Blockers

Is it really beyond the bounds of credibility to imagine that we could all be twice, three times, four times better at delivering software? The data’s there (ISBSG). The real-world results and exemplars are there (Familiar, not least). The road-map, blue-print or manual is there (Quintessence). The support required to build the necessary environment is there (Hearts over Diamonds, Memeology, Organisational Psychotherapy).

So what’s holding back our industry, our software delivery organisations? Indifference? Ignorance? Learned helplessness? Lack of incentives? Vested interests? Fear? Something else?

I’m sure I don’t know the exact nature of the blocker*.  But it’s clear that there’s blockers.

– Bob

*I have my suspicions. But it seems that no one wants to even talk about it.

 

As a manager, what’s more important to you? The nature of your present role, or the success of the company?

Put another way: If the ongoing success of the company required your role to change, would you support or resist that change? Can you even talk franklly about the issue?

 

Some months ago I penned a quickie on the purpose of organisations, as stated by Philib B. Crosby (and a statement with which I have much sympathy):

“The purpose of organizations is to help people have lives.”

~ Phil Crosby

To elaborate on this only slightly, and particularly in the context of hierachical management so beloved of Analytic-minded organisations everywhere:

“The purpose of organisations is to help people have lives. And the more important the person, the more their organisations serve them in having lives.”

~ FlowChainSensei

See also: Your REAL Job

Management, Net-Net

I’ve written some number of posts already describing the incompatibilities between traditonal, hierarchical, command-and-control management (THCM)  and collaborative knowledge work (CKW). I’ve written that we can have one or the other, but not both.

I note the absence of any signs that THCM is being scrutinised anew – excepting from a few quarters such as Prof Gary Hamel with Humanocracy, and Frederic Laloux with Reinventing Organisations. Even though effective CKW becomes ever more widespread. Not to mention essential to businesses and society both.

Let’s assume for the sake of this partticular post that THCM afforts organisations and societies some real benefits. I personally have my doubts. but lets go with it. Similarly, let’s also assume that CKW also affors some real benefits. For what it’s worth you can probably guess my personal take on that assumption.

The Economic Question

So here’s the (economic*) question: Which affords the greater benefits to organisations: THCM or CKW, net-net?

If we geared how organisationa are run in line with optimising for effective CKW – which would mean downplaying, replacing or abandoning THCM – would these organisations be better off, produce better (finanical, social, etc.) results?

Conversely, does THCM – with the inevitable negative consequences for effective CKW, result in higher profits, margins, and other measures of success (financial and otherwise)?

I’d love to hear your take on this question.

– Bob

*This question kinda assumes organisations are primarily economic entities with success measured in financial and economic terms. I suggest this is actually just a big lie.

Quintessential Applications – Come Join Us!

What do we need to see in applications from potential Quintessential fellows? Well, we definitely don’t want to see a CV or resume. We don’t grok how what you’ve done in the past speaks to your potential in the future. We choose to see our fellows as capable of anything, given the necessary support and environment.

We would like to be surprised by the things you feel represent your best. Maybe a list of the things you’ve read and found insightful, such as blog posts, articles, books and so on. Or the times you’ve most enjoyed getting together with others to deliver great software and great experiences. Or maybe the topics in which you have the most interest, and some contributions you’ve made or intend to make in those areas. Maybe you’d be willing to share your take on Quintessence, on Organisational Psychotherapy, or some intriguing questions or practical experience you may have regarding excellence in software delivery. Opinions are way less interesting to us, compared to evidence.

It might be interesting to hear about the terms and conditions you guess you might be needing, including things like pay, hours, locations, equipment, team mates, etc..

Take a look at the list of skills we consider most useful, and tell us about your own skills and aspirations in those areas, or even in other areas you feel may be relevant. Although some “hard” tech skills such as coding and UX might be interesting, we’d love to enroll fellows with outstanding soft skills – these rank higher in our priorities. For example, the Antimatter Principle is as the heart of everything we do – so we’d love to hear about your experiences with attending to folks’ needs.

We’d also love to hear about times when you’ve taken care of something or someone. And how that felt – bot for you and for them.

Above all, we invite you to share with us why you see yourself as a good fit for our community of fellows, and the ways in which you will contribute to moving our whole community forward – improving the principles and practices of software delivery. And your take on excellence, too.

Go wild! Express yourself. If words and text ain’t your thang, maybe video, or audio, or music, or art, or Zen koans, or haikus, or however you best express yourself.

Our declared purpose is to make a dent in the universe, to make the world a better place through outstanding excellence in software delivery. To bring Alien Tech to the service of human beings. We’d love to hear what these things means to you. And how you see yourself contributing.

We appreciate we’re asking you to dedicate some non-trivial amount of time to representing yourself. And we’ll reciprocate by dedicating our time to paying attention to your application. And we will happily help you evolve your application from e.g. small beginnings, incrementally. No need for a one-shot big- bang application. Doing things together is, of course, a hallmark of The Quintessential Group.

