Hello and welcome to my page, the meeting point of my activities. My name is Fede Andino and I’m working at something that I’ve named Culture Crafting. It’s not something very solid yet.
There’s a classic book. the Cathedral and the Bazaar. In it, there are two models presented for something that is built: a Cathedral, an organized vision of a particular mind and a Bazaar, an organic aggregation of ideas and people over time. My art is not a cathedral, nor yet a bazaar but rather a well-attended Inn at the crossroads of IT work, Management, Mindfulness, Agile, Lean and Storytelling. In time, it is my hope that it may be a bazaar or its even better cousin, the Souk: a vibrant place with a lot of tradition. But it is not there, yet. It’s just a cozy inn, at this time.
In this site I’ll post my work ideas, my pics and videos and also all the social networks that I’m currently working on.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, there was Uncreative Writing.
So, this weekend has been a long weekend here, in Argentina. I took advantage of it in several ways: did a lot of exercise and I took a lot of long rides in my bike. Before the pandemic, I used to travel the crowded, difficult to navigate by car or public transport downtown Buenos Aires by riding my bike. I used to do 20-30 miles a day, on weekdays. But it seems almost in another life; for the last year and a half, my daily commute is from my bedroom to my living.
What Tarantino does is not so much a novelization of his movie, but rather a re-edit and remix which only works juxtaposed the actual film itself. In the book:
We learned that Brad Pitt’s character, Cliff Booth, killed his wife. Not only that, but he got away with murder three times and was planning on either killing or crippling Bruce Lee. He fantasizes on starting a cult like Manson and constantly treats women like disposable objects. We forget it when we look at Brad Pitt’s genial smiling face, but the book does not shy away from the fact that the character himself is a psychopath who just hasn’t been caught.
He expands the story of the cowboy show where Leonardo Di Caprio’s Rick Dalton is working, and he uses to self-insert into their universe.
But the most impactful change is the ending. Remember the flamethrower scene? How the Mason family attacked the protagonists? Well, here it’s broached, out of time and sequence, in two paragraphs towards the first quarter of the novella, as something that will happen later on, in relationship to one of the protagonists’ wife. With that scene and that build up no longer there, the novel is an entirely different beast that the film.
This has been received with criticism across the internets. Blogs accuse Tarantino from being non-creative, derivate, just writing a script in novel form. But to my eyes, what Tarantino’s doing here is another kind of art, something that we do almost all the time, as consultants.
He is being UNcreative.
The poet and literary critic Kenneth Goldsmith defined Uncreative Writing as that writing that doesn’t produce new content by writing new material, but by remixing, re-matching existing materials and shining a light on some previous parts that weren’t in focus before. Now, this might require you to write some more detail, but it should be done in a way that does not contradict the previous material. So, Tarantino’s greater detail on Cliff Booth’s murdering ways, while (in my personal opinion) wasn’t very present in the movie in the book it doesn’t derail or contradict the character. But most of the new effect of the novel is done by remixing and rearranging focuses on characters, expanding and shrinking time on the spotlight, or introducing details that illuminate but do not contradict.
This, is effect, requires the existence of the film itself. While you might theoretically read the book by itself, with no prior knowledge, Tarantino has very astutely played for his audience, who probably by now (two years after it is debut) have seen it. In a scene, he shows the power that Roman Polanski has as a director to influence the way the audience thinks. I think he is aiming for the same here with his book.
(That he feels no compunction in making Polansky one of the more admired characters is in my opinion, either the most Tarantinesque virtue or his tacit admission that movies, for him, are the only thing that matters)
Whatever his aims, what Tarantino does is, in my opinion, a form of art. But a form of art which is much maligned, yet vital. The capacity to not be creative when you can be, when you are expected to be is a virtue that is very much absent in most of us, but, at the same time: how many consultants are creative? By “creative” I mean creating frameworks all the time, new concepts, new ways of working, etc.
I would think that most of us do that creative part of work not that much. Most of our work is Uncreative Writing. And that is ok. That is more than ok: the worst epoch in the Agile World, at least according to me, was the long stretch from 2008 to circa 2014, where everyone and their mothers had their own Scrum, their own way of doing Agile.
Wanted to do a Sprint Review? Sorry mate, these are called “group expositions” now and they are done via PowerPoint. Doing a daily? We do not do that, we do “chat-attack” via slack, but you need to upload topics via mail. And so on, ad infinitum.
It was such a relief when the Scrum Guide took over. Now we could agree at least on the basics of it and focus on what we wanted to emphasize. We looked at it Un-creatively and we made it work.
This is the kind of approach that, I think benefits our clients the most. We should focus on how to highlight and be artful in the way to combine previous, standard material. Bear in mind that every time we create something ad hoc for the client, this is something that must be factored in the training time of every single person who starts there. Time that, blown up to the level of even small corporations, adds up. Time that is not spent creating value for their clients, but rather in simply basic training to function. We should not only stop insisting that there’s more value in originality, but we should actually focus on the Uncreative skills that we use all the time. I think we are doing this already, without any reason or rhyme. How many of us are reusing templates, remixing presentations, jury-rigging Murals or Miro’s?
I would love a course on Uncreative Writing for consultants. I’ll look for it, and if I can’t find it, I’ll write it myself.
Hi! My name
is Fede Andino, and I’m, at work, a Culture Crafter. But outside work, I am
also a University Professor and Researcher, as well as a Buddhist Teacher. One
particular thing that I love to teach is the story of the 84 Mahasiddhas: a
group of bizarre, funny, disruptive hindu and buddhist practitioners who broke
down assumptions and inagurated a new style of practice: tantric buddhism and
hinduism (which, to be honest, has nothing to do with the sex-obsessed new
tantra taught in the west).
since it’s a big story, composed of 84 mini-chapters or stories, it tends to be
taught (by other and myself) in one of two ways: as a multi-day teaching,
usually in a retreat setting or in an abbreviated, written form. I wanted to bring
this story, which is funny, warm and profundly humane, in a more relaxed
setting; the kind of thing that I would love to hear in this never-ending
quarantine. Thus, I started a podcast this year.
