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Antimatter principle

Carpenters

What’s the job of a carpenter? Is it to cut, saw, shape and finish wood? Hardly. Although those things are involved in carpentry.

How about the production of doors, chairs, tables, cabinets, structural woodwork, etc.? Again, not really.

In essence, the job of a carpenter, as for so many other trades, skills and professions, is to attend to folks’ needs, via wood. Needs like: things to sit on, things to close off spaces, things in which to keep other things, things to support things, and so on.

What say you?

– Bob

I’ve not called myself a software developer for at least thirty years. That’s not to say I’ve stopped coding. Far from it. But the end in mind has changed. From “developing software” to “attending to folks’ needs”. Seems to me that latter frame offers far more potential for satisfaction – both for me and for those I serve – than coding ever did. See also: #NoSoftware and the Antimatter Principle.

Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part 3

Reasons to be cheerful, Pt. 3

Some of you dear readers may, entirely reasonably, assume that I mention my books in the hope of increasing sales. However, this just ain’t so.

I mention my books in a vainglorious attempt to effect some positive shift in the world of business. I’ve written many times about my motivation. Specifically, my delight in helping people have a more joyful time in the world of work (in particular, Collaborative Knowledge Work).

I truly believe that Organisational Psychotherapy is a path to saner, more joyful, more humane workplaces. And my book “Quintessence” illustrates and maps out what a saner, more joyful organisation looks like and works like, in detail.

Maybe you share my enthusiasm for change, and for seeing things improve. Maybe you’re content with – or at least resigned to – the status quo.

In any case, I’d hate for my enthusiasm to be a source of frustration or angst for you.

On the other hand, I’d be delighted if through reading one or more of my books – or even blog posts or white papers – you might find a different perspective on what ails you, and new, more effective ways to meet folks’ needs, including your own.

– Bob

cheerful_lyrics

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 16 Jun 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 16 Jun 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 16 Jun 2022].
Marshall, R.W. (2021). Organisational Psychotherapy Bundle 1. [online] Leanpub. Available at: https://leanpub.com/b/organisationalpsychotherapybundle1 [Accessed 16 Jun. 2022].
http://www.youtube.com. (n.d.). Ian Dury and The Blockheads – Reasons To Be Cheerful, Pt. 3 (Official Lyrics Video). [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1injh4-n1jY&ab_channel=IanDury%26TheBlockheads [Accessed 16 Jun. 2022].

Flexibile working means choosing the places and times of your working as meets folks’ needs – each and every single day. Needs change, sometimes daily. And it’s not just about you and your needs.

And while we’re at it, how about we swap out the idea of “working” for “playing”? #DoNothingThatIsNotPlay #SeriousPlay #Schrage

Building Things

We could describe my whole career as one of building things.

Early on, these things included software, hardware and tech products such as fax servers, compute clusters, compilers, interpreters, network systems, operating systems, development languages, applications, databases, and so on.

Later, things morphed to building teams, communities, software development and delivery groups, business units and tech companies.

Most recently, the things I build have morphed again, into techniques, approaches, tools and know-how applicable to building things.

Learnings

This post is mainly concerned with sharing some of the insights I’ve gleaned over the years. Insights into effective ways of building things:

Purpose

When embarking on building a new thing, I choose to dwell for a while on the purpose of the thing I’m building: Who’s it for? What will they use it for? How will they use it? What needs do they have that this thing willl address?

Needs

What does the Needsscape look like? How can we anticipate it changing over time? And how will we monitor and respond to those changes?

Intentionality

Doing things with a clear understnading of where those things fit in the scheme of things. Rather than just spinning the wheels for the sake of feeling busy.

Quality

Answer the question: “How will we ensure that what we’re building manifests the quality/qualities needed by all the Folks That Matter?

Risks

Manage all key risks facing us in bulding the thing (and in deploying, using it too). See Tom Gilb’s “All Holes In The Boat” principle (any one key risk can sink the whole effort).

Incrementality

Build things in small increments. Get regular feedback from all the Folks That Matter, early and often. Whilst continually remaining open to the system-wide impact of what’s being built.

Clarity of Communication

One can never have too much communication. One can never have too much clarity of communication. I prefer to use Quanitification as the means to improving clarity of communication.

Make Things Visible

Particularly with the kinds of things I’ve been building over the years, things nebuluous and more or less invisible most of the time, it helps to find ways to make e.g. progress visible and clearly understandable to all the Folks That Matter.

