Welcome to the LIVEforward Institute Living Room Conversations!
We have seen the catalytic power of conversations in the work that we do, as well as the impact that it brings to our world.
Our Living Room is a space for us to connect, to explore thoughts and learnings, in a relaxed and very human way. Through this channel, we look forward to an engaging dialogue and resonance with our guests, and bring a breath of fresh air to the space we occupy in this virtual world.
To our listeners and followers, we hope to create an opportunity to candidly eavesdrop and chime in to one of the many interesting conversations around the space of teal, agile and the future of work.
For our first episode, we launch into a conversation with Erik Korsvik Østergaard and Timm Urschinger in a topic that is very close to our day to day transformation work. Erik is a bestselling author of “Teal Dots in an Orange World”, where he brings a very practical and pragmatic view of Teal coming from an orange perspective.
Join us as we explore together with Timm and Erik what available thinking models and ideas are out there to adapt to a fast-changing world.
Timm = Timm Urschinger (Host)
Erik = Erik Korsvik Østergaard (Guest)
TIMM: Hello and a very warm welcome to everyone out there. We are live on Linkedin, Facebook, and YouTube. Hello to the first Living Room Conversations by The LIVEForward Institute. My pleasure to be the host for you today, and even more so to have Erik with us, who we will have here on the show in a few seconds as well. Before we get going, just a few words around why is it a Living Room Conversation, what are we doing here? Basically, it is conversation fuel ideas. So we want you to be engaged, please put comments and questions in whatever medium you’re using today. Make sure you engage with Erik and me, so we can get a bit of resonance and connection with all of you, and hopefully, once we get into that catalytic power of conversations going that we are aiming for from the Living Room Conversations. For you listeners out there, we want to give you the opportunity to really chime into what we are talking about today, we’ll talk about Teal Dots in an Orange World, specifically in the Life Sciences industry, because Erik and I have a bit of history there. What is Teal? What is agility? What is future of work looking like in that set-up? Obviously, there’s room in the future Conversations in the Living Room, there will be more guests coming, speaking about that very same topic with me or other hosts here as well. We just try to inspire the rest of you to maybe take the first step or two in that direction, and create a future of work. With that, no future due, we’ll see Erik with us in a second. He is the author of two books, the second book is called Teal Dots in an Orange World, some of you might have read it, if not, you should probably do that. What I find really interesting in what Erik, he says he’s a futures thinker. Futures with an “s”, so it’s plural. There’s more than one future maybe, and we’ll have a little bit of conversation about what that means, for you Erik as well. Obviously, looking forward to a conversation about Teal in that mostly Orange World by big organized corporations in the Life Sciences Industry. So with that, Erik, hopefully, you’re coming on-stage now, with me here in the Living Room, and maybe you can introduce yourself really briefly.
ERIK: Thank you, Timm, and thank you everybody, and hello from Copenhagen. It’s raining and pouring cats and dogs right here right now. It’s two minutes past 2 in Copenhagen, and I’m really pleased to be here. I have been looking over your shoulders, Timm and Life Sciences, for a couple… well for some time, I’ve been really inspired on what you’re doing, so I really hope we have a good conversation. I am located in Copenhagen, I spent my time on advising… well right now, it’s the heavily regulated industries on how to grasp the new ways of working. I have been working with that for some years, both as a leader, as project manager, program manager, department leader, technical lead, etcetera etcetera. More and more, I’ve been inspired on how we can create futures, in plural, for us, and how we can navigate and balance that. That’s what I spent my life on, and yeah, I write books.
TIMM: Awesome, really good. So here we go, we’re in our little living room. Teal Dots in an Orange World, Erik, it’s your latest book, you’re writing on a third one right now. So maybe we can talk a little about it in a minute as well, but before we go there, in the Teal Dots in an Orange World book, you’re also talking about some paradigms, some key aspects that one needs to look into if you really want to make that shift towards the future of work, or actually, the futures, maybe for many other things, how about we kick off the conversation like that? Just have a look about what do these nine actually look like, and we take it from there.
ERIK: Yeah absolutely. What I have observed… we are aiming at the Life Sciences world at some point, but let’s go back like five or ten years to see what actually happened in the finance industry or in the software industries. They were embracing what we, at that point in time, called disruption. Maybe some would really dislike that word because it has become a cliche, it was really worn out. The reaction to the disruption was that people were re-thinking… what is work? What is leadership? What is culture? What is agility? Stuff like agile, stuff like hierarchies and sociocracy and holacracy and lean start-up began popping out of those areas. What I’m observing right now is that those aspects are moving into the highly regulated industries. I am… I can see what I would call “second wave disruption” taking place in the highly regulated industries, where they are considering flatter hierarchies, more progressive leadership, cultures, agility in a new way… and one of the things that they are inspired by is for example… Teal. The paradigm, the thinking of a more humane workplace based on wholeness, based on self-leadership, based on evolutionary purpose, which is the three breakthroughs in Teal. That is what I have been studying for some years working… I do have a background in the Life Sciences industry. Knowing from the process, the QA/QC, and all that, working in Nova Nordisk at that point in time. I can actually see that they looking at how can we balance this rigid and professional highly regulated way of working? Right next to that, have something more humane, more fluent, less planning, less rigid… that balance is exactly what I have been diving myself into.