Sep.17 I finished the Podcast. It was, surprisingly, kinda a hit in the
spanish-speaking countries (let’s be honest: it’s also quite niche, so that
helped) averganging 453 views per chapter (the most listened chapter has the
record of plays at 4.112 at the time of writing). The audience started low (near 10 people per
chapter) and climbed to stability (1.391, with people listening from Argentina
to Mali). This, of course, is small potatoes to really big Podcasts (not even
compared to Joe Rogan; the most listened Podcasts in Argentina averange between
ten times that volume) but, for someone who was doing his first attempt…it was
surprisingly solid, at least to me. This was enough to Anchor (my publishing
tool) to offer me a paid sponsorship program; Alas, living in Argentina I
cannot access it, but it was a nice touch.
completed my goals, the feedback that I’ve got tells me that I will probably
create another in a couple of months; meanwhile, I’ll also upload one-shots for
requested Mahasiddhas which are not in the general list.
Audio mixing: I used Audacity quite
successfully; you don’t need expensive software for a podcast.
Niche is king: as much as you can
laser-focus your podcast, you’ll reap benefits in the same amount
On a not-so known path: there’s a
lot of discussion here in Argentina, in academic circles, about the use of
gender-inclusive language. The main consensus is that it helps visibilize
inequalities, but it is a hot-topic for conservatives. I received a lot (I mean
a lot) of well-meant “advice” on the topic, that I should not include it in
order to broaden my reach. While I respect the “advice” (and the
insults/threats from more overtly concerned people) I think that a very
important differentiatior is the authenticity of your voice: since I use it in
daily talk I included, which helped solidify loyalty and build the audience
When I started, I tended to do one
story per episode. But since stories vary a lot in content (some are long and
detailed, some you can tell in two minutes) I wrestled with adapting the format
a quarter of a way in. I finally adapted (thinking the Agile way) and was
rewarded by a climb in audience
recap my Lessons Learned: Be niche, invest in a good mike, be authentic and
any other thing that you might think it helps? I would love to learn, if that’s
PS: If you’re
curious about it, I’ve made a Spotify list with the episodes. Warning: it is
J., & Hamel, G. (2015). The Open Organization: Igniting Passion and
Performance. Harvard Business Review Press.
and last book that Guillermo García recommended to me, The Open Organization,
is a most interesting book: a description, somewhat impressionistic, by Jim
Whitehurst, CEO of RedHat. It is interesting because the author presents RedHat
as a new business model, an adaptable and flexible company, with certain
structures, but that these structures are conversational.
interesting thing about the book is that it is not another recipe for how to
transform the company nor is it the autobiography of an Agile evangelist. The
author came, in fact, from a series of experiences that had disappointed him:
“Nearly fifty years ago, Warren Bennis, the much- missed leadership guru, predicted that we’d soon be working in “organic- adaptive structures,” organizations that feel like communities, not hierarchies. In a community, the basis for loyalty is a common purpose, not economic dependency. Control comes from shared norms and aspirations, not from policies and bosses. Rewards are mostly intrinsic rather than extrinsic. Contributions aren’t predetermined and individuals are free to contribute as they may. Examples are as diverse as a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous or a team erecting a house for Habitat for Humanity.”
So are we stuck? On one hand, we have all those optimistic boosters for social collaboration who tell us we merely have to let the crowd have its say. That’s naive. What’s typically underestimated is the complexity and indivisibility of many large- scale coordination tasks. “Wisdom of the crowd” works when work can be easily disaggregated and individuals can work in relative isolation.”
“So no, we’re not stuck; we’re definitely not stuck. But getting unstuck— building and benefiting from communities at scale— requires us to start with “openness” as a principle, rather than with some particular set of collaborative tools or practices. Many companies have layered social technologies on top of their tradition- encrusted management practices— and most have been disappointed with the results.”
(Whitehurst & Hamel, 2015)
RedHat was already the opposite: a much more open company, less hierarchical,
more oriented to a product than to a process or a title. The author realizes
this when in an “interview” that he has, totally relaxed, the host
invites him to eat, to realize that he did not actually bring money and makes
was left thinking “is that a test? Did I pass it? ”… Until the person tells
him: no, he was simply hungry and had forgotten the money. Essentially, there
is an informality that someone like the author, considering a CEO position,
The book is
an attempt to understand and especially articulate the RedHat culture that at
the time was as foreign to the author as it was to most Fortune 500 companies. Defining
an Open Company, the author argues that:
“An “open organization”— which I define as an organization that engages participative communities both inside and out— responds to opportunities more quickly, has access to resources and talent outside the organization, and inspires, motivates, and empowers people at all levels to act with accountability. The beauty of an open organization is that it is not about pedaling harder, but about tapping into new sources of power both inside and outside to keep pace with all the fast- moving changes in your environment.”
(Whitehurst & Hamel, 2015)
the author takes as inspiration volunteer organizations that follow a passion,
such as Open Source communities:
“These communities involve many people working toward a similar outcome. They usually involve a diverse community of people who opt in as a way to work for a common cause about which they are passionate. And they produce results: they are more responsive to fast- changing environments and better at accomplishing “big, hairy, audacious goals” than any one single firm or organization.
To do this, you must transition into thinking of people as members of a community, moving from a transactional mind- set to one built on commitment.
