[Tl;Dr: A list of e.g. Theory-X memes that Analytic-minded organisations will find themselves giving up as they become more synergistic and effective.]

I have recently been giving a series of internal presentations about growing an effective Product Development capability, using ideas from Rightshifting and the Marshall Model as a general framework.

To one slide I talk about the intellectual baggage that any e.g. Analytic-minded organisation will find itself abandoning on its journey to Radicalsville.

Aside: If such baggage is not abandoned, then it’s inevitable that the journey will be.

Another term for “baggage” might be “premises that have become (or always were) invalid”. Here’s a list of such “invalid premises” that I tweeted this morning:

  • Invalid premise: Management is necessary and desirable.
  • Invalid premise: Hierarchy is the best way to e.g. organise, coordinate and align.
  • Invalid premise: People must be told what to do.
  • Invalid premise: Predictability is a function of tight control and e.g. conformance to rules.
  • Invalid premise: Predictability has no downside.
  • Invalid premise: We don’t want any problems.
  • Invalid premise: Coercion through e.g. fear, obligation, shame or guilt does not alter cognitive function (ability to think well).
  • Invalid premise: Jackal culture, jackal language is the best and only way to motivate and direct people.
  • Invalid premise: Feelings and emotions in the workplace are unprofessional and out of place.
  • Invalid premise: Theory X.
  • Invalid premise: Productivity and performance of individuals is down to the individual – their innate talents, skills, experience and attitudes.
  • Invalid premise: Effective knowledge-work is best achieved through factory-like conditions.
  • Invalid premise: Efficiency is King, effectiveness a nice-to-have.
  • Invalid premise: Highly (local) optimised parts of an organisation means an optimised (whole) organisation.
  • Invalid premise: Cost Accounting gives reliable numbers that can be safely used to guide decisions.
  • Invalid premise: Rationality trumps intuition, emotion and humanity.
  • Invalid premise: Conscious thought trumps subconscious thought.
  • Invalid premise: Man is a rational animal.
  • Invalid premise: Organisations as machines.
  • Invalid premise: People are as interchangeable as cogwheels.
  • Invalid premise: Fast is better than slow.
  • Invalid premise: Anyone gives a hoot about profits.
  • Invalid premise: “Telling people things” means they will respond rationally and so come to see things differently, and thereby behave differently.
  • Invalid premise: My organisation works just fine.
  • Invalid premise: Meaningful dialogue is an unnecessary luxury.
  • Invalid premise: Investment in e.g. organisation-wide dialogue skills has a poor or uncertain ROI and is not worthwhile.
  • Invalid premise: Knowledge (grey muscle) work is no different than physical (pink muscle) work.
  • Invalid premise: Extrinsic motivation raises knowledge-workers’ productivity.
  • Invalid premise: Truths are absolute.
  • Invalid premise: Context doesn’t matter.
  • Invalid premise: A comprehensive plan is a necessary prerequisite to any endeavour.

And here’s some contributions from the community:

  • invalid premise: Software development is “engineering”, so it’s not knowledge work.
  • Invalid Premise: Conforming to a standard is all that is required (to produce good work).
  • Invalid Premise: Regular reports tell people all they need to know.
  • Invalid Premise: “Projects” are the one and only way to organise and control work.
  • Invalid premise: Positive feedback – let alone real compliments – are a distraction and will render people complacent.
  • Invalid premise: Highlighting failures will help people improve.
  • Invalid premise: Appearing reluctant to engage in a certain activity is a sign of weakness.
  • (See also the suggestions in the comments section, below).

Have you any invalid premises you feel might be worth adding to this list?

– Bob

  1. One addition I can think of:

    “You first have to think about every thing, and make a complete plan, before you start doing things”.

  2. Hello Bob

    – people at the coalface are too stupid to make smart decisions and take the right actions.
    – people at the top of the organisation know better than the people who actually do the work.
    – there are parts distinct from the whole
    – you can say one thing and do something completely different and it makes no difference
    – you can get cooperation and collaboration to show up in a competitive context
    – the content is more critical than the context
    – human minds are distinct from human bodies and what the human body needs can be ignored
    – reality can be cheated and long range effects will not catch up with us
    – answer is more important than the question
    – theory takes priority over what is so in the world
    – learning can occur in the classroom devoid of context and engagement in the real world
    – new is always better than the old
    – there are no side effects

    Better stop now.

    All the best

  3. Machiel said:

    Experience is more valuable than intelligence and discovery
    Stamina and courage distinguish losers from winners
    Strict division of responsibility keeps people productive and avoids unnecessary noise
    People can work without a plan or vision as long as they get clear tasks
    Managers are more creativity than the employees

    You can rephrase/change/add if you want

  4. -humans are resources
    -managers know best
    -people are not to be trusted

  5. David Högberg said:

    – It is not necessary to take an interest in and care about the people you work with.

  6. Justin Redd said:

    Invalid premise: It is someone else’s job to understand you
    Invalid premise: A knowledge worker may not improve process without explicit permission from management
    Invalid premise: Management must choose between getting results and treating people with kindess and respect
    Invalid premise: Managers see the whole picture
    Invalid premise: Those “higher” in the org chart are superior to those “lower” in the org chart

  7. Bob said:

    invalid premise: Software development is “engineering”, so it’s not knowledge work is based on the invalid premise ‘engineering is not knowledge work’

  8. Kirsten Minshall said:

    Invalid premise: Groups make better decisions than individuals

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