05. Jul 2024

AccsoCon 2024 – People Business

This year's AccsoCon took place on June 14 and 15. Julianna takes a look back at the conference day presentations for us.
Managing Consultant


Dr. Julianna Katona

20240705 Accso Con Recap Header

Bar Schwartz: Learning for Agile from Extreme Crisis

Bar Schwartz described the actions taken after the attack on Israel on 7 October 2023 as an example for an extreme crisis: A support line was instituted to provide reliable information on the situation as well as practical support for the ensuing difficulties. It started locally, expanded globally, was focused on direct support and provided a space for discussion.

In a world dominated by multiple crises – economical changes, climate changes, digital future, pandemic and a war on talents as a future of work - we should consider what we can learn from the instinctive reactions in this terrible crisis.

Within our daily work we encounter similar problems: How to provide clear and concise information, how to decide quickly and nevertheless accurately, how to support our colleagues and customers.

Centralized communication channels should be provided for clear, consistent and timely information. They should be started at team or department level, then expanded organisation wide (e.g. intranet) with a focus on direct support and enhanced by a space for discussion.

Centralized decisions, however, are a double-edged sword in a crisis: While they are effective on a decision level it is difficult to align everyone. Therefore, the decisions should be delegated to the people who are most involved and depend on their experience level.

On the other hand, different support channels should be offered to address individual needs, contact persons for therapy or coaching, courses for effective coachlike conversations, safe persons within the company.

To sum up: Think globally, act locally, listen to every voice!

Manuel Pais: Playing Tetris with Cognitive Load

Statistics show an alarming tendency to cognitive overload and resulting mental stress of employees in agile teams. It is therefore vital to lessen the strain. We propose to use strategies from playing Tetris as a starting point.

The first essential point is to have a clear team mission. A team is drifting without a stable mission. On a larger scale it is also important to have a tribe mission for several teams working together. Tribes should be aligned along value streams. The underlying team structures can be further explored on the website  https://github.com/teamtopologies. There, you will also find guidelines to identify value streams and domain boundaries, the Independent Service Heuristics (ISH). The size of a tribe is best limited to Dunbar’s number between 100 and 200 for the size of social networks.

The team cognitive load is defined as the total amount of mental effort a team has to make. It is influenced by several factors: Intrinsic factors like the skills of the team members, the environment as an extraneous factor, and the domain focus as a germane factor.

The first step in taming cognitive load is to assess it taking into account team and work characteristics, work practices and processes as well as the work environment and tools. On the website  https://github.com/teamtopologies you will find also a tool to assess team cognitive load. 

The size of software services or products should be limited to the cognitive load a team can handle, i.e. the capabilities of a team are crucial in defining software/ subsystem boundaries.

Defining adequate team topologies and fundamental topologies is the next step in reducing team cognitive load. A combination of streamlined and platform teams is the most effective way to manage cognitive load at scale. Teams which build subsystems requiring specialized expert knowledge should be kept at a minimum.

The mode of interaction between teams is also important and should be carefully evaluated. The three core interaction modes are collaboration, Software-as-a-Service and Facilitating, resulting in different degrees of dependency.

Using these techniques team cognitive overload can be successfully managed.

Gabriel Opoku: Hands-on Workshop: Team Dynamics

Using the example of designing an app which helps human beings to sleep we could experience the characteristic features of teamwork. A clear goal or vision is essential, you should create a safe space for your teams and promote autonomy, provide resources and the necessary support, encourage collaboration, recognize the work, empower the team by feedback and lead by example.

The tactics to achieve this goal were:

  • Icebreaker Activities: The first task was to agree on a name for the team. During this discussion we got to know our teammates better.
  • Group Discussions: In an easy and friendly atmosphere, we could develop some design ideas for our intended app.
  • Interactive Sessions: Interaction with prospective customers was simulated by the real Gabriel and an AI-generated duplicate Gabriel.
  • Feedback Loops: The feedback was a refined task definition, to design an app especially adapted for a luxury loving clientele.
  • Empowerment: The necessary material for discussions and brainstorming was provided in the form of whiteboards, pens and paper.
  • Reflection and Action Plans: Some teams presented their ideas eventually in the plenum.

Depending on the team widely divergent ideas were proposed at the end: Some focused on what would be most conducive to sleep, some on more extravagant features, some had more ideas how to make the customers pay for different services.

Sebastian Wolf: How to stay healthy working in a complex and dynamic environment

In this century, working with a computer has led to increased problems with high blood pressure, orthopaedic complaints such as back pain and exhaustion-related illnesses such as burn-out and tinnitus.

Sebastian Wolf therefore wondered: How can we design our work in such a way that our health does not suffer?

Two factors are relevant for high blood pressure: on the one hand, age, and on the other, anger at technology or other people. We can influence only anger by building up the necessary skills to master the technology and by working in a congenial working environment to minimize annoyance at others.

We can also counteract orthopaedic complaints such as back pain caused by sitting for too long: Height-adjustable desks make it possible to switch quickly between sitting and standing and provide relief for the spine through variety. Unfortunately, surfing the internet also leads to a certain greed for new information or images, which can result in staying in one position for too long.

We can also influence the factors for burnout to a certain extent. These are five areas of life:

  • Relationships
  • Work (job, household, shopping)
  • Finances
  • Location
  • Health

We should maintain as few bad relationships as possible, look for a job that meets our needs and take care of our health. It is notably advisable not to work against your biorhythm. An occasional power nap can also go a a long way towards preventing exhaustion.

Niels Van Quaquebeke: The Now, New, Next of AI in Organizational Leadership

How can AI support the management of an organization?

At the end of the day, Niels van Quaquebeke used a current example of a clothing company to show how AI can be used successfully in management. Middle and lower management positions were eliminated and replaced by an app that shows employees the work that needs to be done. This app has been well received because employees have a better overview of their work, can organize teamwork better and experience more fairness thanks to the algorithmic allocation of tasks.

Can the findings from this example be extended to other areas? Can essential human needs from motivation theory such as autonomy, competence and relationship be conveyed by AI?

Based on employees' skills profiles, an AI can suggest suitable tasks and make proactive suggestions on work topics.

In interactions with chatbots, studies have shown that AI is rated more empathic than real people. This can reinforce a feeling of connection. The problem is that the evaluation depends on whether you know if you are talking to an AI or a human: If the test person knows that he or she is talking to an AI, the interaction with the chatbot is rated lower.

Due to limited human resources and a lack of managers, the use of AI is also likely to be expanded for management tasks. Companies cannot ignore this opportunity to increase productivity. Human beings can concentrate on setting goals and guidelines for the company in their management tasks and perform tasks such as drawing up detailed work instructions or documentation much more effectively with the help of AI.