Perhaps more importantly, you need to apply the same principles to your employees— the folks you pay— as to people who might volunteer their efforts for free.
Red Hat’s open organization operates using unusual management principles that leverage the power of participation— both internally and externally— to generate consistent financial results.
The more people you connect, the more value they create, which in turn attracts more people, and so on. Red Hat’s management system encompasses principles such as: People join us because they want to. Contribution is critical, but it’s not a quid pro quo. The best ideas win regardless of who they come from.
We encourage and expect open, frank, and passionate debate. We welcome feedback and make changes in the spirit of “release early— release often.” In short, we’ve found that the best practices in creating open source software also translate well into managing the entire company.
Red Hat is the only company that can say it emerged out of a pure bottom- up culture— namely, the open source ethos— and learned how to execute it at scale.”
(Whitehurst & Hamel, 2015)
(on the last statement, we believe that Ubuntu is also an example of the same, fulfilling in Amazon the same function as RedHat in IBM).
We find it
extremely interesting that, like Lou Gerstner, Whitehurst also identifies
culture as the key:
“You can’t lead an open organization in the traditional top- down fashion— what I was used to and, frankly, quite good at. I learned this the hard way.
My job at Red Hat couldn’t be more different. Sure, I still care about numbers— we are a public company after all— but I have an impact on them indirectly by working through our people and culture. I spend the majority of my time thinking about our strategic direction and culture and talking to customers rather than worrying if things are being done precisely as I would choose.
A huge part of that means trusting other people to do the right thing— to be hands- off enough to allow the people in the organization to direct themselves and make their own decisions. That might sound a bit crazy to many, especially those who came up through conventionally run organizations as I did.
I’ve also learned that the skills required to lead a company that relies heavily on the principles of open innovation are vastly different from those needed to run a business based on the hierarchical structure of a conventional organization.
Early on, I issued what I thought was an order to create a research report. A few days later, I asked the people assigned to the task how things were going. “Oh, we decided it was a bad idea, so we scrapped it,” they told me in good cheer. That’s a difficult concept for many of my peers in other companies to embrace. Other CEOs to whom I’ve told this story have gasped, “What do you mean they didn’t do what you asked them to? That’s insubordination! You should have fired them.” At first, I felt that way, too. But, the truth is that my team was right to turn down the job— it either wasn’t a great idea or, just as importantly, I hadn’t done a good enough job selling them on why they should jump into it. A leader’s effectiveness is no longer measured by his or her ability to simply issue orders.”
(Whitehurst & Hamel, 2015)
the role of CEO for the author is the role of who in some way inspires and on
the other hand, allows the culture to grow in a way that the company and the
employees benefit at the same time. It is to clarify purpose, it is to serve in
keeping the main objectives, trusting and empowering everyone to allow a
functioning with a non-traditional hierarchy.
we have used “non-traditional hierarchy” instead of Agile organization. This is
because the author considers that the way of organizing should not be
democratic, but meritocratic.
“In other words, the Athenians lived in what they called “a community of citizens,” which was built upon a meritocracy. That system, when applied within a company of citizens, would be based on this recognition: Merit means that decisions are based on the best case put forward; excellence, not position, prejudice, or privilege, is the criterion for choice. In a company of citizens, the best case for action is that which carries the day after the open, sufficient, and informed debate. Merit means that every thoughtful and knowledgeable individual, with good ideas based on real understanding, will get a hearing. The incompetent blowhard will not. The practice of merit gives lie to the idea that participatory democracy must devolve to the lowest common denominator.”
(Whitehurst & Hamel, 2015)
Por supuesto, la definición de “meritocracia” es compleja.
El autor, para darle crédito, sabe perfectamente lo complejo que puede ser utilizarla
y la define de la siguiente forma:
“But that raises two questions: Who is empowered to make a decision? Who decides who is empowered to make a decision?
At Red Hat, some of the seven thousand voices inside the company have far more sway than others. In most cases, decisions aren’t made by executive fiat, nor are they arrived at through consensus. Rather, those people who have earned their peers’ respect over time drive decisions. Associates who make a positive impact on the business and on the culture find that they gain more influence than those who do not. That’s why we call our culture a “meritocracy,” which, if you use Wikipedia’s definition, means: A system of government or other administration (such as business administration) wherein appointments and responsibilities are objectively assigned to individuals based upon their “merits,” namely intelligence, credentials, and education.
Within the meritocracy we have built at Red Hat, everyone has the right to speak and access the kinds of tools that will help ensure that his or her voice is heard. But to appreciate how a meritocracy works, you need to first recognize that not everyone is listened to equally.
To become a leader in a meritocracy, you need to attract followers first, not the other way around, as is typical in most conventional organization structures. Your peers actually have to select you as their leader based on how effective they think you are, not just because you have a more impressive title or résumé.”
