Achieving individual success in a team organization

Individual success in a team organization is radically different from what it was in traditional organizations. To become successful as an individual in a team-based organization, you have to take action on three levels: 1. you and your talent, 2. you and the team you work with, 3. you and the organization you work in

Michael Jordan said it best: “there is no I in ‘TEAM’ but there is in ‘WIN’”. In sports, the most talented individuals are recognized as being the most valuable. In team-based organizations, e.g. Agile organizations or Super7 Operations, this is not yet the case. But it has to, if these organizations want to keep their most talented individuals on board.

In traditional organizations, the results of talented individuals were very visible. Based on their individual results, they would quickly get promotions and pay raises. In a team-based organization, however, success is always the success of a team, not of an individual. On the short-term, this work fine, much better even than traditional organizations. But after a few years, the real talents get restless and will demand recognition – or they will leave.

Change is needed on how individuals and organizations see and reward success. You as an individuals need to know what defines success for you. And organizations need to recognize unique talents within teams, and reward them proportionally.

It starts, however, with you. From my years of experience with team-based organizations, I’ve developed a practical model that you can use to become successful within your team organization.

Model by Menno R. van Dijk

Model by Menno R. van Dijk

First, you need to become “The I in Win”. For this, you need to work on understanding and improving three elements for success:

  • your values that define success to you (what drives you)
  • your talents that you can use to be successful (what makes you unique)
  • your experience that you have built up in using your talent (what you already know and did)

Secondly, you need a successful team. On this level, you need to work on improving two elements for success:

  • best-practices that enable teams to be succesfull (e.g. Lean, Agile, Super7 Operations)
  • excellence in cooperation, making optimal use of the different talents within your team

And finally, you need to manage your surroundings. The better you get a managing yourself and your team, the more successful you will get. At that point, you need to work on improving two elements for success:

  • make sure that you are rewarded for making the best use of what you do best, not for trying to improve on what you do worst. In a team organization, you don’t have to excel in everything.
  • find the best people to work with. Use the success of your team to increase your circle of influence. You will be able to choose your team and the organization that suits you best.

For more information, practical exercises or coaching (in Dutch or English), please check this site: www.persoonlijke-innovatie.nl

Menno R. van Dijk

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Create accountability through reflection and storytelling instead of dashboards

In many organizations there are dashboards for everything, but there may be a better way to create accountability: through reflection and storytelling.

Last Monday, I attended a group discussion on accountability in modern organizations like Agile or Super7. Jan Smit, partner at Brooz, led the discussion on accountability in modern, less hierarchical and team-based organizations.

In modern organizations, Agile or Super7 for instance, the responsibility lies lower in the organization and priorities are far less static. The old ways of managing accountability with clear yearly targets, KPI’s and dashboards often hinder flexibility and agility. So, is there an alternative? Jan Smit explained that there is. Accountability can be created with far less emphasis on numbers, metrics, targets and KPI’s. According to Smit, there is a better way to go about appraisal, quality control and compliance, based on four elements:

  1. Reflect on what happens in practice
  2. Use storytelling
    • Listen to experiences of customers
    • Gather stories from the shop floor
    • Use qualitative perceptions
  3. Engaging in dialogue
    • Gather insights and knowledge through dialogues
    • Peer review, horizontal accountability between professionals
    • Stakeholder meetings
  4. Go and see in practice
    • The good-old Gemba, still the place to be for a Lean practitioner

Jan Smit relates this way of managing accountability to the Rhenish model, of Rhine Capitalism, while the target-KPI-Dashboard approach is associated with the Anglo-Saxon model of capitalism.  The Anglo-Saxon model portrays an infinite faith in numbers and their objectiveness, Smit states, while numbers are at best a poor representation of reality.

In my personal experience, metrics and numbers are essential for enabling autonomous lean teams to steer themselves, to see whether they are improving and to facilitated their autonomous decision making. And, external stakeholders often demand strict numerical accountability. But still, we could surely experiment with new ways of performance appraisal, risk management and compliance in our modern organizations.

Menno R. van Dijk

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Agile for sales, Super7 for sales: the change towards lean sales teams

Agile for sales or Super7 for sales – implementing lean teamwork has great potential for sales effectiveness. In a lean team, individuals can spend a larger share of their time on what they excel in. And it is this excellence that delivers results.

A sales team that truly works together will sell more than the same number of efficient sales agents working independently. Great successes have been achieved in financial services with lean-based ways of working. Agile and Super7 Operations are perhaps the most well-known examples of this. And now, within financial services, experiments are starting with lean-based teamwork in sales.

