S11E07: A more effective approach to managing change, with Mark Poppenborg (CEO, Intrinsify)

An episode of The Impact Multiplier CEO Podcast

S11E07: A more effective approach to managing change, with Mark Poppenborg (CEO, Intrinsify)

We're continuing our season on "The CEO Rolodex", Richard speaks with Mark Poppenborg, CEO of Intrinsify, a group of companies that leads businesses towards modern leadership, post-bureaucratic organisational design and purposeful work by advising and educating decision makers in key roles.

Since he founded his first company in 2010 Mark has initiated several more ventures which earned him a name as a doer along with his reputation as a true thought leader.

In this conversation, you’ll learn:

  • Why leaders need to IGNORE individuals in order to respect them fully
  • Why businesses are not, fundamentally, people - and how to think about them instead
  • The influence of context on behaviour, and what this means for change management
  • The importance of a "safe haven project" if you want change to stick
  • The power of "via negativa"

"If I believe an organisation is a controllable machine, I'm going to put things in place that follow that conviction."

Click to Tweet

Resources/sources mentioned:

Join Rivendell, the exclusive group of top CEOs dedicated to transforming themselves, their businesses, and the world. Visit https://xquadrant.com/services/ceo-mastermind/ to learn more and take your leadership to the next level.

Ready for a big leap forward in your own leadership? Elevate your leadership forever with the book Making time for Strategy: How to be less busy and more successful. Buy your book here: https://xquadrant.com/time/

Watch

More of a video person? No problem.

You can watch this episode and discover more videos on strategy, leadership and purpose over on the Xquadrant YouTube channel.

Transcript

Mark Poppenborg
The game turns you into someone who wants to make money and depending on how fair you play with your, with your family, sometimes you're gonna be more aggressive and maybe you take the money your children, and sometimes you're gonna be a little bit more friendly. And I can put you into another game, and instantly you're gonna show a different behavior.

Richard Medcalf
Welcome to the Impact Multiplier CEO podcast. I'm Richard Medcalfe, founder of X Xquadrant, and my mission is to help the world's top CEOs and entrepreneurs shift from incremental to exponential progress and create a huge positive impact on our world. Now that requires you to reinvent yourself and transform your business. So if you're ready to play a bigger game than ever before, I invite you to join us and become an impact multiplier CEO. How do you manage change? This is a question on the lips of almost every chief executive and entrepreneur. It becomes a huge deal. But most people are doing it wrong. Mark Poppenborg is the chief executive of Intrinsify. He works mainly in the German speaking markets. But he's dedicated his life. His career to understanding what makes organizations really tick and how do you change make change happen. And here's this thing. It's not how you think. In fact, you need to ignore individuals to respect them fully. He needs not to think about companies fundamentally as a being people and think about it in a completely other way, you need to really understand how context impacts behavior. In this conversation, Mark gives some really valuable insights and reframes for any leader looking to lead change in their team, in their organization, or across their entire business. So hope you love this conversation with Mark Popenborg.

Hi, Mark, and welcome to the show.

Mark Poppenborg
Hello, Richard. Thank you very much.

Richard Medcalf
So I wanna dive straight in. Ignore individuals. That's your mantra. It sounds like it's something from the borg, or from some, fascist state enduring in in in ignore individuals. That's what that's your recommendation to business leaders. And, again, I know that many of us would think, you know, organizations that hard of organizations, you know, what it's all about an organization is people. And you say, no. It's not. It's not about the people. So so tell me more. Are you really on a secret mission to turn this all into a faceless, a faceless entity. What's going on?

Mark Poppenborg
I think on the surface, I've been criticized for that quite often for saying you have to ignore people, but you forgot to add I mean, I know you consciously did. Forgot to add the second part of the sentence, which is, you can only respect people fully if you ignore them. And that is, that comes from an an insight that is how a context always shapes people's behaviors in my experience and also that's theory driven. So I think, the larger an organization gets, the more the behavior is no longer determined by a person, a person's personality and their characteristics, but a lot more by the context. So the way people behave in their workplace, the targets they follow, the interests they have, the fights they fight the projects they pursue or they try to stop, all those things, also, you know, how how orientated they are towards the customer. Has a lot to do with the surrounding therein, and that is made up of the culture and the explicit rules, the formal structure of the organization.

Richard Medcalf
So let me let me just just check-in with that. So what I'm hearing is that whereas we tend to think, right, that people, they're just a certain way, and this person here is just lousy a customer service or this person here is not innovative. What you're saying is actually that's an artifact of of the organization and not of the person?

