People. Culture. Fire. A gut feeling.

In order to utilize our full potential we need to start with understanding ourselves. Usually what you find to be true about yourself, will be much the same for other people you meet. With this I mean our fundamental needs and emotions. Living by the “Golden rule”, treating others the same you want them to treat you, helps me a long way. This includes respect. I want people to respect me and listen – not necessarily agree with me.

I am only human.

The biggest challenges in software development are seldom related to technology – it usually comes down to the people involved. I am affected by many things like my background, my personality, a fight with my wife or the working culture in my company.

As a human I am filled with emotions. Sometimes I laugh. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I get upset, even though I´m not sure why. Sometimes I can´t control my emotions. Sometimes my pride gets in my way – in everyone’s way. Please don´t fight me. Try to see my perspective. Help me, and I will want to help you. I´m only human.

I remember one morning I was going to the gym with my wife. I had planned to eat breakfast at the gym, which they serve every day from 07.00-09.30. I came in 09.32. No breakfast. I was hungry. My lovely wife tried everything to get me back into a good mood. My gut feeling was out of balance. Nothing worked. We ended up leaving the gym after 30min of not-training. Only when I eventually was able to please my stomach with food, I was able to find back to my normal happy self. What an idiot, I thought about myself.

I am never irrational – you just don´t understand!

I don´t believe any humans are pure evil. I know I´m not evil. I have my convictions though. Sometimes you find me acting strange. Am I a strange person? For you, maybe. For me – in the moment – no. I often act on instinct. I act based on my best jugdement. Sometimes I make mistakes. Sometimes I misjudge. But you can never claim that I am irrational. From your perspective it might seem that way, but from my perspective it is the natural thing to do – at the moment. Tomorrow I might agree that I made a bad choice, but in this moment I have acted on my belief. If you understood my perspective, you would not judge me and you would understand how to handle me.

I don´t want to be alone, I want to belong. But don´t force me!

We all have a basic instinct of belonging to a group. And it´s not about meeting the same kind as your self, it´s about having a common belief. In the event company Arrcom I meet all kinds of professions (i.e teachers, chefs, fire fighters, leaders in IT-companies like my self). We have the same passion about creating unforgettable moments with people – our clients. The mix is a enriching. Arrcom is a family and amongst the family members not reckoned as a job. It has become a life style, where many of the instructors probably would do the job for free. When I informed Arrcom that I wanted to return to IT and had to leave Arrcom, their response was: “You don´t have to leave Arrcom to follow your dreams, Tom. Once Arrcom, forever Arrcom!”. Do you want to stay home when your wife/husband gives you a cold remark (read: “So you are going out to have a good time again?”) and try to put on a pair of psychological hand cuffs?

In my company our mission is to give all employees the education and development during the time they work here. We have acknowledged that our people won´t work here for ever, but by helping them to follow their dreams we are creating the greatest place to work!

The concept of “family” is often challenged by friends and colleagues or different subgroups of these (- Did any one say soccer on TV?). Sometimes it gets out of balance. This will eventually have negative consequences on the family relationship. Not good. I think companies in a greater degree should open up for and include family. Well facilitated I also believe your company could gain from inviting in experience, thoughts and perspectives from family members.  Don´t make your employees choose sides.

Do I feel I can trust you?

Why shouldn´t I? What is my gut feeling? Would it help to walk around mistrusting everyone? When ever I meet someone that seems suspicious of me, I will naturally strengthen my defense mechanisms? Yes, I know you agree with me on this. And you know you would dig your own trench until you sensed a white flag blowing in the wind. It´s natural, but we need to be aware of it.

So what have we learned so far? I am only human and humans sometimes make mistakes. Even if I make “a bad call”, I probably didn´t do it on purpose. If I act like an idiot, it´s probably because I´m uncomfortable about the situation. Even though you don´t understand, you now know better than to attack me when I´m down and instead try to understand me. Belonging to a group of people who trust each other and respect each other we can get past the psychological barriers and focus on what we came to achieve. And it´s going to be a lot of fun!

Now that you have gotten to know me better and my thoughts on people, I would like to share some fundamental thoughts and experience on how we can establish a foundation for creating a learning, humane culture where everyone knows when and how to contribute as a self organizing team.

We´re all the same so let´s treat each other with equal respect.

I hate the concept of worshiping – some thing or some one – but I do sometimes find myself shrinking in size and confidence meeting someone “important” (read: seen them on television or a newspaper). Recently, to help me from shrinking (since I´m already short enough) I image them being just as ugly in the morning, crying in their mothers lap or pooping in their pampers. Next time you see someone that makes you shrink in confidence think of this. It helps.

We´re all in the same boat.

When I sign a working contract I also agree to follow the rules and regulations within the company. Even though it doesn´t say explicitly in the contract, it also includes adapting and contributing to a healthy working culture. Working in a company we are all in the same boat, with the same vision and goals leading us. We all win if we really care and try to help each other. This is NOT limited to colleagues on the same level or in the same department.

Tell me while I still have a chance to help you.

We have a tendency to complain after something has occurred instead of discuss it while there still is time to make corrections. Sometimes we put restrictions on ourselves. Like telling ourselves things like “My boss won´t listen to me”. In addition we try to avoid making choices if we can. So instead of choosing to front an issue, we tend to to nothing and then later complain about it. In my organization we have put our names to the paper and sworn that we will always let the person concerning know if there is an issue (face to face or by phone. Never email) – and tell everyone if someone has done something good.

As leaders I can´t let a complaining sub culture grow. I have to set the expectations early on. A healthy culture is depending on everyone giving unconditional feedback and seeing it as a great help to improve.

I have a dream! The Flowing Organization.

There are many types of organization models and philosophies about how to create the perfect company. I have a dream of creating a humane, learning and flowing organization where our mission is to fulfill dreams – both for our clients and our employees. In order to achieve this we need to all agree that (and mean it) we have one common goal. We need to care about each other. We also need to be prepared to work with our selves in many areas to optimize the whole.

I want to break down all the traditional barriers we see every day in the classic hierarchical organization charts (getting sick just thinking of them). Like a soccer team we should be able to understand when and where to contribute, by knowing our own role and the rest of the team. As a leader I don´t want to run around telling people or trying to motivate people to take initiative. My dream (and near future) is to see the company become as self organized as our projects, where the value stream is as clear as your way back home from the office.

You´re probably already smiling and thinking of me as a the romantic type. How can I expect employees to start thinking for them selves and actually contributing because they WANT to? I call it “my dream”, that´s true. But then again, as I told you previously, that´s our business: making dreams come true.

It doesn´t really matter if you believe me. The important thing is that we believe. Follow me on this expedition and you can see for your self.

(From Chapter Zero – Cross-posted from my blog)


The author, Tom Johannes Bang, at BangSkogen

The author @ BangSkogen

As part of a process of continuously improving my knowledge I am structuring my thoughts and experiences on subjects related to people, leadership and developing working cultures. Eventually I hope this will become an entire book, but in the mean time I will blog it out to the world so we can have a nice chat a long the way.

I have written a first iteration of two chapters. An introduction explaining why and what, and then a soft chapter about my fundamental thoughts about people and working together. All feedback on the first release of my book is welcome as comments in my blog or by posting me an email (bang AT iterate no).

The full version and my background for writing this book you will find here in My Book


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