles which don't rely on positional power (org chart title) or extrinsic rewards (worker pay).

A need for organizational adaptivity, with or without the trappings of "big-A Agile."

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