• Dan Murphy, The Influence Ecology Podcast, Transactional Competence, Transactionalism

Just Add Water with Dan Murphy

As a serial success in the startup space, Dan Murphy has turned his attention to getting companies to the point of what he calls “just add water,” specifically, working to reduce the cost of scaled growth. While many startups struggle with similar breakdowns, Dan shares a set of practices and techniques to introduce new ways of operating that consistently reveal opportunities for course correction toward the ultimate aims. He addresses how Transactional Competence™ helps him produce the type of thinking, practices, and environment, which are be best suited to satisfy the aims of any organization.

His current primary focus is Hi Marley, a software startup that has developed an intelligent conversation platform designed for the Insurance ecosystem. As the head of Product Development, he holds a concern for the fitness of the entire organization and the effective deployment of their resources. He works with their senior leadership team to deal with the natural transition of a startup from working “in the business” to working “on the business.” He helps deal with the breakdowns that reveal themselves on the journey to a high performing 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

“And all that thinking around the transaction cycle, I’m going to say it’s like magic.

What ends up happening is people start making connections and insights they didn’t have before. And it’s amazing to watch.”

John Patterson: Dan Murphy, welcome to the Influence Ecology podcast. Great to have you with us.

Dan Murphy: Right. It’s great to be here. Thank you.

John Patterson: Take a moment to introduce yourself, please.

Dan Murphy: Oh, sure. So yeah. My name is Dan Murphy. I’m currently the head of product development at a software startup called Hi Marley. We’re based in Boston, Massachusetts. I was introduced to the ecology a couple of years ago by a gentleman named Alex Bould, who I’m sure some of you listening will know. Yeah. I’ve just been enjoying it ever since.

John Patterson: You have some accomplishments that are pretty great, and I think it’s good for our listeners to get a sense of who you are and some of your accomplishments. As with some past companies and things, can you say a little bit about that?

Dan Murphy: Sure, yeah. I started my career as a software engineer, like a lot of people, and slowly but surely, over the years, I moved into management after about 10 or so, 12 years into my career. And from there, I slowly moved through senior leadership positions in various companies, but along the way what was happening for me is I was moving in and out of startups.

And so back in 2000 timeframe, I joined my first startup, was a company called REMP, ramps up neuro-electromagnetic phasing. We were a robotics company. We were a wholly owned subsidiary in the US of a Swiss company. It was three of us to start that. And I watched that scale over a couple of years to about 25 people, pretty successful. Eventually did sell well the whole company, but I had left due to some family issues at the time; couldn’t travel to Europe every week anymore.

I moved into data storage. I went from robotics to data storage. And in that journey, I worked for a couple of hard drive companies, and there was a lot of acquisitions in that area. And then from the hard drive industry, I actually moved into my next startup back in 2010, and that was a SMART Storage Systems.

So we were a flash memory based SSD company for the enterprise market, and we were opening up a new market inside of storage; so moving away from the traditional magnetic storage and more to the stuff that you find in your cell phones and all the things that have enabled this digital wave of data storage, and the cloud and everything else. So we were pretty fortunate with timing.

I was about the 12th person that joined that startup, then we grew that to about 180 people after a few years, and about 2013 SanDisk purchased that for 300 million. I stayed on with SanDisk, and actually another acquisition later and eight years later, I found myself at Western Digital. And that’s where I met Alex Bould, and Simon Chesney, and Tim Morrissey.

John Patterson: Oh.

Dan Murphy: Yeah. And that’s how I got introduced into the ecology. So on that journey though, of going from these startups to through these acquisitions, I was able to… I should say I was fortunate enough, to have opportunities to really grow my career in leadership positions. And so I was chartered with running product development teams, test and product management teams, a lot of operations work. I spent a few years in Malaysia helping to start up a factory there for SanDisk. But after about eight years, those two acquisitions later, it was time for me to start thinking again about a new start, and that’s how I ended up where I am today as the head of product development at Hi Marley.

John Patterson: All right. Perfect. And along this whole way, I was wondering about your mindset as you’re moving through all of these different phases of your life, because you could consider yourself very lucky, very smart, very ambitious. You could consider yourself all kinds of ways. So in your view, what was helping you chart this course?

Dan Murphy: Yeah. It’s a great question. It wasn’t obvious to me. I think what was happening was I had aims, but those aims were probably more like, if you want to think of it in terms of a flashlight, like I was pointing in a direction with a flashlight and I could generally see where I wanted to go, but it didn’t have a lot of concentration and focus. It didn’t have that laser kind of effect. I didn’t have clarity around my aims. I knew general direction. So that was what was informing probably my actions and my decisions.

