Unfettered Capitalism Equals Plutocracy

The question of whether we should burn down capitalism is a complex one that requires a deep understanding of the system and its flaws. Capitalism, as an economic system, is based on the principles of private ownership, competition, and profit. It has been widely adopted around the world and is credited with driving economic growth and prosperity. However, in recent years, there has been a growing movement to question the value of capitalism and to call for its replacement with a more equitable system. One of the main criticisms of unfettered capitalism is that it is inherently unequal, leading to a small percentage of the population controlling a large proportion of the wealth and creating a plutocracy, where a small group of wealthy individuals or corporations hold disproportionate power and influence in a society. This inequality is often seen as a fundamental flaw in capitalism, as it creates a society where a small elite have disproportionate power and influence.

Another criticism of unfettered capitalism is that it is environmentally destructive, resulting from the focus on profit and growth that disregards the natural world.

However, it is important to separate capitalism from plutocracy. Capitalism, as an economic system, might be reformed and regulated to ensure that it operates in a way that is equitable and sustainable. This can be achieved through progressive taxation, regulations that limit the influence of the wealthy in politics, and ensuring that the media is independent and represents the views and interests of the majority of the population. By doing so, we can create a more equitable and democratic society where the voices and interests of the majority are represented.

Blog Resurrected

Back last July I posted my Last Post. I don’t propose to begin posting here again in the same vein as previously. That seems…retrograde.


Since December I’ve been looking into ChatGPT and begun using it to generate a host of posts on LinkedIn. I’m not at all sure LinkedIn gives its posters much in the way of exposure or reach. And certainly its UX is lamentable in many ways, particularly with reference to making anthologies of posts easily accessible. Here and gone again in the blink of an eye, describes LinkedIn posts AFAIC.

So I propose to take my LinkedIn posts dating back to Septermber-ish and repost them here. You may find their style(s) somewhat different than before, but I guess the content topics are much the same.

If you can get over their AI generated nature, I hope you find them at least as insightful as my prior posts here on WordPress.

Your thoughts and ideas welcomed, as ever.

– 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


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

How To Navigate A Think Different Blog Post

Having been blogging here at Think Different for over a decade now, I feel very familiar and thus comfortable with the format of my blog post pages. I guess though that other folks may face some challenges in navigating around the site, and around a typical post. Here’s some hints and tips on how to find your way around.

The Think Different Home Page

The Think Different home page is an endlessly scrolling sequence of individual blog posts, in date order, with the most recent post appearing first. Navigate to a particular post by clicking on the post’s title in the left-most column (on the home page, each post’s metadata includes the title of the post).

Anatomy Of A Typical Think Different Post

  1. Blog title
  2. Blog strap line
  3. Main menu
  4. Search box
  5. Post title
  6. Post metadata
  7. Post title (repeated)
  8. Subscribe
  9. Recent posts
  10. Categories
  11. Author
  12. Blogroll
  13. Goodreads selection
  14. Social media share buttons
  15. Like button
  16. Related posts
  17. Previous/next post navigation
  18. Posts through the months
  19. Top posts and pages
  20. Map
  21. Comments section

If you’d like me to elaborate on any or all of the above elements, I’d be more than happy to do so.

Other Pages

There’s also a bunch of non-post pages accessible via the main (top) menu, including:

  • About
    About me, mainly.
  • Rightshifting
    Stuff to do with Rightshifting, including the Community and my Giants (heroes)
  • Therapy
    Introduction to Organisational Psychotherapy
  • NoCV
    Stuff about the NoCV campaign
  • Research
    Various ideas and research I have ongoing
  • Archive
    A comprehensive list of ALL posts (including links) on the Think Different blog, in date order, most recent first.

– Bob

Second Time Around

Y’all may like to know that Ian Carroll (of Solutioneers fame) and I are launching a new venture named TheQuintessentialGroup, offering a range of services in the software delivery space. First out of the gate will be “Quintessential Teams“. You can find out more at our shiny new website:


Note: We’re looking to revolutionise the world of software delivery, along quintessential lines, and we’d love for you to consider joining us.

First Time Around

Back in 1996 we* found ourselves with the opportunity to demonstrate what we had been telling clients for years – that our** approach to software delivery was way more productive than:

a) the industry norm

b) their current approaches

c) what they could ever believe possible

*myself and some colleagues at the Java Centre within Sun Microsystems UK, along with some mutual friends.

**the company we named “Familiar”.

Second Time Around

Now, we*** find ourselves in the same situation once again. Our**** approach to software delivery is again way more productive than:

a) the industry norm

b) our clients’ current approaches

c) what our clients and prospects could ever believe possible

***Ian Carroll and myself

****the company we’re naming TheQuintessentialGroup

Nothing Like Agile

The first time around, commencing circa 1996, our approach could be described as an Agile approach (Scrum-like, albeit risk-based).

The second time around our – distinctly different – approach can be described as the Quintessential approach (nothing like Agile, Scrum, etc. – albeit still very risk-oriented).

Alien Tech For Human Beings

And this second time around, we again lead the industry in breaking the mould and demonstrating the validity and sheer awesome power of the Quintessential approach.

The Quintessential approach is no secret. It’s all laid out, in detail, in my book(s). And yet we defy anyone to replicate this game-changing alien tech. At least, until they have thrown off the shackles of outmoded and crippling beliefs about work and how work should work.

And that ain’t likely to happen any time soon. Although can help with effecting such changes, too – see my book Memeology, for starters.

If you’re at all interested in the quality, cost, timescales, and predictability of software delivery, you might like to take a look at our newly launched website: We have big ambitions and big plans – and we’re hiring too!

Yes there’s more than a little déjà vu here at Sensei Towers at the moment. Familiar was an outstanding success, vindication, trailblazer and golden goose back in the late 90’s. We have every expectation that TheQuintessentialGroup will surpass even that outstanding benchmark.

Putting a dent in the Universe.

– Bob

Further Reading

Marshall, R.W. (2021). Quintessence: An Acme for Software Development Organisations. [online] Falling Blossoms (LeanPub). Available at: [Accessed 22 Apr. 2022].

Marshall, R.W. (2021). Memeology: Surfacing And Reflecting On The Organisation’s Collective Assumptions And Beliefs. [online] Falling Blossoms (LeanPub). Available at: [Accessed 22 Apr. 2022].

Marshall, R.W. (2018). Hearts over Diamonds: Serving Business and Society Through Organisational Psychotherapy. [online] leanpub.comFalling Blossoms (LeanPub). Available at: [Accessed 22 Apr. 2022].

From The Beginning

I started my blog here on Think Different in June 2009. First on, then migrating to WordPress. To date there’s been something like 1175 posts (including 275 of the recently invented “Quickies”). In that time there’s been 769,615 views, and 432,849 visitors.

If you’d like to read everything, from the beginning – which probably makes for easier reading than reading backwards – here’s a handy link to all the posts in ascending (date) order.


– Bob

Just Bloody Ask

How many assumptions do you make in a day? Hundreds, probably. Maybe even thousands. And how often do those assumptions limit your choices, constrain your relationships, and detract from finding joy?

How would you like to make fewer assumptions, or at least, suffer less from the assumptions you do make?

Here’s a tip: Just bloody ask.

Assume that you’ve annoyed someone? Just ask them. Simply showing interest in their state of mind and status of your mutual relationship goes a long way to addressing the issue. 

Assume that someone doesn’t want what you’re offering? Just ask them.

Assume that the collaboration you need to get something done isn’t going to happen? Just ask.

Assume that everyone wants to go to Abilene, and it’s only when tyou get there you find no one did? Just ask first.

For all kinds of assumptions, until you ask, you won’t know. And when you finally ask, you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised.

– Bob


It seems clear to me that my skills, experience and insights have become irrelevant to the majority of folks toiling in the software industries.

No Need

We might say that they have no need of my ideas or my help. 

And as my views and ideas are mostly directed at improving the effectiveness – and results – of software development efforts, I draw the inference that their employers and managers have no interest in such things. 

This seems a relatively recent phenomenon. Even five or ten years ago, organisations and managers seemed at least marginally more interested in productivity, effectiveness, success, and so on.

I suspect it’s connected to COVID and the consequent Great Resignation.

Solutions Ignored

Ironically, my works – Organisational Psychotherapy, the Antimatter Principle, FlowChain, Product Aikido, etc. – are an ideal fit to addressing the issues wrapped up in the Great Resignation. But I guess folks are already too resigned to bother.

What might be more relevant content for these times? “How to Find a Fulfilling Job”? “How to Suck Up to Your Boss”? “How to Give the Finger to the Man”? “How to Whack the Employees You Have Left”? “How to Look Like You”re Doing Something Without Risking Your Credibility”?  Probably more relevant content. But not quite my style.

If you’re one of the very few who haven’t given up just yet, enjoy studying new ideas and learning for its own sake, I’m always happy to help. Pro bono or pro pretio, either, both.

– Bob

Doing Things Properly

I’m a little prim and proper. In that I like to do things properly. And I find comfort and fellow-feeling in seeing others doing things properly, too. Some have suggested this looks a tad OCD-ish.

What is “properly”?

For me, “properly” means with intentionality, deliberateness, and a modicum of tidiness.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

~ Aristotle

Doing Software Development “Properly”

As regards software development, some folks conflate “properly” with some specific approach (waterfall, Agile, software engineering, software craftsmanship, w.h.y.). As if there’s “One True Way” and all other approaches are the work of the devil.

I choose to eschew faith and dogma, and focus on what works. Where “works” means “meets the aggregate and individual needs of the Folks That Matter™”.

“What works” can vary – depending on a multitude of more or less regularly changing variables. (Implication: the approach must be as flexible as the dynamics of these variables).

And then there’s all those folks for whom “doing things properly” offers zero attraction. Pirsig guesstimated that these folks number around 85% of the species (Cf. Classical vs Romantic understanding).

How do you feel about doing things properly? And the folks around you?

– Bob

Further Reading

Pirsig, R.M. (1980). Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values. Bantam Books.

Cthulhu-Shaped People

Complementary to Kent Beck’s paint-drip people, I also like the notion of “Cthulhu-shaped people”.

Cthulhu (normally pronounced ke-TOO-loo or ka-THOO-loo) is a fictional god-like monstrosity invented by 20th-century horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. First appearing in Lovecraft’s short story “The Call of Cthulhu”, this creature is a cosmic being of terrifying power.

The most defining feature of Cthulhu is its head, which closely resembles an octopus. The head is mostly a large, bulbous, pulsating sac, and numerous writhing tentacles sprout from where one would expect a mouth to be. Cthulhu’s height reaches hundreds of metres tall, but it is capable of altering its size and shape at will, being anywhere between the size of a man to the size of a continent and capable of spawning any number of limbs as it chooses.

Translating this to people and their skills/capabilities, for me the Cthulhu-shaped person has multiple powerful skills, which sprout, writhe and grow (and sometimes shrink) in mysterious and unpredictable ways.

Plus, I like Lovecraft.

– Bob


Changing Culture

Let’s say you’re driving along in your car, and you want to change your speed. Would you grab hold of the speedo needle and bend it, expecting the car to change speed accordingly?

Of course not. Yet this is how organisations often attempt to change their “culture”. Grab hold of the culture “needle”, bend it and expect the culture to change.

Like the car speedometer, culture is just a visual indicator instrument, a read-only device.

To actually change the speed of the car requires an understanding of how the throttle pedal controls the amount of air/fuel mixture entering the engine, how the engine is connected via the transmission to the wheels, and how the rotational speed of the wheels (minus tyre/road slip) dictates the speed of the vehicle. More simply, an understanding of how one’s right foot on the throttle controls the speed of the car, not the needle on the speedo.

Similarly with organisations, controlling the culture invites an understanding of how changing assumptions and beliefs (gas pedal) changes the culture, not bending the culture “needle”.

– Bob

Designing the Memeology Cover

I enjoy designing my own artwork and graphics for my blog posts, papers, articles, and books.

This is a short post about my design for the cover of my latest book “Memeology

The general style (size, fonts, layout, colours) follows that of my previous Organisational Psychotherapy book “Hearts over Diamonds”:

(Note: the gradient fills to the left and right margins helps the cover stand out from white backgrounds on sites like Leanpub.)

The cover for Memeology differs from Hearts Over Diamonds mainly in the central image.

The image is inspired by the ancient mystical diagrams (yantra) used in the Shri Vidya school of Hinduism. A yantra consists of nine interlocking triangles that surround a central point known as a bindu. These triangles represent the cosmos and the human body. Devotees of the Shri Yantra believe the symbol enables achieving of a higher level of consciousness, and that it confers the ability to create one’s own reality. Devotees also believe the Sri Yantra brings peace, harmony and good fortune.

I’ve adopted this image – created by myself – to stand for the natural beauty, harmony and love that I feel in regard to Organisational Psychotherapy. There’s also research suggesting the yantra helps “to bring its viewers to a more meditative state”. Appropriate, I think, for the idea of surfacing and reflecting on beliefs and assumptions.

In Sanskrit, the word “yantra” comes from the root word “yam,” which means “instrument” or “support,” and “tra,” derived from “trana,” meaning “release from bondage.” A yantra is an instrument or tool, for meditation and contemplation and supports spiritual liberation.

Shri Yantra

The Shri Yantra, called the “queen of yantras,” (rajayantra) is the symbol of the great divine mother principle, the source of all energy, power, and creativity.

The Triangles

In the Hindu tradition, the triangles of the yantra have specific associations:

Starting at the lowermost outer triangle and moving in a counterclockwise circle, these associations are: agitation, pursuit, attraction, delight, delusion, immobility, release, control, pleasure, intoxication, an accomplishment of desire, luxury, mantra, and the destruction of duality.

The next circle has the same sequence and direction, starting from the lowest triangle and moving counterclockwise. The first triangle is the giver of all accomplishments. Next is the giver of wealth. The third is the energy of activities that please all. Fourth is the bringer of all blessings. The fifth is the granter of all desires. Next is the remover of all suffering. The seventh is considered the appeaser of death. Eighth is the overcomer of all obstacles. Ninth is the bringer of beauty, and the tenth is the giver of all good fortune.

The ten smaller triangles in the third circle represent, beginning at the same, lowermost triangle and moving counterclockwise: omniscience, omnipotence, sovereignty, knowledge, destruction of all disease, unconditional support, vanquishment of all evils, protection, and the attainment of all desires. The fourth circle of triangles, again starting at the same point and moving counterclockwise, represent: sustaining, creating, dissolution, pleasure, pain, cold, heat, and the ability to choose action.

In the final inner space, the yogi or yogini visualises five arrows representing the world of the senses, a bow, representing the mind, a noose, representing attachment, and a stick, representing aversion. The central triangle is the giver of all perfection. In the middle of the central triangle is a Bindu, representing pure consciousness and the original state of being.

– Bob


The Path to Organisational Psychotherapy

Lots of people ask me a question about Organisational Psychotherapy along the following lines:

“Bob, you’re smart, insightful, brilliant, and with decades of experience in software development. How come you’ve ended up in the tiny corner of the world which you call Organisational Psychotherapy?”

Which is a very fair question. I’d like to explain…


But first a little background.

I started my lifelong involvement with software development by teaching myself programming. I used to sneak into the CS classes at school, and sit at the back writing BASIC, COBOL and FORTRAN programs on the school’s dial-up equipment, whilst the rest of the class “learned” about word processing, spreadsheets and the like. In the holidays I’d tramp across London and sneak into the computer rooms at Queen Many Collage (University) and hack my way into their mainframe to teach myself more esoteric programming languages.

My early career involved much hands-on development, programming, analysis, design, etc.. I did a lot of work writing compilers, interpreters and the like.

After a few years I found people were more interested in me sharing my knowledge of how to write software, than in writing software for them.

Flip-flopping between delivering software and delivering advice on how best to write software suited me well. I allowed me to keep close to the gemba, yet get involved with the challenges of a wide range of developers and their managers.

The years passed. I set up a few businesses of my own along the way. Selling compilers. Supporting companies’ commercial software products. Doing the independent consulting thang. Providing software development management consulting. Starting and running a software house.

By the time I got to Sun Microsystems’ UK Java Center, I had seen the software development pain points of many different organisations. From both a technical and a management perspective. Indeed, these two perspectives had come to seem indivisibly intertwingled.

I spent more and more of my time looking into the whole-system phenomena I was seeing. Embracing and applying whole-system techniques such as Theory of Constraints, Systems Thinking, Lean Thinking, Deming, Gilb, etc..

Slowly it became apparent to me that the pain points of my clients were rarely if ever caused by lack of technical competencies. And almost exclusively caused by the way people interacted. (I never saw a project fail for lack of technical skills. I often saw projects fail because people couldn’t get along.)

By the early 2000s I had arrived at the working idea that it was the collective assumptions and beliefs of my clients that were causing the interpersonal rifts and dysfunctions, and the most direct source of their pain.

So to My Answer

Returning to the headline question. It became ever clearer to me that to address my clients’ software development pains, there would have to be some (major) shift in their collective assumptions and beliefs. I coined the term “Rightshifting” and built a bunch of collateral to illustrate the idea. Out of that seed grew the Marshall Model.

And yet the key question – how to shift an organisation’s collective assumptions and beliefs – remained.

Through conversations with friends and peers (thanks to all, you know who you are) I was able to focus on that key question. My starting point: were there any known fields addressing the idea of changing assumptions and beliefs? Of course there were. Primarily the field of psychotherapy. I embraced the notion and began studying psychotherapy. A field of study to which I have continued to apply myself most diligently for more than ten years now. After a short while it seemed eminently feasible to leverage and repurpose the extensive research, and the many tools, of individual psychotherapy, to the domain of organisations and their collective assumptions and beliefs.

Summing Up

Organisational Psychotherapy provides an approach (the only approach to which I am acquainted) to culture change in organisations – and to the surfacing of and reflecting on the memes of the collective mindset – the organisational psyche. And because I see the dire need for it, I continue.

– Bob

Further Reading

Marshall, R. W. (2019). Hearts over Diamonds. Falling Blossoms.
Marshall, R. W. (2021). Memeology. Falling Blossoms.
Richard Dawkins. (1976). The Selfish Gene. Oxford University Press.
Blackmore, S. J. (2000). The Meme Machine. Oxford University Press.
The Power of Memes. (2002, March 25). Dr Susan Blackmore.

Management Monstrosities

Michele Sollecito (@sollecitom) kindly responded to a recent tweet of mine with the following question: 

“Why do so many well intentioned founders and companies end up creating management monstrosities?”

The “management monstrosities” referred-to are the (dysfunctional, ineffective) tech organisations we find just about everywhere these days. My work on #Rightshifting illustrates just how ineffective is the average tech company, compared with how effective they could be (and how effective Rightshifted outliers are known to be).

But Michele’s question is: “Why?”

Over twenty years and more, I’ve seen dozens of organisations up close and personal.  In none of these organisations have the folks in charge appreciated the difference between collaborative knowledge work (Cf. Drucker) and other categories of work. We can call this a Category Error.

Category Error

Collaborative knowledge work is NOT like:

  • Factory Work
  • Manufacturing
  • Office work
  • Service work (e.g. Call centres, Help desks, etc.)
  • Individual knowledge work

Collaborative knowledge work is in a distinct category all its own, and demands a fundamentally different approach to the way the work works, if we’re to see effective working.

Attempting to manage collaborative knowledge work by means common to other categories of work will inevitably lead to ineffectiveness, and all the monstrous consequences that follow from that.

Assumptions and Beliefs

Put another way, organisations import or retread the assumptions and beliefs of the category of work they believe applies to software development. As the category they assign is (almost) never “collaborative knowledge work”, the prevailing assumptions and beliefs are similarly almost never aligned to effective working.

You may now be asking “Why is the category they assign almost never ‘collaborative knowledge work’?”. I’ll leave that question for another post (if there’s any demand for such a post).

– Bob


I have of late been reading (well, listening-to via Audible) many of the science fiction classics from yesteryear, by authors I missed out on in my youth (in those days mainly reading Van Vogt, Moorcock, Herbert, Harrison and Heinlein).

The most recent of these books is The Legacy of Heorot by Larry Niven et al.

The book has been described as “reworking the Beowulf legend in science fiction”. Niven amplifies Beowulf’s antagonist, Grendel, into a whole species of pseudo-reptilian super-monsters. Without revealing the whole plot, suffice to say that these creatures are portrayed as solitary, voracious, cannibalistic, and murderously territorial.

Whilst reading (listening), I’ve been struck by the parallels between these “Grendels” and prominent figures in the software community (individual consultants, opinioneers, etc.):


I see many such figures (including but not limited to folks in the Agile space) ploughing their own furrows, ignoring others of a similar ilk, minimising productive interactions and community.


Niven’s grendels are forever eating, and looking to eat. Eating is their core driver. The folks I have in mind seem likewise voracious in their hunt for revenues and clients (prey).


I see many such figures taking the ideas of others, retreading them, and selling them on as original and even proprietary. Analagous to intellectual cannibalism.

Fiercely Territorial

The grendels in the book each assiduously guard their own stretch of water (being basically amphibian), murderouly opposing any intrusion into their territory, with the utmost prejudice. I see parallels with (some, most?) of the aforementioned members of the software thought-leaders and opinion-makers “community”.


In the book, the human colonists eventually triumph over the grendels, through a combination of technology, self-sacrifice and strategic thinking. “They’re just animals” the colonists remark, by way of explaining their victory.

I’ve long sought to reach out and connect with our grendels, in an attempt to further the collective knowledge and impact of the software community at large. To little or no avail. Maybe our grendels’ fate is predicted by the fate of the grendels in the book – irrelevance and extinction.

– Bob

Behind the Curtain

As a matter of curiosity, this post is a dump of all my unfinished and unpublished posts stretching back to circa 2012.

Over the years I’ve started many, many more blog posts than I’ll ever get round to completing and publishing. In fact, I rarely go back to finish a half-started post, preferring to write in the moment – I typically will take an idea through to a published post in one hit. Often I bail on an idea with the post incomplete, and therefore that ‘proto-post’ remains incomplete and unpublished in perpetuity.

Caution: There’s a lot of material here, most of it in such rough and incomplete form as to be near-unintelligible and at a minimum, a hard read. I offer this material for your delectation. I claim no copyright, duo with it what you will (If you turn any of these ideas into e.g. blog posts, I’d be obliged if you let me know so I can read them, and maybe publicise them for you).

Invitation: If you do find anything of interest, I’d be happy to enter into correspondence (via the comments section of this post, via email, or eg via Twitter). If there’s enough demand (say a minimum of five people) I’d also be happy to consider finishing and publishing particular items.

Note: Each separate Idea is prefixed/separated with the string “+++”. The material appears in reverse date order (most recent, first). The date/time of each item is the date/time the item was most recently edited).

+++The Natural Order Of Things
(3 July 2020 at 08:56)

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” ~ Socrates

I have noticed, generally whilst working with clients, that most folks don’t see their fondly held picture of the world in terms of “assumptions” and “beliefs.” They tend to see events, choices, decisions as the normal order of things, not as a product of what’s going on inside their heads, but simply as “the way things are” – the natural order of things. And therefore not amenable to change. Not just fixed, but beyond any conception of change.

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought; what we think we become.” ~ Gautama Buddha

Such quotations are all very well, but how does this relate to the day job? Personally, I choose to carry with me the idea that the folks I’m talking to, and working with, probably don’t see their world in terms of assumptions and beliefs. As an agent of change – a disruptor –

If your day job requires you to maintain or conform to the status quo, chances are your job is not so fulfilling, and your engagement and joy are both low. If this grates with you at all,

+++ Collaboration
(28 June 202 at 19:55)

What can we say about collaboration that hasn’t been said a thousand times already?

Etymological Roots
Co – together
Labour (v) – (from the Latin): to strive, exert oneself, suffer, be in distress.

Knowledge work
Collaborative knowledge work is a very different animal than collaborative physical work. Such a different animal as to worthy of not calling it work at all. I prefer to regard it as a form of play. Collaborative knowledge work involves exchanges of ideas, experimentation, trying things out, moving ideas forward into (sometimes) more tangible things like documents, code, software, and so on.

Problem identification
I don’t know about you, but I have rarely seen folks collaborate on problem identification and problem characterisation. In my experience, collaboration jumps straight to the part where solutions are sought, discussed and implemented.

+++ I Am Failing
(14 May 2020 at 10:40)

What is failure? What is success?

I am failing but I haven’t failed yet.

I am failing but

I am failing but

I am failing but

I am failing but

I am failing but

I am failing but

+++ Change, Innovation and Disruption
(12 May 2020 at 06:41)

What’s the difference between change, innovation, and disruption? The disruptor’s take:

Change is doing things differently.

Innovation is doing new things, or doing things in new ways.

Disruption is any change or innovation sufficiently radical to require a change to existing rules, processes

+++ Compliance
(28 April 2020 at 06:44)

+++ Expanding the Possible
(@8 April 2020 at 06:44)


+++ The Gift
(18 March 2020 at 06:34)

“Weather the Storm”

Is it OK?

+++ Why Disruption Is the Surprising Answer To The CEO’s Prayers
(3 March 2020 at 14:12)

+++How Positive Disruption Serves the Organisation
(23 February 202 at 09:45)

I’m a disruptor. I disrupt organisations. But in a good way.

OK. So how on earth could disruption be of benefit to an organisation?

+++Unlocking the gates of the management factory
(21 February 2020 at 05:25)

+++ The Test of Time
(19 February 2020 at 12:02)

Statement Of Purpose

Stakeholders and Their Needs

My vocabulary has changed somewhat over the years, but the principle remains the same. Investigate who matters to the endeavour, and to whom the endeavour matters. I see this not as a simple change of wording (“stakeholders” replaced by “Folks That Matter”), but as a refinement: An endeavour’s set of stakeholders is not the same set as the set of Folks That Matter, even thought the difference between the two sets may be small.

+++ Line of Reasoning
(15 December 2019 at 17:51)

There’s a solid line of reasoning behind what I do. Follow through it with me and see if you end up with the same conclusions…

Are you interest in:

shorter delivery timescales,

speed of development

product quality

cost of development

Increased predictability



knowing with more accuracy and transparency what’s actually going on

What would you say are the main factors in the xxx?


+++ Psychological Safety
(15 November 2019 at 10:38)

Sensitise us to the issue

Motherhood and apple pie

Changing others

“Successful problem solving requires finding the right solution to the right problem. We fail more often because we solve the wrong problem than because we get the wrong solution to the right problem.” ~ Russell L. Ackoff

+++ Writing Software, Together – Part 1
(13 November 2019 at 20:24)

[Book idea]

+++ It’s too difficult
(30 October 2019 at 06:45)

+++ Relevance
(7 October 2019 at 06:56)

I guess folks have a hard time seeing the relevance of Organisational Psychotherapy to their daily lives, in particular their lives at work.

+++ Empathy Economics
(4 October 2019 at 08:10)

“We need empathy to give empathy.”
~ Marshall B. Rosenberg

Stocks and flows 101


Stock – Our Empathy Tank

We each have our own personal “Empathy Tank”. At any given time, our tank can be:

Full – we feel fully resourced, with plenty of warmth for ourself and others, so that whatever comes our way today, we can respond with spacious care

Part-empty – we feel as if we can handle a regular day with ease, but a challenging day would drain our tank quite low.

Empty – we feel like our capacity for empathy is running on fumes; we’re ready to snap, shout, cry, hide, retreat, or shut down entirely.

Regularly refilling our empathy tank is essential for fostering warmth, compassion, and harmonious connection in our lives. Chronically running on empty can leave us feeling edgy, shaky, brittle, snappish, or numb. When we’re depleted, we’re more likely to judge others for “making our life difficult” as we wonder, “Why are they doing this to me?” We’re also more likely to be harsh with ourselves, wondering “What’s wrong with me?” or “Why am I always like this?” When our empathy tank is low, we’re way more likely to go into painful judgment, blame, assessment, and demand, instead of being able to warmly attune to feelings, needs, and connection requests.

Put another way, we our empathy tank is running on empty, we’re that much more likely to do lasting harm to our valued relationships.

+++ Hard Numbers
25 September 2019 at 08:08)

Some folks seem to find interest in hard numbers. Even tough I’m not one of those folks, I thought I’d jot down a back-of-the-napkin illustration of the number associated with improved productivity. If nothing else, maybe these numbers will serve to illustrate how much e.g. continuous improvement is worth to a company bottom line, and thereby, given so few companies act to institute a programme of continuous improvement, how little these organisations are interested in improving the bottom line.

The Factory

Let’s start with a simple example. Imagine a factory which produces 6.4 million Euro’s worth of goods every year.
In other words its throughput (we could measure or label this as “revenue”) is 6.4 million Euros per annum.

Now, let’s also imagine that a new machine becomes available, which can double the throughput of the factor for no increase in inventory or operating expenses.

80 staff x 80K per annum operating expenses = 6.4 million per annum

Scrum x4

+++ Sectarianism
(25 September 2019 at 00:17)

+++ How to get people to do what YOU want – even when they don’t want to.
(23 August 2019 at 09:04)

Option 1: Use the Force, Luke.

Well, not the Force. Just force. Aka violence. Rarely explicit violence. Usually it’s in the form of fear, obligation, guilt and/or shame. This is the staple of organisations where (command and) control is the order of the day.

Upside: People generally “jump to it” and quickly appear compliant and busy on the things you’ve forced them into doing.

Downside: Their behaviour is mostly show, for your benefit, and to deflect the violence or threat of violence as much as possible. Few get to use or apply even a fraction of their potential. And have a miserable time of it, to boot.

“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” ~ George S. Patton

Option 2: Control

“The ingenuity of the average worker is sufficient to outwit any system of controls devised by management.”
~ Douglas McGregor

Option 3:

When we’re told to do something., we’re unlikely to question its value or seek better ways. Examples: backlogs, standups, sprints, etc.

(17 August 2019 at 13:00)

+++ Control is…
(13 August 2019 at 12:56)

In a recent post I reviews John Seddon’s new book “Beyond Command and Control”. The majority of the book explores the phenomenon of command and control – and mainly, control – and illustrates clearly the dysfunctions and inefficiencies consequent on traditional methods of control.

With collaborative knowledge work in particular, control in the traditional manifestation of the word causes so many problems and

Control is…


There’s something very human about craving the feeling of being in control. Being out of control, conversely, feels scary and distressing. These feelings lead people to seek the comfort of a sense of being in control, even though *actual* control is absent.


In a work context, people are expected to be in control. Peers

Delusional –

Dysfunctional –

Prejudicial –

Inevitable –

A prison –

A mental model –

Ubiquitous –

Outdated –

Violence –

A Substitute For Trust –

A Failure of Delayed Gratification –

Murderous –

Command-and-control management is straight up KILLING people

When researchers followed up with this group in 2011, those who had spent their lives working in stressful environments that provided them with little control were 15.4% more likely to have died. At the same time, those who spent their careers with high levels of control as well as high job demands were associated with a 34% decrease in the likelihood of death, compared with low-demand jobs.
At the same time, those who spent their careers with high levels of control as well as high job demands were associated with a 34% decrease in the likelihood of death, compared with low-demand jobs. /2

Derived from the term “contrarolla”

early 15c., countrollen, “to check the accuracy of, verify; to regulate,” from Anglo-French contreroller “exert authority,” from Medieval Latin contrarotulus “a counter, register,” from Latin contra “against” (see contra) + rotulus, diminutive of rota “wheel” (see roll (n.)). The word apparently comes from a medieval method of checking accounts by a duplicate register.

