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Jurriaan Kamer: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Large Team

The big opportunity is to create an environment and organizational operating system (OS) where teams can mostly synchronize themselves with others. A culture of ‘high autonomy’ and ‘high alignment’, where information, priorities, schedules are transparent. Where teams can self-manage without needing to schedule a meeting or ask a manager. Making this shift requires managers to […]

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The big opportunity is to create an environment and organizational operating system (OS) where teams can mostly synchronize themselves with others. A culture of ‘high autonomy’ and ‘high alignment’, where information, priorities, schedules are transparent. Where teams can self-manage without needing to schedule a meeting or ask a manager. Making this shift requires managers to work ‘on the system’ instead of ‘in the system’.


As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a large team, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jurriaan Kamer, co-author of the business fable “Formula X: how to reach extreme acceleration in your organization”.

Jurriaan is a speaker, organization designer, transformation coach and expert in the field of organizing differently. He is obsessed with modern organizations and how you can transform an existing organization. He is a Partner at The Ready, an organization design and transformation agency focused on the future of work. Through The Ready, he helps leaders free their organization from the rules, habits and mindsets that cause delays, making work faster, more agile, more human and fun.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

At a young age, I started tinkering with computers and the early internet, and started working as a software engineer in my early career. A few years later, I became more interested in how to organize a large engineering team and started studying some of the most fast-moving organizations to learn what makes them special. This is how I eventually ended up doing organizational change work. A few years ago I had the opportunity to go ‘back stage’ at a Formula 1 motor racing team and was amazed with their ability to rapidly innovate and learn. Eventually, this cross-over of business and personal hobbies got a bit out of hand and became a book that I wrote together with Rini van Solingen.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Many years ago, I worked for a company that provided hardware and software for automating game shows (controlling the lights, graphics, vote buttons, etc). These projects were often delivered on tight budgets and short time frames, therefore the quality was not always perfect. Because the show always has to go on, I learned to quickly find creative solutions for any new situation. This is very helpful when dealing with a crisis — you basically have to be agile.

But this can also be pretty stressful if the whole production relies on your system doing a perfect job. During one live game show in Kuwait, I had to tell the director to switch to the commercial break ASAP because I noticed the push buttons we needed during the next game round had failed.

During the break, I had about 60 seconds to solder an electrical connection under the candidate’s desk and get off stage before we were on air again. I can tell you, at that moment in time, I wasn’t enjoying myself!

One lesson from that event is that it is a waste of time to blame the person who made the mistake. Instead, you have to sit down and learn from what happened, and come up with structural improvements. This is a still an important read thread in the work I do.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Most times when people quit their jobs they actually “quit their managers”. What are your thoughts on the best way to retain great talent today?

I’m a strong believer in creating a workplace that creates the conditions for intrinsic motivation. A workplace culture where the ingredients of autonomy (“I am able to decide how to do my work”), mastery (“I do something which requires skill and I am stimulated to get better over time”) and purpose (“I do something that is meaningful to me and I care about”) are available in abundance.

How do you synchronize large teams to effectively work together?

The big opportunity is to create an environment and organizational operating system (OS) where teams can mostly synchronize themselves with others. A culture of ‘high autonomy’ and ‘high alignment’, where information, priorities, schedules are transparent. Where teams can self-manage without needing to schedule a meeting or ask a manager. Making this shift requires managers to work ‘on the system’ instead of ‘in the system’.

On top of that, hold a regular (ask me anything) meeting where the leadership team can share the wider context of what is happening and share what they feel should be the strategy and priorities.

Here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your personal experience, what are the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Team”. (Please share a story or example for each, Ideally an example from your experience)

In our book Formula X, we teach the FASTER model, which I think are very applicable to this question:

  • Focus & clarity: having a clear and inspiring goal so people know what is the right thing to do. As leaders, overcommunicate what is and isn’t important.
  • Accelerate decisions: move away from top-down decision making and leverage modern decision-making methods that emphasize progress over perfection.
  • Simplify: get rid of unnecessary rules and bureaucracy, instead manage our organizations on a trust-first basis.
  • Team engagement: creating the conditions for intrinsic motivation and ownership, as discussed above.
  • Elementary physics: applying age-old lessons, focussing on effectiveness (impact) instead of efficiency and resource utilization.
  • Rhythmic learning: creating a well-designed meeting rhythm that promotes continuous improvement, reflection and information sharing.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

Start asking people what is in their way to do the best work of their lives. Then listen and then help them to get rid of those blockers. And never stop doing this.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

How about a movement that gets rid of human suffering in the workplace, where we encourage people to speak up and push back when things don’t make sense, leading to positive change for everyone involved. I’d love to promote the concept of “intelligent disobedience” in the workplace.

[From Wikipedia: “Intelligent disobedience occurs where a service animal trained to help a disabled person goes directly against the owner’s instructions in an effort to make a better decision. This behavior is a part of the dog’s training and is central to a service animal’s success on the job.”]

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

One of my favorites is a quote by Mohandas Gandhi: “Speed is irrelevant if you’re going in the wrong direction.” In my childhood, I developed a pattern where I would always work really hard. So in quieter times, I would always say yes to a lot of projects, even if they weren’t really good fit for what I was trying to achieve long-term. At one point this almost leads to burnout, so I had to really reconsider what I was doing and why.

I also see the same pattern in organizations, where people always super busy but don’t really know what they’re trying to accomplish and don’t want to spend the time to sit back and reflect. I always recommend rooting every activity in some vision of what we want the organization to achieve. It is not so much about picking the perfect strategy, but it is about picking the dent you want to make on a 3–5 year time horizon, then focusing the efforts in the organization towards that intent, and then continuously steering and pivoting to learn what helps us achieving it and what moves us further away from it. Don’t do everything at once, but do one thing first, then decide to do something else.

Thank you for these great insights!

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