Monthly Archives: September 2012

Evidence, Vested Interests and Wishful Thinking

“If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.”

~ C. S. Lewis

This recent TED Med video featuring Ben Goldacre speaks about the systemic problem of under-reporting of negative results in medicine (medical trials, drug trials and the like). The medical profession calls it Publication Bias. Interestingly I didn’t hear any mention of “vested interests” or “commercial pressures”.

How much more of an issue is the under-reporting, wilful ignoring or downright suppression of negative results in attempted Agile adoptions and transformations? (I say it’s more of an issue because of its scope, not that it’s necessarily killing people – compared with e.g. the estimated 100,000 unnecessary US deaths due to ill-informed anti-Arrhythmia drug prescriptions).

“Human beings (including myself) sometimes use their beliefs for wish-fulfillment. Too often we believe what we want to be true.”

~ David L. Wolfe, Epistemology: The Justification Of Belief

What trail of wreckage, in terms of hopes dashed and babies-thrown-out-with-bathwaters, ensues? How many people are suffering? How many are actually dying?

What part have we each of us played in this theatre of pain?

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

I’m feeling at least as mad (angry, frustrated, outraged) as Ben Goldacre seems to be. How about you? How does it make you feel?

– Bob

Further Reading

What Doctors Don’t Know About the Drugs they Prescribe ~ Ben Goldacre (TED video)
Lean Product and Process Development ~ Dr Allen Ward

Lean Agile Scotland 2012 – A Review

[Draft – would you be willing to improve it further with your feedback?]

Lean Agile Scotland 2012 took place in Edinburgh, Scotland 21-22 September 2012.

Already the details are fading, but the joy of the event remains undimmed.

I’m writing this review mainly as a reminder to myself, and as feedback for the conference organisers. Accordingly I’ll be eating my own dogfood, and giving feedback the NVC way. In brief, this follows the form: This is what you (the conference) did; this is what I felt; this is the need of mine that was or was not met.

The City

The choice of Edinburgh, although somewhat forced due to a late issue with the original Glasgow venue, was a happy outcome. I felt warmly welcomed into the city, rainy weather on arrival notwithstanding. The choice of city met my need for railway travel (I dislike flying, love trains) and for a safe(?) and friendly place to be.

Aside: The public brawl on Grassmarket late Saturday night made me wonder if the city is a safe as I first thought.

The Venue

The venue chosen, albeit a last-minute choice, was the “Our Dynamic Earth” centre, near the Scottish Parliament. I felt warmly welcomed by both the venue staff and the conference volunteers, many of whom took the time to speak with me. This met my need for meaningful human connection. The venue was but a short cab ride from the hotel. I felt happy to see parts of Edinburgh during the journeys to and fro. This met my need for experiencing the city.

I felt frustrated and, eventually, exhausted by the level of ambient noise in the break-out areas, and the lack of informal seating (sofas, etc) – which impinged on the quality of conversations. As an introvert and as someone with knee problems that make standing for long periods uncomfortable and tiring, my need for a comfortable and relaxed environment for e.g. conversation was not well met.

The session rooms were spacious, clean, well-lit, well-appointed and well-equipped with audio, video and projection facilities. The seating was a little regimented and I felt some discomfort sitting for long periods in the seating provided. My needs for comfort were not fully met – but I guess that’s auditoria for you.

The Schedule

Apart from the keynote opening each morning, there were two tracks in parallel, each day. I felt frustrated that I was obliged to miss some sessions which I would have liked to attend. I also felt a little bored at times, in sessions that felt overly long at 45 minutes per slot. These things did not meet my need for meaningful human connection, nor for my need to feel I was making a difference.

The format of most of the session followed the talk-to-slide-deck style. Apparently Karl  did a talk-to-flipchart session but I missed that. Most sessions had only a brief (or absent) Q&A element at the end. This format makes me feel like I’m being talked at, and does not meet my need for meaningful human connection, nor for my need to feel I was making a difference.

The Rightshifting Fest

The Saturday morning (Day 2 AM) saw one track dedicated all morning to Rightshifting. Liz Keogh’s keynote “Respect for people” set the tone well, I thought. My session, up first, described the basics of Rightshifting, in an attempt to set the scene for the other two sessions. The organisers went out of their way to accommodate my request for a different format. I felt listened-to and valued. This met my need to do the best I could for the audience, and for the conference organisers.

The Rightshifting Gang

Although I still had slides – to illustrate certain ideas (the slide deck should be online soon) – we moved the furniture around to give a more conversation-friendly in-the-round experience. I’m not sure how successful this was, not least because time pressures (and the surprise of the audience?) impacted the amount of conversation that took place. Note that the slides were in part similar to this presentation.

The Speakers’ Dinner

The Speaker’s Dinner, on the night prior to the conference opening, was held at the Italian restaurant “Vittoria on the Bridge“. I felt well-fed, which met my need for eating after a long day travelling. I  felt frustrated and, eventually, exhausted by the level of noise – which impinged on the quality of conversations. As an introvert, the location did not meet my need for a cozy and conversation-friendly environment.

The Hotel

Most of the speakers stayed at the Apex International, Grassmarket. I found this a pleasant hotel, although the bar/lounge area was a little small and generally noisy. The barman was a star. As in the Speakers’ Dinner restaurant, I felt frustrated and, eventually, exhausted by the level of noise – which impinged on the quality of conversations. As an introvert, my need for a comfortable and supportive environment for e.g. conversation was not met.

The Sessions


The Videos

The videos (coming soon) may not catch the spirit of the event (we shall see) but they will likely give you a taste of the subjects covered. I’ll post the links here when they’re available.


Chris and the other organisers put on a great conference, both at the venue and in the other locations like the hotel and Speakers’ Dinner. I felt cared for and valued. This met my need for being part of and contributing to something joyful. Their efforts meant many of my needs from such an event were met. The biggest unmet need of mine was for conversation-friendly oases of tranquility in which to advance meaningful human connections.

If you get the chance to attend next year, grab it!

– Bob

How to Give Feedback

I’ve always sought feedback on my work. Not out of a need for reassurance or approbation, but out of a desire to improve. And maybe out of a need for meaningful human connection, too. At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I see a lot of other folks asking for, or hoping for, feedback too – mostly with very limited success.

Setting aside the value of effective feedback for a moment – there’s been much written about this, especially in the context of reducing cycle times and shortening feedback loops in software and product development, as well as in organisational change – I’d like to share some ideas on how to give feedback.