TIMM: I’m obviously not coming from Nova Nordisk, but growing up here in Switzerland, obviously, there’s also a lot of farmers, so I’ve worked for Roche Pharmaceuticals for a while, so that’s my farmer background I guess. So Erik, from your experience of what I’ve seen in the past, there’s that compliance, that regulation beast, almost that’s the reason for not moving faster for more agile processes I guess, to a certain extent, for iterative ways of working, but also for the humane workplace and humane leadership. It’s almost like it’s an excuse, so what’s your point of view on that? Is it really contradicting each other… or how would you see that?
ERIK: I think it is contradicting each other, and that is… I think that is the reason for something like… we want to go agile from top to bottom, and we want to go Teal from top to bottom, I don’t think it is going to happen because there is this built-in contradiction. What I have observed is gonna work is when you alluding back to the title of my book, to have Teal dots somewhere over here, we go Teal, over here we go agile, over here we go new ways of working, over here we go flat, but tieing all these pockets, all these dots together, we need something that is a bit more rigid. A modern version of the Orange Hierarchy of the Orange way of gluing things together. If you take a Teal and Gary Hamill’s book, Humanocracy, where they focus on the modern bureaucracy, if you kind of combine those two, that’s how I see it. I do know that… speaking of Roche… Bill Anderson has been talking about Teal on a grand scale, which I genuinely like. I like the philosophy of wholeness, the self-leadership of the purpose-driven activities, but seeing that in practice, I can only see that happening in small pockets, and we might come back to how big a pocket is, but I can see that happening. Genuinely, in pockets, so that’s the contradiction.
TIMM: So I’m fully with you, Erik. I think like… huge transformation like Bill is talking about with fifty-sixty thousand people, for example, Roche, is probably too big of a pocket, right? So the question is: how do you create these smaller pockets and breathe it? It probably needs to go where these pockets were… I would probably say something else… I think this whole regulation compliance is not contradicting the Teal ideas of more purposeful working of self-organization or self-management. Probably not so much contradicting with wholeness, right? It’s more about contradicting certain agile processes, I would agree with that because they’d probably have some regulations, some needs that we need to fulfill. For more humane workplaces, at least from my point of view, you can be perfectly compliant and still create that more humane workplace following your purpose.
ERIK: True, comma. There is a translation going on. Looking at the Teal aspects and agile, you did not say scrum. We didn’t talk about how to implement stuff like Teal, going from philosophy to protocols. That is where we want to look at, the philosophies to Teal might tie very well together with highly regulated with game five 10:16 , all of that in there. Translating that into context is really really important. You could… I have seen Teal aspects, more fluent work… definitely before first human dose in the early stages of innovation, it makes sense. We are working in areas that are less predictive, less prescriptive, where we need to get new ideas rapidly where we need to test them out. In the… when we go into production, where things need to be rigid, things need to be in compliance. The idea, for example, Lean, actually ties into the philosophy of Teal, however, we have the translation into protocols. The overall idea of Teal might be right but the translation alludes to that we need differences. What I really really like to look at are nuances. Nuances of Teal, nuances of modern Orange, nuances of everything, that’s where I really really would like to get at, and maybe can if we can get the first illustration up, I have the idea that more and more organizations… is looking at the organization as a platform on which small teams, small pockets emerge, live, do their job, and then evaporate again. So all of these small teams, they live on top of a platform, and what I call… you can call it a sustainable ecosystem. It then consist of a lot of small elements… where I put them up in this 3×3 grid… you can look at all the elements. The top row is about the culture, the organization as a platform, culture and fellowship, and how everybody in that world should have individual coaching. The middle row is about distributing leadership, about making decisions in a distributed world. The lower row is all about, how can we tier our teams together? This translation of all these elements is then, what is going to happen? You could say that we have the Teal pockets in the middle, the Teal dot, and then the other eight boxes are the modern version of Orange, that’s how I see it.
TIMM: Makes it make a lot of sense, Erik. I think for me if we talk about the production area for example, and about protocol and all these things. I’m with you, we need to follow certain processes, we need to follow certain rules, otherwise, we are simply not complaint, so that part I would agree with. On the other hand side, I think there’s a lot of room also beyond protocols where you can say, their self-organization actually does work. I don’t know about you, but at least from my experience, not only in Roche and also other pharma companies is that… this principle of we have 4-eye principle… segregation of duty leads to a 28-eye principle all of a sudden, then there’s fifteen, fourteen, fifteen people signing off documents when actually, regulation says that two is good enough for many many things at least. Obviously, there is that part, what I call the… not necessarily core work of, for example, teams in manufacturing space. We talk about performance practices, we talk about maybe all the team collaboration topics that we are having as well, where I think you can obviously probably be much more effective with a little bit of Teal and self-management.