PDCA

Often called the Shewhart Cycle or Deming Cycle. PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) offers a conceptual framework for building things:

  • Plan what we’re going to do in the next days or weeks.
  • Do stuff according to that plan.
  • Check how well we did stuff (identify shortcomings)
  • Act to address some shortcomings in our doing, so that the next cycle’s doing goes better.

Ownership

Deming banged on about the necessity for people to have pride in what they do. I find pride is enhanced through people feeling they own what they’re building.

Build Less

Build as little a possible. With the lowest tech possible. Commensurate with meeting folks’ needs. Remember YAGNI.

Summary

I don’t expect the above list to be of much use to anyone. Because, normative learning. C’est la vie.

– Bob

 

No human being has ever done anything for anybody else. Everything we do is to make life as wonderful as we can for our self. What makes life more wonderful than anything else is contributing to the well-being of other people. We talk about self-fullness. Doing things out of the natural joy that comes when our only motivation is to enrich lives and it’s free from any taint of fear of punishment if we don’t, hope for reward if we do—including hoping people will like you—guilt, shame, duty, obligation.

~ Marshall Rosenberg

We’re NOT Hiring!

At The Quintessential Group we’re NOT hiring. We have little interest in paying people for their labour or their personal services (fnarr).

We ARE inviting inquiries and applications to join our community of fellows, and participate in our software delivery teams.

Sure, we pay. And we pay top dollar (well British Pounds, mostly). But we pay our people so they can live (and fellows get to choose their own salaries and rates, amongst other things). We subscribe to Phil Crosby’s statement about the purpose of organisations:

The purpose of organizations is to help people have lives.

~ Phil Crosby

Fellowship

We’re breaking the transactional nature of the individual <-> organisation relationship in favour of something much more like fellowship.

So, we’re NOT hiring. But we ARE inviting applications to join our community of fellows. First off for our Quintessential Teams service. And then for our other services, which will be coming on stream soon.

Invitation

We cordially invite you to apply to join our community of fellows. In the first instance, we’re looking for folks with software delivery skills, who will be forming delivery teams rented by our clients (a variety of medium to large UK organisations) to deliver software at their behest. Early on, you’ll be playing and learning directly with myself and / or Ian.

Just drop Ian or myself a message expressing your curiosity or interest, and we’ll get back to you.

You may already have some questions, so please include them if you’re after some clarification or further information. There’s much already available on my Think Different blog. And a brief but growing collection of more focussed introductory and informational posts on the Quintessential Blog, too.

Benefits

What you may not have yet read is some of the other benefits of becoming a fellow of The Quintessential Group:

Having Your Needs Met

Central to our business and community is the idea of attending to folks’ needs. Each of our fellows will have his or her own needs, and The Quintessential Group will do its utmost to see those needs met. 

These may include career development, learning, autonomy to capitalise on your abilities, mastery of skills, sharing in a common purpose, playing with technology, work-life balance, choosing your own package, and so on. We’d love to hear just what your needs are. And we as a business have needs too. This mutuality offers a crucible for productive dialogue.

The Opportunity To Do Great Things

We focus on excellence, and carefully select clients with and for whom our fellows can achieve truly great things. Humdrum things bore us, and we’d not ask any of our fellows to suffer that either.

The Opportunity To Participate in Self-Managing Teams

Our Teams manage themselves, with the active support of the rest of the company. Learn and experience what participating in truly self-managing teams feels like. The true meaning of esprit de corps. The experience of excellence and real fellowship.

Other Key Benefits

Unlimited World-class Personal Mentoring

Bob and Ian each have more than twenty years’ experience in coaching and mentoring developers and delivery teams. We happily share this experience with all Quintessential Fellows, on a one to one basis (mentoring, individual coaching) and one-to-many basis (i.e. teams).

Unlimited Expert Coaching

We define mentoring as providing sage advice when asked. Coaching to us implies a more structure relationship. See e.g. “Coaching for Performance” by Sir Jon Whitmore and his G.R.O.W. model. Mentoring also implies, to us, a shared agenda. Coaching, an agenda entirely driven by the coachees.

Unlimited Awesome Career Development, Including Job Search Help & Career Advice

We try to attend to the needs of all our fellows, on a continual basis. If being a part of the Quintessential community is not meeting your needs, we’re delighted when we can help folks get their needs met, even when that means leaving us for pastures new. We’re delighted to actively support folks in this.