(Whitehurst & Hamel, 2015)
That is why
he considers it vital that the creation of a certain consensus is the mark of
the leaders. The task of leaders, in Whitehurst’s vision, is to make persuasive
and transparent decisions that can be validated and at the same time generate
the main task of the leadership group is to catalyze decisions in a way that
generates value in the direction that is most beneficial for the company. For
this, the leader must have several characteristics that are not generally
considered within leadership groups:
Understanding of the personal motivations of those who work with him
• A mindset
that does not think about quid pro quo, but about building and supporting a
Essentially a high emotional intelligence quotient
• A degree
of faith in those who work in the company
“Patience. The media rarely tell stories about how “patient” a leader is. But they should. When you are working to get the best effort and results from your team, to engage in dialogue for hours on end, and to do things again and again until they’re done right, you need to have patience. High “EQ.” Too often we tout the intellectual capabilities of leaders by focusing on their IQ, when we should really be valuing their emotional intelligence quotient or EQ score. Being the smartest person in the room is not enough if you don’t have the capacity to work with the people who are in that room with you. When you work with and through communities of contributors as Red Hat does, where you can’t order anyone to do anything for you, your ability to listen, process, and not take everything personally becomes incredibly valuable. A different mind- set. Leaders who have come up through conventional organizations have been indoctrinated in a quid pro quo mind- set— one that’s been influenced by math and hard science that says every action should receive an appropriate response. But when you take a longer- term outlook to investing in something like building a community, you need to think differently. It’s like trying to build a delicately balanced ecosystem in which any misstep you make can create imbalance and lead to long- term damage that you may not see right away. Leaders must divest themselves of the mind- set that requires them to achieve results today at all costs to one in which the big payoffs come from delaying their sense of gratification and making those investments in the future. Of course, making these kinds of changes won’t appeal to everyone. There are times when issuing a top- down edict, for instance, would be far easier than allowing the meritocracy to reach a solution on its own time. Why would you want to open yourself up to criticism from your own troops? Wouldn’t your workplace seem less chaotic and in control if you stuck with doing the things the way you always have? To make this kind of culture work requires that leaders make an enormous investment in terms of time and energy, which can seem both daunting and wasteful. It’s almost like taking a leap of faith into the unknown.”
(Whitehurst & Hamel, 2015)
Organization is an extremely interesting book: instead of a story of how a
company was forged or how one person made a change, it is an attempt to
articulate the culture of a successful company by someone who came from outside
of it. Although it does not have specific actions or a transformation program,
the insights it provides are extremely valuable, in our opinion, to understand
the shock of cultural change.
only debatable point in our opinion is the idea of meritocracy: it is complex
to think that always the person who is heard is necessarily the one who is
right; on the other hand, the fact of who decides the value of the argument is
separate from that process makes it more complex. I also wonder how to go about
globalizing this process: although RedHat is a large company, it is mainly
concentrated in a global point. I wonder, do those people who live on the other
side of the world have the same capacity for arrival? And if they don’t, how
can we know that the best arguments are actually heard? If eloquence is a
factor, how can people for whom English is not their first language do? The
sophists were popular in Athens for a reason.
these points (which, we must clarify, are minor in relation to the content of
the book), we have found it to be a very interesting text, which presents a
different model of company and culture.
Jr, L. V.
G. (2002). Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?: Inside IBM’s Historic Turnaround
(First Edition edition). Harper Business.
Until I came to IBM, I probably would have told you that culture was just one among several important elements in any organization’s makeup and success—along with vision, strategy, marketing, financials, and the like. I might have chronicled the positive and negative cultural attributes of my companies (“positive” and “negative” from the point of view of driving marketplace success). And I could have told you how I went about tapping into—or changing—those attributes. The descriptions would have been accurate, but in one important respect I would have been wrong. I came to see, in my time at IBM, that culture isn’t just one aspect of the game—it is the game. (emphasis mine)
(Gerstner Jr, 2002)
been an unexpectedly difficult text to review, due to several factors. Full disclosure:
I work @IBM and I’ve been an IBMer for the last 10 years of my life. And I work
directly with culture at IBM, being it Agile methodology, Mindfulness or
Storytelling. Therefore, while I have a lot of hard-won insights of the
struggle of cultural change at IBM, I also have probably a very strong bias.
Also, some things seem discouragingly similar after so long. But when Guillermo
García (the CIC visionary leader and probably one of the most committed people
that I know for cultural change) asked me to include this book and the next on
the review list, I told him that I would try.
Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?: Inside IBM’s
Historic Turnaround Is a book by Louis V. Gerstner Jr., the CEO who essentially
changed IBM’s profile and saved the company from fragmenting into small shards
of a once imposing empire on IT. One of the major challenges on reviewing this
book is its disorganized structure: it’s nor a journal of the experience, an
argument for the politics or strategy of the change or an analysis post-fact,
but rather a combination of all of it. It starts on the biography of the
author, walks you through his first days at IBM in an hour to hour fashion,
then jumps into the following years and ends explaining both the trends that
the author predicted and does some financial analysis. That so schizophrenic a
structure is understandable is due to the strong voice of the author, who is
witty and self-effacing enough to admit the problems firsthand
I wrote this book without the aid of a coauthor or a ghostwriter (which is why it’s a good bet this is going to be my last book; I had no idea it would be so hard to do).
(Gerstner Jr, 2002)
Since it is
difficult to implement a succinct analysis of the book given its structure and
lacking the wit of the author, I’ll try to summarize the main points at each part
of the book and then do a final analysis at the end.
The beginning: bio and the choice to become CEO
begins with a quick story of himself; coming from an upper-middle class
upbringing, he, interestingly is a graduate from both Darthmouth College and Harvard.
His first job is an executive consultant at McKinsey; then he moves to become
quickly CEO of Nabisco, of Amex and other major companies, until he’s
approached in December 1992 to become CEO of IBM. At first, he’s reluctant but
eventually agrees when it’s clear that he’s the main candidate. Then he
presents a story of the company starting with Thomas Watson; there’s no mention
of the issues and the existence of IBM before him nor the troubling time at the
40’s. The author’s main question at this point is: how a company that in 1990
had the most profitable year ever can be almost bankrupt in 1992?
There was no computer in the CEO’s office.