We’re looking forward to hearing from you – whatever the medium, whatever the format. As Marshall McLuhan said, the medium is the message.

– Bob

I’m always happy to spend time briefing yourself and your people on the essentials of Quintessence.

I’m often available, both in person and via virtual meetings.

If you’d like to understand what you and your organisation is missing out on, and how you could be turbo-charging your software delivery efforts, do get in touch.

You may also be interested to hear that our training partner, Alcor Academy, can offer a half-day introductory workshop on the topic.

Further Reading

Marshall, R.W. (2021). Quintessence: An Acme for Software Development Organisations. [online] leanpub.com. Falling Blossoms (LeanPub). Available at: https://leanpub.com/quintessence/[Accessed 4 May 2022].

We’re NOT Hiring!

At The Quintessential Group we’re NOT hiring. We have little interest in paying people for their labour or their personal services (fnarr).

We ARE inviting inquiries and applications to join our community of fellows, and participate in our software delivery teams.

Sure, we pay. And we pay top dollar (well British Pounds, mostly). But we pay our people so they can live (and fellows get to choose their own salaries and rates, amongst other things). We subscribe to Phil Crosby’s statement about the purpose of organisations:

The purpose of organizations is to help people have lives.

~ Phil Crosby

Fellowship

We’re breaking the transactional nature of the individual <-> organisation relationship in favour of something much more like fellowship.

So, we’re NOT hiring. But we ARE inviting applications to join our community of fellows. First off for our Quintessential Teams service. And then for our other services, which will be coming on stream soon.

Invitation

We cordially invite you to apply to join our community of fellows. In the first instance, we’re looking for folks with software delivery skills, who will be forming delivery teams rented by our clients (a variety of medium to large UK organisations) to deliver software at their behest. Early on, you’ll be playing and learning directly with myself and / or Ian.

Just drop Ian or myself a message expressing your curiosity or interest, and we’ll get back to you.

You may already have some questions, so please include them if you’re after some clarification or further information. There’s much already available on my Think Different blog. And a brief but growing collection of more focussed introductory and informational posts on the Quintessential Blog, too.

Benefits

What you may not have yet read is some of the other benefits of becoming a fellow of The Quintessential Group:

Having Your Needs Met

Central to our business and community is the idea of attending to folks’ needs. Each of our fellows will have his or her own needs, and The Quintessential Group will do its utmost to see those needs met. 

These may include career development, learning, autonomy to capitalise on your abilities, mastery of skills, sharing in a common purpose, playing with technology, work-life balance, choosing your own package, and so on. We’d love to hear just what your needs are. And we as a business have needs too. This mutuality offers a crucible for productive dialogue.

The Opportunity To Do Great Things

We focus on excellence, and carefully select clients with and for whom our fellows can achieve truly great things. Humdrum things bore us, and we’d not ask any of our fellows to suffer that either.

The Opportunity To Participate in Self-Managing Teams

Our Teams manage themselves, with the active support of the rest of the company. Learn and experience what participating in truly self-managing teams feels like. The true meaning of esprit de corps. The experience of excellence and real fellowship.

Other Key Benefits

Unlimited World-class Personal Mentoring

Bob and Ian each have more than twenty years’ experience in coaching and mentoring developers and delivery teams. We happily share this experience with all Quintessential Fellows, on a one to one basis (mentoring, individual coaching) and one-to-many basis (i.e. teams).

Unlimited Expert Coaching

We define mentoring as providing sage advice when asked. Coaching to us implies a more structure relationship. See e.g. “Coaching for Performance” by Sir Jon Whitmore and his G.R.O.W. model. Mentoring also implies, to us, a shared agenda. Coaching, an agenda entirely driven by the coachees.

Unlimited Awesome Career Development, Including Job Search Help & Career Advice

We try to attend to the needs of all our fellows, on a continual basis. If being a part of the Quintessential community is not meeting your needs, we’re delighted when we can help folks get their needs met, even when that means leaving us for pastures new. We’re delighted to actively support folks in this.

Free Books And Subscriptions

Continuous learning is at the core of the Quintessential Group and its community of fellows. We support these needs in any and all ways possible, including paying for all books and subscriptions of our fellows. If you have other learning needs, we’re happy to support those, too.

Paid Time Off For Conferencing (Plus Entry Fees, Expenses Paid)

We don’t believe our fellows should suffer a financial disincentive to pursue their learning and socialising needs, so we pay for time taken to attend conferences, as well as for the entry fees and associated expenses (travel, hotels, etc.).

Paid Time Off For Learning, Studying

Many folks learn for the joy of it, but we don’t see why learning has to be on the learner’s dime So we invite our fellows to invoice us or otherwise claim financial recompense for time spent learning. Effective learning benefits everyone, not least the company.

Development Hardware, Tools

Many new fellows will already have their own equipment, software tools, etc. But when they need other stuff to be quintessentially effective, we have no issue with providing such things, as the fellow(s) see fit.

