What Makes a Mindset?

What Makes a Mindset?

[See also more recent posts: Perspectives on Rightshifting and What is a Mindset?

[NB This post is work in progress…]

I was recently lecturing at Cass Business School, for City University’s Masters in Information Leadership course. I learned a great deal – and confirmed, in passing, Ackoff’s observations that the folks who learn most in a classroom are the teachers. :}

One of the things I learned was that it’s difficult for folks new to the Marshall Model to locate their own organisations on the “effectiveness” axis, or even to judge which mindset might be the prevailing one in their organisation.

So I’ll be writing some posts explaining the idea of Mindset, hopefully in a way that folks might find helpful in classifying their own organisations’ collective mindset.

What Do We Mean by “Mindset”?

For the purposes of the Marshall Model, at least, I define a Mindset to mean “a self-consistent set of assumptions concerning the way work should be organised, arranged, conducted and controlled”. And I should also mention the role of the collective organisational mindset – the assumption here being that everyone in a given organisation tends to act as if they share a common mindset (over the longer term). Generally, anyone (or any group) seen as a “deviant” with respect to this common mindset causes some degree of cognitive dissonance – both in the deviants and the rest of the organisation. This dissonance, over the longer term – typically nine to eighteen months – almost always resolves itself, one way or another. And often not in a good way.

Questionnaire

Drawing on this AuthorStream presentation, the following questionnaire offers a simple way of getting started with categorising you own organisation’s mindset, in terms of the Marshall Model. Simply identify which statement in each group sounds most like your organisation (as a whole), and keep a running total of the points associated with each selection. At the end, divide the total by <number_of_questions_answered * 10> to give you an approximate location on the RIghtshifting horizontal (effectiveness) axis, and thus identify the likely prevailing collective organisational mindset.

[Please note: this is the first draft of this post, and not all questions are complete as yet.]

1) Waste

How much of everyone’s working week, for folks across the organisation, is eaten up doing stuff that doesn’t add real value – i.e. anything that customers would never want to pay for – or make much difference to the value perceived by your customers (things like meetings, rework, finding defects, dealing with customer complaints, etc.)?

  • a)  Around 90%. (4 points)
  • b)  Something like two-thirds to three quarters of folk’s time seems wasted. (12 points)
  • c)  In the region of half the working week. (25 points)
  • d)  20% or less of the working week is eaten up by stuff that doesn’t make much difference. (42 points)

2) Product Development Life Cycle

How are new products (including services, and new products for internal use) developed?

  • a) Things are generally thrown together with a lot of design loopbacks (where problems in the design are found during e.g. implementation, and thus require the development folks to go back and change the design, invalidating some of their post-design work). (4 points)
  • b) Most new products, etc. are planned in some detail up front, and then built more or less according to that master plan, over a period of several months or years. (12 points)
  • c) Most new products evolve during their progress from concept to deployment, steered by a guiding vision, but with the design and implementation details emerging as the product progresses. (25 points)
  • d) New products are deployed very early, as very minimal versions, and those that find some traction in the marketplace get more funding to evolve into more sophisticated and fully-features versions, whereas those that fail to find a market are culled quickly and ruthlessly. (42 points)

3) Flow Mode

How do product ideas “flow” through the organisation and into the market? I.E. What is the “chunk” size of work in the organisation?

  • a) Mostly at random – there is no consistent way in which new products flow through the organisation. (4 points)
  • b) In large batches, with groups of related “product features”, often for a whole product, batched together and passed from queue to queue (for example, using a phase-gate approach). Such “feature-sets” get released (in the form of product iterations) with releases at least 3-4 months apart, or with the first or only release of the “product” months or years from its conception. (12 points)
  • c) In small batches, groups of related “product features” batched together and passed from queue to queue (for example, using a iterative, time-boxed approach). Such “mini-feature-sets” get released (in the form of product iterations) with releases as little as 2-4 weeks apart. (25 points)
  • d) In single features, with each individual new “product feature ” being released as soon as it is ready to deploy, often every 2-3 days , or maybe more frequently than that. (42 points)

4) Feedback Delays

How long is it, typically, before the market’s (or customers’) reaction to a new product feature can be incorporated into a subsequent product release?

  • a) We have no way of knowing – but I’d guess that any market feedback we do notice rarely affects subsequent releases at all, directly. (4 points)
  • b) Something in the order of 3-18 months. (12 points)
  • c) Something around two to six weeks. (25 points)
  • d) Less than a week. (42 points)

5) Administrative Project Management

How much emphasis does the organisation place on administering projects “properly”?

  • a) We don’t have projects as such. We just work each day on stuff that looks like it might be useful. (4 points)
  • b) Our organisation is very diligent about projects. Most if not all projects within the organisation have a dedicated project manager. The organisation also has a proper project management process (PRINCE2, CMMI, etc), Quality Manager or department, Programme Office, and so on. Most or all projects report their status via RAG reporting or some such on a regular basis. Much of what we need to do every day is diligently written in our process manuals and work standards documents. (12 points)
  • c) Work teams manage their own work, acquiring and managing team resources as necessary and themselves organising their interfaces with other parts of the organisation. (25 points)
  • d) The organisation used to have projects but has discovered the disadvantages outweigh the benefits so no longer uses the “project” as a means to organise work. (42 points)

6) Fun

How much fun and enjoyment do people have at work each day?