ERIK: I think that’s a good point. In this, when we start working with the Teal principles, of which one of them is Self-Leadership, aka, more mandate, more empowering, less control. It is stumbling close to also look at… okay, how can we reduce some of the overhead… for example second pair of eyes, third pair of eyes, as you just said. Some of the Life Science companies I’m working with are looking at this, not only in the obvious places, which might be RnD, but they are also looking at it in the support processes. For example, marketing or finance or legal… where we can redesign our approach, really and genuinely considering the humane aspects. Second of all, can we do this faster if we give people the opportunity to make decisions themselves? To make decisions in a clever way, of course, using something like the Advice Process or a variant here where you ask either, ask the people who are involved, knows better, or who are impacted… doing that, we can document your decision processes goes from months to weeks or from weeks to days. There’s like a magnitude of decision process time that you can remove embracing things like Teal.
TIMM: Totally with you, I’m a huge fan of the constant decision making instead of the consensus which we see a lot in the industry. Also, I had a recent conversation with a fairly senior guy in one of the pharma companies here in Switzerland. He said if we have an escalation in one of the manufacturing sites, we spend 90% of our time communicating to executive management and 10% we spend on solving the problem. That I think is part of the reason why these Teal dots in an Orange World probably do make a lot of sense in many many ways.
ERIK: I think that’s definitely part of it. I know somebody who has no escalation principle, and they even have a standard text that he cut and pastes into emails and send it back… generally saying that, first of all… the team knows better how to handle this issue, you are just wasting mine, yours, and teams, and the customer’s time by escalating this, so please don’t do that. I don’t know and I don’t want to make the decision. It’s really fun.
TIMM: We got one of the questions here from Maja, from YouTube, I think who is asking: Is there any tips for unlearning? Is there any tips of letting go? Erik, from your point of view, because you probably need some courageous leader to put up that practice you were just describing.
ERIK: Yeah, there are some tricks to do that. I think it was Aaron Dignan in his… that podcast, Brave New Work, they say do radical things on a non-radical scale. I genuinely believe that. What I always do when we try to do that is to set up experiments. We scale it down and start working with maybe 4 teams in 6-8 weeks, and we make the experiments. We try to work with self-leadership, see what happens. We are looking for, of course, we are looking for the hardcore input-output, but most of all, we’re looking for the change-management resistance. What might hold us back if we were to into a phase 2, where we want to scale this up. If we want to unlearn some of these things, don’t go solo. It is really hard to just be solo doing this. You need someone to team up with this. Timm, you and I, we should do this. Can we, over the next two weeks, avoid cc-ing people in our emails, what will happen? You need to team up with someone, either in your leadership team, with your sister department, or with another leader who wants to go that way, you can never do that solo. Don’t go solo, small things in a non-radical… do radical things in a non-radical scale. That’s how I would do that.
TIMM: Really love that quote from Aaron Dignan, that’s definitely a good way to go. I think the other thing to this is to acknowledge that unlearning certain patterns that we’ve built for 10-20-30 years just takes time if we look at the broader organizations, especially right. It’s always good to have allies, kind of partners in crime, as you said Erik. We just don’t have to go solo… maybe you can also learn about it, right? There’s some things that might make more sense, and once you’ve done it, you’ve figured that maybe it wasn’t the smartest idea there. That’s something that you also learn. There’s that iterative way of learning… letting go of certain things are really helpful as well.
ERIK: Yeah. Speaking of that, if you wanna… we are very slowly coming to the size of a pocket. We will get there. If you start working in your pocket, one good advice from me is to get your leader above or around to talk to your interface. We are going to do something different. It might taste differently to you, also because we have a work interface. You might meet new people, new roles, new words, new slangs, new dialects, so I prepare you for meeting a new world. Over the next six months, we are going to do something different. We might miss a deadline, we might get some sad or mad stakeholders, of which you might be one of them, but you should just know that we are trying to do something. If we succeed, we will help you also to get to know what we are doing. So don’t go solo, do radical things on a non-radical scale, and then get your leader to work with your interface stakeholder. That’s definitely something I advise you to do.
TIMM: Totally agree with that part, Erik. Maybe also interesting, you were just touching on language. You might need to learn a new set of languages and words, really. One thing that I’ve seen the other way around is that people call everything like tribes and squads and chapters, upside down and with not changing anything else. You’re not a team leader anymore, Erik. You’re now a chapter leader, and everything stays the same. We got a new language with actually nothing radical happening, not even at a small scale. So what’s your advice around language?
ERIK: Well don’t do it if it’s not physically changed. Don’t do it as a… don’t do it as just putting new words to things. However, words can be pretty pretty powerful. I don’t know if you read the book by David Mckay about where he goes on the submarine… I forgot the name, I can’t remember… anyway, one of the things that he used there, he’s avoiding the word, ” I have a plan”, instead, “I have intentions”. Just that switch of language, from planning to having intentions indicates that I want to involve you. The direction in which I’m going to might change over time. Also what I’m trying to do is to avoid giving feedback but giving my perspective. Alluding back to one of the things I instill which is the Wholeness. I respect you, Timm, I am not here to give you feedback, thereby indicating that I know better than you. I just share my perspective with you on an eye-to-eye level. So there are some power in switching one of the… some of your languages. One of the vital signs that I can see from leadership teams that are actually changing is that the balance… the ratio between feminine and masculine language is changing. They are using more feminine language, they are including, involving, sharing vulnerabilities, and taking care of hard KPIs being powerful. So that ratio is changing, that’s really interesting.