John Patterson: Did you have an interest then in technology, or were you oriented towards what was unfolding in the world of robotics, or technology, or storage? How can that, for example, compare to some other industries or occupations?

Dan Murphy: Sure. Yeah. I mean, for me, the beginning of my career, I probably found myself quite different than I am today and really wanting to be an inventor. I really wanted to innovate. I was really attracted to technology and how the world could adapt technology and what it could do for the world. So I was just fascinated with that, and robotics seemed like a great area.

What happened for me is I discovered a lot about myself along the way, and obviously through a lot of mentors and people who said, “You’re a pretty good engineer, but you’re a heck of a lot better at doing these things, and people seem to like the way you frame things and the way you lead conversations. Have you considered getting into leadership?” That was more like an invitation that kept coming up, and I kept being, “I’m an engineer. I want to design and develop things. I want to have my name associated with that.”

But then at some point, I got an awakening that, “I think I like that better. I don’t know what I’m doing.” And it was weird. And I switched. And I had this idea about, “I want to try this management thing.” And I quickly just said, “I’m not going to do what other people do. I’m going to look at this like a clean slate.” And I’ve had a bunch of managers now, and I’ve listened to a bunch of my peers complain about management, and I really want to figure out what that is.

Like what is it that everybody in the company has this belief that no one in management knows what they’re doing, and management has this narrative going on that they know exactly what’s going on, they’re charting the course, and, “You guys just don’t know all the details, but if you understood what we understood you’d get in.” And there was always this weird thing that was going on in companies. I’m fascinated with that. That’s what led me to leadership, and it led me to develop my own styles of leadership. That’s where I was going, anyway.

John Patterson: Okay. And as we distinguish it, you identify as a performer personality. Right?

Dan Murphy: I do.

John Patterson: And I was always fascinated when I began to get to know you and realize your performer-ness, and you do have this really powerful capacity with language, with narrative, with framing things in a particular way that people can understand. So it is something quite natural to you. Did you find along the way as you went from engineer to manager and leadership roles and things like that, that there was something you had to give up to move away from “engineering”, or did you just simply get so attracted to what you found you could get done as a manager or a leader?

Dan Murphy: Oh no. Oh boy. No. That’s a great question, John. I was starting getting really excited about things I was seeing and I didn’t think they were getting addressed. So you asked the like, did I have to let go of something? Yeah, I definitely did. I had to let go of a lot of naiveté and conceit. I wouldn’t have named it that 10 years ago, but I would now after the study with Influence Ecology and where I am today. But I was one of those people who thought my point of view was always right and the way I operated was the way to operate. I definitely had that.

And so, one of the first things you confront in getting into management… I mean, you have to confront. It’s like going from a child to an adult in a way. And I don’t mean that to sound negative for people, but I just mean that like I can no longer blame the person above me, I’m now responsible for this.

John Patterson: Yes.

Dan Murphy: And so I have to do things. So it’s not that I know more or I understand more, or even that I have more information, although that’s often the case because of these pyramid structures in companies, but it’s actually just much more that like now I’m responsible for something different, and my point of view has actually shifted. And when that happens, something happens to you. It’s like a transformation of some sort. Maybe it’s a minor one depending on who you are and what that is, but for me that was quite a thing to get through, because you had to let go of it. It’s like saying, “I’ve been a Democrat my whole life, and now I’m okay I’m going to be Republican.” I mean, that’s a big transformation for people.

That’s transit. So I think if you can make that shift and truly make the shift authentically, and don’t look at others like, “Why do they still see the world that way?” but start getting curious why you did and why they might, and how can you improve that relationship and how that works. That’s the curiosity.

John Patterson: All right. Fantastic. I’m mostly curious from the perspective of what we teach in transactional competence, and understanding that your performer in a particular environment around engineers and you’ve found yourself beginning to get pointed towards something natural, and authentic to you, and genuine to you, which is your own leadership ability and your own ability with narrative. And again, for all of us, there is some levels of fitness to go from employee to manager. I’ve been through that several times. I need to say it is a leap in fitness. It is like running a 6K or an 18K. It’s something else. It’s got another level of fitness.
So in your journey, you said you were kind of shining a flashlight into the dark and being with sort of going in this direction, but it wasn’t quite precise or specific. And it sounds like once you began to work with Influence Ecology instead, here, then some of your aims got clear, and what you were aiming for and directing your attention to got clear. Tell us a little bit about that.

