Return On Attention

Random thoughts bring random focus; intentional thoughts bring intentional focus.

Your attention- that which is being focused- is a scarce resource. We spend attention over the course of our day. In social interactions, attention takes on some aspects of a currency. It starts to look and feel like a store of value, and a medium of exchange.

“A fool and his money are soon parted”, says the proverb. Said another way, “a fool and his attention are soon parted.”

We may routinely squander our attention unintentionally. When we do that we receive little or nothing, per unit of attention spent.

We may “squander” or “leak” or “burn” some of our attention on purpose, for example, to relax. The fundamental difference here is the intention to do so.

When we intentionally choose to focus our attention on this or that, we receive more and more, per unit of attention spent. If we do this for awhile, we figure out that there is a clear “return on attention” that can be outlandishly positive. Over time, we can experience at least the potential to do more and more, with less and less, as we “pay” attention.


Related Link:

Attention Economy (link)









Crossing Over

Regarding: The passage rite…applied to organizations:

There’s a large body of knowledge in cultural anthropology that describes the utility of passage rites. Passage rites are designed cultural experiences- ritual events- that facilitate an individual’s journey in transforming from one social status to another in the society, family or organization.

Open Agile Adoption, to be clear, does NOT do this. Open Agile Adoption (OAA) is a designed experience for an entire organization, not the individuals. The individuals do not repeat DO NOT experience a change in social status.

Really? Then what the heck is actually going on inside an Open Agile Adoption?

What’s going on is, quite simply, a passage rite through which the entire organization is passing, not any one individual or subset group of individuals. It’s the entire living system that’s leveling up, not a set of individuals. It’s the entire tribe that’s graduating– not a subset of it. It’s the organization as a whole- the tribe, the living system- that is taking the journey from here to there. The “organization”, the “living system”, might be a division or business unit of a larger containing entity or enterprise. The fact remains: that entire subset- that entire living subculture– is going through it together. As a single living system. As a single entity.

While we may be able to find some support for this idea in the Organizational Development community, we will find little if any support for it inside the usual source of information on the subject of passage rites, namely: cultural anthropology.

Arnold van Gennep coins the phrase “rite de passage” and Victor Turner later elaborates on this and the concept of liminality…at the individual level. As far as I know there is little if any support in cultural anthropology for the idea of “tribe as individual” experiencing a rite of passage.

In cultural anthropology, going from here to there inside a ritual is always an individual journey.

Yes- others are also journeying at the same time.

Yes- there is communitas.

Yes- after a group of girls in a tribe experience the passage rite and are officially adult women, there are system or tribe-level effects.

That said, the idea that a family or a tribe or a modern corporation can “level up” by experiencing a passage ritual is a new idea. With no apparent support from cultural anthropology.

Or so it seems.

The reality is: this works. The organization is a single, living system. It has the attributes of a living system as described by people like Arie de Gaus (author of The Living Organization) and others. There is little doubt that modern organizations are complete and living systems. As such, they can be addressed as a single entity. And that’s the basis of many applied frameworks from communities such as the Group Relations and Organizational Development communities.

In this sense, Open Agile Adoption is really nothing new. The components are sourced from other disciplines. These components are well-developed and well-understood by the diverse communities who have developed them. Open Agile Adoption however, is a new composition of diverse parts that make something new. The components are: invitation, Open Space, game mechanics, the psychology of games, leadership storytelling, and the essential passage rite structure.


On Communitas

I’ve seen the communitas concept play out in living color, larger than life. That is, the spirit of community. Certainly participants at the same level of authorization experience this feeling and spirit of community, as they go through the shared experience of learning, and engaging in the difficult business of belief change.

That is not surprising. What is surprising is how people at all levels of authorization experience communitas when going through the passage-rite process of Open Agile Adoption. While roles and related levels of authorization vary widely across an entire organization, it does not seem to matter. Those going through the OAA passage-rite process who have lower levels of authorization understand that the “higher ups” are experiencing something too. And as the higher ups are transformed in their own way, via some stressful learning, they understand that all the participants are going to school- together.

This is what a great Agile adoption is actually made of- the spirit of community.



In Summary:

And so the question remains: does the ancient cultural device of the passage rite apply to modern organizations? Yes, it does.