  • a) The organisation is a great place to work most days, apart from when things go wrong and people have to slip into ‘firefighting’ mode (which is rather too often). People (mostly) treat each like human beings. (4 points)
  • b) The organisation treats people like drones, and there is a pervading atmosphere of gloom. People are not meant to have fun at work, are they? Fun is not professional. (12 points)
  • c) The joy of working in the organisation comes from knowing what to do, having the resources and support to do it, and knowing that together the people across the organisation are making a sustained, positive difference to the world. Everyone feels well-respected, both as human beings and for the contributions they make. i(25 points)
  • d) Every day its different. People get a buzz from knowing what’s going on in the World (outside the business), especially in the world of customers and markets, and from coming up with new ways every day to meet emerging needs and trends. Everyone feels well-respected, both as human beings and for the contributions they make. (42 points)

7) Wasted Potential

People like it when they get to do more good, meaningful work. Organisations benefit from workers being more engaged with their work. How much of everyone’s innate potential gets used on a daily basis?

  • a) People spend a lot of time fighting fires and fixing up things that unexpectedly go wrong. (4 points)
  • b) Even getting the simplest things done takes much coordination, meetings, discussions, referrals “up the chain of command” for decisions, etc. Red tape is the normal state of affairs. People’s skills and special talents are not well-recognised nor often used to the advantage of themselves and the organisation. (12 points)
  • c) People can get on with what they know needs doing, coordinating with others when and wherever necessary. (25 points)
  • d) The organisation has automatic, systemic means to flag new opportunities and high-priority things that need folks’ attention. People then coalesce around these priority items and get them done straight away. (42 points)
[Note: Questions below here are not yet complete]

8) Respect for the individual

Autonomy, mastery, purpose.

  • a)
  • b)
  • c) People have the leeway to make their own decisions about what they do, how much time they spend on things, how busy they are, where they work, and so on. Everyone feels well-respected, both as human beings and for the contributions they make.
  • d) People hold each other to account.

9) Heroism

  • a) The organisation values the contribution of individuals, and encourages folks to work long hours
  • b)
  • c)
  • d)

10) Metrics

Some organisations subscribe to Lord Kelvin’s view that “If you can not measure it, you can not improve it”, others to Deming’s view that “the most important figures that one needs for management are unknown and unknowable”.

  • a)
  • b)
  • c)
  • d)

11) Principles (theory)  vs Practices

  • a)
  • b)
  • c)
  • d)

12) Toolheads

  • a)
  • b)
  • c)
  • d)

13) Testing

  • a)
  • b)
  • c)
  • d)

14) Defects Seen By Customers

  • a)
  • b)
  • c)
  • d)

15) Development Focus

  • a)
  • b)
  • c)
  • d)

16) CMMI

  • a)
  • b)
  • c)
  • d)

17) Risk Awareness

  • a)
  • b)
  • c)
  • d)

18)  Systematic Learning

  • a)
  • b)
  • c)
  • d)

19) Due Date Performance

How many product releases happen on the dates originally scheduled for them, i.e. at the inception of the product?

1) 10% or less. (4 points)

2) CIrca 25%. (12 points)

3) 40% or more. (24 points)

4) At least 75%. (42 points)

20) Use of Third Parties

How much of the budget of each new product is allocated to using the experience of third-party specialists (not e.g. individual temporary or contract staff, but people or organisations with highly-relevant specialist skills or know-how)?

  • a) Less than 10%. (4 points)
  • b) More than 20%. (12 points)
  • c) More than 40%. (24 points)
  • d) Our products have such leading-edge technology that we can’t find enough specialist help at any price. (42 points)

21) Post-Deployment Problems

  • a)
  • b)
  • c)
  • d)

22) Variation in Product Success

  • a)
  • b)
  • c)
  • d)

23) Attribution of Causes of Variation in Product Success

  • a) Individuals
  • b) Unsure
  • c) The system

24) Organisational Metaphor In Use

  • a) Office
  • b) Factory
  • c) Design Studio / Lab
  • d) Value Streams

25) Who “Does” the Change

  • a) Anyone that find themselves “stuck” with doing it. (4 points)
  • b) Management (and/or external consultants). (12 points)
  • c) The workers, collectively, supported by extra resources etc provided on demand by management. (24 points)
  • d) The system. (42 points)

Note: Further drafts will add more answers to the above questions, and maybe more questions, too. Please let me know how helpful you find this post in coming to terms with understanding “Mindset”? And let me know how your organisation scores? Thanks!

– Bob

7 comments
  1. Hi Bob, question 1, can an analytical mindset understand this question? I’m sure they will always score 42 (in their view) as they will have spreadsheets to ‘prove’ it!

    • Hi Ian,

      Thanks for joining the conversation on this post. Yes, I suspect you may be right. Always a risk when asking people to self-assess. But one mistaken answer should not irredeemably skew the whole result.

      – Bob

  2. Hi Bob,

    Thanks for this post – I am hoping to use the Marshall Model as a basis to try and express my desire to enact effective cultural change at work, but I was floundering on how I might show where we were along the curve. This post will serve as a great start in helping that assessment.

    • Hi Dan,

      How’s it coming along with your ‘assessment’? To what extent have these questions actually helped, if at all?

      – Bob

  3. Björn Tikkanen said:

    Hi Bob

    I think this will bring much better clarity to the thinking (and discussions) around The Marshall Model. I find the point from Ian Carroll valid and I would describe the thinking as “Unconscious incompetence” from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_stages_of_competence

    Looking forward for the list to be complete(r).

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