The Year That Was, 2019 – Going With The Flow

For me, the mot­to for 2019 was going with the flow. A lot has changed and a lot has sim­ply emerged from the present sit­u­a­tion and the exist­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties. The Man­i­festo for Human(e) Lead­er­ship com­plete­ly unplanned became a book and I thus became an author by acci­dent. The demand for the book stim­u­lat­ed inter­est in the top­ics of our agile trans­for­ma­tion and vice ver­sa. And this result­ed in more pre­sen­ta­tions, work­shops, dis­cus­sions and new con­nec­tions than ever before. Look­ing back, I am very grate­ful for all this.

Author by Accident

It all began almost two years ago with this tweet. A few day before, there had been a work­shop in the BMW Group IT in which peo­ple from four hier­ar­chi­cal lev­els con­tem­plat­ed how lead­er­ship had to change as a result of the trans­for­ma­tion towards more agili­ty, self-orga­ni­za­tion and sub­sidiar­i­ty. At the end of this work­shop there was some­how the idea to sum­ma­rize our unfin­ished thoughts on lead­er­ship in the style of the Man­i­festo for Agile Soft­ware Devel­op­ment. Exact­ly that’s what I did first on Twit­ter and LinkedIn and then in Feb­ru­ary 2018 in the form of the Man­i­festo for Human(e) Lead­er­ship here in the blog.

As the first anniver­sary of the Man­i­festo was approach­ing in Feb­ru­ary of this year, I ini­tial­ly want­ed to update the Man­i­festo and add, for exam­ple, “Ask­ing ques­tion over giv­ing answers”. But some­how I stum­bled across Lean­pub and decid­ed to pub­lish the man­i­festo with all the arti­cles I had writ­ten about it since then as an e‑book.

Cov­er of the Ger­man paper­back. The Eng­lish ver­sion is avail­able as e‑book on Lean­pub.

The over­whelm­ing response to the e‑book gave me the idea that a print­ed book would also be very appeal­ing, not least because you can hand it over to some­one. So I dust­ed off my LaTeX skills that I had­n’t used since my grad­u­a­tion (like rid­ing a bicy­cle one does­n’t real­ly seem to unlearn such things, though) and com­plete­ly reworked the e‑book into a paper­back that is avail­able since April 10, 2019 at Ama­zon (cur­rent­ly only in the Ger­man ver­sion; an Eng­lish trans­la­tion is still avail­able on Lean­pub).

I was already very proud of the first 100 copies sold, as well as the first five stars at Ama­zon. But I would nev­er have expect­ed near­ly 3,000 copies sold and 51 star rat­ings with an aver­age of 4.7 at Ama­zon so far. And least of all, I would not have expect­ed such tal­ent­ed read­ers as Sabi­na Lam­mert to share this great poster with us. By the way, you can find it as an A0-print­ing tem­plate in Ger­man, Eng­lish and Span­ish on Sabi­na’s page.

Poster with the main themes of the Man­i­festo for Human(e) Lead­er­ship done by Sabi­na Lam­mert.

Agile Transformation and New Leadership

Pic­ture: WEKA Indus­trie Medi­en | Math­ias Hes­chl & Sophie Kirchner

In addi­tion to the con­tin­u­ing high lev­el of inter­est in our agile trans­for­ma­tion, which I was already able to present and dis­cuss at var­i­ous events in 2018, this year there was also an increased inter­est in the Man­i­festo for Human(e) Lead­er­ship. Accord­ing­ly, my many talks and work­shops this year have always focused on both agile trans­for­ma­tion and new lead­er­ship, such as in this video (I also gave sev­er­al Eng­lish keynotes, but unfor­tu­nate­ly I don’t have a video of any of them; this is clear­ly some­thing I will fix in 2020).