Free Books And Subscriptions

Continuous learning is at the core of the Quintessential Group and its community of fellows. We support these needs in any and all ways possible, including paying for all books and subscriptions of our fellows. If you have other learning needs, we’re happy to support those, too.

Paid Time Off For Conferencing (Plus Entry Fees, Expenses Paid)

We don’t believe our fellows should suffer a financial disincentive to pursue their learning and socialising needs, so we pay for time taken to attend conferences, as well as for the entry fees and associated expenses (travel, hotels, etc.).

Paid Time Off For Learning, Studying

Many folks learn for the joy of it, but we don’t see why learning has to be on the learner’s dime So we invite our fellows to invoice us or otherwise claim financial recompense for time spent learning. Effective learning benefits everyone, not least the company.

Development Hardware, Tools

Many new fellows will already have their own equipment, software tools, etc. But when they need other stuff to be quintessentially effective, we have no issue with providing such things, as the fellow(s) see fit.

Note: A Quintessential fellow is anyone (irrespective of gender) who has complete the one-week orientation and chosen to join the Quintessential community.

Note: When we say “paid for” we mean The Quintessential Group will reimburse fellows in the course of invoicing in respect of client gigs. In other words, and using the one week’s paid-for orientation as an example, we will pay fellows for attending the orientation week, over the course of several weeks’ payments for participating in services to a client.

Accepting Inquiries and Applications

We are now accepting inquiries and applications for the first “orientation” cohort of Quintessential Teams

Orientation

Simply put, we pay our candidate fellows to join together for a week (five days) of orientation. This week prepares fellows for Quintessential Team client engagements, in particular is afford the opportunity to get to know each other, build relationships, and thrash out a shared way of playing together.

Would you like to know more?

– Bob

The Monopoly Of Management

Managers and other senior stakeholders and elites within organisations have a monopoly on the priority of their own well-being. (See: Your REAL Job).

Wouldn’t it be great if other folks’ well-being received equal attention? If the set of all the Folks That Matter™. included staff, customers, their families and loved ones, and even society as whole? Some may baulk at the implied cost of spreading the well-being net wider. I see this as a fallacy and one which only serves to entrench the ruling clique’s monopoly further.

We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery…. He must justify his right to exist.

~ R. Buckminster Fuller

One aspect of the Quintessential organisation is just this – it makes both moral and business sense to prioritise the well-being of all – to Attend To The Needs of all the Folks That Matter™. Is this the kind of organisation in which you might best like to participate?

– Bob

Specific organisational structures are irrelevant. It’s an organisation’s fluidity – the capabiliuty to morph and flow from one structure to another over time, and invent new and intermediate structures, as needs require, that’s the thing. Cf. Donella Meadows:

Twelve Invitations for Fellowship

  1. We’ll have a face-to-face catchup (1:1) at least as frequently as once a week. Either of us can cancel whenever we agree to. It’s our time.
  2. Our 1:1 agenda will be in our meeting invite so we remember important topics. But either of us remains free to use the time for whatever’s on our minds.
  3. When we schedule each catchup, we’ll state *at the time we schedule it* what it’s meant to be about. We prefer to avoid chatting without an agenda. The agenda can be as simple as e.g. “social”.
  4. When we drop into each other’s DMs, we’ll always say hello, and what”s on our minds. No suspense. No small talk while we are wondering what the DM is going to be about.
  5. We will share directly any face-to-face news or announcements that significantly impact e.g. us, our several relationships, our teams or our community, not via a big meeting, recorded video or mailshot.
  6. We’ll share feedback when it’s fresh. Feeedback is about our needs and the extend to which they’ve been met (or not). There will be no hint of performance reviews or other judgements.
  7. We trust everyone to manage their own time. No one is expected to clear with anyone in advance re: their time or place.
  8. We will attend to folks’ needs by way of informing them of our whereabout and times of availability – if and when they have a need to know.
  9. Things gets done the way we decide is best. Our focus is on folks’ needs, not outcomes or outputs. Once we’ve agreed on where we’re going, how to get there is up to each of us, in agreement.
  10. A team is most effective when it has a shared purpose, moves forward together, looks after one another, and takes care of each other and all the folks that matter. We choose to continuously look to our left and to our right for opportunities to help our fellows. We request help whenever we need it. Nobody has to do things in isolation except by choice.
  11. There are no reporting lines, chains of command and control, hierarchy, etc. We talk with each other and anyone about anything we feel is relevant.
  12. We attribute credit when attribution serves folks’ needs. We will never exaggerate our own roles or minimize others’ contributions.

