Alex Bould works with large tech corporations to shorten their time to market. Working in the San Francisco Bay area, he leads enterprise-scale Agile transformations to help solve billion-dollar problems. In this interview, he talks about how what differentiates market leaders from market followers – and how this is changing. For the longest time, the pursuit of efficiency and productivity has dominated the landscape – higher efficiency and productivity leads to lower costs and lower risks for greater scale. As the marginal return for increased productivity diminishes – the landscape is now shifting – it’s shifting to one where the companies that can outlearn their competition will dominate.
Recently he and I worked together to bring Transactional Competence™ into his work with Western Digital Corporation. Western Digital is a Fortune 200 American computer data storage company. Alex is helping companies enter a new era where developing their fitness in how to think accurately is a core competency for any business operating at scale. He also addresses how the speed with which stuff gets done or where hard problems get handled creates a lot of room to move freely in an organization.
Below you’ll find a transcript of this podcast episode that has been edited for your reading pleasure. You’ll also see links at the bottom of this post where you can find more information on the people and ideas mentioned in the episode.
by John Patterson
Produced by: John Patterson & Tyson Crandall
“What’s decisive around time to market is the capacity to learn, and what impedes learning is people’s lack of awareness about how their deployment of asset slows down, grinds transactions to a halt, or creates delay.
Then just by paying attention to how I get to participate in a transaction, really does speed things up straight away.“
John Patterson: Alex, welcome to the Influence Ecology podcast. It’s great to have you here.
Alex Bould: Thank you, John. Good to be here.
John Patterson: Take a moment, introduce yourself for people that don’t know you.
Alex Bould: Sure, my name’s Alex Bould, I live in the San Francisco Bay area, and what I do is work with large tech corporations to help them shorten their time to market. Living in the Silicon valley, it’s an environment where there’s a lot of large tech corporations, lot of brands that people know, and those brands have very large market presences, and they operate at scale. We’re in an environment where the markets are wanting to move much faster than the existing product development lifecycle. So large companies are dealing with, “How do we speed up our product development time? How do we get our products in market sooner?” And that’s a challenge.
John Patterson: Because … may be obvious, but to those that are listening newly and don’t know that environment, why is that a challenge?
Alex Bould: Well, it’s essentially a function of scaling, generally, which is as things scale, they tend to take longer. Things tend to take longer, and the cost of coordination tends to create delay. And also, not having access to information at a timely manner means that people can’t take actions that are actually counter-productive to shortening cycle times or getting products out. So it’s a bit of an irony. As companies become more and more successful, and it’s scale grows, their ability to move quickly declines. So we have ways of working with companies primarily, and implementing Agile practices at scale that allow companies to shorten their time to market the products.
John Patterson: And since you bring up Agile – Can you just say something briefly about what that is for the general audience?
Alex Bould: Well, it’s a category name that’s used to describe a way of working together. What it primarily distinguishes is that it’s team-based and it’s cadence-driven. So things happen in time boxes, and it’s with teams. And some of the salient points about that is, work is brought to the teams rather than teams being brought to the work, and that work is being mediated through a backlog, and that managers no longer direct work.
John Patterson: Okay, good. Thanks. So let’s talk a little bit about your own journey before Influence Ecology. You participated, now, since when? Do you remember?
Alex Bould: Yeah, I’m going to do the math. So it’ll be October 2016.
John Patterson: ’16? Okay. And everybody has a journey when they participate here. Everyone goes through a kind of learning journey. In brief form, can you describe your learning journey once you started studying here, what you discovered, perhaps what you were thinking then. What you discovered about where you might be naïve, or where there might be some conceits or what not. And we’ll get to where are you now, but take us a little bit back before, to the early days.
Alex Bould: Well, immediately before starting at Influence Ecology, I was kind of baffled. What is it that people can not see about how I see the world, that leads them to constantly struggle in areas that seem to me to be obviously? like, well, if you just did this, or did that, things will just work out. And it’s a somewhat … you can probably hear the hubris there right away, it’s like, I’m the one who’s struggling right now, because I’m baffled about how come they’re not baffled, right? So there’s a certain self-referential tenor to that. So I first learned about Influence Ecology through a good friend of mine, Anna Athanasiu, and I was aware that she had been studying with Influence Ecology for maybe two years by that stage, something like that. My version of it is, “Oh look, I’ll just do the six month program, that’ll be enough, I can’t imagine needing to study for more than six months.”
