We need to talk about failureship.

Reading these failureship blogs, you may be mistaken into thinking that I am critical of individual leaders. The very name “Failureship” is deliberately provocative by design. The purpose of these blogs is to draw attention to the fact that individuals in a failureship role in a failure culture are actually part of a behaviour-plex where their behaviour and the behaviour of others form reinforcing (negative) feedback loops. These behaviours have been established over decades of stable market conditions, often learnt from successful leaders in a different time. Leaders are keen to introduce beneficial change to their organisations but they are unaware of how their own behaviour undermines their own best intentions. Without an awareness of failureship, leaders will continue to trip over their own shoelaces and fail to introduce change.

Photo by Shelbey Fordyce on Unsplash

Leadership is hard, and it is particularly hard for the current generation of leaders. We are experiencing a period of massive change in all aspects of life. Most of our leaders grew up in a period of relative stability and learned how to be a leader from those around them, people who were successful and effective. The behaviours that lead to success in the past no longer lead to success in the present.

These blog posts share my observations so that we can start a conversation about leadership and failureship. Fundamentally changing the culture of an organisation requires leaders to do new things, and as importantly, they need to understand that they need to change their behaviour, and put a stop to doing some of the things they do and put a stop to things that others do. A conversation needs to take place with those leaders who are “doing it”, leaders need to share stories with each other so that we can build a new approach to leadership and cultural change. Leaders are desperate for help which is evidenced by the fact that they are buying snake oil by the gallon from the “Communities of Solutions”, believing that training and certification in pre-packaged context free solutions will do the hard work for them.

As Mark Gillett noted, these posts are ethnographic studies of organisations. They are ethnographic studies of organisations performed by someone who is not trained in ethnography, probably more like the observations that a tourist might make when visiting a foreign or different culture. They are observations that have been filtered through my own understanding of reality and as such they should not be considered as fact and instead as an initial hypothesis that point towards more experimentation. The hypothesis about the behaviour of individuals in an organisation is as advanced as the belief that day and night are caused by a scarab beetle pushing the god Ra across the sky to light the land.

At the NYC Complexity Lounge I was asked to name names, to call out members of the failureship who engaged in behaviour that leads to a failure culture. I said that whilst I was happy to call out the names of leaders in “risk managed” cultures, I would only call out the behaviours observed in a failureship but not the names of the individuals. The goal is not to punish people but rather to learn about leadership so that we can create better organisations. This will be one of the principles of the discussion, there will be no naming and shaming, of either individuals or organisations.

The thought leaders, consultants and trainers who are selling leadership and certification need to step back and give leaders the chance to work out some stuff for themselves. In my experience consultants and trainers selling leadership solutions have little or no empathy or understanding for the real challenges that leaders face. They are firmly in the community of solutions and have no understanding or interest in the real needs of leaders. I recently spoke to a transformation lead and told them of my frustration at taking a year to onboard a new consultancy into a large organisation. They told me they had experienced the same problem. So whilst consultants are selling “Scaled Agile”, “Holocracy”, “Sociocracy”, “Teal Organisations”, “Complexity”, and mainly “themselves”, those leaders engaged in making real transformation happen could really use some help on-boarding consultancies that can provide high quality, cheap, developers.

The Conversation

If you are interested in joining the conversation, please reach out to me on e:mail. If you do not know my e:mail, contact me on twitter ( @papachrismatts ) or linkedin. Alternatively leave a comment either here or linkedin with details of how I can find you. I will send an e:mail to all that are interested so that we can choose the best venue for the conversation. Please note that any thought leader or community of solution attempt to sell solutions ( including themselves ) will result in removal from the conversation.

I look forward to hearing from you.

In the mean time, here are some of the posts to date:

  1. Seeing culture
  2. Presentation at Lean Agile Scotland on “Seeing Culture”
  3. Presentation at Lean Agile Scotland on “Community of Needs & Community of Solutions”
  4. Introducing failureship, the dark twin of leadership
  5. Failure cultures reward failure
  6. aacennprrsty and the failureship
  7. Step away from the office and join the team
  8. Failureship and expensive low cost people
  9. The failureship and turkeys voting for Christmas

More posts on failure culture and failureship will follow…

About theitriskmanager

Currently an “engineering performance coach” because “transformation” and “Agile” are now toxic. In the past, “Transformation lead”, “Agile Coach”, “Programme Manager”, “Project Manager”, “Business Analyst”, and “Developer”. Did some stuff with the Agile Community. Put the “Given” into “Given-When-Then”. Discovered “Real Options” View all posts by theitriskmanager

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