Pawel Brodzinski is CEO at Lunar Logic (at least formally). He is a coach, a trainer and a mentor. He’s been managing teams and companies for past 15 years. He likes to share everything which contributes towards building extraordinary organizations and, as a side effect, running successful projects. He’s a core member of Lean Kanban community. While Pawel’s interests evolve over years he would always fancy a good discussion about leadership, organizational design, running projects, and growing teams. He blogs about these topic at http://brodzinski.com/.
TaskQue: First of all, tell us about yourself. How you started your career? What was the real source of inspiration?
Pawel Brodzinski: For years I perceived my primary role as a manager. I’ve been managing teams taking care of every single part of software development life cycle, from architectural design to maintenance and customer support.
However, at Lunar Logic, I distributed literally all my power to everyone at the company and in practice we don’t have any managers at the company. So my CEO role is purely representative. We even have a CEO purely for legal reasons; we can’t not have any.
Now I tend to frame myself mostly as a mentor. It is even better container than a leader. When we say “leader” we frequently think of a designated leader–someone who’s been set into such a position. I, on the other hand, think of myself as of a leader only if someone voluntarily decides to follow me in any endeavor. Mentor ship role is my invitation to do so without any obligation.
What was the source of inspiration in my career?
People. For me it’s always people, this way or another. I got both inspiration and support to make the very first career move from my close friend. That landed me at an internship. Then there was my first boss. And then another.
One could say that I was lucky to get under right mentor-ship and management during the early days of my career. It would be part-truth only. As a matter of fact I look at leadership styles of my early managers very differently now, that I have very different experience myself. That doesn’t change how I value their contributions that helped me to get where I am of course.
As a matter of fact it hasn’t changed throughout my whole career. Even when I worked with, or for, people who led in a way I didn’t respect it was still a valuable lesson and source of inspiration. That’s what I don’t want to become. That’s how I don’t want to lead. That’s the way I won’t behave.
Today it’s still all about people. People who I work with. People who I see growing and blossoming. That’s what makes me tick.
TaskQue: You have profound experience of leading integrated teams and hence helping them improving team performance. Please share some best practices about improving team performance.
Pawel Brodzinski: Tell people what their goals are and get the hell out of their way.
That’s of course oversimplified version, but you get the message. We are culturally wired to use the decision-making power we have as managers to tell people what to do. Simply put this strategy makes groups dumb.
There is fabulous research on collective intelligence by Anita Woolley. One of the things it shows is that groups fine better solutions than individuals. As a matter of fact, group-proposed solutions are better than those offered by the most intelligent individual from a group.
The primary role of leaders is to help the team to work in a collaborative way so everyone contributes. One of two primary factors for high collective intelligence is evenness of communication. In other words teams which enable equal chances to speak up to all their members are those that pick the best solutions.
It is, in a way, getting out of the way. At the same it doesn’t mean disappearing. A manager is there to take care of the issues which may arise, be it taking care of an unpleasant chore or making sure that the everyone is heard in a discussion.
TaskQue: What do you think about change management? What are the key factors to manage change in a project successfully?
Pawel Brodzinski: “People don’t resist change. People resist being changed.”
This quote is attributed to Peter Senge. By know I almost think it is a cliche, though. In its heart it is very true.
There are great models describing why change is difficult: Virginia Satir’s J-Curve or Stuart Kauffman’s Fitness Landscape, just to make a couple of most notable mentions. Long story short, for each change there will be resistance. The answer to successful change management is the answer to how to overcome that resistance.
When we look at Peter Senge’s words the answer is: the power to overcome resistance has to come from people who experience change. Unless they have internal incentive to keep up with the new thing it will fall apart.
Of course we can use policies, rules, procedures and what have we, to coerce people into doing things the new way. It will only last as long as police force is around. Once there’s no one to check on people whether they’re doing things The New Official Way™ they fall back to what they’ve been doing earlier.
And that’s where experimentation mindset is huge help. It is basically attitude to try things out and learn from the outcomes. The flipside is that failed experiment have to be perceived as a perfectly fine thing, as long as we learn from them.
Through such organizational culture we let people try new things, change their environment, alter their behaviors, and ultimately get follower-ship from others in an organization. That’s how sustainable change is triggered.
TaskQue: What’s your instance on stake holder management? What do you recommend for keeping all stake holders in confidence along with resolving their concerns?
Pawel Brodzinski: There can’t be healthy long-term business relationship unless we can build mutual trust. That’s as true for stakeholders as for any other business relationship. Actually, I would limit that that to business context only, but for the sake of the argument let’s stick with it.
At the same time the early game is with no or limited trust at best. I mean, we meet with our stakeholders for the first time and it’s only fair that we don’t trust them… yet.
Ultimately, we should ask ourselves what’s the best take to build trust then. My answer is transparency. At Lunar Logic transparency is one of the pillars we build collaboration on. And we take it to the extreme. There’s not a single bit of relevant information that we’d keep from our stakeholders.
We tell our clients when we screw up. We tell our clients when we hate their ideas. We tell them when we need help. We tell them what our intentions are. On occasions it is brutal. There’s no better way I know to build trust.