And so again, there’s some arrogance right there, making up immediately that I knew what the benefit was going to be. So I got started, and our first program is six months long for twelve webinars. And I think the thing that I really had to deal with, was how much study was involved. Eight hours a week for me, but I think some people study much quicker than I do, but it was a solid eight hours a week of study. And what was really irritating was having to … These questions that are on the learning system are really simple questions, but they take hours to answer, because there’s critical thinking required, thinking that I hadn’t done. And anyway, I just got confronted from the beginning about how naïve I was, thinking about important things, things that turn out to be important.
And then, regardless of that, I was dealing with putting a new offer into the marketplace, and engaging with people, and my experience was simply this, is that I just did the work that was being described to do. I just did the work. I started inventing transactions and moving in transactions the way it’s described, and people started responding positively. And then I started to get offers, and then I got contracts, and then, I mean, my revenues started going up, and it was like, “Wow, this really works!”
John Patterson: That’s good. And then just for a moment, because I know a little bit of your journey. So your revenues started to go up, you had some offers that begin to get accepted, larger offers that begin to get accepted, you found yourself moving into, as we describe it, higher and higher ecologies. In other words, the ecologies that if they accept your offers, you can meet your aims. That’s what you mean by that.
Alex Bould: Yeah, yeah.
John Patterson: And so here you are now, three, perhaps almost four years later, and life is very different. So just, in brief, is different how, now, for you as an individual than it was three or four years ago?
Alex Bould: Well, I think primarily the … I mean it sounds trite I’m just happier.
John Patterson: That’s not trite.
Alex Bould: So there’s a way … what used to be a mystery to me is why doesn’t everybody think like I do? Was a mystery. But now, just through applying the distinctions of Influence Ecology, I find it’s so much easier to move in the world, moving with my colleagues and friends where I spend most of my time at large corporation. Moving freely in that environment, seeing them accomplish their aims, seeing the results that we’re wanting to accomplish with the company, getting accomplished as well, it’s just joyful. I mean I focus a lot on fitness and performance, and it seems odd to me that I would describe it as joyful, but it is.
John Patterson: For those that may know you personally, you seem to get a great deal of joy out of a variety of ways in which to develop your own fitness, whether it’s your physical fitness, mastery over certain approaches to different things from … I can hear you talk about riding a bicycle for an hour, as it pertains to your fitness, or you happen to be involved in marksmanship, and the like of that fitness, or physical fitness, or the fitness to perform. In fact, many of our conversations have opened my own eyes to the way in which people either do or don’t address fitness as a key component to satisfying some of their aims. You made some notes in what you offered, and you talked a little bit about … you said this, and I’m just going to read this because I think it’s brilliant. You said that “As the marginal return for increased productivity diminishes, the landscape is shifting, and it’s shifting to one where companies that can outlearn their competition will dominate.”
Alex Bould: Yeah.
John Patterson: And so it brings me to fitness because you’re speaking about a fitness to what?
Alex Bould: Well, so there’s so many layers to this John. So there’s a history to the way in which people seek to operate at scale in corporations, where a lot of the initial learnings came out of manufacturing, and a lot of people will be familiar with the Toyota production system, theory constraints, lean manufacturing and so forth. And these were popularized and generally shown to be extremely valuable for companies to manage things, which are otherwise counterintuitive to them, but when we apply the product development, something goes missing, which is that people don’t notice that in manufacturing there’s very low variance, the fact the design of a manufacturing line is to have almost no variants, but product development is very different. Product development has inherently got a lot of variants, so people mistakenly take lean manufacturing techniques and apply them to product development, and end up with really bad results. What’s missing from this is if you ignore the fact that you’re in an environment that has a lot of variants, what that’s really pointing to is that there’s a lack of accurate thinking in the planning.
And it’s not because people don’t know how to think accurately, it’s that there’s uncertainty in variants in the planning, inherently…in the product design inherently. So we need a process that’s resilient to dealing with the variants. And if we can take the thinking that’s required to manage for that, in a responsible way, that gives us the timelines we want for product development, it goes extremely well. So a way to characterize that is that an essential component to product development nowadays is how quickly can I learn. And one of the challenges we have is learning requires us to acknowledge that we don’t already know. And that’s really, really difficult for companies that are addicted to predictability.
That’s really difficult, distinguishing between the predictability that’s associated with manufacturing, and the predictability that’s associated with … here’s what’s predictable in product development. Oh, the schedule will vary, and there’ll be breakdowns. That’s the predictable. So how do I develop my resilience to that? How do I think accurately about thinking accurately. I think we’re getting to the point now where large scale organizations have mastered the pathways around efficiency gains and productivity improvement, and what’ll differentiate is the speed with which they can learn. Who can out learn others will be the differentiator.
