If we wanted to have a highly effective software development or knowledge-work organisation, aside from the necessary mindset, what would the-way-the-work-works look like? What would our dream be?

Well, for me it would include certain essential (and therefore, non-negotiable) aspects:

  • In-band change (seamless integration of day-to-day management and continuous improvement).
  • Covalence (attending to the composite needs of all stakeholders, concurrently).
  • Value-driven (deliveries systematically prioritised according to covalent value).
  • Smooth, continuous flow (single-piece flow, if this best meets the stakeholders’ needs).
  • Maintenance of adequate slack.
  • Optimisation of delays and cycle (feedback delay) times.
  • The people (front-line, workers) doing the work take all decisions about the work (guided by covalent value and the organisation’s purpose). Cf. Auftragstaktik, Drive
  • A pervasive belief that the system (the way the work works) is the overriding determinant of the effectiveness of the organisation. Cf. W E Deming.
  • Widespread understanding that collective mindset determines the way the work works.
  • An appreciation that product characteristics (look, feel, utility, evocativeness) derive from the way the work works (Conway’s Law).
  • Explicit limits on work in progress.
  • Key (engineering) information is visible in real-time.
  • A multi-skilled (generalising specialist, Cthulhu-shaped) workforce.
  • Esprit de corps and a sense of fellowship exists at the organisational level (as opposed to having e.g. standing teams). Cf. The Regiment (British Army).
  • Individuals strive for personal fulfilment through e.g. mastery
  • Continuous innovation, no only on product and technology, but more importantly in the way the work works and its institutions and other sacred cows.

Ackoff calls this approach – imagining what the ideal future might look like, and working backwards from there to where we are today – “Interactive Planning“.

Unsurprisingly perhaps, the above attributes form the core blueprint for FlowChain.

– Bob

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