+++ Little Boxes
(29 Jul 2019 at 14:12)

I observe a fashion for trying to pigeon-hole potential new hires into tiny little boxes.

+++ Pain
(28 Jul 2019 at 10:35)

In my organisational therapy book, Hearts over Diamonds, I talk about the pain the organisations can endure, sometime for years or even decades, without ever realising that they could be pain free. The book doesn’t go Ito mu detail about what this pain looks like, feel like, and typical consequences. So heres a quick rundown on some common types of pain if seen on organisations, and how this pain limits the lives of these organisations, and the folks working in them and with them.

Finding the right people

Too many silos

+++ Service
(24 July 2019 at 09:04)

+++ Control
(8 July 2019 at 21:15)

+++ Digital Transformation
(5 Jul 2019 at 13:39)

It seems like “Digital Transformation” of organisations is all the rage – or is it fear? – in C-suites around the world. The term implies the pursuit of new business models and, by extension, new revenue streams. I’ve been speaking recently with folks in a number of organisations attempting “Digital Transformation”, some for the fourth or fifth time. I get the impression that things are not going well, on a broad front.

What is Digital Transformation?

Even though the term is ubiquitous nowadays, what any one organisation means by the term seems to vary widely. I’ll attempt my own definition, for the sake of argument, whilst recognising that any given organisation may have in mind something rather different, or sometimes no clear idea at all. Ask ten different organisations what Digital Transformation means to them, and you’re likely to get at least ten different answers.

Digital Transformation is the creation and implementation of new business models, new organisational models and new revenue streams made possible by the use of new digital technologies and channels.

Ironically it’s proving to NOT be about technology, but rather about company culture (this, in itself, being a product of the collective assumptions and beliefs of the organisation).

“A significant number of organisations are not getting [digital] transformation right because of a fundamental quandary over what digital transformation really is.”

~ Brian Solis, principal analyst and futurist at Altimeter

My Interest

So, why am I bothering to write this post? Aren’t there already reams of articles about every conceivable aspect of Digital Transformation?

Well, one aspect of Digital Transformation I see little covered is that relating to the development of “digital” products for the digitally-transformed company. And the implications this brings to the party.

Digital Transformation requires the development of new products and services to serve the new business models, new organisational models and new revenue streams. Digital products and digital services. In most cases, this means software development. And organisations, particularly untransformed organisations – which even now means most of them – are spectacularly inept at both software development and product development. Some refer to this as “a lack of digital literacy”.

Things have not changes much in this arena for the past fifty years and more. Failure rates resolutely hover around the 40% mark. And the much-vaunted (or is it much cargo-cullted?) Agile approach to development has hardly moved the needle at all.

For the past two decades I have been writing about the role of the collective psyche – and the impact on organisational effectiveness – of the collectively-held assumptions and beliefs about how work should work. And make no mistake, effectiveness is a key issue in digital product development. Relatively ineffective organisations will fail to deliver new digital products and services at least as often as 40% of the time. Relatively effective organisations can achieve results at least an order of magnitude better than this.

The Marshall Model provides an answer to the question: what do we have to do to become more effective as an organisation? And it’s not a popular answer. By analogy, people looking to lose weight rarely like to hear they will have to eat less and exercise more. Organisations looking to become more effective rarely like to face up to the fact that they will have to completely rethink long held and deeply cherished beliefs about the way work should be organised, managed, directed and controlled. And remodel their organisations along entirely alien lines in order to compete effectively in the digital domain.

Successful Digital Transformations demand organisations not only come up with new business strategies, revenue streams and digital products and services, but also that they shift their collective mindset to one which aligns with their ambitions. Personally, I see the latter as an essential precursor to the former. Most organisations approaching Digital Transformation fail to recognise this inevitability, this imperative. And so, most Digital Transformations are doomed to underachieve, or fail entirely.

“Ask yourself whether what you’re doing is disruptive to your business and to your industry. If you can say yes with a straight face, you may well be conducting a legitimate digital transformation.” And if you’re unable to say yes, then whatever you’re doing, it’s likely not a Digital Transformation.

If you’d like to explore this topic, understand more about the Marshall Model, its relevance and its predictive power, and save your organisation millions of Dollar/Pounds/Euros – not to mention much embarrassment and angst – I’d be delighted to chat things over with you and your executive team.

– Bob

+++ Coming Home
(5 Jul 2019 at 13:38)

I’ve never been entirely comfortable with applying the Marshall Model to the challenge of Agile adoptions.


The Marshall Model explains organisational effectiveness – the general level of effectiveness for whole organisations, not so much the effectiveness of a single silo (software development).

Recent trends, namely the increasing interest in Digital Transformation, affords us the opportunity to explain the Digital Transformation challenge – as well a provide answers to that challenge. And the challenge is huge – IBM recently reported that some 85% of Digital Transformations fail (I’d say it’s closer to 94%).

Digital Transformation

To set the stage, let’s define the term “Digital Transformation”. I meet many senior managers who use the term, without much understanding of what it means, exactly.

“Digital Transformation” is the application of digital technologies, for the most part software and computing technologies, to enable innovation in both an organisation’s products and the way it operates.

The Challenge

The Answer

– Bob

Further Reading

What is digital transformation? ~ The Enterprises Project

+++Towards A Theory of Software Development
(17 June 2019 at 16:35)

(A theory that lacks supporting evidence)

We hypothesise that the following variables are significant in the development of software systems and products. (Independent, dependent)

Scope (identifying all the members of the set of the Folks that Matter)
Requirements (identifying and attending to the needs of all the Folks that Matter)
Modes of working together (eg Teamwork)
Collaboration (joint efforts towards goals)
Interpersonal Relationships
Motivation (Intrinsic: Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose)
Demotivations (eg Rewards, sanctions, threats, FOGS, violence in general)
Group dynamics (Sociology) – how groups of people get along

(Note that the term theory would not be appropriate for describing untested but intricate hypotheses or even scientific models.)


(Of the above predictions)

Testing Protocols

Notes for self
“A theory is a good theory if it satisfies two requirements: It must accurately describe a large class of observations on the basis of a model that contains only a few arbitrary elements, and it must make definite predictions about the results of future observations.” ~ Stephen Hawking

+++ Strategies
(10 June 2019 at 09:46)

Why do we see so much lame behaviour in the workplace (and the world – but I leave that issue for the reader to extrapolate)?

By lame behaviour I mean activities that are unarguably ineffective, inefficient, or just plain dumb.

Well, we know that folks are just acting to get their needs met. And we can’t argue with those needs (they are, after all, personal and largely unstated).

But let’s looks at how folks try to get their needs met. For any given need, someone will employ one or more strategies for getting that need met. That is, they have in mind some means to the end of seeing a need met. Where do these means come from? (To rephrase, how do folks come to have strategies in the first place?)

How Does This Knowledge Help?

When we understand that folks’ strategies for getting their needs met are what determines their behaviours, we have a means to invite them to change their (lame) behaviours for some less lame behaviours. We can do this by enquiring as to whether they might find different strategies more useful that their current strategies for getting their needs met.

+++ From the Writing Desk
(5 June 2019 at 11:46)

Following on from the success of my first book, “Hearts over Diamonds”, I’m presently lin the middle of writing my second book, “The Digital Transformation Guide” (working tile).

What qualifies me to write about Digital Transformation

The Marshall Model is now over ten years old.

+++ Responsiveness
(30 April 2019 at 23:04)

The ability of a … system to adjust quickly to suddenly altered external conditions, as of speed, load, or temperature, and to resume stable operation without undue delay.

Also: Ready acceptance of new suggestions, ideas, influences, or opinions.

+++ Alignment
(11 April 2019 at 12:02)

Not a very interesting word or idea for most. And its counterpart, “misalignment”, even less so.

But for some senior managers and executives, alignment is a perennial hot topic.

Most often, alignment resolves to “Business-IT alignment”. That’s to say, takings pains to see that IT initiatives closely align to the prevailing business strategy of the organisation.

Aside: Some folks wonder if their organisation’s alignment efforts are even worth the candle.

With reference to the Marshall Model, for those organisations of relatively low effectiveness i.e. the Adhoc and Analytic-minded organisations), alignment is a top agenda item precisely because aligning such organisations generally requires a herculean and constant effort. This is due to these organisations being split into many separate parts (we call these silos), with few means to align the parts. The assumptions and beliefs of those in charge (executives and senior managers) drive each part (silo) to optimise its own domain – through silo-specific targets, OKRs, KPIs, individual bonuses and the like – at the expense of all the other parts, and of the organisation as a whole.

Many folks in Analytic-minded organisations wonder if their organisation’s alignment efforts are even worth the candle.

Marshall Model – Recap

To recap the transitions between the Marshall Model mindsets, in order of increasing effectiveness:

In moving from the Adhoc to Analytic mindset, organisations discover the efficacy of discipline (albeit, at this stage, extrinsic discipline – discipline imposed on e.g. the workforce through rules, policies, procedures, bonus schemes, threats, punishments, etc.. In a word, violence).

In moving from the Analytic to Synergistic mindset, organisations discover the improved efficacy of intrinsic motivation (including intrinsic discipline a.k.a. non-violence), and above all, the efficacy of having everyone in the organisation aligned to a common, shared purpose. (NB Goldratt also places major emphasis on this, referring to it as a “True Consensus”).

In the third transition, from Synergistic to Chaordic, organisations discover the improved efficacy of embracing uncertainty, and positioning themselves to systematically track and exploit the ever-shifting “sweet spots” in both existing and new markets. (Compare this with Synergistic organisations, who, whilst seeking breakthroughs and improvements in their existing lines of business tend to “stick to their knitting” and remain active only in their existing markets).


What does misalignment look like? Some would use the term “shambles”. Some, “confusion”. Some, “Herding cats”. Basically, it manifests as various parts of the organisation each pursuing its own goals, rather than contributing to the shared goals of the organisation as a whole. Indeed, many may not know the shared goals, even assuming such things exist.




@flowchainsensei the state of being confused

state of affairs being unclear or indistinct


@flowchainsensei Items like:
-what confusion is there in organisations?
-is there more confusion in an analytic (vs synergistic) org?
-benefits of less confusion?
-the drivers for confusing messages in an organisation

+++ sss
(2 April 2019 at 13:45)

I am reminded today, once again, of how unaware organisations can be of their relative lack of effectiveness at software and product development (amongst other things).

+++ Digital Transformation

(20 March 2019 at 12:52)

Rightshifting and the Marshall Modal were, from the very outset, about the effectiveness of whole organisations. Back in 2008 the software community did not seem too bothered about what goes on in their organisation outside the boundaries of the software development (or product development) silo.

Since then, the idea of whole-organisation Digital Transformation has become more prominent.

So, I propose it’s time to explain the Marshall Model in that context.

See: Analytic to Synergistic transition

+++ Agenda
(7 March 2019 at 12:16)

Organise for Flow

ZD quality

In-band Continuous improvement, especially of interpersonal relationships and the social dynamic

Attend to folks needs

+++ Engineering Theatre
(1 March 2019 at 13:51)

“Software Engineering” has been a contentious term ever since I can remember.

I’ve recently been talking with a number of organisations that choose to refer to their software development efforts as “engineering”. In every case I can state unequivocally that what ever it is they’re doing, it has almost nothing to do with “engineering” as I see it.

I concur broadly with the IEEE definition of (software) engineering: ”The application of a systematic, disciplined, quantifiable approach to the development, operation, and maintenance of software”.

Most of what I see out there is more like theatre:

+++ Sleeping Beauties Awake
(23 February 2019 at 15:51)

And who was the Prince who woke Sleeping Beauty with a kiss? Why, a handsome Organisational Psychotherapist, of course!

+++Planning Ahead
(19 February 2019 at 14:49)

3 Horizons model

+++ Competent Relationships
(11 February 2019 at 12:07)

+++ Collaboration
(1 February 2019 at 14:54)

OK. Maybe it’s me. At least, many of my readers say I have “insights” that illuminate their work.

Today the topic is collaboration. Literally, “to labour together”.

With standard work that covers 100% of possible situations, zero collaboration is necessary to figure out what to do in unforeseen scenarios. Of course, 100% coverage standard work is unlikely, and maybe undesirable from an economic viewpoint too.

+++ Making a Difference
(2 December 2018 at 09:58)

I’ve always seen “making a difference” as a key aspect of anything I do. I guess I’m not alone in that – most developers and engineers I’ve known have shared that ambitions and aspiration. And for me, making a difference means making a meaning difference to the world, to folks’ lives and to the health of society. And not so much making a difference to the bank accounts and already privileged lives of the economic elite.

Over the years, taking the road more travelled has generally led to making little, if any, real difference. So, I mostly choose to take the road less travelled. To examine and challenge standing assumptions. And to find new takes and new ways of doing things that have a greater chance of making a significant difference.

Organisational Psychotherapy

One of these roads is Organisational Psychotherapy. Having achieved some limited difference over the years through consulting, coaching and managing, I’ve come to find all these approaches wanting in the making-a-difference department.

Change is a tricky thing. Yet essential for making any significant difference. Widespread change, even more so. Organisations today find themselves facing a key challenge: change or die. In a rapidly changing world, staying the same, doing things the same old way, can only lead to rapid obsolescence and decline.

Traditional approaches to change, approaching change in the same old way, suffer the same risk of obsolescence and decline, of failure to effect meaningful and relevant change at a pace necessary to keep at least abreast, if not ahead, of the changing environment.

+++ Dominos
(21 November 2018 at 09:00)

+++ Requirements
(20 October 2018 at 09:57)

How the agile assumption that requirement will never be right blocks us from doing anything about changing how we work so as to reduce and eventually eliminate bad requirements

+++ adults
(10 October 2018 at 22:10)

+++ Expiation
(10 October 2018 at 11:30)

+++ Do Customers Change Their Minds?
(4 September 2018 at 15:16)

+++ Why Leadership is Toxic for Collaborative Knowledge Work
(23 August 2018 at 10:48)

The dedicated readers of this blog may have noted in previous posts my distaste for “Leadership”. But maybe it’s time to restate the case for why leadership makes things worse in collaborative knowledge work, rather than, as widely imagined and assumed, better.

Oh, if I only had a penny for every time I’ve hear “we need more / better / stronger leadership”. As if that is the panacea, the thing that will, like a magic bean, solve everybody’s problems.

The thing is, in collaborative knowledge work, leadership makes things worse.

Let’s look at why. And let’s start with the presumes benefit of effective leadership:

Alignment / Coordination


“The only thing harder than getting a new idea into a military mind is to get an old one out.” ~ Basil H. Liddell Hart

+++ More or Less Comfortable
(4 July 2018 at 08:55)

Axis, implications

+++ A Blueprint for the Digital Organisation
(30 June 2018 at 09:12)

Any digital organisation relies, paradoxically, on its people. More specifically, being anchored in the world of collaborative knowledge work, on the relationships between its people.

And also paradoxically, on the system – the way the work works – within which those people make their various contributions.

The system, and the assumptions and beliefs which underpin it, governs the impact and effectiveness of everyone’s contributions. Design suggests that the system is responsible for 95% of the xxx which the individual only 5%.

And the system has a profound impact on the following:

Interpersonal, collaborative relationships

Cognitive function

Morale and engagement


Having briefly outlined the key factors at play, let’s look at some founding principles for the Digital Organisation:



Intrinsic Motivation (Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose)




The Blueprint

So, what would an organisation look like if guided by the above factors and principles?

+++ My Perspective
(21 June 2018 at 05:43)

Some folks have recently asked me to set down my perspective on the field of software development and collaborative knowledge work organisations

1. If we wish to see effective software development, we have to consider it in context, rather than isolated from the wider organisation. There is much relative effectiveness to be gained by training software development as integral with the wider organisation. Most organisations do not see this.


+++ The Psychology of Agile Failure
(15 May 2018 at 11:07)

Let’s not blame Agile

It’s Down to The Need for an Illusion of Control

Crack Cocaine
In substance abuse / dependency / addiction, we rarely hear that “Crack cocaine has failed”

+++ Legacy Systems, Legacy Processes
(8 May 2018 at 21:54)

“What if organisations that apply diligence to the tracking and retirement planning of their legacy systems applied the same level of diligence to the tracking and retirement planning of their legacy ways of working?”

I hear and see much talk, and concern, over legacy systems. That’s to say, software applications and infrastructures that have been around for years, even decades. Usually, these were built with technologies, architectures – and approaches to development – that were (possibly) cutting-edge back in the day, but with the rapid advances in all those fields, are now looking decidedly long in the tooth.

Seems like most of the software I’ve written or had a hand in developing for the past twenty years has been replacement or overhauls of such legacy systems.

Although legacy systems get much attention, I see far less attention being paid to what we might call “legacy processes” – continuing to develop software (and software-enabled products more generally) in the same old ways, with the same old (ineffective) levels of cost, quality, due date performance, etc.. These legacy processes abide, despite their failings, despite new ways of working being well-known, and despite new systems replacing the legacy systems of yesteryear.

Legacy Systems

Legacy systems are not all downside. Let’s lay out the upside and downside for typical legacy systems:


Legacy systems, by definition, have been around for a long time, time enough for most of the bugs to have been found and fixed.

Legacy systems tend to live a long time because they’re part of an organisation’s “core business”. Replacing a core legacy system with a new shiny threatens to disrupt the operation of the whole business. The prospective costs of managing the risks of replacement can tip the equation in favour of retaining the legacy system “for just a while longer”.

A legacy system that lives for a long time probably meets the needs of its customer base. In markets where customers’ need change but slowly, it can be economic to (slowly) change the legacy system to keep pace with the changing demand pop the market.


Technical Debt
High maintenance costs
Slow to change’/adapt to changing marketplace demands
Loss of core skills

So, we can imagine some scenarios where the upside outweighs the downside of retaining a particular legacy system. As time marches on, the equation changes, and there may come a point where the numbers stack up in favour of replacement.

Legacy Processes

Legacy processes too are not all downside. Let’s lay out the upside and downside for typical legacy ways of working:


Legacy ways of working, by definition, have been around for a long time, time enough for most people to become familiar and proficient with them.

Legacy ways of working tend to have insinuated themselves into the very fabric of Business As Usual, often threading their serpentine paths through and across multiple silos. In some ways, they tie the fabric of the whole organisation together. And like the fabled Gordian Knot, can prove impossible to untie.

The prospective costs and risks of cutting the Knot can persuade otherwise sane people to retaining the legacy ways of working “for just a while longer”.

Legacy ways of working that survive for a long time probably meets the needs of the people that matter. Just not very effectively. In companies where the the needs of the people that matter change but slowly, it can seem acceptable to (slowly) change the legacy ways of working to keep pace with those changing needs.

Process Debt
High maintenance costs
Slow to change’/adapt to changing marketplace demands
Loss of core skills

+++ Legacies
(8 May 2018 at 20:11)

What if organisations regarded their legacy ways of working in the same light as they do their legacy systems?

Cynics might say “don’t they already”, but there are many organisations that have an ongoing effort to track and plan the retirement of their legacy systems.

Fewer indeed have any ongoing effort to track and plan the retirement / evolution of their wats of working, and in my experience none more so than in the way the work works within software and product development.


+++ Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a Social System
(2 May 2018 at 16:04)

Intervening in Social Systems

Social systems are the invisible fabric of our communities, societies and businesses.

Why worry About Leverage?

Because the choice of an effective leverage point allows a small problem solving force to have a large effect on the relative effectiveness of the social system.

12. Constants
Constant, parameters, numbers (like subsidies, taxes, air standards, minimum wage, research investments) define the rate at which things happen in the system.

11. Group Sizes
Groups are – amongst other things – stabilising elements. Larger groups contribute to the system’s stability, smaller groups to the system’s agility. An example of group size is team size on a software project.

10. Joiners and Leavers
This represent the manner in which new people join and leave the system. Having new people join a social system, and current ones leave, offers the opportunity for change to the system itself.

9. Rates of Behaviour Change
For example, changing the rate at which people learn, change their assumptions, and thus change their behaviours, can have a big impact. But similar to the means by which people join and leave, the Rate of Behaviour Change can be difficult to influence.

Note: Not “acquisition of knowledge”

8. The Strength of Demotivators
A demotivator is anything that reduces the likelihood that folks will make an effort to change things.

7. Driving Motivators
Motivators are similar to demotivators, but instead of encouraging the preservation of the status quo, they aim to reinforce change: the more successful a change, the more it’s likely that other things might get changed too.

For example giving bonuses for every sales done is an incentive to sell more (even if we know that it damages the system as a whole more than the benefits of it), or the more you have in the bank the more interest you earn. Positive feedback loops are usually perceived as positive, but since they keep growing they can build up and damage the system in the long run if they aren’t controlled in some other way.

6. Sentiment a.k.a. Engagement

Creating new motivators or demotivators, changing how people feel about their involvement in the system, and how they share their experience with others.

For example, if we make folks’ sentiments more visible we enable more conversations on the subject, and the effect is an uptick in social consciousness.

5. Norms
The norms of the system define what is and and is not “acceptable” or appropriate behaviour by folks within the system. These are strong leverage points, and they can be both written (policies, contracts, etc) and unwritten.

4. Associations
This speaks to how folks within a system get to associate with other folks within the system, and how those associates get to change and evolve over time. For example, in many business social systems, managers get to direct who associates with whom by assigning individuals or teams to particular groups, projects or tasks.

3. The Goals of the System

2. The Mindset or Paradigm Governing the Nature of the System
Everything, including goals, arise in the context of specific mindsets, social norms, collective beliefs. For example, in a social system predicated on Theory-X, we will see many rules and extrinsic motivators, attempting to control folks’ behaviours.

1. The Power to Transcend Paradigms
No paradigm however is true in an absolute sense, our understanding of this infinite universe is limited. So every paradigm can be embraced, and changed, and treated as a relative variable. There isn’t just a change from an old system to a new system, there’s the possibility of an infinity of them.

+++ Truth or Consequences
(27 March 2018 at 08:38)

Senior managers and Executives FAQ

Organisational Psychotherapy students and practitioners FAQ

Q: How do I get into Organisational Psychotherapy?

Participants (members of the workforce) FAQ


+++ Organisational Psychotherapy and the Bottom Line (notes)
(12 March 2018 at 07:41)

“The power of the holistic approach dwarfs the bottom line results of the Analytic approach”. And that’s why we have to do it.

A true consensus amongst all the top managers which enables a holistic approach (eg TOC).

True Consensus: All top managers agree on the exact SAME action plan, while each and every top manager regards his or her components of the joint action plan as his or her own baby.”

How to reach such a true consensus? It can look like an impossibility.
(Ch 7 0:00)

Heavily based on the Socratic approach…

What are the real obstacles (barriers) to a True Consensus? They are the good things in people.

The Dominant Impatient Visionary (a.k.a. the engine of the company) A.D.H.D. – poison for consensus. Shortage of self-control? Unconsciously (self-)blinded to one side of every core conflict. Countermeasure: Look on the other side for the wrong assumption, and then everyone else will get behind their (intuitive) solution.
The (Smart) Conservative – see the need for improvement then still block improvement. They can see BOTH sides of the conflict. But they’re used to seeing “movement on the conflict arrow” rather than evaporation of the conflict. Just swapping one set of UDEs for another set of UDEs. Countermeasure: Show the core conflict, and highlight the wrong assumption, saying “we now have a DIRECTION for a solution” and move to a FRT – including meticulous documentation of the “gift” of his “yes, but”s. —> A better, simplified, intensified solution. Demonstrate paranoia.
Extrapolating from the past #1 (experience about what we should we do for the future). Warning: Old rules. How to exclude extrapolations based on the old rules? I.e. find the wrong assumption(s) – making their experience more coherent, more palatable, less dissonant, more useful. Reshape the past.
Extrapolating from the past #2 (experience about their opinion of each other). Often less than flattering. Countermeasure: Highlighting how everyone is changing together, going on the same journey, as a group.
(Extra obstacle) Solutioneering. Countermeasures: Identify the core problem. (Then identify the solution. Then identify HOW to implement the solution). Cf TOC Three Steps.

See: the Core Materials in the Satellite Programme.

The Satellite Programme covers:
Finance and measurement (ie everything that connects to management decisions)
Project management and engineering
Distribution (logistical chain)
Marketing (so lousy in most companies) (Create a desire to buy – spread the corn)
Sales (aka close a deal – shoot the sitting duck)
Managing people (7 Habits, Fifth Discipline) empowerment, delegation. Incl: i) mismatches between responsibility and authority ii) managers don’t know how to give instructions. Cf Auftragstaktik
Strategy and Tactics – means
Strategy and Tactics – build it with all the management (build the true consensus action plan).
Everyone each writes ONE UDE, from an area under your own authority, expressed without finger-pointing (non-judgemental). Allow time. The UDE that bothers you personally the most.
Place each UDE on the board.
Everyone writes 5 sentences to detail their own one UDE, IN SECRET.
Facilitator shows how convert their own single UDE into a cloud.
They each do that, then come to the front in turn and present their own cloud. This builds group identity. And changes the group dynamic.
Show how to deduce (in small groups) the core conflict from all the clouds taken together. A.k.a. The core problem. They find it themselves.
Show how the core conflict is causing (all) the UDEs.
Crucial: The informal process moves to the bar or restaurant. (Essential).
Next morning: check the consensus on the core problem
Day 2: Consensus on the solution.
Day 3: Consensus on implementing the solution.
Day 4: Buffer (If required)

As a novella

Cf Necessary But Not Sufficient

“Agreeing with a change (eg The Goal) and implementing that change are TWO SEPARATE ISSUES.” That’s obvious (Goldratt)

What prevents people taking the action?
Psychology (cf Efrat Goldratt in The Choice) says:
A : Social pressure (the desire to conform to accepted norms and follow one’s peers actions)

Hard science vs “soft science” 1-2% vs 98%

Major leap vs incremental improvement (“there are no silver bullets”) “TOC is huge collection of silver bullets”

How can we overcome this?
Cf The Harvard experiment
“The One Ray of Light”
If there is jut one crack in the conformity, then folks are much more likely (75%) to find the courage to reject conformance.

+++ Egotism: A More Constructive Take
(7 March 2018 at 08:42)


What are the real obstacles (barriers) to a True Consensus? They are the good things in people.

The Dominant Impatient Visionary (a.k.a. the engine of the company) A.D.H.D. – poison for consensus. Shortage of self-control? Unconsciously (self-)blinded to one side of every core conflict. Countermeasure: Look on the other side for the wrong assumption, and then everyone else will get behind their (intuitive) solution.
The (Smart) Conservative – see the need for improvement then still block improvement. They can see BOTH sides of the conflict. But they’re used to seeing “movement on the conflict arrow” rather than evaporation of the conflict. Just swapping one set of UDEs for another set of UDEs. Countermeasure: Show the core conflict, and highlight the wrong assumption, saying “we now have a DIRECTION for a solution” and move to a FRT – including meticulous documentation of the “gift” of his “yes, but”s. —> A better, simplified, intensified solution. Demonstrate paranoia.
Extrapolating from the past #1 (experience about what we should we do for the future). Warning: Old rules. How to exclude extrapolations based on the old rules? I.e. find the wrong assumption(s) – making their experience more coherent, more palatable, less dissonant, more useful. Reshape the past.
Extrapolating from the past #2 (experience about their opinion of each other). Often less than flattering. Countermeasure: Highlighting how everyone is changing together, going on the same journey, as a group.
(Extra obstacle) Solutioneering. Countermeasures: Identify the core problem. (Then identify the solution. Then identify HOW to implement the solution). Cf TOC Three Steps.

+++ product development fundamentals course
(5 March 2018 at 05:42)

+++ software development fundamentals course
(5 March 2018 at 05:42)

+++ Blaming another person is not a solution
(3 March 2018 at 04:07)

Nor does it point in the direction of a solution.

+++ Aligned Action
(3 March 2018 at 04:02)

It’s not about aligning action, it’s about aligning action to a new set of rules.

Changing the rules of an enterprise requires aligned action.

Aligned action requires True consensus.

+++ Harmony is Everywhere
(3 March 2018 at 03:54)


+++ Hard Science
(3 March 2018 at 00:56)

Reality is always simple
There are no conflicts in reality

Humble arrogance

+++ Nonviolent Consulting
(3 February 2018 at 07:43)

Over the past year I’ve engaged a number of different consultants on behalf of a client of mine. These have been folks I’ve know, and respected for their knowledge and attitude.

It’s given me the opportunity to observe their stance, as well as the lasting impact of their contribution.

+++ Putting It All Together
(27 January 2018 at 14:06)

Since I started this blog I’ve written about many things. Some, of-the-moment. Some, trivia. And some, fundamentals that have emerged over the course of my career.

I guess it’s time to draw together the strands of these fundamentals, in an attempt to paint a whole picture.

Mission –

My focus for the past twenty years has been on the things that contribute to the effectiveness of organisations.

People, morale, productivity, quality
Collaborative knowledge work
Local optima (cf TOC, Systems Thinking)

The Marshall Model
The Antimatter Principle
Organisational Psychotherapy

Guiding Principles

New principles rarely stick unless people discover them for themselves
New practices rarely emerge unless people discover some connection with the guiding principles

+++ The Heart Of Development
(22 January 2018 at 11:50)

Sometime, I tweet something that receives way more likes and retweets than I ever imagined it would. Recently I tweeted:

“People are NOT our greatest asset. In collaborative knowledge work particularly, it’s the relationships BETWEEN people that are our greatest asset.” ~ FlowchainSensei

This seems have hit a nerve with many people. I can’t say why, exactly. But I have a theory.

I believe we humans are above all social animals. That’s to say, we’re defined as a species by the importance of our social interactions with one another. I know I’m not the only one to hold this view. Despite the owners of history preferring a “heroic individual” narrative, I suspect history in vivo was as much about progress depending on folks coming together as we know modern life to be.

Collaborative Knowledge Work

“Development” (of products, services, software, knowledge, etc.) has become primarily a collaborative experience. That is to say, we get much less done alone than together. And we can get things done together that are more or less inconceivable for a single genius to accomplish on their own. (The single geniuses seem to have a blind spot in this regard).


So, it’s proven to be a popular tweet – I hear you say – but, so what?

For me, teamwork

+++ Sharing Our Expertise
(22 November 2017 at 09:35)

+++ What Is “Humane Business”?
(7 October 2017 at 14:51)

+++Why Humane Business?
(5 October 2017 at 07:38)

Nowadays, I’m all in on Humane Business. It’s not part of my go-to-market strategy to convince companies that Humane Business is good for them. Rather, I’m intentionally focussing my efforts on those relatively few companies that might be interested already in

But for my friends and established readers, I thought I’d Start with Why. [link to Simon Sinek video). Not why businesses might choose to adopt Humane Business, but why I’m all in on the approach.

Why I’m All In on Humane Business

I’ve been working with companies to improve their software development approaches for the best par of thirty years. In that time I’ve been a consultant, a coach, and most recently an Organisational Psychotherapist. For me, this has been a journey through what doesn’t really work for helping clients, towards some better place where my participation actually does help significantly and sustainably.