Mark Poppenborg
Yes. Exactly. The fir the first thing when someone describes a certain behavior to me is always what could be why would I behave in the same way? Why would someone else behave in the same way? What is the pattern that dictates this behavior? And if we go if we jump straight to the conclusion that it's down to the person, then a object of influence will be the person. We're gonna, you know, we're gonna try to change that person. And I think that's highly disrespectful because we assume that it's down to them to change themselves in order for the organization to change.

Richard Medcalf
Okay. So that's why you know, if you wanna respect people, you need to ignore them. In the sense of saying, don't focus on trying to change them, but look at the the overall context. Right? I'm going with you.

Mark Poppenborg
Yeah. To to try to understand the game that's being played. I I love the game comparison because it's so easy to illustrate. Like, if you play monopoly, say, and you've you've probably experienced this with your family. Like, you you know, you you've almost turned to a different person, don't you? The game turns you into someone who wants to make money and depending on how fair you play with your with your family, sometimes you're gonna be more aggressive and maybe you take the money from your children, and sometimes you're gonna be a little bit more friendly. And I can put you into another game, and instantly you're gonna show a different behavior. And I think this is quite a a lot of people can associate with this, when they change departments or when they go to a different company, they can almost witness how they change personality. As well. They can they can see, or when you go into a different context during the day, if you, you know, if you pick up your phone, you're speaking to your partner, instantly, you you feel like you're someone else to a certain degree, some less, some more. So the context has a deep influence on who we are even, and especially on how we behave. And I think that's often overlooked and is a massive leverage if you compare it to all the personal development programs that are being, you know, just poured out onto organizations. A lot of money being spent often fueling, cynicism and frustration employees.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. That's yeah. So what I'm hearing is is that the, yeah, this is a system at play And and and it's really fascinating because I see it so many times that people are saying, you know what? I just can't get good quality people, right, or I've inherited the team when they're just performing in the certain way. There's a great story that I know. I think it was, who did this? It was a story of navy seals. Right? And they they took 2 teams, in in the in that week of Navy Seal training where you basically it's a nightmare week that nobody gets any sleep They're in groups. They have to do endurance test after test. And and the ones who could the the top team always gets the next exercise off. They get to rest. 10 minutes and get some blessed rest. And the other the losing team each time has to double down due punishment and, you know, extra pressures and everything. And, one team was always coming last and getting, you know, falling even further behind because they're even more tired. And the guy who was basically just allocated amongst his peers to be the leader was like, this not fair. You gave me that, you know, these are losers. You know, like, why have I got the team of losers that this team over here is always winning? Well, yeah, he just got a lucky team. Right? So they swapped over the leaders, and in the very next session, the bottom team came first. Now the top team didn't actually come last because by that stage, they'd already got enough momentum and kind of self understanding to not do that. And I think it's just a really interesting thing that so often we assume the people, whereas actually the context is so important.

Mark Poppenborg
And it's really hard to see that, isn't it? Cause you you can only see behavior. You can't look into people's minds. So you have to you're you're forced to derive your assumptions about people's nature from the behavior witness. And and I think that's a down that can turn into a downward spiral or even a self fulfilling prophecy because if I account for the fact that I think these people are lazy. They don't like working. Don't like taking responsibility, etcetera. I'm gonna put structures in place that account for that belief. Which takes even more responsibility away from them. And that turns into what we are I'm sure you've witnessed a million times in big companies, where we put the reaction to every impression of unresponsible employees is putting in place more measures that lead to central governance. So you, you know, you end up with end up with sales targets, with commission systems with, appraisal systems. And, obviously, they all catch people's attention, and people start orientating their intention towards the inner works of the system rather than looking at what the customer actually needs. And you kind of almost you're creating a a a framework which feeds the belief that you've already had in the first place, and it just becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. It's it's a yeah. It's a yeah. You say it, it come comes to obvious, right, the number of things, like every it's almost like there is a certain level of mid to senior management in a lot of corporations. Whose role or see their role as building this machine, right, these systems to control people. And the problem with that is that machines are great. In a kind of a static environment. Right? But they're very bad at adapting to changing situations. Right? Because they're configured in a certain way, and I think that's what happens in organizations. Right? If you see organizations as organisms, that are evolving and and depending on each other and have got all these interconnections, then things look very different. But I suppose, sounds like politics. Right? Like, lots of people write laws, very few people remove laws. So you end up just with his accumulation.