Dan Murphy: Most definitely did. I don’t know if I’d be at Hi Marley today, to be honest with you. And that’s a good thing. Like I love what I am. So yeah. So I think like for me, the easiest way to summarize what it’s done for me, the most impact in the simplest form, is that accurate thinking has probably become my favorite aspect of my learnings, in that I think it’s kind of a foundation for a lot of the rest of what we’re studying, and learning, and talking about. Because if we can’t think accurately about things, we’re constantly fooling ourselves.

And so I could talk for days about all the insights and skills I’ve gained through my studies with IE, but I think one of the things that people find I’m now doing a lot is I ask this, somewhat obvious but sometimes agitating question, which is like, how do you know, or how would you know? And what I’m asking for is like, we’ve heard of these infinity loops in our studies, and I’ll explain that a little for those who might not be familiar, but we’re talking about this concept of where I get a great idea, like if I’m an inventor and I have this awesome idea, and I just want to put that into action.

I mean, I can see it, I get it, and I want to put it into action. But when I do that, if I don’t take care of all the things I need to take care of for that to take place, what tends to happen is a lot of breakdowns, a lot of friction in the process of trying to get things done. And so for me now, when I’m encountering inventors and an inventor says to me, “Oh, I’ve got this great idea,” it’s like, “We got to do this, and that, and that,” I go, “Awesome. How do you know this is going to solve them problem you’re trying to solve?” And like, “Let’s just start there, and let’s work our way through it.” And so that, for me, has been a really nice grounding because it’s a really simple trigger to get my mindset into thinking through a transaction all the way.

John Patterson: That’s fantastic.

Dan Murphy: Yeah. So how would you know? Yeah.

John Patterson: Yeah. Well, and I think that leads me to what I mostly want to speak to you about, because in your notes you talk about, I’ll frame it as an offer, there’s a direction you’re headed where you’d like to think terms of, “All right. How do I just add water?” In other words, in terms of startups, “How do I get them to a place where I just add the secret sauce or I add the water?” or something like that. I think that’s what you’re referencing.

And so in what I understand about your own journey, you began to see that in the world of startups, that there are certain patterns with startups, certain things that happen with them, certain things that they trip on routinely, and you want to help. And there are things you want to do to help mitigate some of the costs that they all incur. And so, for you, transactional competence and some of the frameworks and strategies that you bring to this concept called Just Add Water, are ways to mitigate those costs, help those companies out, help grow those companies, and so forth. So tell us a little bit about all of that. I know it’s a big, old, fat question, but I hope I teed you up well.

Dan Murphy: No, you did. That’s great. Yeah. So where did the accurate thinking leave me was really about what is it that I want to do? So the accurate thinking leads me to this focus and this concentration around my aims. And I started really examining that. And that was exactly it, John. I had all this experience in startups, and I kept repeating it. So there was something about me that is enjoying this.

And then on top of that, I saw these breakdowns happening and I got to see glimpses of some phenomena also happening. And I couldn’t figure out completely how it happened, but I knew it was happening. And I was super interested in thinking about, “How can I impact this in a positive way? How can I help another startup who’s going to be back to square one not make the same assumptions, the same mistakes?” and also do that while applying something else to this.

So it’s not just the experience I have now of what I’ve been through in the startups, but applying the transactional competence and the transaction model or the framework, the personality archetypes, it gives me a totally different perspective about how to make it work, and why that phenomenon… like I saw that team phenomenon happen live in a startup, and it was like, “Great, great,” and then I saw it diminish. I was like, “What happened?” Like, “How did that happen, and why does that occur?”

Where transactional competence helps, is it’s a terministic screen. It’s a way that I can view what’s going on in this environment, in this company, and look at the different archetypes, the different personalities and how they’re moving, how they’re acting in accordance with the roles that we’ve designed in the organization.

And what I find, and I’m finding evidence for this over and over again, and to some extent Hi Marley is becoming a bit of more of a proof for me at this point, is that if I put the personality archetype that I feel is best suited for the particular role based on the expectation and the requirements of the role, the skill set is almost becoming a commodity in the market. And so what can differentiate teams that have high performance is where the personalities, the roles and the skills are all there. That proper alignment.

For many years, people used disc, and Myers-Briggs and other techniques to get to know your personalities, and those are all valid and they work, and are great, I’ve enjoyed learning about myself and others that way, but they leave me with this gap about what to do with that knowledge. And so what transactional competence allow me to do is say, “Well, I can apply this framework in a startup environment,” and really in any environment, I just choose startups because that’s where my passion and mission is, and I can use this framework to design this organization to operate with less friction, what we call “low COC transactions” all over the place.