Over the years, I’ve come to believe that how we do things (practices) matter far less than how we relate to each other, and to the communities in which we work. So these days, as an Organisational Psychotherapist, I engage with what I refer to as the Social Dynamic of a client.

The Social Dynamic

Why Clients Value My Help (another post)

Next post: What is Humane Business?

+++ What kind of company would you like your company to be?
(28 September 2017 at 12:35)

+++ Ten Reasons to NOT be World Class
(25 July 2017 at 06:47)

+++ The World Class Software Development Organisation
(24 May 2017 at 15:43)

+++ Compensation
(27 April 2017 at 14:09)

In the Uk we call it salary. In the US they call is compensation.

+++Applying Toyota Kata To Organisational Psychotherapy (2)
(17 October 2016 at 15:43)

As therapists, we may want to become more effective at “delivering” therapy to our clients. If so, we may choose to use something like Toyota Kata (the Improvement Kata) to improve our effectiveness as therapists.

Let’s apply the four steps of the Improvement Kata to this desirable outcome:

The True North Of Organisational Psychotherapy

My True North as an Organisational Psychotherapist is to be able to walk with clients in such a way as they achieve the outcomes they seek instantly and with the minimum of stress and heartache.

The Direction of The Challenge

The direction of the challenge is “client organisations achieve their outcomes quicker and easier”.

Current Condition

Questions: What is my current level of effectiveness (at delivering therapy)? How does that vary from client to client? How to quantify?

Target Condition

Questions: What is my target level of effectiveness (at delivering therapy)? By what date? Does that vary from client to client? How to quantify?


Here’s some hypotheses that might be tested:

Hypothesis: The quality of the relationship between the therapist and the client correlates directly with the speed and ease of clients’ achieving their sought (albeit emergent) outcomes.

Hypothesis: The therapist can take unilateral actions to improve his or her effectiveness as a therapist.

As An A3

Here’s an A3 which goes into a little more detail:


The Coaching Kata

If we choose to adopt the Improvement Kata and apply it to improving our effectiveness as therapists, then we might hope that having someone experienced in the Coaching Kata (and by implication, the Improvement Kata) would be helpful to us in becoming more skilled at applying the Improvement Kata.

+++Applying Toyota Kata To Organisational Psychotherapy (1)
(17 October 2016 at 15:39)

As therapists, we all want the best for our clients. And “best” for me, as an Organisational Therapist, means the client (organisation) is flourishing (cf Seligman), and is flourishing a little more each and every day.

Let’s apply the four steps of the Improvement Kata to this desirable outcome:

The Direction of The Challenge

As stated above, the direction of the challenge is “client organisation flourishes more and more”. We can quantify this in terms of moving the client “to the right” on the Marshall Model.

increasing the client organisation’s rightshifting index.

Current Condition

Assessing the current condition (of relative flourishing) can be tricky.

Personally, I choose to do this by baselining the organisation’s collective mindset with reference to the Marshall Model, and using the assumption that any subsequent shift to the right signifies an improvement in flourishing.

Target Condition

Our Target Condition is better flourishing, a.k.a. Rightshift, of the client. More specifically, a certain rightshift (e.g. from 1.0 to 2.0) in a given timeframe, such as 12 months.


These are the experiments the therapist can run (using PDCA) to test hypotheses about how best to accompany the client on its journey towards flourishing.

Here’s some hypotheses that might be tested:

The quality of the relationship between the therapist and the client correlates directly with the effectiveness of the therapeutic relationship.

The client’s CEO has a circa 80% impact on the client’s rate of progress.

As An A3

Here’s an A3 which goes into a little more detail:


+++So You’re The Owner of A Shiny New Operational Value Stream, What Now?
(13 September 2016 at 09:59)




+++ Pre-delivery Involvement of the New Value Stream Owner(s)
(12 September 2016 at 11:56)

What we expect from every new product owner during development of their operational value stream (pre-delivery)

+++ Handover Of the New Product To its New Operational Value Stream Owner(s)
(12 September 2016 at 11:55)

See Also: Pre-delivery Involvement of the New Value Stream Owner(s)

+++ How To Get A New Product Idea Into Development
(12 September 2016 at 11:33)

What is a Product? (Value Stream)
The Whole Product Idea

MVP as Risk Management
MVP is an series of experiments

Talk about experimenting as a philosophy

The Short Circuit (Bet the Farm option)

+++ How To Sell A Product Idea (Internally)
(12 September 2016 at 11:51)

3 Box Monty

Business Case including Cost of Delay

Other advices

+++ Coercion, Persuasion and Invitation
(31 August 2016 at 14:36)

How these three approaches differ, and the relative merits of each re: effectiveness of collaborative knowledge work.

+++ Applying Emotioneering To The Workplace Experience
(21 August 2016 at 08:14)

+++ The Craft Of Organisational Psychotherapy
(19 August 2016 at 13:54)

I have much sympathy with the Software Craftsmanship movement and its objectives, even though I might cavil with its approach, here and there.

I choose to see Organisational Psychotherapy through a similar crafty lens. In case anyone’s interesting in acquiring, joining or practicing this craft, here’s some of my experiences:

Prefer multiple clients

Most organisations change slowly. People, especially in organisations having limited self-awareness, take time to enrol and adapt.
So, just as with individual psychotherapy, the practising organisational psychotherapist may find that he or she has time on his or her hands if limited to just one client at any given time.

Further, all organisational psychotherapists will experience ups and downs in their own state of mind, reflecting the ups and downs of progress in their client’s xxx

And, unlike Scrum Masters our Agile Coaches, it’s beneficial for all concerned that the therapist keeps a certain detachment from their client. This is much easier to do when having multiple clients.

Insider vs Outsider



+++ Compliance
(3 August 2016 at 14:08)

A) Doing what we’re told

B) Doing what we agreed

C) Empty agreements

Cf Lencioni

+++Developing The Improvement Reflex
(4 June 2016 at 14:23)

Does your organisation, company or even team have an improvement reflex?

Any time someone raises an issue, problem or challenge regarding the way the work works, do people have a conditioned reflex for dealing with the situation?

+++ Technical Talent Loves Therapy
(10 December 2015 at 12:46)

+++ Three Box Monty for Organisational Psychotherapy
(8 December 2015 at 11:02)

Box A
Industry-wide problems
Engagement (hidden)
Ineffectiveness (generally)

Box B

Box C
See: Personal Pitch

Org Therapy
Outcomes Focus Three Box Monty

Box A: What positive outcomes are the leading businesses in the industry are seeing presently?
New business wins
Repeat business
New products finding a ready market
Engaged staff
Critical acclaim
People queueing up to work there

Box B: Which of those positive outcomes are the audience’s business also presently seeing (and maybe one or two where they’re ahead of the competition)

Box C: Which other positive outcomes the audience would like their business to see in the future. (and i.e. how org therapy can help).

+++ Who’s In Charge?
(12 November 2015 at 07:46)

Who’s In Charge Of Us Fellows?

Who do you go convince that you have a good idea worth consideration? Who will give the green light to your suggestion and put things in motion?

Who’s In Charge of the Sponsors?

Who’s In Charge of A Client?

I note in myself a tendency to want to “fix” organisations. Choosing a different verb – such as “treat” – doesn’t help me much in reining-in this tendency. I find comfort and inspiration to do better in returning to Carl Rogers.

“Carl Rogers marked a departure from the traditional patient/doctor relationship in therapy where the Doctor knew best and the patient was under his command. He called the people he worked with clients rather than patients. He did not assume to have an answer to the client’s query. He expected that to come from the client.”

Who’s In Charge Of The Business?

I use the terms business loosely, as it could emerge that we can better serve the needs of our stakeholders as a charity, foundation, loose or tight network of affiliates, or any number of other forms of association. And although our emergent “association” might be essentially commercial, I’d like to explore all the options about how it might feed and water itself.

Conversations in public

Guest blog posts

+++ You Can Tell A Lot From Job Titles
(26 October 2015 at 09:06)

Not about the individual. About the organisation.

+++Reflections on Andragogy
(25 October 2015 at 13:30)

Feedback forms
Read one’s own slides/notes more carefully! (Breaks) Not Wigwam if no tea/coffee

Only present need to know stuff (participants’ needs segment was a luxury?)

Be ready to drop one or two segments to keep on schedule. Identify these in advance.
More time???
Time for reflection?
Allow time for briefing.
Provide pre-prepared “follow-ups” exercises as take-aways

Pin results – like group-created concept maps, lists – to the walls for folks to share, reflect on during eg breaks.

Lecture on entirely new topics, make it Active Learning with eg prepared index card piles or similar

Pair experienced people with learners

+++ Formulating a Treatment Plan
(23 October 2015 at 11:27)

Most psychotherapists use a treatment plan. <link> These plans can vary from rough handwritten notes through to extensive and detailed plans maintained with the help of a computerised system.

In the context of client-centred therapy and positive psychology

Empathise (three box monty can help)
Say what I see, invite folks to say what they see (hear, etc).
Say how I feel about those observations, invite folks to say what they feel
Invite folks to express the needs underlying their feelings, ditto myself
Invite folks to make requests which (might) get their needs met. Ditto myself.

A Treatment Plan Template

signs (what observers see)
symptoms (what the patient reports)
as evidenced by (measurable physical, emotional or behavioural evidence)
Long term goal
Short term goals/objectives
Intervention/Actions (w responsible persons)

Review date
Involvement of others
Services needed (beyond the scope of the organisation, therapist or programme)

The treatment plan is built around the problems that the patient brings into treatment. Within the treatment plan is a problem list that details each prob- lem. The problem list comes at the end of the diagnostic summary. It tells the staff what the patient will do in treatment. It must take into account all of the physical, emotional, and behavioral problems relevant to the patient’s care, as well as the patient’s strengths and weaknesses. It must also address each of the six dimensions of ASAM that you are following.
The treatment plan details the therapeutic interventions, what is going to be done, when it is going to be done, and by whom. It must consider each of the patient’s needs and come up with clear ways of dealing with each prob- lem. The treatment plan flows into discharge planning, which begins from the initial assessment.

Incremental Planning

Client Involvement

Time to speak with everyone involved

“Rapport, or trust, develops over time, and good therapists understand that revealing certain details may take time.”

Your initial diagnosis and treatment plan should be considered preliminary. In fact, some therapists prefer not to give diagnoses at all, but rather will discuss their understanding of your problem in layman’s terms. Many therapists wait to provide a diagnosis and treatment plan until after they receive the results of diagnostic tests, or after several sessions have elapsed. Many mental health conditions have similar symptoms, and working through the possibilities takes time, effort, and the establishment of a therapeutic relationship.




+++ Getting Inside The OODA Loop Of The Status Quo
(22 October 2015 at 12:36)

A lot of folks complain to me about the status quo inside the organisation they work for. Execs, managers, workers all bemoan how the status quo holds them back, frustrates their efforts and initiatives, and generally blocks change.

What Is the Status Quo?

“Status quo is a Latin phrase meaning the existing state of affairs, particularly with regards to social or political issues. In the sociological sense, it generally applies to maintain or change existing social structure and values… To maintain the status quo is to keep the things the way they presently are.” ~ Wikipedia

What Maintains The Status Quo?

Generally, people tend to maintain the status quo, whether in their own lives or in the life of the organisation, out of fear. Out of a sense of risk associate with changing things, and the fear that just maybe some change to the status quo could be for the worse. Could result in their needs being met less well than they are being met as things are presently.

In this sense, we might choose to love the status quo, in that it “locks-in” means for getting our needs met – to the degree we can appreciate currently.

So the status quo is a means for meeting our need for reducing or removing uncertainty. Which would be fine if the world were not continually changing. But change it does.


Colonel John Boyd first developed the OODA loop in the context of air combat operations for the USAF. The acronym stands for
Observe-Orient-Decide-Act. Boyd developed the concept to explain how to direct one’s energies to defeat an adversary and survive, emphasising the role of agility as a means to defeat raw power.

Getting Inside

Boyd advises us to “get inside” our adversary’s OODA loop. By which he means: disrupt it at every point.
If we choose to regard the Status Quo as our adversary, then to “get inside” its OODA loop(s) require us to:

Disrupt the status quo’s ability to observe “reality”. I don’t mean blind or mislead the adversary, as we might do in combat. I mean change what the status quo is looking at, its customary perspectives, and its (in)ability to see things beyond its present “cognitive horizon”.

Disturb the status quo’s approach to orienting itself. Interrupt its typical orientation – the filters which it typically uses to

The key [to getting inside the OODA status quo] is to clarify your intentions and make them comprehensible to your adversary while you simultaneously clarify its intentions. That is, operate at a faster tempo to generate rapidly changing conditions that disadvantages the status quo in making its customary reactions to our proposed changes.


Boyd also advises us to act with a higher tempo than our adversary: to develop the capability to execute our own OODA loops faster than our adversary.

+++ So you want to change your company’s culture?
(9 October 2015 at 06:58)

What is company culture?

Seems like there’s almost as many takes on this question as there are people in a position to voice an opinion.

“If you have been trying to make changes in how your organization works, you need to find out how the existing culture aids or hinders you.”

~ Edgar Schein

Here’s my take:

Company culture is how everybody behaves when “at work”.

How (more or less) everybody behaves more or less all the time they are at work.

Not how they say they behave. Not how they believe they behave. How they actually behave. Like what you’d see if you were a fly on the wall.

Why Is Your Company’s Culture Important To You?

If you’re reading this, you probably have a business problem or three that you believe might be addressed by using the “culture” lever. If you don’t have any specific, pressing needs, then why worry about culture? What different outcomes do you need to see?

“The only thing of real importance that leaders do is to create and manage culture. If you do not manage culture, it manages you, and you may not even be aware of the extent to which this is happening.”

~ Edgar Schein

I’m guessing you’ve spotted the role that your company’s culture plays in its success – or lack thereof. And you want to do something about it. To change the culture somehow to better equip it for the challenges you’re facing as a business.

+++ Helping Folks Find Their Own Answers
(4 October 2015 at 10:51)

I remember when I used to call myself a consultant. And others used to happily pay me for “consulting”, too. Not that the outcomes were ever anything to write home about.

I’ve come round to the belief that consulting, predicated as it is, largely, on telling people “answers”, doesn’t work too well. Is not well-aligned with how people learn, change, and grow.

The Therapists Stance

These days, I much prefer to actively help people – whether individuals, teams, groups, departments or organisations – to find their own answers.

Moreover, I believe that the answers people have open to them, those that they can discover, embrace and apply, are strictly limited to those answers which “fit” into their current world view, belief system, or mindset.

“We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are”.
~ Anais Nin

Or, as I sometimes rephrase it:

“We can only see those things that our beliefs allow us to.”
~ FlowchainSensei


+++ Breaking our conditioning
(27 September 2015 at 11:34)

Steven pinker says that around 50% of our personality – and thus behaviours – is genetic. That means the other 50% is acquired after birth. Add in the genetic inheritance of our parents’ behaviours and we can safely say that the larger part of our behaviours is a result of our xxx – or conditioning.

And the lions share of that conditions is to be compliant.

How is this harming us as individuals and as a society ?

+++ The One Surefire Way to Keep Good People
(16 September 2015 at 14:23)


There’s Only One Reason People Leave A Company
And that reason is NOT “their manager”.

Fundamentally, There’s only one reason your employees are going to leave your employ. And that reason is because their needs are not getting attended to.

“Attended to” Trumps “Met”
People are not totally unreasonable. If they see that the company, and its agents (managers, HR, policies, etc.). have their needs at heart, and are actively trying to attend to those needs, then they’ll likely cut you some slack. For a while. Of course, even with the best intentions, if a company and its agents just can’t get its act together to meet people’s needs, then the frustration will eventually boil over.

Attend to their needs. Invite them to attend to others’ needs (including customers, colleagues, and yours too).

+++ Starters For Ten
(28 August 2015 at 09:55)

Open questions!

People; What do we believe about people we hire? Are people generally honest, reliable and trustworthy, or lazy, devious and unreliable? Do I share those beliefs myself, or do I choose to appear to go along with what everyone else here appears to believe?

What do we believe?

Leadership: What do we believe about leadership and the role of the leader? Are we better served by having a few strong, charismatic individuals setting direction and inspiring everyone to do hood work, or does leadership have a toxic downside?

Homogeneity: Are we better served by everyone sharing the same beliefs, using the same tools, technologies and, or is diversity (ie e.g. assumptions and beliefs) more helpful to us in pursuing our purpose?

Common purpose: Is a shared common purpose a useful thing to have, useful enough to spend time and effort on regularly discussing and clarifying? Do we prefer to see it emerge from discussions amongst all parties involved, or do we believe that it’s better set by a few and only then communicated widely?

Do people deserve what happens to them?

Is productivity a function of the individual, their commitment, talent and grit, or of something else?


Skills: Do skill smatter? What kinds of skills do we need to have? Do we have them now? And what kind of collective capabilities would be most useful for us to have and develop?

Collaborative Knowledge Work
What is it? Why do we do it? What matters most in making it effective?


How does our present approach to appraisals shed light on what we believe about people and productivity?

Status Quo

How do we feel about innovation and change, as contrasted with e.g. love of the status quo?



Experienced people
(don’t want to work for you)

Serious or Fun?
Should we regard work as something to be taken seriously, or as an opportunity to enjoy life and have fun?

+++ New Wine In Old Glasses
(22 August 2015 at 17:47)

I’m pretty sure most of the best ideas gain little traction because they’re, well, too new. Too novel. Too innovative.

We can see how managers and execs might baulk at them. And how technical folks might dismiss them as unlikely to fly in the organisations for which they work, and with the status quo as strong as it is.

I have for quite some while been thinking about how to represent some of my ideas in more familiar, more appealing forms. Yes, this is marketing, folks. Just as the First Rule Of Agile is “Don’t Mention Agile”, the first rule of most new ideas is don’t mention the idea, or its newness.

Here’s a short quiz you might enjoy: Which new wines do each of these old glasses hold?


Based on the route marches of armies since time immemorial, this is the fastest and safest way to get a body of troops from A to B.

An elegant wine, ripe plum and raspberry fruit with a touch of spice.

Organisational Psychotherapy




Full of lively, little bubbles and lovely soft lemon fruit, it’s fantastically refreshing and works brilliantly as an aperitif. Add a dash of bitters (like Campari) and you’ve got a jewel-coloured gem of a cocktail.


The Antimatter Principle






Further Reading

Why Experts Reject Creativity ~ Derek Thompson

Product 101L How To Write A positioning Statement ~ Chanpory Rith

View at

Purple Cow ~ Seth Godin

All Marketers Are Liars ~ Seth Godin

Positioning ~ Al Reies & Jack Trout

Value Forward Selling ~ Paul Di Modica

Business Lexicon

Grow, growth



Economic, functional, operational contributions

+++ Selling Therapy
(18 August 2015 at 14:00)

Marketing 101

“the activities involved in making people aware of a company’s products”


Value Proposition

“Disconfirming pathogenic beliefs” – especially those held collectively.

Pathogenic beliefs: expectations of the way the world is and the way it’s supposed to be, which create suffering.

“The only relevant question is, does it work and is the organisation getting progressively better a.k.a. more effective?”

“a patient’s responses to interventions, whether he or she feels safe enough to explore issues more deeply, and whether or not he or she is getting better, are the only things that matter.”

How organisational psychotherapy works is simple. We combine insight (meta-strategies) and new (normative) experiences to disconfirm an organisation’s pathogenic beliefs.

“helping people solve the real issues effecting real companies with real business problems to solve”


Pain Points

Lack of actionable information (flow), and scarcity of time



+++ Relating To People
(9 August 2015 at 16:18)

Peak Jackal

Peak Giraffe

+++ Social Dynamics
(7 August 2015 at 09:50)

+++ The questions preceding a transformation – [another post for another day
(3 August 201 5 at 12:23)

“Are my needs being met by the current status quo? If yes, then we’re done here.”

+++ What Would You Like To Have Happen?
( 28 July 2015 at 07:10)

On the assumption that needing other folks to change is a burr to my serenity, I’ve been trying to do less of that.

As social animals, other people affect us. Their behaviours affect us. And for our own comfort, it seems quite natural to look for change in others. Until we realise the futility of that perspective. The only behaviour we can realistically hope to change is our own. And that’s a challenging prospect in itself.

When one’s own needs are not getting met, and particularly when those needs involve interactions with other people, it’s natural to turn to thinking how we might get them to behave differently. To behave more in line with our needs. One option we do have; we can explain our needs and make some refusable requests of them. At least we’re creating possibilities that way.

Maybe we don’t do that so often out of fear that they might say no. And then where would we be? Back to having to change ourself. Maybe we prefer not to ask. To dismiss our unmet needs from our consciousness.

<What is this all about? Where is this rambling leading?>

+++ Taking On The Elephants
(18 July 2015 at 11:51)

Most advisors, consultancies, industry bodies and such like, that I know of, seems happy to ignore the elephants in the room and work around the piles of ordure they leave behind. Even nicely-conceived and executed elephant toilets are kind of missing the point.

Now I love elephants as much as the next chap, and there’s no denying that there’s a crapload of money to be had in cleaning up and/or disposing of elephant poo. But even the most beautifully conceived and executed elephant toilets are kind of missing the point.

Which is: Who needs these elephants? If you’re running a Zoo or a Circus, then maybe elephants have a place. But in other kinds of business?

+++ Blog Ideas
(15 July 2015 at 11:30)


Does it work vs could it work


Is it a place I would like to be at vs could it be such a place?


The Rule of Plus and Minus Three

Confirmation bias

+++Questions for Better Days
(12 Jul 2015 at 11:51)

I enjoy discussing business doctrine. if it’s directed at a real business, and its current issues. Not if it’s hypothetical.

Often, to get the ball rolling, I’ll ask some questions concerning topics or ideas which others in the conversation may have not thought about, or discussed much, before.

(Note: This is not a therapeutic situation so much as a more or less simple, social conversation amongst peers.

Quantification of Goals

Stakeholders and Needs

Case For Action





+++ Emotioneering Quantified Example
(8 July 2015 at 20:58)

+++Consulting In The Age of Teal
(8 July 2015 at 13:11)

Teal organisations – a.k.a. organisations with a Synergistic collective mindset – have some problems finding outside expertise, such as consulting firms/ Primarily because few indeed are the consultants that understand the Teals’ fundamentally different approach to business, people, and work.

Consulting organisations, on the other hand, have immense challenges working with Teals. Most consulting firms, and the folks working within them, are unable to comprehend organisations that have moved beyond the traditional Analytic mindset (i.e. those of the Synergistic and Chaordic mindsets). And most consultants’ approaches won’t fly in these new forms of organisation.

The very limited number of Teal organisations means there’s a very small market, at present, for any consulting firms that aspire to reinvent themselves and appeal to the Teals.

“If genuine innovation in orgs is to be created, then a fundamental change in the mind-set of managers is required.“ ~ Seddon & O’Donovan

+++ The tell listen spectrum
(2 July 2015 at 16:22)

+++ Taking Stock
(17 June 2015 at 11:58)

The biggest delay to company transformation is the time folks think they need to take stock of what’s been happening.

+++Love the Sinners
(123 June 1025 at 07:44)

“Hate the sin, love the sinner.”
~ Mohandas K. Gandhi

+++How To Piss Off New Hires From Day One
(11 June 2015 at 11:50)

Some time ago I wrote a post about 17 ways to piss of new hires before they even start. Due to popular demand, this post continues that theme, looking at some of the many ways organisations continue to piss of their new hires once they’ve actually started working.

1. Demand that each new hire spends days completing some kind of questionnaire, the subtext of which being “we don’t trust you, and we’re so going to cover our arses by getting you vetted to within an inch of your life”.

What to do instead:

2. Place the new hire on probation. This reinforces the idea that you don.t trust them. Underscore this by withholding holidays, bonuses, and other perks until the end of the probation period. Extra points: Put in place some number of administrative hurdles, outside the control of the new hire, non-completion of which extends the probation period indefinitely. Triple points score: Make sure that no one shows the slighted interest in helping the new hire out of their probationary status.

What to do instead:

+++Change Cannot Be Managed
(27 May 2015 at 08:55)

Which is not quite true. Change can be managed – it’s just that you’ll likely spend a passel of spons and not get the change you want. Or need.

+++How To Work With a Therapist
(24 May 2015 at 12:42)

I have met few folks indeed who understand how to work productively with a consultant or coach. How more likely then that folks don’t understand even the basics of how to work with an (organisational) psychotherapist. Like me.

I’ve tried to explain. To set expectations up front. To help folks understand. To help folks understand even that there is something TO understand. Most times, I suspect these backgrounders have gone unread. After all, most of the folks I get to work with have little interest, at least at the outset, in even participating. Let alone participating productively.

In organisation where the management makes the decisions (isn’t that most organisations?) people have learned to comply and attend sessions, workshops etc. rather than complain, or worse, ask questions.

“We do not receive wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness which no one else can make for us, which no one can spare us, for our wisdom is the point of view from which we come at last to regard the world.”

~ Marcel Proust

+++ How To Write a How To
(22 May 2015 at 17:50)

This post started out as “How To Run An Awesome Software Business”. As I got into it, it became increasingly clear that the challenge was not in explaining how to run an awesome software business, but in writing something that would be in any way useful and likely to meet some folks’ needs.

Obviously, if you’re not involved with or contemplating running an awesome software business, then a How To will be of only passing interest, at best.

And even if you are so involved, you may be in a position where you believe you have most or all of the issue covered, and a How To

I see no point in saying things like “you need to do X” or “you should do Y”.

+++ How To Run An Awesome Software Business
(22 May 2015 at 12:14)

In principle:

a) hypothesise which factors make a positive, and which, a negative, contribution to an awesome software business
b) hypothesise about how to encourage more of each positive factor and less of each negative one
c) try things out (experiment) to see which hypotheses prove valid and which not
d) put more effort into things that work (bring positive benefits) and downplay things that don’t
e) rinse and repeat

More exactly, this is a post explaining how I’d run a software business. Which is to say, almost any business these days, given the way software is eating the world. It’s based on how I *have* run a software business – Familiar Limited, 1996-Since then I have learned some more things, which …

How To Help Folks Relate To Advice

One could be forgiven for thinking that telling people how to run an awesome software business is a fools errand. That providing advice is unlikely to see much uptake. I’d have to agree. So I’m avoiding any canned recipes or trite advice in favour of a more …erm… open approach.

In social systems, such as businesses and other organisations, attempts to control outcomes directly generally tend to go awry. So many different things – people, xxx, etc – interact in unpredictable ways, meaning that it’s near impossible to foresee the results and ramifications of our decisions.

The Synergistic Software Business

Stuff We Want More Of

Iteration and increments
Cognitive function
Making things visible

Intrinsic Motivation
Humane relationships

Stuff We Want Less Of

Violence FOGS and coercion
Transactional relationships

The Chaordic Software Business

Even more awesome than the Synergistic business is the Chaordic business. For those folks that can take the extremes of uncertainty and risk of the Chaordic mindset.


The Chaordic Business is a progression from the synergistic.

Positive Opportunism

Folks who share an Insatiable appetite for excitement and a need for living on the edge.

Purpose a.k.a. the Goal

+++ Who Are We?
(18 May 2015 at 19:19)

Who are we humans? Adam Smith revisited.

+++ Top of Mind
(12 May 2015 at 05:48)

Making Mind Relevant

I have for many years felt that the software industry would do well to pay much more attention to the human mind. Knowledge work is, after all, predominantly a product of minds working. And collaborative knowledge work, of minds working together in concert.

When I invite discussions and reflections on the mind and its place in software development, I most often see blank stares, rolling eyes and other signs of distress, puzzlement or disinterest.

Setting aside the interesting question of why this might be so, xxx

Do You Seek Change?

Some companies seem disinterested in change, some more interested. The disinterested ones

Cf Brain rhythms

+++ Accelerating Delivery
(8 May 2015 at 17:10)

You want stuff faster? (Software stuff).

Many organisations embrace “Agile” software development because they hear it will give them their software “stuff” more quickly. Setting aside for a moment the likelihood that this expectation will actually pan out, how does such accelerated delivery happen?

The Traditional View

Prior to Agile development, accelerating delivery was a simple(?) matter of putting more people on the project. Unfortunately, a power law governs this approach: each additional person adds one person’s costs but less than one person’s productivity. This is down to the increasing communication and coordination overheads.


The Agile View

With Agile development, this power law still applies. So for accelerating delivery, Agile development looks to a different solution than just adding a bunch more people.

To accelerate delivery in an Agile environment, we focus on two things:

Encouraging more productivity from each team and individual.
Spending less time, money and effort on things of limited value.

Improving Productivity

To improve productivity in software development we must understand the nature of the work. Software development is an example of what Drucker described as “knowledge work”. Moreover, it’s all about collaborative knowledge work. That means people working together on learning how to do things, thinking together to understand the tasks at hand and how best to accomplish time, and growing relationships together so that the learning and thinking work well.

Flow (river sense)
Flow (immersion sense)

Wasting Less Time, Money and Effort

Biggest bang for your buck.

+++ Old Dogs And New Tricks
(6 May 2015 at 07:00)

Organisational Metastrategies

The problem with our organisations is that so many are relatively very ineffective when it comes to identifying root problems.

Us folks nominally “in charge” often get that spidey-sense felling that something isn’t quite right. And sometimes downright wrong. Yet we can’t quite place our finger on what’s wrong.

Individual Metastrategies

Cf Reut Schwartz-Hebron

Extending to Organisations

+++ How Putting Something In A Box Helps It Sell Better
(5 May 2015 at 15:59)

Further Reading

Positioning ~ Rees & Trout
Value Forward Selling ~ Paul DiModica

+++ The Roots Of Rightshifting
(3 May 2015 at 14:55)

+++ The Joy of Now
(30 April 2015 at 07:02)

I find retrospectives, analysis of past events and similar backward-looking practices emotionally draining and depressing. I similarly find planning and other such forward-looking practices equally draining. I think of them as joy-sucks, as in things that suck the joy out of my life. I see others having this reaction too.

Many e.g. Agile Coaches and teams try to offset these feeling by gamification and other attempt to inject some “fun” into these activities. Personally, I’d rather throw of the chains of dogma, say no to coercive obligation, and just consign these practices to the dustbin of history.

At this point I’m hearing some spluttering from the by-the-book folks. “What about improvement?” I hear them say. “How can we improve if we don’t look back at how we did?”

Aside: How often is this logic applied to the claimed benefits of retrospective, themselves?

Live in the Now

If improvement is on your radar, I’d suggest that always taking action in the present, the Now, just as soon as we see something go awry, offers many benefits over leaving things to fester, even for just a few minutes, hours, or days.

And similarly for the future. People are beginning to realise that experimentation trumps planning every time. And from a psychological and emotional perspective, too.

From a psychology point of view, this is entirely understandable.

Eckhart Tolle’s famous book The Power of Now explains why this is so,

Some years ago

Part of the Buddhist tradition is that living in the past or the future

and our insistence that we have control of our lives is an illusion “that only brings pain”.

“many people live with a tormentor in their head that continuously attacks and punishes them and drains them of vital energy. It is the cause of untold misery and unhappiness”

~ Eckhart Tolle

+++ Effecting Change
(27 April 2015 at 18:56)

In a recent piece, Sir Ken Robinson talks about changing systems, and in particular changing the world’s education system.