Once trust is in place and, thanks to transparency, everyone is on the same page resolving concerns is not much of a problem anymore. We act as if we were the part of the same team and look for the best solution.
Interestingly enough it works even when we face conflicting interests. To give you an example: let’s say that we want to renegotiate our rates with a client. It’s obvious that we’d love to get paid as much as possible while the client would love to pay as little as possible. And yet, thanks to trust and open communication about the context and intentions we easily find reasonable win-win solutions.
TaskQue: You have been co-organizer of TEDxKrakow. Please share some memorable experience of the event. Which speech or speaker you liked the most?
Pawel Brodzinski: Co-organizing TEDxKrakow was a huge learning opportunity. Even though back then I already had extensive experience in managing projects, a project where everyone’s involvement is purely voluntary is a completely different beast.
The most memorable moment was that after months of work on making the event happen I wasn’t able to take part in it. The day before I’ve had a tragic family event and my whole attention was rerouted to my family.
In a way it was also a great lesson on running projects. Nothing broke because I wasn’t around. I could hand off all the stuff I was taking care of in on 10-minute meeting in a random place in the city and even if I hadn’t done that everything would have gone fine anyway.
TaskQue: There are many project management methodologies , which methodology do you use and recommend?
Pawel Brodzinski: I think of myself as method-agnostic. I got very involved in Kanban community during its very early days and for quite some time I considered myself a Kanban proponent.
The thing is that when the only tool you have is a hammer every problem look like a nail. Over time I gradually started realizing that not all problems were nails and thus I needed broader tool set.
By the time I grew my method tool set another realization came. It’s not really about tools, methods or practices. It’s about principles and values we share. What matters is whether any method we pick is aligned with them.
I can give you an example. Let’s take visualization as a technique. It’s the first of Kanban practices. Now, what principles or values stand behind visualization? Well, transparency. So a follow-up question: does an organization value transparency? Seriously, do people from any given team are fine openly sharing the status of their work with their peers, with other teams, with management, and, ultimately, with a client?
The most common answer to the last question is “somewhat”. We are somewhat open in most contexts. In other words we “somewhat” value transparency. So my take is that visualization will be “somewhat” valuable practice to adopt. Because of the context the organization won’t be able to exploit value of a practice to its fullest potential.
That’s why I’m more into focusing on principles and values and finding useful tools that work in any given context, rather than choosing a favorite method. In different contexts different sets of tools would work best.
TaskQue: You have been working in the community for a long. Please tell us who has been your inspiration in the community?
Pawel Brodzinski: A list would be really long and it evolves over time. I see no reasonable way of throwing just a few names without doing disservice to many others.
The big lesson for me is that there are great people out there we can reach out to and vast majority of them are awesome human beings. No matter what your current context is, there are folks who would inspire you.
It is only natural that once your interests evolve you may look for inspiration in a different part of the crowd. Take my example. Depending on a moment you heard me speaking or writing you might have heard about project management, portfolio management, continuous improvement, leadership, team building, or organizational design. Depending on a context I was looking for different inspirations.
One last thing to mention here is that many times inspirations came as a surprise. I’ve had absolutely fabulous discussions with some fellow speakers only after accidentally we landed at the same table in a hotel bar.
TaskQue: You have been blogging about software project management topics for a long. What future trends do you see in this field?
Pawel Brodzinski: That’s a tough question to answer. I mean, my visceral reaction would be: who cares? But I know better than that.
Predictions, then. It is a funny thing to see what’s happening with Agile movement over past few years. We tend to make everything at scale since it’s adopted by huge organizations. At the same time the price we pay in most cases is that we lose this initial agility, if you will, that was at heart of Agile during its early days.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t complain. As a matter of fact, that’s how it’s going to be. Why? Because principles and values that are operating system of most big organizations are different that those of smaller, flexible organizations where Agile spurred from initially. That’s why practices and methods that big companies will end up will be different.
Even if we start with any by the book implementation the rules and practices will be bent, adjusted and abandoned in order to reflect true identity of an organization: its principles and values.
From that perspective a mixture of the new (Agile) and the old (bureaucratic/formal) approaches is expected. And beneficial. I see it as evolution of what we’ve had so far.
And the same pattern will be happening in all other niches as well. Things will get more Lean, but not ultimately Lean. There will be increasing push toward sensible approach toward product development through applying a range of approaches that blossomed once Lean Startup was published. And yet I don’t expect it will become a de facto standard of building new products in predictable future.
Long story short, we’ll be getting a bit better in how we run things but the impact won’t be significant. If we are for significant change we should look elsewhere, at how our organizations are designed.
TaskQue: Work Life balance affects a person’s productivity. This is the reason people have different hobbies and interest? How do you spend your leisure time?
Pawel Brodzinski: I absolutely love to spend my time with my 5-year old doing whatever there is to be done. At the very beginning I told you that for me it’s all about people. So it doesn’t matter that much what we are doing exactly; what matters is that we’re in it together.
I love sailing. I charge my batteries at sea. At the same time it’s not something I can do daily or weekly or even monthly since I live more than 500 km from the nearest sea. Anyway I have some crazy plans on that account that are waiting for a good moment in my life.
If you expected a longer list, well, I guarantee you that these two fill more time that I have at hand.