“As more and more people learn to offer feedback…the overall dread of feedback-giving can diminish, and feedback can be restored to its fundamental function: a method for people to work together to create environments where productivity flows, where trust and goodwill flourish, and where individuals thrive.”

~ Miki Kashtan

Shortage of Feedback

I don’t get nearly as much feedback on my work as I’d like. Or even as much as I need to improve it. I used to think it was because people are unused to giving feedback, or don’t realise how valuable it can be. Or have worked themselves for so long in organisations where feedback is given so poorly that they want to avoid inflicting the same pain on others (including me).

“Knowing how painful it can be for people to hear a criticism, and how rarely feedback leads to productive conversations or satisfying change, it’s sometimes difficult to imagine that giving feedback can have beneficial consequences. ”

~ Miki Kashtan

Now, though, I’m coming round to the idea that maybe it’s simpler than that. Maybe it’s just that folks are uncertain about how to approach giving feedback. Hopefully this post can make a contribution towards testing that hypothesis – and in addressing that uncertainty, too.

The Perfection Game

For some years now, I have favoured the Perfection Game as the best format I know of by which to give and receive feedback. I commend it to you as a means to focus on the positive, and exclude or reduce negative criticisms.

But it still strikes (sic) me as coercive and violent – what we might call call “life-alienating communication” – both in its giving and its receiving. At least in the terms of Marshall Rosenberg‘s Non-violent Communication.

Non-violent Feedback

This kind of feedback is not just a small change or tweak, but a major realignment of our understanding of what it means to “give feedback”. From expressing “what we think”, to seeking to understand the feelings and needs of all concerned. This may sound like it’s turning each occasion we give feedback into a major piece of work, and it can be – at least until practice reduces the effort involved.

“If we are able to remain open to creating a solution [or improvement] together, instead of being attached to a particular outcome, others can sense that their well-being matters.”

~ Miki Kashtan

Use Positive Action Language

Express what you do want, rather than what you don’t want.

“How do you do a don’t?”

~ from a children’s song by Ruth Bebermeyer

Also, expressing your requests in terms of concrete actions can better reveal what you really want . Avoid vague, abstract or ambiguous phrases:

Ask for a Reflection

The message we send is not always the message that’s received. To be more confident that we’ve been understood when giving feedback, we can ask others – e.g. the listener – to reflect back in their own words what they heard us say. We then have the opportunity to restate parts of our message to address any discrepancies or omissions we might have noticed through their reflection. Express appreciation when your listeners try to meet your request for a reflection. And empathise with listeners who don’t want to (or can’t) reflect back.

Avoid Compliments

“Compliments are often judgements – however positive – of others.”

~ Marshall Rosenberg

Rosenberg regards compliments and expressions of appreciation and praise as life-alienating communications. I share that viewpoint. Instead, he suggests we include three components in our expressions of appreciation:

  1. The actions that have contributes to our well-being.
  2. The particular needs of ours that have been fulfilled.
  3. The pleasureful feelings engendered by the fulfilment of those needs.

(Non-violent Communication ~ Rosenberg p.186)

In other words, saying “Thank you” consists of sharing:

  • This is what you did;
  • This is what I feel;
  • This is the need of mine that was met.

Like receiving feedback effectively, receiving appreciation effectively takes some practice and skill, too:

“I kiss the Spirit in you that allows you to give me what you did.”

~ Nafez Assailey

And if you, like so many of us, crave some kind of appreciation, why not tell people what kind of appreciation would leave you jumping for joy?

How often do you go out of your way to express appreciation for someone? If receiving sincere and effective appreciation is a joyful experience for you, imagine the similar joy that your actions might bring to others.


When feedback is solicited, the exchange can often feel less confrontational than when “feedback” is unsolicited. Unsolicited feedback, however well intentioned, can feel more like some kind of blame, coercion, judgmentalism or personal attack.

I have seen advice to the effect that if one is not explicitly asked to provide feedback, then one should refrain. That seems to me to be avoiding the issue – maybe acceptable as a coping strategy in the face of absent or limited skills, but dysfunctional nevertheless.

Maybe we might more usefully reframe “giving effective unsolicited feedback” as “learning to more effectively express ourselves and our own feelings, needs and requests”.

Receiving Feedback

Not only is the ability to give feedback (effectively) a useful skill, receiving feedback effectively is also a useful – and similarly often under-appreciated – skill.

Do you like receiving praise? Does it stroke your ego? Can you act on it?

“Compliments are often no more than judgements – however positive – of others.”

~ Marshall Rosenberg

What do you do – what CAN you do – when someone tells you something like “You’re great” or “That was fantastic”? Here’s an example:

Praiser: “Bob, that was a really good presentation.”
Me: “Thank you. But I’m not able to get as much out of your appreciation as I would like.”
Praiser: “Errm. What do you mean?”
Me: “I’ve been called many things over the years. I can’t remember ever learning much by being told what I am. I’d like to learn from your appreciation and enjoy it, but I’d need more information.”
Praiser: “What kind of information?”
Me: “First off, I’d like to know what I said or did that made life more wonderful for you?”
Praiser: “Oh. Ok. You said X. And later showed slide Y.”
Me: “So it’s those two things that you appreciate?”
Praiser: “I guess so.”
Me: “Next up, I’d like to know how you feel, consequent on those two things.”
Praiser: “Hmmm.” (Pauses, thinks) “Enthused. And enlightened.”
Me: “And now, I’d like to know what needs of yours were met by hearing and seeing X and Y?”
Praiser: “I have colleagues who always undermine my belief in the value of X. Hearing your view on X tells me I’m not completely crazy. And I never really succeeded in understanding Y until now.”

Only upon hearing all three pieces of information – what I did, how they felt about (some of) it, and what needs of theirs were fulfilled – can we then celebrate the appreciation together.

Of course, if the praiser had some skills in NVC, they might have said directly: “Bob, when you said X, and later showed slide Y, I felt enthused and enlightened, because I’ve been searching for support and encouragement with my ideas on X, and I never really understood Y until now.”

“NVC encourages us to receive appreciation with the same quality of empathy we express when listening to other messages. We hear what we have done that has contributed to others’ well-being. We hear their feelings and the needs that we fulfilled. We take into our hearts the joyous reality that we can each enhance the quality of others’ lives.”