TIMM: True, and we are lucky, Erik because we got some smart people here on YouTube telling us that the book is called, “Turn the Ship Around”, of course.
ERIK: Thank you to the audience. Exactly, it’s over there. I’ve actually seen him a handful of times presenting David Mckay, so thank you.
TIMM: I’m fully with you, it is interesting how that language shift makes a difference. I think the important thing is really… only use a different language if one: if you’re serious about it, obviously, about that true change, and then really change something, that’s what you said, Erik. You’d be losing credibility in no time as a leader if you just call it attention instead of a plan, and you do the same thing, you’re directing and controlling the people and just telling them what to do in the next whatever, five months, then obviously, that new language will not help a lot.
ERIK: True. Speaking of change, because that is also what we are working with… it’s transformation, it’s change management and its habits. Now we come to the size of a pocket. One of the reasons for me to look at the size of these pockets is to understand how fast and how genuine and how involving we can make our organizational change management? Now just park that sentence for a bit… Robin Dunbar made some really nice studies when it comes to the size of tribes. He came up with the number of 150 being, at least under the western hemisphere… the size of a tribe that we can relate to. I can know, I can recognize the faces of a tribe of that size. Diving into the details of all the aspects of tribes and anthropology, a number series pops up, where it’s not only 150, it’s 5-15-50-150, and then 500 and 1,500, but those 5-15-50-150, are in my learning from doing this in maybe 15 years, the size of pockets. Where you can have… first of all, connectivity, relationships, social capital, and from a change-management perspective, you can relate to people. You can make them feel part of something because you have a size that you can overlook, that you can relate to, and that’s the size of the Teal dot of the pocket and that’s the size of the change-management effort, that makes sense. When it comes beyond 150, well that’s where we get the modern Orange. so that’s how it ties together.
TIMM: Fully with you on that one, Erik. There are good reasons for militaries across the globe, actually not just in the western part for having that group size of 150. You need to be relatable to your colleagues, especially in the real case there. Question there, Erik, is obviously, what if my area, my business unit, my site locally, somewhere commercial, affiliate may be, is 5-6-800 people big, would you suggest that all these 150 pocket… 150 people pockets go off and do their own thing? What’s the need you think for a kind of harmonization and alignment and doing the same versus what’s the autonomy for every of the pockets if you wanna bring it on a bigger level?
ERIK: The classic answer is: it depends.
TIMM: Of course.
ERIK: There are some of these pockets who are by design, by birth… nearly born into fully going autonomous because they are pretty isolated. Maybe you have an affiliate of 150 people, maybe you have an affiliate of 50 people… where it just makes so much sense just to kind of cut lose and go with that, and still stay in contact. Then you have some affiliates or business units that might be bigger like 1,500 employees… looking in a careful way on how we can, first of all, make the experiments? Second of all, how can we slice and dice that in chunks that are senseful? That is meaningful? We don’t have to force it into these pockets but it’s basically a combination of the business process, the cash flow also, what process interfaces are there? How autonomous are people working? Are they working in teams? Are we having a project organization whereby nature, they are flocking together? So there are many many aspects into that in which each of these pockets should have an idea about… what will make more sense? Is the hierarchy good? If good, then go do that because it makes it predictable, it makes people have a lot of comfort, or do we want to go flatter? Do we wanna go Teal? Do we wanna go holacracy? Well, make an experiment in your pocket. The balance is to understand that you both need autonomy and alignment, which is a paradox, we know that. But staying in touch… having your autonomous pocket but staying enough in touch to have the pocket… pockets, in plural, go the same way, that’s definitely some aspect to it.
TIMM: That’s one of the most interesting aspects to it: autonomy and alignment. That indeed contradicts, at least in the first place. One of the big challenges in huge multi-national companies, which we also have in the Life Sciences industry… you have so many touchpoints to the organization around you, it is really complex usually. So that means that autonomy is one part, but how do you get that get that alignment knowing that you have twenty different stakeholders across the globe with all sorts of different connections and interfaces? Any magic bullet there, Erik?
ERIK: Yeah… Ken if we can get the second illustration up and just look at the bottom row, that would really help us. I’m trying to navigate in that area… I don’t know if Ken can pull that up. What we are looking at… thank you, Ken… the bottom row here, we’re looking at the white space. The white space is a terminology that I just borrowed/boldly stole from program management. When you have several projects in a program, you have a white space, which is the gap between projects. What we are looking at here, Timm, is actually the gap between teams, the gaps between stakeholders. Thank you for sharing, Ken, you can take that away again. What we’re looking at is to try to navigate a more flat hierarchy… a flat organization, and just kind of looking over to see what are the other people doing? If you get that image that all of these teams are on the same level, it’s really hard to look at the other teams. For the leaders to take part of actually moving… learnings, moving money, moving people, moving experiences, moving stakeholder’s views, getting people to bump into each other, to have a good friction, that’s one of the aspects that leaders need to take care of, to close the wide gap. We want the teams to have the feeling of connectivity, belonging, and nearly creating… I’m not gonna say this, I’m gonna say, nearly creating a new silo. A silo where they work so much together but it’s more dynamic… when they get the tap on the shoulder… Hey Timm, you need to look to that team because they are doing something clever that you might learn from. The leaders need to create this fluent or buoyant ecosystem to close that wide gap of white space.
