Welcome to Business Craftsmanship
Hello, and thanks for visiting. I am Tobias Mayer, a human systems architect, explorer, agitator, and thought citizen. This web site describes my approach to knowledge work and outlines the personal, team and organizational services I offer.
Read the Business Craftsmanship white paper
The concept of Business Craftsmanship grew out of the work I have been doing in the Agile software development field as a educator, guide and facilitator over the past eleven years. As I matured in my profession I continued to seek ways to teach and apply these ideas to any knowledge work context. I have adopted the foundational principles and values inherent in the Agile way of working and combined them with my own life and career experiences to build a transformative and human-centric framework which I am now using with great enjoyment to guide whole organizations towards a new way of being.
The Business Craftsmanship approach is, in essence, an abstraction of Scrum, drawing away from the focus on process, roles, artifacts, and meetings, and embracing its fundamental purpose: The transformation of the knowledge work environment. Business Craftsmanship emphasises sound business practices, community values, and personal interaction. It provides space for an organization to understand why this approach may be valuable, before addressing what to do, or how to do it—the usual focus of an Agile adoption. Beginning with a clear sense of purpose, both from a business perspective and for each individual a personal one, opens the possibility to create an engaged workforce that is able to figure out the what and the how for themselves.
Click on the links above to learn more about the workshops I facilitate, and the small-group and individual coaching services I offer.
— 20 March 2015
This is me...
I believe in the purposeful integration of all aspects of our lives to create our personal dream. I believe that by sharing our dreams we build healthy community. And I believe that healthy community will cultivate a new generation of leaders—women and men filled with compassion, releasing control, leading through trust.
I draw on twenty-five years experience in the fields of social service, group facilitation, organizational restructuring and individual counseling to inform my personal quest for engaged, purposeful citizenship.
"Tobias is an outstanding speaker and facilitator. After my colleague and I saw Tobias at a company event, we were so impressed that we immediately invited him to provide a seminar to our department. Tobias went the extra mile to understand the needs of our group and facilitated a training that was targeted and engaging. My colleagues and I felt that we learned actionable new skills, gained fresh perspective, and had a lot of fun. Our group is very busy, but his training was worth every second of our time. The training took my abilities to a new level and I am already finding myself revisiting what I learned again and again. Tobias is very gifted in his ability to be attuned to his audience and add value to diverse groups. I have attended many trainings in my career and can say without hesitation that I would recommend Tobias as one of the top speakers that I have seen." —Alyssa Tool, Legal Director, Yahoo Inc.
Contact me by email or . Let's talk.
"Tobias has developed the capacity of Truthfulness to a degree not often found in software development. If you are afraid you are not getting the real picture from the people around you, Tobias will help you cut through the cruft and expose the reality... and he will do it kindly and respectfully!" —Mishkin Berteig, Co-Founder and President, Berteig Consulting Inc.
I shall listen to you. I shall hear you. We'll explore your life values and learn how they inform your work. Truthfully, I do not consider myself a coach, but the term is useful for orientation purposes—a place to land. What I offer is better described as collaborative exploration.
Using story-telling, metaphor and movement, and guided by purpose, courage, service, gratitude and the spirit of abundance, we'll dance together. We'll discover effective ways for showing up for others, and a way of leading that comes from the heart.
I offer one-to-one or small group consulting sessions. Our work will be an exploration of self—more essentially, self in relation to others. The focus of the work is to open up possibilities for your future.
Your first session is a gift. It is a discovery process to see if we can create a longer-term relationship. Should we be in agreement, and wish to continue, we'll negotiate a compensation arrangement that works for both parties.
I prefer to work face-to-face but for one-to-one work I am happy to work remotely via video for those living outside the Bay Area. Small group work is only offered in person. Recommended group size is 3-5 persons.
Tobias Mayer first caught my attention on Linkedin as an "untangler". I was fascinated with how he described his services. I contacted him. Since then we've been working together remotely. I've learned a lot about myself thanks to his simple but very helpful techniques. I've been able to sort out my priorities and move forward from where I was stuck. I've also appreciated his gentle but firm approach.
—E. Genevieve Williams, Professor at Yeungnam University
to learn more about my approach to personal coaching.