~ Marshall Rosenberg

Feedback on this Post

I would really like to hear about your viewpoint on this article, and in particular what changes (actions) I might take to improve it. This would help enrich my life through meeting my need for improvement, as well as for meaningful (human) connection. I would also value hearing about what, if anything, in this post has causes you to reflect, research more, or  change your views – as this would meet my need for making a difference in the world.

– Bob


“There’s no question that feedback may be one of the most difficult arenas to negotiate in our lives. We might choose to remember, though, that victory is not getting good feedback, avoiding giving difficult feedback, or avoiding the need for feedback. Instead it’s taking off the armor, showing up, and engaging.”

~ Brené Brown

Further Reading

Feedback Without Criticism ~ Miki Kashtan (Online article)
NVC Feedback – The Executive Advisory
Non-violent Communication: A Language of Life ~ Marshall B. Rosenberg
The Core Protocols ~ Jim and Michele McCarthy



Discipline (or lack thereof) is a criticism often levelled at Agile software developers, and the Agile approach itself, too. This is a fallacy, at least in the case where Agile principles are in fact actually being followed  – as opposed to some kind of faux Agile.  BTW I have seen some developers and managers claim (faux) Agile chops in an attempt to avoid “discipline”.

Discipline contributes much to organisational effectiveness – we may prefer to label it “professionalism”, “engineering” or even “craftsmanship” – but there are at least two different forms of discipline, the one much more effective, from an organisational perspective, than the other.

Continuing a Conversation

This is a post partially in response to a request from Zsolt Fabok and Kev Austin, arising from something Zsolt learned at the excellent Lean Agile Scotland 2012:

Zsolt’s tweet relates, I believe, to the Marshall Model, and in particular to the notion of transitions between each of the four mindsets. I have blogged about this before, but to recap:

Learning From Transitions

Each transition, from one mindset to the next (to the right, on the chart), implicitly teaches an organisation the value of certain things (most often, these organisations only realise they have learnt something in retrospect).

(The three transition zones appear as the orange walls, or hurdles on the above chart).

The Ad-hoc to Analytic Transition

From this transition – when successfully accomplished – an organisation and its people have learned (primarily) the value of discipline. Discipline in Ad-hoc organisations is generally conspicuous by its absence.

Ad-hoc organisations may contain some individuals with their own self-discipline, but even these individuals remain mostly unaware of this talent, and the organisation overall sees little or no value in discipline per se – even though the few folks with some self-discipline may be seen as “star” performers. with an “amazing” ability to get things done.

After the transition, the discipline Analytic organisations come to appreciate is almost always “external” discipline – coercively imposed on people and teams through things like command-and-control management, processes, process conformance, audits, standards, inspections and the like. Because this is imposed, however benevolent the intent, the Analytic mindset form of discipline significantly diminishes folks’ engagement and joy in their work.

“We all pay dearly when people respond to our values and needs not out of a desire to give from the heart, but out of fear, guilt, or shame. Sooner or later, we experience the consequences of diminished goodwill on the part of those who comply with our values out of a sense of of either external or internal coercion.”

~ Marshall Rosenberg

I believe that a large part of the improved effectiveness afforded by the Synergistic mindset comes from the removal of this coercion.

The Analytic to Synergistic Transition

This second transition – for those organisations fortunate enough to achieve it successfully – teaches, again mainly in retrospect, the value of a shared or common purpose.

Note that dwelling in the Analytic mindset for a while affords at least one advantage – the instilling of an appreciation of discipline. Folks get to see how e.g. being organised and disciplined, as a group, helps them get things done more regularly and predictably. It’s just a shame that aspects of the Analytic mindset (e.g. Theory X) are seen to require coercion and compulsion.

Discipline in the Synergistic organisation transforms from external to internal, from coercive to collaborative. Language transforms from manipulative “Jackal” to heart-felt “Giraffe”. And motivations transform from extrinsic and joyless to intrinsic and joyful.

“As [we] replace our old patterns of defending, withdrawing, or attacking in the face of judgment and criticism, we come to perceive ourselves and others, as well as our intentions and relationships, in a new light. Resistance, defensiveness, and violent reactions are minimised.”

~ Marshall Rosenberg

Note: Internal discipline is probably more commonly known as self-discipline.

The Synergistic to Chaordic Transition

Discipline in the Chaordic mindset looks a lot like the internal discipline learned by an organisation whilst in the Synergistic mindset. The distinction, if any, is that the Chaordic organisation applies its discipline not least to acquiring and applying a capability to move rapidly and confidently into new domains and new markets, almost literally overnight. (What I refer to as “Positive Opportunism”).

In Summary

Ad-hoc organisations generally have little or no appreciation of the value of discipline.

Analytic organisations most often develop Brasil-esque coercive discipline, and accordingly become somewhat more effective for their pains.

Synergistic organisations retain their appreciation of the value of discipline, but change its form and compound it with a shared common purpose, seeing a further uplift in effectiveness.

Chaordic organisations build on self-discipline (of individuals and the organisation both) and on common purpose – and apply these to the ever more effective exercise of “positive opportunism”.

– Bob

Further Reading

William Glasser’s Noncoercive Discipline – Online Article
Let It Bleed: Libertarianism and the Workplace – Online Article
Coercion – The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy

Respect for People

I’m just back from a great Lean Agile Scotland 2012 conference (of which, more in a later post). I very much enjoyed presenting a session as part of the Rightshifting Fest, as well as participating in some great sessions by other folks I have come to admire.

Liz Keogh’s keynote, opening the Saturday morning, impressed me, both with the depth of its research and thoughtfulness, and the courageous choice of topic – plus setting a very appropriate tone for the Rightshifting sessions that followed.

Liz focused on “Respect” as one of the two “Pillars of the Toyota Way“. In particular I felt the etymological root of the word chimed with my own understanding of the term:

Respect – re-spect (from Latin rēspicere  to look back, pay attention to,  re- “back” + specere “look at”) i.e. to look again, to challenge or reconsider our initial judgement or assumption(s) about someone or something.

Even the simple notion of respect in the workplace often seems contentious, or at best a nice-to-have. Liz echoed my own feelings that much of the language of work – including much of the language of Agile – actively undermines respect, and in doing so reduces folks’ joy and engagement in their work. For knowledge-work in particular, this can be highly dysfunctional.