(Gerstner Jr, 2002)
the author then takes us on a detailed journey of his first year as a CEO (to
the level when, at the start of the part, the first week is recounted almost in
an hour to hour basis). One of the first people he meets with is his brother,
who was an executive at IBM before having to retire due to Lyme’s disease (he
later says that he feels the brother provided the best advice overall). He
meets with luminaries of the IT field (the meeting with Bill Gates goes
specially badly) and clashes with the established IBMers. What he finds,
however, is dauting:
For me at IBM this meant, in some respects, seizing the microphone from the business unit heads, who often felt strongly about controlling communications with “their people”—to establish their priorities, their voice, their personal brand. In some companies, at some times, such action may be appropriate—but not at the Balkanized IBM of the early 1990s. This was a crisis we all faced. We needed to start understanding ourselves as one enterprise, driven by one coherent idea. The only person who could communicate that was the CEO—me.
(Gerstner Jr, 2002)
aside, I’ve heard “balkanized” as a term for IBM more times that I can count)
goes to meet with most high-level managers in the company, including next CEO
Sam Palmisano, from sales. But his most impactful encounter is with Thomas
Edison Jr, whom with he shares a ride and a talk about “our” company.
issue that he finds, in Agile terms, is that there’s no space for value. The
client does not have a voice at all. All IBM wants at the time is to lock down
customers and then, essentially use them to pay an ever-growing, bureaucratic
structure. There are no PO, no stakeholders looking out for value.
greatest genius, in our opinion, is his outsider perspective and his unshakeable
conviction that he was the only man fit for the job. He recognizes that splintering
IBM will give away its greatest leverage, the size at the same time that he recognizes
how difficult the size itself makes the transformation possible. Therefore,
he starts a series of shocking, short-term actions to ensure the life of the
year ends with him, reflecting on the fact that both he and the company survived
what was almost certainly a death trap. Now, he has to figure what to do next.
From ’94 to 2002
on, the narrative becomes jumpier: it can both change years from chapter to
chapter, but it also can change from a journal of the year to a defense of a strategic
It would be
difficult to summarize it at, but essentially, the author’s choices as CEO was
to put business value over almost every other priority (he keeps funded the
research wing, despite not being directly business dependent, because he sees
it as a strategic differentiator). He fires thousands of employees, reorganize
all the systems of governance and promotes business administrators and sales
over tech specialists.
They included a general disinterest in customer needs, accompanied by a preoccupation with internal politics. There was general permission to stop projects dead in their tracks, a bureaucratic infrastructure that defended turf instead of promoting collaboration, and a management class that presided rather than acted. IBM even had a language all its own. This isn’t to ridicule IBM culture. Quite the contrary, as I’ve indicated, it remains one of the company’s unique strengths. But like any living thing, it was susceptible to disease—and the first step to a cure was to identify the symptoms. The Customer Comes Second
(Gerstner Jr, 2002)
the value of the Mainframe, he streams and lowers the price of it to increase
market share. He changes the philosophy of most of the company towards that of
a Service company, understanding that the client may not want to be locked by having
every single app or server be from a single company, but that someone still has
to do that connection.
By 1996 I was ready to break the services unit out as a separate business. We formed IBM Global Services. The change was still traumatic for some of our managers, but it was eventually accepted as inevitable by most of our colleagues.
(Gerstner Jr, 2002)
in a consolidated marketing strategy (there wasn’t a marketing department with
systematic training, the author notes), he does away with inefficient products
(like Os/2 Warp) because he values Customer Experience over technical
With os/2-the fallacy that the best technology always wins. (…) So we came to the OS/2 v. Windows conformation with a product that was technically superior and a cultural inability to understand why we were getting flogged in the marketplace. First, the buyers were individual consumers, not senior technology officers. Consumers didn’t care much about advanced, but arcane, technical capability. (…) Second, Microsoft had all the software developers locked up, so all the best applications ran on Windows.
(Gerstner Jr, 2002)
he understands the client’s point of view well enough to empathize and direct
the strategy towards the greatest value.
In the case of application software-the myth of “account control.” This was a term used by IBM and others to talk about how a company maintained its hold on customers and their wallets. As a former customer, I was always offended and indignant that information technology companies talked about controlling customers.
(Gerstner Jr, 2002)
ends with his farewell address and a financial analysis that shows how much
more profitable IBM was under his leadership.
mentioned in the intro, this was a difficult book to analyze, due to its changing
structure (it is written like a blog post storm, before blogs) and both its
greatest strength and weakness: the unique authorial voice.
hand, the author is witty, funny and very engaging. His points (disorganized as
they are) tend to be clear and succinct. He has complete conviction: he must
have been a terrific business speaker. His ideas of making the company more Lean,
Agile and oriented towards Value…make perfect sense in an Agile world, 25+
years later. His experience as a CEO and a client makes his extremely valuable
to deal with other CEOs and clients. He’s like the Ultra-PO.
other hand, it is clear that the author, although he considers himself a humble
businessman, is anything but. Not all businessmen come from Harvard. He never
had any job lower in the totem pole than executive and most of his life he’s
been the CEO. While he works on an IT company and he deals with IT People, it’s
made very clear in his writing that there are Leaders (with a capital L) and
then there’s everyone else. When he makes himself available to be criticized
via message, he’s almost in rage when someone does:
One employee, even as his employer was burning and sinking to the delight of our competitors, had the time and inclination to critique my entire visit to an IBM facility (…)
Sometimes I had to bite my tongue—almost in half. All I can say is, it was a good thing for some people that I was too busy to reply to all my e-mail!
(Gerstner Jr, 2002)
somewhat compounded by the fact that he clearly believes in both dynasties and
that he was the only person fit for the job; only his elder brother, sadly
incapacitated by Lyme’s disease would have been an alternative. This total
conviction on himself, making himself essentially the next big CEO after
T.Watson Jr. does tend to run counter the Agile and Lean mindset of empowering
others and being transparent and accountable.
because of the year he took office on, perhaps because of the challenges and
perhaps even because of this almost psychotic belief in his own value and
incredible self-confidence, the author accomplished something no one believed
it was possible.
