Archive

Capability development

#NoPlanning

I’ve lost count of the number of folks I’ve encountered that see planning as sacrosant, as gospel. I’ve also lost count of the number of occasions I’ve attempted to broach the subject with offers of e.g. dialogue and mutual exploration, only to be stonewalled.

In support of #NoPlanning, I offer the follow Ackoff quote:

“If you have the capacity for response to the unexpected, then you don’t have to plan for it. The important thing to do then is to continuously increase the capacity to respond to whatever occurs in the future.”

~ Russell Ackoff

I posit that #NoPlanning is the epiotome of business agility.

Would you be willing to talk about it?

– 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].

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].

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].

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].

An Exec’s Guide To Achieving Mission-critical Software Delivery

Nowadays, every business is a software business. Your enterprise needs to prioritise software delivery, be that deploying off-the-shelf solutions, commissioning bespoke software development, or a mixture of both.

Digital transformation: The term has been bandied about since it was coined more than a decade ago. I think we can all agree, though, that the “use of technology to radically improve performance or reach of enterprises” really gained momentum when the COVID-19 pandemic set in.

As we remember all too well, the entire world went digital within a matter of weeks, and companies raced to fulfil the soaring consumer demand for digital products and services. In fact, according to McKinsey, global businesses accelerated the adoption of digital offerings by an average rate of seven years — in a matter of just seven months. Some companies describe how they had to enable tens of thousands of home workers in just a few days!

The same McKinsey report shows that most business leaders see society’s digital shift as permanent. JPMorgan Chase’s CEO certainly thinks the increased use of digital apps and services is here to stay. He recently announced a 26% increase to Chase’s technology budget, focusing the $12 billion investment on further growing Chase’s portfolio of digital apps and services.

Providing innovative technologies is just half the job, though. There’s a lurking problem for business leaders: They can’t afford to let the delivery and integration of software into their businesses suffer delays and poor quality.

Just one schedule slippage in a key system can cause a cascade of problems. And when one of these slippages delays the deployment or upgrade of a key app or service, companies risk disrupted revenue streams, disgruntled customers, interrupted supply chains, lost productivity and frustrated staff.

Maintaining flow of software into the business is imperative to business continuity, but ensuring a steady, reliable flow is difficult. As businesses digitally transform and move their key processes to the cloud, and consumers utilise more digital innovations, their software estate grows in scale, complexity and fragility.

Consequently, maintaining the necessary software quality and delivery schedules must be a primary business objective. While leaders traditionally farmed out these responsibilities solely to their IT departments, technology has become so critical to business success that quality and delivery schedules can no longer hide in the opaque IT silo. It must – and has – become a culture and leadership issue.

Here are five steps executives can take to start embracing software quality, predictable schedules and steady flow:

Elevate Quality To Priority #1

When considering an enterprise’s numerous priorities, executives should take stock of the critical importance of quality. Does the company employ a virtual or hybrid workforce? Does the company interact or transact with customers online? Is revenue generated from online transactions? The questions can continue based on your industry, but chances are that most modern enterprises would agree they rely on a suite of software apps and software-based services for desired business outcomes.

Given the critical nature of digital apps and services — and their ability to provide a seamless experience for customers — executives should consider creating a culture of quality as a key performance indicator. Practically speaking, executives can and should treat quality numbers similarly to sales figures or other revered business metrics. One senior leader should be held accountable to the quality metrics and deemed responsible for relentlessly scrutinising and reporting on these figures alongside the business’s other KPIs.

If executives really want to underscore the importance of quality, they can walk the talk for their workforces. Business leaders can make quality a compensation-affecting business objective, like profit or sales targets. And they can tie these quality metrics back to the bottom line.

Focus On The People

In the era of “every business is a software business,” enterprises can no longer tuck away tech talent out of sight, removed from customer interaction. In fact, they should do the exact opposite, moving software folks to the front line and making them part of the business’s core value proposition. Actively marketing a company’s tech and nerd credentials will drive confidence in the brand’s digital presence. And enhance employer branding at the same time.