If I were not presently so enamoured of Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication (NVC), I may well have applauded Liz’s presentation unreservedly. But I do have one reservation I’d like to explore: Judgmentalism.


Even as long ago as the era of the New Testament, Matthew cautions against the hypocrisy and censoriousness of passing judgement on one another:

“Judge not, that ye be not judged.
For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured unto you.
And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me cast out the mote out of thine eye; and lo, the beam is in thine own eye?
Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”

~ Matthew 7:1-5

Setting aside the language of obligation and domination (what Rosenberg calls “Jackal language“) common to many religious texts, how does this relate to respect?

For me, implicit in the idea of respect, as Liz indicates, is the implication that we will look again. I take this to mean that a respectful position is one where we may afford ourselves the opportunity to judge again.

“[Our] judgements of others are alienated expressions of our own unmet needs.”

~ Marshall Rosenberg

Personally, I would feel more comfortable to recast this as the opportunity to reject our initial (and nearly always automatic and subconscious) leap to judgement in favour of compassion (both for ourselves and the person we’re judging). This stance also seems aligned to the idea of equanimity. In other words, I share Rosenberg’s view that:

“Classifying and judging people promotes violence.”

and violence (and abuse) makes me feel both sad and angry. I believe that I have a need to see folks treated with honesty, kindness, empathy and non-violence – and judging someone, however implicit or unintentional, feels inimical to that.

What I want in my life is compassion, a flow between myself and others based on a mutual giving from the heart.

Note to self: I’m still learning the ropes, here, myself, and feel a need to be more authentic, more skilful.

“The Indian philosopher J. Krishnamurti once remarked that observing without evaluating is the highest form of human intelligence. When I first read this statement, the thought, “What nonsense!” shot through my mind before I realized that I had just made an evaluation. For most of us, it is difficult to make observations, especially of people and their behavior, that are free of judgement, criticism, or other forms of analysis.”

~ Marshall Rosenberg

If you don’t chime with my discomfort regarding the notion of judgmentalism, but would like to know more, I can but recommend Marshall Rosenberg’s book “Nonviolent Communication”.

“There’s nothing wrong (or right) with judgmentalism, but do folks understand the impact it has on their life and their way of being in the world?”


“It is our nature to enjoy giving and receiving compassionately. We have, however, learned many forms of life-alienating communication that lead us to speak and behave in ways that injure others and ourselves. One form of life-alienating communication is the use of moralistic judgements that imply wrongness or badness on the part of those who don’t act in harmony with our values. Another is the use of comparisons, which can block compassion both for others and for ourselves. Life-alienating communication also obscures our awareness that we are each responsible for our own thoughts, feelings, and actions. Communicating our desires in the form of demands is yet another characteristic of language that blocks compassion.”

~ Marshall Rosenberg

Is this nit-picking, or has the distinction between judgemental and non-judgemental respect any significance in the world of work? I’d say yes, but then, that’s why I wrote this post – to draw the distinction. Would you be willing to share how you feel about it?

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there.”

~ Rumi

– Bob

Further Reading

Crucial Conversations, Respect and Kanban ~ Mike Burroughs blog post
The Mote and the Beam – Wikipedia entry
Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life ~ Marshall B. Rosenberg
Power and Love ~ Adam Kahane

Just Two Questions

Socratic Questions

A Socratic Question is a question intended to challenge accuracy and completeness of thinking in a way that acts to move people towards their ultimate goal.

In a recent post I mentioned two simple questions – questions which are all a business needs to make sure it’s doing-the-right-things (as opposed to the much less useful doing-things-right):

Q1: “What is the purpose of this work, from the paying customers’ (end-users’) point of view?

All work which helps serve the purpose of the customer is value-adding work. All work which fails to serve the purpose of the customer (more exactly, all the stakeholders) is wasted work.

Q2: “What measures will we, the workers, choose and use to understand and improve our work?”

Measures which reveal progress on making the work work better are the only measures worth having. And the only measures that can feed purposeful conversations about e.g. further improvements.

Forget OKRs, KPIs and all that tosh. Only measures set by the team or workers themselves will not be automatically gamed. And will be amenable to timely revision to keep them relevant as the work changes.

Although not a given, these kinds of measures lead naturally to a “go to the gemba” approach – getting knowledge of what’s really happening by studying the way the work works.

Towards Productive Dialogue

These two questions are sufficient to forge the necessary “crucible” for productive dialogue – as explained by William Isaacs in his book “Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together“.

– Bob

Further Reading

I Want You to Cheat” ~ John Seddon

Two Masters


“No man can serve two masters.”

~ Matthew 6:24

Does your company recruit folks who want to do the work – or folks who want to make the work work better? As an employee or potential new hire, where does your focus lie?

Most of the companies I work with focus on folks who want to do the work, almost to the exclusion of folks who want to make the work work better. So, unsurprisingly, they end up with a workforce focussed on BAU (Business as Usual), and with very few folks having any interest in or aptitude for improving the way the work works.

And when the question of the general effectiveness of the company comes up (if it ever does), there’s little enthusiasm for or engagement with the issue. Then the bosses lament their feckless workforce and their “resistance to change”.

Was Jesus right? Can any man serve two masters? Can anyone ever serve both business as usual, and continuous improvement of the way the work works?

If you think the answer is “no”, then that’s a bit of a bind right there – as most real-world experience shows that it’s the folks that do the work who are best placed, by far, to improve the way it works.

And if you think the answer is “yes”, does your company recruit with that consideration in mind?

– Bob

Just One Fix

This is the first post in the series “Medication, Meditation and Other Analogies“. In this series, I explore analogies between concepts in individual therapy and their counterparts in Organisational Therapy.


I used to love the music of the band “Ministry”. For that matter, I still do. One of their finer tracks is named “Just One Fix”.

The lyrics hint at the band’s anarchistic perspective, alluding to the destructive impact that drugs have on both the individual and society. Overtly, the lyrics focus on the junkie’s – or is it society’s? – insatiable search for “just one fix”. As if just one fix is going to be all that’s ever needed.

Some time ago I was musing on the idea of “medicating”, or using pharmacotherapy on, organisations. Now, medication of individuals seems controversial amongst the psychotherapy community, and indeed within society at large.

And at the time, I saw little relevance in pharmacotherapy for treating organisations – after all organisations have no biology as such, no organic brain, no corpus. But I was thinking too narrowly. Upon further reflection, if we regard neurons of the brain as analogous to the individual people within an organisation, and look at the way drugs work on modifying the chemistry (neurotransmitters) of connections between neurons in the brain, we can see an analogy emerging.