Can the passage rite be utilized in service to getting the organization from here to there? Yes, it can.

I’ve seen it, I have done it, I am doing it. And I plan to keep supporting others who are doing it.  I’m grateful for the help of other professionals are doing experiments and sharing their experiences with the Open Agile Adoption technique.

Others are beginning to discuss and rapidly refine these ideas— and use them to solve very difficult problems. Like reducing the number of coaching days needed to achieve both a rapid and lasting Agile adoption.

To make enterprise Agility a reality.


Related Links:

Open Agile Adoption


Arnold van Gennep

Victor Turner

On Liminality

On Communitas

Arie de Gaus- The Living Company

Group Relations Community

Organizational Development Community








Now What?

Regarding: The coach vacating the organization for at least 30 days following the 2nd Open Space in Open Agile Adoption.

The 2nd Open Space event in Open Agile Adoption (OAA) is a closure event. It serves to delineate the boundary between the previous chapter of organizational learning and the next one. It is the terminating point in the organizational passage rite that Open Agile Adoption is implementing. For the passage rite process to work, the organization must have a sense of “leveling up” or graduating.

Using a different venue and different Facilitator for the 2nd Open Space event is recommended. Making these changes avoids the feeling of a “re-run” and supports a sense of progress. The requirement that “the coach’s role must change” also supporting “leveling up” and a strong sense-of-progress and moving to the “next grade” or level. It supports feelings of graduation.

If the coach role does not change, there is a diminished sense of progress. The coaches role must change. The goal of OAA is to bring the organization to a state of self-sustaining, “freestanding” agility as soon as possible. For this to happen, diminishing the coach’s role and perceived authority with the teams is absolutely essential.

It’s important to note that, by vacating the organization for a time, the Agile coach is also vacating the role of Master of Ceremonies (MC) in the months-long passage rite that OAA is implementing. For that OAA passage rite to stick, it is essential that the MC role is temporary, and that it ends upon the end of the ritual itself. Passage rites by definition have an MC, and also by definition, passage rites have a beginning, a middle and an end. The MC role (in the canonical form of a passage rite) is temporary by design.

By vacating, the authority projected upon the Agile coach by the organization (as coach and as MC of the OAA passage rite) runs out of gas. The 2nd Open Space was yesterday. The coach has vacated.

The game is over. It’s JUST US. Now what?


On Vacating the Organization

I’ve done some experiments taking this concept one (radical) step further. Before the 2nd Open Space I now foreshadow that I am not available AT ALL after that event- no phone calls, no email– for 30 days. The idea is to get the org to realize that it is all alone– and always has been. And that it now has all the know-how (and everything else it needs) to continually improve…. without an “external authority” telling it what it “should” do.

I am pleased to report that this technique works very well. Amazing actually! The org realizes that it has learned a lot and initiates experiments to improve… all by itself. What they do takes on many forms. The org might make changes to existing meetings, and replaces long and poorly structured meetings with shorter, focused meetings. In one client a key manager who was an obstacle to org improvement felt the shift in the culture and quit. In general, the general tolerance for wasteful practices across the entire org decreases dramatically as the people who do the work come to enjoy taking action, being in control of it and improving their results.

So: IN OAA, the last act of the coach is to VACATE COMPLETELY for 30 days. Doing so punctuates THE END of something old, and THE BEGINNING of something new. Thereafter, the coach may reenter, in a new role, for example coaching just Scrum Masters, or just executive leadership. Vacating the org is an extremely powerful way to make the passage rite very REAL for the organization. As such, vacating for 30 days after the passage rite it is now incorporated into OAA and is a core and essential aspect of the Open Agile Adoption method.


Related Links:

“Rite de Passage”

Open Agile Adoption

Open Agile Adoption Components








My Guru is Google

It’s a natural human instinct to be sensitive to authority. To want to be led.

Most of us are only too happy to have someone else tell us what we want, what we think and what we feel. If you poke around the web, in various communities, you can observe how certain participants actively contend for authority to lead.

This is changing, little by little. Each day, more and more people are waking up to the fact that THEY are their own authority. They THEY are the managers of what they believe and what they want. That they are at least passively authorizing (tolerating) some of what they actually disagree with.

By doing nothing at all about it.

For the younger people, this is not something to learn. Instead, it comes completely natural to them. The youth have been born into it.

