Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with @10geekjames. James Kies is a battle hardened Agility Consultant that has a gift for helping companies improve quality, morale and profits. When James is not adding value to development teams or writing software himself he serves as a transformational leadership coach helping businesses with their scrum adoptions. James serves on the Presidents Advisory Counsel to the John C. Maxwell Team, is studying under Les Brown and is an avid Inventor, edutainer and father of 5 amazing children. For more information, visit Jameskies.com
SmallBizLady: What do you want us to know about you before we get started?
James Kies: I have been authoring custom software since I was young, 18 + years. I have 5 amazing children and an equally as amazing wife! I like to invent things and have been part of hundreds of custom software builds. Half of my revenue comes from helping software companies take their agile adoptions to the next level. I gave my first TEDx talk in NY a few weeks ago at a conference on disruption! Today I am either providing one of my week-long workshops, traveling to speak, or programming on the real time crowd interaction platform I created over at www.stagetally.com!
SmallBizLady: How can 18 + years of software development benefit us less-nerdy types or the small business community?
James Kies: The last 25 years of software has been one big social experiment with HUGE budgets and no accountability. It seems we tried over and over again some of the worst possibly ways to do this using #waterfail oh I mean #waterfall. For the rest of the world, we became a huge incubation point of big minds that are good at solving complicated problems set on improving workplace conditions.
What we learned about trying to accomplish work in these often worst-of conditions was a radical reinvention of the way we think about the work and the workplace.
Lean, Agile, Scrum, XP, Kanban, Servant Leadership, Gamification, Radical Transparency, Cross Functional Teams of 7 +/- 2, paid-to-think over being paid to follow directions and the whole nature of continuous improvement and empirical process theory is being continually refined in the halls of those shops that have radically transformed their business processes but it can be leveraged by the purveyors of every single other industry as an upgrade to thinking and a new way of looking at the employee-employer-customer engagement.
SmallBizLady: How does that knowledge help the rest of us? If it were just knowledge we would all be skinny and have great hair right!?
James Kies: I think that can be true. There is an amount of “Activation Energy” required for folks or businesses to achieve their goals and transform their lives. But something major did change and that shift has allowed for far more of this success to be part of the overflow and those companies that try even a little can get 10 times faster/better. With the new shape of the new world it is possible that as we revisit very old basic problems we find shiny brand new solutions that don’t honor past constraints. Like how schools should be permanently transfigured by the emergence of a dominate connectedness, 100% of the workforce encouraged to work closer to home or at home and the very nature of the working engagement radically rethought as we shift from paid to follow directions to paid to think models.
SmallBizLady: How do I know if my business is lagging or leading in applying these new rethinks?
James Kies: There are a few tests you can use to guess where you are. If you still have “departments” in a traditional sense you’re going to score pretty low. The new model requires cross-functional teams and largely removes the middle layers. If you still have “positional authority” you’re going to score pretty low. The new model calls for a stripping away of positional titles. If you still pay people “by the hour” based on the clock on the wall and a traditional 9-5 40 hr workweek, you’re likely to score pretty low. The new model suggests you let people work while they are in the flow and only require a reasonable amount of “shared hours” for folks to target. If you have constraints, they are for teams to balance out and cover.
If more than 20% of your people are following your organization’s plan, and less than 80% are following your organization’s goals, you’re going to score pretty low. The new model suggests that you stop having so many plans and trying to track activity and get real on purpose about telling compelling, informative and powerful stories that align individuals and teams with the organizations goals – not its plans.
Tie and measure teams to their outcomes not their activities.
If you are still trying to get really good at 1999 you’re likely to score pretty low. The new world isn’t constrained in the ways 1999 was. The new world is not a top-down shape and does not respond well to top-down strategy.
If you still think change is expensive, you’ll probably score pretty low. The new world knows it is far truer that not-change is expensive. It is the “idea” of change that is expensive, the change itself unlocks so much goodness in people that it gets cheaper fast and pays its participants off in spades quickly.
SmallBizLady: Wow some of these things really are very different from what we have all known up to now. Isn’t it really expensive to make big changes in larger organizations or older products?
James Kies: Most of these expenses come from our ideas of what it will take. As you get started your people will begin to approach work in an entirely different way. You will also find that these leaners models produce 80% less useless stuff and remove the largest wastes of time that are all but the cornerstones of more traditional engagement models. No, the real expense is to not-change radically and rapidly.
SmallBizLady: How do you make sense of everything becoming so different so fast? What changed that made all of this possible?
James Kies: We all felt it leading up into the late 90’s. Do you remember how it felt in 1998 and 1999? Do you remember as the entire world sat on the edge of their seats as they watched the century roll over? As predicted, civilizations did fall that day.
All civilizations fell in Y2K as a web shaped network of interconnectedness replaced the top-down shape of our civilization. Our entire species is now organized very differently than it was even 20 years ago. Access the access to knowledge and information that used to flow through the printed binder and classroom setting or pushed down through a management conduit has all been set free.
We are no longer constrained by these once thought permanent relics of the recent-ancient past. We need no longer be paid to follow directions; we emerge now ready to be paid to think.