And I’ve shown this to a team of people who had no idea what transactional competence was. In a year-and-a-half, we’re seeing results that none of us can deny that this seems to be working. So we’re just going to continue building.

John Patterson: If we can, I’d love to see if we can make this very real and live for people in other… So say I’m a startup company and I’m listening, right, so I’m a startup company of some kind.

Dan Murphy: Sure.

John Patterson: And I know there are different levels of startup, but here I am, and I’ve got my team. I’m there with my original team, let’s say. What are the patterns that I might see where… you’ve seen these patterns before where there was a cost that they don’t know they’re incurring but might bring a little transactional competence to it, what are some of those things they might start seeing if there’s that present?

Dan Murphy: Yeah. That’s a great question, actually. What I think transactional competence starts to do is, if I just take the most simplest view of most, at least product development companies, software companies, if I take a company now that’s trying to start up and some of the problems they’re going to deal with is like, we don’t have a process to get something done. Maybe we don’t have all the resources we need to get something done, because we’re a startup, we have limited resources, we have finite capacity. Right?

What happens when you start trying to solve problems as a team is that people will, without the proper orientation to their role in how to solve these problems, regardless of what the cost is, whether it’s the transactional cost of like it’s taking me too long to get this customer contracting signed. Like you could say, “My biggest problem right now as a startup is, I’ve got a great product, but man, the cycle time to get the contracts closed is huge. And why is that happening to me?”
So when you start to analyze that, you can analyze it in a lot of different ways, and people do, but if you bring to the table transactional competence, what you can start to do is frame it in a way that allows the conversation to move really effectively through what is the breakdown that we’re dealing with? What are the facts we’re looking at here? What are the breakdown that we’re dealing with because of that? What’s the future that we want? And then, what are some possibilities of things we could do to bring that future into existence? And if we did that, how would we measure the success. And then, what is the work and action to make it happen?

And all that thinking around the transaction cycle, I’m going to say it’s like magic. What ends up happening is people start making connections and insights they didn’t have before. And it’s amazing to watch. You just see us coming together for an aim, solving a problem. We have this future. And when we work through it this way, what we find is that we get through the problem-solving sessions faster.

So I’ve done a lot of this work in engineering in fairly large and small engineering organizations, and I’ve started to do this work outside of engineering, and that’s where I’m trying to bring this to a broader perspective. So my past has been operations and engineering, but I see this as a tool that can actually help the whole company get around something and align around it. So I really like that.

John Patterson: Yeah. I’m going to come back to that in just a moment, because I do too, of course, and I love that piece. So if I’m listening on a startup and I think through some of what you just said, to underline the point, the framework of transactional competence is what allows the people within the organization to see where we are in the transaction, who should be leading now, what is next, are we ready to go to the next piece, and so forth. And without that then, what do you typically see at a startup that doesn’t have that kind of framework? What are the routine things that end up happening?

Dan Murphy: So it depends on the personality types. Right? So if you’re led by a performer, what you might end up with is an organization that’s bound around consensus management. Meaning, if everybody doesn’t say yes when we’re going to move forward, well, what happens then is nothing moves forward. Very often we get into gridlock and slow everything down, and speed is everything today; speed of transaction, speed of cycle. Cycle time is everything in business today. The world moves too fast.

So consensus management can be good at times, but there are times when it can be crippling. Of course you could get an inventor, who is absolutely certain of the future everybody should be taking part of. And so if the inventor is dominating the conversation, then what you end up with is a lot of new projects, things that start but don’t finish, and they tend to cause a lot of mess and we’ve got to clean it up, and other people have to come in and remediate that. And that’s super painful.
I don’t want to even get into the objective side with the producers and the judges, because I’m not trying to pick on the personalities. We all have our blind spots, and we all have our strengths. And that’s part of the learning. That’s part of the learning. And as people start to change their relationship to how they impact others with the way they show up in the conversations, in meetings, just as a person in the office, and they can change their relationship to understand that like, “Look, me as a performer, I can be real annoying at times. I can be real helpful at times, but I am quite problematic in certain situations.”

