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Twenty-Something Theses of Autonomy

I believe in a radically different organization than what exists in the world today. In order to build the new economy (and thus a new world) our ideas of how an organization works must be challenged (“You can’t make an omelete [sic] without nuking the existing social order“). A keystone of this “new way” is Autonomy. In order to get the best results, Freedom is essential. I have begun the process of capturing my theory in my “Twenty-Something Theses of Autonomy.” This list will evolve as I expand on each of these Theses, however, I want to begin the improvement process now by starting a discussion.

Do you see anything obvious missing? What has your experience taught you? Let’s talk.

Twenty-Something Theses of Autonomy

  • Customer Delight Cannot Exceed Worker Delight
  • Fully Engaged + Fully Present = Fully Human
  • Humans Own Outcomes
  • Creativity Seeks Free Spirits
  • Nonlinear Innovation Needs Creativity
  • Innovation Breeds Failure Breeds Innovation
  • Community Improves Results (and Expedites Failure)
  • Fear is the Org Killer
  • Telling Triples Turnover
  • Demanding Delivers Dummies
  • Teams Solve Difficult Problems
  • Autonomy Trumps Hegemony
  • Ivory Towers Are For Wizards (and Look Where That Got Saruman)
  • Only Gamblers Pick Winners
  • Diversity Wins
  • The Best Ideas are at the Market
  • Heterogenous Systems Increase Effectiveness (over time)
  • Simple is Better
  • Maximize Laziness
  • Effort is Expensive
  • Results > Effort
  • Only Results Matter
  • Adults Come to Work
  • Team = Product
  • (Team + Product)^n = Organization
  • Leaders Don’t Manage
  • Results Cover a Multitude of Sins

My Coaching / Facilitation Toolkit

I was asked recently to document what’s I use for my toolkit when I’m at a client engagement. I’ve experimented with many different options and materials over the last year and so I’ll share with you what I’m currently using.

Before I show you the list, I want to share my philosophy that your toolkit needs to be simple, yet flexible. You never know what might happen during the course of a meeting you are facilitating, therefore you need to be prepared for anything. I’ve found that having an assortment of simple, yet highly effective basic materials gives me the flexibility I need to pull off almost anything.

Let’s begin:


Toolbox(es) – I have found using a common toolbox to be a great container for all this stuff. Bonus: it’s tons of fun to carry around and get strange looks from people. A toolbox appears very unusual to creative workers and helps encourage diversity of thought.

I use a 20″ toolbox as my main kit, and a 12.5″ toolbox as my grab-and-go kit.

Both my toolkits

Let’s begin with the small toolbox.

I use this one to facilitate meetings for up to 8 people, like simple retrospectives, or other meetings where I don’t need the full capabilities I have available to me.

12.5" toolkit (link is to a similar, but yellower toolbox)


12.5" toolkit full of stuff


Here are it’s contents:

Dry erase markers in both standard (Red, Green, Blue, Black) and other pastel colors. I walk into unknown meeting situations all the time. Are there markers? Do they still work? How badly damaged are they? Keeping my own set with me ensures I won't be scrambling.

Fine Point Sharpies

Planning Poker Cards

1" Painters Tape (sticks well enough without taking paint off the walls) Good for taping up papers, making grids, timelines

3x3 Post it notes - your most vital creative tool

Poker Chips - Used for coin games, placeholders, other creative ideas. I use these a lot to play simple coin puzzles while waiting for everyone to show up to meetings.

3x5 index cards (blank) - a most essential tool

Drafting Dots - useful for sticking and moving things on a whiteboard or on the wall without tearing the paper when removed

6 sided dice - just for fun and games


The Large Toolbox – I use this for more complex meetings, usually involving some highly creative activities. Enough for 20 people.

Large 20" Toolbox

Large Toolbox - Full of Fun!

The contents:

Star Post Its - Fun, fun fun

1" Painters Tape

1 - 2 boxes of Fine Point Sharpies

Sharpies of Many Colors - Black and White only is boring.

4x6, 3x5 index cards of various kinds

Scotch Tape - Need

Stickers - Everyone loves getting a sticker for doing a good job! Oh, also dot voting.

3x3 Post it notes of many colors - keep things visually interesting

Brightly colored 3x5 index cards - Liven things up!

Pastel 4x6 index cards

Paper Clips - Build fun things, clip things together, the possibilities are endless!

Super Sticky colored Post Its

Foam Sticky Shapes - Unleash creativity

Pipe Cleaners - Build shapes, also helps people focus who need to keep their hands busy during meetings

Rubber bands - shoot people, bind things together


Bonus Material:


Pencil box with Crayola Markers, Scissors, sharpies, pens -- useful for storyboard activities and other drawing fun

Bucket of tennis balls - useful for the Ball Point Game

Misc Games - useful for estimation, taking a break, or other made up fun

Why I became a Certified ScrumMaster

On November 22nd I officially became a Certified ScrumMaster (CSM). I went to my CSM training with Michael Vizdos. I was surprised at what I was able to learn, and the level of conversation was much higher than I had anticipated. To put things in context, we have been using Scrum at Integrum for over 4 years, we have had multiple other CSMs and a CSP on staff, so I figured that I’d heard it all before.

Michael was an excellent teacher, he was engaging, extremely sensitive to the level of knowledge of the other class members and adjusted his content and conversation accordingly. Luckily the other attendees all had some Scrum experience, so we were able to dig into the topics at a little bit deeper level. If you are thinking of taking a CSM class, I would highly encourage you to take one with Vizdos. His experience running and working with large, technical professional service organizations really resonated with me.

So, as the CEO of Integrum, I know that I can never be the ScrumMaster of our team, nor do I want to be. Being a sometime developer on our team is hard enough with the awkward power dynamic of also being “the boss,” being the ScrumMaster would be next to impossible. So why did I spend the money, take two days of my time, and invest so much mental energy into getting certified when I cannot actively take on the role of ScrumMaster?

Part of the answer is, I believe in being well rounded and having a deep understanding of the practices of my company. As I mentioned earlier, we have been using Scrum (and XP) for over 4 years and I feel like I have a good handle on the day to day practice of Scrum. What I wanted to get out of the class was a deeper, more nuanced understanding of why we do the things we do. I’ve read the books, blogs, literature, etc., I’ve talked the talk, and walked the walk, but the one thing I haven’t done is engage in deep conversation about why we practice Scrum, and the role of a ScrumMaster, with someone outside our organization. I want to be sure our practices are mature, and where they are not mature yet, we are taking the right steps and achieving incremental improvements on a path to excellence. We are building a hyper-performance team at Integrum, so we need all the help, training, discipline and experience we can get.

I believe that great leaders, especially when dealing with engineers, also should be practitioners (this is a very nuanced statement, it should not be taken at face value, and perhaps I will address it in depth in another article). I want to feel the pressure, pain, and satisfaction of what I am expecting my employees to do so that I can be a better leader. I also want to be able to apply the principles of Scrum to our entire organization, from sales, to support, strategy to tactics. In order to run the organization under Scrum, I must require of myself an earnest understanding and appreciation of the principles and practices of Scrum.

I am going to be challenging myself to implement more elements of Scrum to how we run the business itself. I can already predict that this is going to be very challenging to the leadership, not because we don’t believe in Scrum, but simply because sticking to the practice of Scrum is difficult. I anticipate we will go through Tuckman’s stages of group development, I imagine some hard conversations being had. We will fail, fast and often. We will talk about why we failed, and how we can do it better next time. We will improve, week after week. Before we know it, we will be more productive, more organized, and more successful than we were a short time before. We will accomplish things we never thought we had the time for.

We will change the world.