SmallBizLady: So what would it look like for a company to score a high 10 on this scale in your mind?
James Kies: Ha, I have been doing this too long, that question isn’t fair. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you just how transformed some of these companies have become!
Non-traditional engagements aren’t the opposite of traditional; they are just evolved and different. I have observed in the most successful adoptions a 90% reduction in hourly tracking, sick time tracking, vacation tracking, middle management and departments. 90% increase in empowered staff that makes decisions all encircled around their customers without any layers or buffers between them being supported and served by the leadership and executive teams.
A body of people truly working together honoring transparency, inspection and adaptation can outperform their counterparts 3:1 around every turn.
SmallBizLady: This all sounds a bit much, it is easy to be caught off guard by some hype that 2 years from now will be replaced by some other idea and distract people from truly moving forward. How much of this is real today?
James Kies: Companies operate today in a model that doesn’t monitor working hours, sick time, paid vacation time, middle-management, traditional leadership, work from home scenarios and more and DO radically out-perform tradition models today!
Netflix, Virgin Airlines, Eventbrite, HubSpot, Quirky, Evernote, Business Insider, Zynga, Glassdoor, VMware, Ask.com, Motely Fool, ZocDoc and Survey Monkey are among a growing list of companies that have unlimited vacation time (and a general lack of basic timekeeping), Netflix one of the leaders has held this policy now for over 10 years.
Other notable companies have been experimenting with lots of systems that try to treat employees like adults in an effort to create a more productive working environment and it is working!
If we back up just a bit and talk about Predictive business models being replaced by Empirical Process shifts, employees becoming empowered, teams replacing departments and the growing popularity and success of Agile Scrum in and out of the IT sector you can add another 60 – 70% including many of the country’s most successful and biggest companies have undergone a transformational rethink.
SmallBizLady: Hack-a-thons, gamification, Lean, Agile, Scrum, Empirical Process Theory can all be applied out in ordinary non-software / non-IT related projects?
James Kies: Absolutely! Mega-cross-functional potential high performing teams operating as a perpetual startup within the protection and provision of the larger organization are awesome for all sorts of business models.
It is like a game whereby small cross functional groups honor transparency, inspection and adaptation behave as motivated adults who are fully informed and trying to help move the ball forward.
More common might be the number of folks that have had a taste of this through facilitated mastermind groups or strong healthy accountability partnerships. Imagine a gamified working model whereby your company restructured as a bunch of individually motivated mastermind groups all given the knowledge and power they need to chase goals, not plans!
SmallBizLady: How does any of this tie into “How to use technology in real time to interact with customers” the title of this talk?
James Kies: Yes, thank you. It all ties together for me. Be it your employees, your customers, your civic groups, your leadership team, your board of directors. Pick any group. The #1 thing that decides if that group can reinvent themselves where they stand or if they will fail – likely taking the entire ship with them – is how quickly they can get really, really honest. Lots of personal, professional and corporate shame is stopping up that bottle.
Some real, some imagined, all of it has to be put out own the lawn where the sun can burn it away. Funny thing about how quickly shame can flourish in the darkness or dissolve in the light.
The point is that today we can use new technology to shave years off of our more traditional progress in this arena. We can deploy large scale, high touch, instant feedback platforms that protect anonymity and promote full disclosure and the sharing of new ideas. Never before this time has it been possible for even our most recent ancestors to engage in such instant and large collaborative efforts.
The impossible is now not just possible, but ridiculously affordable and available and it is the responsibility of the company big and small to help bring the rest of us into the new world by their successful adoption of these new processes models.
SmallBizLady: Is this type of technology ready today and can it be used in other ways?
James Kies: It is ready today. The technology is a few years old in fact and has been used in gaming and other industries. I think this is the beginning of a new journey for our species as we move towards turning these technologies from entertainment to life changing empowerment.
Technologies like ours have opened an entirely new set of tools for inspirational leaders, coaches, trainers, educators and executive boards to use in their effort to court in the change of lives from a people living an analog life where we are students in a classroom waiting to be taught, to a digital existence where we can all be paid to think.
This new world has already taught us so much we didn’t know about the human condition and the ideal environment where productivity thrives. Join us.
SmallBizLady: If we were to all tell 10 people we knew about your cool product, what would you like us to tell them?
James Kies: I invented technology that allows us to create digital rooms and invite tens, hundreds, even thousands of people to connect to that room using any device they have with them in just a few seconds.
There is nothing to install and nothing to download. Once all connected we can do various real time things together. Today the ability to push open-ended and multi-choice questions to the large audience and have them anonymously reply/play-along in real time is the highlight.
We are working on a dozen other products that will increase the number of things you can do in a room now that all of the devices are connected.
It is ready to go today for stage performers, stage presenters, lecturers, speakers, coaches, freeconferencecall users, webinar hosts, churches and on to combine their groups, audiences and crowds and begin to uncover what is true, what is real, what can change everything.
It is ready to go for the company that is willing to pull their people onto a conference call bridge and begin to ask them to brainstorm together, anonymously, around what we can do to reinvent our way of work.
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