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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

The Great Hiring Debacle Continues

The debacle of hiring (cf. external hires) continues unabated. In my experience, it’s getting worse by the day. And I see every hirer totally oblivious to the data. Here’s a couple of charts:

HiringDebacleDoubleAnd some data from various sources:

New Hire Failure Rates (By Job Level)

Overall failure rate – What percentage of all new hires fail within eighteen months? “46%” (Source: Leadership IQ)

Hourly new hires – What percentage of all hourly employees quit or are fired within their first six months? “50%” (Source: Humetrics)

Managment new hires– What percentage of management new hires fail within eighteen months? “Between 40% and 60%” (Source: Harvard Business Review)

High managerial talent – What percentage miss the mark on high managerial talent? “In 82% of their hiring decisions” (Source: Gallup)

Executive new hires – What percentage of executive new hires fail within eighteen months? “Nearly 50%” (Source: The Corporate Leadership Council)

CEO failure – What percentage of new CEOs fail outright within their first eighteen months? “Nearly 40%” (Source: Centre For Creative Leadership)

Unequivocal success –  What percentage of new hires can be declared as an unequivocal success? “19%” or 1 in 5 (Source: Centre from Creative Leadership

(Table courtesy of Dr John Sullivan)

And you think you’re so smart?

– Bob

Further Reading

Griffiths, A. (2022.). What You Need to Know About Unsuccessful Recruitment and Ways to Improve Your Hiring Success Rate – Hirenest. [online] Available at: https://hirenest.com/blog/what-you-need-to-know-about-unsuccessful-recruitment-and-ways-to-improve-your-hiring-success-rate/ [Accessed 18 Jan. 2022].

The Organisational Psychotherapy Standup

Daily stand-ups rapidly become tedious to the point of irrelevance. They rarely address core issues, participants generally preferring to gloss over issues so they can get back to “the real work”, e.g. coding, as soon as possible each morning.

Here’s how the Scrum Institute describes the Daily Scrum (Standup):

The Daily Scrum Meeting is a maximum of 15 minutes. These meetings take place every working day at the same time in the same place.

It’s best to conduct Daily Scrum Meetings with direct access to the Sprint Backlog and Sprint Burndown Chart. So the Scrum Team can direct the Daily Scrum Meeting based on the facts and progress which are visible to everyone in the team.

Daily Scrum Meeting aims to support the self-organization of the Scrum Team and identify impediments systematically.

All members of the Scrum Team, the Scrum Master and the Scrum Product Owner need to join Daily Scrums. Other stakeholders can also join these meetings, but only as a view-only audience.

Daily Scrum Meetings are structured in the following way. Every member of the Scrum Team answers three questions.

Question #1: What activities have I performed since the last Daily Scrum Meeting?

Question #2: What activities am I planning to perform until the next Daily Scrum Meeting? What is my action plan?

Question #3: Did I encounter or am I expecting any impediment which may slow down or block the progress of my work?

Impediments

Q: What are the biggest impediments to a team’s progress?

A: The collective assumptions and beliefs of the organisation as a whole (and, marginally, of the team itself).

How often are these impediments discussed or even surfaced at the Daily Scrum/standup? Almost never. Or never.

How much do they impact the progress of the team? Lots. Really, lots.

So, for Question #3 (above), who’s going to raise the organisation’s – and team’s – collective assumptions and beliefs impeding or blocking the team’s progress? And who’s going to address these impediments/blockers on behalf of the team?

– 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 Highly Effective Software Development Organisations. Falling Blossoms (LeanPub)

LeanAgileExchange 2021 Conference Report

I’m concerned. I’ve been thinking that folks seem less engaged with my blog, Slack workspace, etc.
But the past two days have caused my to rethink somewhat. It’s been the 2021 edition of the LeanAgileExchange conference (virtual). And I’ve been seeing the same lack of engagement there as elsewhere.

Seems like indifference and lack of engagement is a more or less ubiquitous phenomenon, presently.

The Conference

Overall, I found the event rather, umm, flat. Which is to say, lacking in excitement, a sense of occasion, buzz.

I guess it’s really hard to translate a successful IRL format into the virtual space. Or so it seems.

Not that everyone, especially the organising team, seemed to be doing other than their very level best. Everyone I “met” was keen, courteous, helpful, pleasant and diligent.

The Content

With three tracks (I loathe multi-track conferences, whether IRL or virtual, BTW) over two days, we had some 28 sessions to choose from. I did my usual “butterfly” thing, and frequently exercised the Law of Two Feet.

Aside: I tend to treat all conferences as OpenSpace events, whether formally governed by the Four Rules, the One Law and the Two Insects of OpenSpace, or not, whether IRL or virtual.

