º The Meddlers ~ benefiting from changes through Lean and Agile approaches

The Meddlers

I guess the Meddlers game is nothing new to most of the followers of Management 3.0. I actually found out about this game some years ago, but it was this year, when participating in a course, that I became fully aware of the power and significance the Meddlers game can reach!

Concerning organizational structures, through our working experience in traditional enterprises most of us have a legacy background, which for the most part implies a hierarchical layout. 

Next they have the link Meddlers, of the original dynamics with its explanation : https://management30.com/product/meddlers/

The awesome thing about the Meddlers game is that it brings the participants to look at organizational structure from a completely different perspective: instead of hierarchical frameworks, we apply fractal principles!

Fractals (from chaos theory) have the same properties at all scales.That also means the same communication overhead at all scales!

That’s why organization experts aim for organizational designs following fractal principles: by applying fractal patterns we are able to scale our organizations without being bogged down by bureaucracy.

When playing the Meddlers game, it is important to differentiate between participants with IT background or the ones coming from different sectors. This is the reason that Management 3.0 has created two different versions of the Meddlers game: you might play the earlier version with clearly defined IT and Agile roles…

…or you might take the new one, where the roles (represented by hats) ought to be defined by the players, depending on the working area they would like to simulate (services, finances, HR…).

We always begin the exercise with a simple scenario: the players should define a business unit with 10 people in the team for 1 client and 1 project. Here we concentrate mainly on the development team setup.

In a second step, we increase the complexity, asking the participants to grow the business unit up to 18 people but this time for 2 projects in the same client. Now the connexion of tiles begins playing a central role!

The big challenge comes up when we ask the participants to adapt the business unit to manage five projects at the same time, for three clients, with the same amount of people.

Now tiles and hats are moving around, and it is fascinating to observe the interactions and discussion coming out of the participants!

Whenever time is available, maybe the participants want to try something completely different, like designing with the Meddlers the digital web department of a retail fashion company!



The Meddlers game is probably one of the most effective ways to simulate the emergence of new business units, as it helps players to adopt a different perspective, far from hierarchical structures, more in fractal patterns.

I personally bring Meddlers with me when I train companies that are looking for an agile transformation. It's amazing to see what comes out when you apply the Meddlers in the context of a Business Agility consultancy!

It can go wrong:

I have done this dynamic in all types of clients, banking, energy, insurance, always trying to put it in context with real situations that the meedlers would help them solve or at least raise in another way or generate a creative and constructive debate.

Over time I have advanced in the technique, initially I raised generic situations with some clients, and worked in certain teams to advertise the technique, but not in other teams with pressure focused on achieving objectives, intermediate managers or level c, it did. It did not work, logically they wanted it in their "context", with their real cases and situations that live or could live.

That was my first great, great learning.

It can go well:

Subsequently, adapting it to each context, with its real situation, the dynamics have been very well received and I have evolved everything I could.

When the customer has a situation of growth in a product or project, business evolution or to streamline their internal processes, the dynamics work very well.

I have discovered how to positively challenge the dynamics so that they are more receptive to its application in companies in sectors as diverse as infrastructure, software development consulting, banking, energy and possible future situations.

When explaining the concept of antifragility above, place them in contexts that involve situations of:

- growth in the market, such as doing it in a sustainable way, with internal resources or with contracting power.

- setbacks in the market or with customers, taking them to a point of initial tension, how would it adapt to the situation?

- Later I try to challenge them with the application of different mentalities in their context, from the point of view of profitability, even with a mentality read or agile with the talent of your company.

My opinion:

Finally I open a small space for reflection to talk about topics such as:

- In this way, have you helped or influenced your decision?

- Does this new mentality apply in this situation as it would have affected your decisions? why?

- What advantages do you see in the situation of thinking only about costs versus talent retention?

-How would you improve it to be robust in the future and not only resistant?

My conclusion:

With learning based on the experience of performing the dynamics on many occasions, the most important thing is to try to involve or constructively "catch" people with their context, in their field, with their real situations so that they empathize, take away the learning and above all the challenge of change.