“…in order do that, you need three forms of understanding: a critique of the way things are, a vision of how they should be, and a theory of change for how to move from one to the other.”

I have a similar interest in seeing change come about in the world of knowledge-work. And for reasons not dissimilar to Sir Ken, too.




“As I see it, the aims of education are to enable students to understand the world around them and the talents within them so that they can become fulfilled individuals and active, compassionate citizens.”
~ Sir Ken Robinson

And as I see, it the aims of business are to enable people to come together to understand the world around them and the talents within them, and discover what personal fulfilment means to each, individually (whilst providing something meaningful and social to do with their time), so that they can become fulfilled individuals and active, compassionate citizens.

(Cf Familiar Ethos)

Theory Of Change

My presentation at Lean Agile Scotland 2014 was about Theories of Change. (audio:

+++ Do I Look Fat InThis?
(21 April 2015 at 17:41)

Scrum Dress

+++ Wherewithal
(21 April 2015 at 16:21)

In my previous post I mentioned that organisations benefit from providing their developers with the wherewithal to do an effective job. Absent some or all elements of this wherewithal, or if some elements are not up to scratch, developers cannot do an effective job. In this latter case, development and productions costs will be higher, due dates missed more often, quality will be lower, and needs – including customer needs – met less often and less well.

Some folks have ask what this wherewithal entails, so this post goes into it in a little more depth.


Development is an integral part of organisations. Whether this be development of software for internal systems of record, or software for customer-facing systems, products and services.


Developers don’t work in isolation, but more or less closely with the folks whose needs they are trying to meet with the software they create.

Elements of the Wherewithal








The space (physical or virtual) where the work takes place. Where the collaboration happens.

“BA as a shared context in motion, in which knowledge is shared, created, and utilized.”

~ Kitaro Nishida



+++ Five Tips For Hiring Technical People
(20 April 2015 at 08:18)

Managers, recruiters and even many technical people may pride themselves on understanding people, but they rarely understand technical people, technical work, and what to look for when hiring for technical positions.


I’ve been involved in hiring for hundreds of technical positions over the years. I have seen a thing or two, and would like to share with you some tips about hiring technical people into software organisations.

Software development, and its close cousin, product development, are both examples of collaborative knowledge work. This kind of work is fundamentally different from the more traditional kind of work most organisations understand, know how to organise for, and xxx.

Hiring for collaborative knowledge work requires a focus on abilities to collaborate, and on abilities to learn,. These are the fundamental “skills” which determine “top talent” in this kind of work.

Technical: Activities that involve specialist knowledge of applied and industrial sciences. In the context of this post, digital technologies such as software, computers and digital networks.

Collaborating: people working together towards a common purpose.

Learning: to acquire new knowledge and the ability to apply it in context to some advantage

Collaborative learning: People learning (see above) together.

Five Tips

In organisations, and especially in collaborative knowledge work organisations, the “system” (the way the work works) determines around 95% of the person’s effectiveness, and only some 5% of a person’s effectiveness is down to the innate skills, talents, disposition of that individual. So, we can safely hire just about anyone, regardless of specific skills and talent, and if we place them in a nurturing, supporting, and effective system, almost anyone will thrive. This means that if we have a “good” system, we can afford to experiment, make “bad” hires, etc. and see what and who works best. Indeed the “risky” hires often turn out to be the most inspiring choices, after the fact.
The usual trite old clap-trap about talent – the paramountcy of specific technical skills, IQ, etc. – matter much less than most ill-informed and non-technical folks would have us believe. And much less that YOU probably believe If ANY particular individual skills matter, they are: ability to work well with others; EQ; ability to pick things up quickly (learn fast); and an ability to relate to the way the work works, engage with it and improve it. All else is inconsequential.

Some Example Questions


+++ Dudely Wyreling
(17 April 2015 at 17:26)

The Dudely Wyreling Series

Thread 1

Dudely Wyreling thought of himself as a man under few illusions.

Thread 2

Sally Perimenter


+++ Struggle For Relevance
(4 April 2015 at 09:40)

I struggle to write things of relevance to people in the software, product development and Digital business arenas.

No. Wait. Hang on a minute. I struggle with connecting my very relevant ideas with folks who are not well placed to understand their relevance.

The only reason an organization has dead wood is that management either hired dead wood or it hired live wood and killed it.” ~ Deming

+++ Six Threads For Agile In The Boardroom
(1 April 2015 at 17:12)

I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard any stories about businesses using Agile principles in the boardroom. That is, with CxOs using agile to “run the business”.

During my time in various startups and early-stage businesses, as CEO (Familiar, OnTap, NewsMice) CTO (Vector Management Systems) and Advisor (SMS) I’ve had the opportunity to suggest bringing Agile disciplines into the boardroom and the work of the “executive team”. Generally, those suggestions were well-received, and formed the basis of the operating principles and practices of those businesses.

Note: By “Agile In The Boardroom” I don’t mean “agile” as a discussion topic for the executive “team”, but as a way of working with each other – and the rest of the business – xxx.

Rather than drone on at length about each individual story, I thought it might better meet folks’ needs to tease out some common threads and describe each briefly in turn.

The Nature Of The Problem

Resource-constrained (cash, time, expertise, attention)
High Cost of Delay
Enthusiasm – but none for building “yet another proto-corporate” a.k.a. analytic-minded business.


Appetite for risk

The Six Threads



Sprints and Sprint Planning



a.k.a. Operational Rhythm


+++ What Things Might The Awesomely Effective Digital Business Find Itself Learning?
(26 March 2015 at 216:06)

In his groundbreaking book “The Fifth Discipline”, Peter Senge wrote about “the Learning Organisation”.

Any awesomely effective Digital business will come to learn things, to know thing, as an organisation. Things (a.k.a. memes) that in large part account for its awesome effectiveness.

What would you choose to put on a list of such things? If your business is not yet awesomely effective, how would you even know about these things?

Would any of the following appear on your list, and why (or why not)?

Bill Deming – especially his 95/5 rule and System of Profound Knowledge (Deming’s 14 Points)

Russell L Ackoff – especially his diatribes on the fallacy of breaking things down into parts and managing those parts separately

Eliyahu M Goldratt and his Theory Of Constraints – the need for a singular focus at all times.

Allen C Ward

Marshall Rosenberg and Nonviolent Communication as a means to promote awesomely effective – and productive – and joyful – human relationships within and across Digital businesses. See also: Covalence.

The Marshall Model and what lies at the root of all awesomely effective Digital businesses.

The Antimatter Principle – how to make fertile soil in which the awesomely effective Digital business can best grow and emerge.

FlowChain – one exemplary way to organise towards delivering optimal flow of needs or value.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – the psychology of eustress and immersion.

Martin Seligman – Positive Psychology

Mark McKergow – Solutions Focus principles and techniques

Carl Rogers and the role of Unconditional Positive Regard

David Rock – neuroscience as applied to Digital business

Don Reinertsen’s tour de force exposition of the Laws of Product Development, and especially the role of Flow.

Jim Benson’s Personal Kanban – “Make things visible; Limit WIP”.

John Seddon and the role of (shared) normative experience in the learning process.

Torbjörn Gyllebring and the application of Conway’s Law (and reverse Conway) to e.g. Digital business.

Tom Gilb’s Evo method, and especially the contribution that quantification can bring to awesomely effective Digital business “HOW awesome is that?”

Drucker eg knowledge work

McGregor eg TheoryX Y


And does just knowing about these this things make your business awesomely effective? Or are some further steps necessary to take advantage of this knowledge and make it useful to your business?

+++ Some Notes From A CEO
(25 March 2015 at 17:21)

While I was CEO of Familiar, my perspective, assumptions, and beliefs changed in various ways, as a consequence of the experience, and the events that unfolded during that awesome four years.

I don’t see many CEOs writing about such experiences, although I did enjoy the book “Matsushita Leadership” by John Kotter, about Konosuke Matsushita, founder and CEO of Matsushita Electric Corporation.

Aside: Although I use the term “CEO” here, for easy recognition, my role at Familiar was actually labelled “Patron”.

Further Reading

“Matsushita Leadership” by John P. Kotter

+++ Agility And The Digital Business
(17 March 2015 at 16:09)

Can a business call itself a Digital business without some software in the mix?

How about today we explore the question of software production? That is, the need and means by which the Digital business’ product, service and administration needs get met?

How much is your business dependent on software? To what extent does it need a software production (development, deployment, operation) capability, either in-house or provided by tech partners? What kind of capability is that? What are the aspects of software production which play into your business needs?

Have you heard the pitch about how Agile software development, or agility more generally, is good for business? That agility is an intrinsic element of the awesomely effective Digital business?

If there are any developers reading this, they might feel a little miffed. After all, Agile suits them quite well. It was, indeed brought into being by a bunch of developers attempting to get their needs met.

+++ Antimatter Development
(15 March 2015 at 13:18)

Agile development is now a widespread term. Never mind that folks can’t begin to agree on what it might mean. [link to my post]

On the other hand, you’ve probably not hear of the term Antimatter development. There is an Antimatter Manifesto [link](more for comparisons’ sake than as something to take seriously).

+++ It’s No Waldorf Salad
(14 March 2015 at 09:02)

I was halfway through this post before I realised I was on the wrong track entirely. I was writing about how to combine my various areas of interest and study – FlowChain, Rightshifting, the Marshall Model, the Antimatter Principle, Emotioneering, Covalence, and so on – when I suddenly realised. “Putting things together” like Meccano or an Airfix construction kit or a Waldorf salad – is an entirely mechanical metaphor. And awesomely effective Digital businesses are NOT “put together” from a selection of parts. As the amazing John Gall was wont to say:

“A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked.”

~ John Gall

So, instead of thinking about “engineering” or “assembling” an awesomely effective Digital business, maybe we can adopt a more sympathetic metaphor. Like growing a single flower. In the case of a single flower, we have little to no control over it’s parts. We don’t get to assemble it from a selection of possible petals, stamen, leaves, stalks, etc. We have to provide a fertile environment for the seed. And nurture it whilst the plant emerges, more or less unbidden, according to its own “self-organisation” and in response to its environment.


Likewise, awesome Digital businesses emerge, more or less unbidden, from chaos, and via the marvel of self-organisation. It may stroke our sensibilities to believe we can assemble a digital business from parts, like a Waldorf salad. But that’s just hubris and self-delusion.

So putting together my various ideas and researches into a coherent whole is the wrong frame. For me, at least. I’d rather consider the questions:

“If a digital business evolves, over time, to become awesomely effective, would there be a place for FlowChain, Rightshifting, the Marshall Model, the Antimatter Principle, Emotioneering, Covalence, and so on? And if these elements did indeed form aspects of the emerging whole, how might they interact and complement each other? How might they serve the awesomely effective Digital business?

The answer to these questions WAS going to be the topic of this post. But having set the frame, I’ll write THAT post next time.


+++ Putting It All Together
(14 March 2015 at 09:02)

Some kind friends, over recent months, have expressed an interest in hearing how my various areas of interest and study might fit together to support an awesomely effective Digital Business. Let’s start with “why”?


Why might we want an awesomely effective digital business in the first place? Well, making money, now and in the future, might be a place to start. But only a start. Quite a few businesses seem to be able to make money, and many of those are not particularly effective. So I don’t pretend that awesome effectiveness has a monopoly on successful (profitable) businesses.

For me, the real why is about people and society. Awesomely effective businesses are great places to live and work. In ways that are typically alien to more conventional businesses. People find joy together, look out for each other, and share happily in striving for a better tomorrow. People have the unparalleled opportunity to realise their potential – both individually and as a community. In a nutshell, awesomely effective businesses provide a self-sustaining environment for meeting folks’ needs for autonomy, mastery and a sense of purpose.

And because awesomely effective businesses make lots of money, with high margins and a long waiting list of clients and customers, they also meet the needs of e.g. investors and other stakeholders not intimately involved as employees. They are also model citizens, in that they contribute positively to the societies in which they reside, and from which they draw their people.

“Organisations are made up of people. If this should seem obvious, the implications of acknowledging it are not.”

~ S.Bungay

+++ Inside the Ad-hoc Mindset
(13 March 2015 at 07:36)

Talking with people and groups having the Ad-hoc mindset.

I find this hard. And increasingly harder as time goes on.

I’m not sure why this might be so. Although I guess the curse of the expert has something to do with it.

So, mainly for my own benefit, I’dm going to try to get back to basics, as it were, and see if I can get inside the Ad-hoc mindset. At least, for the duration of this post.

Note: For the sake of brevity, I’ll refer to “folks and groups having the ad-hoc mindset” as Addies.

What is Business For?

Most Addies seem to fall into two camps on this. Their answer may be “to make (me) money” or, less often, “to have something to do with my day”. And “making money” typically breaks down into two camps: building up a business to cash out sooner or later via e.g. an IPO; and making regular profits to pay the rent, buy a car, a yacht, holidays, gadgets, etc. .

Occasionally, there’s the odd Addie that might answer “to make a living out of something I really love doing”. In The E-Myth Revisited, for example, Michael Gerber uses the example of a woman that loves to bake cakes, and so decides to start a cake-making business.

How Is A Business Run?

How Do We Cope With Growth?

Being Busy

Taking Advice


Having Working In Business People Delude Themselves About what it means to RUN a business

+++ Would You Like to Talk About… FlowChain
(11 March 2015 at 13:39)

This is the first in a series of posts inviting you to explore aspects of my work and research relevant to digital business and digital business transformation, over the past twenty years or so.

I enjoy discussing folks’ ideas, and sharing my own, too. This is something that happens all too rarely for me, despite my making concerted attempts to encourage it to happen more often.

This, the first post in the series, explores FlowChain.

Who Needs FlowChain?

What Needs Does FlowChain Attend To?






Where’s the Value In FlowChain?

+++ The Sixty Four Thousand Dollar Question
(2 March 2015 at 07:18)

How can we change our behaviour? For business, this is the $64,000 question. Every business I have ever seen has been aware that its behaviours, individually and collectively, are a key factor. And every business I have ever seen has had an enormous and ongoing struggle to change its behaviours – both of its individuals, and collectively.

At the root of human behaviour is the need to get our needs met. Maslow, Rosenberg, and a passle of other psychologists tell us this.

Recently published research from the Israeli military sheds some light on this thorny question.


Put another way, we act and behave in ways which we believe – implicitly, or more rarely, explicitly – will see our needs met. We might choose to call these ways ”strategies for getting our needs met”.

Argyris has long talked about espoused theory vs theory in action. We may also choose to call these two states “espouses strategies” vs “strategies in action”.

I have often observed that folks have a great deal of trouble adopting new strategies. The Israeli military had a similar problem, and its solders were dying needlessly because they had not found an answer.


The research, at the core of the book by Reut Schwarz-Hebron, an officer in the Israeli military, draws on neuroscience and in particular the two systems in the brain; one which processes knowledge and the other which processes experience.

Although, we might do well to remember Deming’s First Theorem:

“Nobody gives a hoot about profits.”

~ W Edwards Deming


Further Reading

xxx ~ Reut Schwarz-Hebron

How Do We Remember And Why Do We Often Forget? ~ Kenneth Wesson

+++ What is the Nature of Digital Work?
(19 February 2015 at 08:08)

What is the nature of work as we know it?

Is digital work and different?

Is digital work what Drucker referred to as “Knowledge work”?

Drucker quote on 50 times challenge

+++ Digital Skills
(19 February 2015 at 08:05)

What Are the Required Skills for Today’s Digital Workforce? #FOW #e20 #socbiz

+++ Digital Transformation
(19 February 2015 at 07:44)

Digital Transformation
How much existing structure, policies, procedures, standards, ways of working, etc. does your business have at the moment? How much of that is going to have to change before you can reap the benefits of being a Digital Business?
Is it all going to worth the candle? Is a transformation likely to be quick, cheap and painless, or something else?
Have you thought about just how you might approach the transformation? There’s some food for thought on my Think Different blog, Approaching Change.

+++ What is a Digital Business?
(17 February 2015 at 09:02)

Have you heard of the term “Digital Business” or “digital business transformation”? Is your business thinking about or embarked on a move to becoming “digital”?

What do these terms even mean?

This is the first post of a new blog dedicated to the Digital Business.

In this and future posts I shall be asking questions which might help folks explore the issues involved in becoming a digital business.

Why questions? Why not answers?

Well, how long have you been involved in business? If it’s any length of time at all, then you’ll probably know much about running a business. So I don’t want to insult your intelligence or experience by providing you with hand-waving, unsubstantiated opinions or canned, general answers.

Maybe we can explore, together, just what is means to become a “digital business” – and how you might go about making that happen for your company.

The Prime Question

What sets a digital business apart from its more traditional counterparts? Is it the pervasive use of technology? Or something else?

The Work of the Digital Business

Would you be willing to consider the nature of the work that gets done inside digital businesses? Is it typically routine and repetitive, or creative and innovative? To what extent and in which particulars does it differ from the kind of work that companies are used to? For example, do people in digital businesses work more with their pink muscles (brawn), or their grey muscles (brains)?

Does this have any implications for a digital business and the way it is organised? How far-reaching are these implications?

A Suitable Mindset

Did you hear the opinion of Lou Gerstner, CEO of IBM:

“I always viewed culture as one of those things you talked about, like marketing and advertising. It was one of the tools that a manager had at his or her disposal when you think about an enterprise. The thing I have learned at IBM is that culture is everything.”

I wonder how much you agree with this, and what “culture” means for you, in this regard?

And if culture – or, as I prefer to call it “organisational mindset” – is everything, are there things we can do to use that to the advantage of our digital business? What kind of organisational mindsets serve our digital business best – and what mindsets might serve to thwart our intentions and efforts in becoming “digital”?


+++ William Tyndale
(5 February 2015 at 06:37)

+++ Nothing
(3 February 2015 at 05:17)

Becoming rather more comfortable with the way things are

GBS quote

+++ Metacognition and Metastrategies
(26 January 2015 at 09:03)

Thinking about thinking

Strategies for acquiring strategies

What is a strategy?

Where do our strategies come from?

How else do people acquire their strategies?

+++ Startups I Have Known
(24 January 2015 at 06:36)

Over the years, I’ve been involved, more or less closely, with a passel of tech startups. As well as providing much in the way of opportunities for learning the ins and outs of tech startups, various experiences have changed me an my outlook on the whole software development / product development thing.

Real Time Products (London)

Real Time Associates (Croydon)


Modula Systems

Applied Logic (Putney)


Royston Investments

EMI Video Encoding Business

Sun Java Centers

Familiar Limited

Resonant Limited



Infrasoft (Mumbai)

NeXT Computer (UK and US)

Falling Blossoms

Vector Management Systems

On Tap



First Clarity


+++ Mudras
(8 January 2015 at 11:29)

In Hindu and Buddhist tradition, a variety of hand gestures convey a wide range of meanings. To better convey the essence of Antimatter Principle, I have chosen the image of a buddha with hands posed in Abhaya and Varada mudras.

These, together, to me convey the core message of the Antimatter Principle: Attend to Folks’ Needs.

Abhaya Mudra

The Abhaya mudra (“mudra of no-fear”) represents a conferring of protection, peace, benevolence, and dispelling of fear.

The gesture is usually made with the right hand raised to shoulder height, the arm bent and the palm facing outward with the fingers upright and joined.


The mudra was probably used before the onset of Buddhism as a symbol of good intentions proposing friendship when approaching strangers.

Varada Mudra

The Varada mudra (“favourable mudra”) signifies a conferring of welcome, charity, giving, compassion and sincerity.

The Varada mudra is nearly always shown made with the left hand by a revered figure devoted to human salvation from greed, anger and delusion.

The Varada mudra can be made with the arm crooked and the palm offered slightly turned up or in the case of the arm facing down the palm presented with the fingers upright or slightly bent.


The Varada mudra is rarely seen without another mudra used by the right hand, typically the Abhaya mudra.


The five extended fingers in this mudra symbolize the following five perfections:
Meditative concentration

+++ Should we…?
(4 January 2015 at 05:58)

Should we use Scrum? For what? What problem do you believe you have for which you imagine Scrum might be an effective solution?

Should we adopt agile? For what? What problem do you believe you have for which you imagine agile might be an effective solution?

Should we grow more leaders?

Should we invest in improving our management?


+++ How And Why We Don’t Get Agile
(1 January 2015 at 16:35)

How folks don’t get agile, and Why that is.

The world at large and the world of IT in particular doesn’t get agile. Why is that?

+++ Somebodies and Nobodies
(24 December 2014 at 08:39)

Do you see yourself as a somebody or as a nobody in your organisation?

“Tiger, one day you will come to a fork in the road,” he said. “And you’re going to have to make a decision about which direction you want to go.” He raised his hand and pointed. “If you go that way you can be somebody. You will have to make compromises and you will have to turn your back on your friends. But you will be a member of the club and you will get promoted and you will get good assignments.” Then Boyd raised his other hand and pointed another direction. “Or you can go that way and you can do something – something for your country and for your Air Force and for yourself. If you decide you want to do something, you may not get promoted and you may not get the good assignments and you certainly will not be a favorite of your superiors. But you won’t have to compromise yourself. You will be true to your friends and to yourself. And your work might make a difference.” He paused and stared into the officer’s eyes and heart. “To be somebody or to do something. In life there is often a roll call. That’s when you will have to make a decision. To be or to do. Which way will you go?”

~ Colonel ’60 second’ Boyd.

+++ Recap
(22 December 2014 at 06:23)

Transitions are not optional. There’s no incremental way to change one memeplex for another. Agile often leads the Analytic to Synergistic transition without preparation or awareness of what is taking place.

If you accept that for step-change improvements in effectiveness, transitions are necessary, how is an organisation to approach such a thing?



Comedy Business Novel

Synopsis: Ridicule the analytic mindset without ridiculing the people.



Richard – total lack of self-awareness

Alan – Believes people are irredeemably lazy shirkers

Dawn – Wants to be a man (not a transgender or lesbian)

Cecile – Stern but caring like Prof McGonagall


Simone – vulnerable, wants to do well (for others), moody, kind-hearted, scared of spiders

Lui – Chinese immigrant,

+++ A Tale of Two Cycles
(19 December 2014 at 08:31)

What’s better than continuous deployment?

Live editing code in production. That’s live code, running on live production servers.

PDCA roots
OODA roots

Product Aikido

+++ Unspoken Daring
(17 December 2014 at 07:00)

I was at the Dare conference in Antwerp last week. The theme of the conference – “reinventing organisations” was and is a topic close to my #rightshifting heart.

Reflecting on the three days of presentations and conversations, no clear impressions occur to me. But, teasing out some understated themes from the various people there, I can begin to see, through a glass darkly, an idea which linked most of the conversations and sessions.

It would be trite to describe this idea as “it’s all about people”. Whilst that was indeed a common, almost universal, theme, I feel there was something deeper trying to surface. For want of a better term, I’ll call this deeper thing “the integral community”.

The Integral Community

Mapping Onto The Marshall Model


+++ How-To’s Don’t Work
(14 December 2014 at 09:38)

cf Brené Brown

“We don’t want to be uncomfortable. We want a quick and dirty ‘how-to’ list for happiness. I don’t fit that bill. Never have. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to skip over the hard stuff, but it just doesn’t work. We don’t change, we don’t grow, and we don’t move forward without the work. If we really want to live a joyful, connected, and meaningful life, we must talk about things that get in the way.” ~ Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

+++ Theory Of Change Underpinning The Antimatter Principle
(12 December 2014 at 14:48)

I don’t for one minute expect a rational, logical explanation of the xxx of the Antimatter Principle to sway even a single person.

So I’m writing this post not to convince, nor even to inform, but simply to mention it once again and invite people to engage with the idea.

“Businesses are, on average, far less adaptable, innovative, and inspiring than they could be and, increasingly, must be.”

~ Prof Gary Hamel

A Theory of Change is an explanation of:
the outcome we seek
the actions we propose as necessary to reach that outcome
the assumptions we hold which lead us to believe our proposed actions will indeed result in our sought outcome.

The Antimatter Principle has strong theoretical underpinnings. Not that I expect revealing these to sway many folks – after all, people don’t generally make decisions on the evidence, or the strength of the argument. But maybe sharing the assumptions underpinning the Antimatter Principle might allow you to share and discuss the idea with others that have an interest in making their organisations more effective.

How we regard people largely predicts how they will behave towards us.

How does the Antimatter Principle bring about change?

The change in question is the change in the way folks relate to one another.

Assumption 1: People are wired to be social. Neuroscience informs us that when thinking about nothing else, folks default to thinking about their social connections and their place in their web of relationships. Cf Matt Lieberman ~ Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect.

Assumption 2: People find much joy in helping others get their needs met. Cf. Marshall Rosenberg ~ Nonviolent Communication

Assumption 3: Joy is a rich source of intrinsic motivation. Cf. Marshall Rosenberg ~ Nonviolent Communication

Assumption 4: Intrinsic motivation is the only motivation that matters in knowledge work Cf Dan Pink ~ Drive

Assumption 5: People are always trying to get their needs met. Cf. Marshall Rosenberg ~ Nonviolent Communication

Assumption 6: Dysfunctional behaviour is a result of the strategies folks use to attempt to get their needs met.

Assumption 7: Folks are generally unaware of their needs. Cf. Marshall Rosenberg ~ Nonviolent Communication

Assumption 8: Folks are generally unaware of the strategies they employ in attempting to get their needs met.

Assumption 9: When folks explore their needs, they’re more likely to become aware of their subconscious strategies for getting those needs met.

Assumption 10: Folks have little occasion to explicitly explore their needs.

Assumption 11: If one attends to others’ needs, one may have more occasion to attend to one’s own needs

Assumption 12: If one attends to one’s own needs, one may have more energy to attend others’ needs

Assumption 13: When people are attending to others’ – and to their own – needs, this creates the conditions for a virtuous circle of empathy and joyfulness.

Assumption 14: With intrinsic motivation and discretionary effort, people find and solve their shared problems.

Assumption 15: People with joy in their hearts find joy in contributing high levels of discretionary effort.

Assumption 16: Joyfulness at work and in work has enormous positive commercial benefits. Cf Richard Sheridan, Joy, Inc.

The Empathy Circle

“We need empathy to give empathy.”

~ Marshall Rosenberg

Several philosophers, including Peter Singer and Steven Pinker, have remarked on the expansion of empathy through history. Some call this “the ever-widening circle of empathy”.

“A mother can’t breastfeed her infant if she doesn’t receive adequate nourishment herself. Likewise, if we find ourselves unable or unwilling to empathise despite our efforts, it is usually a sign that we are too starved for empathy to be able to offer it to others. Sometimes if we openly acknowledge that our own distress is preventing us from responding empathically, the other person may come through with the empathy we need.” ~ Marshall Rosenberg

“Unless we learn to live in a new way towards one another, there will be a catastrophe.”
~ Albert Einstein

Further Reading

+++ The Antimatter Salary Formula
(8 December 2014 at 15:25)

What so fair?

+++ How To Design A Product
(30 November 2014 at 10:06)

Decide your fundamentals (and I don’t mean features)
Decide what makes people buy products. My “fundamental” is emotioneering. More common is “value” or “utility”
Figure out how you’re going to test your hypotheses
Both your fundamental hypotheses, and you hypotheses about who’s going to buy, etc
Start experimenting
As your experiments furnish information, and your response to that information translates to learning, you’re in a position to evolve you product concept towards something saleable.
Just before you have something saleable, start offering it for sale.


Why, what and how to prioritise

Embrace finance, cost, manufacturing, distribution, marketing, sales, support – the whole product

Further Reading

Sketching the User Experience ~ Bill Buxton
Kano Model ~ Noriaki Kano

+++ Goals
(24 November 2014 at 07:40)

In his many consulting and speaking engagements, my colleague and erstwhile partner in crime Grant Rule used to make a point of noting each of his audiences’ response to one simple question. The question was” “How many people her understand the goal of the organisation?”.

The norm was around 10-15% of people attending felt they understood their organisation’s goal, purpose or mission.

I myself on my travels through many organisations have been more interested in the sheer variety of goals. Almost every organisation, large and small, has had wildly different goals, one from the next. And most people working in them, oblivious to the actual goal(s), have made their own assumptions about why their organisation exists, and about where to place their focus, day by day.

Here’s a brief list of some of the goals – often unspoken – of some of the companies I have seen:

Financial Services Company

A very small company, owned and run by a dapper gentleman in his fifties. It seemed his company existed primarily to augment his social standing within his social peer group. Being able to say, politely, “I own my own financial services company” over dinners and on the golf course appeared to give him much satisfaction.

Software House A

A small software house, where the owner claimed to want growth although the company was stalled at around the 25 people mark. The owner admitted that his main reason for starting the business was to be more “independent” of e.g. managers telling him what to do. And for continuing in the role of Managing Director, his reasons included the time his income afforded him to pursue his interests in e.g. windsurfing, and the opportunity to “keep his hand in” at e.g. coding.

Software House B

Another small software house, in a low-margin niche. The owner seemed to have little conscious focus on goals, beyond giving him something to play with and exercise his intellect.

Multinational Service Organisation

The founder, still the Managing Director, appeared to run the company as an extension of his ego.


+++ The Serious Side of Crazy
(24 November 2014 at 07:40)

In a previous post I took a tongue-in-cheek look at why change is such a rare visitor to the shores of our organisations. In a nutshell, most organisations are very barren ground in which to plant the seeds of change. Many different conditions conspire to make change risky,

+++ Pidgins and Creoles
(22 November 2014 at 09:39)

On the absence of shared l(common) anguages in software development and business

cf Trading Zones

+++ Where Do Defects Come From?
(21 November 2014 at 09:57)

Sins of Commission

Building the wrong things
Erros in construction

Sins of Omission

Missing features
Missing artefacts
Like documentation, release notes
Not a whole product
Not knowing how to build a part of a thing
Lost opportunities

+++ Flourishment
(20 November 2014 at 09:12)

English is an amazingly extensive language. So many words. So many ways to express nuance and degree. But when I can find no word to express a particular idea, I’m not shy in borrowing one, repurposing one or even making one up.

The idea I have in mind today is flourishment – the state of flourishing.

I’m repurposing this obscure word to convey a particular idea comprising elements of all the following.


I’ve written about this concept before. The label “productivity” conveys a confusing melange of different ideas. And to me it implies an exclusion of other, more human considerations, such as morale, engagement and joy in work.


Rightshifting uses the term “effectiveness” to distinguish between organisations that flourish spectacularly and those that merely plod along. Over the years of using this term in this way, I have noted people mistake the term or endow it with their own interpretations. Such is the way with words.


Success is a very broad term, with some implication, to me, of an end state rather than an ongoing experience. As there is no real end-state in business, I rarely use the term “success”.



Flourishing has different meaning for different people. Yet what business, what manager, what worker, what team would not wish for a high degree of flourishment?

The quality of relationships determines the flourishment of collaborative knowledge work.

Anything that detracts from the quality of relationships undermines productivity

+++ How To Become Adequately Good At Anything
(4 November 2014 at 07:52)

+++ Effectiveness and Market Disciplines
(4 November 2014 at 05:54)

I often see people struggling with the idea of “organisational effectiveness”. In the context of rightshifting organisations, I define effectiveness as:

“The ability to achieve the chosen goals of the organisation.”

