Neutron Jack vs. Transcendent Teams

During his tenure as CEO at GE, Jack Welch popularized a “Rank and Yank policy” by firing the bottom 10% of his managers. Some argue the downside of his scorched earth team management methodology pressured employees to cut corners. This comes as no surprise. A drop in quality must be expected when team members are massively distracted in competing for their jobs.

Unscrupulous management policies were also a hallmark of Niccolo Machiavelli. In his book “The Prince” and more clearly in the “Art of War” we are led to believe the value of the individual soldier may be somewhat less than the weapon he was carrying.

These two men, along with those who follow in their foot steps, completely miss the point. If our goal is to create organizations that win, we must focus on the right thing. “It’s the process stupid!”

Success built into our DNA

People instinctively want to excel and they do this best without being threatened. These key words taken from various motivational theories, offer great examples. “Self-actualization”, “esteem”, “social”, “safety” and “physiological” from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. “Achievement”, “affiliation” and “power” from McClelland’s Theory of Needs. Finally, “responsibility”, “self-actualization”, “professional growth” and “recognition” from Herzberg’s Theory of Motivational Agents. Success is apparently build into our DNA. Successful people, build successful teams, in turn building successful organizations. Individuals may succeed for a time, but as soon as they leave the organization, the success leaves with them.

Better teams invent better processes

Four pillars of highly efficient teams found in Agile Scrum are independents, self organizing, cross functional and transcendent. This is achieved through regular retrospectives, allowing the team to identify its own weaknesses and achieve improvement goals. Cross functionality represents the “coup de grâce” to inefficient processes. Being able to help with each other’s tasks or collaborating on difficult problems through understanding each other’s work fosters complete trust enabling transcendence; that magical level of success where normal people accomplish amazing feats.

Better processes produce better products

Teams competing with themselves to become better always win over teams competing with themselves to keep their jobs. Cutting corners will never occur to a team bent on becoming better through self organized retrospectives. The quality of work this approach produces encompasses the pride of self achievement accomplished as a team.

It’s time to leave Neutron Jack and embrace transcendence.

Books that helped create these thoughts

Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time

Leaders Eat Last

The Real Wealth of Nations

Strengths Based Leadership

The Conscience of a Liberal


About Larry

Larry Lawhead is a passionate Agilest with a love for coaching, mentoring and organizational transformation. Huge fan of the Lean Enterprise, LeSS, Theory of Constraints, systems thinking and of course the Toyota Production System. Avid learner. Deeply influenced by the works of Jeff Sutherland, Eliyahu Goldratt, James Womack, Craig Larman, Faith Fuller, Marita Fridjhobn and countless others. He is likewise a member of the team that brings the Agile Open to the Southern California. Above all else, he loves coaching teams and individuals. He believes creating a safe and empowered place for individuals and self-organized teams to develop brilliant solutions, shared vision, demonstrate compassion and desire to continuously improve brings life’s greatest rewards. Watching clients unfold into a greater sense wholeness, purpose and direction is the miracle coaching enables. This satisfaction leads to continuous self-improvement, curiosity and personal growth that Larry passionately embraces.
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