The Last Post

I’ve just had a dream. Not a grandiose MLK-type “I have a dream” kind of thing. Just a regular, unbidden dream whilst sleeping.

I’ll not bore you with the details. Suffice to say it’s wakened me to the utter pointlessness of continuing to push ideas to an audience that’s just not interested in learning.

So this is my last post.

For those few who’ve followed my blog with interest, I propose to continue sharing, via correspondence. Accordingly, I invite you to correspond via the channel or medium of your choice. You know where to find me. Clue: try LinkedIn for starters, or leave a comment, below ⬇️.

I wish you well.

– Bob

Factors of Top Performing Businesses

In order of biggest influence (biggest first):

  1. Luck.
  2. Graft a.k.a. criminality.
  3. Unethical practices.
  4. Rape of the planet.
  5. Friends in high places.
  6. Effective shared assumptions and beliefs.

Luck

Most entrepreneurs admit that their success is largely down to luck. Being in the right place at the right time, and so on.

Graft

Criminal enterprises such as Enron or Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities are widely known. Graft on relatively smaller scales is widespread as a business strategy or tactic.

Unethical practices

Unethical practices such as stealing from employees, explotation of employees or customers, rape of pension funds, unethical marketing practices, and so on are so widespread as to be common practice.

Rape of the planet

Many businesses inflate their profits through appropriation of natural resources (water, forests, carbon deposits, minerals, etc.).

Friends In high places

Favourable treatment by e.g. regulators or legislators can lead to increased profits, revenues, etc., if you know the right people from whom or via whom to secure such favours.

Effective shared assumptions and beliefs

Way down at the bottom of my list is actually running the business effectively. Little wonder then that all the other options listed here seem much more common as strategies for “success”.

Most of the options listed here reside more or less outside the control of the businesses in question. Luck is rarely in the control of the protagonists. Graft risks prosecution and sanctions such as jail. Unethical practices risk alienating customers. Rape of the planet risks alienating society, more than ever nowadays. Friends in high places relies on having such friends, and avoiding scrutiny of such relationships.

Only the last option in the list confers some degree of integrity. But then when did integrity ever count for much in business?

– Bob

#NoPlanning

I’ve lost count of the number of folks I’ve encountered that see planning as sacrosanct, as gospel. I’ve also lost count of the number of occasions I’ve attempted to broach the subject with offers of e.g. dialogue and mutual exploration, only to be stonewalled.

In support of #NoPlanning, I offer the follow Ackoff quote:

“If you have the capacity for response to the unexpected, then you don’t have to plan for it. The important thing to do then is to continuously increase the capacity to respond to whatever occurs in the future.”

~ Russell Ackoff

I posit that #NoPlanning is the epitome of business agility.

Would you be willing to talk about it?

– Bob

Who’s got your back when it comes to remaining relevant in a fast-changing skills market? Who can you rely on to point out new skills that will become vogue in one, five, ten years’ time?

Given the time it takes to develop such skills to the point where they become useful to clients and employers, when do you start ramping up new skills in anticipation of emergent demand for them?

Especially when some new skills area suggests a sea-change from your existing skill set and comfort zone?

Or maybe you’re just accepting of increasing irrelevancy and declining rates of pay?

Waiting In The Wings

What’s going to the next big thing in terms of approaches to software delivery? And when might we expect the transition to that next big thing to become apparent?

“The future’s already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.”

~ William Gibson

The Days of Agile Are Numbered

We can argue about how much life the Agile approach to software delivery has left in it. What’s beyond dispute is that there will be something after Agile. And I propose it will  look much different from Agile. I find it inconceivable that Agile is so perfect that there’s no room for improvement. Even though – ironically, give the exhortations to “inspect and adapt” – many in the Agile supply chain don’t want to talk about it AT ALL. Why rock the boat and derail the gravy train?

Customers and users, however, are waking up to the inadequacies of presently lauded approaches. And current upheavals in organisations, such as remote working and the scramble for talent, are accelerating these folks’ dissatisfaction.

Holding You Back

What’s prolonging the transition towards any new approach? Basically, it’s the prospect of the serious pain that comes with the adoption of effective new approaches. SAFe’s transient popularity illustrates how many organisations prefer an ineffective approach, with the illusion of change, rather than an effective approach that actually brings benefits. Any significant uplift in software delivery and product development performance implies a much different approach to running technology organisations, including, not least, different styles of management.