Mark Poppenborg
I I think what you're saying is it comes up from a place of super important and deep insight. Like, when I started, I I'm one of these guys who came out of uni, and went straight into a small consultancy. So I wasn't I didn't know what I was talking about, that I was advising general managers and what they were meant to do. Right? It was complete disaster. I feel I feel ashamed for it in hindsight. Obviously, I learned more than they did. And my whole upbringing and my whole indoctrination, it's called it, that I got from UNI was organizations are machines, and they're controllable. And in order to control them, I need good governance and central governance. And based on that belief, I was building my entire and we were, you know, as a company, we were building our entire consultancy practice. And that led to the the same results every time. Every time we were going there and trying to build better measurement systems, you know, better KPIs, better processes, and then make people stick to those and completely overseeing that for what you just described as, you know, dynamic environment, new problems that aren't which you can't solve on past knowledge that is baked into rules and processes and checklists and stuff like that requires ideas. So you need a framework in which people can take responsibility It's not just nice for people. It's a it's a necessity for value creation to to to face the dynamic value creation challenges that companies are you know, face with today. And what what we were doing is we were implementing methods on a micro level and and missing the bigger picture, missing that it needs a framework that gives empowerment gives, responsibility to people who make or need to make the decisions on a daily basis. And there's so many little, you know, little, management instruments to take that away all the time. You've, you know, you've got you've got all these project management systems in place. You've got investment planning. You've got budgets to meet. You've got targets to meet. You've got appraisals to to to look forward to or to, to dread. And and all of those things add to the result that we then witness, which is a disengaged workforce that is optimizing within a system rather than towards a customer.

Richard Medcalf
So I think the leadership challenge here, and then we're gonna get into in a minute, I think, into what, you know, your work, and and we can talk very practically about what would you do if you find you organization, you find you have some of these issues coming up. I think we wanna go there. But what I wanna touch with is as a leader, there is a deeper leadership challenge at play. Which is do I wanna be a leader that does the right thing and releases people for impact? Or don't wanna cover my ass and just create predictability to deal with my own inner doubts and fears. And concerns and sense of scarcity. And I really think it's important because a lot of this stuff is like, I just need to control people, have a system, you know, that I can go to my boss so that I can cover my, you know, all this stuff.

Mark Poppenborg
And some some of it's coming from, you know, probably coming from the right place in terms of wanting to improve things, think in both both perspectives, they want to do the right thing. Right? They're coming from good intentions. Yep.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. They wanted the right thing, but it's also, like, a cent, but it's also the sense of Yeah. But, you know, what would happen if, how many rules and companies are implemented for the you know, for the bottom 1%. Yeah. The 1% really disengaged. And the problem is that's not a systems and process issue. That's a management issue. Like, deal with those 1% of people in whatever way, but don't into assistance. It's like airport security. Right? It's like, But there lies a mistake before we get it. But airport security is, you know, 99.9% of people who never shouldn't really never need to do anything on airport security because they're fine. But everyone has to go through it because you gotta catch the the naught point 1%. But in a company, that's not necessarily the case. Right? And actually think of all the friction and and and and problems that we create. So let's kind of, like, let's kind of turn that turn the turn the tables here and go a bit forward. So if I was a leader going, you know, what? Yeah. Like, my I'm not seeing the level of innovation, customer service, ownership, that I want from my team, and I'm starting to think, yeah, if them have challenged me, and and what what would I what could I do differently?

Mark Poppenborg
So I think one One little thing I want to add to what you just said in all before I go into that is that I want to double down on the on the statement. It they both come from good intentions. Right? I think managers are always trying to do the right thing, but we always act from a place of our inner theories. So if I believe an organization or is a controllable machine, I'm gonna put things in place that follow that conviction. So I don't think it's it's necessarily down to people's mindset or that in their emotions, it's more about understanding the mechanics if you if you like of of a system. How will they actually work? If I've got those insights and and, you know, they're they're they're readily readily available, but they're not abundant in management literature, then I can act differently. And what I would suggest is you take a real problem. So a lot of companies start like big projects, agile transformation, digital transformation without actually having looked into the problem that that might solve. On a concrete level. So I would always suggest take a real problem and a real problem I define as something that is either directly or potentially threatening your business? Are you losing customers to your competition competitors? Are you too slow? Is your quality declining? Is your image being hurt, whatever external reference that has a an influence on how your business can perform. And I would address one of these specific problems and ask myself, how can these insights that we just spoke about be explained by a framework that is in place and is encouraging the wrong behavior.