TIMM: The white space concept is something that I do like as well, and I think there’s another aspect to it. Maja earlier asked, how can we let go of certain things? How can we unlearn certain things? I think one of the things to truly unlearn, to truly provide that autonomy is obviously, that leadership needs to let go of certain things. Almost like, don’t just let go of some things, what about if leaders are mainly taking care of filling that white space for the teams? Letting go of everything that’s happening in that pocket and taking care of all of the interfaces of the white space.
ERIK: Yeah. I think that’s a very very good point. I think it’s really tough to do that change because we are so grown into the habits of… if we have a question, if we are challenged, if we are curious or nervous, we can go to our leaders who then, because that’s what they get paid for. Solve the problem magically. This is from both sides… both we, as team members, we need to take that upon us, ourselves, to okay… there’s a problem, I might just dive into that problem to actually solve it. If I cannot solve it, I might call a leader to say, “we have a problem, can we solve this together?”, not just to push the problems away. So that’s from team side. Leaders need to change habits also, and understand that they are not necessarily only seen as decision-makers, but as you say Timm, facilitators.
TIMM: Indeed, and I think that’s one part of the conversation that I’m missing in many many places is… let’s talk about leaders need to let go. I think both Erik and I agree to that, but who is taking up the ball? Who is making sure the ball is not dropping, right? Obviously, if there’s a serious problem, then it’s always easy to escalate the whole topic a level or two up, rather than taking care myself, being exposed myself, and there’s also that other side. Everyone need to take more accountability in that… let’s say, more autonomous, more Teal spaces. What’s your guidance for teams… how can you learn that pattern of taking on accountability?
ERIK: That’s a good question. What I can see from doing these transformations… I have a feeling that when we go into…. well, the first phase is the experimentation. When we go into the second phase of the scale-up, something like 4-5-6 months into that, the teams start to get that revelation of, “oh there’s a problem, and nobody is actually solving that”. Maybe we should take our blindfolds off just for a second to look at that problem. They start within 4-5-6 months to see other problems beyond their own realm, and that’s where you need to pinpoint those who have that mental capability or the bandwidth to see a problem and raise it. One way to try to do that or strive towards doing that is to have some… inspired by agile and scrum… some regular meet-ups where you share your perspectives. What have you done? What have you learned? What challenges do you see? Not reporting, but sharing perspectives. That’s where you, as a leader/facilitator, as you say, can maybe get a sense of that something is lurking where we need to dive into.
TIMM: Definitely agree there, Erik. Another question that I get quite a lot is… we’re always saying, leadership needs to let go, right? Then at the same time, at least, I’m saying, I’m not sure if you’ll say the same, especially through a transformation, through an experiment of these rather radical things, you will need leadership, you will need direction. That’s almost like the next paradox, right? We’re asking leaders to step back, and at the same time, we’re asking them to provide more leadership because that change, that transition, that transformation that’s happening requires a lot of leadership. So how do you handle that contradiction, that paradox?
ERIK: I think going for… let’s stick with Teal. Going for Teal pockets, the amount of leadership that is needed is definitely going to be higher. We need more people to chip into that and be part of taking leadership in several aspects. It can be business-wise, it can be production-wise, it can be specialist-wise, or interpersonal or intrapersonal-wise. There are more leadership that needs to be handled by more people. I’m not necessarily sure that we need more leaders. We are gonna look into changing some of the hierarchies. They are gonna evolve… maybe they are gonna be flatter, maybe some of the people who takes roles, professional and nice roles, might fulfill other roles better than what they are doing right now. We’re not firing people, we’re just shuffling them into places where they provide more impact, where their roles are… where their energy and time are better spent. That’s what I can see.
TIMM: Definitely. Maybe Erik, coming back a bit to our Life Sciences pharma theme for today, so for all of the things we talked about… white spaces, leadership, leading through changes as well. Probably having a different style of leadership while also reinventing the hierarchy to a certain extent. So what… which of these aspects are truly special and different in the Life Sciences industry compared to other industries? Or would you say, you know what, it’s all the same in every industry.
ERIK: One thing that is special there… the two things that pops up working with the Life Sciences industry, one is purposeful. We are really doing this for the patient, we’re doing this to save the world. We are working with oncology, we are working with thrombosis, like generally, we are trying to make life better for the patients. The reasoning for doing stuff more often in the forefront of people… what they are doing, why are they doing stuff, why they make strategic or operational decisions. Second of all, for the exact same reason, there is a highly regulated processes. We might end up killing people if we don’t take care of that. That highly regulated way of working might, in some companies, traverse into, for example, how you manage your Excel sheets, how you manage your naming on share folders, how you have your meetings, how you make decisions. That built-in highly regulated strong inertia then traverses into other places. That’s what I see, that’s what’s different than working in some of the other areas that are for professional reasons, less regulated. That’s what we had to struggle with, when we started, Timm and I for example, when you start talking about more mandate… more empowering, faster decisions at frontlines, stuff like that, then we are working against strong habits that we need to be very much aware. Purpose and regulations that are traversing into our Excel sheets.