What do organisations use to modify (e.g. enhance) the connections between their people? Setting aside the whimsical answer of “meetings”, I posit that the use of information technology, and its products, in organisations, is a fair analogy to the use of drugs in individuals.

Aside: Thirty years ago, maybe the inter-office memo system would have been a relevant analogy.

Information Technology, Drugs, Ambiguities

I like this emerging analogy, not least because of the ambiguities inherent in the idea of “drug as solution” – ambiguities I also see as present in the idea of “information technology as solution”.

We may believe that drugs prescribed by medical professionals offer health benefits to the patient. Or not. We may believe that “IT Solutions” prescribed by IT professionals offer, similarly, health benefits to the organisation. Or not. In any case, the ethical and practical dilemmas seem to me to bear an uncanny resemblance.

“Big IT” has as much of a vested interest in seeing IT solutions prescribed as treatment in organisations, as does “Big Pharma” in pharmacotherapy. And the resulting distortions in treatment regimes seems to have resemblances, too.

Many folks self-medicate, whether with legal drugs or illegal (controlled) ones. Many organisations self-medicate on information technology likewise, although many organisations seem to use IT suppliers more like pharmacists than psychotherapists. Maybe there should be a classification system for IT solutions, i.e. over-the-counter, prescription-only, and various classes of “controlled”? Myself, I’d put most of Microsoft’s “solutions” in the controlled category (for example, Sharepoint – Class B).

And information technology can be habit-forming much as drug treatments. Many drugs – even those prescription drugs taken under professional supervision – can be habit-forming, if not downright addictive.

Information Technology as Therapy

There may be psychiatric patients for whom the benefits of pharmacotherapeutic treatment outweigh the costs (both financial and in term of e.g. side-effects). There may be organisations for whom the benefits of information technology “solutions” outweigh the costs, too.

If we regard IT as a form of organisational therapy – and so often the claims are like “better communication within your organisation”, “better relationships with your customers”, and so on – then maybe that gives us another way to look as the use of IT within organisations. And another potential kind of therapy in our therapist’s bag.

Maybe, too, we can recognise that information technology, however well produced, is but one form of therapy, and not always the best one for a given patient or situation.

– Bob

Further Reading

Legal Classificaion of Medicines (UK) – Royal Pharmaceutical Society website

Medication, Meditation and other Analogies

As you may know by now, I generally describe myself as an Organisational Therapist. That is, someone who applies the principles and techniques of (psycho)therapy to the collective psyche of an organisation. (This, in itself, is not intended as a metaphor).

I think it fair to say that most organisations, looked at as a whole, have some kind of neuroses, if not actual psychoses. Of course, having organisations realise this, let alone wanting to do something about it, is another matter (for which, see e.g. Rightshifting).

Therapies and Other Analogies

Over the years, folks have come up with a multitude of different approaches, or therapies, to try to help individuals with their psychological “problems”.

As an Organisational Therapist, I take such therapies, developed with the individual in mind, and apply them with a view to improving the well-being and effectiveness of knowledge-work organisations as a whole. In this, I concur with Patrick Lencioni’s perspective:

“The single greatest advantage any company can achieve is organizational health. Yet it is ignored by most leaders even though it is simple, free, and available to everyone who wants it.”

~ Patrick Lencioni, The Advantage

I believe when he says “health”, he has the mental health of a company in mind.

Borrowing from the World of Psychiatry

The field of organisational therapy is in its infancy (although I’m not the only one working in this space). Few are the organisational therapies that have been studied, and proven, with the kind of scientific scrutiny now commonplace in the world of therapies for the individual.

Nevertheless, I posit that many of the concepts and therapeutic approaches now known to have positive outcomes for individuals can be applied, analogously, to the therapy of organisations.

Over the coming weeks I’ll be exploring some of these analogies in more detail.

This post serves as an introduction to the series, as well as as an invitation to join in the ongoing conversation.

Types of Therapy

Here’s just a sample of articles, posts, etc. describing the cornucopia of therapeutic techniques available to the individual:

Posts in the Series

Further Reading

Mapping the Organizational Psyche ~ Corlett and Pearson
The Advantage ~ Patrick Lencioni

Hypotheses, Falsifiability and the Limits of First-world Science

They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

The Scientific Method seems all the rage these days in e.g. Lean Startups and software development circles. And generally so amongst folks with seemingly only a limited knowledge of the risks and contradictions raised in e.g. the Philosophy of Science.

I propose that on those occasions when we choose to use the Scientific Method, we should at least have some understanding of what that means. For example, why are we using the method? To discover truths (Scientific Realism)? Or things that are “merely” instrumentally useful (Instrumentalism)?


Karl Popper argued that the central property of science is falsifiability (i.e. all scientific claims can be proven false, at least in principle, and if no such proof can be found despite sufficient effort then the claim is likely true).

Aside: This all seems a bit too bound-up with the implicit reliance on the validity of the idea of singular existential statements for my comfort – contrast with e.g. E-Prime and General Semantics (Korzybski).

Anything Goes

“The only principle that does not inhibit progress is: anything goes.”

~  Paul Feyerabend, Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge (1975), p.23

In his book “Against Method”, Paul Feyerabend proposed that “anything goes” as “the only overarching methodology which does not inhibit the progress of science” (progress in acquiring knowledge). In his view, (First-world) Science is our new “most aggressive and most dogmatic religious institution.”

Carl Sagan, too, cautions on the need for balance:

“At the heart of science is an essential balance between two seemingly contradictory attitudes – an openness to new ideas, no matter how bizarre or counterintuitive they may be, and the most ruthless skeptical scrutiny of all ideas, old and new. This is how deep truths are winnowed from deep nonsense.”

~ Carl Sagan

As does Richard Feynman:

“But logic is not all; one needs one’s heart to follow an idea.”

~ Richard Feynman, Remarks at a Caltech YMCA lunch forum, 1956.

 and also:

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”

~ Richard P. Feynman

We are all fooled (or awed) by the edifice of First World Science:

“It is surprising to see how rarely the stultifying effects of ‘the Laws of Reason’ or of scientific practice are examined by professional anarchists. Professional anarchists oppose any kind of restriction and they demand that the individual be permitted to develop freely, unhampered by laws, duties or obligations. And yet they swallow without protest all the severe standards which scientists and logicians impose upon research and upon any kind of knowledge-creating and knowledge-changing activity.”