Richard Medcalf
Can I just pick up on that, Greg? This idea of the real problem. I think it's it's it's a key one because I often see people operate in the level of concepts, which you mentioned digital transformation, the concept, innovation is is a concept you know, pay. Right? I mean, these things, we think that we think we know what they are, but until we boil them down to what is the or thing that I want to change. So what what am I seeing right now and the impact that's having? Almost like kind of video film. And then what do I wanna be seeing? And the impact that that's having. And I think here we can make it something. I say it passes the video camera test. Can I actually observe it somewhere? Then we don't fix it.

Mark Poppenborg
Yeah. I like that. Yeah. I like that. I often say, like, if if if, you know, if we get approached by the companies and they've they ask a question like you do, like like you did just now, I would say, but in which department where in your in which product segment where is there a concrete problem that is causing you real, a real threat and and that you need to address why you you know, you you're not sleeping badly because you are thinking about can I implement digital methods? What what makes you wake up too early or not fall asleep, but what's nagging you is that the the very thing that you're gonna discuss at your next board meeting and the one after and the one after, which is really vital to the company, you know, a true problem, as you say. And that's where I would come from. And then one very functional tool that we've played around with it a lot and had a lot of experience, a lot of failures, a lot of successes, is what I call a safe haven project. So you you isolate a certain area of the company around the problem that you're trying to address, the true problem, And by isolating it is almost like you are creating a new playing field in which new, not only explicit, formal structural frameworks can be put in place, but also where a new culture can emerge, because culture is, in in my view, is is always it doesn't stick to the people. It sticks to the context. That's why we experience a different culture when we play monopoly as opposed to playing another board game. So it's, you know, it's a it's a It's a reflection of the system. So if I create a safe haven in which other formal structures can be put in place where I can take away certain management instruments, create a space of freedom where decisions can be made on the operational level, then a new culture can also emerge from that. But in order for that to happen, I need a safe boundary. I need to know as an employee, as I step into this new game, I'm not gonna be stabbed in the back by doing something differently. And and and that that requires a higher level of management buy in creates that organizational border. It's a bit like if you want to I often make this example. If you wanna play if you want people to play ice hockey, on a field hockey pitch, it you can't just ask them to do that and maybe put out put a put out some, you know, a few ice surfaces and and and put some, the probe for closing on them, you're gonna have to set up a new field where ice hockey can actually be played on. Otherwise, you're expecting people to behave in some kind of schizophrenic way, right, because they have to do both at the same time, and that's impossible. So you need to create my opinion, you need to create organizational boundaries. And if you build them around the problem that you're trying to solve, then new behavior can emerge.

Richard Medcalf
Can you give an example, perhaps, from, you know, from your own experience or from a client or whatever that you work with? So we'll be an example just to help me kinda picture this in my own mind of what the safe haven type is in the black.

Mark Poppenborg
Yeah. So client, we had you recently. They were trying to explore new ways of video marketing, and their existing patterns were very, you know, they were very reliable. But also it was the beaten path. You know, everyone was acting upon that. Everything was geared around the way things were done. All organizational practices were the culture was And they were they've been trying to implement these new ideas for quite a while, and they were attached to certain people who had these ideas and were trying to drive them they were running out of fuel every time because they're running against these organizational boundaries. A lot of those boundaries were implicit, you know, were cultural. So what we did is we asked the general manager of that unit to help us create a safe haven project, which means legitimize an area within that business where these employees were able to act independent of what has been practiced in the past, full time, you know, not like a lot of projects are done on the side, which often violates the entire idea of the boundary. So full time, the core team, at least, and there there there only task was to solve this problem. And the problem was we are able to reach more people in a more compelling way if we use different marketing practices. But we don't know how they need to be governed. We don't know how they need to be organized. So we're gonna give you a complete free space in which you can explore that, but the condition is we need results. This is not like a an experiment in which we allow you to just to play around and and then report to the board, and the board makes new decisions. This is an actual live experiment that is that it's it's learning environment is the market. It's not it's not some internal reference. And what they did is they went in they started this project and immediately, and this is very typical, there was a really high friction, right, between existing practices and in this existing environment and that team, there was a high cultural clash. And that's where it becomes interesting because a lot of consultants or managers then want to try to resolve those con conflicts because they think they are a bad thing. But they are inherent to two games being played in parallel. So and what we were able to do is to to comfort the the general manager and make him understand that this is a natural we we could we told him before this is gonna happen. Right? So let the conflict the conflict and it's gonna run out of fuel.