More effective means the organisation can achieve its goals at a lower cost in terms of time, money and effort. Less effective means the organisation must spend more time, money and effort in achieving its goals.

Note: I’m using the term goals here in line with Goldratt’s meaning cf The Goal.

I’m guessing the difficulty comes about because different organisations can have very different goals. And so effectiveness can look very different in practice, from one organisation to another.

Value Disciplines

In their book “The Discipline of Market Leaders” Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema write about how companies must choose between one of three mutually exclusive business strategies. They call these value disciplines:

Operational Excellence – providing customers with reliable products or services at competitive prices and delivered with minimal difficulty or inconvenience.

Customer Intimacy – segmenting and targeting markets precisely and then tailoring offerings to match exactly the demands of those niches. Companies that excel in customer intimacy combine detailed customer knowledge with operational flexibility so they can respond quickly to almost any need, from customizing a product to fulfilling special requests.

Product Leadership – offering customers leading-edge products and services that consistently enhance the customer’s use or application of the product, thereby making rivals’ goods obsolete

The crux of their argument is that for success, companies cannot afford to focus on any more than just one of these three disciplines.


Effective Operational Excellence

Organisations that choose to compete on operational excellence

Effective Customer Intimacy

Effective Product Leadership


+++ What’s Wrong With Feudalism, Anyway?
(3 November 2014 at 11:55)

Prof Hamel blog post

The hidden costs of treating people like serfs.


+++ The Value of Shared Purpose
(27 October 2014 at 18:26)

If organisations saw any value in shared purpose, they’d do more than they are doing to ensure that their people knew of it.

+++ Take My Advice
(24 October 2014 at 06:24)

I used to have a lapel badge which read “Take my advice – I’m not using it’.

More recently, I’ve become increasingly convinced that crafting blog posts in the form of advice is mainly a waste of time. Your time, my time, everyone’s time. You may have notice my favoured approach to posts is to ask questions? At least this might not be such a waste of time as directly offering advice.

In any case, the more I learn about how the brain works, the more dissatisfied I become with addressing your brain’s information-based system. And the more interested I become in addressing your brain’s experience-based system.

I’m struggling with how to do this in the medium of the blog post. I suspect stories have a part to play. My research and experimentation is ongoing.


+++ In Thrall To Fear
(23 October 2014 at 11:32)

One of the most difficult aspects of being an Organisational Therapist, I find, is working with people who are live in the thrall of fear.

I feel helpless and frustrated, because I have a need to help people, and I know I won’t be able to do much of that whilst the fear remains.

What kind of fear am I talking about?

I regularly mention

I recently wrote about my motivations for continuing to work in the very broken fields of business, commerce, product and software development.
<Why does agile fail?>

“My motivations stem from trying to make the work of work – of knowledge work – a better place for the millions who suffer the consequences of ineffective organisations, day in, day out.”

+++ It’s Not a Product Backlog
(21 October 2014 at 09:13)

The term “product backlog”, as used by many software development teams, has to be as egregiously misrepresentative as is the common usage of the term “Quality Assurance”.

As 99% of teams use the term, it’s not the product backlog they’re referring to, but the backlog of software features, user stories, or the like which are destined for inclusion in the (whole) product. And thus is it but a fraction – typically around 10% or less – of the work necessary to develop the whole product.

By all means

+++ Guided Learning
(14 October 2014 at 13:13)

Not teaching!

Do you find joy in learning simply for the sake of it. For the intrinsic joy?

+++ A Different Kind Of Masterclass
(9 October 2014 at 10:52)

Sutton research

Here’s how it’s going to work

0. Identify needs

1. Pre-reading

2. I will spend one hour, a week in advance of the actual day, with each attendee going over the the topics that all will contribute to on the day.

3. Each attendee will have a week (elapsed) to research the topics and prepare to contribute to the masterclass.

4. On the day, the attendees will discuss the preselected topics, presenting what they have each learned on each topic.

5. Post-reading

6. Optional(spaced repetition) follow up

Work in: opportunities for practice and reflection

+++ Rightshifting Tarot
(1 October 2014 at 09:23)

Objective of the game: As the game proceeds, the player(s) attempt to increase the value of their “hand” of cards. Value is equated to effectiveness (a.k.a. Rightshifting index).

Each turn, a player can exchange a single card, or a whole hand (under certain conditions). A hand has at any point in time a certain rightshifting index value. By exchanging cards in their hand, players attempt to increase the value of that hand.

In multi-player games, the winner is the player with the largest improvement in their rightshifting index over time.

Card game (and app) for identifying / surfacing group mindset

Based on the Tarot deck (78 Cards)

56 Minor Arcana
Coins – Cogs – Earth 1-10 + 4 court cards – Money, finances, resources and the physical realms
Swords – – Air 1-10 + 4 court cards – Mind, intellect,. power, and thoughts
Wands – – Fire 1-10 + 4 court cards – Inspiration, spirituality, ideas and energy flow
Cups – – Water1-10 + 4 court cards – Emotions, relationships, feelings and creativity

22 Major arcana
0 Fool
1 Magus
2 High Priestess
3 Empress
4 Emperor
5 Hierophant
6 Lovers
7 Chariot
8 Strength
9 Hermit
10 Wheel of Fortune
11 Justice
12 Hanged Man
13 Death
14 Temperance
15 Devil
16 Tower
17 Star
18 Moon
19 Sun
20 Judgement
21 World

+++ Quality Relationships
(30 September 2014)

+++ Thinking Different – The Courses
(28 September 2014 at 07:58)

I’ve been thinking recently about workshops. I’ve been to more than my fair share of workshops and the like over the years, and I’ve never been to one that was worth even the time it required, let alone the cost in terms of hard cash.

I don’t see workshops as

What is Thinking Different?
Einstein quote
Different from.. what, exactly?
Why it’s hard (difficult, unnatural)
The Benefit (value, needs met)
The Costs (reputational, social, financial)

Frames (Workshop session)
Read this text
Comment in NVC style – share with the group
Take one of these frames (|Biker, Muslim, Buddhist, Jew, Christian, Military, Educator, Manager, Executive, Fundamentalist, Theory-X, Theory-Y, etc.)
Write an interpretation of the original text in the given frame
Share with the group

Become aware of assumptions – yours and others’
Take a problem and think of at least three completely different (from each other) restatements of that problem.

The Neuroscience of Conformity cf “Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired To Connect” ~ Lieberman”
The Brain
The dACC, MPFC, etc.
The Septal Area

xxx (Workshop session)

+++ Lazy, Idle, Complacent, Indolent
(28 September 2014 at 06:38)

People are none of these things. even though our biases, like the Fundamental Attribution Error, and our natural inclination to form judgments, might make us believe so.

As a therapist,

+++ What’s Wrong With Fishbowls?
(9 September 2014 at 13:48)

Talking shop

+++ Features Flirt
(3 September 2014 at 11:05)

La la la
La la la la la
La la la
La la la la la

I just can’t get you out of my head
Boy your features are all I think about
I just can’t get you out of my head
Boy it’s more than I dare to think about

La la la
La la la la la

I just can’t get you out of my head
Boy your features are all I think about
I just can’t get you out of my head
Boy it’s more than I dare to think about

Every night
Every day
Just to be there in the market

Won’t you sell
Won’t you tell
Sell forever and ever and ever and ever

La la la
La la la la la
La la la
La la la la la

I just can’t get you out of my head
Boy your features are all I think about
I just can’t get you out of my head
Boy it’s more than I dare to think about

There’s a dark secret in me
Don’t leave me locked in your backlog

Set me free
Feel the need in me
Set me free
Sell forever and ever and ever and ever

La la la
La la la la la
La la la
La la la la la

I just can’t get you out of my head
I just can’t get you out of my head
I just can’t get you out of my head…

+++ Going NATIVE
(23 August 2014 at 08:33)



NATIVE has six main aspects

+++ Improving the Customer Experience
(22 August 2014 at 06:59)

Are you mindful of your customers and their needs?

For products, does your organisation make and sell the things it’s good at making, or does it make and sell things customers actually need?

And for services, does your organisation deliver the services it’s good at delivering, or does it deliver the services customers actually need?


What happens when we ignore our other constituencies – especially staff, managers, suppliers, etc.?

As Vineet Nyar, CEO of HCL Technologies, suggests: “Employees First, Customers Second”. Or, put another way, if the people at the frontline, dealing with customers day-in, day-out, aren’t happy, then their disaffection will be all too apparent to your customers.

It’s really more of a balance, though.

Antimatter Principle


What kind of experience do you WANT your customers to have? What kind of emotions do you want your products, services, touch points, etc. to evoke in your customers and potential customers? Are you yet using any deliberate ways of designing-in these emotions?

Emotioneering is about taking a deliberate approach to designing the emotions you wish your customers to experience. Leaving it to chance – even though very common – promise little in terms of a baseline from which to improve. And a deliberate (engineering) approach to evoking intended emotions allows for taking feedback and using it to improve the customer experience.

– Bob

+++ Have You Settled?
(18 August 2014 at 06:34)


+++ The Roots of Organisational Psychotherapy
(9 August 2014 at 07:28)

Organisational Psychotherapy, although not always referred-to by that name, has a long if somewhat low profile history.

Psychoanalytic Sociology
“Psychoanalytic sociology is the research field that analyses society using the same methods that psychoanalysis applied to analyze an individual.”

Group Dynamics
“Group dynamics is a system of behaviors and psychological processes occurring within a social group (intragroup dynamics), or between social groups (intergroup dynamics).”







Crowd psychology

Other Schools



+++ Organisational Psychotherapy – the First Hundred Days
(31 July 2014 at 09:11)

Q1: What needs of yours are not getting met?

Which existing meetings, sessions, etc. can serve our purpose? Do we have to repurpose some and/or create new ones?

Q2: What would you like to have happen?
How do you feel about examining your personal – and collective – methods and the assumptions implicit therein?

What’s alive in you? In this group?

What needs of yours are not getting met?

The Wall of Doom

If our efforts succeed, it will have been because…
If our efforts fail, it will have been because…

Three Box Monty

Challenges everyone has
Challenges we have
Solutions to our most pressing challenges


What do you see and hear around here?

How do you feel about those things?

Do you have all you need to flourish?

What request(s) would you like to make?

What’s the scale of your ambition?

The Magic Question

aka What does (will) “success” look like?

How will you gauge progress?

How often will you review what you all believe “success” will look like

What will you do after you get there?


What is the demand?
What is the level of “failure demand”?

What knowledge / skills do you have now – between you – that might prove valuable / useful ?

What other knowledge / skills may prove useful in making things happen?

+++ Limiting JIP
(26 July 2014 at 07:12)

Limiting Judgements In Progress

I continue to work on weaning myself off a lifetime of being judgemental. I find it hard work with slow progress, but I feel it’s providing some benefits, at least in terms of peace of mind, so I continue.

This post is not so much about my journey, but about the need to make judgements in my professional roles as coach, chaos monkey, omega wolf, and organisational psychotherapist.

<rosenberg quote>

When Rosenberg talks about the negative effects of judgement, he’s talking about moralistic judgements – “he’s a twonk”, “she’s an airhead”, and so on. Even “positive” judgements, when coming from a moralistic place, can have the same kind of negative effects. “He’s a good, decent chap”, “she’s a lovely, caring person”, etc..

Yet, when coaching someone, as a coach I feel a need to make some judgments about them as we talk through their “issues” (for want of a better word).

Here’s a brief LHC example:

+++ Curse of the Expert
(23 July 2014 at 07:47)

One of my most profound take-aways from reading “Coaching for Performance” was the handicap that domain knowledge can be for coaches when coaching folks in that domain. In the book he describes situations where a shortage of tennis coached occasioned the co-opting of skiing coaches into the role of tennis coaches.

“Not entirely to our surprise, the coaching job they did was largely indistinguishable from that of their tennis-playing colleagues. However of a couple of notable occasions they actually did better.”

~ Sir John Whitmore, Coaching For Performance

This occasioned The Inner Game folks to provide more training to their coaches to help them “detach more effectively from their expertise”.

I see some connections with the Curse of the Expert, too.

Certainly whenI find myself coaching people in e.g coding, design, testing, architecture, analysis, etc. I have a much harder time keeping my own knowledge out of the GROW process – at least, until the O (Options) stage. On the other hand, having some deep domain expertise I find lets me understand better what’s happening, and thus ask “better” questions.

And then there’s the issue of expertise becoming irrelevant or even a handicap, over time, in a changing world.

Further Reading

Coaching For Performance ~ Sir John Whitmore

+++ Fellowship In 9
(23 July 2014 at 07:40)

9 ways to be part of a better team

I define fellowship as folks working together, sharing a common aim and helping each other as needed. In team based on fellowship, there is no formal, appointed leader. Anyone can choose to take (or relinquish) “the lead” as circumstances require. Everyone chooses to play their part in making things happen.

My happiest times have been in teams where fellowship has been the prevailing modus cooperandi.

make the delivery of ‘bad news’ a non-event,
tell very early whether their project is going to ‘make it,’
create and maintain a culture of excellence from day one on the project,
and make coming in to a work a joy while being able to sleep at night not worrying about the craziness of tomorrow.

Here’s a selection of just nine of the things I’ve seen happening in really good teams.

Not everything on this list is going to work for you. Like I said, leadership is personal and everyone has got to find their own style and way.

But if you are looking for a starting point on how to lead your agile team, you could do a lot worse than starting with these.

Face Up to Danger – Ask the Tough Questions Early
Do the Smallest Thing That Could Possible Work – Go Spartan
Share Perspectives – Illuminate Reality – Make the Truth Self-evident + Discuss your own Truths – Accept Three Simple Truth
Take the Dimholt Road – Deliver Fiercely
xxx – Set the Bar High Early and Keep It There
Look to Grow – Make Yourself Obsolete
Care – Make the Team Accountable
Give feedback – Tell (make visible) folks how they’re meeting your needs, and the needs of others – Cheerlead
Let folks follow their own paths – Give Up Control
Be kind, to yourself and others (relationships count for more than “results”) – We all have choices

“Be pitiful, for every man is fighting a hard battle.” ~ Ian MacLaren

‘He knows not to what end he rides; yet if he knew, he still would go on.’ ~ Aragorn

Let me say a little more about each of these points…

1. Ask the Tough Questions Early

Working Down Under, I had the opportunity to ride shotgun with one of ThoughtWorks’ top salespeople—a gentleman by the name of Keith Dodds. One of the many things Keith taught me was the importance of asking the tough questions at the start of any new engagement or sale.

How much experience does your team have?
Have you ever built a search engine before?
Do you foresee any problems with two analysts and thirty developers?
At the beginning of your project you want to do the same thing. You want to get all the skeletons out of the closet and into the open. What’s the single most important thing this project needs to do? Anything keeping you up at night? Everyone clear on what success looks like?

It’s about alignment and making sure you’ve got the right people on the bus, and everyone understands the direction we’re headed.

My favorite tool for doing this is the agile inception deck, a lightweight project chartering tool consisting of ten questions you’d be crazy not to ask before starting any agile project.

However you do it, call out any craziness and deal with it before the project begins.

2. Go Spartan
This is one of the best strategies I know for setting expectations around dates, and determining whether you’ve got schedule risk with your project.

The premise is pretty simple. When you start delivery, build the simplest, most spartan, stripped-down, bare-bones version of the system you can. Build a couple of critical end-to-end stories and see how long that takes.

Why? Because if after three or four iterations of this it becomes apparent the date is out of whack, delivering that message after you’ve gone spartan is way easier.

Even going flat out, delivering the most simple stripped-down version we can, there is no way we are going to able to that date. What do you want to do?

Going Spartan is great because it enables you to have this conversation from a place of integrity, honesty, and conviction. Something has to give. No drama. No need to get crazy. Just a case of too much to do and not enough time. In other words, the state of any interesting project.

By doing this, you are also making the truth self-evident.

3. Make the Truth Self-evident
No one likes being the messenger of bad news. Fortunately, agile makes it easy to let the facts speak for themselves by tracking and making visible things like:

team velocity
projected delivery dates
blockers keeping the team from delivering
You don’t ever have to say: “The project is late.” It will be obvious the project is late! Everyone can see it. You’d look foolish trying to ignore or deny it. No wishful thinking required. Just acceptance.

And if you did the inception deck, you will have already had the conversation about what you were going to do when this happened. You can cut scope, push out the date, or something else. But at least you are dealing with it. No one is hiding it, or denying it, or setting someone up for failure later.

By creating a visual work space, and showing and making the true state of your project obvious to all, you won’t have to be the bad guy. You are simply showing that which is.

How management deals with this news is up to them, not you. So don’t take it personally. It’s just our duty to make sure they know early enough so they can do something about it. Which is why we like to deliver the bad news early.

4. Deliver Fiercely
Some people are afraid of spiders. Others, snakes. Those things don’t really scare me so much (snakes maybe a little). Nope. My greatest fear in life (and software projects) isn’t failing. It’s not trying.

Failing I can deal with. I fail all the time. I write blog posts that don’t resonate. I write software no one cares about. I regret how I handle certain situations and conversations.

But I try. And as long as I know I did my best, I’m good. That’s what lets me sleep at night.

Success is peace of mind attained only through self satisfaction and knowing you made the effort. Do the best of which you are capable. Don’t try and be better than someone else. Just make the effort to be the best you can. Don’t expect to make tremendous improvements each day. Make a little each day. Make each day your masterpiece. -Basketball coach John Wooden

This is what I call fierce delivery.

It’s showing up every day ready to work. It’s demoing the first version of your software two weeks into your project. It’s being a professional—even when you don’t feel like it.

Delivering fiercely does two things:

It builds trust with your client.
It makes everything easier.
When you’re busting your hump, iteration after iteration, your customer is going to notice, and they are going to like it. Trust me. There is no better way to build street credibility and trust than to simply rock up and deliver.

If they are like most customers I know in large, slow, bureaucratic organizations, they aren’t going to be used to this level of service. You are going to blow them away. Then with all that trust and goodwill you’ve built up, everything suddenly becomes easier. Your customers are going to be more forgiving on schedule. They’re going to give you the benefit of the doubt when you screw up. They are going to trust you to do the right thing and get things done.

It’s a way more fun way to work, and once you’ve earned that trust you are never going to want to lose it. It’s better than money.

Display your intent—deliver fiercely.

5. Set the Bar High Early and Keep It There
It’s way harder to correct bad behavior late, then to set good behavior early.

Take testing. If you don’t make it clear that writing automated tests is part of development for a story, some developers won’t.

Or continuous integration. If people don’t understand why it’s important to keep the build pristine, production ready, and working 100%, they’ll see no problem with checking in on top of a broken build and not getting excited when it fails.

Production readiness, quality as a team responsibility, refactoring, whatever is important to you and the team, make it explicit and set the bar high at the beginning of the project so everyone knows what the rules are going in.

6. Make Yourself Obsolete
Teams work best when they can take initiative, solve their own problems, and think for themselves. They can’t and won’t do that if they are highly dependent on you.

The best-led agile teams I have seen are the ones where the leader could disappear for a week and no one’s the wiser. It’s not that the leaders aren’t valuable, or they aren’t contributing. It’s more that they do such a good job setting the project and team up for success that they aren’t needed day to day.

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Would you rather have a team lead who can set his or her team up for success, teach them how to take initiative, and fend for themselves if he or she stepped out? Or would you want that guy who hoards information, takes all the credit, and entrenches himself so deeply in your world that having him leave would kill your project?

I am not saying you can’t lead and be valuable. But if you want to serve your customer well while freeing yourself up to move on to bigger and better things, make yourself obsolete.

7. Make the Team Accountable
You still with me in this article? Good. Because you know what? There are a lot of people, in a lot of companies, who don’t care about software the way you and I do. I know it’s shocking, but it’s true.

Good teams don’t have a problem with accountability. They make themselves accountable. You couldn’t stop them if you tried.

Other teams, however, need a little help. That’s why, if I suspect that a team I’ve got is lacking the accountability gene, one good way to instill it is to have them personally demo their software.

How many times do you think a team will show up unprepared with:

no demo environment,
no test data,
that looks terrible,
that crashes on startup?
Once is usually enough.

When teams know they are the ones who will be giving the demo, and that they are the ones who will explain why things do or don’t work, they’ll become accountable. And if they don’t, you’ve got a bigger problem.

8. Cheerlead
When you’re delivering fiercely, and pumping stories iteration after iteration, it’s easy for the team lose sight of the great work they’ve been doing, and the difference they are making to the lives of their customers.

Remind them.

Give them boost. A sincere hug. A pat on the back, or just appreciation and acknowledgement for a job well done.

Companies don’t do this nearly enough—so sometimes you need to do this for them.

How? Call out people who do exceptional things at standups. Make your team look good in front of the customer when demoing. Remind people of how cool the technologies and tools are that we have to work with, and how lucky we are to have jobs!

Injecting life, pulling peoples’ heads above the clouds, and a box of donuts can go a long way to lightening things up and making people feel good about themselves. Which leads to better work.

9. Give Up Control
This is the hardest point on the list. It’s counterintuitive, it can be highly contextual, and yet when done right it can lead to outstanding results even with average teams.

It stems from the understanding and acceptance that everyone who works for you is a volunteer. They don’t have to be there. They could be doing something else, and if you don’t serve or lead them well, your best and brightest are going to leave.

Don’t believe me? Try holding on to great talent today.

Our industry’s best and brightest crave three things above all else: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. You take away a their autonomy and you’ve taken away a huge motivational lever.

What does giving up control mean? It means letting teams take initiative and figure things out for themselves.

Don’t have a server? Go get it.

Need some feedback from the customer? Make the call.

Pushing code live becoming a pain? What could we do to fix that?

That’s doesn’t mean you don’t contribute your best ideas or stop teams from going off a cliff. It just means that you understand that people are going to take way more responsibility and ownership if they solve problems themselves instead of constantly having someone (like you) tell them what to do.

Self-organization is big part of agility. It’s what enables teams to get quality stuff done fast. But it only works if teams are empowered and trusted. And that means you’ve got to loosen the reins.

10. Accept Three Simple Truths
It is impossible to gather all the requirements at the beginning of a project.

Whatever requirements you do gather are guaranteed to change.

There will always be more to do than time and money will allow.

Once you accept these three simple truths, leading agile projects becomes a lot easier.

You don’t stress as much about schedules (we know we’re already late!) You stop trying to own problems that are outside your sphere of control. And you just accept that there is always going to be more to do than time and money allow.

You stop taking things personally.

And software is personal. You put a lot of yourself into a software project, and it’s easy to take feedback, criticism, and things like schedule pressure personally.

But accepting these simple truths frees you from all that. It allows you to see that which is clearly, and to not try and change something that can’t be changed.

Bonus point:

11. There Is No Leader
This list makes a big assumption: that there is a single leader on an agile project. That is rarely the case.

That doesn’t mean that agile projects are leaderless. There can be many leaders on agile projects, and they may all lead at different times and in different ways.

You can have the strong vocal expectation setter who watches the bottom line, and makes sure the customer is getting the greatest bang for their buck.

You can have the quiet, behind the scenes analyst, who doesn’t say much, but when she speaks everyone listens.

Then you’ve got the developer who refuses to let any bugs into production and whose diligence and attention to detail causes everyone to raise their game.

The point I am making here is that leadership on an agile project is more about meritocracy and less about titles and roles. So don’t get stressed, if you’re the leader in title, but find others are leading in fact.

Agile teams are generally flat, and leadership is something to be earned (not taken or assigned). In fact some of the best projects I have been on have had no explicit leader. Just a team, a customer, and a commitment to getting things done.

Enjoy the ride.
Leadership is one of those topics that is hard to give advice about because it’s so contextual. For every point I just made on that list, I am sure you can think of examples where it won’t work. Great leaders make it up as they go, and you are going to have to do the same on your project.

But that’s a good thing. You are going to have your own style, charm, personality, and strengths, that make you effective in your own way. Work with that. Everyone leads differently, and what worked for Walt Disney and Steve Jobs won’t work for you and me.

Take what you need from this list. Ignore the rest. And find your own voice and way.

Really, the best advice I can give is:

Follow your gut. Serve your team. And be prepared to get out of the way.

+++ Educating Peter
(6 Jul 2014 at 07:46)

Yourdon wrote “the average developer’s bookshelf tends to zero”. I’m pretty sure the average manager’s bookshelf tends to zero, too. At least, zero books about management. For most managers I’ve ever met, by their own admissions, the last time they studied anything to do with management was at college. With the occasional post-graduate MBA course here and there.

Maybe if nothing had changed in the last eighty years (most management course content seems to date back at least as far as the 1930s) this would be OK.

O Sensei
George Leonard

Further Reading
Four Days With Doctor Deming

+++ How to Complain
(1 July 2014 at 11:09)

Complaining is a fact of life. The roots of the word include “lamentation”, “grief”, “bewailing”, “finding fault” and “intensive beating of the breast”.

So complaining is, in essence an act of expressing emotion. All too often, what with anger born of frustration or disappointment, we can find ourselves trying to coerce the person we’re complaining about into meeting our need. And all too often, this can happen unconsciously – we can find ourselves employing the FOGS tools of violence (fear, obligation, guilt, shame) without even realising it.

Complaining about a relative stranger can be stressful enough, but complaining about someone we may have to relate to in the future – such as a colleague – carries added risks and stress.

Then, when it’s all over, and we’ve calmed down, we have the opportunity to repent our actions and try to pick up the pieces of our self-respect – and compassion for the person we’ve attacked – amid the tatters of (yet another) frayed relationship.

There are, of course, more compassion ways of tackling such situations. Here’s just one which came up yesterday. You may be unsurprised to hear it’s another application of Nonviolent Communication.

Real Reasons for Complaining.

We may be attempting to meet several needs through the act of complaining. Maybe we feel a need to be heard, or to get something done.


What do you want to have happen?

Oftentimes we as complainants find ourselves wanting the complainee to suffer. We imagine the complainee is wrong, or has done something wrong – something morally or ethically heinous – and we feel a righteous indignation at having been wronged. We want them to suffer. They deserve to suffer. This is probably not a great basis for getting our needs met. Even though it might seem great in the heat of the moment. And the implied lack of compassion – both for the complainee and, ultimately, for ourselves – bothers me greatly.

Start with Empathy

OK, this is HARD. Especially when our Amygdala is hijacking our brain’s higher functions and we can’t think straight.

Relate Your Observations

Play back what led up to your complaint, in simple, dispassionate and non-judgmental terms.

“I said this. Then you said this. Then…” etc.

Express Your Feelings

Seek space and time to express your feelings.
“Would you be willing to hear about how I’m feeling right now? I’d like you to hear how this has impacted me.”

Explain Your Needs

“I feel so upset, because I need to xxx and yyy”

Further Reading
The Surprising Purpose of Anger ~ Marshall Rosenberg

+++ Shibboleths
(29 June 2014 at 07:14)

Agile Project Manager
Delivery Manager
Resource (as in human being)
Best practices
Software Factory

+++ Humane Solutions
(16 June 2014 at 10:48)

To many, I guess it might seem like my interests jump from idea to idea like xxx. Rightshifting, FlowChain, the Marshall Model, the AntimatterPrinciple, Organisational Psychotherapy, #Emotioneering, #NoCV, #NoProjects… From my point of view, though, each idea has deep connections with the others.

Seems like even raising a doubt about the role of IT in delivering services can get you branded as a luddite or worse.

Why IT is a problem.

Automating services with Information Technology () seems like a no-brainer. But the hidden costs dwarf the apparent financial savings. These hidden costs include:

Inability to absorb variation
Failure demand
Removing discretion
Self-serving (nb. not self-service)
Distancing people
Providing a false sense of security
Feeding the Beast

+++ Strange Bedfellows
(6 June 2014 at 09:54)

It has for many years struck me as strange that software development in most organisations is the purview of the IT department. I can appreciate the historical reasons for it. But let’s face it. It makes no sense any more. If it ever did.

Actually, I can still remember the days when software development, exclusively concerned with accounting, ledgers, etc. as it was, resided under the purview of the CFO and the accounts department.

Then, as the IT estate (servers, terminals, wires, etc.) grew, the IT department came into being. A shiny new silo for the business! What better place to locate the strange, very unfinance-like nerds who spent all their time on strange pursuits like writing software. These were the days long before most organisations started putting software into their bread-and-butter products and services.

But now software is at the heart of most organisations’ products. And effective software development teams crucial to the success of those products.

Chalk and Cheese

The concerns and attitudes of IT and software developers are as alike as chalk and cheese. I.E. Poles apart.

IT’s concerns revolve around planning ahead, keeping the lights on, keeping things running smoothly – all those things that evoke the well-oiled machine metaphor.

Software development’s concerns, on the other hand, revolve around innovation, creativity, learning, and adaptation.

How likely is it that these two communities can ever see the world through the same lens?

+++ Dialogue
(2 June 2014 at 07:25)

Is there any value in enquiring as to the principles involved in running a business? EG in the Theory of the Firm?

+++ Connecting
(18 May 2014 at 19:11)

Pitching Agile
Parroting The Koolade Speech Will Not Impress
Features Are Not Benefits
They May Actually Want To Help
Features Are Not Enough
Benefits Are Not Enough

It’s not enough to simply list the benefits of your proposed approach. Your audience, if at all interested, will likely be skeptical about your claims, and want to understand you reasoning in making these claims. By way of example, let’s take a look at some typical claims:

Claim: The early delivery of software (a feature) will deliver improved cash flow (a benefit). The connection between feature and benefit is not immediately obvious and your audience will likely want you to draw them a picture (literally or metaphorically).

How Will We Know We Have Reaped The Benefits?


Connections Are Not Enough

It’s not even enough to list the features, their respective benefits and the connections between them. Most CxOs are action-oriented, and need to understand what actions the organisations will have to take if it decides to accept your proposal. You may not want to talk about risks, but you can be pretty sure they will be thinking about them. Making the key risks explicit reduces the imagined plethora of possible risks. It also speaks to the need underlying some of the actions you propose. And it raises confidence that you know what you’re talking about, and have thought things through fully – from idea, through implementation, to ongoing daily operation.

Rationale Is Not Enough

Further Reading

Rocks Into Gold ~ Clarke Ching

+++ The Knowledge Shop SIWWCBME (pron: Swimmy) Surroundings In Which We Can Be Most Effective
(16 May 2014 at 13:310)

How to create environments suited to and supportive of great knowledge work.

Whether we’re a programmer, tester, analyst, designer, manager or some other kind of person doing knowledge work, we know whether and when we’re working in a supportive environment, or not. We know if our work environment is conducive to getting things done, and done well, or blocking and frustrating our efforts to do good work.

The thing is…

Whose Job Is It Anyway?

I rarely see any kind of consensus on whose job it is to create the kind of positive environment we’re all looking for. In most organisations, there seems to be some de facto expectation that managers will do it. Not that many of those managers share that expectation. And fewer yet seem to engage with it in any meaningful way.

Some folks can transcend their environment, many more think they can, and tghe rest just suffer, fuming more or less quietly to themselves.