~ Paul Feyerabend, Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge (1975), p.20

Feyerabend advises not only caution, but contrarianism:

“Given any rule, however ‘fundamental’ or ‘necessary’ for science, there are always circumstances when it is advisable not only to ignore the rule, but to adopt its opposite. For example, there are circumstances when it is advisable to introduce, elaborate and defend ad hoc hypotheses, or hypotheses which contradict well-established and generally accepted experimental results, or hypotheses whose content is smaller than the content of the existing and empirically adequate alternative, or self-inconsistent hypotheses, and so on.”

~ Paul Feyerabend, Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge (1975), p.23-24

What it All Means

“Science is an essentially anarchic enterprise: theoretical anarchism is more humanitarian and more likely to encourage progress than its law-and-order alternatives.”

~ Paul Feyerabend, Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge (1975), p.9

Personally, I’m with Feyerabend, and the idea that “anything goes” as the only humane and compassionate “overarching methodology”:

A scientist, an artist, [a developer, a manager,] a citizen is not like a child who needs papa methodology and mama rationality to give him security and direction, he can take care of himself, for he is the inventor not only of laws, theories, pictures, plays, forms of music, ways of dealing with his fellow man, institutions, but also entire world view, he is the inventor of entire forms of like.

~ Paul Feyerabend, Science in a Free Society (1978), p.38

We should not be blinded by our conditioning to other ways of seeking knowledge:

“First-world science is one science among many; by claiming to be more it ceases to be an instrument of research and turns into a (political) pressure group [and tool of oppression and control].”

~ Paul Feyerabend

So when considering my advice about e.g. PDCA and hypotheses, please also consider the context I hand in mind (expanded in this post). As always:

“Think for yourself, in context.”

~ Satoshi Kuroiwa, Agile Japan 2009 Keynote

For the moment, I’ll leave the last word to Feyerabend:

“By now many intellectuals regard theoretical or ‘objective’ knowledge as the only knowledge worth considering. Popper himself encourages the belief by his slander of relativism. Now this conceit would have substance if scientists and philosophers looking for universal and objective morality had succeeded in finding the former and persuaded, rather than forced, dissenting cultures to adopt the latter. This is not the case.”

~ Paul Feyerabend, Farewell to Reason, (1987), p 168

– Bob

Further Reading

Against Method ~ Paul Feyerabend
Null-A – Recent blog post
“Thinking for yourself in your context” is the heart of Lean – Kenji Hiranabe blog post
Think For Yourself – Jason Yip blog post
The Dialectical Method: An Alternative to the Scientific Method ~ Dybicz and Pyles (pdf)
What Doctors Don’t Know About the Drugs they Prescribe ~ Ben Goldacre (TED video)

Conway’s Law Revisited

Have you ever wondered why software produced by corporates (by which, I mean Analytic-minded organisations) is often e.g. disjoint, incoherent and balkanised, with a poor user experience and high on resource (memory, cpu, io, storage) use?

Many years ago I came across Conway’s Law, and found it explained much of this phenomenon. The Law, named after computer programmer Melvin Conway, states:

“Organisations which design systems… are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organisations.”

or, as restated by Eric Raymond:

“The organization of the software and the organization of the software team will be congruent.”

Since discovering this Law, I have embraced it and taken it as a given. As a given, it has seemed a valid – and comforting – observation, but, until now, rarely provided me with any actionable insight. But which I mean, It’s not provided me with any ideas on how to improve the design of software systems and products.

Organisational Structure Reflects the Collective Mindset

If we combine Conway’s Law with the tenets of Rightshifting and the Marshall Model, however, some actionable insights do come into focus.

Where does an organisation’s structure come from? Why do some organisations have little in the way of structure, some have clearly-defined silos, departments and a management hierarchy, and some have a more fluid, but still highly (self-)disciplined, flatter kind of structure?

The Marshall Model attributes these differences to differences in collective (organisational) mindset. Each of the four mindsets produce their own kind of organisational structure. e.g.:

  • Ad-hoc: Little or no recognisable structure
  • Analytic: Hierarchical, siloed, departmentalised, autocratic
  • Synergistic: Flatter, self-organising, meritocratic
  • Chaordic: Fluid, adaptive, emergent

So, if we want to be able to design products that are coherent, self-consistent and a pleasure to use, Conway’s Law tells us that we need a congruent organisational structure. Which in turn means that we need a congruent collective organisational mindset. The Marshall Model names this as the “Synergistic Mindset”.

The necessary action, then, is to transition the organisation’s collective mindset from e.g. Ad-hoc or Analytic to Synergistic. (And given the herculean nature of this prospect, maybe we’re going to be stuck with many lamely-designed products, for many years).

Would you be willing to consider what kind of product designs might emerge from organisations having a Chaordic mindset?

– Bob

Further Reading

Structuration – Wikipedia entry
Neuroscience of Rightshifting – Blog post
Mel Conway – Website
Mel Conway’s Original Paper – Introduction and link to pdf

Gateway Drug to Synergism

Tl;Dr: Self-organising teams – if you can pull them off – offer a path into the synergistic mindset.

A Gateway drug is “a habit-forming drug that is not addictive but the use of which may lead to the use of other, addictive, drugs”.

Self-Organising is Bizarre

Have you ever been in a self-organising team? A kind of super jelled team, as DeMarco and Lister call it, in their classic book “Peopleware“.

If you have, then you may understand a little about what self-organising really means. If you have not, then it’s a sufficiently rare and yes, bizarre, state of affairs that you’re unlikely to even begin to understand the dynamics and emotions involved.

Which is rather contrary to common sense. I mean, how hard can it be? People organising themselves, rather than having some one do it for them (or more often, to them). Sounds like it’s fairly straightforward, yes?

We can read books, watch videos, think and talk about the subject – and come to believe we know what’s involved. But really, unless you’ve experienced it, you just not going to get it. Sorry about that.

Maybe a better question is “Do you need to get what self-organising is really about?”. What is the downside of not understanding?

If you’re a member of a team about to dip its collective toes into the self-organising waters, then learning as you go along  seems like a fair approach, especially if you all have someone or something to help navigate those – sometime choppy – waters. A suitably-experienced team coach has a valuable role to play here. Books can also help (see Further Reading section, below).

