There are many different management methodologies that exist today, but even the most popular ones have limitations, especially when applied at the enterprise level. My next guest has developed what he calls “Stream Theory,” which is an innovative framework to achieving breakthrough results.

Welcomed back to the Author Hour Podcast. I’m your host, Hussein Al-Baiaty, and I’m joined by author Dmitriy Neganov, who is here to talk about his new book called Stream Theory. Let’s flip through it.

Welcome back to the Author Hour episode, my friends. I am here with Dmitriy, and Dmitriy, I’m super excited because your book man, it is fascinating, it is deep, and I can’t wait to share with our audience everything that you shared through your book. Dmitriy, thank you for coming on the show today.

Dmitriy Neganov: Thank you, Hussein. I’m excited to be on this podcast. I look forward to discussing this book, and hopefully, we can dive into it, and I’ll share the story about it.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: I love that man. So Dmitriy, talk to me a little bit about, you know, I like to give our audience a little bit of a background about who you are and where you grew up, maybe perhaps a person that influenced you in your life or young childhood. So, giving the foundation to what we will build on next, can you tell us a little bit about your background?

Dmitriy Neganov: Happy to do so. Well, as you can probably tell from my name, I’ve got a Russian background. So I was born and raised in Moscow, Russia, and I came over to the US in 1996. So most of my life now, I’ve lived here in the States, and it really gave me a truly unique perspective on life, having experienced two different cultures, having lived in two different worlds, sometimes it seems that way, but yeah, I live in the Midwest.

I absolutely love it here, I love the people that I get to meet that surround me — and you mentioned people that influenced me in my life, tough question, really. Actually, it’s tougher than one can imagine because the influence doesn’t stop. It’s a continuous process in my experience, but in my childhood really, gosh, I would probably have to say even within the family, I would have to call out my brother, my older brother, who has taught me so much.

Who actually was also a great influence on some of the core ideas and principles that went into this book, and then later in my life, of course my wife, who has been my partner and editor of this book and very much a part of this journey and yeah, these people are really the core of my essence as a person, as an individual.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yeah, that’s so powerful, man. I love that because the reason I mentioned that and to set the foundation for what we get into is, you know, it’s almost like paying homage, right? To our older version of our self and younger version of our self and there are those remarkable people that come in and out of our lives, sometimes I feel like they don’t get the recognition ‘till the end, and for me sometimes, putting the recognition for them upfront really makes the work so much purposeful, right?

It’s so filled with your ‘why’ and your purpose and your intention because those people, they stand out in our lives. For me, it was my father, my experience is a little bit similar to yours in that I came to America from a refugee camp, and so I got to experience the world differently as well. This is why I love these stories, right? This is why I love these books and the work that I do.

It’s because there’s a human connection in all of us, and if we can tap into who we once were and what our trials and tribulations were like, you’ll see that we’re not that different, you know what I mean? It’s just a different person in a different place, so that’s beautiful. Thank you for sharing that.

Dmitriy Neganov: Of course.

Make Positive Change From the Inside Using Stream Theory

Hussein Al-Baiaty: But let’s get into this book. I mean, it’s a remarkable sort of feat because, let’s be honest, writing a book is not easy, but you’re talking about something that is huge and that leads to sadly, why companies fail and we look to our managers, we look to our leaders, we look to the people right or left of us as we work throughout in these companies, but you bring some great examples by talking about things like BestBuy and Circuit City.

I remember Circuit City very well, but can you talk to us a little bit about how managers and the decisions and the priorities that these managers sort of create start then to affect a company’s success or failing.

Dmitriy Neganov: Well, you’re absolutely right that management and managers play a crucial role in, well, in my opinion, in our society in general. Most of our lives I think we spend working and what happens at work, what happens in the workplace, really impacts our everything, our health, our overall quality of life. Gosh, we’re dealing with environmental issues today with pollution, we’re dealing with social inequalities, health problems in the society.

It all stems from how organizations are managed, and this is not a field that I chose when I was younger. When I was in college, I actually have a kind of a mixed bag in terms of my education, in terms of my background. Some of it is engineering, some of it is computer information systems but also business management as well. I got into this field, really, started with managing projects, and once I got into that role, I pretty quickly realized, well, first of all, people are truly stressed out and stretched to the maximum.