TIMM: Definitely. One thing from my experience that’s really important indeed… the purpose topic is fairly straightforward. Indeed in pharma, we do that work because we care about patients. I think the other thing is that certain language needs a translation into pharma-Life Sciences reality. For example, if we talk about minimal viable product, we’re not talking about an 80-20-ready medicine or pill, right? MVP means something else for a product that we ship to a patient who’s actually relying on medicine. Probably, we’re talking about a MVP in different way if we look into certain manufacturing sites, right? Probably, we don’t want an 80-20 solution for that manufacturing cleanliness or something like that, we don’t want that. Also, that whole thing around failure culture, experimenting, iterative ways of working I think… it’s just something that needs to get translated into reality of Life Sciences industry compared to something, for example, software development and these kind of things.
ERIK: Yeah that’s a good point. It’s a good point because now we’re also talking about… well the first reaction we sometimes get when we talk about moving new ways of working into the highly-regulated industry, being Life Sciences, being nuclear powerplants, which I had a phone call last fall from a nuclear powerplant who wanted to go scrum. So what are the nuances? What are the nuances that we’re talking actually talking about? Yes, we have a key process… phase 1, phase 2, phase 3, and phase 4. But just besides that, there are some support processes, and that is where we might work minimal via products… minimal viable products, where we might work with agile and scrum in a different way. So getting as close but not stupidly close to the key process. That’s where we can see these nuances. For example, when we go into marketing campaigns… how can we do that in a more agile way if we wanna go have public relations? We’re looking at all the nuances on that.
TIMM: I think we can even build on that for the core process in pharma, for example, being research and development. I mean, at least how I translate MVPs into pharma world usually is… you actually have a MVP with, for example… first in human studies. You don’t have a ready-to-use pill for Erik and Timm out there as patients, but you do have a MVP saying it is safe enough to try first inhuman, and it is safe enough for phase 2, safe enough for phase 3, and safe enough for the market. So it is kind of a MVP approach, really. just on a different timeline, because we’re talking about years and decades, partially. Obviously not in sprints like… I don’t know, scrum in 2-4 weeks or something, but that is in fact a MVP process, that whole clinical process.
ERIK: I think that’s a good point, and tieing into that is also… and you said it before, Timm… embracing failure, or more likely, embracing learning and actually, to start working in iterations. To plan for three months horizons, then stop, learn, adjust, build measure, learn, build measure, learn. I think… it is actually what the Life Science industry is all about… okay this molecule, what can it actually do? What kind of side effects does it have? What kind of toxicity does it have? Can we fumble our way into learning? It’s built on that, and at some point, it gets more rigid because we get into scale up, but that idea of working in iterations… looking for the learning rather than avoiding failure. I think that’s a mental change.
TIMM: Totally agree. I know about your experience but mine is… indeed, what you’re mentioning… experimentation and failure is kind of at the heart of every pharma company, and at the same time, it’s such a difficult concept to unlearn certain patterns that we’ve learned over the time, right? Failure and experimentation seems to be something that’s almost stigmatized in the pharma Life Sciences world, I think.
ERIK: Yeah, we also have some very grim cases of where the side effects wasn’t taken care of… like in the sectors, we all know that. That’s the stigma that we want to avoid, that’s why… people really really test because we wanna avoid having those side effects… unwanted side effects.
TIMM: Definitely. Maybe another theme that I see coming up a lot is obviously innovation, especially first-world countries, right? Fairly expensive, so we always talk about innovation. There’s really interesting studies suggesting that more experts, less innovation. There’s a direct negative correlation, more expert involved in the decision-making process, less innovation. Reason is pretty simple, because we’ll always find an expert who’s objecting, who’s saying that’s the wrong way to go. Then you end up with some kind of diluted compromise and solution. So anyway, I was wondering on your thoughts… well how can that whole Teal dots idea have for the core business of Life Sciences which is innovation?
ERIK: I think it ties very well together. I have a feeling that some of the old-fashion therapy areas… therapeutic areas are starting to cross-pollinate right now. Where we are more looking at Life Science… lifestyle diseases which at one point, we might all be sick to a certain degree. It’s a matter of what is that scale. That is really changing how we look at what is illness? What does it take for us to be healthy? What’s the definition of health? Second of all, there’s so much technology now moving into the Life Sciences area, when it comes to health tech. We can use our phones to go to the doctor… who owns our data. How can we get ahold of that data and use it in our science? That area of working is changing. The third part is that… going back to the finance industry, and going back to disruption at that point… that 5-10 years ago. A bunch of new fintech companies popped up that can solve a very small problem very very fast but not scale it. That’s exactly what is also happening in the Life Sciences industry, that we have a lot of small companies who get a lot of funding, maybe find one molecule for one therapeutic area but is not either willing or want to get it into compliance, to file it, and to scale it up. That’s where the collaboration between the small Life Science companies and the bigger Life Science companies actually come into play. That is where something like Teal could pop in to say, “okay how can we genuinely collaborate? How do we trust each other? How do we build MVPs? How do we embrace a strong-like thinking in iterations?” That interface is really changing right now, I can see that.