If you’re a newbie joining an existing self-organising team, then the team should be able to sort things out for you, and with you, automagically.

If you’re a manager or executive (or Scrum Master or Project Manager) “in charge” of self-organising teams, or of introducing the idea to existing non-self-organising teams, then the downside of not understanding the new landscape unfolding before you is that you will unwittingly maim or destroy the very benefits that effective self-organising teams promise to provide:

  • Engagement in the work
  • Commitment to the goals
  • Alignment with the common (organisational) purpose
  • Joyfulness and higher self-esteem for all (not just the team)
  • Motivation to sweat the details, attend to quality, go the extra mile when necessary


Here’s what’s bizarre: if you attempt to exploit these benefits, they will be still-born and ephemeral. Which is why Servant Leadership or even Host Leadership offer a better path. And why I’d suggest approaching the whole effort obliquely. That is, not pushing for your teams to self-organise. Not pushing for engagement, commitment, alignment or motivation. But rather simply, calmly and quietly listening to them, and making yourself clearly available to engage with them in purposeful dialogue and mutual learning about how the work should work.


The paradox of self-organising is that the more you focus on it, suggest it, push it, the more elusive it becomes:

  • Focus on self-organising, and self-organising will take longer and end up weaker.
  • Focus on the team’s purpose, and self-organising will emerge, stronger and deeper.

Here’s some two simple questions to get the ball rolling:

  • “What is the purpose of this team from the customers’ (end-users’) point of view?”
  • “What measures will the team use to understand and improve its work?”

These two questions are sufficient to forge the necessary “crucible” for productive dialogue – as explained by William Isaacs in his book “Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together“. And to allow self-organising to emerge, unbidden.

And please note, although most folks talk about self-organising in the context of teams and teamwork, there’s nothing to say that you have to have teams to have self-organising. After all, it’s people – individuals – that self-organise. FlowChain is one example of a (synergistic) organisational approach that allows self-organising to emerge without the need for teams (and thereby avoiding the dysfunctions inherent in team-based working).

– Bob

Further Reading

The Great Game of Business ~ Jack Stack
The Power of Servant Leadership ~ Robert K. Greenleaf
Host Leadership ~ Mark McKergow
Obliquity ~ John Kay
Coaching for Performance ~ Sir John Whitmore
Freedom From Command & Control ~ John Seddon
Misconceptions About Self-Organising Teams ~ Esther Derby

If You Were a Car…

One technique I find useful, when helping individuals, groups, teams and organisations understand themselves a little better, is to ask the question:

“If you were a car, what kind of car would you be?”

where “you”, here, refers to the entity in question. i.e.

“If your team were a car, what kind of car would it be?”

The answers highlight some essential attributes of the entity in question, as well as the differences in different folks’ perception of that same entity. The answers also provide fertile ground for further questions and conversations around folks’ perspectives, and about their aspirations for the entity’s future, and their part in it, too.


Other variants I have used include:

  • If you were a vehicle, what kind of vehicle would you be?
  • If you were a City, which City would you be?
  • If you were a movie, which movie would you be?
  • If you were a flower, what kind of flower would you be?
  • If you were a song, which song would you be?
  • If you were a band (popular beat combo, pop group), which band would you be?
  • If you were a cartoon character, which character would you be?
  • If you were a superhero from a comic strip, which superhero  would you be?
  • If you had a superpower, which superpower would that be?

Sometimes, too, it can help to suggest that the people in question choose or invent their own variant. Particular if they find amusement in, or ridicule, the variant you have chosen for them.

Organisational Personas

Olaf Lewitz has just raised the possibility of using this kind of question, e.g.:

“If your organisation were a person, what kind of person would it be?”

to help folks in organisations explore their subconscious attitudes and collective self-image, and maybe to forge a new identify towards which to strive in the future.

He also usefully suggests that this may offer a better approach – avoiding some of the implicit connotations and thus dysfunctions – than the typical “initial assessment” of which I have recently been writing, in the context of Organisational Therapy and e.g. Planning to Flourish.

See the comments on the post “There is No Organisation, but…” for more about all this.

What do you think?

– Bob

Sticky Change

Just about everyone involved in team-building must by now have heard of – if not actually read – Patrick Lencioni’s book “Five Dysfunctions of a Team“.

In this book he describes the “five dysfunctions” that any team faces – and has to overcome – on the path to truly effective teamwork. (What DeMarco and Lister call “jelled teams“).

The Roots of Ineffective Change

When working with relatively ineffective organisations looking to Rightshift, I generally see sincere, committed and engaged folks trying out new ideas and new ways of working. (Note: I try to avoid working with organisations where folks are insincere, lacking in commitment, and disengaged). But all too often I see such attempts at innovation abandoned long before they have been mastered, and even before they have been applied enough to assess their merits (i.e. their value, or utility). In other words, most changes just do not stick. Why does this happen?

I attribute it to at least two reasons.

Change is Simple, Isn’t It?

The first is a general belief that introducing new ideas into the organisation is going to be relatively simple and straightforward. With a willing workforce, with relatively little (perceived) resistance to change, why would introducing new ideas be difficult? This is particularly true of organisations with Ad-hoc or Novice Analytic mindsets (see: The Marshall Model white paper).

Why Bother Making Commitments?

The second reason, and somewhat a consequence of the first, is when folks fail to commit – formally and publicly – to what they will do. (See also: the GROW model from Sir John Whitmore, Coaching for Performance).

Note: There are lots of models, methods, workshop exercises, etc. to help teams build mutual trust, the ability to have positive and productive conflict, the ability to make commitments, to raise standards of mutual accountability, and to downplay status and ego. Some I have used to good effect in the past include:

  • Social Styles (Wilson Learning). My first choice for teams who want to get to know one another better in the context of collaboration at work.
  • StrengthsFinder (Gallup). Very useful to help individuals better understand their own talents (strengths). Share the results to build mutual understanding.
  • The Keirsey Temperament Sorter. (A kind of MBTI assessment). Ditto.
  • Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Ditto.
  • The Belbin Team Inventory. Ditto, plus highlights potential “gaps” in team makeup.
  • Various Exercises from e.g. “The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook” and “Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team” (c.f. Further Reading section, below).
  • Purposeful Dialogue (c.f. David Bohm, Chris Argyris).
  • Mutual Learning (e.g. Argyris and Schon, Roger Schwarz & Associates, Nancy Kline)
  • Team Coaching exercises from Coaching for Performance
  • Joint Exploration of issues using e.g. Mind Maps, Value Maps, Value Stream Maps, Current Reality Trees, Evaporating Clouds, and other Theory of Constraints, etc. tools.