The sessions I stuck with were few, but I did much enjoy a couple:

Most sessions were recorded (although not publicly available), and I have yet to catch up with a few I missed on the day.

The Hallways

Although supported by Slack, I missed the hallways and lounges of IRL conferences. I generally spend little time in sessions, much preferring to hang out in the interstitial spaces for pleasant and interesting conversations. I find Slack to be a very poor substitute, more useful as an intercom or public address system.

My Session

I feel driven to briefly mention my session – “CultureShift through memeology”. The three-track setup meant that few attended (some 20 people, IIRC, the conference hosting, I guess, some 200 attendees, all told).

And aside from two most welcome Q&A questions and a smattering of chat, zero feedback (so far). Aside from using the session as a mini book launch for “Memeology”, my key message was (as ever):

“Organisational Psychotherapy proposes a sea change for the software Industry, and for business generally. Away from methods, processes, practices and tools, and towards people.”

I truly wonder how many folks are even interested in a sea change, let alone feel the need for one. This session failed to answer that question.

Summary

As this was a ticketed (paid-for) event, I wonder how many people felt they received value for their money? Personally, as a speaker, my entry was complimentary (thanks! to the fine Software Acumen folks for that). Even so, attending was hardly (borderline) worth my time.

– Bob

Memeology Early Feedback

As my Organisational Psychotherapy self-help book “Memeology” approaches completion (now 96% complete) the feedback begins to arrive…

Here’s a couple of things I’m so grateful that folks have been kind enough to say, recently:

“Now My Go-To Reference Guide For Asking Powerful Questions”

“I’m trembling with a mix of excitement and nervousness. Memeology is a gift that just keeps giving. I can see so many situations where the memes can be used to facilitate a profound reaction from participants…even if some of them will be extremely awkward to discuss. Love it. As you know, I like books that provide practical, real world, actionable steps. Thank you Bob, this is the best set of questions I’ve ever seen in any organisational change context”

~ Ian Carroll

“A Priceless Tome”

“Memeology is a priceless tome containing the most important questions upon which to reflect and discuss collectively, along the path to organisational self-awareness, and thus to healthy, long-lasting change in the collective assumptions, beliefs and behaviours that determine organisational success.”

~ Marco Consolaro

I would be delighted to receive your feedback, too.

– Bob

Here’s a bunch of things that readers of this blog – and by extension, software folks and execs generally – are not interested in:

Who’s Who

This post is an experiment to illuminate the readership for this blog, and maybe to foster an increased sense of community, too.

Would you be willing to add a comment to this post with a brief introduction about yourself and what you need from this blog, and from other readers here, too?

A link to an online bio might also be helpful (if you don’t have an online blog with bio, maybe a link to a LinkedIn profile or Twitter page).

Thanks for participating! 🙂

– Bob

Memeology – Halfway Mark

My new organisational psychotherapy self-help book “Memeology – Surfacing And Reflecting on the Organisation’s Collective Assumptions and Beliefs” has now crested the halfway mark (52% complete)!

It’s definitely been a labour of love, but completion is now in sight.

The thing is, I first published way early (18% complete) both to give me an incentive to push along with it, and to open it up to feedback from readers.

I was thinking that while it was still relatively incomplete, folks would have more opportunity to help shape and form the contents (and structure too, maybe).

Incentive-wise, publishing early has been a boon. But feedback has been conspicuous by its absence. Hey ho.

Window of Opportunity

Just to let you know, I expect the book to be essentially complete in the next few weeks, so if you were intending to provide some actionable feedback, the window of opportunity is rapidly closing.

Feedback Requested

The kind of feedback I had, and have, in mind includes:

Memes

Do you see any missing memes? Ones that might beneficially augment the existing list?
Do you see any extraneous memes? Ones that could usefully be dropped?

Questions

For any given meme, do you note any additional question or questions that might contribute to an organisations’ discussions on that meme?
Have you come across any questions which seem unclear, ambiguous or partisan and might benefit from being reworded?

Structure

Does the structure of the book serve its purpose, or have you thought of a better structure?

Other

Any other things you’d add, drop, or change?

Testimonials

One other way you could really help me out is to send me a line or two that I can use as a testimonial, either on the LeanPub page or the back cover. Would you be willing to do that?

– Bob

Tumbleweed

Tumbleweed: A dusty aggregation of plant matter rolling along the ground by the desert wind. A cliche of cowboy movies, emphasising silence or stillness, e.g. as the hero rides into an apparently deserted frontier town. Often used in connection with the death of a conversation.

Also, that sensation I get whenever I mention an idea of mine to peers and colleagues.