Your View?

What’s your view? What promising new approach(es) do you see waiting in the wings? And if there’s nothing with a recognisable name or label, what characteristics will a new approach have to have to boost it into consideration?

– Bob

Getting Upstream

When we consider change, we often overlook the context for that change, and the necessity to change the context to facilitate the change(s) we have in mind.

Shifting Left

For example, in the context of improving testing, the testing community invites us to “shift left”; to shift our focus to earlier phases of software delivery – to the left, in the stream of software delivery activities – where leverage is assumed to be greater. In other words, getting upstream of where testing activities have traditionally taken place.

The Broader Context

In a broader context, that of software delivery more generally, getting upstream means considering the context in which software delivery takes place.

What is this context? For me, as an organisational psychotherapist, it’s about the collective assumptions and beliefs of the host organisation. Collective assumptions and beliefs – or culture – that constrain how the work works.

Root of Failure

I have yet to see an approach to software delivery that considers this wider context, let alone provides a means to address these broader contextual issues. I attribute most of the failures of e.g. Waterfall, Agile, etc. to this absence of consideration for context.

Put another way, approaches to software delivery that fail to cater to the (thorny) issues of adoption are about as useful as chocolate teapot in the Sahara. This idea seems alien to all the methodologists I know of.

Organisational Psychotherapy

Organisational Psychotherapy provided just such a means. It invites folks considering changes, changes to the way they approach software delivery, to consider the broader context as an integral part of the change. Through dialogue, surfacing these broader contextual issues and inviting shared reflection on them, organisations considering change can get upstream of the changes under consideration.

(You can find out more about Organisational Psychotherapy and what “Getting Upstream” of the software delivery challeng looks like in my books (Marshall 2018, Marshall 2021, Marshall 2021).

As Einstein observed:

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

~Albert Einstein

I like to think he was talking about getting upstream of the immediate problem.

– Bob

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 6 Jul 2022].
Marshall, R.W. (2021). Memeology: Surfacing And Reflecting On The Organisation’s Collective Assumptions And Beliefs. [online] leanpub.com. Falling Blossoms (LeanPub). Available at: https://leanpub.com/memeology/ [Accessed 6 Jul 2022].
Marshall, R.W. (2018). Hearts over Diamonds: Serving Business and Society Through Organisational Psychotherapy. [online] leanpub.comFalling Blossoms (LeanPub). Available at: https://leanpub.com/heartsoverdiamonds/ [Accessed 6 Jul 2022].
Marshall, R.W. (2021). Organisational Psychotherapy Bundle 1. [online] Leanpub. Available at: https://leanpub.com/b/organisationalpsychotherapybundle1 [Accessed 6 Jul. 2022].

Carpenters

What’s the job of a carpenter? Is it to cut, saw, shape and finish wood? Hardly. Although those things are involved in carpentry.

How about the production of doors, chairs, tables, cabinets, structural woodwork, etc.? Again, not really.

In essence, the job of a carpenter, as for so many other trades, skills and professions, is to attend to folks’ needs, via wood. Needs like: things to sit on, things to close off spaces, things in which to keep other things, things to support things, and so on.

What say you?

– Bob

I’ve not called myself a software developer for at least thirty years. That’s not to say I’ve stopped coding. Far from it. But the end in mind has changed. From “developing software” to “attending to folks’ needs”. Seems to me that latter frame offers far more potential for satisfaction – both for me and for those I serve – than coding ever did. See also: #NoSoftware and the Antimatter Principle.

Gilbfest 2022: Day 2, 3 and Summary

More of the same as day one, really. A few bright spots courtesy of Al Shalloway and Simon Wright. And a couple of warming side conservations. Otherwise an almost complete waste of three days of my life. I’ll not be attending anothe Gilbfest, even if I live that long. Just too many dinosaurs and quintessential morons.

I did get to expatiate briefly on Quintessence, but given the almost complete lack of interest amd engagement, that was largely a waste of time, too.

– Bob

Quintessential Morons

Quintessential morons are not those folks with a shortfall in intellect, but those folks with a shortfall in awareness of the limitations and boundaries of their personal world view.

The latter group are not open to changing themselves because they remain unaware of the need for, and benefits to themselves and others of, personal change.