Richard Medcalf
I think that's a key point. Right? It's normalizing the challenges because if people don't expect them, these things to come, they feel like my word, it's going wrong. This is not working. It's being rejected. Whereas our fee people actually know this is part of the process, then you can kind of actually almost look forward to it. Oh, great. We're in this phase now. Great.

Mark Poppenborg
It's a bit like the personal challenges. Right? I think it's similar. You you try to adapt a new behavior, adapt a new behavior, and you you you fight those in a fight?

Richard Medcalf
Absolutely. I was talking with a client yesterday. And before I say this, I'm gonna give his example, but I've been through the same thing this year, myself, right, when we're on the transformational path, when we wanna play a bigger game than we've ever played, when we wanna modify our impact on the type of this podcast, they get to a point where there's something deep in us that needs to shift because the old rules are not gonna apply for us. And we have to always have our own their own safe haven project. And there is a moment when it doesn't seem to be working because we almost but we were changing our game is the same language as actually the one you've you've been using. And it's not working because the old game's no longer working. Because we're breaking the rules, but the new game isn't quite working either yet because we're still in that phase. And I had to encourage him yesterday as I It's okay. You're doing a great job. This is this is actually encouraging because you're gonna get the breakthrough if you keep going in this way.

Mark Poppenborg
Wouldn't be a true challenge, would it, if it wasn't associated with or it wouldn't be a true breakthrough, let's say, a true innovation if it wasn't accompanied by by, friction.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. And, you know, we tend to think, you know, it grows. It's like this. You know, like, I like during the exponential curve. Great. But we know that the reality is like this. It goes back. It it changes, and that's what we need to At least what I find we need to hold on to in those moments.

Mark Poppenborg
Yeah. And that is a leadership capacity being being able to and this is where I feel like theory really helps because if you know this is gonna happen, if you know if you if you understand the patterns of change, it's much easier not to take that on personally. But to distance yourself from that and say, right. This is this is what's actually going on here. I knew this was gonna happen, and I can tolerate it because it's part of the the process.

Richard Medcalf
I hope you're enjoying this conversation. This is just a quick interlude to remind you that my book making time for strategy is now available. If you wanna be less busy and more successful, I highly recommend that you check it out. Why not head over to making time for strategy.com to find out the details. Now back to the conversation.

Okay. So we've got a safe haven project. So we've taken a real problem, got a safe haven project. We've kind of anticipated the the rejection from the system or the challenges that are gonna come up, anything else that you would recommend on this journey?

Mark Poppenborg
I mean, I've I've I've implicitly or or on a in a side note, I've already mentioned one thing that I think is crucial is when you any behavior that w that you witness as a as a, in senior management as a senior manager, I would it's it's a great exercise to sit down and write. And, I mean, literally, write down how can the system that we have in place explain this behavior How could I see this as a result of the framework I've created or at least that I am passively digit legitimizing? You know, I I spoke to, to board members of a bank recently, and we were talking about all these management instruments I was I was listing earlier, you know, all these appraisal systems and and and commission systems and everything. And they hadn't even considered that they are the people who could make a change and, you know, get rid of these or at least amend them because it's such a almost it feels like it's god given. You you know, you climb up the ladder, you end up in in board, in a board, and you you're you start administrating something that's been there forever and that you think will be there forever. But it's those frameworks that you can actually change. So often that the senior management I work with isn't aware of the fact that they can actually influence those frameworks and change them. And it's a much easier route. Than trying to change the people or changing the culture, which is impossible anyway, directly, at least. So I would say it's a great exercise to sit down and explain behavior, not as a consequence of people's motives, but as a consequence of the the context. And then you can selectively play around. You know, you can you can, for 3 months, you can switch off certain instruments and see what happens. I mean, you know, behavior shaping instruments, peep people run after their targets. Of course, they do. The next appraisal is is due. Of course, I'm gonna account for that in my behavior. Of course, I'm gonna act politically if politics are at play. Right? So if it is the more you take that into account, the more clearer you can see why a certain behavior is is, so Xquadrant.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. And and, actually, if you don't do that, you end up as a leader in victim thinking. Poor, me, I can't work this all these people, they're no good. They're not doing what they need to do. Right? Whereas it's empowering to say I can control this system, which is gonna naturally encourage different modalities of behavior. So let me ask you, what would your checklist be, Mark? Right? If you were Yeah. What would be, like, 3, 4, 5, things? Like, okay. How's the system explaining this behavior? What you mentioned targets. That's one thing. Right? Look at targets. What are the things might we want to just consider in that thought process?