John Patterson: Fantastic. I read an article recently, and it talked about the generations or the eras of organizational learning or organizational activity. People are familiar, of course, with the industrial age, or the factory, the assembly line. People are familiar with the quality and efficiency movements and all of those kinds of things. I’m hearing you describing much other eras. So is it, in your mind, that the ability to learn is a new era that’s beginning to arise? Like if organizations are to compete, and keep up, and produce products at the speed with which we are now moving, is that kind of learning an era?
Alex Bould: Yeah, so there’s an arc in this, which is that it’s a pattern that repeats every time. So where there’s some kind of advantage, we would call it specialized knowledge, which is not able to be easily replicated by others, especially if it’s counterintuitive. That’s creates an advantage in the marketplace that allows some people, if they take advantage of it, to keep growing faster than others. And then over time the codification of that specialized knowledge becomes more and more general, in fact it becomes a stable state. So before I can compete, I literally can not compete nowadays in the world unless I use lean manufacturing. Lean manufacturing number one, reduces the cost of capital. That’s just decimated volume of work in process. It’s a tenth of the volume it use to be around. I mean it’s not viable as a manufacture scale on a second due lean manufacturing. Now, as we move into lean product development, as we learn how to do things in much shorter timeframes, that advantage really … there’s huge penalties to coming second and third and fourth in marketplaces.
John Patterson: Yeah, say something about that, because I know you and I talk about that a bit, but say something about that.
Alex Bould: Well, there’s lots of way people talk about it, first mover advantage, fast follower, so forth, but some markets are characterized by paying a huge premium for first in market, because the customers are dealing with a constraint where earlier access to their product gives them an economic advantage. And so they’re willing to pay a lot. So in some markets they’ll pay an 80% premium for first in market. Second in market will be par, third will be par, fourth will be a 50% discount, and fifth will be 100% discount. In other words, no one will buy any of your products if you’re fifth in market.
So what becomes important is, can I get to market first. And then what becomes negotiable is what feature sets are in the product. So the economics of the customer applying the technology of the product actually dictate the value. And what we might think is valuable when we first start our product development, might change over time. So what matters is, can I show up to market on time with the best product I can? So it’s a bit like … we talk about it like this, you can’t … the Olympics is going to happen on a certain date, so if you want to compete you have to show up as fit as you possibly can on that date to race. You don’t get to go to the committee and say, “Hey listen, I haven’t quite got my schedule sorted out for my training, can we shift the 100 meters to three weeks later?” That doesn’t happen. And yet most product development methodologies are set up in a way where that’s absolutely inevitable. We will show up later than the scheduled delivery date.
We’re saying, companies that are capable of delivering on a particular date with the best product they can, are outperforming companies that can’t. And we see that with Apple, and we see that with any seasonal kind of product. There’s no question that the next version of the iPhone is showing up in October. It always does. It has whatever features and capabilities they were able to put in, in time for that release date. They’re never not going to ship on that date, because the Christmas purchasing is just too valuable. So yeah, that’s an example.
John Patterson: For those who don’t know, Alex in Influence Ecology we’ve been working together now for, is it about a year, a year and a half?
Alex Bould: Yeah, yeah.
John Patterson: Year and a half?
Alex Bould: Yeah.
John Patterson: On the way to bring to the market our approach and more of an enterprise offer. And I’m curious as to how you see transactional competence helping with the endeavors that you’re charged with solving.
Alex Bould: Sure. It’s probably two or three lines of thought that could get woven together here. So there’s a consequence to rolling out these Agile translations at scale, which is that because the work starts getting done by teams and the work is being mediated through a backlog, managers no longer have a role, which involves directing the work that team members do. And so that kind of creates a bit of a vacuum and then there’s a second order of it, which is that in using the disciplined approach that Agile brings to the way in which we make trade offs and allocate work, the amount of firefighting that is required actually diminishes enormously. So what you end up with is a lot of really talented people as functional managers, whose last viable ten years has involved a substantial amount of firefighting. Now, more or less idol. And some of them have a predisposition to become arsonists. And so we can light some more fires to put them out, right? And it’s a perineal problem, and it can be talked about really disparagingly in the Agile community.