The easy thing to do is to tolerate the lack of responsibility, the lack of sincerity and lack of stewardship from illegitimate leadership. The leadership you are (at least passively) authorizing.

The more difficult thing to do is to think for yourself- and demand more from leadership. To be highly selective about who– and what– you are authorizing.

Right now, there is lots of change in society, powered by highly intense technological change. With so much in flux, the leadership game has completely changed.

Technology and several others forces at play in society are encouraging– and almost instantly rewarding– independent thinking.

And that’s why my guru is Google.


Related Link:

The End of Guru Culture (link)






Being Generous With Your Gift

Everyone has some innate talent, some “thing” they have.

That “thing” is available in nearly endless supply, since it’s part of every person’s essential nature.

Some people are helpful. Some are just full of hospitality. Others are humorous. Still others are organizers.

Everyone has lots of whatever talent they were born with. I like to play with ideas. I’m not sure that’s a talent. This is OK, because other people who value this tell me they enjoy me sending them interesting links and books on topics of interest. So, apparently I do have some kind of valuable talent there.

If you have a nearly endless supply of something, it is easy to offer it to others.

If the receiver does not have that talent or that “thing” you have, and you provide it absolutely free, including being free of any obligation to reciprocate whatsoever, then you have just created something out of nothing.

Repeat: Something out of nothing.

That thing that you have loads of: helpfulness, a talent at being organized, your ability to do research, humor, whatever it is– it costs you next to nothing, because you have an endless supply of it. It’s part of your nature. You cannot stop yourself. It’s not like you have any choice in the matter.

I have a friend, she is totally amazing at Myers Briggs and other personality profiling tools. I gain tremendous value from what she perceives as automatic and natural- and in 100% abundant supply.

I value her talent in this area higher than she does!

Surprise: The thing you have so much of is often valued more highly by others than it is by you yourself. And when someone who lacks your gift receives some of it from you, you create value from nothing.

At scale, as a norm, in a culture, this idea has the potential to create tremendous amounts of value and wealth in various forms.

This is emphemeralization: doing more and more, with less and less, until we are doing everything with nothing. The idea as expressed by Buckminster Fuller has to do with technology, yet it can be applied to social technology, too.

As a culture hack, being generous with your gift is hard to beat.

The Moral of the story:

You have a gift.

You have loads of it.

You can afford to be freely generous with your gift.


Related Links:

Ephemeralization (link)



Can large acts of generosity be harmful? Yes, they can.

Consider the potlatch, a ceremonial event in the lives of certain Pacific Northwest indigenous tribes. According to the history of potlatch, large acts of generosity were used to signal wealth and high social status in the tribe. Taken to extremes, hosts of potlatch events sometimes ritually destroyed valuable objects as a signal of power and wealth. When generosity is used for social posturing, the resulting sense of obligation can be harmful for giver and receiver alike.

In a previous post, I discussed the radical and potentially revolutionary nature of developing a practice of mindful generosity. It comes with some pitfalls of course.

One way to stay out of trouble as a generous person is very simple: intentionally keep your acts of generosity small. By doing this, you avoid creating discomfort on the part of the receiver,  signaling real consideration for the person who is receiving what amounts to a small gift. Small acts of generosity amount to an invitation, from the giver to the receiver, to be in relationship.

The practice of “gifting small”  sidesteps the difficult feelings of obligation that are often associated with large gifts.

Small acts of generosity are useful for creating a new and far more interesting world than the one current one– the one dominated by contract and economic exchange.

What might be called microgenerosity — the art of engaging in small and frequent acts of interpersonal generosity– is an interesting idea to play with.

Small acts of generosity can make your world a place where interpersonal  relationships– rather than impersonal transactions– are the new normal.


Related Links:

The potlatch (link)

“…In the potlatch, the host in effect challenged a guest chieftain to exceed him in his ‘power’ to give away or to destroy goods. If the guest did not return 100 percent on the gifts received and destroy even more wealth in a bigger and better bonfire, he and his people lost face and so his ‘power’ was diminished.”

Generosity Gone Bad (link)

“…Knowing the signs of the wrong kind of generosity can help you spot them, in others or even in yourself, in advance.”

Previous Post: Generosity, Thrivability and Self-Organization (link)