And when I learned that, I started applying it. I mean, it was uncomfortable at times. Right? There’s conversations I feel, “I have an opinion, I should be in here,” but there are a lot of times I got to back out, “This isn’t for me.” What happens, now here’s the magic, people, they don’t know what’s going on, but they notice that you’re doing something different. They maybe don’t put their finger on it right away, but they just notice, “Wow! Dan acts a little different than we do,” like, “He’s not behaving that same way that we would expect him to,” maybe. It gets people curious, actually. It’s actually one of the great ways that we often introduce others into Influence Ecology when they start getting curious about the way we operate, they go, “Huh. I notice that you help people get to insights quicker than I do,” or, “You help get people aligned a little quicker than I do.” Right?

They start noticing that you start to develop these skills, and really a lot of it is letting go. When we show up in situations like meetings and conversations, just being in the office, just who we are. When we start to recognize how we show up to others, who we are to other people and how our contributions can be helpful, and when our contribution is not seen as helpful. Right? It’s like that recognizing that, “I am annoying people right now,” “I am super needed and helpful right now.” So when I’m super needed and helpful, I feel great about myself, too. So I drive some happiness. And when I’m not and I’m being annoying, it doesn’t make me feel very good. And that’s a bit of an indicator. Right? It’s a great learning for people.
When you start to introduce that for people and you start to give them that construct to think with, it really does make a huge difference. People really start to free themselves of having to solve everyone’s problems and really understanding where they are and how they can best help. That’s a tremendous thing to watch out.

John Patterson: Transactional competence as a framework is something that I’ve been watching go into small enterprises, go into very large enterprises at the level of team, perhaps in an executive team, or the level of team, or a cross-functional team. You mentioned something about the transactions that occur at all levels of an enterprise.

So I can only imagine, if an entire enterprise had as a background framework transactional competence, and how much things would speed up, how much things would accelerate, how so many costs would get mitigated, how many people would be so much happier in their roles because they’re a fit, how much so many people would find they’re contributing in ways that they never imagined they could, how much that a lot of the mysteries of what’s happening in an organization dissipate. And I would love to get your feedback on that world I’m imagining. Am I wrong to think such a thing? What do you think about all that?

Dan Murphy: Well, I’m drinking the Kool-Aid a bit, if I can use that expression. So yeah. I think Influence Ecology has stumbled onto something quite powerful. That’s what I believe. And I think for an individual, the program was very meaningful and very powerful for a lot of people. I think those of us who were not necessarily in an entrepreneurial space at the time we joined and maybe in a different environment, we started to see an opportunity for this across organizations. And exactly like you said, when we look at it, we’re just kind of like, “I wish I could just have everybody transform tomorrow and we’re all operating this way,” because we do believe everything you said will come true. People will be happier. There’ll be less friction. There’ll be real conversations; much stronger, much more powerful conversations in the office.

A lot of great people out there preach about things like empowerment. They preach about things like trust and the importance of it in an organization. But oftentimes, we’re left with this. Like, “How do you do it?” Like, “How do you empower people?” You can’t just give people work. Right?

Another thing that comes out of this is it gives you a roadmap on how to empower and enable other people. And I’ll tell you, in an organization, that level of clarity and understanding about how we move and operate, you can’t measure it. Like you said, things just start to fall into place, and people start realizing it. I’ve seen it happen at WD. We saw this start to happen before I had transitioned into the stuff at Hi Marley, and I definitely see it at Hi Marley. We see it in waves. It’s just like anything else. Right? It’s a learning process.

And that’s another piece of this, I think, that we bring to the table, which is, we’re trying to build learning organizations. We’re trying to build organizations that are willing to constantly look the facts, look at the data, look at themselves, and make honest assessments and make the best decisions to go forward to try to operate the way that we’re chartered to operate and the way we want to operate. How can we be the company that we want to be?

Transactional competence helps you get there. It really does. Yeah. It’ll help you live your values as a company. It’ll help you grow your organization’s maturity across the board; the ability for people to just deal with each other at a level that we want ambitious adults to deal with each other at. Right? Conversations you have are just different. So yeah.

John Patterson: That’s great. You’re hired. All right. I’m reminded of some of the things that Alex and I have talked a little bit about, because he’s committed that a learning organization really is the organization required to compete in today’s market. Any thoughts on that?

Dan Murphy: No, he’s absolutely correct. Alex is a mentor of mine, and obviously introduced me into the ecology. He’s a great inventor. And he’s one of those guys that has a knack for coming up with some great ways to name the thing that we’re all seeing and feeling. So that’s perfect, the way that you just stated the value of the impact there. I will say this. Looking forward, Hi Marley is growing, has a long ways to go, and I’m looking forward to the future of Hi Marley.