TIMM: Ecosystem thinking is always one of the topics that always comes up, right? We talk about bigger companies, smaller companies, the start-up world, but we’re also talking about patient advisory groups, we’re talking about authorities, obviously, we’re talking about doctors and hospitals. So what’s your thoughts around building this ecosystem type of approach linked to the mindset of abundance that’s usually mentioned as well there?
ERIK: I think it is happening right now as we talk. The barriers… the walls between competitors are falling down. The wall between the companies and say… politicians, universities, and local scientists, and healthcare industries, local healthcare industries, the hospitals and the GPs… it is… they are more and more sharing data with each other. First of all, because we can. Second of all, it’s interesting to generally know how we can save more lives for less money. How can we do that so we can get all of the world to have a COVID-19 vaccine fast enough? And not just also white guys… that’s a genuine problem that people are trying to solve together in the ecosystem.
TIMM: Nice. Erik, I think we’ve talked a little about theory and concept and some of the practical ideas as well but… what’s your favorite example of a Teal Dot in an Orange Life Science world? Something really tangible where maybe our viewers on YouTube, Facebook, and Linkedin can say, you know what, I’ll try that. Radical idea on a non-radical scale tomorrow.
ERIK: I’m working with a Life Science company where we… in the very early phases of… well, before first human dose, are trying to work with self-led teams. What does that actually take to have a self-led team in an innovation organization or research department? What kind of interface to other peoples does that actually take? We have to talk about that. What does it take for them to be autonomous and still have alignment with the other teams? That’s one of my favorite examples right now. I’m also working with some of the support people in another area, I’m not gonna say who, where they are genuinely thinking about… okay, we as finance guys or legal guys, why do we have to make the decisions? Why don’t we flip the coin and say, okay, now we set more of the budget free or more of the legal stuff free? We will go out to you with our expertise, sit with you, work together jointly, and not just transactions, but genuinely working and collaborating together. I think that’s really Teal and I really really like that thinking. Why do I have to make decisions when we can do that jointly.
TIMM: That’s actually a really good point. I also like the practice of one of our big medical device companies in Basel, it’s a few thousand people. What they’ve introduced a few years back is that the corporate executive committee, so the CEO and all his leadership team, that they would make their meetings public via virtual technology. So everyone can dial in from the few thousand people and just listen in to the CEO meeting, basically. Obviously, in the beginning, it was a huge hype, right? It was really interesting, what’s happening in that fancy interesting meeting. I think, Erik and I, we’ve both been there. It’s not always that interesting really, but obviously, it breaks that whole myth around where there’s something behind closed doors, ivory tower going on, right? I think it’s a pretty nice practice that doesn’t take a lot because you probably have something online going on anyway. So… if you put everyone on mute and just have your conversations, minus the people-sensitive topics because you’re probably not allowed from regulation… but the rest is actually good for also providing that context. We talked about capability-building before, right? Letting go of certain things, having leadership from different places… I think that’s quite a nice practice. Might be radical on a CEO level but I think if you do that in a business unit level or somewhere it is, it’s probably doable.
ERIK: Yeah, I think it’s a good point. One of the leadership groups that I work with, they have Tuesday morning meeting in public, in front of a whiteboard… well, they used to have pre-COVID. Now they have it online. But as you said Timm, I think 90% of their discussions can be public, that’s what they strive to do that. It’s really really powerful to do that.
TIMM: Absolutely. We got another question from YouTube, Erik. From Maja actually… “If we have any clarification on the difference between self-led team, self-organized teams, and self-managed teams?” Now that’s an interesting one.
ERIK: I normally use “leader-lead”, “self-organized”, and “self-managed”, that’s like three buckets. “Self-led” and “self-managed” might be variants of the same… teams with a leader. There you have the leader who makes all calls for what is going on. What we do, why we do, and who does stuff. When we go into “self-organized”, that’s the next one, you still have a leader but the leader does not decide who does what. Just takes part of the prioritization and the talk with the stakeholders and all the interfaces outside, and then plops the tasks into the pockets. Then the people in the pocket… the pocket people, then organize and find out how to do that. If you’re “self-led” or “self-managed”, well then there is no leader. There’s genuinely no leader who hands the prioritization, and who does that? You find that out yourself. That is tough. For example, if Timm, you and I are on a self-led team, and if we get into a quarrel, we have a tension, we disagree, we fight, there is no leader to actually solve that. We need to find that out ourselves. How can we mitigate or mediate the controversy that we have? The less present the leader is in the team, the more self-led you are. So that’s some good definitions on that.
TIMM: Yeah, indeed. There is also a matrix… a graph with two Xs, I think, that you could look up if you’re interested in that anyone. I think the key thing for me is, one, I agree with your definition, Erik, that it’s one thing. The other thing is… no matter what kind of terminology you’re using, make sure you define it. I’ve seen it mixed up and confused in almost every place, right? So makes sure you define it. If you’re not following Erik’s definition, what is self-organized, self-led, self-managed team is, that’s okay, as long as you have a clear definition of what self-managed means for you and your context in your specific set-up, I think.
ERIK: I think that’s a very good point. Write it down! Agree, and then when you start working with it then find out where you disagree, and then change it. Change it when you learn that it was stupid, what we wrote.
