You probably don’t have to look very far to find people facing problems in their personal life or at work. They find themselves in a challenging situation and struggle to find a way out. Often times they are too focussed on all the negative things that are happening.

Attempts to solve the problems, even when acting with the best intentions can end up having the opposite effect, leaving the person feeling worse. One of the most valuable things you can do as an individual is to counterbalance that negativity. First, we need to understand how the negativity is created and sustained before we can break out of it.

A few years ago, one of the teams at my company was struggling to keep up with the delivery of their project, with tight deadlines to be met. the Product Owner, new in the role, was under a lot of stress from the demands of the Account Manager. The Account Manager was adamant in meeting deadlines for the client and was continuously applying pressure to the team. Stuck between the demands of the Account Manager, and the development team not keeping up, the Product Owner felt overwhelmed and spent their days keeping busy with low priority work. They shied away from hard decisions and complaining about the unfairness of their situation to other people at the office.

The situation worsened as time went on, until one of the senior managers became aware of it. After talking to the Product Owner they decided to help out by creating a delivery plan to have more alignment between the Product Owner and Account Manager. And so, Product Owner felt an immediate sense of relief. The intervention of the Senior Manager seemed to have taken off some of the pressure coming from the Account Manager. However, the relief was short-lived and the Product Owner quickly started feeling even more insecure. 

I believe it’s safe to say that we have all found ourselves in situations where we felt trapped and without a way to move forward. In the end, we think of all the reasons and people responsible for our misfortunes. We just hope that someone would finally do something, anything about it. Or maybe you are the one finding yourself having to constantly step in and take over the situation to get to a positive outcome.

Stephen Karpman describes these situations in his Drama Triangle. Let's take a closer look at the various roles at play.

The Drama Triangle



In our story, the Product Owner falls into the role of the Victim. They feel as though things happening to them are largely out of their control, leaving them feeling helpless and disempowered. They feel trapped and unable to act on their own, avoiding facing the necessary challenges, looking for someone or something to get them out of that situation.

The Account Manager takes on the role of the Persecutor. They are the perceived cause of the Product Owner taking on the Victim Role, and being helplessly trapped in that situation. The word “perceived” is key here. The Victim might view the Persecutor as the source of their hardship and misery, but that doesn't mean it's true. While the Persecutor in our story is a person, this role might also take the form of a specific situation. For example, it might be a co-worker, a boss, a spouse, or a parent. Or it can be a situation like a deadline, the realisation of not meeting your target, financial struggles or even a natural disaster.

The final piece of the Drama Triangle is the Hero role, also called the Rescuer or Saviour. The Hero intervenes on behalf of the Victim in an attempt to save them from the Persecutor, much like our Senior Manager created a delivery plan for the Product Owner. This role of the Hero is tricky because initially, it might not seem like there's anything wrong with stepping in and fixing things. However, the result is that the Hero reinforces the Victim attitude. Their actions underline the helplessness and disempowerment of the Victim and reinforce the perceived persecution.

While the Senior Manager created an initial feeling of relief for the Product Owner, who was grateful for their help. In the end, the Product Owner was left with a deeper feeling of self-doubt and anxiety for the next project. Wondering if someone would need to step in yet again. Like the Persecutor, the Hero can either be a person or a situation, like winning the lottery.

As you can see, all three roles are closely related and keep reinforcing each other. Continuously showing up as a Persecutor reinforces the Victim stance, and a Victim will continue to wait for their Hero. With time, these behaviours create a downward spiral of unhealthy dynamics.

Luckily, it’s possible to break this downward spiral and replace it with a much healthier alternative.


The Empowerment Dynamic



In his book “The Power of TED” David Emerald describes a response to the Drama Triangle called the Empowerment Dynamic, and dives into how we might make the switch to it. As with the Drama Triangle, there are three roles.

In place of the Victim, we have the role of the Creator. A Creator, rather than feeling helpless, realises that they have much more power and possibilities for action. They are able to choose a response to their circumstances and can find a way forward. They are focused on opportunities rather than problems, and are motivated by passion and their enthusiasm about bettering their situation and themselves. For example, our Product Owner might have sought input and collaboration with the Account Manager, or proactively gotten some advice from senior management.

The role of the Persecutor now becomes the Challenger. As a Challenger, the role is about triggering the Creator's ability to make things happen. They might encourage them to learn new skills, make difficult decisions and do what's necessary to get the desired outcome. They surface possibilities for the Creator to grow, like an Account Manager, highlighting risks and communicating needs transparently with the Product Owner.