"Innovation Tri-Valley Leadership Group used Tobias Mayer as a facilitator at our annual retreat and he demonstrated an unique ability to work with the diverse and aspirational members of a group of our board. Tobias has the ability to excite a little bit of disorder which resonated well with our group of innovators and business and civic leaders. He was able to create a group process and an environment where new ideas are shared and embraced. We left the session with the passion to make our organization grow and thrive." —Dale Eldridge Kaye, CEO, Innovation Tri-Valley Leadership Group
All Business Craftsmanship workshops use a blend of lecture, dialog and interactive exercises—with an emphasis on the latter. It is through exploring ideas physically that participants come to embody the learning, rather than just understanding it.
The Agile Mindshift
Embarking on an Agile transition requires more than learning new techniques, tools and processes. It requires a very different way of thinking about knowledge work. Too often companies are introduced to Agile through industry standard Scrum, XP, Kanban or other Agile certification courses. These all do a great job explaining what Agile is, and even how to practice. They consistently fail to have those participating really understand the why of Agile.
Attempting to change from a command-and-control culture, to a collaborate-and-release culture, and to understand the complex nature of the people and systems problems we need to tackle requires a very different way of thinking. Similar to a caterpillar metamorphosing into a butterfly, this change requires, not a gradual shift but a total breakdown of the current paradigm and the building of a new mind, a new approach.
Whether you are just starting out with Agile, or are already invested in this way of working it is likely your organization can benefit from a deeper exploration of the principles and values that underpin a true transformation.
The Agile Mindshift uses techniques from improvisation, Augusto Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed, other interactive techniques, and reflective exercises to foster a whole-body way of learning, rather than simply an intellectual one. It is only by truly embodying the change do we have a chance of making it become part of the company DNA, rather than a nice facade we are pasting over our existing ways of working.
This workshop is not for the faint-hearted. It takes courage to challenge our own assumptions, our engrained ways of being, learnt, sometimes, over decades. But those who are willing will reap unexpected rewards.
Contactto learn more about Mindshift workshops
The Collaborative Product Owner
Many so-called Agile methodologies, including Scrum, perpetuate a myth that the product manager/owner is solely responsible for the success of a product, some literature going as far as calling these people the "single wringable neck". On the contrary, this person is a member of a team, and needs to learn to collaborate deeply with developers, users, designers and testers to achieve greatness.
Collaboration is not communication. Anyone can communicate—just open your mouth, or hammer out an email! Collaboration is the art of dialog. It requires two-way, or multi-way conversations in real time, ideally face-to-face. Good collaborators never compromise, instead they discover new pathways, dream new dreams, and join forces to make these visions a reality. This takes real skill—and a very different approach to working than is generally taught on typical certification courses, MBAs, or even in the workplace.
Contrary to the title, this is not a workshop solely for product managers or "product owners". I encourage developers to join this workshop, ideally with their product counterparts. If we are learning to collaborate, the best way to do that is to collaborate—here and now.
In the course of this one-day event, participants will learn how to deeply engage one another through exploration, confrontation, celebration, storytelling and metaphor.
Recommended workshop size is 12-24 people. Anyone interested in improving relationships in their organization is welcome to join. Scenarios are biased towards product managers and developers, but good leaders will want to better understand this relationship.
Contactto learn more about Product Owner workshops
To become a thought leader, first learn how to be a thoughtful citizen.
The concept of citizen is elegant and simple. Maintaining a balance between rights and responsibilities the good citizen gives and receives in equal proportion. No one citizen is more or less important than any other, and each offers what she can, while reaping the rewards of the citizenship as a whole. Read this article
Our modern organizations are concerned with improving management and leadership. This is to be welcomed, but tends to result in a focus only on the few. What about the many? It is not enough to be managed, to be led. We all need to participate. What skills do we need as grass-roots workers to ensure we create a culture of collaboration, trust and engagement?
I have discovered during the course of my work in large and small companies, that if the needs and desires of the wider organization are neglected, if voices are not heard and autonomy not granted then the quality of work lessens and disengagement becomes the default.
This Citizenship workshop offers an opportunity to assess how we each show up for work, what our expectations are, what our fears are, and how we might take the responsibility to reset these to generate our own power, in line with organizational goals.
The essence of the workshop is to discover how to show up in love, and to nurture self, colleagues and management in a culture of trust. This is leadership from the ground up.
Recommended workshop size is 12-24 people. Participants can be from any function, or any level of the organization. This is not about separation, but seeking the common good.
Contactto learn more about Citizenship workshops
Whether we have to stand in front of a group of people and present an idea, a proposal, or a report, or simply run a meeting, or engage in a personal dialog, the skill of storytelling can be a great benefit to engage your audience.
