Getting Upstream

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].

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