Considering an Agile Transformation?

Are you pondering an Agile transformation for your organisation? Here’s the rub: at best, you’re merely going to catch up with practices from two decades ago. Agile transformation, in essence, is the process of transitioning an entire organisation from its existing approach to work, to an Agile approach. This could mean adopting Scrum, Kanban, or a hybrid of multiple Agile frameworks.

So, you’ve successfully transitioned to Agile. Congratulations, but what have you actually gained? It’s now the norm, not the exception. (And Lame Agile is the prevailing norm). Agile is the minimum, not the cutting edge. It’s high time organisations moved past Agile, seeking innovative, post-Agile approaches, such as “Quintessence“.

There’s no real benefit to running a marathon, only to realise you’re still miles and decades behind the frontrunners.

Get in touch if you’re curious…

What’s My New Startup, “AInklings”, All About?

We at AInklings are thrilled to have embarked on a journey to revolutionise the world of books and learning. We’ve set out to craft immersive and interactive books that transform reading into a truly captivating adventure​​. Our mission extends beyond just delivering information; we’re creating a whole new realm of learning that’s a journey of discovery. The books we offer are uniquely designed to adapt to each reader, providing personalised insights that nurture curiosity and comprehension​​.

Our team is a lively mix of authors, innovators, and dreamers, all dedicated to pushing the boundaries of the published word​​. We extend a warm invitation to you – authors, publishers, developers, marketers, and readers – to join our revolutionary adventure. We believe there’s a place for everyone in this thrilling experience we’re creating​​.

We’re also keen to keep our community informed and engaged. Through our LinkedIn group, we share exciting updates about our company and the broader world of literature. We’re standing on the brink of a major shift in the publishing industry, and we’re thrilled to welcome you to this exciting journey into the future of learning through reading​​.

Challenging Traditional Roles in the Age of Self-Organisation and Intrinsic Motivation

Do traditional hierarchical roles such as “Development Manager” or “Director of Software Engineering” genuinely cater to the progressive needs of contemporary businesses?

In light of the evolution of the field, where the principles of auftragstaktik have fostered self-organisation and collaboration, supplanting rigid command-and-control structures, do these roles maintain their relevance? Or do they potentially create barriers to effectiveness and innovation?

In a world that takes a leaf from Dan Pink’s “Drive”, promoting autonomy, mastery, and purpose as the pillars of intrinsic motivation, what does it mean to be a “Development Manager” or a “Director of Software Engineering”? Are these roles becoming mere vestiges of a past era, where top-down mandates were the norm, rather than fostering an environment that nurtures intrinsic motivation?

How can these positions be reformulated or reinterpreted to better fit the ethos of modern organisations, aligning more with the principles of auftragstaktik, which emphasizes initiative and adaptability? Are we clinging to an outdated nomenclature that no longer mirrors the reality of how work is executed? Is it time to reconsider how we define relationships and roles within the context of the workplace?

Are these positions truly adding value, or are they merely relics of an outdated mindset? Is it time we reassess the structures we’ve come to accept, and explore new paradigms that inspire innovation and growth?

Effective Software Development

Everyone in the software industry (managers excepted) knows the following is true, yet nobody wants to talk about it:

Effective software development is entirely incompatible with typical (hierarchical, command-and-control) management.

After 50 years in the industry, I’d go so far as to say:

Effective software development is entirely incompatible with ANY known form of management.


Place managers in charge of software development and it can NEVER be ANYTHING but ineffective (high costs, low quality, poor due date performance, lack of innovation, etc.).

NB Applies more broadly, beyond the domain of software development, too.


The reasons for this incompatibility can be explained as follows:

1. Creativity and innovation: Software development is a highly creative and innovative process that often requires developers to think out of the box, experiment, and come up with novel solutions. A hierarchical management structure stifles creativity and inhibits the free flow of ideas, emphasising, as it does, strict adherence to rules and policies.

2. Responsiveness and flexibility: In the rapidly changing world of technology, software development teams need to be responsive and adaptable in order to respond quickly to changes in requirements, market conditions, approaches, and user feedback. A command-and-control management style, which relies on rigid plans and mandated approaches, tools, makes it difficult to impossible for teams to pivot and adapt as needed.

3. Collaboration and communication: Effective software development relies on close collaboration and communication among team members with diverse skills and expertise. Hierarchical management structures create barriers to communication, with information flowing primarily up and down the chain of command, rather than freely among team members.