+++ Broken Arrows
(15 May 2014 at 10:52)

The Day had come round again. Everyone who was anyone – and many who were not – had gathered on Ferling’s Sward to make merry, to soak up the atmosphere, and to see who would be this year’s winner of the Golden Arrow.

Dogen, a master archer, had won the Golden Arrow every year since the contest had been created. This year, he was a confident as ever that he would win again. After all, who was there that had his skills, his experience, his arrows?

Come noon, and the horns sounded the call to the lists. the competitors assembled, and the contest began. Dogen was listed third to shoot. Upon his turn, Dogen strode up to the peg, strung his daikyu and slipped an arrow across it.

The crowd became suddenly quieted. All waited for the loose. His arrow flew surely to the target and struck it full in the middle. “A bull! A bull!” roared the crowd. Dogen stepped back.

“None so bad a shot, Master,” said the next archer to him, in a quiet tone. “You have provided yourself now with a truer shaft, I ween?”

Dogen exhaled. Satisfied.

The contest went on and the first round came to an end. Out of twenty and three rivals nineteen had scored bulls at this range. The markers gave the signal to the heralds, and these announced the results with loud flourishings.

The archers drifted to the second peg. Convention required them to keep in the same order as in the preceding round.
Upon his turn, Dogen fitted his arrow quietly and with some confidence to his bow, then sped it towards the target. “An inner!” The crowd murmered, disappointedly. Dogen could not understand his error.

A koan about sticking with proven but increasingly ineffective strategies for getting needs met – in the face of change.

A koan about choosing poor strategies for getting needs met.

+++ Life’s a Beach
(7 May 2014 at 07:32)

Who would want to work in an environment like the metaphorical beach?

+++ Deciding Things
(4 May 2104 at 13:36)

Unilateralism? System 1?

+++ Knowledge-work Requires Thought
(3 May 2014 at 10:42)

Design studios

Distress and eustress


Cerebral blood flow


In the zone

+++ Teams
(29 April 2014 at 17:37)

“There is no ONE “right” organisation structure. There is no ONE right way to [coordinate and direct] people.”
~ Peter F. Drucker

+++ JoyTicks
(27 April 2014 at 10:39)

aka How Much Joy?

Have you ever helped someone? I suspect you have. Maybe it was an old lady in the supermarket. Or a child with their homework. Or…

And can you remember how that felt?

For most people,. helping someone else, no matter how trivial the occasion, feels good.

Idea Flow (Pentland)

Pentland has much research data on how good ideas spread in e.g. organisations.

But what about the question of “how do needs get attended to”

More needs of more folks being attended to more often
Improved strategies for getting each specific need met

Are we interested in meeting needs, or in the feelings of joy we derive from making that happen. And in the context of organisations, what about the bottom line? Obliquity is all very well, but some visibility in the connection between attending to folks’ needs and business outcomes might be useful?

+++ Aside: The Attractions
(18 April 2014 at 14:08)

Minimise attention to folks’ needs.
Evaporating Cloud

+++ Personal Value-Add
(18 April 2014 at 14:08)

If someone said to you “we’d like you to come work with us, but to be honest we really don’t understand what value you’d be bringing by doing that” could you help them out by describing the value you’d bring?

How much would your answer depend on their situation – on their pain points, their problems, their goals?

Three-box monty
Generic pains
Specific pains
Your special contribution

+++ How to Convince Folks to Think Different
(18 April 2014 at 14:08)

Einstein quote (validate)

Understand their needs, understand their current strategies for getting them met, offer (if requested) alternative strategies which will meet them more effectively.

So this is not really anything like “convincing other folks to change”. And much more like “attending to their needs”. Who knows, it’s an approach you might like to apply to yourself, too.

+++ The Two Antimatter Questions
(18 April 2014 at 14:08)

+++ Cinderella
(13 April 2014 at 10:55)

“a person or thing of merit, undeservedly neglected or forced into a wretched or obscure existence.”

“Managers will try anything easy that doesn’t work before they will try anything hard that does work.” ~ Jim Womack

+++ Mapping the Mindsets
(12 April 2014 at 08:00)

The Marshall Model proposes four organisational mindsets, mapping to four increasingly effective kinds of organisation.

CRTs explaining the effectiveness of each of the four mindsets





Presenting these CRTs will likely not appeal to many readers. Therefore, we need an alternate presentation (stories?) to broaden the appeal and uptake.

+++ Constraints
(31 March 2014 at 10:35)

Typical constraints on collaborative knowledge-work…

+++ Emotioneering the Way the Work Works
(20 March 2014 at 07:14)

I’ve written before about applying emotioneering to the development of a product or service. Recently, research from

In order to
As a
I need

In order to
I feel
Because I need

In order to

The Employee Experience

Feature: Low stress

In order to think clearly
As a knowledge-worker
I need a low-stress work environment

Scenario: Refusable Requests
Given Someone asks me to do something
When I’m

+++ The Cassandra Effect
(19 March 2014 at 07:42)

If I said it was unlikely anyone would believe you whenever you propose a great new sure-fire idea, how would you react? Would you believe me? If so, what would you do to act on that belief?

+++ HR Be Dragons
(15 March 2014 at 08:27)

There’s a whole passel of myths driving much HR dysfunction in most knowledge-work organisations today.

Myth: Each individual is responsible for their own performance.

Symptoms: Appraisals, merit pay

Myth: Extrinsic Motivation is a Useful Tool

Symptoms: Bonus schemes, Perks, excessive focus on salary levels

Myth: Emotions Are Just Bothersome Noise


Myth: People Are Much the Same

Symptoms: One-size-fits-all policies. Inflexibility.

Myth: Other Folks Are Taking Care Of Business


Myth: What HR Does Has Little Real Impact On the Organisation


Symptoms: Unilateralism. Lack of consultation.

Myth: Diversity Is Merely A Nice-To-Have

Symptoms: No overt consideration of diversity issues. No explicit measures to encourage workforce diversity. Groupthink.

Myth: Careerism and Specialisation Is A Good Thing

Symptoms: Narrow career tracks. Job specifications. Career development planning. Balkanisation.

Myth: Leadership Is A Good Thing

Symptoms: Leadership Development programmes. Succession Planning.

+++ Sleepwalking Into Mediocrity
(15 March 2014 at 06:47)

Few organisations consciously set out to be mediocre.

In my work I regularly come across young organisations that


+++ Idealised Design of A Knowledge-work Organisation
(14 March 2014 at 09:44)

Following on from my previous post, here’s another (Idealised Design) perspective on Prod•gnosis.

Idealised Design

“Idealized design” is a way of thinking about change that is deceptively simple to state: In solving problems of virtually any kind, the way to get the best outcome is to imagine what the ideal solution would be, and then work backward to where you are today.

Three (minor) constraints:

What we want RIGHT NOW – because we can eliminate the potential error of second-guessing ourselves.
Technological feasibility
Operational viability

“If we don’t know what we would do now if we could do whatever we wanted, how can we know what to do when we can’t do everything we want?”


I offer Prodgnosis as an example of Idealised Design as applied to tech product organisations.

It assumes that what we want right now is a more effective way to bring new products – and services – to market (including marketing them, selling them, and servicing and supporting them once in the hands of customers).
It’s technologically feasible – in fact, it requires no new technology as such.
It’s operationally viable – assuming that we have some of effecting the wholesale change of collective mindset that it requires.

Note: I’m talking here about designing the organisation, not the products the organisation wants to develop and sell. We can choose to apply Idealised Design in Product Development too, of course.

Destroyed Overnight

“Gentlemen, the telephone system of the United States was destroyed last night.”
~ VP, Bell Labs.

This was the sobering news used to trigger adoption of Interactive Design at Bell Labs, circa 1951.

Let’s imagine *our* organisation was destroyed last night. Boom. Big bada boom. Crater. Wreckage.
In this case, what might we choose to do to rebuild our org from scratch?

Formulate the mess
+++ Make Me Rich
(6 March 2014 at 05:39)

There is a rationale prevailing in most commercial organisations. It’s not pretty. And it works directly against every one gtting their needs met. Even the folks “in charge”.

This rational goes something like this:

Make me rich. I own the company (or a non-trivial part of it). I hire people to do work to raise revenues. The company makes a (profit) margin on each dollar of revenue. More revenue means more profit. More profit means I’m richer. Hurrah for me!

+++ 300 Up
(24 February 2014 at 12:27)

To mark this, my three hundredth post on my blog, I thought I’d try to describe, in as simple and as few words as possible, how I see the world of software development organisations.


This is my three hundredth post on this blog. To mark the occasion, here’s a summary of what I’ve learned since I first started blogging.

Knowledge Work is Different

Knowledge work, for example writing software or designing new products – is very different to the kind of work most companies and most managers are used to. What makes it so different? It’s because it involves thinking. And discovery. Traditional work is done by rote. In traditional work, each tack is much like the previous task. It doesn’t require much invention or creativity. With kind of knowledge work I’m talking about, every task is different. Every task requires finding out new things, and putting things together in novel combinations. It’s unpredictable.

Collaboration Changes the Game

Most real-world knowledge work involves at least a few people working together to create, invent or otherwise assemble a design or solution. Sometimes there can be hundreds of people working together. The key question then becomes, how to get a bunch of people to work well together. To be effective en masse.

Work in Progress is Intangible

So we have all these folks, working together, and on things which no one can really see. Things – like code, designs, documents, and so on, which are evolving inside computers. Each person has only a small fraction of the whole inside their head. Each person is familiar with a different fraction of that whole.

Nothing Ventured Nothing Gained
+++ The Giants
(20 February 2014 at 12:48)

Every time I find myself in a group, I make a point of asking who has heard of some the Giants in our field. Most times I see around 10% – or less – admit to having heard of even one of these folks. For me, and others in the software and product development communities, these folks’ work has added immeasurably to our insights and understanding of the nature of e.g. knowledge-work.

There’s a page on this blog which lists the Giants of mine, and I thought it might be useful to pen a brief introduction to each to mention them and their work – and the relevance to development teams, middle managers, senior managers, in fact, almost everyone working in knowledge-work organisations.

Bill Deming

William Edwards Deming gives us Statistical Process Control and the understanding of variation

Russell L Ackoff


Peter Drucker


Eliyahu M Goldratt


Donella Meadows


O Sensei – Morihei Ueshiba


Taichi Ohno


Peter Senge

Mention Jaworksi, Flowers and xxx
Mention Checkland and Beer

Dr. Allen C Ward


Margaret Wheatley


Michael Kennedy

Mention Liker, Womak, Jones, Learning to See chap, etc.

Patrick Lencioni


George Leonard


Mohandas Karamchi Gandhi


John Seddon


Steve McConnell


Tom Gilb


P Grant Rule


David Bohm


Martin Seligman


Sir Ken Robinson


Don Reinertsen


Marshall Rosenberg

And Carl Rogers

Edward de Bono


Richard Feynman


Gerry Weinberg



Quality: Phil Crosby, Juran, etc.
Toyota: Toyoda, Shingeo Shingo,

+++ Whicker’s World
(14 February 2014 at 18:31)

The future is a foreign country – they do things differently there.

If you went to a foreign country,
How many organisations


+++ Making Work Work. For You. For Everyone. No Exceptions.
(8 February 2014 at 11:32)

cf self-study course by Miki Kashtan “Making Life Work. For You. For Everyone. No Exceptions.”


+++ Real Parrots
(8 February 2014 at 11:15)


+++ Agitprop
(7 February 2014 at 01:27)

Agitate (to do, drive) also “to shake things up”

+++ Doctrine is not the same as culture
(2 February 2014 at 14:35)

Few orgs have a doctrine. Every org has a culture.

And why it matters

+++ What If?
(30 January 2014 at 07:18)

What if a crisp white envelope dropped into you letter box today? What if it contained a neat, gold-blocked invitation to spends some time considering what really matters to you?

Would you be interested? Would you be interested enough to commit the time and effort implicit in accepting the invitation?

In this keynote, Bob Marshall extends an invitation to you to explore how you feel about work, and the needs your work is m

+++ Can We Play?
(5 January 2014 at 12:33)

+++ A New Comportment?
(4 January 2014 at 06:45)

Does it bug you when someone fails to act on your advice? Does that happen more often than you’d like?

What’s going on here? What forces are at work that stymie our intentions? What is it about people that mean they are mostly unaffected by what they hear, even things that might help them significantly?

“Many receive advice, few profit by it.”

~ Publilius Syrus

Will you be willing to invest some of your time and thought into exploring these questions?

+++ Business Novels
(27 December 2013 at 07:15)

If you’ve not read a business novel before, then you may be wondering why people do. And after having read any number of them, I’m beginning to wonder the same thing.

I’ve reached the point where I have to regard them a much more like entertainment, than educational. I find it entertaining to read stories about folks in situations I recognise, finding ways to beat the odds and come up trumps after a series of travails and tribulations. Comforting, even, given the number of similar situations I’ve seen in the real world. Situations where folk have failed to overcome the odds, and have been ground down and beaten into submission by e.g. circumstances, systems, and dogmas.

The Goal (and sequels)
The Phoenix Project
Great Boss, Dead Boss

Even though novels like Goldratt’s The Goal seem to be read by the folks in the best position to act on the information, I’ve seen very little in the way of action arising.

I guess the key issue is that not enough folks in any one organisation take such information to heart.

+++What it isn’t
(20 December 2013 at 10:28)

Antimatter Principle

A recipe
Fixing people

I am grateful to all the folks that joined us in the recent London Antimatter Principle event (evening of Dec 17, 2013 at the New Bamboo offices).

In particular, I am grateful to those who expressed their needs.

One such need was expressed by @swombat, who asked

“I would like to better understand what the Antimatter Principle ISN’T.”

Here’s my take, including some observations, comments and further questions from the evening’s audience.

The Antimatter Principle is not just about the present needs of folks. To the extent we choose to consider the future needs

+++ Where to get started
(18 December 2013 at 06:07)

Antimatter Principle

+++ I’m A Lover Not A Fighter
(17 December 2013 at 10:14)

Why do folks feel they have to”fight” to get their ideas adopted?

+++ Go Slow To Go Fast
(11 December 2013 at 09:05)

Theme from Rosersbergs Slott #LegoSeriousPlay cf Jerry Weinberg

+++ Pet Themes
(10 December 2013 at 14:35)

+++ Agile Is Like Romance
(5 December 2013 at 09:04)

Not sex

+++ We Are Not Sheep
(30 November 2013 at 08:20)

“Avoid ‘shoulding’ on others and yourself!”

“The most dangerous of all behaviors may consist of doing things ‘because we’re supposed to.’”

“As long as I think I ‘should’ do it, I’ll resist it, even if I want very much to do it.”
~ Marshall Rosenberg

Causes Anger and Grief

“We are never angry because of what others say or do; it is a result of our own ‘should’ thinking.”

“Interpretations, criticisms, diagnoses, and judgments of others are actually alienated expressions of our unmet needs.”

“I believe that the most joyful and intrinsic motivation human beings have for taking any action is the desire to meet our needs and the needs of others.”

+++ I’m all right, Jack
(28 November 2013 at 07:26)

So who remembers the marvellous Boulting Brothers comedy “I’m All Right Jack” with the great Peter Sellers in the role of the Trades Union shop steward, Fred Kite? A satire on the labour disputes that crippled the UK economy in the 1950’s, the film illustrates both the role of mindset, and more relevantly for this post,

The title comes from a phrase used by British soldiers in the Second World War – indicating a selfish attitude in which someone is indifferent to any problems their friends, colleagues or peers might have.

It’s a phrase – and a film – which comes to mind often when I’m listening to software development folks discuss the industry and its problems.

+++ We Don’t Need No Stinking Scaled Agile
(26 November 2013 at 16:59)

This is a post about the outdated assumptions that lead folks to believe that scaled agile is a necessary advance on the agile road

+++ MiniSPA Cambridge 2013
(25 November 2013 at 08:22)

I very much enjoyed the opportunity to meet and chat with a bunch of folks at the BCS Cambridge MiniSPA event last Saturday.

The SPA Tenor
Interactive sessions

Skilled Dialog

Active Learning

I heard several folks say that they liked working in software development, even though (or because) it’s a field where “no one really knows the right way to do things”. At one point in the proceedings I attempted to challenge that viewpoint with a comment to the effect that “some folks in the field have known effective ways of doing these things for at least the past thirty years”. For various reasons – some of which I can guess at, some unguessed – those present did not engage with this assertion.

Inside out (Ideas in folks’ heads)

For an example, here’s some of the things in my head (and in my experience) I’d love to have the opportunity to share/chat about:


+++ Why I Avoid Hiring Graduates
(25 November 2013 at 07:30)


+++ The Twelve Gifts of Christmas
(24 November 2013 at 07:38)

I am a bit of a Christmas curmudgeon, but for many people, Christmas is a time of hope, for giving, and for thinking of others. So, although my list is what I’d like to see the World (rather than myself) receive, it might also serve as a list of things I’d like more opportunities to give.

Nonviolence – Not peace, nor in fact a world free from violence, that would be too much to ask. But I’d like to see folks open their eyes and see the violence inherent in the system, and their unwitting culpability in prolonging the suffering of billions.
A world where people discover the joys of making life more wonderful for each other.
A shift of mindset in businesses, organisations, and institutions everywhere. Away from the pursuit of narrow self-interest and towards communities, collaboration and mutual benefit
Less alienation.
Meaningful connections – and social media tools that understand that (sorry Facebook, Twitter – you don’t qualify)
A job; or at least, more opportunities to give of myself, whilst keeping a roof over my head (some doubt on that front, presently).


+++ My Processsssss
(24 November 2013 at 07:34)

(Riff on Gollum’s My Precioussss)

My Processssssss has much more power in the hands of those who would enslave the world.

+++ Angus, Thongs and Perfect Hiring
(24 November 2013 at 07:27)

How hiring is amongst the most crucial aspects of building better software, why we’re so crap at it and how it’s almost never within the remit of the folks held accountable for results.

Why teams should hire their coaches

Trying to find a coach you can get along with is a bit like trying to find a hot boyfriend (or girlfriend).

If you were looking for e.g. a personal, life or fitness coach, how likely is it that you’d go with someone else’s selection? Not very likely. Although in some culture selecting a life-partner (husband, wife) is arranged for you, that’s rarely true of the more impermanent relationship that is boyfriend or girlfriend.

+++ Why is Alignment of Shared Purpose the Orphan Child in Most Organisations?
(24 November 2013 at 07:24)

One of the most consistent and omnipresent themes, in most organisations I have ever studied, has been the absence of a shared purpose. I’ve always wondered why this is so. After all, there’s no shortage of authors, consultants and gurus blathering on endlessly about the value of having a shared purpose.

Why do so very few executives and managers seem to want to devote any time or priority to building a consensus on shared purpose, communicating that purpose, and getting the organisation aligned on that purpose? Of course they’re busy, busy people. Never mind that the more effective the organisation, the less busy they need be.


As I see it, there’s some alternative explanations we might consider, independently or in concert:
There is no shared purpose – everyone’s out for themselves, more or less.
There is a shared purpose of sorts, but the value of aligning folks to it through eg communication, policies, etc is not well appreciated.
There is a shared purpose of sorts, but few to none see themselves as responsible for making alignment happen.
There is a shared purpose, the value of alignment to that purpose is understood, but the organisation lacks the competence in making the alignment happen.

+++ Nonviolent Continuous Improvement
(24 November 2013 at 07:20)

I can appreciate that organisations are in a bind when it comes to improving the way the work works. Particularly so for commercial organisations, with owners or shareholders pressurising the business to “improve the numbers”. And politicians seem increasingly to favour pressurising public organisations, too. But organisations which simply pass this pressure on to their people are setting themselves up for failure. A pressurised and oppressed workforce is not a happy or productive one – especially when it comes to knowledge work.

Aside: Recent studies have shown the deleterious effects of stress on cognitive function.

So the bind I see as: How to respond to pressure from outside the organisation, whilst NOT pressuring the folks inside?

How then to effect improvements, when means such as coercion are taken off the table? Is “merely” inviting people to contribute going to be in any way successful?

Nonviolent Communication <link: > “emphasises compassion as the motivation for action rather than fear, guilt, shame, blame, coercion, threat or justification for punishment. In other words, it is about getting what you want for reasons you will not come to regret later.

Setting aside some reservations about Continuous Improvement, expressed eloquently by Ron Ashkenas, <link: >, I’d like to talk about the psychology of nonviolence – in the context of continuous improvement efforts within an organisation.

Let’s say the organisation in question has a bunch of folks involved in software development, and some senior managers who need to see some significant rightshift in the organisation’s ability to deliver software into production (i.e. for use by customers).

Some of these folks may seize the opportunity, being self-starters, and take advantage of the organisation’s new (or renewed) focus on improvement to invest some time and effort in understanding the work, encouraging and even participating in improvement efforts. In other words, some folks won’t need to be “convinced” to make the effort to start “continuously improving”.

In larger or more staid organisations though, I have seen folks wait, expecting to see some sign from senior managers that they’re “serious” about this, and not just talking for the sake of it. Often, the sign that gets the most attention is some form of pressure, applied by said managers, to coerce folks into taking this new “initiative” seriously, and so to improving their practices – and the way the work works. Such coercion typically takes one or more of the following forms:
Fear – thinly (or not-so-thinly) veiled threats of bad things happening to people if progress is slow or absent
Obligation – through appeals to folks’ “duty” or “responsibility” or “it’s your job”
Guilt – by way of the word “should” – as in “Improvement? You should focus some effort on that. What’s wrong with you?”
Shame – “Shame on you for not getting on with it”

In a nonviolent scenario however, senior managers will avoid these “Jackal culture” <link to Walter Wink & domination systems> means.

Instead they might invite folks to consider the needs of the organisation, their needs (of the senior managers), and the folks’ own needs. Through expressing and examining these needs, it will then be possible to make “specific, actionable requests” in a “non-demanding, positive way”.

Here’s an illustrative example, using (an idealised) LHC <link> format:

(The Senior Manager here is named Sam, and one of the Folks, Jaime)

<insert table>

+++ Primary Key: Mindset
(24 November 2013 at 07:18)

Recruiting for Mindset

Making hiring decisions is not something that most people do well. Most folks don’t get enough practices (they’re not making hiring decisions frequently enough); they don’t get good (specific, timely) feedback on those decisions, and they don’t have the necessary perspective that could help compensate for these other handicaps.

Small wonder then that so many new hires, from tea-boys to senior executives, feel short-changed when they join a new employer.

<cite recent exec survey>

Questions to gauge mindset

[Each question is based on “what did you actually do in these circumstance”, rather than what would you do]

When colleagues have fallen behind in their work, how often have you stepped-in to help with their load? (0-9)
When in a meeting, how many times have you listened empathetically, rather than just awaited your turn to speak? (0-9)
When discussing productivity, how often have you mentioned the role of the system (the way the work works)? (0-9)
How much

+++ The strange case of the dog and the promotion ladder
(24 November 2013 at 07:14)

Promotion and social status in India – and the line of dominoes thereunder

HR Assumptions My Assumptions

+++ Meeting of Minds
(24 November 2013 at 07:12)

+++ The Antimatter Pattern
(22 November 2013 at 11:38)

For folks who like to consume their ideas in pattern form, here’s the Antimatter Principle written up as an Alexandrian pattern:

+++ Your Boss Doesn’t Want You To Improve
(22 November 2013 at 09:47)

Or, “Your Boss Wants you to NOT improve”

+++ Should We?
(22 November 2013 at 07:08)

I find myself ever-more sensitive to the word “should”. I see people using it with gay abandon, seemingly oblivious to either the word or its implications.

+++ Pony
(18 November 2013 at 06:58)

A story illustrating the difference between the thrill of getting a need met, and the joy of seeing folks’ needs met.

Sally really, really, really wanted a pony. Her friend Melissa had had a pony for months now. Andrea’s mum had said only last week SHE could have a pony, too. All the cool girls at school had ponies. (Well, this was not entirely true, but it seemed true to Sally just now). Being accepted in her circle of friends was utterly dependent on having a pony (or so she believed). And she didn’t have one! Waaaaaa.

+++ When Selling Isn’t
(18 November 2013 at 07:59)

Every day, I see folks striving to get their needs met, often unconsciously, and often through tragic means – means which cause them and others unnecessary pain and anguish, and often frustrate the very needs they’re trying to get met.

This makes me feel sad, often frustrated and sometimes impotent, because for some – largely unexplored – reason, I find I have a need to help people. In fact, I see this as my vocation in life.

Much of what I write, tweet, talk and think about is my attempt to furnish folks with some alternatives to the more-or-less tragic means and patterns of action into which they seem locked.

Some people seem to interpret this as proselytising – attempting to persuade people of certain ideas or promoting certain viewpoints or courses of action. I can see how it might look like that, and I can’t be sure that’s not my subconscious intention sometimes but, consciously, I try to live up to the following ideal:

“To practice NVC, we must completely abandon the goal of getting other people to do what we want.”

~ Marshall Rosenberg

And no, this is not a lame plea for you to cut me some slack. Neither to invite you to police my actions – although I would very much appreciate any feedback about how something you’ve heard from me might have helped you better meet your needs (or not). I’d wouldn’t want to spur you to judgement.

“When we judge others we contribute to violence.”

~ Marshall Rosenberg

Nor am I trying to sell anything. I simply mention things which I imagine might be useful to some folks in some situations. We could call this surfacing some options (cf GROW). Oh, and by writing them down or presenting my thoughts it often helps me clarify and arrange them better.

What has this to do with selling?

I don’t like to sell. To me it seems manipulative and thereby, implicitly violent.

Some folk have suggested that I proselytise ideas – and cite that as a form of selling. I can seem how it sometimes looks like I may be trying to persuade, or promote a certain viewpoint.

Yes I understand the concept of “relationship selling”

I’ve always had a turbulent relationship with the idea of selling.

Not being independently wealthy, I’ve had to pay my way in the world much as most people do. So finding income has always commanded some of my attention.

As I get older, though, I become ever more uneasy with the widely-accepted notion of “selling things” – including my services- to furnish that income.

And the concept of “selling” seems to cast its shadow over other aspects of relationships, too.

“To practice NVC, we must completely abandon the goal of getting other people to do what we want.”

~ Marshall Rosenberg

This quote just about sums up where I’m at with respect to selling. And yes, I accept that some forms of sales, for example what some call “relationship selling”, where “sales” people listen to prospects’ needs and

+++ Attend To Folks’ Needs
(16 November 2013 at 08:13)

At first sight, the Antimatter Principle – “Attend to folks’ needs” might seem very simple. So simple as to have little value or utility. Maybe so simple as to be devoid of significance.

Some of my other posts have attempted to explain the significance I see in the principle. Whether they’ve done a fair job at that or not is your call.

This post takes a different tack, and provides some examples in case that’s more palatable for some than a rational explanation.

Developers’ Needs

Developers – and others in the business of “doing the work” – have needs. There’s their prosaic needs like a fast machine, enough screen real-estate, a comfortable chair, a suitable workplace environment, and so on.
And then there’s needs like knowing what they’re meant to be building,

Sponsors’ Needs

Customers’ Needs

+++ Carts and Horses
(13 November 2013 at 07:22)

How many people believe that “building a great software product business” begins and ends at the boundaries of the engineering a.k.a. development department?


+++ Organisational Treatment Planning
(13 November 2013 at 07:16)

Psychiatrists will often begin working with new patients by sitting down and jointly talking through the creation of a treatment plan.

“The treatment plan is a road map for both the patient and the psychiatrist to help guide them on their journey together.”

Similarly, when working with organisations on improving their wellbeing and cognitive function as a whole system, treatment planning can

Initial Assessment
Treatment planning usually starts

Borrowing from the Agile canon, we don’t

+++ Radar Diagram for Making Needs Visible
(11 November 2013 at 14:01)

+++ Creativity
(11 November 2013 at 07:21)

<bike photo>

Do you value creativity? Does creativity and innovation have key roles in the success of your organisation? How much more successful could you be if creativity was more frequent, or profound?

What Do We Mean By Creativity?

How Does Creativity Happen?

Where are you when your best ideas come along? For some folks it’s the bath or shower. For some, it’s the basement, the garden, the coffee-shop… Few folks have ever had great ideas in the office.

For me, my best ideas often come when I’m riding my bike. There’s something about the Flow state of fully-attentive riding <Csikszentmihalyi link> which does something to trigger my subconscious to surface stuff it’s been working on (cf. Theory U).

Most folks who know me know I ride motorbikes.

The Antimatter Principle

+++ Not your Mother’s Method
(5 November 2013 at 13:44)

I’d like to put the idea of method in context. Specifically, in the context of nonviolence.

Like of someone you know, love., and respect. Maybe your wife, your mother, your boss.

If they wanted to do something unfamiliar to them, but slightly more familiar to you, would you start by telling them how to do it?

+++ Indifference
(4 November 2013 at 10:50)

Influence, Violence, Motivation and Emergence

“First: What do we want the other person to do? Second: What do we want the other person’s reasons to be for doing as we request?” ~ Marshall Rosenberg

+++ Equations
(30 October 2013 at 20:23)

Prof goldratt, venerable father of Theory of Constraints, gives us two fundamental equations:

T = S – TVC
Net profit (NP) = throughput – operating expense = T – OE

The rightshifting equation

Lewin’s equation

The Antimatter Equation

The scope for being inhumane, like cost reduction in the TOC equations is limited

Effectiveness = attending to needs – level of violence

+++ Antimatter Mapping
(30 October 2013 at 09:02)

A.k.a. needs mapping

Mapping seems to be all the rage currently. Not to be left out, the Antimatter Principle has a mapping technique for mapping needs and their relationships. Mapping folks’ needs allows everyone to see who needs what, and to throw into sharp relief any needs which may appear to conflict.


Hypothesis-type logic

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

In order to meet this need, I have to meet that need.

The refusable requests are written as if folks have agree and acted on them already.

“In oder to feel xxx, I guess I need yyy. Would ABC be willing to zzz?”
“Assuming It get that and it meets my need, …”

+++ Against Method
(25 October 2013 at 13:34)

Scrum this, Kanban that, XP the other. It all seems so SAFe, doesn’t it? The kind of thing your DAD would like, at least in principle. Are we Crystal?

Honestly, it seems ever more likely to me that our preoccupation with *method* stems from generations of conventional thinking, compounded by the question of what would we sell if it didn’t come in a box with a big label on the front?

How about we take another look at the whole idea of method?

Quote Russell Brand re irrational humans

Further Reading
Against Method ~ Paul Feyerabend

+++ Needs 101
(23 October 2013 at 12:09)

At first glance, the Antimatter Principle looks very simple:

“Attend to folks’ needs.”

Setting aside how likely you might feel it is that your organisation – or any organisation – might choose to adopt it,

“The only person who knows what someone needs is that someone themself. It’s no good telling them.”

How likely is it that most organisational dysfunctions are “tragic expressions of unmet needs”? #NVC #AntimatterPrinciple

The good life

We need as a society to have a different consciousness based on “compassionate giving”

What people enjoy more than anything else is willingly contributing to each other’s wellbeing.

“Think of recently when you have done something that has enriched some else’s life?”
“How does it feel to be conscious you have this power to contribute to people’s well-being?”
“Can you think of anything that is more enjoyable than contributing to people’s wellbeing?”

Compassionate giving is what people most enjoy doing.