Naturally, redeploying the software folks goes both ways. Executives must also show genuine trust and respect for these key people. Even without extensive technical knowledge, business leaders can provide the kind of environment, and culture, that makes teams’ lives easier by reducing the cognitive load imposed by traditional management approaches. And they can give them the freedom to use modern paradigms like DevOps and CI/CD pipelines. Software teams with respect, resources and support will have a foot up on delivering innovations and protecting the quality of their deliveries.

Treat Unceasing Innovation As Standard

As most executives know, today’s world of digital business demands continuous innovation as a minimum requirement for keeping pace with competitors. This unceasing innovation requires executives to drop risk-averse postures and embrace reinvention and the concomitant continuous change.

Of course, amidst digital innovation, reinvention and even failure, quality remains a top priority. Executives need a business culture that allows their organisation to experiment, and sometimes falter, with the least amount of negative impact. After all, stagnation is no longer an attractive option.

Open The Chequebook and Invest!

If an enterprise relies on various digital apps and services for business performance, executives should guarantee the entire software delivery pipeline is exemplary.

While only the lucky few have an extra $12 billion on hand to invest in software delivery and the associated spend, executives should advocate for a big piece of the pie to go toward technology investment. And technology investment shouldn’t stop at commissioning delivery projects. Forward-thinking enterprises invest in next-generation delivery methods like Quintessence, alongside talent, training and time to innovate.

Make Technical Know-how A Leadership Must-Have

Executives should ask themselves a simple question: does anyone on the most senior team have “SDLC” or software delivery experience in their past or even present core competencies? While leadership teams are usually stacked with impressive qualifications — CPAs, MBAs and JDs — few include software people with practical SDLC experience. But given the importance of technology, executives should surround themselves with true technology practitioners.

A chief digital officer (CDO) can become a business leader’s quality czar. With a depth of SDLC experience, this role can help executives understand and benchmark their companies’ digital performance and balance digital transformation efforts with operations management.

Following these steps sends a clear message both internally and externally: innovating is no longer enough — changing the culture to remove the shackles of outmoded assumptions and beliefs is also necessary. If executives want to maximize their digital investments and thrive in a digital-first world, they must embrace quality and the culture that enables it.

– Bob

There are many people who, whilst being highly competent and able as individuals, will undermine and negate all attempts to build an effective team / unit / capability.

But you don’t have to hire them. And if you inherit one, you can fire or redeploy him or her – always assuming the higher-ups choose to value the relative importance of community, esprit de corps and the social dynamic over individual skills.

What do you and your culture value more – going far together or going fast alone?

 

Implementing Prod•gnosis

One pleasing aspect of our new startup – The Quintessential Group, is the opportunity to implement Prod•gnosis.

We’re intent on building an organisation (the Group) along value stream lines. With a separate value stream for each market we serve. In mooted order of instantiation:

    • Quintessential Teams (rent a gelled team by e.g. the fortnight)
    • Quintessential Recruiting (we source Quintessential people)
    • Quintessential Worx / Works (commission us to build the solutions you need)
    • Quintessential Culture Shift (Digital Transformations, Culture Change, etc.)
    • Quintessential Memes (meme exploration and installation services)
    • Quintessential People (serving clients’ HR function)
    • Quintessential Academy (training in all things Organisational Psychotherapy and Quintessential)
    • Quintessential Coaches (organisational coaches for rent)
    • Quintessential Mentors (personal mentors for rent)
    • Quintessential Tutors (personal tutors for rent)

PDVS

So, naturally – naturally for a value-stream based organisation anyways – we’re building the “product development value stream” first, albeit incrementally and in parallel with the first operational value stream i.e. Quintessential Teams. Eating our own dog food, you might say.

We’ll keep you posted on progress.

You can :

– Bob

Further Reading

Marshall, R. (2014). Product Development 101. [online] Think Different. Available at: https://flowchainsensei.wordpress.com/2014/10/15/product-development-101/ [Accessed 1 May 2022].

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:

Quintessence Worth £Billions

Let’s do a little back-of-a-fag-packet math re: Quintessence.

There’s somewhere around 26 million software developers worldwide.

