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Agile Coaches' Corner shares practical concepts in an approachable way. It is for agile practitioners and business leaders seeking expert advice on improving the way they work to achieve their desired outcomes. If you have a topic you'd like discussed, email it to, or tweet it with #agilethoughtpodcast.

Apr 8, 2022

This week, Dan Neumann is joined by two external guests today: Sarah Skillman and Mary Demain, both SEAM experts and Agile practitioners.


In this episode, Dan, Sarah, and Mary are talking about SEAM (Socio-Economic Approach to Management) and how leadership is the key to Agility. Sarah and Mary share their extensive knowledge and experience working with SEAM, helping organizations identify the dysfunctions that are causing problems in their systems, and guiding them towards more efficient ways of operating, considering the social and financial aspects involved as both crucial and interconnected.


Key Takeaways

  • What is SEAM and how is it different from other approaches?
    • SEAM is a different way to lead and manage organizations.
    • Other approaches follow paradigms that are more than 100 years old.
    • “Socio-economic” means that these aspects are considered as a priority, neither of them exists without the other.
    • SEAM works starting from the management system and follows with the other sectors of the organization. The process begins by identifying the hidden causes and what needs to be improved.
  • SEAM focuses on outcomes and cost savings.
    • Sarah shares an example of a company that was wasting a lot of time and effort without knowing they could negotiate the process and obtain more benefit for the company and its people.
    • Remember that people want to help and collaborate; they just need an opportunity.
    • SEAM pays attention to cultural norms.
  • How does SEAM approach culture change and transformation?
    • SEAM aims to remove the dysfunctions that slow people down in a company.
    • SEAM is an approach, not a quick fix.
  • What is the liminal space?
    • The liminal space is where people are when they are changing from one place to another. It is certainly an uncomfortable place to be, but also inevitable when intended to grow, since it is where human potential is realized.
    • People first experience the liminal space individually and then do it collectively.
  • SEAM starts at the top since only leaders can model the behavior they want to see in others.
  • Every person is part of a system. How does SEAM help people appreciate the complexity of the system?
    • Agility is a wholeness to change and SEAM is a whole system changed.
    • Every time you change the system, dysfunctions are created, and for every dysfunction, there is a cause.
    • Six tasks every company has to tackle:
      • Working conditions.
      • Work organization.
      • Time management
      • Collaborate, communicate, and cooperate.
      • Integrative training.
      • Implementation of strategy. 
    • During the SEAM process, people are asked about what is not going well in each of these areas, and later the root causes are identified. After this first stage, the future is assessed while looking for possible solutions to those dysfunctions.
  • Sarah and Mary address the “frozen middle.”
    • Everybody involved in the organizational change needs to know about the purpose of that change.
    • Interventions, training, and coaching are parts of the SEAM process.


Mentioned in this Episode:

The Reengineering Alternative, by William Schneider

The SEAM Institute

Socio-Economic Approach to Management: Steering Organizations into the Future, by Alla Heorhiadi and John Conbere


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