The required change seems quite big, as sales agents were rewarded for their individual success up to now. This resulted in what I like to call a “lone hero culture”, where successful individuals were valued over team players. In a lean team, team members are willing and able to help each other. The culture will become that of a learning organization. And the team continuously improves on their cooperation and effectiveness, striving towards outsourcing everything but excellence.

Recently, I was invited to a brain storm session on how this Dutch bank can transform its sales organization towards lean sales teams. Together with an expert consultant in sales effectiveness, an Agile Coach, Super7 practitioners and sales managers, we designed the outline for lean sales teams on the basis of our Agile and Super7 Operations experiences. I expect that experiments will start soon and I’m looking forward to seeing the results.
Menno R. van Dijk

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There is an I in teamwork!

Don’t conform, be an individual – especially when you are part of a team. You are of most value for your team if you perform at your own best. And this won’t happen if you conform to what others think you should do. You will be of value for your team when you use your talents, not your job description. And when you give your drive and energy to your team, not just your time.

More and more companies are becoming team-based nowadays. Health care, for instance, is one sector that is applying autonomous teams at a large scale. And which software isn’t yet being developed by scrum teams in sprints? Super7 teams have replaced the old-fashioned back-office. And now entire traditional companies are changing into Agile Organizations, complete with Squads, Tribes and Chapters.

What does this shift towards teamwork mean for the individual employees – for you, as a team member? As an individual, you are often expected to perform as assigned, just like a robots are expected to. But we are much more than just beings that can perform tasks. We have a huge untapped potential that we can bring to the equation, like creative ideas, positivity, advice, hope, support, etc. In order to be of optimal value in a team, you have to know what value you can bring to the team. This means knowing your talents and personal values. Who you are, who you can become, and what you are potentially especially good at. And knowing how you can deliver on these talents – how you can become productive. It is important to have clear goals for yourself, goals that are in line with the goals of your team. And above all, you should keep improving how you manage yourself, your own development, your own productivity, your time and energy.

When I look at what is demanded of the individual in these teams, I feel that there should be more attention for the individual in team-based organizations. Coaching will become crucial on this matter. Not only coaching at team level (e.g. agile coaches), not only on subject matter (e.g. chapter lead coaching) but even more so coaching to unleash the full potential of an individual. Without the right nurture of the individual, we’re just settling for suboptimal results. With the right coaching, dormant individual potential will empower the realization of our team-goals.

And, did you know that you can find an actual letter “i” within the word “TEAM”? You may have to use your imagination a bit, but look at the negative space within the A – do you see it?

Menno R. van Dijk, with the help of Chi Lung Yung the author of ProductiviChi


Semler-style Transformation – Barry Calf Inspires

A couple of days ago, I attended a lecture by Barry Calf. Barry used to be director at BK Bodem. Under his management, this ground engineering company transformed to a Semco-style organization. The employees reorganized themselves into autonomous regional chapters.

The organization transformed itself at an incredible pace, while successfully completing a merger at the same time. Financial results were greatly improved. Customer satisfaction improved. Employee engagement improved. Management was reduced, first to only one director, then to none.

In Barry’s view, classical organizations restrain people. Instead, we should empower people to use their talents to the benefit of the company. And his story is the proof that this actually works.

How did Barry achieve this impressive transformation? He left most of the transforming to the teams themselves! Here are a some of the lessons from his presentation:

  • Employees can organize themselves. Just give them the power.
  • Make it clear to everybody where the power resides in the new organization. Who has the power to decide what? A simple table will suffice. Surprisingly little power needs to remain at the top level. And the table ends with: “All things not covered above can be decided by the autonomous teams.”
  • Make the stakes clear – what is essential for the owners of the company? And for the employees? You will find that continuity of business is in the interest of all. Owners need the continuity of business to make sure their investment pays off. Employees need it to have job security. Stakeholders can trust each other that the right decisions are made, because everybody wants the company to be successful.
  • Decisions can be made democratically. Majority vote decides.
  • Determine which information is essential for managing the business and making decisions. Create one simple dashboard, with one set of performance indicators. Only use the essential indicators.

In the new organization, the autonomous chapters and teams decide on salaries, variable pay, new hires, and much more. This could work within a Super7 Operations department as well. A very inspiring story indeed.

Menno R. van Dijk.