+++ The Violence Implicit In Professionalism
(21 October 2013 at 10:27)

+++ Decisions, Decisions
(19 October 2013 at 08:01)

“Unvalidated hypotheses are the WIP (inventory) of product development.” ~ FlowchainSensei

Software and product development involves a lot of making of decisions. Some folks say development is about learning – but the learning is only in service of the decision-making. And the decision-making, in turn, is only relevant when in service of validatioing our hypotheses. And our hypotheses, in the frame of the Antimatter Principle, are all about getting folks’ needs met.

Let’s lay this out for examination:

Folks have needs, not all of them clear or obvious at any given point in time.

As humans, we’d naturally like to see folks’ needs met, but don’t often know how best to do that, a priori.

So we (collaboratively) form hypotheses about which folks we’ll attend to, hypotheses about the needs those folks might have, interleaved with more hypotheses about how to meet those needs, and interleaved again with yet more hypotheses about which needs to prioritise. We even make hypotheses about whether we have enough information/knowledge about any and all the above hypotheses – which can surface more needs.

As soon as we have even one hypothesis we then start making decisions in the pursuit of the (dis)confirmation of the hypotheses. Folks sometimes call this “experimentation”.

We could also choose to see product development in this light as a “walk” along a trail of hypotheses – consuming hypotheses and processing them into “needs met” by means of continual decison-making work.

By way of illustration, here’s some typical “decisions” involved in (dis)confirmation of some hypotheses related to coding:

While-loop or repeat-until loop?
Iterative or recursive solution?
Pure or impure function?
String or structured data representation?
Exception or return code?
Log or not?
Place an assertion here?
Comment this decision?
Refactor now?

Of course, developers are making this and other decisions a thousand times a day. Often with much less than full information/knowledge of the context or implications of each decision.

And other folks are likewise making hundreds of decisions every day. Which colours to use for the UI? How to lay out this web page? Which text to include in this help message? What price to charge for this product? Would everyone like a coffee just now? Is this code ready to check-in? Is it lunchtime yet?

This might sound all very formal and time-consuming, but it’s what humans have been doing for thousands of years – with little or no conscious thought or effort, for the most part.

What is a Principle?

A principle is a signpost. Whenever we encounter a cross-roads, it helps us decide which road to take to move “forward”. And “forward” depends on our hypotheses about where we’re trying to get to.

And the Utility of all This?

“So what?” you might reasonably be asking.

Well, I started this post with the hypothesis that some folks might need more concrete examples of the Antimatter Principle: “Attend to folks’ needs”. This led me to the further hypotheses that folks might need a refresher on the nature of knowledge-work, and on the role of hypotheses, decisions and principles in that work.

Would you be willing to (dis)confirm my hypotheses, and maybe suggest some others? And let me know if has this post met any of your needs, and any other related needs which remain unmet?

+++ Rightshifting and the Antimatter Principle
(16 October 2013 at 12:33)

I’ve been writing this week about the Antimatter Principle and how I’ve seen attending to folks’ needs produce amazing results for software development organisations. I suppose many folks will be wondering how this all related to Rightshifting and the Marshall Model, if at all. Have I bailed on the Rightshifting community in favour of the next mad thing? Not at all.

I was thinking last week about Kanban and the principle of “start with what you do now, initially.”

+++ Ineffectiveness is Endemic
(15 October 2013 at 08:50)

Ineffectiveness as a disease
In a recent tedmed presentation (link), xxx invites us to consider violence (specifically gun violence in the USA) as a disease. And reports on project to tackle the problem using disease control methods in common use by medical practitioners worldwide

What is an endemic disease?


The Three Solutions

Further Reading
TEDMED gun violence video

+++ But You Are Free
(10 October 2013 at 15:32)

+++ Formulating a Treatment Plan
(10 October 2013 at 06:27)

Most psychotherapists use a treatment plan. <link> These plans can vary from rough handwritten notes through to extensive and detailed plans maintained with the help of a computerised system.

In the context of client-centred therapy and positive psychology

Empathise (three box monty can help)
Say what I see, invite folks to say what they see (hear, etc).
Say how I feel about those observations, invite folks to say what they feel
Invite folks to express the needs underlying their feelings, ditto myself
Invite folks to make requests which (might) get their needs met. Ditto myself.

A Treatment Plan Template

signs (what observers see)
symptoms (what the patient reports)
as evidenced by (measurable physical, emotional or behavioural evidence)
Long term goal
Short term goals/objectives
Intervention/Actions (w responsible persons)

Review date
Involvement of others
Services needed (beyond the scope of the organisation, therapist or programme)

The treatment plan is built around the problems that the patient brings into treatment. Within the treatment plan is a problem list that details each prob- lem. The problem list comes at the end of the diagnostic summary. It tells the staff what the patient will do in treatment. It must take into account all of the physical, emotional, and behavioral problems relevant to the patient’s care, as well as the patient’s strengths and weaknesses. It must also address each of the six dimensions of ASAM that you are following.
The treatment plan details the therapeutic interventions, what is going to be done, when it is going to be done, and by whom. It must consider each of the patient’s needs and come up with clear ways of dealing with each prob- lem. The treatment plan flows into discharge planning, which begins from the initial assessment.

Incremental Planning

Client Involvement

Time to speak with everyone involved

“Rapport, or trust, develops over time, and good therapists understand that revealing certain details may take time.”

Your initial diagnosis and treatment plan should be considered preliminary. In fact, some therapists prefer not to give diagnoses at all, but rather will discuss their understanding of your problem in layman’s terms. Many therapists wait to provide a diagnosis and treatment plan until after they receive the results of diagnostic tests, or after several sessions have elapsed. Many mental health conditions have similar symptoms, and working through the possibilities takes time, effort, and the establishment of a therapeutic relationship.



+++ Writing For One
(10 October 2013 at 05:22)

I’ve been blogging and presenting for many years now. Most of that time I’ve had some vague idea of trying to address the needs of as many of my audience as possible with each post or presentation.

This has generally left me feeling that my posts have been unfocussed and woolly

Recently, though, I’ve taken to heart some advice from Tom Peters. I an audience of hundreds, or thousands, look for the one person that’s going to change their perspective because of something you said.

+++ But Of Course
(7 October 2013 at 15:38)

Of course… our

Of course… having specialists constrains our flexibility and reduces our flow, but…

Of course… it would be nice to explicitly choose our level of technical debt, and choose to vary it as circumstances dictate, but…

Of course… we could be amazing at software development, if we chose to do so, but…

Of course… we could produce software that was essentially defect-free, but…

Of course…

Of course…

Of course…

Of course…

+++ Septima’s Story (Proficient Chaordic, circa RI 4.5)
(7 October 2013 at 10:30)

The rain drummed on the flat roof above.

Amanda’s eyes narrowed. Her gaze wandered amongst the few items on the desk. It wasn’t much to mark four years of effort, she thought.

+++ A State of Mind
(3 October 2013 at 10:03)

Intellect Blocks Empathy

I regularly find myself giving folks advice. Or, more accurately, selling them advice for money. I guess that’s one definition of “consultant”. And giving folks advice pisses me off.

Experience tells me it’s rarely if ever helpful. Experience tells me folks rarely if ever act on it or take it to heart.
And yet I feel hard-wired to carry on doing so.

It brings me little or no joy, and I’m resolved to do something about it. Hence my recent tweet:

By this means I intend to practice detachment, and in particular detachment from “concepts of the world”. I intend to listen more, speak less, and thereby become better at empathy.


In offering advice, I almost always find myself undermining the therapist’s stance <link>. As I believe therapy offers organisations far more benefits than does advice, it seems counter-productive to undermine the high-value stuff in favour of the low-value stuff.

“I’m not interested AT ALL in what you THINK. I’d love to hear about how you FEEL and what you NEED. And what you might like me to do for you”

“I’m not interested AT ALL in what I THINK. I’d love to share how I FEEL and what I NEED. And what we might like us to do for each other.”

“I don’t care what you think – but I do care greatly about how you feel, what you need and what I might be able to do to help you in that.”

“We don’t necessarily see things as they are we see them as we are. If a pickpocket meets a Saint, all he sees are his pockets.”
~ Ram Dass

+++ They Know Not What They Do
(2 October 2013 at 05:53)

+++ Are Defects Inevitable?
(29 September 2013 at 05:19)

Are defects inevitable in software development

First, what do we mean by a defect?

+++ The Right Stuff
(28 September 2013 at 15:07)

There seems to be a prevailing meme in the area of hiring which

+++ In A Saner World
(26 September 2013 at 11:15)

In a saner world,

In a saner world,

In a saner world,

In a saner world,

In a saner world,

In a saner world,

In a saner world,

In a saner world,

In a saner world,

In a saner world,

In a saner world,

In a saner world,

I’m sure you have your own points you’d like to add to this list.

+++ Autodiegesis
(23 September 2013 at 17:24)

We build our own castles in the air, our own dark dungeons of the mind.
At work we build them together.

organisational mindset evolution

ivory towers

@skirk “Participate unwittingly in the formation and evolution of…”

“The deepest and darkest dungeons that we are ever flung into are the dungeons of the mind”
~ rassool jibraeel snyman

+++ Hegemonia and Eudaimonia
(19 September 2013 at 10:43)

+++ What is Knowledge Work?
(19 September 2013 at 10:34)

Knowledge work – the origin of the term

Grey muscle not pink muscle – but more than this

Information work
Conversation work

Implications and Consequences

Office layouts – open plan vs other
Necessary skills – dialogue
Structure – Hierarchy or flat
Power structure –

+++ Tacit Knowledge, Temporal Proximity and Flow
(19 September 2013 at 10:28)

What are you doing to reduce the loss of tacit knowledge?


Tacit Knowledge
“Explicit” or codified knowledge refers to knowledge that is transmittable in formal, systematic language. On the other hand, “tacit” knowledge has a personal quality, which makes it hard to formalise and communicate. Tacit knowledge is deeply rooted in action, commitment, and involvement in a specific context (Nonaka, 1994, p. 16)

With eg Flowchain, we can schedule stories to capture tactic knowledge some time after the relevant user stories (or whatever) have been completed and delivered, but before the associated tacit knowledge dissipates.

+++ The Healthy Organisation
(19 September 2013 at 10:27)

Lemmas and Propositions
Here’s a few lemmas/propositions to get started:

1. The effectiveness of an organisation is a direct function of its collective mindset.
2. For a significant uplift (100%, 200%, 300%) in effectiveness, the collective mindset of an organisation (whole business, or even whole supply chain) has to change significantly.
3. Improved effectiveness goes straight to the bottom line
3x Introducing new ideas, principles, beliefs about work into just a part of an organisation will always create organisational cognitive dissonance.
4. Incremental change in collective mindset is unsustainable due to organisational cognitive dissonance
5. Sustainable change in collective mindset requires a “transition”
6. Changing individuals’ mindsets is both ethically dubious and practically problematic
7. Transitions require xxx
8. We might regard CEOs as responsible for transitions in the collective mindset, but few have the awareness of the need in theory, let alone the skills to execute in practice.

Like any skill set, handling a transition effectively requires practice. And by definition, few have ever seen even one transition, let alone had an active, practical, operational role in one. And fewer still those who have experienced the crucial Analytic to Synergistic transition.

Note also, those organisations attempting a transition have only their current vocabulary, their current way of seeing things and their current skills, to help them accomplish the task.
Modelling the desired future adds much to the xxx, yet few folks inside their little box are equipped to do that.

And it’s not just about a new vocabulary, new ways of seeing, new skills. It’s about making all that seem acceptable, congruent with an existing world-view, and just plain unscary.

“If we want to change what we have been getting, then we will have to change what we have been thinking. Otherwise, nothing will change.”

Can we leave a change of thinking to chance? Hope fondly that I will just happen? Expect it to take pace as a byproduct of other actions? Appoint a thought czar?

Why Call it Therapy?
Isn’t that contrary to the above advice regarding making things acceptable and congruent with existing world-views? Doesn’t calling it “therapy” risk scaring people away? Well, yes and no..

Therapy is an Experience
Link to blog posts
Everybody loves an experience, right?

“That which does not kill me makes me stronger”

Working ON the organisation, not IN the organisation.

How Therapy Works for the Organisation
According to the research of the eminent psychotherapist Carl Rogers, therapy works because as the client – in our case, the organisation – experiences the therapeutic relationship, its reactions to that experience are a mirror of the therapist’s attitudes:

As the organisation finds someone acceptantly listening and observing it, little by little it becomes able to listen to and observe itself. It becomes able to recognise its own state of mind and being, moment-to-moment. As it becomes more open to what is going on inside itself, it is able to listen to – and begin to discuss – “feelings” which have seemed so terrible, or disorganising, or abnormal, or shameful, that it has never been able to acknowledge their existence previously.
While the organisation is learning to listen to itself, it becomes more acceptant of itself. As it begins to discuss more and more of the undiscussable, it finds the therapist showing (modelling) an unconditional positive regard for the organisation and its “feelings”. Slowly it moves towards taking the same attitude towards itself, accepting itself as it is, and therefore ready to move forward in the process of becoming.
As the organisation listens and observes more accurately to its feelings within, and becomes less critical and more acceptive of itself, it too move towards greater congruence and authenticity (following the modelling of congruence from the therapist). It finds it possible to begin dismantling the facades and postures it has used, to drop its defensive behaviours, and more openly to be what it truly is. As these changes occur, as it becomes more self-aware, more self-acceptant, less defensive and more open, it finds that it is at last free to change and grow in the direction of improved effectiveness.

If you have ever experiences Rogerian therapy first-hand, you may see the parallels between his approach to the individual and the approach to the organisation outlined here.

The Process
Now let me put something of this process in factual statements, each statement borne out (with respect to individual therapy) by empirical research. We know that the client shows movement on each of a number of continua. Starting from wherever the organisation may be on each continuum I will mention, it moves toward the upper end.

In regard to feelings and personal meanings, it moves away from a state in which its emotional states (feelings) are unrecognised, unowned, unexpressed. It moves toward a flow in which ever-changing feelings are experienced in the moment, knowingly and acceptingly, and may be accurately expressed.

The process involves a change in the manner of the organisations’ experiencing. Initially it is remote from its experiencing. An example would be the company memos, which talks about the organisation in abstractions and platitudes, leaving you wondering what is actually going on within the company. From such remoteness it moves toward an immediacy of experiencing in which it lives openly in its experiencing, and knows that it can turn to its immediate experiences to discover its current meanings.

The process involves a loosening of the cognitive maps of experience. From construing experience in rigid ways, which are perceived as external facts, the client moves toward developing changing, loosely held construings of meaning in experience, constructs which are modifiable by each new experience.

“In general, the evidence shows that the process moves away from fixity, remoteness from feelings and experience, rigidity of self-concept, remoteness from people, impersonality of functioning. It moves toward fluidity, changingness, immediacy of feelings and experience, acceptance of feelings and experience, tentativeness of constructs, discovery of a changing self in one’s changing experience, realness and closeness of relationships, a unity and integration of functioning.

We are continually learning more about this process by which change comes about, and I am not sure that this very brief summary conveys much of the richness of our findings.”
~ Carl Rogers

Improved Effectiveness
The first question most people ask upon learning about Rightshifting is “where is my organisation on the rightshifting axis?”. The second question is often “how to go about becoming more effective?”

Recent events have suggested I may be in error to assume that people generally appreciate the benefits of organisational psychotherapy as the answer to that second question.

So this post lays out my reasons for choosing organisational psychotherapy as my preferred means to Rightshift knowledge-work organisations.

Organisational Psyche
Cite e.g. Stuff about collective conscious/unconscious

Monkeys and the banana story

The purpose of the Organisational Therapist is to improve the well-being of an organisation. As Martin Seligman observes: “An absence of poor health is not he same as good health”. Poor health and good health are not just opposite ends of one spectrum – they are two independent spectra.

Note that, following the idea of obliquity, as explained by e.g. John Kay, the Organisational Therapist is not concerned with the effectiveness of the organisation. Rather, effectiveness follows as a natural consequence of good health and well-being.

The Healthy Organisation

What is Organisational Health? I see different folks use the term for different concepts. I choose to see “health” in much the same way as the positive psychology movement describe “positive health”

“Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
~ World Health Organisation Charter, 1946

Click to access Organisational%20Health.pdf

“The bold proposal is that there exists a phenomenon that can be described as super health, shown by such indices as:
Less frequent and briefer ailments
Rapid wound healing
Enhanced recuperative ability
Greater physiological reserves”
~ Christoper Peterson

The bold proposal of Organisational Psychotherapy is that there exists for organisations a phenomenon that can be described as super health, show by such indices as:
Less frequent and briefer firefighting
Robust recovery from external shocks
Lower stress for folks both working in and interacting with the organisation
Ability to respond to sudden demands

+++ Lessons from the Software Senseis
(19 September 2013 at 10:26)

Something has been going on in the cube farms and drab offices of the software development folks. Not much in the way of software development, you might say, sighing. It seems like it’s still as hard as ever for businesses to get the software they need for their new products and services. That may be so.

The “something” I’m talking about is: learning. All over the world, in ones and twos, in small groups, in corridors and training rooms, in pubs and in conferences, software people have been learning together. Learning what it takes to deliver quality software reliably and effectively.

In the process, these Software Senseis have been learning some fundamental truths – not just about software development, but about the world of knowledge-work as a whole.

Here’s just some of the things these folks have learned over the past ten years and more:

It’s All About The People

Ten or twenty years ago, most software people spent their working lives struggling with technology. Just getting the technology to work reliably was a major achievement. How things have changed! Technology these days is infinitely more reliable – and easy (for specialists) to understand and deploy. Moderns tools, etc., make light work of previously onerous and time-consuming technical tasks. Long gone are the days when technical issues predominated.

Today’s focus has switched wholesale to people issues. How to get people to work well together, in high-performance teams. How to encourage collaboration. How to build engagement, morale and motivation. How to learn together, productively. The hot study topics in software development today are Psychology, Neuroscience and Group Dynamics, not Technology. The Software Senseis have finally embraced the idea that it’s people that matter, more than anything else, when it comes to reliable delivery of quality software.

Software Development is Part of a Bigger System

For decades, folks have been trying to improve parts of organisations in isolation, one part from another. The software development department has not been immune from this behaviour. Recently, much new evidence illustrates the remarkable benefits which can accrue from taking a wider view. From managing organisations in a joined-up way, as complete “systems”.

The Key Problems Are Often Outside The Software Development Domain

Following on from the lesson that managing and improving parts of a business independent of each other can ONLY lead to sub-optimisation, many high-performance software teams now see that their core problems lie outside their immediate span of control. Modern software development approaches have only served to reinforce this lesson.

Make Things Visible

Another recent lesson is the power of visualisation. Using very simple means – such as coloured index cards stuck to walls, or whiteboards – teams are making visible what’s happening in the software development pipeline. This visualisation, when shared across the whole business, gives everyone much more information. Information to reveal where the real issues are, and what’s really happening, in near real-time. Such information has a remarkable ability to enable better, more timely decisions.

Focus on Flow

Hand in hand with the realisation that key issues lie outside the software development department and its immediate control, is the realisation of the power of Flow. Software Senseis have learned the folly of obsessing about costs, and how such obsession drives costs UP. And folks have learned that when, instead, they focus on Flow – making work move smoothly and quickly through the organisation, from concept to delivery – reliability improves dramatically, and costs actually fall.


All in all, much has been learned over the past decade about this young field. And much continues to be learned. What has not yet been learned is how to share this new learning with the business mainstream. How to carry these lessons out from the software development teams and into the wider business. This is the next great frontier, and one in which the Software Senseis are ready, willing and able to play their part. The next move has to come in partnership with the business folks.

+++ Octavian: Common story template
(18 September 2013 at 14:17)

Each of the seven stories follows this general form:

The phone rings (or email, tweet arrives) at (company).
A player reads, (discusses) and responds – illustrating the company’s general tenor in dealing with e.g. sales enquiries (ad-hoc, organised, etc).
Some players discuss the brief.
They close the deal with Octavian
Work starts
There’s some issues along the way
Deliveries happen
Octavian responds to the deliveries

+++ Sexta’s Story (Early Chaordic, Circa RI 3.5)
(18 September 2013 at 13:53)

no longer reliant on rules, guidelines, maxims
intuitive grasp of situations, based on deep tacit understanding
driven by vision of what is possible
can integrate new idea, approaches, technologies with ease
conscious competence

Theory Y (consciously)
Systematic (sociocratic) decision-making
Intentional and systemic self-organisation and re-organisation
Multi-skilled individuals with an effective support system
High levels of trust (cf lencioni pyramid)
Much joy
Going beyond PDCA (scientific method) cf Feyerabend, Zen, Koen (Against Method)
A fresh (much wider/deeper) perspective on risks (effective opportunity management, joy in appreciation and embracing of risk/reward)
Some few design loopbacks (missteps, rework). Competence in SBCE, Trade-off curves, etc.
Due date performance (conformance to schedules), whilst excellent, is becoming irrelevant
Rapid delegation of work to to third parties built into BAU
Test environments continuously available
Few deployment and post-deployment problems (continuous deployments)
Consensus yet ongoing discussion about what accounts for “success”.
Most people want to believe that success is a result of positive opportunism – arbitraging fleeting market opportunities, and see intrinsic motivation, humane relationships, fellowship etc. as the only practical means to run an organisation that can do that effectively.
People spend as much time as they believe necessary to meet needs and add value. Hours, locations etc have become conscious means rather than ends.
Explicit metaphor for “work” as a collection of ephemeral value streams

+++ Quinta’s Story (Mature Synergistic, circa RI 3.0)
(18 September 2013 at 13:53)
holistic view of situations, rather than fractured and faceted
awareness of constraints, system throughput and capabilities
appreciation for what is truly valuable (to customers, other stakeholders)
can distinguish between common and special causes of variation
streamlined decision-making, often evidence-base
uses maxims for guidance; meaning of maxims may vary according to context
results routinely fully acceptable
conscious competence

Theory Y (consciously)
Universal consensus-style decision-making
Intentional and systemic self-organisation (cf Sociocracy by design e.g. deliberate and systemic)
Multi-skilled individuals with an effective support system
High levels of trust (cf lencioni pyramid)
Much joy
Combining of theory, principles with experimentation, PDCA, practices
Everyone’s in it for the (learning) community (liggers choose to bail)
Shared common purpose – including continual improvement ethos
Loving risks (effective opportunity management, joy in appreciation and embracing of risk/reward)
Fewer design loopbacks (less missteps, rework). Adoption of SBCE
Excellent due date performance (conformance to schedules)
Both strategic and tactical use of third parties built into BAU (cf Keiretsu, Mittelstand)
Investment in test environments is rarely necessary (and cost effective when it is needed)
Almost no deployment and post-deployment problems (many, frequent small deployments)
Consensus yet ongoing discussion about what accounts for “success”.
Everybody believes that success is a result of intrinsic motivation, e.g. autonomy, mastery and shared common purpose., plus a laser focus on the core business fundamentals.
People work flexibly, re: time, location, etc., with consistent results and a common consensus on how to make it work effectively. Work per se is becoming irrelevant, replaced by e.g. “adding value” and “meeting needs”.
Explicit metaphor for “work” as a collection of fixed value streams

+++ Quarta’s Story (Early Synergistic, circa RI 1.7)
(18 September 2013 at 13:49)

coping with complexity (multiple concurrent stakeholders, needs)
action now partially seen as part of longer-term systemic goals
conscious, deliberate consideration of the organisation as asystem
potential for reversion to Analytical thinking
reduction in variability of results
conscious incompetence

Theory Y (unconsciously)
More consensus-style decision-making
Emergent self-organisation (i.e. not deliberate or systemic yet)
Some multi-skilled individuals with an early version of a operationalised support system
Good levels of trust (cf lencioni pyramid)
Emphasis on theory, principles having key value, still lingering affection for practices and JFDI
Almost everyone’s in it for the community (some liggers still)
Shared common purpose
Nervous of risks (formal risk management, appreciation of risk/reward)
Lots of design loopbacks (missteps, rework) – Agile reduces their impact but compounds their frequency
Good due date performance (conformance to schedules)
Use of third parties considered normal and desirable (for some number of reasons)
Investment in test environments is rarely necessary (and cost effective when it is needed)
Few deployment and post-deployment problems (movement towards small deployments)
Some confusion, argument and discussion about what accounts for “success”.
Most people want to believe that success is a result of intrinsic motivation, e.g. autonomy, mastery and shared common purpose.
People work flexibly, re: time, location, etc., with variable results and no common consensus on how to make it work effectively. At least the folks get to choose.
Explicit metaphor for “work” as a design studio (creative learning environment)

+++ Tertia’s Story (Competent Analytic, circa RI 1.2)
(18 September 2013 at 11:58)

situational perception still unwittingly focussed on local optima
all areas of the business are treated separately and given equal encouragement to improve
results across the organisation and through time vary widely in terms of quality and predictability
unconscious incompetence

Theory X (unconsciously)
Oligarchy (chain-of-command decides)
“Professional” command & control “management” styles (Taylorist, MBA style)
Separation of “decison-making” from “work”
Narrowly-skilled individuals with a limited support system
Low levels of trust (cf lencioni pyramid)
Company policies actively (unwittingly) undermine trust (and there are now many of them)
Very little respect for the individual
Some liking for heroism (overtime, long hours)
Almost no joy
Understanding that theory, principles have value, still emphasis on practices and JFDI (cog diss)
Everyone’s in it for the money etc
Local shared purpose – working at odds with every other silo/group
Risk averse (much formal risk management, little appreciation of risk/reward)
Lots of design loopbacks (missteps, rework)
Some acute failures in due date performance (conformance to schedules)
Use of third parties considered normal (but not well managed)
Investment in eg test environments is standard but costly
Chronic deployment and post-deployment problems
Most people believe that success is a result of imposed discipline, long hours, “process” and teamwork (teams of rock stars).
People work 9-5, in the office, with “special exceptions” being dictated by management according to company policy
Explicit metaphor for “work” as a factory (manufacturing, production line)

+++ Secunda’s Story (Novice Analytic, circa RI 0.7)
(18 September 2013 at 10:47)

rigid adherence to rules
little or no discretionary judgement
potential to fall back to ad-hoc thinking
unconscious incompetence

Theory X (unconsciously)
Oligarchy (board decides)
Autocratic, command & control “management” styles (“mythic” management, rather than “scientific”)
Separation of “decison-making” from “work”
Some narrowly-skilled individuals (and many unskilled) with no real support system
Low levels of trust (cf lencioni pyramid)
Company policies actively (unwittingly) undermine trust (but there are as yet few of them)
Nascent project management – Gantt, Pert, MSProject, the whole useless nine years
Little respect for the individual
Much liking for heroism (overtime, firefighting, seat-of-pants)
Very few operational measures
Little joy
Dawning that maybe theory, principles have some value, still emphasis on practices and JFDI
Everyone’s in it for the money (extrinsic motivations)
Very local shared purpose (pairs, triples) working at odds with everyone else
Risk averse (no formal risk management, no appreciation of risk/reward)
Learning == training (and nothing else, from the org’s point of view)
Learning is in the domain of individuals – nothing much for the organisation to do other than some training
Lots of design loopbacks (missteps, rework)
Acute failures in due date performance (conformance to schedules)
Use of third parties considered only in extremis (for some number of reasons)
Investment in eg test environments is rare and exceptional
Chronic and acute deployment and post-deployment problems (discourages small deployments)
Most people believe that success is a result of imposed discipline, hard work and individual rock stars.
People work 9-5, in the office, with few “special exceptions”
Explicit metaphor for “work” as “office work” aka admin, non-creative

+++ Prima’s Story (Ad-hoc, circa RI 0.4)
(18 September 2013 at 10:47)

making it up as they go along
repeatedly solving the same or similar problems
unconscious incompetence

Theory X (unconsciously)
Autocracy (owner decides)
Random “management” styles (no real management tier)
Hands-on “management”, likelihood of micromanaging
Single loop learning
Lots of undiscussables, crucial conversations not had, folks oblivious to this
SDLC: Code&Fix
Massive WIP “Keep starting, not finishing”
Random (stochastic) flow
Lack of self-awareness
Ignorance of folks needs
Ignorance of covalence
Random feedback delay (up to a year, much feedback ignored or lost forever)
High cost of delay
Ultimately, delays lose Prima the contract
No project management
Little conscious respect for the individual
Much liking for heroism (overtime, firefighting, seat-of-pants)
Nothing measured (No operational measures)
Some joy and fun
Contemptuous of theory, principles, emphasis on practices and JFDI
Dismissive of tools
Absence of testing, no awareness of quality as an issue
Many defects seen by users and other stakeholders
Much waste (8 wastes) – unknown concepts though
Humane relationships rely on individual personalities
Everyone’s in it for themselves (Maslow)
Individual purpose
Blind to risks (and the very notion of the “risk/reward” curve)
Nothing learned, except by a few so-disposed individuals
Learning seen as something that we did at school. No relevance to the real world.
Lots of design loopbacks (missteps, rework)
Chronic and acute failures in due date performance (conformance to schedules)
Use of third parties considered abhorrent (for some number of reasons)
Failure to invest in e.g. test environments
Chronic and acute deployment and post-deployment problems (discourages small deployments)
Everyone believes that success is a result of hard work and individual rock stars.
People work 9-5 , with some “special exceptions” for the “favourites”. If the company can afford an office, then folks (excepting the favourites) work in the office.
No explicit metaphor for “work”

+++ Double Jeopardy
(17 September 2013 at 17:04)

I was thinking the other day about frames and how they can cause much confusion when folks are talking together. I see it quite regularly, for example., when observing others conversing on Twitter. I note it also when in conversations myself. Much misunderstand and even conflict ensues from failing to realise that folks generally look at the world through different frames. Sometimes markedly different frames. In extremis, frames can be so different that folks are completely unable to understand each other and each other’s arguments, perspectives, and so on.

“It turns out that the meaning of reality–the experiences, events, objects, processes, and facts we encounter– is not set but rather it is dynamic. It’s not absolute, it’s contextual.”
~ Noam Shpancer

The frames I have in mind to illustrate in this blog post are what we might choose to call the “Analytic Frame” and the “Synergistic Frame”.

Putting individuals in charge drives dysfunctional behaviour

From the Analytic Perspective:

“Single wringable neck”
Single point of contact
Improves focus (every “in-charge” person is laser-focussed on their own local optima)

Few, if any

From the Synergistic Perspective

Few, if any

Puts the “in-charge” person in the wringer (cf Deming’s 95%) [explain]
Robs everyone else of autonomy
Fragments common purpose (every “in-charge” person is laser-focussed on their own local optima)

People “in charge” are as subject to Deming’s 95% as anyone else

Rightshifting (mindset) questions:

Your company needs to focus its efforts on a key product launch. Would you:
a) Get all hands to rally round and go the extra mile to see the launch through?
b) Appoint someone to be responsible for the success – or failure – of the launch?
c) Build a consensus as to why the launch is important, and let people and BAU take care of the details.
d) xxx

+++ Read my Damn Blog!
(17 September 2013 at 12:15)

—Tyler Durden quote—

I have for some time now noticed a feeling of pique when talking with folks who have not read my blog. I’ve been trying to understand what need is not being met in these circumstances, with a view to e.g. being able to make a specific request.