A typical software developer, including on-costs, runs out at about £30,000 per annum (UK more like £90K, BRIC countries maybe £10k).

So that’s a world-wide spend of some (26m * 30k) = £780 billion (thousand million), per annum.

Given an uplift in productivity of 5-8 times for Quintessential development approaches, that’s an annual, recurring cost reduction (saving) of £624 billion to £682.5 billion.

You may find claimed productivity increases of this magnitude (5-8 times) somewhat unbelievable (despite the evidence). So let’s be conservative and propose a modest doubling of productivity. That would mean an annual, recurring cost reduction (saving) of £390 billion. Still not to be sniffed at.

For The Individual Organisation

Let’s consider a single UK-based organisation with 100 developers. Present costs (for the developers alone) will be around £90k * 100 = £9 million annually (more or less, depending on a number of factors). Again, assuming a modest doubling of productivity*, a quintessential approach would garner an annual, recurring cost reduction (saving) of £4.5 million for this example organisation.

What do these figures tell us? That the world and individual organisations both are not at all interested in reducing software development costs (or increasing software development productivity). Or maybe they just don’t believe it’s possible to be any more productive than they are already (it is possible to be much more productive, see e.g. RIghtshifting).

*Or getting twice as much done in a given time, for the same spend. Or halving the time it takes to get something done, for the same spend.

– Bob

Further Reading

Marshall, R.W. (2021). Quintessence: An Acme for Software Development Organisations. Falling Blossoms (LeanPub).

Why Is No One Interested In Superior Software Development Approaches?

I’ve been monitoring companies’ interest in software development for enough years (25+) to state unequivocally:

No one running or working in companies seems at all interested in superior* approaches to building and delivering software solutions.

Why might this be so? I propose at least five possibilities:

  • Complacency / ignorance
    Maybe those responsible don’t see themselves as actually responsible, or maybe they have little knowledge of the state of the art and what’s possible.
  • Too difficult
    Maybe selecting and applying elements of state of the art approaches seem too difficult, arcane or risky. Or too complex, all in all.
  • Not connected to the personal wellbeing of those quasi-responsible for taking relevant decisions and actions.
    (See also my popular post: “Your REAL Job“).
  • Agile is The Last One
    It’s seen as the final evolution or end-state of all software development approaches. No need to look beyond. No more progress is required.
  • Progress cannot happen in companies as they are run today
    Superior approaches demand organisations are run in ways anathematical to current management mores.

Do you have any other possibilities I have not listed here? Which do you favour as an explanation?

Your contribution will be welcomed.

– Bob

* By superior I mean approaches which cut costs, improve quality, reduce timescales, increase certainty and predictability, lower stress, and otherwise improve effectiveness. Take a look at Quintessence (the book) if you’d like to understand more and dive deeper into what’s possible.

Rightshifting Revisited

I was on a call earlier today, and the concept of Rightshifting came up, by the by.

My work with Rightshifting goes way back to 2008, and even earlier. It’s become such a part of my world-view that I rarely reflect on it explicitlty nowadays. Even to the point of not mentioning it much any more.

The call reminded that there are many people, including senior people and decision-makers, that have but a nodding acquaintance with software development, and especially:

  • How poor (ineffective) many organisations remain in their approach to software development.
  • How much productivity (and thus money) is being left on the table because of said ineffectiveness.

Here’s the Righshifting chart, illustrating the spread of effectiveness across different organisations. The spread has not changed much in nearly twenty years AFAICT.

Where does your organisation sit on the horizontal axis of this chart?

– Bob

Chief Capitalization Officer / Head of Capitalization. Posts, roles or job titles that exist in no organisation.

What do I mean by capitalization? See this talk by Malcolm Gladwell for an explanation of his (and in this post, my) use of the term.

#CloseToMyHeart

 

There Are Koalas In My Kitchen

Who works on the way the work works in your organisation?

Have they seen this?:

Further Reading

Marshall, R.W. (2021). Quintessence: An Acme for Software Development Organisations. Falling Blossoms (LeanPub).

