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Signals From a Beta World

Niels' Blog on Leadership, Transformation and Learning


Stop the quackery! A robust theory of org power & leadership

Posted: 2014-12-25 | 09:03 by Niels

Much, too much has been said and written about power in organizations, and about leadership. Most of what has been said and written about the subject is utter nonsense. And we know it. Many experts in the field of organizational management and development claim that developing a robust theory of leadership is an illusive, even utopian, undertaking. Others do not seem to care much about theory at all and just repeat the same old prejudices and misconceptions... over, and over, and over. About heroic leaders and their followers, on one side, and the need for hierarchical control. Or about the abolition of hirarchy, and the end of power, on the other side.

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Bye-bye MbO! From fixed to relative performance contracts

Posted: 2014-12-22 | 09:03 by Niels

For decades, organizations of all sizes and from all kinds of industries have curated and perfected management practices such as fixed target setting, target negotiation, planning, budgeting, forecasting, plan-actual variance reporting, incentives-setting, and individual performance appraisal. Now, things are changing: Those practices, usually combined under brands such as Management by Objectives, Merit Pay, or Pay-for-Performance have recently come under fire. If markets and work are becoming ever more dynamic, how can static, annual rituals remain effective and appropriate to improve or even control performance?

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How to buy the Organize for Complexity book

Posted: 2014-12-22 | 09:01 by Niels

You can order the book in English, Portuguese and German - with more languages to come. The book can be ordered through the usual book sellers, such as Amazon, or through the Organize for Complexity website, here!

Crazy. Stupid. Learning. The 2 types of learning and why they matter

Posted: 2014-12-22 | 09:01 by Niels

To organize for complexity also means to organize learning and development for complexity - on the individual, the team and the organizational level. Much has been said and written in recent years about learning in orgs and business schools. But much of the talk has been based on flawed assumptions.

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The new book is coming: "Organize for Complexity"

Posted: 2013-12-08 | 23:59 by Niels

The new book is out! Well, not for everyone, just yet. But in German, at least. And further editions in English, Portuguese and Spanish are on their way!

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After my white paper "Organize for Complexity" became such a success and was translated in several langauges (the last language version, in Franch, has been the most whopping hit so far), I couldn´t help but wondering: "Shouldn´t this stuff become more than just a paper. Is it possible that there´s as a book somewhere in that material well?" And so it happened. Organize for Complexity became a book.With a little help from Pia Steinmann, who had also crafted the illustrations for the white paper a while ago.

"Organize for Complexity - the book" ended up becoming much more than just the white paper in print format. It has about 50 to 60% more content. Special chapters on Leadership for Complexity and about how to kick-start organizational transformation. It has reviewed and more rounded texts. It has all the features of a "normal" book.

Plus: There will be paperback, eBook and "deluxe edition" hardcover editions of the book in all markets. If that isn´t something to look forward to in 2014!

Org Physics: What they are good for

Posted: 2013-04-22 | 15:42 by Niels

Have you ever asked yourself any of these questions?

Why does cost management drive up cost?
Why do orgs waste up to 50% of energy and resources?
Why´s a 1-hr coffee break better than a 100hs training?

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Why do they ask "5 x Why" at Toyota?
What makes Google, Toyota, Gore, Southwest and dm special?
Why is matrix structure a joke?
Why are managers often clueless?
Why is learning so woefully absent from most companies?
Why is project mngmnt largely ineffective?
Why does mapping processes improve nothing?
Why are some organizations far more effective than most?
Why doesn´t org strategy work?
Why are 99% of consultants´ interventions fruitless?
Why do reorganizations end in nothing?
What do organizations and theaters have in common?
What is it that all org charts obscure?
How does #leadership really work?
Why do #change efforts falter and fail the way they do?

Org Physics - Explained:

"Management - a zombie technology!"

Posted: 2013-03-22 | 15:43 by Niels

New podcast interview with Niels Pflaeging by Dawna Jones, recorded in Amsterdam, January 2013. Click here:

New paper: Heroes of Leadership

Posted: 2013-03-22 | 15:43 by Niels

Yesterday, our 14th white paper went online. It has already attracted some attention, accumulating a couple of hundred views on the first day alone. So much more than any of our papers before. I am confident that this is part of the tipping point for the BetaCodex Network.

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The new paper should appeal to everone interested in the history of organizational leadership. To everyone who likes to think about leadership and change. It brings together profiles and photos of more than 30 heroes of the history of leadership.

I hope the paper inspires you to learn more about the heroes, and about the roots of how we think about work, organizations and change.

Because of the visual appeal of the hero photographas, I also put together a VIDEO that complements the paper. It is avaiable from this website and on YouTube and has a nice soundtrack... I look forward to your feedback and to discuss the heroes paper with you!

Handelsbanken published 2012 results today

Posted: 2013-01-22 | 15:43 by Niels

I often talk about Handelsbanken´s pioneering "beta codex" organization model. Today, Handelsbanken published the 2012 results: it is their 40th year running with higher profitability than competitors.
If you want to judge what it´s worth to create this kind of organization, you should take a look at their published results, at

White paper face-lifts and updates

Posted: 2012-12-10 | 15:44 by Niels

We took some time this week to give the BetaCodex Network white papers a well-deserved face-lift, and also updating some of them...

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When we began to write the papers, back in 2007 and 2008, we could not have imagined how wide-spread visual social networks such as slideshare, or Issuu would become. Since then, more sophisticated power point designs have become the standard, and even though we always valued design and aesthetics, some of our papers needed a shape-up in this direction.

More fundamentally, stil, I am constantly surprised how widely finger-print-sized power point cover sheet images have become. It´s a visually viral world, these days! The problem with our papers: Up to now, you would never have been able to decipher the papers´ titles at that reduced scale. So something had to change about the cover desgin.

That´s why we introduced a new cover design for our papers. And while we were at that, we figured that some of the paper´s titles weren´t edgy, and/or short enough, either. Our hit paper "The 3 Structures of an Organization" was consequently re-baptized to "Org Physics - Explained" (how is that for edgy!?). Another, early hit paper "Making Performance Management Work" finally got rid of the superfluous and incorrect term "management" in its name. And the paper "Decide to Change" evolved into "Transformation as Social Movement". Hope you enjoy the changes!
You will also noticed that we made a couple of layout changes and updates within specific papers.

Please let your friends and colleagues know about the papers, and recommend them to anyone interested! Allpapers are available in the PAPERS section of this website as well as on slideshare and Issuu All papers are free to share and we also share the pdf and Power Point files.


"Bye-bye Management": podcast by Agile NYC

Posted: 2012-10-17 | 15:44 by Niels

Check out the brand new podcast with Joe Krebs and Niels Pflaeging on "Bye-bye Management" - which was recorded for Agile NYC in New York:

Niels at Stoos Connect

Posted: 2013-05-10 | 04:43 by Niels

In this fulminant 25-minute talk delivered at Stoos Connect, Amsterdam, early in 2013, Niels offers a tour de force the the history of corporate leadership and proves that management is dispensable, and indeed a zombie technology. Learn here "Why Management is Dispensable":