At the same time, people are extremely capable and talented, and I kept feeling the talent often goes to waste or under appreciated, and it really rubbed me the wrong way, and in my role that I was in, I was trying to figure out a way, “How can I support these people in all these incredible things that they do?” and with time, it led me to developing this framework that I formulated in this book.

This framework, this methodology, is really a combination of all the things that I have learned from some of the great, wonderful people that I’ve met in my life who were my mentors, who truly dedicated their lives to really, the same purpose, changing the business environment, changing how companies function and that’s what I try to do to this day.

I try to influence organizations from within. As a consultant, I’m trying to fight this uphill battle, try and change how companies get managed, how — and really, when we talk about management, how priorities are set. That is truly the essence of management, and until we change priorities, these problems that I mentioned, unfortunately, I do not see how they will go away.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: I love that so much because you really get to the core of it right away, but you use, you know, you talk about different methodologies that different types of companies use, and some work really well, some don’t work very well and sometimes there’s a hybrid of different methodologies to use in managing people and all these things.

But you have a unique perspective, and you call it “Stream Theory,” if I’m not wrong, which is sort of an innovative framework for achieving these breakthrough results in management. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Dmitriy Neganov: Absolutely. So these methodologies that comprise a stream theory, a lot of them are, well, pretty much, all of them are very well-known and some of them have been around, oh my goodness, for nearly a century. Others have been around for decades, but I see organizations time and time again trying different approaches to manage. They keep trying to implement one framework.

A few years later, they go for another framework. They try to come up with some hybrid approach, and what I realized having studied and having practiced these methodologies is that they’re very similar, very similar. Many of them talk about the same things, just in a little bit of a different way.

So what I started doing, and I started doing for myself at first, but then I started teaching others, but I started putting this puzzle together, picking different pieces that made sense, that worked, that complemented each other from different frameworks, and ended up having this framework that I called stream theory and the reason for this name, well, there is that whole theoretical knowledge that I mentioned, but also the word stream is really a homage to the work of the great Dr. Edwards Deming.

Truly a great mind of the 20th century, and there were mainly other individuals in his time and after him that shared the same message, but I spent quite a bit of time studying his work but the whole concept of seeing an organization as a single organism, as a system, where it’s not just a hierarchy, you know, top to bottom but more of a continuous flow of activities that are interdependent with one another.

When we start viewing organizations that way, we start viewing ourselves differently as well. What roles we play within the system, within this structure, it changes that perspective. It changes the dynamic between the overall interaction between gears or management and the employers. So that is really kind of something that I was trying to capture in that name as well, that flow mindset that I wanted to build into the title, hence, “Stream Theory.”

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yeah, very beautiful, so well-articulated. I love that so much, man. Can you share a little bit about how you, you know, what’s one thing that you implement? When you go in to help an organization, what’s the first thing you try to, I guess, help optimize in a company to get them in alignment with purpose and direction and engagement? What is that thing that you really lean into?

Dmitriy Neganov: It’s actually a pretty difficult question because well, first of all, different situations, different engagements. Well, they’re just that, they’re different, right? How I started that engagement, but ultimately, ultimately, the starting point is an understanding of the purpose, why does an organization exist in the first place?

It may seem like a very basic question. Yet, I think it is not asked enough, and when you ask the question and truly try to understand what problem does an organization exist to solve in the community at large, it is not an easy question. I often apply the very same question to myself and to my role.

So as a consultant, when I go to a company, what value do I add? And it really, I started asking that question, really basing my views on the fundamental respect for the people that I would go in and work with because if somebody’s calling me on to a project, let’s say, that means they have a need. Well, if that need is to do some basic administrative work, well, the value, it’s there but it’s rather limited, and I try to figure out, what is the greater purpose.

The greater value that I can add to an organization when I go in and really, the question naturally evolves into, “Well, what negative would exist? What problem would exist if I wasn’t there? If they didn’t call me to help, what can an organization not do if I’m not there?” and that really led me to developing a certain perspective on a role that I play and truly, the role that I think project managers, in general, should play in an organization, it’s somewhat of an architectural role.

It’s a role that helps connect the different pieces, connect the different dots because organizations are very complex, there are so many moving pieces. Connecting them across different functions across different teams is not an easy task, and being able to organize the work in such a way that it’s easy, convenient, transparent, engaging, that is a challenge that somebody needs to do, and very often, within companies that capability is lacking.