Their book concluded that “the question for the present is whether IBM can survive. From our analysis thus far, it is clear that we think its prospects are very bleak.” (…) Even The Economist—understated and reliable—over the span of six weeks, published three major stories and one lengthy editorial on IBM’s problems. “Two questions still hang over the company,” its editors wrote. “In an industry driven by rapid technological change and swarming with smaller, nimbler firms, can a company of IBM’s size, however organized, react quickly enough to compete? And can IBM earn enough from expanding market segments such as computer services, software, and consulting to offset the horrifying decline in mainframe sales, from which it has always made most of its money? “The answer to both questions may be no.”
(Gerstner Jr, 2002)
final review is: it is a very strange book. Almost a blog before the blog, it
tells a valuable story on how one man changed a culture. We might take away his
relentless focus and learn a lot about the almost LEAN way that the author
approached his objective; and while his voice might be troubling, specially with
some contradictions that glare specially in today’s Agile workplace, we would
remiss to not say that despite all, the author’s immense confidence in himself
was, actually, merited and he was the Right Man for the Job. His story is convoluted,
changing and genial, but never dull.
C. (2014). The Culture Engine: A Framework for Driving Results, Inspiring Your
Employees, and Transforming Your Workplace (1 edition). Wiley.
Engine is a book that deals in digital transformations based on culture; a
focus that, as you will know from my interest in Culture Crafting, runs central
to my career. So, with great interest, I read this text by S.C. Edmonds, which
I found interesting, although I have some (constructive) criticisms.
The text is
essentially a manual for consultants undergoing a digital transformation, with
a focus on those who work with servant leadership as ideal.
don’t understand is that there are two aspects of effective leadership. The
first is the strategic leadership aspect of servant leadership. Leadership is
about going somewhere. If your people don’t know where you want them to go,
there is little chance they will get there. That’s why Chris spends a great
deal of time helping you develop an organizational constitution that outlines
your team’s or company’s purpose, values, strategies, and goals. While there
should be widespread involvement in the development of your organizational constitution,
the responsibility for making sure you have one lies with top management. Once
everybody is clear on your business purpose and values, the next aspect of
effective leadership kicks in—living according to your organizational
constitution. That involves turning the traditional hierarchical pyramid upside
down to emphasize that everyone is responsible—able to respond— for living the
constitution and getting the desired results while modeling the organization’s
valued behaviors. Now top management becomes responsive cheerleaders for
actualizing the organizational constitution. This brings in the second, servant
aspect of servant leadership—the operational/implementation aspect. (Edmonds,
I think that
the focus on the operational part of Servant Leadership is correct, although I
have my own criticism of the concept (which I will develop later). But the text
begins by emphasizing the importance of cultural transformation:
understanding the need for a safe, inspiring culture is one thing. Creating and
managing a productive, engaging culture is another thing entirely. How does a
leader go about creating something that, on one hand, is so important, but, on
the other hand, seems so amorphous? It can be done through the creation of an
organizational constitution. An organizational constitution is a formal
document that states the company’s guiding principles and behaviors. These
liberating rules present the best thinking on how the organization wants to
operate. The constitution is a North Star that outlines the company’s or team’s
defined playing field for employee performance and values. (Edmonds,
like so many other texts, the author does not stop to define culture, not even
in the context of corporate culture)
develops a thesis of the author, that the success of the transformation and the
adoption of a new culture depends on three axes:
A workplace constitution
A top-down implementation
explore each of these axes, but I want to mention that throughout the text the
author presents multiple ways (through questionnaires, of simple application)
to measure adoption. Although the measurement methodology is simple (without
control groups or triangulation of data, for example), knowing from experience
how little time is available in the transformations, I think it is more than
Leadership is the concept that the leader essentially serves as inspiration and
facilitator for the people who produce the products or services. For the
author, the key question is:
example, you believe that “ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things
when goals are clear and leaders serve followers’ needs,” that might be a
foundational element of your leadership philosophy. The vital question to have
in mind as you craft your leadership philosophy is, “Are you a servant leader
or a self-serving leader?” (Edmonds, 2014)
Leadership Is the Foundation If I have inspired you to take steps (literally
and figuratively) to boost your physical health, let’s look at the foundation
of leading others effectively: servant leadership. (Edmonds, 2014)
your organization’s leaders and employees align to these new rules of
engagement requires that you be a model of servant leadership, a coach of
servant leadership, and a champion of servant leadership. How do you know if
you are a servant leader? You don’t have a vote! The only folks who do have a
vote are those that interact with you daily: work colleagues, customers,
friends, and family members. You must ask regularly, “How can I be of greater
service to you?” then refine your behaviors to serve more effectively. (Edmonds,
it is to shift the focus of a company’s governance from a leader in the despotic
style of management-top-down to the Foucaultian definition of governance as the
governance of a ship: helping the rest to accomplish their tasks and providing
clarity both in general direction as in particular situations. How to carry out
this “provide clarity” is detailed in …
the knot in the book. The car offers a step-by-step (too long to include here)
of how to make a working constitution, from which sub-constitutions hang.