Mark Poppenborg
I've got a list, and I've literally got it open here on my desktop background. Because it's such a common topic is, all the little things that are in place that we often we don't we overlook their detrimental impact. Right? So 360 feedback, people think it's great. What I think it creates is a a 20 fourseven observatory, which makes me as an employee constantly pay attention to how might I be graded or judged by my superior, by my peers, and by my, by my employees. Of course, that's gonna have an influence on my behavior. Do I want that? Do I want that uniformity? Do I want to judge people by that criteria? Assessment centers, balance scorecards, cost center thinking, and all that all the, time tracking that's attached to that, signature policies, job title, madness, sales targets, travel policies. You know, you were talking about how often things are made for 1%. I think travel policies are often put into place because someone at some point in time traveled in an unacceptable way And then from there, you build this insane system, right, that everyone has to adhere to. And it the root cause of all of that was one one guy probably bringing you in a 2,000,000 project but flying 1st class. And because it's treated separately in the head, yeah, you got his, that great project, but but he traveled 1st class, and that's That's a bit of scene, isn't it? So we need a rule for that. And then that rule isn't enough, and the next one comes into place. So you asked for a concrete checklist, I would say go through these management practices and ask yourself riggers rigorously. Which ones do we really need? And which ones really help value creation. Let me add 1 and one little thing. And I'm not I'm not suggesting that all of them are bad in Rivendell. What I'm suggesting is that there is and you mentioned earlier, there's a divide in value creation that we often overlook. 1 is I call it routine work, and routine work still requires all that characteristic management approach that we've been so success that's the foundation of our past success. And then there's creative work, which you can only master if all those internal references don't stand in your way. If you can fully focus on what it's really about, and that requires a completely different organizational principle. So it's not that they're generally bad. They're selectively bad. And that's, I think, that's one thing that management can focus on as a first step.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. I think that's a great point. This tension between the creative work that we need to do and then all this kind of, all the structures that we've passed to comply with and and how yeah, does one actually get in the way of the other when. What comes to my mind is this idea of the via negative, right, which is, you know, room success by removal right, success by removing things. And we often don't go there. We think what we need is more, more stuff. Like, a new rule, like, a a meta overall controlling policy for all the other policies we have or something. And, sometimes, right, but probably there's more power by simplifying and by saying, you know, what what what's no longer serving us here? What's actually getting in the way? Yeah.

Mark Poppenborg
I I think CEOs should be applauding their managers by removal or for removal rather than for addition. I I totally agree with you.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. We could, yeah, fascinating. So so, Mark, know that you run a business called Intrinsify that, I guess, does this kind of stuff where it helps companies with exactly this this question. So tell me, like, how what your goals are for that business? You know, how do you want to intensify to multiply its impact? Over the coming years, you know, what what would breakthrough success at the bank for you?

Mark Poppenborg
We've got a we've got a a description of a future state, that that reflects what I what I think you are asking, which is if, if, we operate mainly in the German speaking world. Right? So this the company's based in Germany. I'm I'm I happen to be half English and not live in England, but that's That's just a coincidence, really. And what we see in the future is that if a a management team is reflecting on the way they run their business, and they want to educate their managers on a new way of thinking, then we're witnessing this conversation, right, in the board And one guy says, oh, we should send them to, do you know who's Angullen? You know, the the the famous Swiss management school and or many schools that are based there. It's, you know, in Germany, that's one of the go to places for for management education. What I would love is if after one of the board members has said, well, we should send them there. That's what everyone does, then at least 2 others say, hold on. Have you not heard of intrinsically? You know, that that is that is the the real reference today. That's the institution that you need to to learn from because that's a a refreshing new and necessary view on how organizations should be run. So what we're trying to do is become a bit of authority. And we we are already, fortunately. A lot of people know us at least within the agile scene and the and the kind of, transformational scene. But ideally one day, we will be an authority where it becomes normal to to look for advice, or training, in in, in the in the, you know, in this kind of field of what we call system theory and ideally with us. And we're also trying to push that, but that topic forwards because What we're talking about here is is a lot of his fed by, a theory that is based on a a a German sociologist called Nicholas Luman who passed away in 1998. Not well known outside the German speaking world, but, you know, a lot of the his messages and his insights are in line with, say, what Demings says, for example, you know, 94% of the problems that you have in a system are actually caused by the system rather than the people. It it goes a bit beyond that, but it's, you know, similar outcome. And, we want to we want to advertise that thinking. We want to get people to understand that there's a different way of looking at businesses that is a lot more fruitful, and we can see that in practice. You know, look at WAGOR, look at Southwest Airlines, look at Toyota, if you look at these businesses through this lens, you will find a lot of the stuff that we've been talking about. It's a it's a it's a it's a high performance organizational principle that works in today's dynamic markets. And we're we're just trying to advertise that. We're trying to get that into the world and and get people to talk about it.

