Organizational Mastery | Book Review
A blueprint for creating more agile organizations
A practical book filled with case studies and how-to-guides to transform large organizations into an agile startup culture, this book is a valuable resource for executive leaders. A blend between Scrum, Lean and the Lean Startup, this book brings clarity in how to bring together these diverse and different methods into a winning recipe for organizational mastery.
Who is it for?
The book is intended as a blueprint for executive leaders in large digital organizations to implement a startup culture towards a more agile organization.
It is also a useful guide for consultants and coaches wishing to help large organizations with agile transformations with the tried and tested approach to digital product delivery.
It’s a well laid out book in two parts. The first part focuses on the what while the second part outlines the how of implementing this organizational blueprint. It is filled with success stories from actual experience with the approach and easy to follow and read, making it very useful.
The book starts off by explaining the key elements of the blueprint as outlined in the book with the first element being the importance of an organization wide vision or strategy that is understood and supported by the entire organization rather than just the top executives.
The first chapter attempts to solve the problem so many large organizations experience, namely how to translate strategy into daily operations. It then moves on to the importance of organizational flow, continuous improvement, knowledge sharing across teams and the importance of innovation as part of an organization’s longterm growth strategy.
The book manages to articulate concepts that sound somehow obvious, yet, more often than not overlooked by large scale Scrum implementations and large organizations in general, which tends to be fragmented. The contents can be seen as the glue necessary to link operations to strategy.
The key concepts different from other approaches which is worth noting includes:
Product vs Project
The first radically different approach to most organizations relates to the organizational structure, with Luis arguing the need to have a product, rather than a project focused structure. This approach is a practical and easy-to-understand translation from the self-organizing team concept from Scrum which is well-known but badly understood with most organizations struggling with how to practically make this shift in team structure.
The second shift from traditional approaches to product delivery is to structure product teams as a mini startup rather than a functional department. This builds onto the existing concept of Scrum’s self-organizing teams, integration non-development functions and roles into the team to literally have teams where each product is handles as a mini startup.
Each team is responsible for all functions, including sales, human resources and finance with each standalone team. The team has a budget and is managed like venture capitalist would manage a startup. This approach is in line with one of the fundamental differences between an organization operating from a mainly orange paradigm and a teal paradigm as described by Frederic Laloux in his book called Reinventing Organizations and is a nice expansion on the more practical implementation of the concept.
Organization-wide impediment board
The third and final noteworthy mention (although the book is filled with other equally valuable concepts) is the concept of having an organization-wide impediment board. Rather than each team improving in isolation, Luis outlines the importance of having a transparent list of organizational issues in the form of a public Kanban-type board with organizational impediments.
These are only three concepts Luis explains in his book and the rest is as useful and valuable, however, the purpose of this review is not to summarise the entire book but highlight the main take-aways from my perspective.
What I really like about the book is that it provides alternatives, making it different from most books and approaches which demands a single approach or recipe. Where Scrum, for example, has a very strict and rigid recipe outlined, here each step contains two options leaving you to decide which would be a better fit for your organization, with both having the same outcome.
The writing style
The book is a very easy read that is well structured and filled with case studies to strengthen the arguments. There are diagrams and illustrations to further clarify concepts.
It is an accessible read that although focused on executive leaders is a down-to-earth and easy to understand read useful to readers on all levels of a large organization.
I like, I wish, I wonder…
As I mentioned, I really like the alternatives provided for each core element of the blueprint, depending on your current organizational structure and needs, making it a much easier implementation than not being presented with choice. I also really like the tone and writing style and structure of the book which is well laid out and easy to read.
I also like the case studies included, although I wish it was on a more practical level with maybe more focus on return on investment. One or two of the case studies did this well, however, the majority was hard to relate to and didn’t really explain the impact of change or how to measure the improvement.
The one thing I wonder about is how impactful this book would be if written in the same conversational style as The Goal. From my experience, the implementation issues are rarely as a lack of access to concepts or tools but more about the conversations in order to influence change.
About the author
Luis Gonçalves is an entrepreneur and the founder and managing director of Evolution4All, “a boutique management consultancy that helps executive leaders reshape their organisations to thrive in the digital era.”
While his background is as a Scrum Master and Agile coach, he and his consultancy have moved beyond agility with his primary goal to help create more self-organizing teams.
Organizational Mastery is an easy to read and practical blueprint to help large organizations optimize their product delivery and align executive and operational levels of an organization.
It is an insightful look at modern day best practices to help large organizations translate strategy into operations and a recommended read for any executive stuck with their large scale Scrum transformation in need of new ideas and insights.