In the final role, the Hero becomes the Coach. A Coach, instead of fixing or solving things for the Victim, sees people in charge of their own actions and the owners of their outcomes. In addition they facilitate personal progress and offer support by showing pathways, offering perspectives and giving advice. In our story, this is where the Senior Manager could have made a real impact, by providing the Product Owner with the tools and knowledge required to build their own delivery plan.


Making the shift to empower your team

Like in the Drama Triangle, all three roles of the Empowerment Dynamic are closely connected and reinforce each other, but they create much healthier dynamics. Luckily, making the shift can be initiated by any of the three roles.

Starting to show up as a Creator will eliminate the perception of a Persecutor by acknowledging opportunities and challenges. This redefines the role of the Hero since there is no one to be rescued. Rather someone in need of support and perspective. As a Challenger, constructively surfacing opportunities and triggering growth will not leave people feeling like powerless Victims needing a Hero. Moving away from Hero behaviour to a supporting coaching approach will empower people to own their own actions and outcomes. Helping them see their perceived Persecutor as an opportunity to grow.

Whichever role you might be playing in a Drama Triangle, shifting to a healthier dynamic starts with a realisation. Only you can change your own thinking and behaviours, and that it needs to be a conscious choice.

If we want to change something about our lives, we need to start thinking and acting differently today. Rather than wait for situations or people to change tomorrow.

Having worked with many different leaders and teams over the years, I’m aware that recognising the detrimental patterns of the Drama Triangle can prove to be difficult while being in the midst of it. It can be even more difficult trying to make the shift to the Empowerment Dynamic without support. At Radically we help leaders and teams recognise harmful dynamics and support the shift of mindset and behaviours, to create an outcome focussed, collaborative culture.

We have all been in meetings that don’t seem to have any purpose. You attend because you were invited and felt you should go but find the purpose of the meeting isn’t clear and the meeting itself doesn’t create any meaningful outcomes. Sound familiar? The POWER start technique results in better meetings and better outcomes.

Meetings are an essential part of work, but poor meetings are a chronic waste and can drastically hamper organisational performance and agility. This post shows you how to use the POWER start technique to keep your meetings focused, meaningful and valuable.

In our Facilitation class, we teach a technique called the POWER start. It is a simple framework, originally created by the Agile Coaching Institute to help keep meetings focused, well planned and delivering quality outcomes.

The POWER acronym stands for :

  • Purpose – what is the overall purpose of the meeting? Why is it necessary?
  • Outcomes - what outcomes do you aim to achieve in this meeting?
  • WIIFM – What is in it for the attendee? Make it clear why they should attend. One useful approach is to make it clear what they will miss out on if they don’t attend.
  • Engagement – what techniques will you use as a facilitator to keep the participants engaged?
  • Roles and responsibilities – who is going to do what in the meeting? Are you facilitating? Do you need a scribe?

How to use the POWER start technique

The POWER start helps you plan, structure and run your meeting effectively. Here is how it works. In this example, we use our simple template (download here).


Write out the purpose of the meeting in one simple paragraph. Try to use no more than three sentences and use plain language.  The point here is to make it crystal clear on why the meeting is needed and the general topic of what will be discussed. Make it clear if you intend on making a decision at the meeting.


What are the key things you want to achieve in the meeting? What will be the result that occurs from people attending this meeting?

It is critical to get this part right. People typically avoid meetings because they don’t see value in them. You need to address this by painting a very clear picture of the intended outcomes and the benefit of them attending. Otherwise, why should they care?


People will not attend meetings if they can’t relate the meeting to something that is important to them. Obviously, this is not what you want.

Start by thinking about what your attendees are trying to achieve and how this meeting relates to that. What’s important to them? What might they want to get from the meeting? By taking a few moments to map this out, you can achieve a significantly better outcome.


Engaging meetings don’t feel like meetings. They draw you into the topic and encourage healthy participation. To achieve engagement, you need to prepare well.

We work off a simple rule of thumb – for every hour of meeting you need one hour of preparation.

Sounds like a lot of effort, right?  Yes, it is more effort, but what we are after here is quality over quantity. Think about it his way.

If you have 7 people at a meeting, and their average hourly cost is $100 per hour, that is $900 (including you). If that meeting fails to reach a quality outcome, there will likely be a lot of extra emails, phone calls and discussions required. You might even need another meeting.  The cost of that can be significant. If you spend one hour preparing for the meeting, the maximum cost of that is one hour of your time - $100.

To create engagement, design activities to help achieve outcomes. For example

  • to rapidly engage everyone to create ideas: 25/10 crowdsourcing is a great technique
  • if you would like to vote on a series of options, dot voting is a powerful technique.
  • to generate quality ideas, faster than before and include everyone, 1-2-4-ALL is a great technique.

One critical consideration when planning the meeting is whether there is any information you would like attendee to read in advance.  This might be a report or similar background information.

