Beekeeping and Organizations

Jan 12, 2024 3:31 pm

Happy Friday!

Last week, I didn't send my normal newsletter out because I was in Louisville, Kentucky, at the North American Honey Bee Expo.

It was pretty wild.

There were talks and a massive vendor floor where you could buy everything from bee-themed kitchen towels to industrial honey-processing equipment.

I wanted to write a bit about some of the things I learned about beekeeping and how it relates to how I work with organizations. Specifically, I want to write about queen bees.

The queen bee's main job is to lay eggs. They don't actually control much of anything in the colony, which may be a surprise to what a lot of people believe. She spends her time laying between 800-2000 eggs a day. She is attended to by many different worker bees that provide various functions from feeding, grooming, and maintaining temperature.

The queen also releases a unique set of pheromones that do something interesting. They help bees identify their home colony and give the colony a unique identity.

To a beekeeper, this identity is observable when they open a hive to inspect it. The colony's unique identity is expressed in its temperament and activity.

Most beekeepers prefer a "gentle" temperament and seek out queens that provide that identity to their colony.

As a consultant or a new hire, we get to be like the beekeeper inspecting a colony. We get to see what's going on from an outside perspective. We see the temperament, activity, and how people respond to stress.

In beekeeping, if I want to change the temperament of my bees, I replace the queen with a new one. If I'm serious about my bees, I will breed and raise queens so I have greater influence over my colonies instead of buying from someone and hoping it works out.

In organizations, on the other hand, there isn't a queen that controls the temperament. It's an amalgamation of many things. This makes it hard to pinpoint why things are the way they are. At the same time, it makes it easier to create pockets of something different. The fact that there is no one dominating factor means you can carve out something new from the inside out.

Most agile adoptions start this way. One small team does something radical, and others take note.

While this early seed is something that you can grow and hopefully turn into something amazing, in the beekeeping world, we pinch the head of the queen off and install the new queen, and it's done.

I haven't found any clients for the beekeeper's organizational change method.

Here's my weekly update for January 12th, 2024...

🗒️ Stop Doing Things the Hard Way


For the first few years of my career, I wasted a lot of my time and energy doing things the hard way.

I should be honest and admit that a big part of me still does things the hardest way possible.

A part of me believes that if I can succeed in unfavorable environments, I will succeed anywhere.

This is stupid.

Don’t be like me.

Click here to read more

🗒️ Magic Quadrants in Product Development


If you’ve spent any amount of time in the software world, you bump into what is sometimes called the magic quadrants.

You’ll most often see this as an effort/impact activity.

I want to share two ways I use this little technique when helping groups begin product development.

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🗒️ Its a Secret


I was sitting down having my coffee this morning and thinking of all the stuff that goes on in most companies that I simply don’t have to deal with, and one thing came to the forefront of my mind.

Today, I want to write about one of those lessons leaders learn, often the hard way, which is not always healthy, and what I do about it: Information brokerage.

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Ryan Latta