For those who relate better to visual forms of information, I have drawn up a Current Reality Tree (CRT) to better illustrate this scenario:

Fellowship – Mutually Accountable

If you have read or watched The Lord of the Rings, you might note that members of the Nine regularly make commitments to one another, but rarely need to call each other on those commitments (with the possible exceptions of Peregrine Took and Boromir of Gondor). In other words, mutual accountability happens more-or-less naturally, and with little occasion for challenge or conflict. This aspect of fellowship contributes to my belief that fellowship is a beneficial model for collaboration throughout an organisation (and between collaborating organisations, too).


Why would anyone think that effective organisational change (improvement) was:

  • Any less difficult than e.g. developing quality software products?
  • Any less valuable, commercially, than the ability to develop quality software reliably and predictably?
  • Any less worthy of a considered, deliberate, disciplined and intentional approach of its own?
  • Any less worthy of investment and commitment of e.g. dedicated (full-time) people to make it happen (c.f. Scrum teams)?

Maybe for the reasons listed in this post?

– Bob

Further Reading

The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook ~ Peter M. Senge et al
Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team ~ Patrick Lencioni
First Break All the Rules ~ Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman
Solving Tough Problems ~ Adam Kahane
Staying Lean: Thriving Not Just Surviving ~ Cardiff University (long PDF)
The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive ~ Patrick Lencioni

There is no Organization, but…

Ari-Pekka Skarp makes an interesting and relevant observation in his recent blog post  “There is no Organisation…“.

Actually, the title seems a tad misleading, as I take the body of the article to say that the idea of an “organisation” is a product of an implicit, collective agreement (or delusion) between those for whom the idea of that thing-perceived-as-an-organisation has some shared relevance.

From the Solipsist perspective (at the root of The Matrix trilogy), there is no anything, excepting that which is a product of our minds. So in that context to say that “there is no organisation” seems a bit of a non-statement, and somewhat like saying “there is no Bandersnatch”.

Anyhow, from my perspective as an Organisational Therapist, I can agree that there is no physical “organisation”, (except maybe in a legal-entity sense). But I also observe that there is a collective something, which I choose to call “the organisational psyche”, which in a sense exists outside of all the individuals participating in the delusion.

Put another way, the thing that I refer to as the collective (organisational) psyche is a legacy of – and product of – the perceptions acquired by the various individuals during their participation in the shared delusion – including perceptions acquired from other folks who have also participated in the same delusion.

Fundamentally, we approach a discussion about the nature of reality – which I’ll leave for another day.

– Bob

Further Reading

The Monkeys and the Banana – Explanation on

Planning to Flourish

This is a follow-on to a previous post entitled “Focus”, and looks at what might happen after an organisation has held an initial focussing session.

For organisations on a rightshifting journey, thinking and talking with terms such as “assessments”, “symptoms”, “problems” and “solutions” (a.k.a. “treatments”) can in fact add to folks’ anxieties.


Most therapeutic interventions start out with some kind of “assessment” by the therapist. From the therapist’s point of view, this is mostly about getting to know their new client, and establishing some rapport. But the very use of the term can be interpreted by the client, unfortunately, as that the therapist is making some judgements or evaluations of the client’s state of mind. And this in turn can lead on to some degree of dependency and learned helplessness. Not good outcomes for the client.


As a consequence of participating in a focussing session – where many symptoms (or as Theory of Constraints calls them, “Undesirable Effects”) are surfaced, perhaps for the first time – I suspect many of the folks involved form the idea that there’s something decidedly “wrong” with their organisation (and, by association, maybe with themselves, too).

In this context then, the organisational therapist can come to be seen as having the role of helper – or worse, judge or validator of the organisation’s ideas and plans. And therapy becomes a byword for “returning the organisation to normal”.

“If we can give up attachment to our roles as helpers, then maybe our clients can give up attachment to their roles as patients and we can meet as fellow souls on this incredible journey. We can fulfill the duties of our roles without being trapped by over-identification with them.”

~ Ram Dass

As an organisational therapist, I believe in the power of compassion and equanimity.
But these are not the sole prerogative of the therapist. On the contrary, they are available to, and potentially valuable for everyone in the organisation.

“I have found that the greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion. Cultivating a close, warmhearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. It is the ultimate source of success in life.”

~ Dalai Lama

Treatment Planning

This was going to be a post about how to write a Treatment Plan (a.k.a. Care Plan). But simply regarding the state (symptoms and root conditions) of the organisation as something that “needs fixing” seems like a problem in itself. Hence the long preamble, above. The term “Treatment Plan” I think might contribute to the confusion, and to the risks, as well as to the state of mind that organisations can unwittingly adopt where they see “Treatment” a.k.a. problem-elimination as the means to achieve their end (a healthy and flourishing business).

To paraphrase some wisdom from the world of Positive Psychology:

“The absence of problems is not success.”

Until we come up with a better label than “Treatment Plan”, then, let’s continue anyway and look at how we might plan some positive interventions for the organisation.

For those familiar with Agile methods, we can see a Treatment Plan as much like a product backlog. Initially empty, as the organisation decides to focus on particular issues, various “improvement stories” can be added to the backlog, and prioritised for action. The highest priority “improvement story” becomes the focus of the moment. If using Theory of Constraints as a framework, this will be a story about the current constraint of the organisation.

Like a product backlog user story, each improvement story may benefit from some grooming prior to implementation. Theory of Constrains suggests various tools, including the Negative Branch Reservation and the Pre-requisite Tree to help in this.

Note: In the FlowChain approach, organisation-wide treatments (“improvement stories”) are integrated with the continuous flow of new product features and user stories in one seamless enterprise backlog.

“If I don’t know I don’t know, I think I know. If I don’t know I know, I think I don’t know.”

~ R. D. Laing

[My apologies for the relative incoherence of this post. A sign of thought-in-progress.]

– Bob

Further Reading

Flourish ~ Martin Seligman
The Solutions Focus ~ Mark McKergow
The Happy Secret to Better Work ~ Shawn Anchor (TED video)
The Advantage ~ Patrick Lencioni
Scientific Proof That Happiness is a Choice ~ Shawn Anchor

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