Super7 Growth Model

Super7 Maturity Measurement

Super7 teams don’t start out being awesome – Super7 Operations is a growth model. Super7 teams can measure their progress with the use of the Super7 Operations Maturity Measurement, now available online (in Dutch).

Transition from traditional operations to Super7 Operations isn’t done with a press of a button. Teams need to grow into their new autonomy. Individuals need time to get used to not being managed that closely and taking responsibility. The small, highly effective teams within Super7 Operations need time learn how to plan their work, manage their workload during the day and evaluate their own performance. And, they need less and less management attention with each step along the way.

Maturity Model


Using our experience with hundreds of Super7 teams, we developed a description of the 5 levels of Super7 Maturity. For each of the 5 levels, we wrote down what output a Super7 team acting on that maturity level would deliver, and what behavior a typical Super7 at that level would show. A team can evaluate their maturity, by comparing their own output and behavior with each of the levels and selecting the level that describes their maturity the best.

The Super7 Operations Maturity Measurement tool is now available on http://www.cooperationalexcellence.nl/super7-operations/in-dutch-volwassendheidsmeting-super7-methode-gedrag-management/ for Dutch speaking registered users. Please register on Cooperationalexcellence using the link on the right of the page.


Menno R. van Dijk.

cutting management layers

Less management or less managing?

Do we need less management or less managing, when we change our organization to Agile or Super7 Operations? Modern organizations give autonomy to those who do the work, and move away from top-heavy management. Question is, can large organizations really function without management? Which elements of management can we do without, and which are crucial for success?

Recently, I attended an interesting seminar by Thom Verheggen, a Dutch organization expert who calls himself “de Ontmanager” in Dutch, which translates to The De-Manager. You can read more about Thom on his blog and in his book – only available in Dutch at this moment, however.

Thom states that we shouldn’t remove managers too rigorously. Instead, we should banish the habits of management that give organizations a false sense of control. He paints a picture of an organization where everybody moves in roughly the same direction, just because there are heavy controls and regulations preventing them to move in any other direction. As an alternative, he proposes an organization where everybody is intrinsically motivated towards a common goal, and no controls or regulations are necessary.

He also gives examples of detrimental habits of management. Being the middle man between two parties, for one. Managers trying to be the oil between the gears, but in fact preventing the two parties from working together. Another is the yearly cycle of individual target setting and performance evaluation, where emphasis tends to lie on what went wrong rather than on developing talent.

In my experience, for instance in Super7 organizations, managers do have their value. I’ll give two examples. In large complex organizations, autonomous teams can’t oversee the total complexity. Reducing complexity should be the top priority for managers. Next to that, managers should help with giving direction and ensuring alignment. In large organizations, managers need to support the small autonomous teams (e.g. Super7’s) by showing them the overall vision that all teams work towards. And they should help the teams to stay aligned with each other in their efforts towards this vision.

Less management? Sure, more autonomy is a good thing. Less Managing? Seems like a good idea, also. No management altogether? That may be a bridge too far for large complex organizations. We should think about which kind of managing is needed to keep things running, and then banish all other forms of managing. In following posts, I’ll give you examples of how this can work in practice.

Menno R. van Dijk.


Continuous Improvement for Agile and Super7

Kata, Kaizen, DMAIC and Value Stream Re-Design – all Lean improvement methods can be used for Continuous Improvement for Agile and Super7 teams. But what is the best? Which method should we use? This is not an easy question. It depends. It depends on the scale of the desired improvement. It depends on the desired speed of improvement. And, some methods require more specific expertise than others.

Super7’s and Agile teams are faced with the question of which improvement method they should use for Continuous Improvement. They are expected to improve autonomously. Therefore, autonomous teams such as Super7 teams and Agile Teams should know these Lean improvement methods, enough to select the right one for the right problem.

A quick overview of the methods for Continuous Improvement for Agile and Super7

Value Stream Re-Design

  • Improvement of the entire value stream – the end-to-end process from demand to supply
  • Re-design based on principles, most often the Lean Principles of Pull and Flow
  • Uses Value Stream Mapping, a standardized way of visualizing how value flows
  • Large improvements, with often quite extensive impact on people, processes and organization
  • Requires expertise on Value Stream Mapping and Lean


  • Lean Six Sigma improvement project approach
  • Standardized phases: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control
  • Fact based, measurement based problem solving by eliminating root causes
  • Useful when the root cause of a problem is unknown
  • Requires expertise on statistics, analytics and Lean Six Sigma at Blackbelt level


  • Lean method for small step improvement in one or two days
  • Quick analysis based on available data
  • Improvement based on Lean principles
  • Team of experts and operational employees
  • Participants are made free from their regular work during the kaizen
  • Sometimes facilitated by Blackbelts or Greenbelts

Improvement Kata

  • Continuous improvement as a habit
  • Every day, everyone, the way of the learning organization
  • Many small experiments
  • Discovering the way towards improvement as you go
  • Often supported with the use of Coaching Kata
Improvement Kata

Improvement Kata

On earlier posts on this site (www.cooperationalexcellence.nl) you can find more information on this subject. For instance, how Improvement Kata is applied by Super7 Teams.


Menno R. van Dijk.


Replace operations team managers with Super7 Coaches

As Super7 teams get more mature, it may be wise to assign Super7 Coaches and scale down even further on opertions managers.

More and more organizations are succesfully applying small, autonomous Lean teams – Super7 teams – within their operational departments. More autonomy, more employee engagement, better results. In this transition towards Super7 Operations, the role of the operational team manager has changed enormously.

Within the Netherlands, ING has been working with Super7 teams for almost 5 years now. As more experience is gained, new questions are raised. One in particular (thanks Ingrid and Jacqueline!) really made me think: should ING assign Super7 coaches, in parallel with the Agile coaches that are widely applied in Agile organizations?

The parallels between Super7 Operations and Agile are eminent. After all, both are based on very similar principles, derived from the same classical Lean production principles. So why not learn from the ‘management’ roles that Agile appies.

As you may know, Agile doesn’t use managers. Part of the of the old manager’s responibility is delegated towards the autonomous teams. The people/skills development part is now the responsibiltiy of the Chapter Lead. And Agile coaches are responsible for helping the team to become mature in autonomy and agility.

It may be wise to assign Super7 Coaches and scale down even further on opertions managers. Our experiency with Super7 teams shows that it is hard to maintain the momentum in team development. Some teams do fly, some teams reach a certain level and then developments seems to slow down or stop altogether. In theory, the team manager should help the Super7’s with their development towards maturity. But is this the best solution? Super7 coaches may be better equipped for this job.

But what would that mean for the oprations team managers? As with Agile, part of the old manager’s responisibility – planning, senior process knowledge, scheduling – has already been delegated to the Super7 teams. When Super7 coaches take over the responisibilty of coaching the team towards maturity, the role of the team manager becomes smaller again.

The team manager would still be responsible for the development and appraisal of individuale. And, he or she would still be the one that set the output targets for the teams, translated from the departmental goals.

To keep work load large enough, we would however need less managers – more direct reports per manager. This would mean that some of the team managers would lose their job, and I do understand that can be a dificult situation. However, a trend towards less management does seem fitting for an organization that works with autonomous team, don’t you think?

Menno R. van Dijk.




Situational Leadership for development of autonomous team

Leaders of developing autonomous teams can use the Situational Leadership theory to help and support the teams in their growth towards autonomy. Autonomous teams – Super7’s, Agile Squads, Scrum Teams, etc., can’t be fully autonomous from day one. So, how does a manager manage an autonomous team or Super7 that is still developing towards true autonomy? The answer: apply Situational Leadership.

Situational Leadership is based on the Hersey Blanchard Leadership Style matrix (see figure).

Hersey Blanchard Leadership Style matrix

leadership styles for autonomous teams

A newly formed not-yet-autonomous team benefits from the directing leadership style. For instance, an Agile Squad in this phase needs to be told how to work the agile way. And the operations team manager of an immature Super7 team may need to tell the team to use their team board for daily planning.

As the autonomous team develops, the required leadership style changes accordingly. From Directing to Coaching, then on to Supporing and finally Delegating.

In practice, however, this can be quite challenging for a team manager. In my experience with Super7 Operations, the most difficult part of the implementation of Super7 is often to apply the right management style at the right time. And, every manager has his or her preferred style: the style that he or she does best. In a traditional operations department where managers steer on input and use strict quantitative controls, directing and coaching are most often needed. In a mature Super7 organization, however, Delegating and Supporting are the most useful styles.

As a result, the managers that are good at Directing and Coaching often make the most progress at the start of the implementation. But in the long run, a Super7 Operations department thrives under managers that are good at Delegating and Supporting. This asks a lot from the managers. It is good to acknowledge this fact. A successful implementation needs to address not only the methodological side of Super7 , but also take into account the ‘warm undercurrent’ of the change on a personal level.

Menno R. van Dijk.