4. Autonomy and motivation: Software developers tend to be highly skilled, motivated individuals who thrive on autonomy and the ability to make decisions about their work. Command-and-control management undermines their motivation by imposing external control and limiting their decision-making authority.

The broader point being made in the corollary statement is that traditional hierarchical management is never the best fit for software development, and that organisations might choose to consider alternative organisational styles and structures that are more conducive to the unique demands of software development.

This idea can indeed apply beyond the domain of software development, as many industries are increasingly recognising the need for more responsive, collaborative, and flexible management approaches to drive innovation and adapt to rapidly changing environments.

“Not Everybody Matters”: A Bold Approach to Streamlining Software Development

💡 Need to unlock your team’s full potential and supercharge your software development process? Uncover the game-changing strategy behind embracing “Not Everybody Matters”, and learn how mastering the Needsscape and understanding the Cost of Focus can catapult your project to success! 🎯💥🚀

➡ In the world of software, service and product development, catering to every stakeholder’s needs can be both challenging and resource-intensive.

Embracing the idea that “Not Everybody Matters” can lead to more effective development processes by prioritising the most critical needs and stakeholders. By focusing on the essential elements of a project, teams can allocate resources more effectively and reduce development time.

The Needsscape
The Needsscape is a concept that helps identify and dynamically prioritise the needs of various stakeholders. By carefully tracking the Needsscape, development teams can determine which needs have the most significant impact at any given moment, and align their efforts accordingly. This approach acknowledges that not all needs are equally important, and allocating resources to meet every need regardless of relative impact leads to increased costs and inefficiencies.

The Cost of Focus
The Cost of Focus is the trade-off that occurs when concentrating on one are over another. By acknowledging that “Not Everybody Matters,” development teams can make informed decisions about where to invest their time, effort, and resources. This approach might involve prioritising features that have the highest value for the majority of users or focusing on the needs of specific subsets of the audience.

The concept of “Not Everybody Matters” in software development is a bold approach that encourages teams to prioritise the most critical needs and stakeholders by leveraging the Needsscape and understanding the Cost of Focus. By doing so, they can streamline the development process, maximise the value delivered, and ultimately create more successful software products.

Another String to My Bow

Hi there, wonderful readers! 🌟

I hope this message finds you all in good spirits! I’m absolutely delighted to share some hot news with you – I’m now officially into ChatGPT-4 prompt engineering! 🎉

You might be curious, “What’s captures your interest in this field?” Well, let me share with you that I find it fascinating! Working with cutting-edge AI technology like GPT-4 is nothing short of amazing. We’ve come such a long way with AI, and now these powerful tools are available to us all.

What Is Prompt Engineering?

Prompt Engineering, sometimes also called AI Whispering,  involves crafting the perfect questions or statements to extract the most relevant, accurate, and engaging responses from the AI. And who wouldn’t relish a bit of a challenge in their daily work, right? 😉

One of the reasons I’m drawn to this field is that I get to use my facility with the English language, and my love of it, while still applying logic and smarts. It’s a delightful marriage of art and science. Imagine solving a complex puzzle that requires an understanding of the intricacies of human communication and language, as well as the workings of the AI. What a fantastic combination!

So, here I am, embarked on this new adventure! I’m genuinely excited to exchange ideas and learn from all the brilliant people in this field. If you’re in the same boat or have any advice to share, please don’t hesitate to get in touch – I’d be chuffed to connect! 🌍

Wishing you all the best in your own endeavours, and let’s keep making progress together! 💪🚀

And Now For Something Completely Different…

Have you thought about what lies beyond the Agile horizon? Well, it’s something completely different. Companies are now shifting focus towards systems thinking and addressing whole-organization issues. With the changing demographics of the workforce, it’s essential that companies adapt accordingly. It’s no longer about processes, but about embracing culture changes to truly thrive in this dynamic landscape. Companies need to foster a more joyful, inclusive, and collaborative environment that promotes engagement, innovation and adaptability. Exciting times ahead, right?


#NoSoftware: Prioritising Business Flow Over Premature Software Implementation

Also known as “Software Last Of All”.

Businesses are often tempted to jump into implementing software solutions to optimise their operations. However, the #NoSoftware movement advocates for deferring software implementation until the business flows have been settled. This approach emphasises the importance of understanding and streamlining business processes before introducing any software solutions.

The primary objective of the #NoSoftware movement is to ensure that businesses have clear and effective workflows in place before integrating software into their operations. By doing so, companies can avoid the common pitfalls of premature software adoption, such as wasted resources, misaligned priorities, overblown costs, delays, and the need for constant readjustments.

