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Quintessential Morons

Quintessential morons are not those folks with a shortfall in intellect, but those folks with a shortfall in awareness of the limitations and boundaries of their personal world view.

The latter group are not open to changing themselves because they remain unaware of the need for, and benefits to themselves and others of, personal change.

The world is stuffed full of quintessential morons.

Chances are, you’re one too.

– Bob

GilbFest 2022 – Day 1

A quick round-up of my impressions from the first day of GilbFest 2022.

What is GilbFest?

Every year Tom Gilb invites selected folks from his acquaintance to meet in London for a week, to share ideas relevant to the world of software delivery and etc.

This year, as for the past few years, the event is online rather than in-person. Which suits me as I loathed trawling up to central London every day for a week.

This year’s theme is “Success And Preventing Failure”. Each day is divided into 30 minute slots, one per attendee/speaker, with each slot providing 15 minutes for some kind of presentation and a further 15 minutes for Q&A. Each slot being interspersed with a 20 minute break / opportunity for social interactions.

Impressions

Overall, day one has been a series of folks sharing anecdotes, opinions and a couple of (brief) case studies. The general tenor has been “I read a book, you might like it too” and “I found this (other person’s) model, you might like it too”. No original work or thoughts so far. Which, as an inventor, innovator,  and serial creator myself, I find deeply frustrating. And I hate unsubstantiated opinions, too. All in all, my needs are not getting met. Nor even attended to. C’est la vie.

Also, there’s been a lot of blah-blah-blabbering going on today. Personally, I choose to listen over talk.

– Bob

Highlight Problems, Avoid Solutions

It’s wayyy easier to provide solutions than to help folks find their own solutions. What are the consequences of this observation?

  • For consultants, trainers, pseudo-coaches and others whose income depends on selling “solutions”?
  • For folks seeking long-term, permanent solutions to their problems?
  • For folks who choose to hire consultants or other experts to solve their problems for them?
  • For folks habituated to delegating the finding of solutions to their problems to others?

Voltaire asks us a rhetorical question:

“Is there anyone so wise as to learn by the experience of others?”

~ Voltaire

I’ll not be offering any solutions to this conundrum. I am available help you along the path of finding your own.Do get in touch!

#IANAC (I am not a consultant).

– Bob

Further Reading

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

Power To Effect Change

We are all powerless to effect change, excepting together.

Deming emphasised that organisational tranformation and change must start with individuals changing their own personal assumptions and beliefs.

Yes, change starts with ourselves, but we may see little impact outside of ourselves until we get together to support one another and build a movement to action, to changing our group or community’s collective assumptions and beliefs.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

~ Margaret Mead

OTOH folks not needing to see change can carry on in isolation, ploughing their own furrrows, with no need for cooperation, community, or messy human interactions.

– Bob

Further Reading

Kahane, A. and Barnum, J. (2017). Collaborating With The Enemy: How To Work With People You Don’t Agree With Or Like Or Trust. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

There Are Better Ways

There are better ways to develop and deliver software. Better than the prevailing ways of approaching such things. How much better? IME – and substantiated by data from i.e. ISBSG – from twice as good through to at least five times as good.

How to access these better ways?

  1. Recognise that software development and delivery is a subset of Collaborative Knowledge Work (CKW).
  2. Understand that CKW requires a fundamentally different approach vs. the kinds of work most organisations recognise as “work”.
  3. Realign the collective assumptions and beliefs of your organisation to enable effective CKW.
  4. Recognise that 95% of improvements will necessitate changes well outside the software development/delivery “silo”.

– Bob

 

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].

Read Quintessence? – Others Have

Have you read “Quintessence” yet? Hundreds of others have, and liked it.

– 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 15 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 15 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 15 Jun 2022].
Marshall, R.W. (2021). Organisational Psychotherapy Bundle 1. [online] Leanpub. Available at: https://leanpub.com/b/organisationalpsychotherapybundle1 [Accessed 15 Jun. 2022].

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

The Future Of Software Delivery

Are you curious about how software will get written and delivered in the future? When all the Agile malarkey has faded away?

About your career and what skills and abilities will be in demand in a few years’ time?

Take a look at my book “Quintessence“ for a detailed road map of what the future of software delivery looks like.

My book “Memeology” describes in detail how organisations can make this future theirs, starting today.