Hence, that is what I at least found for myself in my career, trying to play that role to address that need to solve that problem. So I started with myself asking that question of the purpose, but when I go in to help an organization transform itself, that is the very question that I ask the leadership of both of that company. What is the fundamental purpose for being that needs to be, really, that should be understood by everybody, by employees, by customers because that drives everything else downstream. That drives all of the priority decisions downstream.

Put People First

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Right. Yeah, having a clear understanding of the purpose and the problems that you seek to solve is crucial. It’s beyond crucial, I think it’s the most important thing, and you’re 100% right. I’m glad you took us there, but it does affect everyone, right? That you know, again, it comes back to decisions and what are those decisions, but if those decisions are not made around a center idea, a core that’s really intact and clear, then those decisions are going to become unclear, and they would obviously impact everyone in such different ways.

So how does the focus on employee centricity lead to long-term organizational sustainability and sort of like meeting the needs of the stakeholders as well? How are all of those connected?

Dmitriy Neganov: I think that is the key question, and when I look at all the different frameworks that exist and really, the call for a common purpose, common goal is not new. You can hear it all around, there’s nothing new in that statement. However, despite a continuous call for that common purpose, something is yet not working, right? These fundamental problems that we deal with as a society, they are very much in front of us and they have not gone away.

In my opinion, they got only worse, so what is that missing element? What is the piece that prevents all of these different great management frameworks from truly delivering that value and making a difference? In my opinion, it is that fundamental priority that businesses choose for themselves. So a good example or a good reference I would say is a statement made by the business roundtable in 2019.

A business roundtable is an organization that brings together over 200 top CEOs from the United States, so all of the top companies in the US are represented there. All the great names that we admire and hear about, they are all a part of that entity, of that organization, and in 2019 for the first time since 1978, the recommendation from that organization, from that group of people was that, and I won’t try to quote it but in essence, it was that the purpose of a corporation should not be the shareholder value.

It should be the value for the stakeholders. So really, if you think about it, just a single-word change, but it’s a fundamental change going from shareholders to stakeholders, and I think it is very much a step in the right direction, but if I may be bold enough to say this, but I think this statement still needs to be refined a little bit further because just from experience on the ground when it comes to executing the work when you have multiple things that matter, so multiple things that are important, that are priorities, when everything is a priority in essence, well, nothing is and when we talk about stakeholders being the priority, well, when times get tough, when difficult decisions have to be made, who is the priority? My fear is that despite this noble call to shift the priority for corporations from shareholders to stakeholders when we get into a difficult situation, when a company faces some difficult decisions, it will be shareholders.

It will be that bottom line that needs to be preserved, and really, when that’s the case, unfortunately, employees are just an expense line item that needs to be optimized. It’s sad, but it is the reality. A lot of my projects that I do are in the area of mergers and acquisitions, and a lot of these M&A deals are about achieving the economies of scale. Well, in simple terms it’s really laying off a certain number of people.

It has very significant, very real implications on our society in general. So as I was looking at trying to understand who is truly or who should be the priority, well, another option could be customers, and a lot of organizations do say that. Customers are our top priority. It is a decent statement, however, again, once again, when we come to executing the work when the customer is a priority, an employee is expected to go beyond maybe what’s comfortable for them.

They become secondary just to meet the customer objectives, and why do we want to meet customer objectives? Well, ultimately to generate revenue, which impacts the shareholder value. So having looked at the different scenarios and different elements of the stakeholders, right? Different groups of stakeholders, I personally came to a conclusion that the priority, the priority for an organization should be employees, hence, the employee-centric framework that I’ve put together.

If we make this fundamental shift as organizations, when we make decisions by putting employees first, everything else still matters. The customers, well, that’s the purpose of existence for an organization is to address customer problems, to address their needs, and of course, shareholder value needs to be addressed as well because if you are not making money, you are not going to be lasting very long.

So sustainability is very much in line and part of the core interest of employees, right? If we put employees first, that financial stability is one of those needs that needs to be addressed.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Right. That’s so powerful. I mean, you articulate that so well, and I got to be honest with you, even at Scribe, you know, JeVon does such a great job by ensuring that we, all the employees, how we collaborate, how we work are always put first, but you know, then the byproduct is, of course, feeling good. When you feel good, you come to work. You feel good, you do good work, and also that transcends then onto the customer, the clients.