If all of this sounds like it might serve your needs, I invite you to reciprocate by giving of the one thing we all need most. Attention to folks’ needs.

I want to hear your feedback, to know when someone’s needs are going unattended, or are being well-attended to. To know when and how we can bring more joy into folks’ lives.

We always welcome folks’ thoughts, listen patiently, and never respond defensively.

If we attend to each other’s needs, we can learn and grow and bond together. That’s how I need to connect with what’s alive in you.

– Bob

Quintessential Ways Of Working

I’m sure folks hearing about Quintessence wonder what it’s all about, and how it differs from other ways of working in the software development domain.

There’s much to absorb in my books on the subject, especially Quintessence itself.

But for those who prefer an “in a nutshell” explanation…

Foundations

Culture

Products, designs, solutions, services – these are all a consequence of our culture. 

So the quintessential organisation focuses on its culture, not on its processes, technical practices, competencies, etc.. And builds cultural awareness and shift into its business-as-usual, into its ways of working.

As Kevin Weiss so kindly says in his foreword to Quintessence:

This is the real challenge to readers of this book – to consider these ideas as a wholly different way of working, rather than an à la carte menu of possibilities. If you can do that, you may have what it takes to be a leader in your company’s transformation. 

And if you do, jump at the chance! It will likely be the most rewarding time of your career. 

~ Kevin Weiss

Interpersonal relationships

Part of the quintessential way of working centres around the relations between people. Between individual teams members. Between teams and the folks they serve. Between folks inside the organisation and those in customer and supplier organisations. Between folks on the front line, and their managers and executive. The way the work works, whomsoever owns it, is oriented towards increased opportunities for dialogue, and fellowship, relationship- and community-building. Not so much towards producing stuff, like designs, solutions, code, etc..

Continuous Reflection

Regular dialogue enables the surfacing of and reflecting upon the organisation’s collective assumptions and beliefs – another key aspect of the way the work works in aspiring quintessential organisations. Such dialogue is literally built into the ways of working of quintessential organisations.

Attending to folks’ needs (the Antimatter Principle) also serves to strengthen and deepen interpersonal relationships.

Excellence

A key principle in the quintessential way of working is excellence. The desire to do and be the best one can. No tolerance of complacency or slacking-off here. 

Working Together

Quintessential organisations feature people working together. I hesitate to say collaboration, because I have some reservations about that notion. But working together is an essential element of the quintessential organisation. Gone are the days when the heroic individual could make some lone breakthrough or discovery. Our world has become more complicated than that.

Systems Thinking

Quintessential organisations recognise themselves as complex adaptive systems, not just a collection of quasi-independent parts. Decisions are made and actions taken with this perspective fully in mind. And systems thinking permeates all aspects and all levels of the way the work works.

Risk

One aspect often overlooked in non-quintessential organisations is the formal management and control of risk. Many of the Folks That Matter within an organisation seek certainty and predictability, but rarely are the risks threatening those needs explicitly managed. See also: (DeMarco and Lister 2003).

Normative Learning

See: Toyota Kata (Rother 2010).

Social Sciences

The quintessential organisation draws on discoveries from many of the social sciences, including:

  • psychology
  • psychotherapy
  • group dynamics
  • cognitive science
  • neuroscience.

And builds the discoveries and practices from these fields into the way the work works.

Summary

The above are just the stand-out aspects of ways of working observable in quintessential organisations.

Take a look at Quintessence (the book) if you’d like to understand more and dive deeper.

– Bob

Further Reading

Rother, M. (2010). Toyota Kata: Managing People For Continuous Improvement And Superior Results. Mcgraw-Hill.

Demarco, T. and Lister, T.R. (2003). Waltzing With Bears: Managing Risk On Software Projects. Dorset House Pub.

“The best reason to put people first is not to create a ‘great organization.’ The best reason to put people first is so you can be proud of how you spent your life—namely, helping others grow as persons as well as professionals.”

~ Tom Peters

 

Source: tompeters! email.

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