And “Hearts Over DIamonds” sets out the foundations for Organisational Psychotherapy – the core principles for our Quintessential future.

Or read the whole series, and get a deep understanding of the role of Organisational Psychotherapy in businesses of the future.

– 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 12 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 12 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 12 Jun 2022].

Why I Blog

Thare’s a few key reasons why I’ve been consistently and regularly blogging for the best part of fifteen years now:

  1. To invite conversation. I love conversations. I love personal interactions and the exchange of perspectives. Blogging has not served me too well in this regard, so far.
  2. To clarify my thoughts. I find writing my thoughts down serves to refine and clarify them.
  3. To change the world. Some ideas, such as nonviolence, fellowship, love and dialogue have the possibility to change society in general, and the world of work in particular, for the better. I feel privileged to invite folks to encounter these ideas.
  4. To listen to and learn from others, and experience their alternative perspectives.
  5. To share my experiences. I probably have more experience in software delivery (and life) than most. Maybe my sharing equips readers with extra experiences, albeit vicariously.

– Bob

You Don’t Understand Software Delivery

And the more senior you are, the less you understand. Even if you were once a developer, given that most developers don’t understand software development / software delivery, a developer background is not going to help you much.

Who does understand software delivery? Folks who have studied it as a discipline. And that’s precious few indeed. Of all the “development” folks I’ve met over the years – and that’s thousands – wayyy less than one percent actually have an effective understanding of the field.

Yes, there’s thousands upon thousands of folks who understand coding (programming). But that’s not much help at all in forming a broader and effective understanding of the wider software delivery discipline.

The upshot? The software industry is stacked to the gills with folks who have no clue what they’re doing, except in the narrowest of specialism. And worse, no ability to recognise the one percent. Result? The blind leading the blind. And the hegemony of the one-eyed man.

– Bob

Organisational Transformation Starts With Individual Transformation

Organisational transformation starts with the individual but as they change they can run into organisational barriers and resistance to change. Similarly if the organisation institutes changes without helping people change their own understanding and views those people resist the changes in the organisation.

~ Barbara Lawton

Deming emphasised that organisational tranformation and change must start with individuals changing their own personal assumptions and beliefs. And in doing so, these individuals will likely fall foul of the organisation’s collective assumptions and beliefs (the collective psyche).

What better argument could there be for the benefits of Organisational Psychotherapy?

And what better explanation for why it’s soooo hard?

– Bob

Further Reading

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 08 Jun 2022].

Lawton, B. http://www.youtube.com. (n.d.). 1993-03 Leading The Transformation Process. [online] Available at: https://youtu.be/MKq_SA8QnYI [Accessed 8 Jun. 2022].

Isolation

Over the past five years I’ve hardly ever left the house. And rarely spoken to anyone, even virtually, excepting two or three stalwarts.

In 2018-2019 this state of affairs was entirely by choice. I was wrapped up in writing my first Organisational Psychotherapy book – Hearts over Diamonds. And then along came COVID-19 and leaving the house became problematic for millions.

In 2020 and 2021 I made lemonade out of them lemons, doubling down on writing, and penned my second and third OP books: Memeology and Quintessence. I would have gone crazy without the focus this brought. Social media proved to be no substitute for face to face interactions and in-person conversations. Even my blog, which had been a source of interactions 2010-2015, tailed off and every post now receives next to zero comments.

So here we are, five years on. And I can honestly say that there’s zero demand for my skills, and precious little interest in effective software delivery and my insights thereinto. The software industry has never really embraced the idea of improvement – continuous or otherwise – and I see little prospect of this changing in my lifetime. The field of software delivery seems consigned to the same old torpor, indifference and the hegemony of the status quo. Fresh ideas and innovations appear unwanted – or is that unneeded?

– Bob

A Conducive System

[Tl;Dr: What are the system conditions that encourage ethical – and productive, effective – behaviours (Cf William Kingdon Clifford) in software delivery organisations?]

In yesterday’s blog post “The System Is Unethical” I related my experiences of how businesses – and the folks that run them and work in them – remain ignorant of just how ineffective they are at software delivery. And the consequences of that ignorance on e.g. costs, quality, customer satisfaction, etc

To recap: an unethical system perpetuates behaviours such as:

  • Failing to dig into the effectiveness of the organisation’s software delivery capabilities.
  • Indifference to the waste involved (wasted time, money, opportunities, human potential,…).
  • Ignorance of just how much more effective things could be, with e.g. a change in perspective.
  • Bravado and denial when questioned about such matters.

