An interview with Doc Norton of CTO2

This blog is about our interview session with Doc Norton, the CEO of CTO2 which is an Agile Leadership Consultancy in Chicago. These are the following leadership questions we discussed with him:


1. Who is the person that has an impact on your life as a leader?

I would say it’s my mother, my parents split when I was pretty young, my mom is the single parent for a long time, she worked the four-time job and put me up to school. She has a really strong work ethic and look after others to provide comfort, and modeled the values & behavior in me.


2. As a leader, what are the most important decisions you take in your own organization?

In my own organization, well CTO2 is pretty small and relatively young. So right now we are really focused on doing the sales pipeline and making the work that happens. I think in a more general sense an organization, it is really important for leaders to create a real sense. ‘Why the organization exists?’, ‘What is the purpose?’, ‘Where we going?’, ‘What we doing?’, ‘What are the ways that we operate here and how we make decisions?’, ‘How are people empowered?’ and we need to find the cultures so that it can be used as a floater for company, so that people can decide to join the company, because they like the vision and decide that we have to join that company. We are setting that top, the people are there to contribute and allow the organization to steal itself from competition.


3. Do you believe the team should be self-organized and self-built?

I do, I believe that specifically in a complex emergent domain, work like product development as in software development, we are likely to know that what we actually don’t know. I just heard today in the morning in the talk, actually the study across mouth full of projects and realized that number of features that we list, the 1/4th of features released in software projects are beneficial to the project, 1/4th of features released in software projects are basically neutral and 1/4th of it is actually documental. So we have to be experimental, we have to be actually trying in more ways and then you look at organizationally how should you put together.

More the team depends on the decision of a single individual, we actually increase the tendency of a decision being wrong and making the wrong move or making the wrong thing. In emerging complex domain, what we actually need is small groups of people to express, they have to work together and look towards this problems, and working together to obtain potential solutions. In order to be successful in this type of work, you need those sets of teams and you need to be highly autonomous, you need to be self-organised. It is not much of team size but depends on how does it works? it doesn’t mean that everybody can do what they want, but it does mean that how it works? just guide once. We should understand what we work for, and within the context, we should allow people to work together and adopt.


4. Do you think that accepting a mistake by an employee in a team, will maintain or make them to be self-organized, or make them grow in that organization?

That’s interesting right, because most of the time the mistakes that individuals are making have a lot more to do than just abiding them, then they do that individual in particular. I think one of the thing is dangerous in the organization, is these cultures are blind when we do a postmortem of retrospective, we are trying to figure out whose fault it is? that actually fires us in figuring out ‘What is the fault in the system?’ and ‘How do we as a collective method to make it better?’. I think personal accountability is very important, I think looking for who's to blame is a wrong approach or most typical.


5. According to you, what challenges today’s leaders are facing?

I think there is a number of things, one is just the way to change, when we look at our markets, everything is changing so fast, it is new technologies and new to manage. The average life of a company in diminishing, in a statistics of S&P 500 which is basically the top 500 companies in nation, if we look at it, the 50 years ago the average age is somewhere around 75 years, and we look at today the average age is somewhere around 18 years and is declined.

So the leaders today should really need to understand the rate of change and adapt quickly to that change. The other thing happening is a huge change in the workforce, lot of people are not paying attention to their workforce. Just a few years ago the people used to say when he was working this or work that but this generation are not only fair. But the mindset is like they are all young, juniors and that doesn’t matter. This in the stats now where 60% of the workforce, are being able to really create an environment that works for existing workforce will create this work environment but trying around the concepts from the 1920’s and there are people who didn’t live in that time, now we join that workforce.


6. Do you think it is easy to implement and accept change in an organization?

So to accept a change is that organization to do, it is not the organization to do. Right! If you wanted to make a major change in the organization, basically you need to adopt organization culture. The other we have the situation is you are more likely to do that, especially if it’s a huge big change being done over once, I actually appreciate for small continuous change, to make small adoptions, to see how they work, keep moving and when you do that, that’s one small change prepares the organization to culture the environment to be ready for the next small change. In Agile, those small change is overwhelmed for the time to come out of massive change. I think the organization can absorb that change.


7. What challenges you are facing as a leader in Implementing Agile in your organization?

So I would like to talk about our clients in general. This is actually what we do in many conversations when we are explaining about implementing agile. In our organization it is not that difficult, it is like a formula. We look at our clients in existing organization, in a lot of cases it is just like existing structures, the existing ways we do things and often a time when we are looking to implement agile in the organization, we are looking at the team level, working with developing teams to working teams to move faster. But the distractions are random, haven’t changed to complicated in doing that, the way we budget, the way we actually monitor people, or over each other consequences they are same.

All we asked you to keep the things in a way it was and working as an individual performer. We keep up our working in teams and want to be supportive of each other and collaborate well. To do things in a right way, to find out I want to go race, I am in a chase, as an individual performer, that’s one put me in actual group, this is the way that put you around actually, this changes the infrastructure and allows people to truly be and work together. It is mostly around the team and arrange the team accordingly. It actually comes from the fact that they know how to operate it and going to consider how the actual environment is changing.

Watch the complete interview here:

Thanks to Doc Norton for joining us in this interview session. To join us in our upcoming events please visit our events listing page.

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