Cube­ware Kun­den­tag 2019

Speak­ing of work­shops: The Man­i­festo for Human(e) Lead­er­ship is not only intend­ed for self-study, but also as a frame­work for reflect­ing joint­ly on lead­er­ship prin­ci­ples and lead­er­ship behav­ior in work­shops. As a small inspi­ra­tion, I have made freely avail­able two cor­re­spond­ing for­mats: One for sev­er­al small­er groups and one for a larg­er audi­ence.

Requests for 2020 are always wel­come by e‑mail or via Three­ma (ID: F9KX44FS)

The Top‑5 Articles 2019

It’s now the tenth year, that I am per­form­ing the “art of the grad­ual fab­ri­ca­tion of thoughts while writ­ing” in this blog (in the style of Hein­rich von Kleist’s “Über Kun­st der allmäh­lichen Ver­fer­ti­gung der Gedanken beim Reden”, i.e. “About the grad­ual fab­ri­ca­tion of thoughts while speak­ing”). And so, also in 2019, 50 arti­cles appeared in Ger­man and Eng­lish. And these led in 2019 (togeth­er with all oth­er arti­cles of the last years) to well over 200,000 page impres­sions with more than 130,000 vis­its, thus almost dou­bling the num­bers com­pared to the pre­vi­ous year. The most read arti­cles were the fol­low­ing five.

Aberrations of the Agile Transformation

Not every­thing that has trans­for­ma­tion in neon let­ters on its cov­er actu­al­ly is a trans­for­ma­tion. It all starts with the erro­neous assump­tion that agili­ty can boost employ­ee per­for­mance just like some sort of con­cen­trat­ed feed. Mis­guid­ed by this promise of greater effi­cien­cy, an agile trans­for­ma­tion is then ordered from the top and proven blue­prints (Spo­ti­fy and Co.) are eval­u­at­ed and rolled out. This ulti­mate­ly leads to an “agiliza­tion” of the exist­ing encrust­ed struc­tures and process­es with­out rig­or­ous­ly ques­tion­ing them. In the end there is hard­ly any trans­for­ma­tion left but only agile label fraud: Same same but different.

[Read more]

The Five Principles of Lean Management as the Basis of the Agile Manifesto

In order to under­stand agili­ty from a his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tive, it is impor­tant to go back to the prin­ci­ples of lean man­age­ment. Agili­ty in the sense of the Agile Man­i­festo from 2001 can there­by be seen as the appli­ca­tion of the five prin­ci­ples of Lean to soft­ware devel­op­ment. The focus of agili­ty is on the rapid deliv­ery of cus­tomer val­ue through work­ing soft­ware. And the opti­mal flow for this comes from an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary and self-orga­niz­ing team that cov­ers the com­plete val­ue stream from the idea to oper­at­ing the software.

[Read more]

Pain of Adaptation in the Corporate World

After my switch from our small but fine start-up esc Solu­tions to the BMW Group IT in 2015, I was asked more than once whether I real­ly was seri­ous about this move. To be hon­est, I asked myself this ques­tion also more than once in the first half of 2015. A short sto­ry full of pic­tures about the pain of adap­ta­tion in a large cor­po­ra­tion and how it helped me find my role as cor­po­rate rebel and court jester.

[Read more]

Culture Follows Structure or the Misunderstood Scrum Master

From his decades of expe­ri­ence with the agile trans­for­ma­tion of orga­ni­za­tions and in par­tic­u­lar with the intro­duc­tion of the LeSS frame­work devel­oped by Bas Vodde and him­self, Craig Lar­man has sum­ma­rized sev­er­al obser­va­tions as “Larman’s Laws of Orga­ni­za­tion­al Behav­ior“. These “laws” nice­ly describe in var­i­ous facets the iner­tia of hier­ar­chi­cal struc­tures that implic­it­ly always tend to pre­serve the sta­tus quo of mid­dle and top man­age­ment and estab­lished pow­er struc­tures in gen­er­al. This hits the mis­un­der­stood and under­es­ti­mat­ed role of the Scrum Mas­ter par­tic­u­lar­ly hard.