Richard Medcalf
Fantastic. And so as you you work on that, to become that authority with that extra reach, over and above what you currently have, What's the personal stretch for you? So how do you what do you how do you need to shift if you wanna multiply your own impact as a leader, right, because we always get in the the way in some sense of our own our own goals. Right? What's if you look inside, what's gonna have to you know, what's the growth edge for you as you multiply your impact?

Mark Poppenborg
I think one of my and we we should be actually working that with a with a consultant ourselves at the moment. 1 of my or hour, but definitely also my, constraints is that we have always been very reluctant to to actively advertise. We've we've always come from that philosophy you know, you you need to you need to farm. You shouldn't hunt. So we produce content and we sometimes become a bit self serving. We we know we We talk about the theory a lot. We love the theory behind it. It becomes a bit circular. Sometimes I think we're not addressing imminent needs that a diss a CEO has or people who make important decisions in a business, we don't understand them enough Although we've worked with them a million times, we don't understand their needs enough, and we always come along this theoretical route. That once they get it, they find very insightful and very useful, and they they can draw a lot of benefit from it for their business. And we've seen, you know, the impact it has but it's a very counterintuitive entry. It's it's it's difficult to to get into this thinking. And I think we're we're not we're doing ourselves a service by by making it too abstract. And I have a tendency to always go down that route despite having worked, you know, in the shop floor many times. And and, and I think we need to be a bit more aggressive might be the wrong word because it sounds too pushy, but I think we can we we we would benefit from taking a few shortcuts on explaining the bigger picture and and rather going straight into, you know, benefits you can draw tomorrow, from from from as a as a decision maker. And and I struggle with that. Like, it's it's I it's almost like a guard that I'm putting up. You know? No. No. No. Hold on. You need you know, do you understand the theory first? You you can't just march off and and and and and go about your daily business. You come back here. You know, we we need to work this out first. And I think that we're standing our own way by by doing that, and, we need we need to reach people's needs more directly.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. It sounds like, sounds like Steve Jobs feeling here. He would need to explain how computers worked before his old one.

Mark Poppenborg
Yeah. Is it a bit like that? No. That's a good I think that's a very good comparison. And it feels, I don't know. It's it's some kind of righteousness thing, you know, I I I want to prove that we have the right theory or something that it makes sense. And it's a probably a pretty deep, floor that I need to overcome.

Richard Medcalf
Well, it's interesting to, yeah, and, again, I'm I'm a sucker for a good theory as well. I I love to kinda go through that in order to then bring focus to my own action, but not everybody works that way. And a lot of people, they just want, like, just show me something that works. Then once they do that, they go, yeah, I'm curious. Why does that work? But it we don't always come from that place. I suppose what I'd be asking you if I was it's very rude to say, well, I'm curious as to, you know, what what what's the system going on with Intrinsify that leads you to continually, continually have that behavior. Right?

Mark Poppenborg
Right. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That would be very legitimate question.

Richard Medcalf
Because you might have an opportunity, but it sounds like it's not just you, right, it's your colleagues as well. Perhaps going that way. So, you know, perhaps you need to, incentivize them to push back against your theoretical instincts or something.

Mark Poppenborg
Yeah. We're getting better at it, by putting, you know, people in place and and giving them more authority to to make those decisions override certain patent that we have.

Richard Medcalf
Here's just a here's an idea. And you, again, what do I have very little background, but one thing I always love to say is, like, sell the experience and not the theory. Right, not the concept. And that's why, you know, whenever I, you know, I try not to talk about what I do. I just say, well, should we should we do swing together, you know, let's just spend a couple of hours together. And then and then you've got the experience of what I do. Rather than me talking conceptually about what benefits might be. And have this link similar? You know, you can say, well, let's have a you know, take this one, this kind of issue. You know, do you have people in your company who have got this issue? You know, they're not you know, one of your video camera issues, and then let's just examine what the root causes of that might be for an hour. Boom.

Mark Poppenborg
Yep. I I 100% agree. Intellectually, I've got to that point. Otherwise, I wouldn't be able to talk about it with you, but the instinct's still override that.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. Yeah. His fascinating is meant.

Mark Poppenborg
Just getting there.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. And and the other thing that's fascinating about this is more general is is because we attach a label to our forehead. And so the way that you show up is the way that you'll show up with with some kind of labels. So in your case, it might be, you know, you know, like, leading edge thinker on this topic or something. Right?

