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Jurgen Appelo calls himself a creative networker. But sometimes he's a writer, speaker, trainer, entrepreneur, illustrator, manager, blogger, reader, dreamer, leader, freethinker, or… Dutch guy. Since 2008 Jurgen writes a popular blog at, covering the creative economy, agile management, and personal development. He is the author of the book Management 3.0, which describes the role of the manager in agile organizations. And he wrote the little book How to Change the World, which describes a supermodel for change management. Jurgen is CEO of the business network Happy Melly, and co-founder of the Agile Lean Europe network and the Stoos Network. He is also a speaker who is regularly invited to talk at business seminars and conferences around the world. After studying Software Engineering at the Delft University of Technology, and earning his Master’s degree in 1994, Jurgen Appelo has busied himself starting up and leading a variety of Dutch businesses, always in the position of team leader, manager, or executive. Jurgen has experience in leading a horde of 100 software developers, development managers, project managers, business consultants, service managers, and kangaroos, some of which he hired accidentally. Nowadays he works full-time managing the Happy Melly ecosystem, developing innovative courseware, books, and other types of original content. But sometimes Jurgen puts it all aside to spend time on his ever-growing collection of science fiction and fantasy literature, which he stacks in a self-designed book case. It is 4 meters high. Jurgen lives in Rotterdam (The Netherlands) -- and in Brussels (Belgium) -- with his partner Raoul. He has two kids, and an imaginary hamster called George. Jurgen has posted 145 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Delight Your Stakeholders

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Imagine you organized a dinner party for all stakeholders of your business. Shareholders, customers, suppliers, employees… everyone who is affected by your company is invited. Even the government, your local community and representatives of on-line communities are welcome. I would invite my spouse too. And the hamster.

Now imagine someone will ask the question, “what’s for dinner?”

Who will decide?

Jack Welch might say, “The shareholders get to choose what’s for dinner, because the party is financed with their money.”

Stephen Denning might say, “The customers get to choose, because the purpose of our business is to delight customers.”

Gary Hamel might say, “The employees get to choose what we’ll eat, because they are organizing the party.”

And I’m sure other people are able to come up with various reasons for suppliers, governments, and local and on-line communities to be allowed the final say over the dinner menu. I would tell you about the needs of my hamster.

Of course, you know better.

A business is a social network of stakeholders participating in freedom for mutual benefit of everyone involved. Nobody is more important than the others.

But Stephen Denning says you cannot please everyone:

The mathematics of optimization shows that only one variable can be maximized. […] It is not possible to maximize both client delight and shareholder value. You have to choose one or the other. (Radical Management, Kindle location: 1386)


I wonder if Stephen Denning has any children. Will he always put the needs of the eldest first, because he doesn’t know how to optimize the needs of all children in his Excel spreadsheet? And will he just ask one party guest to decide what’s for dinner, because the problem of optimizing the sum of all needs across all guests is mathematically too hard for a manager?

That’s silly.

A traditional manager 1.0 might simply ignore stakeholders and follow his own personal agenda when making business decisions. A manager 2.0 might do better when trying to apply somewhat simplistic management advice, such as “optimize shareholder value” or “delight the client”. But I think a manager 3.0 will outperform all others. Because she understands a business is a complex adaptive system of stakeholders. They can all give and take, in endless iterations of collaboration, to please themselves and others.

A business is a non-zero sum game. You can and should delight everyone.

Including the hamster.

p.s. I actually like Stephen Denning’s book, Radical Management. You should read it! Just remember not to take its first principle (delight customers) too far.

(Jurgen Appelo is author of Management 3.0, a best-selling management book for Agile developers. It has a picture of a monster in it.)

(picture: Muffet)

Published at DZone with permission of its author, Jurgen Appelo. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)



Timo Lihtinen replied on Wed, 2012/03/14 - 1:39pm

I can definitely relate to what Jurgen is saying... Ordinarily, yes, pleasing your customers is important.
But living by the dogma "customer is king" can leave a company open to all manners of abuse, both from within and without.
On one hand, it can create a blame filled organization, where certain people will promise anything to the customer that the customer desires and hold a gun to the heads of the developers to make sure that promise gets fulfilled.

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