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Culture change

The #NoSoftware Option

One of the many things that distinguishes The Quintessential Group from the Software Delivery also-rans is that our Quintessential Teams service provides our clients and prospective clients with a #NoSoftware option. John Seddon and his company, Vanguard Consulting, advise deferring software automation of new business processes and process steps at least until those steps have been trialed and proven through manual implementations – Post-its, paper-based processes, manual steps, etc. For those organisations that buy into this perspective, our #NoSoftware option means our teams will deliver these non-software solutions quickly and cheaply.

Also known as “software last”, a #NoSoftware solution is one that minimises the amount of software in a solution – in particular minimising the amount of custom-written software – ideally to the exclusion of software from the solution entirely.

As Steve Jobs famously said:

The way you get programmer productivity is not by increasing the lines of code per programmer per day. That doesn’t work. The way you get programmer productivity is by eliminating lines of code you have to write. The line of code that’s the fastest to write, that never breaks, that doesn’t need maintenance, is the line you never had to write.

~ Steve Jobs

The Benefits of #NoSoftware

  • Less maintenance overhead

The fewer lines of code in any given solution, the less needs to be spent on keeping that code up to date in line with e.g. changing requirements and discovered defects.

  • More flexibility

Did you know that the term “software” was first coined back in the 1950’s to reflect the idea that software could be changed more easily, quickly and at lower cost than the hardware solutions that then predominated? It was supposedly easier to change a line of code than to reroute traces on a PCB, or swap out soldered components. Nice wishful thinking, but it hasn’t turned out that way. Software is notoriously expensive, inflexible and difficult to change. Less software means increased flexibility and business agility.

  • Savings on up-front costs

Software costs money to write, even before it goes into service. Not only to pay for ever more expensive programmers and their friends, but also the opportunity costs of having to wait for the software to be ready to deploy. In most organisations this can mean months or even years of waiting.

  • Minimal automation

When a new business process or process step is implemented, it’s rare for the implementors to fully understand what’s needed, and to anticipated the unintended consequences of their choices. Premature automation can lock in inappropriate or suboptimal design choices. Once a process or process step has been up and running live in a manual form for some time, it’s generally easier to see where (limited) application of software-enabled automation may bring benefits. Hence “software last”.

  • Try before you buy

Use a #NoSoftware solution live in your business to prove your process or process steps to trial the solution before committing to implementing a software-based solution. You may actually find that a software-based solution is in fact unnecessary, or can be much more limited in scope – and cost – than originally imagined.

Attending To Folks’ Needs

Implicit in the idea of #NoSoftware is the imperativeb of attending to folks’ needs – the primary focus of The Quintessential Group. Generally speaking, folks have little need for software per se. As the old adage goes; folks don’t need a 1/4″ drill so much as they need a 1/4″ hole. When considering the means for attenbding to – and meeting – folks’ needs, software is rarely the optimal means.

Chat More?

We’d be delighted to discuss the idea of our #NoSoftware solution option and how it will be suitable for your business or organisation. Curious? Please get in touch.

– Bob

Further Reading

Seddon, J. (2019). Beyond Command And Control. Vanguard Consulting.

Celebrate With Us And Receive A Free Copy Of Quintessence!

QuintessenceCover

To celebrate the launch of The Quintessential Group, our new software delivery startup, we’re making copies of my most recent book “Quintessence” – free for just one week <- coupon link. A $35.99 value! (And worth many more $$$ when applied).

If you’ve been curious about what’s the next big thing in the world of CKW (collaborative knowledge work) in general, and Software Delivery in particular, it’s all mapped out in detail in Quintessence. 

Whether you’re a developer looking for revolutionary ways of working (we choose rather to call it playing – and we’re inviting applications) or a business person looking to solve the software delivery crisis in your own organisation, there are many awesome things in the book for you.

Tell your friends, peers, teammates, co-workers and higher-ups. This is likely a one-time special offer!

– Bob

PS. I’ve just published a new version of the book (v1.5 – minor corrections and updates).

Want to get ahead of your competetion? Want to get in on the ground floor of the predominant approach to software delivery in the next twenty years (and more)? Simply read my latest book “Quintessence“. Those who’ve already read it say they love it to bits. 🙂

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

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 20 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 20 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 20 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

What Is Quintessence?

Let’s start with what it’s NOT. Quintessence (I’m talking here about the approach, not the book) is not:

  • A framework
  • A method
  • A methodology

If it’s any ONE thing, It’s most like a detailed model or map of a well-functioning, or sane, CKW (collaborative knowledge woirk) organisation. A bit like an anti-DSM, or Prof Martin Seligman’s positive psychology P.E.R.M.A. model.