It just came to me today how my struggle to understand my emotional reaction has been down to there being different needs not being met, in different circumstances and with different kinds people.

Potential Clients
I’m the kind of chap that likes to research purchases – like a new car or anew pair of boots – before committing. So I find it strange when folks who might be considering spending tends of thousands of pounds on my services haven’t read my blog. But what need is this choice on their part failing to meet?

My Mother
My Partner

+++ Laws
(17 September 2013 at 12:13)

If a vendor has a product or service, they will advise you to do things that require you to buy their product or use their service.

No matter the relevance of their advice, they will not care

+++ Lemmas and Propositions (alt version)
(12 September 2013 at 08:39)

Here’s a few lemmas/propositions to get started:
The effectiveness of an organisation is a direct function of its collective mindset.
Every organisation has a psyche (a.k.a. collective mindset)
For a significant uplift (100%, 200%, 300%) in effectiveness, the collective mindset of an organisation (whole business, or even whole supply chain) has to change significantly.
Improved effectiveness goes straight to the bottom line
Introducing new ideas, principles, beliefs about work into just a part of an organisation will always create organisational cognitive dissonance.
Incremental change in collective mindset is unsustainable due to organisational cognitive dissonance
Sustainable change in collective mindset requires a “transition”
Changing individuals’ mindsets is both ethically dubious and practically problematic
Transitions require xxx
CEOs nominally carry the responsibility for transitions in their organisation’s collective mindset.
Few CEOs possess an awareness of the value of mindset
In practice, few CEOs have the skills or experience to effect a transition in organisational mindset.
Like any skill set, effectively executing a transition requires practice. And by definition, few have ever seen even one transition, let alone had an active, practical, operational role in one. And fewer still those who have experienced the crucial Analytic to Synergistic transition.
We can assess the (psychological) health of an organisation by e.g. observation.

Note also, those organisations attempting a transition have only their current vocabulary, their current way of seeing things and their current skills, to help them accomplish the task.
And it’s not just about a new vocabulary, new ways of seeing, new skills. It’s about making all that seem acceptable, congruent with an existing world-view, and just plain un-scary.
“If we want to change what we have been getting, then we will have to change what we have been thinking. Otherwise, nothing will change.”
Can we leave a change of thinking to chance? Hope fondly that I will just happen? Expect it to take pace as a byproduct of other actions? Appoint a “thought czar” or some other wringable neck?
Why Call it Therapy?
Isn’t that contrary to the above advice regarding making things acceptable and congruent with existing world-views? Doesn’t calling it “therapy” risk scaring people away? Well, yes and no..
Therapy is an Experience
Link to blog posts
Everybody loves an experience, right?
“That which does not kill me makes me stronger.”
~ Friedrich Nietzsche
Working ON the organisation, not IN the organisation.
How Therapy Works for the Organisation
According to the research of the eminent psychotherapist Carl Rogers, therapy works because as the client – in our case, the organisation – experiences the therapeutic relationship, its reactions to that experience are a mirror of the therapist’s attitudes:
As the organisation finds someone acceptantly listening and observing it, little by little it becomes able to listen to and observe itself. It becomes able to recognise its own state of mind and being, moment-to-moment. As it becomes more open to what is going on inside itself, it is able to listen to – and begin to discuss – “feelings” which have seemed so terrible, or disorganising, or abnormal, or shameful, that it has never been able to acknowledge their existence previously.
While the organisation is learning to listen to itself, it becomes more acceptant of itself. As it begins to discuss more and more of the undiscussable, it finds the therapist showing (modelling) an unconditional positive regard for the organisation and its “feelings”. Slowly it moves towards taking the same attitude towards itself, accepting itself as it is, and therefore ready to move forward in the process of becoming.
As the organisation listens and observes more accurately to its feelings within, and becomes less critical and more acceptive of itself, it too move towards greater congruence and authenticity (following the modelling of congruence from the therapist). It finds it possible to begin dismantling the facades and postures it has used, to drop its defensive behaviours, and more openly to be what it truly is. As these changes occur, as it becomes more self-aware, more self-acceptant, less defensive and more open, it finds that it is at last free to change and grow in the direction of improved effectiveness.
If you have ever experiences Rogerian therapy first-hand, you may see the parallels between his approach to the individual and the approach to the organisation outlined here.
The Process
Now let me put something of this process in factual statements, each statement borne out (with respect to individual therapy) by empirical research. We know that the client shows movement on each of a number of continua. Starting from wherever the organisation may be on each continuum I will mention, it moves toward the upper end.
In regard to feelings and personal meanings, it moves away from a state in which its emotional states (feelings) are unrecognized, unowned, unexpressed. It moves toward a flow in which ever-changing feelings are experienced in the moment, knowingly and acceptingly, and may be accurately expressed.
The process involves a change in the manner of the organisations’ experiencing. Initially it is remote from its experiencing. An example would be the company memos, which talks about the organisation in abstractions and platitudes, leaving you wondering what is actually going on within the company. From such remoteness it moves toward an immediacy of experiencing in which it lives openly in its experiencing, and knows that it can turn to its immediate experiences to discover its current meanings.
The process involves a loosening of the cognitive maps of experience. From construing experience in rigid ways, which are perceived as external facts, the client moves toward developing changing, loosely held construings of meaning in experience, constructs which are modifiable by each new experience.
“In general, the evidence shows that the process moves away from fixity, remoteness from feelings and experience, rigidity of self-concept, remoteness from people, impersonality of functioning. It moves toward fluidity, changingness, immediacy of feelings and experience, acceptance of feelings and experience, tentativeness of constructs, discovery of a changing self in one’s changing experience, realness and closeness of relationships, a unity and integration of functioning.
We are continually learning more about this process by which change comes about, and I am not sure that this very brief summary conveys much of the richness of our findings.”
~ Carl Rogers
Improved Effectiveness
The first question most people ask upon learning about Rightshifting is “where is my organisation on the rightshifting axis?”. The second question is often “how to go about becoming more effective?”
Recent events have suggested I may be in error to assume that people generally appreciate the benefits of organisational psychotherapy as the answer to that second question.
So this post lays out my reasons for choosing organisational psychotherapy as my preferred means to Rightshift knowledge-work organisations.
Organisational Psyche
Cite e.g. Stuff about collective conscious/unconscious
Monkeys and the banana story
The purpose of the Organisational Therapist is to improve the well-being of an organisation. As Martin Seligman observes: “An absence of poor health is not he same as good health”. Poor health and good health are not just opposite ends of one spectrum – they are two independent spectra.
Note that, following the idea of obliquity, as explained by e.g. John Kay, the Organisational Therapist is not concerned with the effectiveness of the organisation. Rather, effectiveness follows as a natural consequence of good health and well-being.
The Healthy Organisation
What is Organisational Health? I see different folks use the term for different concepts. I choose to see “health” in much the same way as the positive psychology movement describe “positive health”
“Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
~ World Health Organisation Charter, 1946
”The bold proposal is that there exists a phenomenon that can be described as super health, shown by such indices as:
Less frequent and briefer ailments
Rapid wound healing
Enhanced recuperative ability
Greater physiological reserves”
~ Christoper Peterson
The bold proposal of Organisational Psychotherapy is that there exists for organisations a phenomenon that can be described as super health, show by such indices as:
Less frequent and briefer firefighting
Robust recovery from external shocks
Lower stress for folks both working in and interacting with the organisation
Ability to respond to sudden demands

+++ Hire Me
(12 September 2013 at 08:38)

A lot of folks, upon hearing about #NoCV, ask me how they can present themselves to e.g. potential employers without such a document.

As I’m in the market for new opportunities myself as the moment, I thought I’d address the question by way of a personal example.

So here’s my attempt at representing myself to potential clients, employers, or anyone else that might like to hire me.

“When recruiting, look for mindset, not experience. Mindset is the determinant of effectiveness; experience often a blocker. #NoCV”

Remember, the goal is NOT to represent the past with lists of experience, skills or even accomplishments, but to illustrate how you can contribute to an organisation becoming significantly more effective. So the challenge is to find some means to illustrate your mindset.

(Aside: Many organisations will not be looking to become more effective, and thus not looking for folks with abilities in this area. You may decide, like me, that these organisations are not amongst your candidate list of places you’d like to work.)

In What is a Mindset, I compares mindsets to memeplexes,


Things that I believe contribute to effectiveness in knowledge-work organisations:
Nonviolent communication,,,,,100
Meaningful dialogue,,,,,100
Humanity and Compassion,,,,,100
Improving the way the work works,,,,,100
Common purpose,,,,,100
Positive opportunism,,,,,100
Smooth flow (of value; to customers),,,,,100
Covalence (meeting the needs of all stakeholders in an endeavour),,,,,100
Respect for people,,,,,100
Lifelong learning,,,,,100
Learning together,,,,,100
Theory Y,,,,,100
Making things visible,,,,,100
Making things discussable,,,,,100
Individual physical health and well-being,,,,,100
Individual mental health and well-being,,,,,100
Organisational mental health and well-being,,,,,100
Productivity is an attribute of the system,,,,,100
Nice guys finish first,,,,,100

Things that I believe sap effectiveness in knowledge-work organisations:
Domination and power hierarchies,,,,,100
Imposed discipline (including standards; policies; rules and bureaucracy),,,,,80
The placing of self-interest ahead of the common good,,,,,50
Confusion over purpose,,,,,70
Silos; functional departments and local optimisations,,,,,90
Projects and the byzantine effects of the project concept,,,,,70
Scientific Management (a.k.a. Taylorism),,,,,70
Theory X,,,,,60
The Status Quo,,,,,90
Productivity is a function of the individual,,,,,70
Nice guys finish last,,,,,70

Notable contributions to the field of organisational effectiveness include
The Marshall Model
Business Value Calculation
Organisational Therapy

I also speak nationally and internationally on these subjects:
[Links to videos]

+++ Going Digital
(12 September 2013 at 08:28)

I’ve worked a lot, over the past decade or so, with companies on a “digital journey”.

That’s to say, companies that have either:
Had a traditional bricks-and-mortar business and have seen the writing on the wall as far as disruption and decline of their traditional lines of revenue by “digital upstarts” is concerned, or
Been a start-up looking to disrupt said traditional businesses with new business models and methods derived from application of digital technologies, such as computers, software, and networks.

Honestly, neither of these two groups have had much of a clue about the key issues and opportunities inherent in “going digital”. Deep down, at some mostly-subconscious level, the folks involved seem to have sensed this. Much more explicit has been their belief that “we have to do something.” Whether fear of decline, irrelevance or death, or enthusiasm for opportunities new, most of these organisations have chosen to do something. Now comes the question of “what?” This is where things typically begin to fall apart.

Like a hawk in a flock of pigeons, there’s so much noise, distraction, possible opportunities in prospect, that the poor hawk, constantly distracted, fails to secure any one of the pigeons. Ultimately, it can seem, for most folks involved, that sticking to the knitting is a better option than stepping out of their comfort zones and committing to a course of action poorly understood, most likely risky, and of unknown potential.

Manifestations and Symptoms

What Does “Going Digital” Really Mean?

Most of the organisations I’ve seen up close and personal in their “digital journey” don’t seem to have been able to effectively grasp the idea, articulate the nature of the inherent challenge(s), or come to any kind of explicit consensus on what the term actually means.

Here’s my suggestion:

“Going Digital” means explicitly and deliberately placing knowledge-work at the heart of the business.

From this particular definition, all kinds of implications, both subtle and obvious, emerge.


Understanding what “knowledge-work” is; its modalities, key issues and opportunities.

“Going Digital” means having to fundamentally change our assumptions about the nature of business, driven by changes in both technology and wider society. We have seen an unprecedented acceleration in the rate of change we have to cope with as an organisation. In particular, “Going Digital” means recognising the new centrality of knowledge-work, and reorienting almost every aspect of ourselves and our organisations towards effective ways of making knowledge-work work well.

Key Issues

“Going Digital” presents some key issues, both for traditional companies and start-ups

For Traditional Companies
“We’re already doing that”
“Its not so important”
“We haven’t the time”
“I’m not convinced of the issues”

Key Opportunities

+++ I feel your pain
(10 September 2013 at 09:00)

On frames, shoulding, and the pain that comes from expecting the world to work in a certain way.

+++ More Important Than Knowledge
(4 September 2013 at 11:54)

Let’s face it. Most people have very little awareness of the progress in neuroscience, psychology and related disciplines over the past decade or so. Thus they have precious little awareness of the current state of knowledge as it applies to people and groups in the workplace.

“Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.”
~ Carl Sagan

“I believe our only hope for the future is to adopt a new conception of human ecology, one in which we start to reconstitute our concept of the richness in human capacity.”
~ Sir Ken Robinson

A grand and pervasive failure of the collective imagination of generations of businesses – and of the people working in them.

It’s a kind of meta-failure too – the failure to imagine how powerful imagination can be.

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”
~ Michelangelo

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
~ Albert Einstein

“Don’t fear failure — Not failure, but low aim, is the crime. In great attempts it is glorious even to fail.”
~ Bruce Lee

Sir Ken Robinson on imagination

“Happiness is not an ideal of reason, but of imagination.” ~ Immanuel Kant

“You have to imagine it possible before you can see something. You can have the evidence right in front of you, but if you can’t imagine something that has never existed before, it’s impossible.”
~ Rita Dove

Further Reading
Why Neuroscience SHOULD Change the Way We Manage People:

+++ Joy? Pshaw!
(2 September 2013 at 07:50)

Most times when I mention “joy in work” to non-agile folks, such as CEOs, recruiters, journalists and the like, I get a strangely quizzical look in return, as if I had suddenly sprouted an extra head or something (Zaphod Beeblebrox I am not).

I find it sad how so many businesses have a profoundly win-lose perspective.

+++ Ten Things Tech Startups Might Like to Know To Get Ahead
(1 September 2013 at 11:35)

Not an exhaustive list… :}

Lean Startup
Business Model Canvas / Lean Canvas
The Scientific Method
Systems Thinking (Seddon, the Vanguard Method, Deming, Senge, Ackoff, Beer, Checkland)
Psychology of Motivation (& Cognitive Biases, etc) –> coaching not telling
Group Dynamics (Organisational Psychotherapy)
Teamwork and skilled dialogue
Flow (Flowchain)
Value & TOC – The Goal++
Rightshifting and the Marshall Model

Prodgnosis (Allen Ward, Michael Kennedy)
Emotioneering (Buyology – Martin Lindstrom)


FlowCon is designed around the following values:

Learning: Our goal is to provide the best possible conference forum for practitioners to learn from each other how to build great products and services.

Open Information: We aim to uncover how great products and services are built in real life and make this information freely available to the widest audience possible.

Diversity: We believe the technology community – and thus the conference speakers and participants – should reflect the demographics of our customers and the wider world.

Spanning boundaries: We believe that the best products are created collaboratively by people with a range of skills and experiences.

+++ Doing the Math
(25 August 2013 at 07:30)

I really wonder sometimes if most folks in business ever think beyond the end of their noses when it come to possibilities.

For example, when talking about Rightshifting, I generally mention the fact that some organisations are at least five times more effective than the average (median) organisations.

Sure, folks are very interested in where their organisations sits along the rightshifting (effectiveness) axis, but beyond that I rarely see little consideration of what a shift to the right might mean for their organisations, either in terms of money, or their goal.

And I’ve rarely seen any concrete illustration of the tangible benefits of such a shift.


Let’s consider a simple software startup., writing its own software in support of some B2B proposition it is offering in the market. For simplicity, let’s assume that there is good demand for the proposition, and the main task at hand is to win enough paying clients for the business to go cashflow-positive before it reaches the end of its presently available funding runway.

Further Reading
The Goal ~ Eliyahu M. Goldratt

+++ Gift Horses And Spreading an Idea
(18 August 2013 at 09:53)

[Photo of £50 note lying on the pavement]

Would you pick it up?

Derren Brown – The Secret of Luck video

So – do ya feel lucky?
Do ya, Punk?

+++ How to Change Business From the Ground Up
(18 August 2013 at 09:42)

+++ No More Stupid Punts
(123 August 2013 at 17:00)


Concrete Steps

Public Letter of Absolution (sample)
We did not believe what we were told about the inherent scale or nature of the challenge, or its degree of difficulty
Contingency Fee
Some third thing

+++ Rightshifting Effectiveness
(12 August 2013 at 09:58)

Getting needs met.
Everyone has different needs.


Some typical stakeholders:



Middle Managers



Society at large

+++ Linguistic Relativity
(8 August 2013 at 12:16)

Whatever our opinions of Linguistic Relativity in general, it seems to me that the vocabulary, metaphors, stories, etc. in common use in any given organisation have a marked influence on what is discussable and what is not. If only in a practical sense.

By which I mean that folks are more likely to have fruitful discussions using concepts, terms and words of which they already have some familiarity and some common agreement on meaning. Introducing new, alien terms and concepts can take time, time which few may be willing to invest for the dubious advantage that gaining familiarity with any new terms of concept may confer in the longer term.


Drunk Tank Pink ~ Adam Alter

+++ The Virus of Variability
(4 August 2013 at 10:18)

I’ve very recently become aquatinted with the work of Myron Tribus, and in particular his “famous” paper “The Germ Theory of Management”. In this paper he make the very cogent and convincing case for the malaise in US manufacturing being due to a general ignorance of the pivotal role of variability. Tribus asserts that widespread ignorance of the nature and consequences of variability manifests in all kinds of undesirable ways – what he calls the “virus of variability”.

“Shewhart discovered what, in retrospect, ought to have been clear to everyone. When you assemble a vacuum tube, if every component that goes into the vacuum tube is put together precisely the same way and each is free of contamination, and if each is subjected to exactly the same load conditions, then each will live the same life. The problem is that not all vacuum tubes can be made the same. There are small variations in chemical composition of materials. There are small variations in the assembly process. There is always a small amount of dirt that falls by chance into different places. In short, there is always variability and this leads to uncertainty in how long the vacuum tube will last. If the process of assembly is sufficiently out of control, it is almost certain that some of the vacuum tubes will have very short lives. The tubes are victims of the virus of variability. This was Shewhart’s discovery.”

In software and product development however, things are a little more complicated. Variation can sometimes be a good thing,

“Just as Lister understood the broader significance of Pasteur’s work in the field of medicine, so it was that Dr W Edwards Deming understood the significance of Shewhart’s work to the general theory of management. Deming was not alone. There were other pioneers, such as Homer Sarasohn and J M Juran who also saw the broader implications of Shewhart’s work to management. These men realized that the key to better management was the study of the process whereby things get done. If you remove the sources of variability from any process, you make it more predictable and therefore more controllable. You can schedule activities closer together and eliminate waste and delay.”

If we remove sources of variability in software and product development however, we run the risk of killing innovation and indeed intrinsic motivation of the folks doing the work.

So how do we tell, in software and product development, where to reduce variability, and where to increase it? How can we see the effects of variability and gauge its positive or negative impact on any given aspect of the development pipeline?

The Design and Development Process

In his excellent book “Sketching User Experiences” Bill Buxton uses Laseau’s “overlapping and opposing funnels” diagram to explain the design process (see page 144).


I suggest that variability in the generative aspects of a development is a positive, whilst variability in the reductive aspects of a development are generally a negative. Put another way, whilst we’re exploring the design space, coming up with new ideas, options, etc, we want as much whacky thinking, ima

In my experience, development work falls into three different categories:
Doing what we know how to do
Exploring what we don’t know how to do (yet)
Deferring what we don’t have time to explore (yet) – technical debt

For work in the first category, we may already have invested in ways of reducing variability (checklists, coding standards, reviews, pair programming, and so on). In any case, variability in this category generally leads to reduced value.

For work in the second category, variability can pay positive dividends, as we discover what needs to be done, and new – hopefully better – ways of doing it.

For work in the third category, this is work not done, so variability is moot.

+++ People Have Needs
(1 August 2013 at 08:52)

The ten top needs in common seen in my recent nightmare:

Working with people aligned in purpose and outlook – Hiring the wrong people OK So hiring is a lottery. But…
Working with people equally committed – Not firing the lamers
Having opportunities to be heard and influence decisions – Not listening
Mutual learning – Not learning (egotism, knowing it all)
Living and working in clean and healthy surroundings – Not fixing “broken windows”
Receiving support – Not supporting people
Understanding what’s going on – Focus on numbers (insane)
Being treaded like a human being – Ignoring – or even ridiculing – the soft factors
Having our skills, experience, talents and enthusiasms recognised and put to good use – Wasting people’s skills and experience
Speaking Jackal (ethical relativity)
Expecting Magic
Screwing the customer

People have needs – and ignoring them is a recipe for lower morale, and all that implies for joy, productivity, quality, innovation and engagement.

+++ Why I Just Quit
(13 July 2013 at 07:55)

Next to no joy

Scores on the Buckingham 12-point scale (where 10 is max or “very much”:

0: How much do I believe job satisfaction is possible in a job? 10
1: How well do I know what is expected of me at work? 2
2: How many of the right tools, information and equipment do I have to do my job right? 2
3: How often do I have the opportunity to do what I do best? 2
4: How often in the past seven days have I received recognition or feedback on my work? 0
5: How many folks seem to care about me as a person? 2
6: How much do folks at work encourage my personal and professional development? 0
7: How often and how much do my opinions at work seem to count? 1
8: How much does the mission/purpose of the company make me feel like my work is important? 0
9:How much do I feel my co-workers are committed to doing quality work? 1
10: Do I have a best friend at work? 0
11: In the last six months how often have I talked with someone about my progress? 0
12: This past year, how much have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow? 1

I’ve decided that I have to take care of myself – because I’ve confirmed that no one in CPA is going to do that.

+++ Quantifying Management Methods
(26 June 2013 at 11:57)

Aka Quantifying Mindsets

How cool would it be to quantify our objectives for our management methods and then see which management approaches actually measure up?

+++ Designing Business Apps without Forms
(23 June 2013 at 09:44)

I hate forms. You could say I was form-o-phobic. I suspect may folks share in this. And besides which, I just don’t believe that forms are the most effective way to enter and browse records.

Business apps are mostly record-keeping apps. So how about we consider other metaphors for creating, reading, updating and searching business records?

Aside: I’ve excluded “delete” from the more traditional CRUD tetrad as the ever-increaing availability of storage makes deletions redundant (and they were always less than desirable, IMO).

The metaphor I like is the social app – a la Twitter.

Creating Records

The social app is not so good at recording information. In the simple case, there may be a lots of keying required to input the data for each record. But if we recognise that most of the information that we’d like to record can be conjured by the app itself, rather than keyed by the user, then creating records can be streamlined to the point where just a few keystrokes and corrections are needed for each new record.

Reading Records

Forms really suck at presenting information in an easily-absorbed way. Simple queries can serve to retrieve individual data points


What’s Marty Smith’s annual salary rate as of now?
> As at 13:27EST 20 June 2013, Marty Smith has an annual salary rate of $25,000.00. FWIW, here’s a link to his full payroll information as of now: <clickable url>

while we can ask for more comprehensive details explicitly:

What’s Marty Smith’s payroll information over the past two years?
> Marty Smith’s payroll information between 20 June 2011 and 20 June 2013: <clickable url>

Of course, we don’t really want users to be typing “What’s <employee name> <data field> over the <period>?” all day long, so we can also imagine the UI providing shortcuts (query auto-completion):

[Shows a list of canned queries known to be understood by the “user” known as “payroll” e.g.
“What’s <employee name> <data field> over the <period>?”
“What’s <employee id> <data field> over the <period>?”
selecting an option from the list (by e.g. typing the first few characters a la google search) partially completes the query up to the first term, when the user can provide the data for the term, and continue to type and key data until the query is complete

NB We expect auto-completion to work on the user handle too, e.g. upon typing “@” (introduces a user handle) or “@@” (introduces an context-sensisitve alias for a user) the app will try to auto-complete the user handle or alias at each keystroke.

Updating Records

Most updates to records involve modifying just a few data fields in a record. Displaying a whole form in not only time-consuming, but for the user, having to find the data fields in question in order to key in the changes can also be a pain.

Some kind of directed update might serve users better.


Change Marty Smith’s annual salary rate to $30,000 per annum, effective from 23 July 2013

Making it Simple

Of course, if you decide that you’d like to join the #NoForms movement and start building apps that use the social app metaphor as outlined here, i would be nice to have some code design, and code, to build upon, rather than start from scratch. So to Plinky:

Messages (The lingua franca of the social app) (Private, Group, Public cf Timelines)
Players (People or other things with “Agency”)
Languages (each play understands one or more “languages”, these can be e.g. human languages such as English, French, etc, as well as more domain-specific languages- in which case we’re rather talking about protocols (in e.g. the Objective-C sense).
Events (Things that happen)
Clocks (A specific kind of Player – these tell the time)
Templates (Things that describe the appearance of e.g. records and other data).
Timelines (Streams of messages from a Player)
Threads (of conversation – a virtual concept)
Foci (things a user is doing/interested in i.e. one focus per message column/stream)

Rule #1: There is no interface other than messages

+++ Defensible Space
(22 June 2013 at 14:53)

The dev studio environment: sanctum or zoo?

+++ GIlb and NVC
(22 June 2013 at 09:14)

A prospective workshop on Tom GIlb’s use of quantification married with Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication

At its heart, product development is all about try to (covalently)

meet the needs of all the various folks seen as being stakeholders in the finished product.

See also:

Tom Gilb shows us how to more effectively talk about and co-explore those needs.

Marshall Rosenberg gives us a powerful and proven approach to resolving the conflicts that inevitably arise between the needs of the various stakeholders (and, incidentally, between people involved in the work, as it progresses).

To me it seems a no-brainier to combine these ideas (and methods) to give us a path towards more effective product development, where we might:

Better understand the needs of the various stakeholders
Better arrive at a consensus on what matters (“what is the right thing to build”)
Focus more on delivering things (i.e. product features and attributes) that actually meet a known need
Avoid working on things that no one actually needs (things that add little or no value)
Reduce the inevitable conflicts …

Further Reading

Principles of Software Engineering Management ~ Tom Gilb
Competitive Engineering ~ Tom Gilb
Nonviolent Communication ~ Marshall B. Rosenberg
Speak Peace in a World of Conflict ~ Marshall B. Rosenberg

+++ Can organisations heal themselves?
(18 June 2013 at 10:02)

and other things about the placebo response

+++ Continuous improvement
(18 June 2013 at 09:59)

What is “improvement”?

What is does “continuous” really mean

What does CI look like in real life software development?

CI 101

(For e.g. ProductHeads July meeting)

Focus on (improving) flow
What does improved flow look like?
How do we know flow has improved?

Some practical structured approaches:

Toyota improvement kata



+++ People Amplification
(14 June 2013 at 08:00)

In conversations with prospective clients or employers I sometimes used to refer to myself as a “people amplifier”. Meaning that with my help, people could become more – of whatever they wanted to be more of.

Over the past couple of years I’ve stopped using this metaphor, mainly because I’ve come to regard it as somewhat clumsy and easily mis-interpreted.

+++ Where There’s a Will (There’s a Way)
(9 January 2013 at 10:51)

I’ve spent whole career working with orgs that have professed a wish to improve their software or tech product development capabilities.

(Detailed defn)

“To him that will, ways are not wanting”

Orgs that don’t want to do what it takes to improve their sw development

+++ Pace of Change
(11 December 2012 at 10:53)

Mindset Zone of Compatibility

Folks find peace-of-mind when working in organisations where the prevailing worldview (set of assumptions and beliefs held in common) matches their own. Conversely, if the organisation as a whole sees the world of work in a particular way, and someone working there has a different perspective, the only outcome is stress – not only for the individual, but conversely, for the organisation too.

Pace of Change

Contrary to popular opinion, the pace of change is not “ever-accelerating”, at least within any given organisation. Like a roller-coaster, the pace of change can vary wildly, even from day to day, and week-to-week.

Everybody has a different tolerance to the pace of change. Some folks feel happiest when things are racing ahead, new ideas and new initiatives come flying thick and fast, and work looks different – and better – almost every day. Other folks prefer much more stability.

Managers are no different in this respect. Yet managers largely govern the rate of change, at least in organisations where management is still the preferred means by which to exercise xxx and yyy.

As an organisation works to improve the way it works, the pace of change itself changes. Different folks will find themselves more of less stressed depending on their individual tolerance for the pace of change at any given time.


The Paradox

+++ Build vs Buy
(13 November 2012 at 17:38)

Never mind the quality, feel the width

Build the least possible, buying will get you the most possible (including the kitchen sink)


Why We’re All So Angry All The Time

In his book “The Surprising Purpose of Anger” Marshall Rosenberg tells us that anger stems from situations where our needs are not being met. When a need is unmet, we’re likely to feel frustrated and react aggressively (see: Blair, “Considering Anger from a Cognitive Neuroscience Perspective” . And, being human, we’re also likely to look for other people to blame for our needs going unmet.

That may be so. Indeed, Rosenberg’s perspective is a key element informing the Antimatter Principle.

But I have another theory. Or at least, a complementary theory. What if we’re so angry all the time – at a whole host of different things – because we have a need to feel angry? What if we find some real joy, delight – or at least catharsis – in feeling angry?

The theory: We’re all so angry all the time because we like it that way. We delight in the rush of adrenaline and flow of blood to the amygdala – and related parts of the brain – that accompanies our feelings of anger.

This might help explain some of the behaviours I see time and again in work and life. And note in myself, too.

“There’s something delicious about finding fault with something, Especially when our egos are involved (which is nearly always the case), we may protect our anger. We justify it and even feed it.”

~ Perma Chodron

Moral Imperative

We see lots of self-help articles about moderating or dealing with our anger. I suspect an underlying moral imperative along the lines of “anger is bad”. I don’t subscribe. Anger, like any other emotion, strikes me as neither bad nor good – it just IS. Of course, emotion-led responses borne of anger can lead to unfortunate outcomes – such as deterioration in our relationships with others. Which we probably would find useful to avoid, not least in the context of the workplace.


Some research suggests that when we attempt to tackle our emotional state head-on, it only makes things worse:

“…when experimental subjects are told of an unhappy event, but then instructed to try not to feel sad about it, they end up feeling worse than people who are informed of the event, but given no instructions about how to feel. In another study, when patients who were suffering from panic disorders listened to relaxation tapes, their hearts beat faster than patients who listened to audiobooks with no explicitly ‘relaxing’ content. Bereaved people who make the most effort to avoid feeling grief, research suggests, take the longest to recover from their loss.”

~ Oliver Burkman


In conclusion, may I suggest we recognise and acknowledge the feeling, embrace the delicious joy of anger, use it as fuel for our spirit, and don’t get caught up in moralistic judgments of ourself or the emotion. And remember, we don’t have to ACT on our anger.

– Bob

Further Reading

Considering Anger from a Cognitive Neuroscience Perspective ~ R. J. R. Blair
The Surprising Purpose of Anger: Beyond Anger Management: Finding the Gift ~ Marshall Rosenberg
Anger And Domination Systems ~ Marshall Rosenberg
How To Get Rid Of Anger: 3 New Secrets From Neuroscience ~ Eric Barker
Buddhism’s Solutions for Anger ~ Barbara O’Brien
The Power of Humane Relationships ~ Think Different blog post

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