Meaningful Conversations

Over the course of more than twenty years, I guess I’ve had a meaningful conversation about my ideas (FlowChain, Marshall Model, Prod•gnosis, Flow•gnosis, Product Aikido, Antimatter Principle, etc.) maybe two or three times, total.

I’ve always wondered what it might take to up that count.

Reversing the tables for a moment, I sometimes find myself in the position of being invited to consider and discuss someone else’s idea. Reflecting, I’ve found it difficult to engage with such discussions. In retrospect, asking myself why that might be, I guess the following factors come into play:

  • I struggle to see the value or benefit of the idea. Absent some insight into same, a discussion can feel purely arbitrary, academic or theoretical.
  • I have some reluctance to discuss ideas in the abstract, finding it invites judgment (something I try to avoid) and icky ad hominem considerations.
  • My frame of reference is often way off from that of the originator of the idea. The prospect of getting onto the same page (or even close) seems like a mountain to climb, for little return.
  • We’re not best equipped to discuss ideas, preferring as flawed humans to stick to our comforting biases, assumptions and beliefs rather than engage in mutual exploration with the risk of discomforting changes.

I guess that having stimulating discussions on ideas generally relies on a normative situation. In other words, unless and until someone begins to implement an idea, begins to try it out in their context, to wrestle with making it concrete, there’s little chance of any deep and meaningful discussions.

– Bob

 

Organisational Self-Therapy

[Note: I regard this post as incomplete. I’m publishing it now in the hope that getting some feedback will encourage me to finish it.]

For some years, DIY seemed all the rage. I’m not so sure that’s true in home decorating any more, but it does seem to be increasing in popularity in the therapy domain. Individual self-therapy seems like it’s become more popular and more acceptable, both.

I have for some time been thinking whether self-therapy for organisations might be possible, beneficial even. Maybe self-therapy would be a viable alternative to engaging a therapist?

In my Organisational Psychotherapy assignments to date, most of my engagement time with client organisations has been spent sitting in with them during their Business As Usual (BAU – meetings, conversations, lunches, etc.), observing their social dynamic and modes of interaction. Such observations lead me – as therapist – to find questions that I can share with the organisation, questions which invite reflection and discussion on e.g. unsurfaced assumptions and beliefs. (This being the essential practice of therapy, both organisational and other kinds). 

The Challenge

For any organisation, making space and time for group reflection can be problematic. In most organisations, folks struggle to find time for all their scheduled responsibilities, let alone more esoteric activities like reflection and discussion of assumptions and beliefs. On the face of it, where’s the point – where’s the value – in spending any time on such “esoteric” things?

Anyone who’s been following this blog for any length of time may know of my focus on organisational effectiveness. And my explanation for organisational effectiveness in terms of Rightshifting and the Marshall Model. [links] 

Observing clients during their BAU is all very well. It doesn’t take up any of their time and, aside from the marginal financial cost of having a therapist present, doesn’t detract from folks’ day jobs or the work of the organisation. 

But when it comes round to the therapist finding and putting questions to the organisation, there’s at least a couple of issues we face:

  1. Finding the time to get together (Organisational Psychotherapy invites group discussions) to listen to the questions and reflect and discuss them as a group.
  1. The disconnect (in time, attention) between the point of observation and the point of reflection and discussion.

So, I’m presently focused on ways to ameliorate the impact of these issues.

Addressing the Issues of Having a Therapist

Improvements on each of the above issues: 

  1. Integrating the asking of therapist’s questions into BAU (having the folks in the organisation ask themselves questions).
  2. Reducing or elimination the disconnect in time and attention between the point of observation and the point of reflection and discussion (integrating Organisational Psychotherapy into BAU whilst promoting useful group discussions and reflections).

It’s Good To Talk

As BT were wont to tell us: “It’s good to talk”.

But many organisations believe (or at least, assume) they don’t have time to talk. And certainly not the time for “talking for the sake of talking” (which is what many might regard talking in order to surface collective assumptions and beliefs – and then reflect on and discuss). That’s why Organisational Psychotherapy in practice takes place amongst the daily ebb and flow of regular meetings and conversations happening in the course of the organisation’s business-as-usual. No need to shoehorn off-sites or special meetings for the necessary conversations happen. Although off-sites and dedicated meetings can help, too. 

Leveraging Valuable Discussions

So, recently I’ve been thinking about means to stimulate group reflections and discussions, in the course of doing things that clearly have immediate business value. For example, many organisations spend (an inordinate, perhaps) amount of time and management attention on coming up with mission statements, visions statements, and the like.