Interestingly, while I found no explicit reference, it essentially models the
corporate enterprise into a federal state model: united by a general
constitution, which governs interaction and core values (the “federal” level)
with departmental and constitutional sub-constitutions. working groups (the
“provincial” and “municipal” levels so to speak). The
leader is responsible for this clarity, to the point that the author advises
evaluating employees (he provides a quadrant for this) and letting go (that is,
kicking out) those who are not aligned in order to maintain the unpolluted
succinct values definition helps people that interact with you daily by knowing
what you mean by each of your values. (Edmonds, 2014)
One of the
most interesting ways is that it not only seeks an abstract model, but also
tries to generate a concrete image of what a good worker is, according to
outlines what great personal citizenship looks, acts, and sounds like from you,
every day. (Edmonds, 2014)
Al mismo tiempo, se preocupa mucho en que aquello que está
bajado sea totalmente medible, para eliminar ambigüedades o discusiones:
or company’s valued behaviors must outline observable, tangible, measurable
actions. Just as organizational leaders manage to performance standards, these
behaviors become values standards that are lived and proactively managed by
leaders and employees throughout the company or team. (Edmonds, 2014)
behaviors measurable? Can peers and customers provide feedback about the degree
to which any leader or employee of this company is demonstrating these desired
behaviors? I hope you agree with me that they are—and they can. (Edmonds,
In the implementation, the author points out that one of the biggest
problems is the one he calls “Management By Announcement”. Essentially, what
happens in many of the transformations:
consultancy is announced
is carried out
leader announces the results of the consultancy and provides some actions or
is no follow-up and finally, everything is in nothing
a lot like the logical consequences of “managing by announcements,” a viruslike
plague I call “MbA.” When infected by MbA, leaders do a good job of defining
purpose or policies or procedures; they publish and announce the details, and
then expect all employees to immediately align to them. Leaders believe, “We’ve
told them, so now they know, and now they’ll do what we’ve told them.” How does
a leader check that assumption? Ask and observe—often. It is likely you’ll find
that too few leaders or employees are able to repeat the purpose or policies or
procedures to you. (Edmonds, 2014)
Model the Way Once the organizational constitution has been published,
leaders must model the valued behaviors, every day, in every interaction. (Edmonds, 2014)
Align the Way Once leaders embrace their responsibility to demonstrate the
department’s values and behaviors, leaders must then coach other leaders,
managers, supervisors, and so on (anyone with formal direct reports) to
demonstrate the valued behaviors as well. (Edmonds, 2014)
stage, each leader is essentially an agent of change and it is the leaders’
responsibility to model (i.e., lead by example) and carry out the
transformation. The author acknowledges that resistance can be generated, but
provides a series of examples of how to work it and advises not to negotiate on
anything, once the transformation was decided.
on the one hand, I found extremely useful. In a field where theoretical texts
abound, a step-by-step model, with each of the documented steps, is something
exceptional. I like the clarity of the model, which also offers how to generate
concrete examples of the transformation and multiple approaches it takes, too
detailed for this analysis. The experience of its author and its passage
through various transformations is obvious.
other hand, the idea of a system of constitutions seems extremely valuable to
me, as does the hermeneutics it uses to develop them. I think I will start to
apply this in my working groups as a way to gain clarity.
criticism is about Servant Leadership and its focus on leaders. In my personal
opinion, the book is only considering leaders as agents of transformation. This
worker / leader divide, while softened by the term “Servant,” sounds
like a misstep. Yes, it says that the Servant Leader is only there to serve
those who carry out productive tasks, but can this be so? In my experience,
Servant Leadership is a way, at best, to influence listening to leaders and at
worst, an excuse behind which despotic leaders hide, who do not take responsibility
for the tasks (” I only listened to the experts ”).
seen most when leaders are the sole guardians of values. An interesting
exercise may be to compare it with a modern state: in it, although the
inhabitants do not have direct decision-making power, by voting they can
discuss or dispute values. In the model presented by the author, employees can
only adapt to the constitutions lowered by the leaders, lacking any mechanism
to change them. In fact, this situation is reinforced with the recommendation
that leaders kick out those who are not aligned with them. If we had to imagine
a state generated by this model, it would probably be an oligarchy, with a
patrician or noble class that keeps its values and a class of employees that
can only decide to emigrate or accept what comes their way.
be, in my opinion, modified with the displacement of leaders as guardians and
arbiters of values to a more distributed system of responsibilities, where
everyone is responsible for something and in any case the general constitution
is a sum of the values of the constitutions that depend on them, a synthesis
rather than a model. A bazaar instead of a cathedral.
criticism does not detract from the value of the book’s clarity and methodical
strength. An interesting book to read and reflect, especially for those of us
who work in corporate culture.
(2013). Corporate Culture: A Framework for Analysis (P. Radoff, Ed.; 1.ª ed.).
itself recounts the formation of a corporate profiling tool, called by its
author the Corporate Culture Framework (CCF) from now on. He came to form the
CCF because in the process of looking for work, it seemed to him that the
hiring process would be improved if there were a company psychometric tool.
What I came
to spend the most time on was the issue of assessing corporate culture– the
rather nebulous concept that nevertheless can have a substantial impact on
one’s experience in the workplace. Job applicants and hiring managers want to
know whether the applicant will “fit in.” In a workplace where one’s
personality is important, so then is corporate culture, by any definition. And
there we have our first quandary: how do we define and even measure corporate
culture? (Radoff, 2013)
apparent absence of any precise measures of corporate culture, I set out to
design a framework, which I call the Corporate Culture Framework (“ CCF”), by
which corporate culture could be measured– a collection of metrics and values.