Rightshifting and Quintessence 

Long-time readers of this blog will already be familiar with the concept of rightshifting. 

Shifting an organisation to the right (i.e. in the direction of increased organisational effectiveness, and towards the quintessential) is not for the work-shy or indolent. Yet the rewards are massive. 

Whilst the Marshall Model provides a general framework for such rightshifting, there’s not been a detailed roadmap describing the shifts necessary to acquire such improved effectiveness. 

My most recent book, “Quintessence”, provides just such a roadmap (or blueprint). It details the shifts in collective assumptions and beliefs necessary to become a highly effective knowledge-work organisation. Shifts of which significant outliers such as Zappos, WL Gore, Morning Star, Semco, and a host of others have demonstrated the benefits.

Go take a look and gaze in awe at what is possible in the way of improvements. 

– Bob

Further Reading

Marshall, R.W. (2018). Hearts over Diamonds: Serving Business and Society Through Organisational Psychotherapy. Falling Blossoms (LeanPub).

Marshall, R.W. (2021). Memeology: Surfacing and Reflecting On the Organisation’s Collective Assumptions and Beliefs. Falling Blossoms (LeanPub).

Marshall, R.W. (2021). Quintessence: An Acme for Software Development Organisations. Falling Blossoms (LeanPub). 

Am I the only person in the world interested in improving the effectiveness of organisations? In making organisations better places to work, better places to play, better places to learn? Is it just me? Most days it seems like it is.

Seems like NOBODY in management or product consulting has heard the old adage:

Q: How do you build a great product?

A: Build a great team and they’ll build the great product for you.

The Way Forward

By way of a counterpoint to my previous post “What’s Holding Us Back“, I’m interested in the way forward for the software industry, businesses, and society in general.

It’s become delightfully obvious to me that a whole raft of helpful assumptions and beliefs constitute that way forward.

In my most recent books (Memeology, Quintessence) I detail these helpful assumptions and beliefs at length, and again in keeping with my preference for short blog posts, I’ll just summarise, here…

Here’s some of the major assumptions and beliefs helpful to enabling organisations better achieve success:

  • Generalising specialists form the core of quintessential organisations (see e.g. Paint Drip People).
  • Continual small changes in assumptions and beliefs (kaizen), with occasional larger step changes (Kaikaku) are the way to effect improvements.
  • Change is desirable, best left to serendipity, and better seen in small daily increments.
  • Dialogue is at the core of improvements, in relationships and the way the work works, both.
  • Everyone’s needs matter (at least for all the Folks That Matter). See also: the Antimatter Principle.
  • Clarity and honesty on what constitutes “success” is the only way to align folks and see everyone’s real needs are being attended to.
  • Culture is the visible by-product of the invisible set of prevailing assumptions and beliefs, and is amenable to intentional change through eg Organisational Psychotherapy (be that facilitated or via self-help).
  • There are many possible organisational structures other than hierarchy. They have all be tried at one time or another. Most have proven more successful that hierarchy.
  • Change always requires revisions to existing policies and rules. See: Innovation ALWAYS Demands We Change the Rules.
  • Talent is unnecessary when we have thriving relationships, and a focus on the way the work works.
  • Interpersonal relationships are core to success.
  • Interesting work and the prospect of community, meaning, and other “soft” elements trumps high pay as a motivator and attractant, every time.
  • Productivity ensues from optimising the way the work works, which in turn requires a focus on collective assumptions and beliefs.
  • Efficiency is a distracting red herring, effectiveness is the path to productivity and success.
  • Business problems are almost never the fault of certain individuals.
  • Breaking the organisation into parts and managing these parts separately is a recipe for significant sub-optimisation and shortfalls in success.
  • In collaborative knowledge work, intrinsic motivation is much more powerful than extrinsic motivation. The latter serves as a demotivator.
  • The social dynamic and listening are the only means to effect changes in people’s behaviours.

…and so on, and so on. 

All the above assumptions have been proven time and again through decades of research. By listening, experimenting and being interested in the science and outliers, our ignorance can be assuaged and enlightened.

– Bob

%d bloggers like this: