July 2020 - Ikigai - a formula for successful agile team leadership

Ikigai - a formula for successful agile team leadership

Ikigai - a formula for successful agile team leadership

Forever Employable is now live!

With over 2000 copies sold in the first month, I couldn't be more proud of my new book, Forever Employable: How to stop looking for work and let your next job find you. Do you have your copy yet? I can't wait for you to read it and I'd be forever grateful (see what I did there?) for a review on Amazon once you have read it. 

What if we treated our careers like we do our agile products and services?

If you're familiar with my work to date, Forever Employable extends it beyond teams, cultures and products and focuses the power of continuous learning, improvement and innovation on you, your career and professional development. It's a partially autobiographical story of how to build a career around your thought leadership and, most importantly, future-proof your career no matter what happens. Grab a copy here.

Hey folks -

What is your team’s reason for being? Do they even know? When asked, most teams will say their reason for being is to build a feature or a product. To ship it. And after it’s shipped? Does the team still have a reason for being? Or do we dissolve them, lose that cohesion, camaraderie, shared experience and efficiency? The interesting thing is that in a continuous world,

. Since our digital products can be updated and improved continuously, a team’s reason for being must be something more than just, “ship it.” Right?

As part of writing my new book,

, I was looking for a way to visualize an individual’s passions and expertise to help the reader determine where to plant a flag and build a platform of thought leadership content. It was pointed out to me that the concept I described resembled very closely the Japanese idea of


Ikigai translates into, “the reason you get out of bed in the morning.” It’s your reason for being. The Japanese have been applying this concept to their personal lives for generations. Why, then, can’t we think about applying this same framework to our teams? Why can’t we give them a reason for getting out of bed in the morning and doing the best work of their lives every day? Turns out, we can.

Let’s start with


. The organization you work for has one. Do you know what it is? Does it inspire you? As leaders of teams we need to be clear to our teams that they are a part of that mission. For example, we’re not “building a payment system” but instead, “empowering low-income workers around the world to get paid fairly for their work.”

Clarifying that the work we’re doing is

what the world needs

is a good next step. At a time with so much uncertainty and potential energy for meaningful change, especially for underrepresented and disenfranchised people, connecting the team’s work to the good it will do in the world can only strengthen that desire to get out of bed every morning.

Rewarding and developing skills in our teams to ensure that

what they are good at

(i.e., the thing you hired them to do) only improves with the work they’re contributing to the team drives the kind of loyalty, passion and motivation for the work and increases the likelihood they will continue to

love what they do

every day.


fair and equal pay

free from discrimination of any kind and coupled with a transparent promotion ladder ensures that the people you hire and the skills you’ve developed in them continue to help the team, the organization and the customers of that organization be successful. Because at some point, the folks on your team will be in a position to lead their own team. The example you set for them now will be the one they carry forward with them in the future.

Basing your agile leadership style on ikigai creates psychological safety for your teams. The transparency it inspires to clearly articulate each component of the team’s reason for being is the motivation for that team. The team understands the context of their work and the potential positive impact it could have on your customers and the world. They love what they do and continue to get better at it. They support each other, learn and are rewarded for their efforts in various ways. Isn’t that much better than just “ship it?”



What I'm up to:Product Discovery for Agile Teams, the live online class I teach with Josh Seiden is now mid-stream for our July cohort. We're taking a break for the summer from public courses. We'll return in September with a new public cohort.One thing we've been doing a lot of lately is offering this course to in-house teams so they can take it privately and work on their own challenges. Let me know if that's interesting to you and your teams. Click here to see what a recent student had to say about this class


What I'm liking at the moment: 

-- This counts as music AND theater so I got that going for me. Which is nice. When's the last time your entire family (and I have teenage kids) could agree on the same thing to watch and then sat there speaking/singing along to every word?

-- I saw the original movie years ago and loved it. Honestly, any post-apocalyptic movie stands a good chance of landing in my queue. But this remake of the movie into a multi-part series stays true to the original story while extending it into new, disturbing and fascinating territory. Oh, and Hamilton's Daveed Diggs is just as amazing here as he was in Hamilton.

Cascading OKRs at Scale -- Christina Wodtke is updating her groundbreaking OKR book Radical Focus and lucky for us, she's doing it in public. Here's a taste of what's to come and as usual Christina doesn't mince words while clearly explaining how objectives and key results succeed (and fail) in large orgs.

As always, if you want me to work directly with your company on training, coaching or workshops on the topics of organizational agility, digital transformation, product discovery and agile leadership, don’t hesitate to reach out.Like this newsletter? Forward it to a friend.


or to participate.