One of the core principles of #NoSoftware is to place human interaction and creativity at the center of business operations. This involves designing and implementing business processes that cater to the needs and strengths of the workforce and customers, fostering collaboration and innovation. Once a solid foundation has been laid, businesses can then consider (minimal) software solutions to enhance their operations.

By prioritising business flows over software, organisations are better equipped to identify and address inefficiencies and bottlenecks in their processes. This ultimately leads to more effective and resilient business operations.

Furthermore, the #NoSoftware movement encourages businesses to choose software solutions that complement and enhance their established workflows, rather than disrupting them. This not only helps companies avoid the risk of adopting software that fails to meet their needs but also ensures that technology serves as an enabler of growth, rather than an obstacle.

In summary, the #NoSoftware approach promotes the idea of refining business processes in vivo before incorporating software solutions. By prioritising business flows and human-centric approaches, organisations can create a robust foundation for growth and innovation, ultimately leading to more sustainable and successful outcomes.

Another Dark Aspect of Agile: The Erasure of Contributions

💡 The Agile community has some kudos for promoting collaboration and its revisionary approach to software development. But lurking beneath the surface lies a hidden crisis stalling progress: the deliberate dismissal of invaluable contributions from its very own members.

➡ While the Agile community has made some notable contributions to software development and project management, it’s important to acknowledge that it isn’t without its flaws. One issue that many people don’t discuss is the intentional act of hiding, erasing, and ignoring contributions made by current and former members. These issues contribute to the stultification of the whole field of software development, hindering its growth and improvement.

Addressing this issue requires understanding the community’s strong focus on collaboration and teamwork. The Agile Manifesto itself emphasises “individuals and interactions over processes and tools,” which, at its core, promotes the importance of people and their relationships. However, in practice, this mindset sometimes leads to an environment where individual contributions are overshadowed by the status quo. This can stifle the innovation and creativity needed for software development to evolve beyond the narrow confines of the Agile approach.

Moreover, a more sinister aspect of this erasure exists. Some prominent figures within the Agile community focus more on maintaining their status and reputation, rather than nurturing a healthy, progressive environment. This behavior leads to the intentional sidelining of members who have made significant contributions, especially if they challenge the status quo or introduce innovative ideas that could potentially outshine the work of established figures. This self-serving attitude has stagnated the Agile approach by suppressing diverse perspectives and fresh ideas.

The Agile community might choose to confront this issue, as it contradicts the very principles it represents. The community might choose to cultivate a more inclusive and transparent environment that recognises and uplifts the contributions of all its members, regardless of their background or standing.

As members of the software development community, we might choose to actively advocate for those whose contributions have been ignored, and support a culture of openness and genuine collaboration. By doing so, we can ensure that the software development community continues to evolve beyond the Agile approach, embraces diverse ideas, and continues to progress in a healthy, positive direction.

Culture Shock: The Surprising Key to Reinventing Your Business

Is your business facing disruption or challenges? Before you pivot your strategies, products, or services, consider this: the success of your reinvention efforts depend on your organisation’s culture. Culture is the collection of shared assumptions and beliefs that define an organisation, and it can make or break your ability to adapt and thrive in times of change. If you want to reinvent your business, start by examining your culture. Transforming your culture can enable your organisation to be more adaptable, creative, and resilient. So, are you ready to start your cultural transformation?

When businesses face challenges or disruptions, they often look to pivot their strategies, products, or services. However, a crucial factor is the organisation’s culture. The culture of a business can make or break the success of any reinvention effort.

Culture can affect everything from how employees interact with one another to how they approach problem-solving. In times of change, a healthy culture can enable an organisation to be more adaptable, creative, and resilient.

If a business needs to reinvent itself, it might choose to start by examining its culture. Leaders must assess whether the current culture is hindering or enabling the necessary changes. They may choose to identify areas that need improvement, such as communication, collaboration, or innovation.

To create a culture that supports reinvention, leaders must also be intentional about communicating the vision and values of the organisation. They may choose to lead by example, modeling desired behaviors, and recognising those who embrace the new culture.

In short, reinventing a business requires more than just a change in strategy. It requires a cultural transformation that empowers employees to adapt and thrive in the face of change.


Deming’s 14 Points – The Proven Path to Excellence in Business

Deming’s 14 points is a management philosophy developed by Dr. W. Edwards Deming, which emphasises the importance of continuous improvement in the workplace. The 14 points provide a framework for improving the quality of products and services, reducing costs, and increasing productivity.