It’s not a term I favor at all, but sometimes they call it the permafrost or the clay or something, but it’s that’s body of people that exist between the executive management in teams that are extremely influential in creating the kind of environment in which performing happens. In fact, in Influence Ecology, we would call that the consequential environment, and they are the authors and the maintainers of that consequential environment. So in dealing with this, I was looking at it as okay this is a tremendous resource here, and I would like to find a way to make use of this for accomplishing our own at reducing cycle time. So having studied with influence Ecology it was like, okay is there a way for us to bring together a lot of the distinctions that we have available to us to manage our personal aims? Could we package that up in some way that would allow us to satisfy team aims. So this is an essential component.
Could we take this group of functional managers, that otherwise operate independently, and bring them together into a team, where the team aim was to deconstruct the existing environment and reconstruct the environment in a way that actually supported the team performance for the product development, so that-
John Patterson: Can you pause for just a moment? In working with some of these teams, and in experiencing some of the difficulty, there’s the; you called it the permafrost, there’s the culture of commanding control, as we would say it at Influence Ecology, we would talk about self-acting or interacting. A bit of over-lording or a bit of trying to get people to do the things I need them to do from on high coming down, right? So now that’s all taken apart, and you now have people who need a new framework, who need a new approach, need a new way in which to address their role in the larger transaction, right?
Alex Bould: Yeah, so we tended to characterize it like this, is this idea of working on the environment in which the teams could perform in building the product is an example of working on the business. And so the work we did to build transactional competence for cross-functional teams, that particular offering, is it provides a lexicon and provides a way of reasoning with using language, how to work on the business. It’s a big shift from working in the business, right? And it’s also really relevant for people’s own career paths, because as people become more senior, they’re actually working on the business rather than in the business generally. That’s generally the shift that’s happening. So yeah.
John Patterson: So for you, what have you seen happen as you brought some of the principles and distinctions of transactional competence into the work you’re doing at Western Digital?
Alex Bould: One of the precepts or tenets behind this is that in any engagement myself or my team has with the organization, we’re always looking to what happens when we leave. So how do we leave the organization where there are people within the organization that can be responsible for the ongoing transformation, can be responsible for people’s fitness and performance. So how do we do that? So we have a particularly attention on the environment, we have three levels that we work with. There’s what we call the Agile change agents, which are at the team level. We have the guiding coalition, which is the executive leadership at the line of business level, and we have the lean Agile leaders, which are the group of functional managers that have made a transition to being a team that works on the environment.
And so initially our thought was that bringing in TCX [Transactional Competence™ for Cross-Functional Teams] would accelerate things and would raise people’s fitness beyond what we could ordinarily do. What we’ve seen, as a consequence of that, that these groups, these Agile change agents and these lean Agile leaders, and the guiding coalition had become substantially self-organizing and do not require the direct involvement of me or my team to continue the work of a transformational fitness, which is really great, because it accomplishes one of my aims, which is how to get out of that part of the organization, because we have many other parts of the organization that we need to work on. So it’s been the big one. Secondly … oh, I can share one more thing.
John Patterson: Yeah, yeah. I’m going to come back to when you said something amazing, but go ahead.
Alex Bould: Oh, okay. The thing that I like about it is one of the things we say for people is that we have an asset, and that asset, when it’s deployed, if we’re not mindful about how we deploy it, can be incredibly costly for others, and at the same time it can be incredibly valuable. It’s a real delight to watch people discover that there’s no mystery to why things have been a struggle for them, because this asset they posses, they’ve been deploying it somewhat mindlessly, creating a lot of cost for other people, and at the same time they actually discover just how valuable their asset is when it’s being deployed really well, in other words, we’re wildly off calibration in terms of how much value we are, and how much cost we are.
And so when people actually can take ownership of the way they deploy their asset, they really like it. You get this groups of people that are really clear about how to keep the cost down, and how to keep the value up. And it’s a joy. It’s a real joy. In fact, it becomes somewhat problematic, because when they fond themselves in other environments it’s like, “Oh, my god. This is really painful. Having to deal with people who are deploying their assets in really costly ways.”
John Patterson: So well said. So, so well said. And so to make it clear for anybody that’s listening for the first time, some of the personalities that we teach, and their role in a transaction simply said … that somebody can deploy their asset in a part of the transaction where that’s good, that provides value. They can deploy the asset in another part of the transaction where that’s a cost. That’s bad. That slows things down. So people, as you’re saying, are becoming more aware of where to deploy their asset or perhaps withhold their value et cetera. And that speeds everything up.
Alex Bould: Yeah, yeah. And I think there’s some second order, third order kind of effects that are really satisfying. It’s, again, kind of back to the joy thing. It’s like when someone shares, “Wow, in 25 years of being trained, this is the most valuable thing I’ve ever been trained in.” It’s like, okay good. It made a really big difference. Pretty happy about that.