That being said, I do have these co-conspirators like Alex, and Simon, and Tim, and yourself, I consider you a bit of a co-conspirator in this, in that we also believe in a cause and we believe in a movement. And so we’ve come together with this thing called Consequential Agile, and with you and Influence Ecology with this thing called TCX. And this program as we’re working through it together and learning, I’m so excited about how the two things actually blend, because you’re right, we’ve come up with these eight insights that we believe if you can adopt some, many, all, you can really transform how you operate in your company. But all of those, all of those are rooted in transactional competence, to be honest with you. If you read those eight insights, and I’ll share that, it’s consequentialagile.org, we do share those insights. They’re rooted in that. And yeah, it’s quite powerful.

John Patterson: I love some of the conversations I’ve had with Alex, because TCX or transactional competence for cross-functional teams, that’s the short way of saying all of that, is a program that came about as a way to bring transactional competence into teams. And it’s so far been a really exciting deployment of all of those distinctions within an organization. So when we continue to hear so many amazing bits of feedback, and some of the most powerful bits to feedback are both the decrease in the cost of delivery time or time to market, and some of the more personal kinds of success stories are about personalities who in some ways felt rather dismissed within their organization or perhaps so that they provide no value, are finding that they have an extraordinary role in their organization, and that if they’re a performer or a judge, for example, are needed, required, necessary.

And so Alex is quite gifted in being able to bring certain naming qualities to things, and he’s taken transactional competence. And the way that it shows up in the enterprise is something simple. Like, “Where are we in this transaction, and who’s leading?” I love that, because as we distinguish it in our advanced programs in Map 2, PSTI, which stands for Planning, Strategy, Tactics and Implementation, that framework requires that there are specific personality or roles required for where we are in the transaction.
And the lovely bit is that it requires that you ask, “Okay. Well, wait a second. Thank you very much for sharing. Now where are we in this transaction?” “Oh, well, if that’s where we are, then now we know what we need to attend to, what are the exchanges that must take place, and who’s the best person fit for, suited for that role in this place in the transaction.”

The beauty of that, if it’s not obvious, and I’m saying it for people who may be hearing all of this for the first time, is that often in the absence of that framework where we are in a transaction is just simply accidental. I walk into a room and someone may want to inquire, someone may want an idea, someone may want to, “Just let’s get her done.” So there’s all of these competing commitments, but no one oriented to where the transaction is that we’re working on. And the moment that you bring that framework into play, then we all know our role and we can all know get along and move the transaction forward. So it’s a long thing to state, but any comment on all that?

Dan Murphy: Absolutely. Yeah. Actually, you brought up a lot as you were saying that. One of the things that comes to me right away is, earlier you were saying someone’s at a startup or at a company, wondering how can this help them or what’s this all about? Applying transactional competence framework will cause a breakdown in your organization, that when you take care of that breakdown you will find yourself dealing with those things that you talked about, John. You will have no choice. Once you put it into the framework, walking through it, it’s a journey of like self-discovery and learning.

That really what happens is, the solutions, whether they’d be who should be leading the conversation, and where and when, and where are we in the transaction, and how does that map to our business process? Regardless of all of that, the reality is, is that just by having the conversation, things emerge that no one could’ve predicted emerge. And it happens all the time. Something emerges, and we all go, “Ah.” And some inventors, probably you, and Alex and others are really good at… I call Alex the Wizard of Oz, because he always makes you go, “Oh. That’s what it is.” He helps me to see things I don’t see. And as a performer, I love that because once I can see something, I can start to frame it. And so yeah, everything plus more, John, to what you said.

John Patterson: Just add water. Just add water.

Dan Murphy: Just add water.

John Patterson: Just add water. I think I understand the concept. You’re currently working with Hi Marley to have them really succeed, and I know that you love the work that you’re doing with the. And in the big picture of things, the notion that you are an offer of help in the marketplace to help people just add water. So tell us about that.

Dan Murphy: Sure. So I’m really grateful to be at Hi Marley. I do love it. And so right now, that’s my main focus. But what Influence Ecology has helped me do, and what Map is helping me do as I’m close to completing Map, it’s helping me to refine this offer, which is at some point I want to be able to impact even more than Hi Marley. I want to bring this to more than just Hi Marley as a startup. And by the way, my founders and my coworkers at Hi Marley are all excited about this too, so we’re all kind of in this journey together. And the idea is that we want to make it easier for others. We want to take what we know, and we want to find a way to give that to others. So how do we give it away, which is as you know, quite difficult.
And so for me, the framework or the way I think about, I should say the point of view I have when it comes to what I’m trying to do is, I’m trying to grow the organization in a way that can scale at some point by just repeating, and adding, and re-inventing. The self-learning framework is there. The processes are in place. The transactional competence is there. And this team now knows, without me being there, how to continue to just add water and scale it.