Finally, make sure you have the agenda displayed, with timings, in an easy to read, graphical format. This will help you keep everyone focused and on schedule. A flip chart is ideal.  You may also choose to share the agenda in advance.

Roles & Responsibilities

Finally, consider the roles and responsibilities of the attendees. Are you facilitating the meeting? If you need to participate in the content of the meeting then it might be better to engage a facilitator. Who will be capturing actions and outcomes? Are there any subject matter experts required? Who will contribute? And who will schedule any follow-up meetings required? These all are important before, during and after the meeting.


The POWER start is an excellent way of making meetings powerful, engaging and fun. Over time you will find people want to attend your meetings as they deliver results in a collaborative, engaging way.  And by achieving clear outcomes you may even be able to reduce the number of meetings your organisation needs.

POWER starts are one of the techniques we teach during our amazing Agile Team Facilitation course. We also help attendees learn how to work with difficult behaviour, how to facilitate for full participation and how to work as a servant leader to help guide your team to quality outcomes. We would love to see you on the next one.

Many organisations have adopted agile but how many ask the obvious question: What is the ROI on our investment in Agile and how will we measure it?

There are two ways I’d like to explore this topic: from the perspective of delivering an initiative (a product or project) with agile, and from the perspective of scaling this to an entire organisational (Enterprise Agility).

The ROI of Agile Delivery

fast agile

On a project or product level, the ROI on agile is without doubt orders of magnitude greater than traditional methods. There have been a number of studies, the most notable by the University of Maryland, all of which provide extremely compelling evidence.

The University of Maryland study found that agile projects were 20 times more productive, had five times better cost and quality and had a 7 times earlier breakeven point. Furthermore, agile projects had an 11 times greater ROI, 11 times higher NPV, and a 13 times higher ROA when expressed as a percentage.

This research has been backed up by several private studies.  Without doubt, the ROI on agile projects is compelling and an order of magnitude improvement over traditional methods.

The ROI of Enterprise Agility

Naturally, this has led companies to want to scale these benefits beyond single initiatives and reap the organisation-wide benefits. Who wouldn’t want significantly improved breakeven, ROI, time to market, quality and NPV – and the ability to change course as required!

At an organisational level, the ROI becomes harder to measure. This is because Enterprise Agility is about improving the entire system for all future outcomes, not just one specific project. In other words, this is a core infrastructure investment, and these types of investments take many years to pay off.

An investment in Enterprise Agility tends to yield the following benefits:

  • Customer engagement – putting the customer front and centre of our efforts and testing the validity of our assumptions by regularly releasing work and obtaining their feedback.
  • Better solutions - when complex problems are solved by interactive, cross-functional teams, the solutions tend to be more robust and of higher quality. This is because we have taken in many different perspectives on the problem – technical, sales, marketing, quality, commercial, operational, plus we have baked quality in from the outset and tested it every iteration.
  • Culture and engagement - the research on intrinsic motivation is compelling – when teams can shape the work and work in a self-directed way, engagement, creativity and productivity go through the roof.
  • Adaptability – the ability to continually adapt our strategic direction, based on evidence of what we see in front of us. Agile brings transparency and empirical data. We can use this focus on only what is important and limit having too much work in progress, thus creating the ability to pivot.
  • Value - When the above four benefits are combined, we can focus on only delivering what is of value to both the customer and our business. While this seems obvious, what is often overlooked is our ability to cull a significant number of features we assumed customers wanted. Research into feature usage shows customers often only use 25-50% of the features delivered. Imagine if you could cut your investment in features by 50%!
  • Reduced Total Cost of Ownership – TCO accounts for the lifetime cost of the product, including maintenance, enhancement, and support. In many cases, this accounts for 60-90% of TCO, making the development cost looking minimal. By only developing features customers care about, we can repurpose investment into more product places.
  • Market share – combining all the above effectively tends to result in increased market share and eventually market dominance if done well.

Clearly, these are all long-term investments in the infrastructure of our businesses, based on designing it for agility.

ROI on this sort of investment take years to measure, not months. But this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t measure it. On the contrary.

One useful approach for measuring the ROI of Agile is Evidence Based Management (EBM). Many organisations lose sight of the real goal of agile ways of working as they get stuck focusing on improving activities and outputs instead of business outcomes.  Agile is a means to an end, not the end itself! EBM helps prevent this by focusing on the value delivered to the organisation from an investment in agile. This enables organizations to make rational, fact-based decisions, elevating conversations from preferences and opinions to empirical evidence,  logic, and insight.

If you are interested in EBM, please contact me.

Otherwise, you may find the approach and the metrics as a useful way of considering how you are going to measure your Return on Investment in agile.