John Patterson: So we’re going to go back to a thing that you were talking about a moment ago, is one of the things that you said about bringing TCX to the organization and what it is offering. You mentioned that the teams are self-organizing.
Alex Bould: Yeah.
John Patterson: So it’s been, I think, our commitment in working on the Transactional Competence™ for Cross-Functional Teams, or TCX, as people are coming to know it. That, that program is designed to sort of bring people around a common campfire, or we’ll call it a framework. So the framework is transactional competence, or the transaction cycle, or the personalities as they’re related to that transaction cycle, or their role in the transaction, or to build a transaction requires building an environment in which the transaction does exist, and how do we speed that up, and how do we eliminate the cost, and how do we make the most of the assets, and all of that. So tell me a little bit more about what you’re observing as people begin to learn the principles of transactional competence and then self-organize. What are you seeing?
Alex Bould: Well, I think it’s an arc. So one way we distinguish fitness in our company is we talk about sit, crawl, walk, run, fly. There’s five states of fitness, and we also say what has people move from sit to crawl is training, from crawl to walk is coaching, form walk to run is mentoring, and from run to fly, which is a transcendence that takes development. And then what has someone at sit at all is the framing. They find themselves in a frame where they can identify their fitness. It’s like, well that’s a gap, right? Until you’re actually in the frame, it’s like, how would I know?
So as people participate in Transactional Competence™ for Cross-Functional Teams, it’s set up as a webinar where 45 minutes has got some of the distinctions, and 45 minutes is where we’re engaging in a dialog about what people have found, and there’s an arc to their participation where over the ten webinars they’re raising their fitness through the crawling stages and starting to get into walk. After the webinar finishes, it’s like, “Well where’s the opportunity for deliberate practice, where is it that we get to keep applying this?” And so we’ve been at work on building in it. So the teams have come together around particular programs and project where we’re building something called a consequential environment for teams. Fitness for hundreds and hundreds of engineers. We have a working group that’s doing that, and we’re at work on how do we build that. We use transactional competency distinctions to help design that consequential environment, and in that process it’s been fascinating to watch as people learn.
We have a personality type called a producer. Their orientation to the world is very much grounded in objective reality. And this particular producer is in tears if she works out for the first time, that there are other ways to invent. You can invent possibilities that are not always the effects to a breakdown. Her relationship to possibility is it has to solve a problem. And as … there are inventors in the transaction design who are actually able to invent possibilities that satisfy aims, regardless of the breakdowns. And that was really moving to her. She discovered that she had been angry at people that have been to possibilities that weren’t grounded in breakdowns.
And in fact, it’s really kind of … and she was telling me, she would say, “I’m really agitated and frustrated that we’re in a conversation for possibility that’s not grounded in any kind of reality.” And then over the course of that time she found that what had been created by the group was actually a solution to … it actually met one of her aims about the commitment she has for people’s self-expression and personal development. So very, very satisfying in that regard. In a self-organizing nature it’s super interesting watching how people come together. We have some distinctions around planning, strategy, tactics, and some implementation. They mean something very specific, but what happens when this group comes together, they ask the question, “Where are we, and who’s leading? Which is a really interesting way for a group to come together, because there’s like, “Well, where are we in the transaction cycle? Are we in strategy or in tactics, are we in implementation, are we in planning? Where are we?”
And then who’s leading is automatically a function of that, or in strategy then it’s the inventor, performer who’s leading the dialog, and the others immediately take on other roles. And so leading becomes very fluid. It becomes a function of where are we in the transaction cycle. And so we say it like this, leading is a verb. You can see it. It’s in the doing. It’s a phenomena of team. It’s a phenomena of the environment. It’s just not a designation, it’s people at work, and it’s really awesome.
John Patterson: So the framework for transactional competence includes what we call PSTI, or planning, strategy, tactics, and implementation, and it defines where we are in the transaction, and then the roles that are involved in that part of the transaction. So where are we in the transaction, and who’s leading is a fantastic way to approach the transaction at play. And I think that’s one of the things that I want to turn to for just a moment, because it’s been my experience that another aspect of what is discovered when we get a team together, we find very early on around, I think, module four or so, we seem to find it around module four that people begin to address what are the aims of this group, or of this team. And it starts to make very real that there is a transaction, you could say, on the table, or in the room, or in the enterprise, but there’s a transaction outside of us that we begin to address, and that transaction has an aim. And then the question is, what’s the aim, and where are we?
Alex Bould: Right.