TIMM: Exactly. By the way, I think that’s not only true for self-organized, self-led and all that… it’s also true for what agility means for us, what does iterative ways of working mean for us? I don’t know… what does certain ways of decision-making mean for us, right? It’s always a good job for minimal… little bit of documentation. I’m not suggesting that everyone writes a book about their governance and their structures and everything, but certain definitions do make a lot of sense, I think.
ERIK: Yeah, then you can go all the way and look at the protocols of holacracy. You might not wanna go there, but that is possible.
TIMM: True indeed. That’s probably an interesting conversation for another time, maybe. Around holocray and all these frameworks, I’m pretty sure we’re fairly aligned on that one, Erik. Anyway, one more question that I had for you, Erik… so obviously, I don’t know who is online today but I’m guessing that Teal and Agility and all these topics, obviously, some topic that HR is really interested about. So any suggestions? Any hints? Anything to say, hey dear HR folks out there, what should they take care of from your point of view?
ERIK: Oh, that’s a good one and it’s a very sensitive topic. I think that HR people should genuinely try to get an understanding of what is futures thinking. They should really lean forward… I really mean that. Watch all the YouTubes, watch all the TedTalks about futures thinking. Dive into that area, what does it actually mean to make a forecast? A backcast? What is the trends that are affecting us when it comes to purpose, when it comes to technology, when it comes to sociology. Be the knowledge anchor internally of what futures are coming. Then take that knowledge and then lean forward… be the business partner for the pocket that you are working with. Be the anchor, be out there with them. Bring then your wholeness, your heart, your humanism into that conversation. Futures thinking, business understanding, trends understanding, and humanism. Take that out and we work with the team to solve those problems that might occur. That’s how I see it.
TIMM: Really good. I think we can touch on the futures… future versus futures in a sec. I think there’s one additional suggestion that I have always… don’t pull the brake on all the experiments because that’s what I’m seeing a lot. Not only from HR by the way, from many of these group functions, these central functions. There is a tendency to pull the brake on some the experiments rather than being pragmatic about it. Erik, you also mentioned that in the beginning, right? Future thinking versus futures thinking, so let’s have a little chat about that.
ERIK: Good. Future thinking is actually something that we have been doing for many… centuries, where we think about the future and we plan for the future, it’s called anticipatory thinking. I anticipate something will happen. If I drop this pen, it’s gonna fall, that’s your anticipation. It happened. We are confirming our assumption, that is future thinking in singularities. If we then start saying… okay what might happen if we try to change stuff? Also, from that, what might happen? What do we prefer happening? So we have variants, we have scenarios, plural, that might happen. Some of these scenarios might be one that we prefer, and then we start investing in that. That can be driven from where we are today, it’s called forecasting, or it can be dreamt out of our heads. We wanna go here, so we backcast, how can we get there? So the futures thinking is like a cone of options of which some is predictable, and some is probable, and some is preferable. If we get that understanding into what we do when we make strategy, then we can start having a new terminologies, speaking of words again.
TIMM: Great perspective, Erik, and I think really good input. Let’s take one last question from Gunnar… any thoughts on how to move from an unaligned autonomous team or culture to an aligned and autonomous group? So what’s the thoughts there, Erik?
ERIK: Yeah, so the… I honestly believe going that way, there’s a built-in paradox where we first of all, we need to say that this is what we are going to do. We are going to go in that way, you need to be descriptive… expectation management, say this is going to happen. Then the next step is to, funny enough, remove autonomy to train people in certain ways that you need to do this, use this process, use this words, use these templates. You need to train people in a specific way and you need to make sure that they are heard to what we agree. Over time, you can start playing more jazz. So there’s a built-in contradiction in actually removing autonomy in some months in order to rebuild autonomy when people have learned, if you can say that, how to be aligned. That’s how I see it. That’s how I’ve made it work in practice, actually. But you need to be very vocal about, “I’m taking away autonomy, we have to do this process, we have to work in that way, then when we have learned it, then we can play jazz on top of that”.
TIMM: Really like it, Erik. Really really good advice, there’s also a paradox that I like which is: structure leads to autonomy. So rebuilding certain structures will lead to autonomy midterm. Really good one. So we got two minutes left. There’s one thing I wanna share with you, and Ken will get it up on screen. There is a next Living Room Conversation coming up, obviously. We do have a webinar coming up on June 15 which is around post-COVID leadership. Probably one of the hot topics right now, from Semco Style with Semco Style, and then we have on June 10th, even before that, we have a little Living Room Conversation, that same living room here about Designing Experiences in a Virtual and Hybrid Space… because we are likely going to see is, we’ll partially go back to the office, partially going back to face-to-face, but not everyone in the same place most likely. So that Hybrid Space is an incredibly interesting on. If you guys out there on YouTube, Linkedin, and Facebook have time, feel free to join. Unfortunately, it will not be Erik and me there, so that’s the downside of that one, obviously. With that, Erik, thanks a lot for taking the time, thank you for being here in this little Living Room, really a pleasure. Thanks for the great conversation. I hope the people out there enjoyed it too, and can enjoy the rest of the afternoon. Erik, thanks very much.
ERIK: Thank you too. It was nice sofa that we sat in.
TIMM: Indeed. Pleasure. Good. Enjoy your afternoon, everyone. Thank you.
ERIK: Thank you.
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