So when you’re a Series B or C round comes, and somebody says, “Here’s $50 million,” do you know what you’re going to do with it? That’s actually a great question that founders and people in startups can just ask themselves right away. If you want to start with a simple question, it’s, “Somebody gives you $50 million, what would you do with it? How would you deploy that resource? And how would you know that was the best way to deploy the resource?” Well, I’ll give you a hint.

Transactional competence might help you answer those questions if you don’t how to answer them. That’s it for me around that.

John Patterson: That’s great. All right. Well, we’ve covered a lot of territory. Is there anything else that you’d like to say about your own journey, about any bit of a soap box?

Dan Murphy: One thing I mentioned earlier is that by introducing the transaction cycle, you sort of introduce a breakdown for people, which causes this curiosity and these questions, and it’s all great. What really is happening there is you’re creating an environment of consequence. And so I definitely want to talk to this because I am a little bit passionate now about this. I’ve realized that what makes me stay in shape is my wife holding me accountable. There is some consequence for me there. She does watch me, and she does remind me.

I think one of the questions you asked earlier was about like what’s happening there when that framework’s not there? Well, one of the things that definitely is happening, and probably a lot of people can relate to this is, we live in environments where the consequence is not obvious, or it’s not confronting anyway. And so what tends to happen is, people might take on more work than they should, and they’ve got this really big backlog because they keep saying yes to things because they’re a performer and they want to make people happy. But they keep saying yes, so they pile up this backlog. Well, what does that do? Eventually, you can’t handle it. It’s too much. So then you start to get anxiety, and then you start to behave in weird ways and you operate in weird ways.

An environment of consequence. So I’m going to use this as a simple example, an environment of consequence, where I rarely see this. I rarely see this outside of engineering, is where all my work that I take on and all the commitments and promises that I’m making are visible to everyone, and they can see it and we can all see it. So everyone’s aware when I’m overwhelmed and when Dan needs help, and everyone’s aware when I’m killing it, and I’m killing it and I can help others. But if I never look at the work that’s in process, all the stuff that I’m working on, if I can’t see that, oh my gosh, John. It can be so overwhelming. It could be so ineffective for an organization.

Agile, and part of Agile and part of the mindset and the frameworks was really dealing with that for engineering because it’s huge problem in software and all of engineering. And now we’re taking that. Transactional competence helps us take it outside of engineering and into other parts of the organization. And that’s what we’re doing at Hi Marley. We’re applying transactional competence. We’re applying the Agile framework. We’re leaning safe scaled Agile framework. So I’ll share that with people. We’re not dogmatic about anything. And that’s part about being a learning organization. We’re always willing to adapt and learn. So we have other tools and frameworks that we’re finding quite helpful as well as we build a journey.
And a little bit on Hi Marley, I would like to share, it is my new passion. So we’re building a conversation platform to help our customers transform the insurance experience for carriers, and their customers and all the participants in this large ecology of companies and people. Our mantra is simple, lovable protection. And our mission, our big objective, if you want to call it that, really is to protect people simply, and to transform the way people view insurance and the relationship to insurance in the country, because it’s an extremely important thing. It’s taking care of people in, sometimes, their biggest time of need.

The worst time in your life can sometimes be when you’re dealing with the insurance company, because I’ve just been in a car accident, somebody’s been injured, there’s been a fire in my house. And the last thing you need is to have this difficult, convoluted, complex way of dealing with that problem financially through the insurance company to take care of it. So we want to change that. We want to make it so when you Google insurance is, I won’t say what it says right now, but we want it to say insurance is lovable. So it’s a mission that we’re on, and I am passionate about it. And I do think that we’re going to get there at Hi Marley, and we’re going to help change the world in that way. So it is something that I’m happy to share with everyone.

John Patterson: Dan Murphy, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you for joining me on the Influence Ecology podcast.

Dan Murphy: Yeah. That was really fun. Thank you.

Today’s talk is a small segment of the program we mentioned in our interview called Transactional Competence for Cross-Functional Teams, or TCX for short. This is merely a review of a small portion of the program, and it’s a means to demonstrate some of what Dan and I discussed. Here’s the talk.