Note: A Quintessential fellow is anyone (irrespective of gender) who has complete the one-week orientation and chosen to join the Quintessential community.

Note: When we say “paid for” we mean The Quintessential Group will reimburse fellows in the course of invoicing in respect of client gigs. In other words, and using the one week’s paid-for orientation as an example, we will pay fellows for attending the orientation week, over the course of several weeks’ payments for participating in services to a client.

Accepting Inquiries and Applications

We are now accepting inquiries and applications for the first “orientation” cohort of Quintessential Teams

Orientation

Simply put, we pay our candidate fellows to join together for a week (five days) of orientation. This week prepares fellows for Quintessential Team client engagements, in particular is afford the opportunity to get to know each other, build relationships, and thrash out a shared way of playing together.

Would you like to know more?

– Bob

First Step Towards Quintessence

Taking a look at the idea of Quintessence can seem overwhelmingly daunting. Changing the culture of a whole organisation? Shifting assumptions and beliefs of an entire workforce, managers and executives included? Wow. Some herculean task?

Formidable Challenge

The challenge can seem truly formidable. Yet the benefits look appealing. 

How to take that first step? What is the most useful and reassuring first step?

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

~ Lao Tzu

Surfacing And Reflecting

The clue is on the cover of my second book, “Memeology“. The subtitle reads

Surfacing and reflecting on the organisation’s collective assumptions and beliefs.

I find a useful first step is talking with peers. And listening to what they have to say. Discovering if there’s an appetite for such surfacing and reflecting. Uncovering their challenges of the moment, and sounding out potential allies. Persuasion comes later, if at all.

The status quo has a powerful grip on busy people. It’s easy to dismiss calls for change in the midst of daily stressors such as fire-fighting and chasing targets.

Timbre

What’s the timbre of dialogue in your organisation? Progressive or regressive? Inviting or dismissive? What timbre might best suit the kinds of dialogue implied by Quintessence? How might y’all affect that timbre? And could you use some help with that?

Chatting Is The First Step

To recap – simple chatting with friends, neighbours, peers and colleagues can be the vital first step. And “Alien Tech” can sometimes serve as an icebreaker, if you feel you need one.

– Bob

 

Alien Tech: What Is It?

powertech

Alien tech power at one’s fingertips

At The Quintessential Group, our motto is “Alien Tech for Human Beings”.

What do we mean by “Alien Tech”?

Dictionary Definitions

Let’s take a look at the dictionary:

Technology noun
\ tech·​nol·​o·​gy | \ tek-ˈnä-lə-jē \

Definition of technology

  1. a: The practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area
    // medical technology
    b: A capability given by the practical application of knowledge
    // a car’s fuel-saving technology
  2. A manner of accomplishing a task especially using technical processes, methods, or knowledge
    // new technologies for information storage
  3. The specialised aspects of a particular field of endeavour
    // educational technology

Alien adjective
\ ˈā-lē-ən, ˈāl-yən \

Definition of alien

  1. a: Belonging or relating to another person, place, or thing: Strange
    // an alien environment
    b:Relating, belonging, or owing allegiance to another country or government: Foreign
    // alien residents
    c: [Exotic sense]
    // alien plants
    d: Coming from another world: Extraterrestrial
    // alien beings
    // an alien spaceship
    // When it comes to knowing what alien life forms might be like, we don’t have any idea
    ~ Kate Shuster
  2. Differing in nature or character typically to the point of incompatibility
    // ideas alien to democracy

Our Definitions

So, by the above dictionary definitions, we can define “Alien Tech” (Alien Technology) as:

capability given by the practical application of knowledge, where that knowledge is strange, or seeming as if coming from another world.

Put another way, and closer to our quintessential usage:

An approach to running collaborative knowledge work businesses that differs in nature or character from the norm, typically to the point of incompatibility.

When it comes to relating to alien ideas, most folks just don’t know where to start.

~ FlowChainSensei

In Practice

What does “Alien Tech” mean in practice?

It means running a business, in our caseThe Quintessential Group, based on assumptions and beliefs incompatible with typical businesses. Assumptions and beliefs which lead to levels of software delivery excellence unobtainable by other means. We attend to folks’s needs in ways totally alien to those immersed in traditonal management mythos. For those clients that judge by results, this is little more than a curiousity, until the question of “how do they do that?” comes up.

– Bob

Further Reading

Marshall, R. W. (2015). Aliens. [online] Think Different. Available at: https://flowchainsensei.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/aliens/ [Accessed 8 May 2022].
Marshall, R. W. (2018). Alien Tech Alien Tropes. [online] Think Different. Available at: https://flowchainsensei.wordpress.com/2018/08/28/alien-tech-alien-tropes/ [Accessed 8 May 2022].
Marshall, R. W. (2018). Some Alien Tropes. [online] Think Different. Available at: https://flowchainsensei.wordpress.com/2018/09/04/some-alien-tropes/ [Accessed 8 May 2022].

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