John Patterson: So what’s the aim, and where are we. And what begins to happen is that the people begin to see themselves as an aspect of a transaction, not the overlord of it, or not, in fact, distinct from it. Is there an aspect of the transaction I begin to see that I’m able to show up and lead in a part of the transaction where I’m of value, or remove myself where I’m actually a liability. In one of our MAP2 papers, Kirkland calls on the All Blacks, where the All Blacks are famous for the transference of leadership depending on who’s got the ball. I think that’s the simplest way to approach that. So what can you tell us about what you experience with people grabbing the ball, and the impact that it has on the speed of the transaction, because ultimately think from what you were talking about before, if we go back, we have a commitment, a primary aim that we’re quick to market, and we’re able to learn very quickly and move very quickly. So can you tie all that together?
Alex Bould: Well, there’s a little bit of a cascade there of context within context and so forth, but what’s decisive around time to market is the capacity to learn. And what impedes learning is people’s lack of awareness about how their deployment of assets slows down, really either grinds transactions to a halt or creates delay. Then just by paying attention to how I get to participate in a transaction, really does speed things up straight away. So you touched on this idea about leading moving. So there’s a layer in there, which deals with how do I lead a conversation from a place of intention, rather than from an agenda, or … yeah let’s say from an agenda.
Alex Bould: Leading a place from an intention lets the thing unfold. And so when we talk about being in a particular part of the transaction, “Hey we’re in planning, or hey, we’re in strategy, and who’s leading?” There’s two people having a conversation at that point, the inventor and the performer if it’s strategy. So what’s happening is it’s a dialog. And so in the dialog, things are starting to emerge that are consistent with the accomplishment of the aim. And everybody else is participating in the … what’s happening in the participation, even if people are silent, they’re out to fulfill the intent of the conversation, which is to resolve strategy, which is actually the allocation of assets.
That’s might seem a little airy fairy, but bear in mind that this group’s already grounded in Agile practices, and every ceremony in Agile practices has an intent to be fulfilled. And so we grounded them in the fulfillment of an intent, regardless of the actually practice. So this dove tails so nicely into the practices of Agile, generally. It just works really well. It’s really resonant.
John Patterson: Fantastic. Around session eight or nine of the TCX program, we often see people asking the question, “All right, how do I bring this back to my function? I come together in this team; there’s a cross-functional team. I now know I’m walking back into an environment that lacks some things; that lacks the consequential environment, that lacks the understanding of transactional competence, or the framework, or personality. Lacks all these things.” So we begin to address that people, in fact, need to build a kind of environment around them. And we talk a little bit about that. Is there anything you want to say about that, or anything you can tell us that you observe about that as people begin to go build that environment around them?
Alex Bould: Wow, yeah that’s a really interesting one. So I think what starts to become apparent is people’s willingness to be … there’s a decision point, and it’s kind of the decision point around fitness for anything. The environment that I go back into after having been in, say, TCX, is an environment that’s set up to accomplish a different set of aims. It’s organized to operate very differently than one might operate in a transactionally competent way. And so what people have to confront is, here’s a different way that I could be operating, and nothing in my environment is set up to deal with that, nothing. And then the next question is, “Well, what’s my relationship there. Do I do anything about that, or am I just going to kind of accept it?” I mean it’s a bit of a red pill, blue pill kind of thing. Am I just going to just go back to the way it was, and just put up with things, or am I actually going to move in ways that actually cause a state change?
Now, in a transformation around agility, we’re already committed to the state change, so the only question is, is it sooner or later. So that’s part of what comes out of this, is like, “Oh, I have to deal with the fact that my environment is just not set up to it.” Now, if people say, “Yeah, I’m ready to step in.” Well, then the next thing is, well, where’s the opportunity for what we call deliberate practice. And that’s what we see in any kind of raising of fitness, my own journey along crossfit. It’s like, well there’s a reason these moves are called Olympic moves. I mean they are not easy to do. Oh god, I used to think I could do moves. I was like, “No, there’s a lot to an Olympic move.”
Anyway, so that’s the same kind of thing. It’s like, “How do I become fit? Transactionally fit?” And so part of my role, and part of the role of others that help cause a state change on organizations is to create the kinds of environments people have deliberate practice in. What we say is qualified feedback from someone who’s actually competent at whatever it is that you’re trying to learn as a discipline. So that’s a piece of the puzzle for people to figure out for themselves, and they opt in. And then generally speaking, people that opt in and participate, they start to distinguish themselves from everybody else. In fact, they start to occur as not just transactionally competent, but competent in their roles. And they start looking like they’re in the wrong roles, in other words, they should be promoted. And so that has its own consequences as well. It’s like this thing accelerates people’s careers.