The world is stuffed full of quintessential morons.

Chances are, you’re one too.

– Bob

GilbFest 2022 – Day 1

A quick round-up of my impressions from the first day of GilbFest 2022.

What is GilbFest?

Every year Tom Gilb invites selected folks from his acquaintance to meet in London for a week, to share ideas relevant to the world of software delivery and etc.

This year, as for the past few years, the event is online rather than in-person. Which suits me as I loathed trawling up to central London every day for a week.

This year’s theme is “Success And Preventing Failure”. Each day is divided into 30 minute slots, one per attendee/speaker, with each slot providing 15 minutes for some kind of presentation and a further 15 minutes for Q&A. Each slot being interspersed with a 20 minute break / opportunity for social interactions.

Impressions

Overall, day one has been a series of folks sharing anecdotes, opinions and a couple of (brief) case studies. The general tenor has been “I read a book, you might like it too” and “I found this (other person’s) model, you might like it too”. No original work or thoughts so far. Which, as an inventor, innovator,  and serial creator myself, I find deeply frustrating. And I hate unsubstantiated opinions, too. All in all, my needs are not getting met. Nor even attended to. C’est la vie.

Also, there’s been a lot of blah-blah-blabbering going on today. Personally, I choose to listen over talk.

– Bob

Highlight Problems, Avoid Solutions

It’s wayyy easier to provide solutions than to help folks find their own solutions. What are the consequences of this observation?

  • For consultants, trainers, pseudo-coaches and others whose income depends on selling “solutions”?
  • For folks seeking long-term, permanent solutions to their problems?
  • For folks who choose to hire consultants or other experts to solve their problems for them?
  • For folks habituated to delegating the finding of solutions to their problems to others?

Voltaire asks us a rhetorical question:

“Is there anyone so wise as to learn by the experience of others?”

~ Voltaire

I’ll not be offering any solutions to this conundrum. I am available help you along the path of finding your own.Do get in touch!

#IANAC (I am not a consultant).

– Bob

Further Reading

Rother, M. (2010). Toyota Kata: Managing People For Continuous Improvement And Superior Results. Mcgraw-Hill.
Marshall, R.W. (2021). Memeology: Surfacing And Reflecting On The Organisation’s Collective Assumptions And Beliefs. [online] leanpub.com. Falling Blossoms (LeanPub). Available at: https://leanpub.com/memeology/ [Accessed 16 Jun 2022].

This is my DeLonghi four slice toaster. It’s been doing sterling service in my kitchen for the past seven years. If you’re looking for a toaster, you could do a lot worse.

Only last week I (finally!) discovered the “bagel” button. Which turns off one element in each slot so as to toast only one side of a bagel, burger bun, etc.

What’s this anything to do with employees?

It strikes me we often treat employees like I have treaded my toaster. We overlook some of the things they can do, really useful things, through familiarity and/or lack of attention. Their talents in some areas go begging because we’re habituated to seeing them in only one light. We succumb to the functional fixedness bias (not limited to objects, methinks).

Aside: FWIW I’ve never used the “defrost” or “reheat” buttons either. I guess my toaster is currently quietly looking for a new, more appreciative boss.

Power To Effect Change

We are all powerless to effect change, excepting together.

Deming emphasised that organisational tranformation and change must start with individuals changing their own personal assumptions and beliefs.

Yes, change starts with ourselves, but we may see little impact outside of ourselves until we get together to support one another and build a movement to action, to changing our group or community’s collective assumptions and beliefs.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

~ Margaret Mead

OTOH folks not needing to see change can carry on in isolation, ploughing their own furrrows, with no need for cooperation, community, or messy human interactions.

– Bob

Further Reading

Kahane, A. and Barnum, J. (2017). Collaborating With The Enemy: How To Work With People You Don’t Agree With Or Like Or Trust. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

I’m back on Twitter. Kinda.

Yes I said years ago I wouldn’t be returning. And I have not exactly returned. Judge me as you will.

I’m now one of the folks tweeting on behalf of The Quintessential Group. Twitter handle: @AlienTechGroup

Tweeting about The Group and all things Alien Tech and Quintessential.

BTW Also on LinkedIn – in person and as The Quintessential Group.

Maybe we’ll see you out there?

 

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