In decreasing order of “unarguable value”:

Purpose

Most organisations spend at least some time, effort and management attention considering and communicating the “shared purpose” of the organisation. Indeed, the Mission Statement is a favoured format for this effort. This then feeds into PR, marketing, branding, positioning and other such MarComms activities. Aside: Simon Sinek describes this kind of thing in terms of the “Golden Circle”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jeg3lIK8lro

I’ve been involved in many such initiatives over the years, both with clients and my own companies. I’ve not, however, seen the agendas for such initiatives include time for examination and reflection on the organisations assumptions and beliefs. It’s almost as if the purpose existing in glorious isolation. “Here we are, this is our purpose, handed down from God (or the CEO)”. There’s obviously scope for reflecting on the assumptions and beliefs that underpin the announced Purpose, or Mission Statement. 

Effectiveness 

Most organisations spend at least some time, effort and management attention on becoming more effective. Most often, this resolves to question like “How to cut costs?”, “How to improve quality?”, “How can we increase our market share?” and so on.  Rarely, though, do such discussions “go meta” and delve into the roots of organisational effectiveness. If they did, though, we could imagine questions such as “What makes for an effective organisation?”, “What kinds of effectiveness are we seeking?“ and “Is effectiveness more than just a WIBNI?”

Agility

Generally, little time is spent on the question of “Let’s go Agile” and even less on what “Agile” means. Most often, the decision is a de facto edict from a HiPPO, handed down to the software folks as a fait accompli. 

Doctrine

[TBD]

Others

[TBD]

– Bob

Gratitude

Joy, for me, is helping folks in ways that they have a need to be helped. So I feel appreciative, moved and thankful when someone takes the time to let me know how my help has made a positive contribution to their lives.

I regularly have folks quietly letting me know about how I’ve made some contribution to their journey. Most recently, Andy Tabberer (@ConsultantMicro on Twitter) has been kind enough to share his experiences, and with his permission, share with you.

In this case, it’s particularly pleasing, both because he’s representative of my primary audience (tech management) and because my chosen style has resonated with him. Here’s his unexpurgated words:

I first heard of Bob Marshall – @flowchainsensei – through Twitter. I cannot remember how exactly, but I guess it was a question, the type of searching question that comes easilyi to Bob, that piqued my interest. Since then, Bob has taken me, indirectly, on a journey of self-improvement through his questioning and prompting on Twitter and through his blog.

Why am I telling you this? Well, a while ago, Bob asked his followers if anything he had tweeted or blogged had been of any use, had anything he’d produced been used to do something good.

This is my reply to that question.

My examples are:

The blog that encouraged me to challenge the status quo in my work was What are Non-Obvious Systemic Constraints?. Among other constraints listed, the ‘Business As Usual’, ‘Mandatory optimism’ and ‘Fear of conflict’ examples really resonated with me. It felt like I was able to hold my company up to the light for the first time and see its true colours.

I felt compelled to reconsider the role of the management team, of which I was a part. Bob’s examples helped me to show others how our company was failing in ways we could not see. It emboldened me to challenge our conventional thinking and our hierarchy and its “remarkable impact on the ability of the organisation to evolve, improve, and raise its effectiveness”.

Bob’s blog also introduced me to Eli Goldratt. After a quick google search, I landed on a review of a graphic novel of the Goal, an easy to read version of Goldratt’s seminal work. It was quickly added to my Christmas list. This book changed my view of the workplace and in particular how bottlenecks impact our productivity. So many of my former colleagues have Bob to thank for being branded bottlenecks, a few of them would even thank him.

Finally, I have Bob to thank for an introduction to Deming. This name kept popping up again and again. I eventually went off in search of material to read – I have Four Days with Deming lined up to read next – and I alighted at the Deming Institute blog. After a little browsing, I settled down to watch the following video by David Lanford -> blog.deming.org/2013/08/attrib. The impact of this video was so profound that it eventually led to a programme of organisation-wide quality goal setting – that I instigated – and, ultimately, my resignation and my decision to move onto pastures new.

I’d like to finish by saying that Bob makesii me think every day. Sometimes I find him frustrating because he answers with a question, never giving advice. This, however, leads me to what I suppose is Bob’s biggest impact on me, which is the path to improvement is forged through questioning. I guess I’ve never encountered anyone who sought only to help others improve rather than dispense self-serving advice designed to reinforce one’s own view of one’s worth or to confirm one’s place in the hierarchy. I’m grateful for that, Bob.

Notes:

i) These questions may seem to come easily, but often they take time, effort and consideration. Not to mention empathy.

ii) I’d be happier to say “invites” rather than “makes” (might be misinterpreted as compulsion or obligation).

In closing, I’d like to thank Andy again, and invite others to contribute their experiences, too.

– Bob

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