John Patterson: One of the notes I’m going to read, just as a segway, you talked about Marcus Bell, I believe Marcus Bell, who describes what you do, and what you wrote is that, “Marcus characterized what I do for large tech companies, is help solve billion-dollar problems for pennies on the dollar.”
Alex Bould: Yeah.
John Patterson: Which I love. It is a great characterization of the value that you bring to large corporations. And so I wanted to know if there’s anything you would like to say about that as a way to begin to wrap up, and then also perhaps as a transition into telling us a little bit about Consequential Agile.
Alex Bould: Oh, okay, sure. So let’s see. I think one of the things that’s an unexpected delay in studying with Influence Ecology is one of the conditions in life we talk about is money. And I think, like most people … well here I’m generalizing like I know, but I think at least for myself, my relationship to money was kind of grounded in a background of scarcity. And as we study money as help, it became really apparent to me that large corporations are allocating money to organize help. It’s part of the process. I don’t know, there’s something inherently theatrical I’m not sure if theatrical is the right word, but it just really resonates with me to help companies organize their help. They’re a collection of people. How do we be organized. And it’s not like the headlong pursuit of efficiency, it’s actually how do we organize … another way I might say it is that there’s a way to be organized where you can really minimize the suffering and maximize the joy.
And by the way that’s economically advantageous. So it’s kind of helpful. And I think they take the Agile principles and look at how do we operate at scale? I think TCX is one of those things that really allows us to operate at scale and really accomplish economic outcomes and people-related outcomes around suffering and joy. So that’s really why I go to work each day. It’s what I like to do.
John Patterson: It’s fantastic.
Alex Bould: Yeah. Thanks John.
John Patterson: There’s a couple of other things I’m curious about. So if you were to speculate on the next two, three, five, ten years for yourself and what occupies you, can you imagine?
Alex Bould: So it is fuzzy. It’s kind of a fuzzy frontier for me, but I think when we talked about consequential … you referenced Consequential Agile. So there’s a website, consequentialagile.org, and if anybody had told me that I would be building a website that’s an org thing for a group of people to galvanize around a set of ideas, it’s like kidding, why would I do that? But anyway, we have, and it’s a collection of insights. And my assertion is that if you go to work on any three of these insights, you’re going to knock it out of the park. It’s an invitation to anybody who has an interest in this area to get involved in a dialog about what is their own experience around these insights, and when we rolled it out at the SAFe conference in San Diego about two weeks ago, I mean the audience was just lots of nodding. So it was like okay, so there’s shared experience around these insights.
So I think there’s a seed being planted in the environment that says, “Hey, one way to think about what we’re dealing with here, is through this lens of insights.” It’s not prescriptive, it’s just saying, “Hey …” it’s helpful to know that people value promises, or it’s helpful to know that knowing requires doing, or it’s helpful to acknowledge that thinking accurately beats the alternative, and that there’s something to deal with about thinking accurately about thinking accurately. Those are things to really get our teeth into. So I have some kind of, I want to say it’s not really a vision, it’s like, here’s a seed. Let’s see where that goes. And if people want to galvanize around that, I think we can build a body of knowledge that really supports people training and engaging, and really fulfill on the promise of Agile at scale, and less suffering, more joy, and great prosperity.
John Patterson: That’s great. That’s all. Thank you so much for being a guest today. As always, it’s a pleasure to speak with you.
Alex Bould: Hey, thank you John, and thank you to everybody at Influence Ecology.
Today’s talk is a small segment of the program we mentioned in our interview. The program is called transactional competence for cross-functional teams, or TCX for short. This is merely my introduction to the program and is a means to begin to orient participants. Here’s the talk.
John Patterson: We are the leading business education in transactional competence. That is our specialization, that is our focus. Transactional competence. And fundamentally we just teach ambitious professionals and executives how to construct the fundamental transactions that accelerate their influence, value and results. And that piece, accelerate your influence, value and results, we’re going to focus on throughout the program, because ultimately what we’re here to do is to accelerate some things. So, that’s the way to relate to this. We’re here to accelerate some things, and ultimately we want to accelerate your influence, your value and results with those initiatives that matter to you.
The way to relate to transaction briefly is that I’m going to point you to a transaction cycle. We’re going to come back to this in a variety of ways. The transaction cycle is the fundamental model on which everything else lays. So this model will be something you become very familiar with over time. Just to orient you rather quickly, because I’m going to come back to it, we invent things, invite people to consider them. We present them to others, we agree, or commit, or contract to something, we fulfill that contract to some satisfaction, then we complete or judge that transaction, assess its value, reinvent it, and around, and around, and around we go. So our commitment is that people find a means in which to accelerate transactions by identifying a few things.