The people that we get to work and it is having that privilege to work from within all the way out to the community, and you’re 100% right. I mean, I can’t even articulate it as well as you do. It is so beautifully put and the fact that your work is really revolving around our employees, they are the ones that move the machine no matter what direction we want to move it, all these good things.

However, what do they need? What kind of energy do they need from, you know, from the machine so that they can feel like they are showing up not just for themselves but truly as a collective, as a community that is doing something, you know, tying it back to that problem, we solve that purpose, makes it so, I don’t know, it feels like it’s warm.

Dmitriy Neganov: Yeah.

Final Lessons from the Journey

Hussein Al-Baiaty: You know, we put it all in perspective, it feels warm, and it is a place you want to be, right? It is a safe haven, but I got to ask you, what was your favorite part of pulling the book together and what did you learn from that journey?

Dmitriy Neganov: Let me think about it for just a second.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: I know. You know, I like the trick questions.

Dmitriy Neganov: It is a bit of a trick question because it definitely was a journey, and a long one I have to say, and a very difficult one, and when I look at the end product, the book is not very large. So I sometimes I catch myself thinking, so after all these years, after all of these endless attempts to put it together, that’s it really.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yeah, right, but it’s the potency, right? It’s the taking the cup from the waterfall, right? It’s the potency of that book man, yeah, that’s what I love.

Dmitriy Neganov: That’s what I hope to get to is truly focus on what matters, cutting out any fluff that wouldn’t add value to the readers, and I am truly trying to formulate all these thoughts that we’re discussing, these ideas, these concepts into a simple framework that is easy to read and easy to apply because ultimately, that’s the goal, to give people a toolbox that they can pick and choose what works, what doesn’t and apply various tools from this toolbox for their situation.

So being able to concisely organize all of these into a book, I think the whole process was interesting, definitely challenging. I had an enjoyable time working with the Scribe team, it’s been quite an experience, very much a positive one. I could not have done this without the help of all the wonderful people that I’ve met, and I just enjoyed this process. Now, I don’t know if I have another one in me.

Maybe a few years later, but for now, it took all the energy out of me to put this together, but it has been a fun, exciting journey, and really, I would also add that I also learned a lot as I was putting this book together. So I have come out with the framework about ten years, and I have applied different components of it, different clients, different companies, but when it comes to organizing it into a book, there were a lot of things that I found myself needing to educate myself on further.

That education, that additional learning was worthwhile, and I truly enjoyed it. I enjoyed learning new things, it’s a never ending process. So I got my share of that during this experience for sure.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: I love that so much. It is one of my favorite journeys, of course, like writing my book, definitely man, I feel you. It is so challenging, and at the end of it, you’re like, “This is it? Two hundred pages?” Like this is my entire life, you know? But at the same time, like you said, you articulated it so well, it’s rarely bringing out all the unique experiences and orchestrating them in a way that makes sense to the reader, and of course, helps them.

Gives them value, and in your case, you’re trying to change, you know, whether it’s a small team, a community, or even our world, you know, it does start with rethinking and reshaping how we see employees in general, you know? I think for a long time just the word employee felt like you just do what I tell you to do, right? Obviously, that’s completely changing in the modern world, and as it needs to, of course.

But today, embracing these new things, embracing the modern aspects of it all is really putting that employee first and figuring out everything else from there and building things around that aspect. So man, kudos to you. It is an amazing journey, it is an amazing book. Shout out to you for taking the time, energy, and resources to put it together.

Dmitriy Neganov: I appreciate it.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: So thank you for sharing your stories, yeah, and your experiences with our audience as well. The book is called Stream Theory: An Employee-Centered Hybrid Management System for Achieving a Cultural Shift through Prioritizing Problems, Illustrating Solutions, and Enabling Engagement. Besides checking out the book, where can people find you, Dmitriy?

Dmitriy Neganov: I have a website, it’s called, and anyone who’s interested in learning more about this framework, I invite you to visit the website and to explore the additional information that’s there. I am trying to put as much of knowledge-based together as I can for the benefit, well, of everybody who is interested, and hopefully, we’ll be able to build a community that is just as passionate as I am about making this fundamental change and hopefully, we’ll end up leaving a better world for our kids and grandkids.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yeah, I love that. Well, thank you so much, Dmitriy, for joining me today. It’s been an honor, my friend. Thanks.

Dmitriy Neganov: Thank you, Hussein. I appreciate it.