[Read more]

Unboss Instead of Egomaniacs

Times of change are times of uncer­tain­ty. A typ­i­cal reac­tion to this uncer­tain­ty is the call for heroes and strong lead­ers who bring order into chaos and show the way. On a soci­etal and polit­i­cal lev­el, we are there­fore wit­ness­ing a strength­en­ing of nation­al­ist ten­den­cies and the increas­ing pop­u­lar­i­ty of politi­cians whose con­tri­bu­tion con­sists essen­tial­ly in undu­ly sim­pli­fy­ing the com­plex­i­ty of the world by divid­ing it into black and white, good and wrong, us and them and oth­er false dichotomies. In times of dig­i­tal dis­rup­tion, fear also increas­es in com­pa­nies. And while in many places a strong leader is then desired, real­ly strong lead­ers like Vas Narasimhan at Novar­tis do the oppo­site: “Unboss your Company!”

[Read more]

What’s Next?

Hon­est­ly, I don’t know. It will emerge in the sense of Wu wei (無為). This is the cen­tral con­cept of Tao­ism. It is first men­tioned in the Tao Te Ching, which accord­ing to leg­end goes back to the sage Laozi (ca. 6th cen­tu­ry BC). Lit­er­al­ly trans­lat­ed “Wu” sim­ply means “not”, thus being a nega­tion, and “Wei” means doing, act­ing or effort. Lit­er­al­ly trans­lat­ed Wu wei there­fore means non-action. How­ev­er, this does not mean inac­tiv­i­ty or lazi­ness, but rather the refusal to act against the nature of things. The trans­la­tion that I like best is the one I heard from Alan Watts (see this video): act with­out forcing.

Act with­out doing;
work with­out effort.
Think of the small as large
and the few as many.
Con­front the dif­fi­cult
while it is still easy;
accom­plish the great task
by a series of small acts.


Wu wei there­fore means – com­plete­ly in the spir­it of agili­ty – rec­og­niz­ing and using the pos­si­bil­i­ties avail­able here and now, mak­ing small steps and then learn­ing from these steps, which even­tu­al­ly leads to great accom­plish­ments. This is how it will be in 2020 and in ret­ro­spect I will hope­ful­ly be able to con­nect the dots again in a mean­ing­ful way, even though I don’t know here and now exact­ly what they will be. In this sense, I wish all my read­ers relax­ing and hap­py hol­i­days and a good start into the year 2020!

You can’t con­nect the dots look­ing for­ward; you can only con­nect them look­ing back­wards. So you have to trust that the dots will some­how con­nect in your future. You have to trust in some­thing — your gut, des­tiny, life, kar­ma, what­ev­er. This approach has nev­er let me down, and it has made all the dif­fer­ence in my life.

Steve Jobs

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By Marcus Raitner

Hi, I'm Marcus. I'm convinced that elephants can dance. Therefore, I accompany organizations on their way towards a more agile way of working. Since 2010 I regularly write about leadership, digitization, new work, agility, and much more in this blog. More about me.


Servus Mar­cus,
Vie­len Dank für alle Blogs in 2019, es freut mich jedem Einzel­nen Blog zu lesen. Die The­men sind sehr wichtig und meinen eige­nen Denken hil­ft zu läutern.
Was für mich über­raschend war, gibt es über T. keine Erwäh­nung. Hof­fentlich seinen Wag­nisse im Kor­po­ratewelt von einen grossen Konz­ern fahren im 2020 fort.
Ich wün­sche Dir und deine Fam­i­lie ein Fro­he Wei­h­nacht­en und einen guten Rutsch ins neues Jahr.
Mit fre­undlichen Grüßen.

Vie­len Dank für dein Feed­back und deine Wertschätzung, Chris! Geschicht­en von T. gäbe es genug und wenn ich wieder ein biss­chen mehr Muße habe geht das kleine Roman­pro­jekt “Am Hand­lauf in den Entschei­derkreis” bes­timmt weiter ;-)

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