Starting with a simple framework for story creation this very interactive workshop allows participants to explore techniques such as flow, metaphor, gesture, movement, language and silence to better share their message.
By the end of the workshop participants will have an increased sense of their own skills and passion, understand how to frame their story, and have had practical experience of doing so.
The focus of this workshop is on speaking from your heart, embracing your audience and sharing your passion. It emphasizes these aspects over the usual techniques we learn for public speaking, which, while helpful, often fail to serve our deeper need to really connect, human to human.
"I've taken a lot of presentation skills training and this short workshop was one of the most effective in terms of providing actionable skills that can be put to use immediately without having to memorize a long list of "do this, then do this..." tasks. Thank you for initiating the workshop and please keep it up. I have recommended it to several colleagues already."
"I came away with a different perspective on how to tell a compelling story. It was really eye opening to see how much a presentation can be improved after integrating the advice that we received. It made me want to seek more occasions to "show up in front of an audience", and I found the content of the workshop to also be applicable to general communication within my team."
"This workshop was enlightening for me."
"Lots of excellent ideas were presented. The strategy of using a story framework to bring the audience in on your passion or your idea has stuck with me since the workshop."
"Great presentation. I found it useful to see how storytelling can be applied to a technical talk to make it engaging and worthwhile."
Contactto learn more about Storytelling workshops
The Language of Empathy
One of our biggest failings in the IT community is the inability to listen with an open mind and an open heart. We map new ideas to old concepts, we make value judgments, and we are frequently driven by assumption based on what (we think) we know.
On the other side of this coin is an inherently poor ability to clearly express and articulate our own needs and desires. We get caught up in hackneyed phrases and mechanical metaphors.
Our language creates our culture, and at the same time our culture produces our language. It is a closed loop system. To effect change we need to break out of the loop.
This workshop is rooted in the Clean Language and XP emphasis on metaphor, and the Theatre Improv concept of invocation. It plays with our default language structures, and our expectations and assumptions, to discover new ways of seeing, and thus expressing.
Your default patterns will be up for scrutiny, the words and phrases you commonly use will be confronted. By the end of the day you will be challenging yourself to find new ways of expressing your ideas, ways that invite people into a new kind of dialog. Life will seem less obvious, less formulaic.
Agile, at its heart, is a reframing. It is a shift in thinking and behavior. To effectively and meaningfully put this into action we need a new language. The emphasis here is not about learning new buzzwords, or easy-to-memorize catch phrases—someone else's idea of "better communication"—but rather in focusing on what this shift means to each of us, as free-thinking human beings. By exploring and seeking to understand alternative forms of expression a new language will emerge, one that is suited to context.
Contactto learn more about Empathy workshops
Dreaming the Future
The corporate world inspires corporate language which can act as a barrier to exploring ideas at an emotional level. We use words like vision, mission and strategy to attempt to describe our ideas. These words touch our intellect, but often fail to engage. When we invite people to share our dream, to share our journey we begin to engage differently. Along with our intellect we are invited to bring our heart.
This workshop encourages participants to share their personal dreams, in an open, vulnerable way. It is by bringing our personal dreams to bear in a work environment that we can begin to create the shared dream of the group—the deeper, greater purpose that binds us on our journey of creation.
Life and work should not be separated, or 'balanced', as if they are distinct things. Our life experience informs our work, and our work affects how we live. It is not separation but integration we should seek, creating an existence greater than the sum of its parts. The beginning of this integration comes from the sharing of our longings with those we wish to partner or collaborate with.
Contactto learn more about Dreaming workshops
Complicated problems have known solutions. Complex problems have unknown solutions. Building knowledge systems and managing knowledge workers are activities that benefit from an understanding of the nature of complexity, and the ability to act accordingly. Emergent systems and living systems are both inherently complex.
The predominant management model in our industry is one of upfront prediction, functional breakdown and division of labor—a model designed in the industrial age and successfully practiced in 20th century manufacturing. When applying this model to the creation of complex systems we experience a clash of paradigms.
Managing complex systems requires a completely new approach, one that values release over control, experimentation over definition, confrontation over compliance, and truth over hope. Paradoxically, it is only by embracing chaos, dissonance and disagreement that we can create a nurturing, collaborative environment—an absolute necessity for success in the knowledge world.
This workshop offers a simple framework for navigating complexity, but is more of a dialog than a presentation. Participants are asked to reflect on current practices, challenge one another, and explore new approaches. Physical exercises will help to illustrate the talking points, allowing an embodiment of the learning.