Such metrics might include, for example, how directly versus indirectly people
communicate within a company (Radoff, 2013)
by using a questionnaire, the author’s goal is to create a company profile, to
ensure a better match. Finally, try to get a Curriculum Vitae.
this test, that is, by having people respond to the questionnaire, we can
develop a Corporate Culture Profile (“ CCP”). With the CCP, I sought to provide
a reference for job seekers to answer some basic questions: “What’s it like to
work at that company?” “Would I fit in there? Does it match my psychometric
profile?” “What are the positives and negatives of working within that company”
expanded profile, which I call a Corporate Curriculum Vitae (“ CCV”), could be
used to answer not only “what is it like to work at the company?” but also “who
is working there?” and “is there an opportunity for me to work there?” (Radoff,
the CCP and the CCV are mentioned, they do not appear significantly in the rest
of the book. The book itself is neither a guide to the CCF nor a manual to
apply it, but rather a strange and mutant genre: a mix of how it came to be put
together and a mix of propaganda to be hired to apply it.
level, this book attempts to outline a method by which a company’s corporate
culture can be more clearly described, with something approaching scientific
rigor, in a manner that can be digested by many audiences. There are many
psychometric tests for people; this book suggests we can have the same for a
company. That is, our supposition is that we can develop a framework for
measuring corporate culture (the CCF). (Radoff, 2013)
he bases his method on various psychometrics, but in reality, we believe, his
method is an adaptation of the Myers-Brigg (MBI)
commonly used personality tests is the well-known “Big-5” personality-based
test (i.e. the personality qualities of “extroversion, agreeableness,
conscientiousness, openness to experience, and emotional stability”), the MBTI
(Myers-Briggs Type Indicator), the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, the DISC
assessment, and others. There are also many lesser-known tests that have cropped
up under the radar, the output of smaller companies in the HR arena (Radoff,
is essentially simple. It establishes a dyad of possible choices: in the cases
analyzed, it uses categories A – Structured vs B – Flexible for processes and A
– Individualist vs B – Group-oriented way of working. Structure based on a
series of categories that defines questions that give A or B and then each one
assigns a guideline value for how that category is considered for the client:
from 1 to 5, with 1 being terribly bad and 5 being excellent.
That is, a
company’s cultural characterization and whether that characterization is viewed
positively or negatively by its employees are independent variables. Any
correlation between a characterization and a judgment should emerge only over
time, as the corporate culture of various companies (and any positive /
negative judgment) is developed by practitioners. (Radoff, 2013)
the components of a company that correspond to components of a person. 2.
Decide which of those components are most suitable for analysis (“Key
Components”). 3. For each Key Component, decide what are the broad
Subcomponents or Groupings of activities that best describe how a company
functions (“Groupings”) 4. Within each Grouping, decide what the specific
activities are that enable the company to function (“Activities”). 5. Develop a
bi-valued method for assessing the company’s performance of each Activity as
reflecting a relatively Structured vs. Flexible, or Bold vs. Reflective,
approach. 6. Develop a questionnaire that can be used to characterize each
Activity in this manner and then, if deemed desirable, to characterize the
Groupings, Components, and the company as a whole. The methodology described
above creates what we call the CCF. In the sections below, we expand on these
steps. Applying the CCF to a particular company creates its CCP. (Radoff, 2013)
question he asks is that he considers (in our opinion, not very happily) a
division of the corporation into Body, Spirit, Mind and Heart. In its division,
Assets, assets, logistics, etc. Everything concrete of a corporation
Values. Interestingly, this should be in our opinion a vital part of the
culture, but the author considers it the domain of Executives and Strategy
Defined processes, methodology
• Heart: HR
(this shows, if it were necessary to clarify, that the author is a HR
professional) and interpersonal relationships
Example of Grouping (of) Mind
Example of grouping of (and I swear it is even difficult to write it) Heart
their method is to generate questions for each of the categories:
categories to Employee Chemistry We now consider the case of our activities
within the Key Component of Employee Chemistry and apply the concepts of (A)
Bold and (B) Reflective. (A) Individualistic vs. (B) Group Oriented. Is it more
important for people to be strong individual performers or work within a team?
(A) Fact vs. (B) Concept. Which is more compelling within the company – hard
facts or ideas? (A) Positive vs. (B) Negative. Do people in the company think
about what could go right, or what could go wrong? (A) Serious vs. (B) Relaxed.
What is the prevailing attitude in the workplace – stern and serious or
relaxed? (Radoff, 2013)
up generating a questionnaire in which each question has a dyad + a subjective
appreciation rating. With this, create a Company Profile.
the book ends at this point, without explaining the analysis or structure of a
PCC, which was what in theory is sought. While the text has sample questions,
it does not show an in-depth CCF or how it would be analyzed to produce a CCP.
Instead, you have a request that the author be contacted to hire and apply.
The text is
frustrating, because on the one hand it is interesting how someone has applied
a method from another discipline (as we said, for us the MBI is the only
“father” of this method) and has applied it to corporate culture (a term that,
incidentally, not defined).
fact that it does not really explain its model, but ends up being a kind of
publicity for its author, does not help much in its assessment. Nor does it
help that the author does not consider, for whatever reason, basic issues to
apply surveys such as distribution, control groups, metrics, etc.
The text is
a good starting point, an idea to generate a better framework for analysis. It
can be useful to generate an application of the named frameworks or try to
build what the author says it can do, a profile of the culture of a
corporation. But as it is presented in the analyzed edition, it is simply a
pamphlet about an idea.
I’ve been very, very busy. Working on my PhD and Postdoc, writing a new book, organizing my meditation groups…this COVID pandemic has been a busy, busy time.
But I have great news! There are some things coming, that I think you will all enjoy!
There’s a New Storytelling Podcast (in Spanish) called “Sangha Sin Nombre” (The Nameless Sangha) where we tell short stories of meditation and we read books, with mindfulness sessions intersped. You can listen to it on spotify, or any other good podcast service, but the main link is here: https://open.spotify.com/show/6n7S0pkuQjUJbNoUXp1ufm?si=ayDHhC3fRjKPigZjIsAGHg
I’m also writing the first book (in english!) about Culture Crafting. More news soon!
Also, I’m going to be posting book and articles reviews of my research into Agile and Corporate Culture.
I hope that this is of interest, and, as always, please feel free to reach to me!