Good luck!

Many organisations are embracing agile ways of working in an attempt to build faster, more customer-focused and resilient organisations. They are redesigning themselves to create a culture where decision making is transitioned away from middle management towards those working with customers at the coal face. Ultimately, they seek engagement in order to create a culture where staff are empowered to truly delight customers. Autonomy is the critical ingredient; however, autonomy is often misunderstood. Many organisations think they just need to increase autonomy, however they forget to include the counter-balance of accountability, often with disastrous results.


Too Much Autonomy too Quickly

Recently, many senior leaders have shared with us a worrying concern. It is happening so much that it is becoming a pattern. They are telling us, often with hushed voices, that they feel they cannot ask important business questions such as “when do you think this will be done?” or “how is cost tracking?” or “will we hit our launch date?”. When they do ask these questions, they get proudly shunned and told that that these questions “aren’t agile”.

Perplexed, they feel stuck. Do they go back to their old ways and demand answers (which they know will be fabricated anyway)? Do they dare mess with the new agile culture and risk being seen as “a manager”, the evil conspirator who is secretly trying to stop agile and control everyone? Or do they try to manage the business without the vital information required to make decisions? The end result is managers on tip toes.

The problem is that they have increased autonomy without increasing accountability.


One firm wanted to increase autonomy by empowering their people to put forward initiatives that would be funded based on their ability to help deliver the strategy. The “how” (the execution of initiatives) would be entirely up to the proposer, giving the teams freedom and flexibility to focus on delivering the best outcome as the work progressed.

All sounds awesome right? Unfortunately, it wasn’t, as year after year they encountered the same problem: 9 months into the year they would run out of money and the entire organisation would then go into a capital freeze for the remainder of the financial year, causing significant disruption.


Firstly, those leading the initiatives were not being held accountable for actually delivering something of value. They were given a chuck of money at the beginning, based on forecast delivery of a business outcome. The intent was to give the teams autonomy, however without the counter-balance of accountability for how the investment was being spent, the teams failed to deliver.

The root cause was that they were still running a traditional governance model that didn’t understand agile. The teams weren’t being held to account to deliver “done” increments of value every iteration. This resulted in the illusion of progress (“we are doing iterations therefore we are be doing agile!”), however nothing could be shipped to the customer. The catch-up stabilisation and integration required a lot more budget.

The lesson – they decentralised decision making and control to provide autonomy but failed to establish the corresponding accountability. They went from centralised accountability, to no accountability at all.

Another firm wanted to embrace agile in order to build highly autonomous teams and attract the best talent in the market. They rapidly “delayered”, removing most middle-management positions and set the teams forth on a journey of self-organisation. Teams were taught new ways of communicating, sharing and collaborating. Each team had a facilitator – a servant leader who would help them teams as required.

Again – seems awesome doesn’t it? However, when the CEO asked how many more iterations would be required to deliver the release, she was shocked to find the teams had no idea. Nobody knew whether this was on track nor did they know cost to date and forecast completion cost. Again, they went from a small group of managers being accountable, to nobody being accountable in the new approach.

Cupcake Agile 

Sadly, we often encounter this and the frustrating thing is that this is not (in our opinion) professional agile at all. One senior leader we talked to called it “Kindergarten Agile”, another “Cupcake Agile” and yet another “Jazz-hands Agile”. It is often the result of well-meaning people who simply lack the business acumen to understand the implications of changes they are suggesting. They recommend autonomous squads, that team have lots of fun and we will measure success by team happiness.

Agile for autonomy

Balancing Autonomy with Accountability

Agile is based on transparency. When we have transparency, we can see what is going on change course accordingly. Accountability is very specific – in Scrum the Product Owner is accountable for value, the Team is accountable for delivering done increments and the Scrum Master accountable for the process.

Governance remains vitally important. It doesn’t disappear, it just changes, typically from a classical model where the focus is on schedule, scope, budget, quality and risk, towards a modern model that focuses on value, risk, learnings, and then the next optimal move.

Management remains important too. It doesn’t disappear. It just changes from a role that allocates work to people and then manages their progress, to a role that focuses on growing people, providing honest feedback and coaching them.

Business questions such as “when do you think this will be done?” or “how is cost tracking?” or “will we hit our launch date?” are completely fair and valid. The difference is that we are moving from a world where we pretended to be able to know all of this upfront and would lock it down in a plan and then govern to that plan regardless, to one where we accept we don’t know it all up front and instead forecast these factors and continually update the forecast as we progress, enabling regular changes in direction based on the information at hand.

Don’t accept Cupcake Agile. Yes, autonomy plays a critical role in reshaping our workplaces, but don’t forget to balance autonomy with accountability.