Quintessence’s roots lie in psychotherapy. Often referred to as Talk Therapy. And more specifically, in therapy as applied to groups, communities, and organisations (rather than individuals).

Quintessence (the approach) is aimed at helping organisations surface and reflect on their collective assumptions and beliefs, with a view to shifting their culture into closer alignment with their business goals.

I’d be delighted to explain further, if you’re interested.

– Bob

As a manager, what’s more important to you? The nature of your present role, or the success of the company?

Put another way: If the ongoing success of the company required your role to change, would you support or resist that change? Can you even talk franklly about the issue?

 

Management, Net-Net

I’ve written some number of posts already describing the incompatibilities between traditonal, hierarchical, command-and-control management (THCM)  and collaborative knowledge work (CKW). I’ve written that we can have one or the other, but not both.

I note the absence of any signs that THCM is being scrutinised anew – excepting from a few quarters such as Prof Gary Hamel with Humanocracy, and Frederic Laloux with Reinventing Organisations. Even though effective CKW becomes ever more widespread. Not to mention essential to businesses and society both.

Let’s assume for the sake of this partticular post that THCM afforts organisations and societies some real benefits. I personally have my doubts. but lets go with it. Similarly, let’s also assume that CKW also affors some real benefits. For what it’s worth you can probably guess my personal take on that assumption.

The Economic Question

So here’s the (economic*) question: Which affords the greater benefits to organisations: THCM or CKW, net-net?

If we geared how organisationa are run in line with optimising for effective CKW – which would mean downplaying, replacing or abandoning THCM – would these organisations be better off, produce better (finanical, social, etc.) results?

Conversely, does THCM – with the inevitable negative consequences for effective CKW, result in higher profits, margins, and other measures of success (financial and otherwise)?

I’d love to hear your take on this question.

– Bob

*This question kinda assumes organisations are primarily economic entities with success measured in financial and economic terms. I suggest this is actually just a big lie.

First Step Towards Quintessence

Taking a look at the idea of Quintessence can seem overwhelmingly daunting. Changing the culture of a whole organisation? Shifting assumptions and beliefs of an entire workforce, managers and executives included? Wow. Some herculean task?

Formidable Challenge

The challenge can seem truly formidable. Yet the benefits look appealing. 

How to take that first step? What is the most useful and reassuring first step?

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

~ Lao Tzu

Surfacing And Reflecting

The clue is on the cover of my second book, “Memeology“. The subtitle reads

Surfacing and reflecting on the organisation’s collective assumptions and beliefs.

I find a useful first step is talking with peers. And listening to what they have to say. Discovering if there’s an appetite for such surfacing and reflecting. Uncovering their challenges of the moment, and sounding out potential allies. Persuasion comes later, if at all.

The status quo has a powerful grip on busy people. It’s easy to dismiss calls for change in the midst of daily stressors such as fire-fighting and chasing targets.

Timbre

What’s the timbre of dialogue in your organisation? Progressive or regressive? Inviting or dismissive? What timbre might best suit the kinds of dialogue implied by Quintessence? How might y’all affect that timbre? And could you use some help with that?

Chatting Is The First Step

To recap – simple chatting with friends, neighbours, peers and colleagues can be the vital first step. And “Alien Tech” can sometimes serve as an icebreaker, if you feel you need one.

– Bob

 

The Way The Play Plays

Play is for adults, too

John Seddon regularly uses the phrase “the way the work works” in referring to the “system” or “processes” that actually get followed within organisations. In contrast to the way “processes” or “the system” describe how the work should work (but rarely bears any relation).

For organisations such as The Quintessential Group, where play’s the thing, “work” has become a term, and an idea, that no longer has much relevance. The phrase “the way the work works” serves as one more reinforcement of that outmoded idea.

So we’ve chosen to replace the phrase “the way the work works” with the phrase “the way the play plays”. Which, although poorer grammar, helps us train ourselves to expunge the word – and idea – of “work” from our consciousness.

See also: POSIWID.

– Bob

Further Reading

Schrage, M. (2008). Serious Play: How The World’s Best Companies Simulate To Innovate.  Harvard Business School Press.

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?

 

It’s not that different folks have inherently different attitudes to work. It’s that different folks work in different environments* – environments that shape their attitudes to “work”.

*Including, but broader than physical environment (offices, cubes, studios, etc.); social environments a.k.a. culture, community, needsscape; and systems environments (both belief systems and the way the work works).

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