One, where they’re valued, where they’re an asset, where they’re competent in some part of the transaction, where they’re fit in some parts of the transaction, and more important where you’re not fit in some parts of the transaction, or where you may dismiss parts of the transaction, or where you may dismiss the value of some piece of the transaction. And many people find that their initiatives, their aims, their transactions, what they’re working on often fail where some piece of the transaction is simply dismissed, not considered, or weak. So we’re going to address that in a variety of different ways as we go along.
We find that many people don’t think accurately about the transactions built to satisfy their aims, and they may not fully understand that framework that I just showed. And understanding that framework allows people to participate in exchanges that can either allow them to reach their highest aspirations, or cripple their ability to meet their aim. So we’re interested in making sure that you can construct transactions that accelerate things, or more important, find the holes in the boat where some aspect of that transaction’s missing, and it does impact your ability to meet your aims.
As a sense of what our programs do for people, as I told you in the beginning, our programs spread word of mouth for almost a decade. Last couple of years a little bit more in the open market, but they spread so rapidly, because what we do and what we teach allows the average person to produce 46% more income than anticipated in six months. So on a personal level, there’s a big impact that people experience in the fundamentals of transaction program, for example, and as Alex said before, that’s a personal program, but what you’re about to learn is something quite similar in nature. Some of the basics that we teach in the fundamentals in transaction program are taught here. Now that’s a six month program, this is ten weeks. So we’re not going to be able to do much other than teach you some of the basics, in this program, but again, focused quite clearly on a team, and a team’s initiative.
This program, transactional competence for cross-functional teams, is meant to, as Alex talked about, address some team initiatives, and as you know very well, with Agile project management, there’s an approach where individuals within a group must coordinate across functional teams. And with that there are some inherited things. There’s some inherited allegiances, alliances, there’s an entire inherited environment of command and control, and so forth. And there’s an importance in working with cross-functional teams, where removing those impediments requires a new kind of framework, a cohesive framework with which to honor a new alliance, where you now transact for influence and compliance across functional teams. So this program offers that framework with which to accelerate initiatives.
Now the important piece here is that this acceleration can produce a reduction in expenses, however most important, we can profoundly reduce the cost of miss-market revenue. The aim of this program is both to provide that framework, cohesive framework, a way for everyone to orient to some framework, to coordinate action, but also to arm you individually with the competence to produce the influence and compliance you require in the environment that you seek to occupy, build or maintain. It’s quite apparent from some of the work we did before, that often is the case that and individual within its group is attempting to produce some buy-in, some influence, some compliance in some environment.
So we’re going to work on that. In fact, we call that building an influence ecology. So our name, what that means, we’ll get to in just a little bit, but this is really the point and the aim of this program.
My special thanks to our guest, Alex Bould. In our show notes, you’ll find links to connect with him and all the links to websites, books, or download mentioned in this podcast.
The Influence Ecology Podcast is produced by Influence Ecology, LLC in Ventura, California. This episode was recorded October 15, 2019 and was produced by Tyson Crandall and John Patterson. You can find a transcript for this and other episodes at InfluenceEcology.com. This episode is made possible through the assistance of the Influence Ecology faculty, staff, mentors, and students around the world. Co-founder Kirkland Tibbels and our colleagues comprise an international collective of professionals who are active in the development of the philosophy of Transactionalism and the discipline of Transactional Competence™. Kirkland is considered a leading philosopher and authority in the field and he has authored more than 500 papers on the subject, study, and discipline.
This episode includes contributions by Karal Gregory. The podcast theme is by Chris Standring and titled “Fast Train to Everywhere.” You can subscribe to the Influence Ecology Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also find us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or via email at email@example.com.
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Influence Ecology is the leading business education specializing in Transactional Competence, having published and contributed to the only comprehensive text on the subject, Transactionalism: An Historical and Interpretive Study by Trevor J. Phillips. Co-Founder Kirkland Tibbels has authored more than 500 papers on the subject, study, and discipline of transactional competence and is a sought-after lecturer at universities, major corporations, and civic organizations around the world.
Influence Ecology’s curriculum includes conferences, webinars, online tools, podcasts, and mentorship utilized by men and women in over seventy countries around the world. Our membership includes an international assembly of accomplished professionals, faculty, and peers from a variety of countries, industries, and cultures.