John Patterson: In review, rather quickly, now as I review, I’m simply inviting you to look at all of this newly. I’ve been doing this for a decade. I continue to learn from it. And I know many, many smart people do a lot to produce a bit of a beginner’s mind when they’re looking at certain things, oftentimes projects or problems looked at with the beginner’s mind allow you to see things you didn’t before. So as I go through this, I’m just going to invite you to put on a beginner’s mind around transacting, because it seems so fundamental. And it is. And what we’re attempting to point out is, how I might speed these up?

So that means we want to look for holes. That means we want to look for where we may get in our own way and alike. So in Session 1, what we addressed was simply the relationship between ourselves and our environments. Now we didn’t send a couple of ways. One, we talked a little bit about the way in which environments view value, and that you are at work on some initiatives, and that other people will see these initiatives as valued or not, or less see you as valued or not in accordance with the way that you move in transactions. So they may observe you being reliable. They may observe you being rather costly, or if I’m maybe so bold, sometimes you and I are difficult for other people.

So everyone and everything is weighing our value or cost in the environments in which we’re a part. And that’s important because ultimately what we’re attempting to do is to speed up transactions by providing value and lowering costs at every move around the transaction cycle.

We talked about that you’re inseparable from environment. That’s an important feature that we’re going to come right back around to a little bit later. We’ve talked about personality and transactional behavior. And primarily, we wanted to orient you to that in a transaction. You and I tend to show up in certain roles, or as certain personalities or archetypes where we move in a particular way in transactions, and that perhaps we’re even biologically oriented towards a particular way we move in a transaction.

Whether or not we are inventor and we see things primarily through ideas, and frameworks and constructs, or we’re a performer and we see things through relationships, and narrative and story, or we’re producers and we see things rather objectively as some tasks, and processes and the like, or were more of a judge or a skeptic, we see standards and we see the evidence that’s tool required to, in fact, create anything. So these four personalities are important for us to understand for a variety of reasons.

And fundamentally, we wanted to make sure that you understood that as you are moving through your life, as you are moving through your transactions and your career, as you’re moving through transactions within this initiative, that you are going to demonstrate, like it or not, assets and liabilities. You are going to demonstrate, like it or not, some value and cost. And so there is a role or a narrative best fitted for you in transactions.

And as I saw many people report in their study papers when you’re were looking at the last study and we talked about the next session, which was all about the quadrants in the transaction cycle, many of you began to see that there were, perhaps, some things that may stop or slow down, or perhaps there may be something missing in the transaction that if you utilized it, if you began to consider it, if you began to implement it, then you may… I think some of you, I think the most common thing I saw as many of you saw, that there were ideas that would then go to action, perhaps without the accurate thinking required. Or maybe they would go to action without moving from some idea into some strategy or perhaps the very specific tactics.

There were different things that people began to see and notice about what it might provide if you were to move the transaction around the transaction cycle. If you were able to stop and consider, “Well, where are we in this transaction?” And rather than a task list, perhaps if I were to consider a cohesive framework where I asked myself, “Where are we in this transaction, then I could look at this particular model and consider, “All right. Well, where we are, is, we’ve just crafted all of our strategies. Now it’s time for us to move into tactics,” for example.

Doing so often saves a lot of time, energy, money, and so forth, because when people skip some component of the transaction, they find that the people down the line, if you will, the people that follow in the transaction, don’t accept as easily. In other words, they don’t get buy-in down the line. It’s as if they’ve missed a piece, so they’re not able to get the buy-in they require down the line; in other words, around the transaction cycle.

So if I understand that I am a performer, for example, then I would understand that I need to move the transaction into some set of agreements, commitments, contracts and so forth, before work gets done. But if I didn’t do that, if I just got to work, I may not get everyone’s commitment, or agreement, or alignment before we get to work, for example.

And it’s just simple things like that as we move around the transaction cycle to begin to point to, “Aha. Well, I didn’t get that person’s alignment.” “Well, I didn’t get that person’s agreement.” “Well, we didn’t have a meeting of the minds about this thing.” “Ah. Well, we said we’re going to assess this thing and look at the facts and inventory, all of the facts, and so forth but we didn’t, so now we’re stuck launching this thing yet it’s not granted on this or that,” and so forth, all the way around the transaction cycle.

My special thanks to our guest Dan Murphy. In our show notes, you’ll find links to connect with him, and all the links to websites, books or downloads mentioned in this podcast.

The Influence Ecology Podcast is produced by Influence Ecology, LLC in Ventura, California. This episode was recorded December 6th, 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 podcast@influenceecology.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.