Mark Poppenborg
Yeah. Something like that. Yeah.

Richard Medcalf
And so because you you come with that label, it's like, well, I now need to show that I'm a leading by telling you all about my thinking. And so when we come with that kind of almost professorial identity, I need to show you that I meet with all these other thinkers, management thinkers, or whatever, then probably behavior then falls out of that identity. And it's interesting to say, well, what if that became a tool in the toolbox? There's an over when you can reach in and pull that out. Yeah. There's times when I wanna be this you know, a high end intellectual management thinker. But overall, there's a bigger mission than I'm on, a bigger identity that I want to absorb, and that's now a tool in the toolbox. Be interesting just to think about what that what that other that label would be for you.

Mark Poppenborg
Yeah. I totally agree. And at least it can always be my organization. Right? Because we have different roles. We've got different strengths. So as we grow, it's it becomes a lot easier to, let the people who have a more practical approach shine in the right moment and and use my label when we need it. And what I find so cynical almost about it is that I can obviously use my own theory to explain this behavior. It's, you know, it's it's a bit circular in that sense. Like, what you just said about the label is system theory is is is great in explaining why that happens. So I should be very aware of it.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. Exactly. Great. Well, Mark, it's been fascinating conversation. If you wanna get in touch with you, how do they do that?

Mark Poppenborg
If they if they speak German, they will find it very easy. I have a my English actually sorry. My website is actually also in English, but, I I'm actually planning on starting to publish a lot of my content on Twitter in English, but other than that, most of my content so far, there's a few YouTube videos in English but most of it is is, is in German because I have a cert fairly unique name. It's very easy to find me.

Richard Medcalf
Got it. Perfect. And then your your business, it's intrinsically.com.

Mark Poppenborg
Yeah.

Richard Medcalf
Great. Perfect. Well, Well, it's been a pleasure. It's been a fun, kicking kicking out on some of the theory, definitely. Although, staying actually quite quite practical as well. I think for many leaders here on what might they actually do when they see these behaviors in their organizations and how might this to go about thinking about those, differently. So appreciate it. And, look forward to, following along as you continue to build out entering the fire to being the leading policy in the German speaking world.

Mark Poppenborg
Let's hope so. Thank you very much, Richard.

Richard Medcalf
Well, that's a wrap.

If you received value from this conversation, please do leave us a review. On your favorite podcast platform. We deeply appreciate it. And if you'd like to check out the show notes from this episode, head to expod drink.com/ Medcalf, where you'll find all the details. Now, finally, When you're in top leadership, who supports and challenges you at a deep level, to help you multiply your pact. Discover more about the different ways we can support you at xquadrant.com.

**Note: This transcript is automatically generated.
Please excuse any errors.

Beyond the podcast...

Once you've subscribed to the podcast, why not go deeper and subscribe to the Xquadrant Insider?

This is our complementary email newsletter that focuses on multiplying value and impact at the intersection of leadership, strategy and purpose.  Originally designed for our private clients, we've made this available to a wider audience of high-achieving and purpose-driven leaders.


More from The Impact Multiplier CEO Podcast...

S13E38 “CEO GPT”: How CEOs can harness Generative AI in their own leadership

S13E38 “CEO GPT”: How CEOs can harness Generative AI in their own leadership

S13E37: “Impact investing is broken”, with Brett Simmons (CEO, Scale Link)

S13E37: “Impact investing is broken”, with Brett Simmons (CEO, Scale Link)

S13E36: Is your work interesting, or impactful? with Chintan Panchal (Founding Partner, RPCK Rastegar Panchal)

S13E36: Is your work interesting, or impactful? with Chintan Panchal (Founding Partner, RPCK Rastegar Panchal)

S13E35: How to harness purpose to restructure and grow businesses, with Andy Morris (CEO, Cirencester Friendly Society)

S13E35: How to harness purpose to restructure and grow businesses, with Andy Morris (CEO, Cirencester Friendly Society)

S13E34: How to use ‘story doing’ to create systemic change, with Marci Zaroff (CEO, ECOfashion Corp)

S13E34: How to use ‘story doing’ to create systemic change, with Marci Zaroff (CEO, ECOfashion Corp)

S13E33: Building an ‘impact’ brand (and culture), with Brad Flowers (CEO, Bullhorn Creative)

S13E33: Building an ‘impact’ brand (and culture), with Brad Flowers (CEO, Bullhorn Creative)
{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}
>