The Flip Side

Instead of the behaviours listed above, we might seek a system that encourages behaviours that include:

  • Continual attention to the effectiveness of the organisation’s software delivery capabilities.
  • Concern over the waste involved, and actions to reduce such waste.
  • Investigation into just how much more effective things could be.
  • Clarity and informed responses when questions about such matters.

Conducive System Conditions

So what might a system conducive to such behaviours look like?

That’s what my book “Quintessence” illustrates in detail. But in case you’re a busy person trapped in a non-conducive system, I’ve previously written about some of the key aspects of a conducive system, here:

Quintessence For Busy People

BTW I’m always happy to respond to your questions.

– Bob

 

 

 

 

The System Is Unethical

Or at least, it’s “the system” that sits at the root of the unethical behaviours costing software delivery organisations £££millions annually. And it’s the culture of an organisation that defines that system.

Many years ago I wrote a White Paper titled “All Executives Are Unethical”. This paper riffed on a theme from Seth Godin – “All Marketers are Liars”. And channeled the ethical arguments of William Kingdon Clifford:

…whatever someone chooses to believe cannot be exempt from the ethical judgement of others.

In the aforementioned White Paper, I spoke of the ethics of executives, and in particular the folks that make the decisions about committing to improvements (or maintaining the status quo) in software delivery.

It’s been my experience over the course of thirty-plus years, that said executives act as if they believe their software delivery capability has little need, or scope, for improvement. Acting as if investing in improving said capability has little to no payback, and little to no impact on the organisation’ top line or bottom line.

It’s The System

Bill Deming famously wrote:

The fact is that the system that people work in and the interaction with people may account for 90 or 95 percent of performance.

~ W.E. Deming quoted in Scholtes, PR 1998 ‘The leader’s handbook: making things happen, getting things done’ McGraw-Hill, London p 296

Some readers of my aforementioned White Paper may have inferred I was criticising individual executives for their shortfall in ethics. Not at all. These folks work in “systems” as much as everyone else. It’s the system that drives their behaviours. Behaviours such as:

  • Failing to dig into the effectiveness of their organisation’s software delivery capabilities.
  • Indifference to the waste involved (wasted time, money, opportunities, human potential,…).
  • Ignorance of just how much more effective things could be, with e.g. a change in perspective.
  • Bravado and denial when questioned about such matters.

And it’s not limited to executives. Most advisors and practitioners (coaches, developers, middle managers, etc.) are equally ignorant, indifferent, flippant and slow to inquire.

Organisational Psychotherapy – and in particular, Memeology – offers a means to being addressing the shortcomings of the system, and thus bring about changes in folks’ behaviours.

– Bob

Further Reading

Marshall, R.W. (2021). All Agilists Are Unethical. [online] Think Different. Available at: https://flowchainsensei.wordpress.com/2021/12/23/all-agilists-are-unethical/ [Accessed 30 May 2022].
Seddon, J. (2015). 95% of Performance Is Governed By The System. [online] Vanguard Consulting Ltd. Available at: https://beyondcommandandcontrol.com/library/dr-demings-aphorisms/95-of-performance-is-governed-by-the-system/ [Accessed 30 May 2022].

We Need Your Help!

We so need your help in increasing the reach of our message about Quintessence. The more folks that get to hear, the sooner we’ll all benefit from a saner, more humane, more joyful way of delivering software. It’s way past time we all explored together what’s next.

We’re not asking you to subscribe to our assumption and beliefs. Just to mention (not recommend, not talk up) Quintessence to your friends, peers, colleagues and higher-ups.

Something along the lines of:

Have you heard about Quintessence? That batshit crazy Bob Marshall (FlowChainSensei) has invented/discovered an approach to software delivery entirely different from what we all know. He says it’s five times more productive than e.g. Agile approaches. Mental!

Would you be willing to help us spread the word about Quintessence.?

Thanks!

– Bob & Ian

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 25 May 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 25 May 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/heartsovediamonds/ [Accessed 25 May 2022].

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