The 14 points include concepts such as creating constancy of purpose, adopting a new philosophy, breaking down barriers between departments, improving communication, eliminating numerical quotas, and promoting education and self-improvement among employees.

Deming demonstrated time and again that by implementing these points, organisations could not only improve their bottom line but also create a culture of excellence that would benefit both employees and customers.

Deming’s 14 points have been widely adopted by organisations around the world and have had a significant impact on modern management practices. They continue to be relevant today as businesses strive to remain competitive in an ever-changing global marketplace.


Innovation Revolution: How a Culture Change Can Ignite Breakthroughs

The Thinking Environment is a concept which aims to promote the creation of spaces enabling people to think more effectively and creatively. It’s based on the idea that the quality of a person’s thinking is directly related to the quality of the attention they receive. (Note the resonance with the #AntimatterPrinciple – Attend to Folks’ Needs).

The Thinking Environment is built on a set of ten principles, which include giving attention, asking incisive questions, giving equal turns, and appreciating diversity. These principles are designed to create a space where people feel safe and valued, and where they can engage in deep, reflective thinking. The goal is to create a collaborative space where people can share their ideas, explore new possibilities, and solve problems together.

One of the key principles of the Thinking Environment is the idea of giving attention. This means that when someone is speaking, everyone else in the group is focused on listening and understanding what they are saying. This helps to create a sense of safety and trust, which in turn encourages people to speak more openly and honestly. When people feel that they are being heard and understood, they are more likely to engage in creative thinking and problem-solving.

Another important principle of the Thinking Environment is asking incisive questions. These are questions that are designed to help people think more deeply and critically about a particular issue. By asking incisive questions, facilitators can help to expand people’s thinking and encourage them to consider new possibilities.

The Thinking Environment is also characterised by giving equal turns. This means that everyone in the group has an opportunity to speak and contribute their ideas. This helps to ensure that everyone’s perspective is valued and that no one person dominates the conversation.

Finally, the Thinking Environment invites appreciation of diversity. This means that differences in opinions, experiences, and backgrounds are seen as a strength rather than a weakness. By embracing diversity, the Thinking Environment creates a space where people can learn from one another and gain new perspectives on complex issues.

Overall, the Thinking Environment is a powerful tool for fostering creativity, collaboration, and innovation. By creating a space where people feel safe, valued, and heard, it helps to unlock the full potential of individuals, teams and organisations. It’s a framework that can be applied in a wide range of settings, from business meetings to classrooms, and it has the potential to transform the way we think and work together.


Revolutionise Your Development: The Benefits of Ditching Version Control

Avoiding the use of version control in software development may seem like a daunting task, but there are several advantages to doing so.

First, it can save time and resources. Without version control, developers do not need to spend time committing changes, merging branches, or resolving conflicts. This can lead to faster development and fewer delays in the project.

Secondly, avoiding version control can also simplify the development process. With fewer tools and processes to worry about, developers can better focus on the needs of the Folks That Matter™, and on meeting those needs. This can lead to improved customer satisfaction, fewer bugs and a more streamlined development approach.

Thirdly, avoiding version control can also lead to greater flexibility in the development process. Without the constraints of version control, developers can work on code in any way they see fit. This can lead to more creative solutions and a more efficient development approach.

Lastly, avoiding version control can also lead to greater collaboration among team members. Without the need to constantly merge branches, developers can work on different parts of the codebase at the same time, leading to faster development and a more efficient workflow.

In conclusion, while version control is a powerful tool in software development, there are advantages to avoiding its use as well. By doing so, developers can save time and resources, simplify the development process, increase flexibility, and improve collaboration among team members.

Waiting In The Wings

What’s going to the next big thing in terms of approaches to software delivery? And when might we expect the transition to that next big thing to become apparent?

“The future’s already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.”

~ William Gibson

The Days of Agile Are Numbered

We can argue about how much life the Agile approach to software delivery has left in it. What’s beyond dispute is that there will be something after Agile. And I propose it will  look much different from Agile. I find it inconceivable that Agile is so perfect that there’s no room for improvement. Even though – ironically, give the exhortations to “inspect and adapt” – many in the Agile supply chain don’t want to talk about it AT ALL. Why rock the boat and derail the gravy train?

Customers and users, however, are waking up to the inadequacies of presently lauded approaches. And current upheavals in organisations, such as remote working and the scramble for talent, are accelerating these folks’ dissatisfaction.

Holding You Back

What’s prolonging the transition towards any new approach? Basically, it’s the prospect of the serious pain that comes with the adoption of effective new approaches. SAFe’s transient popularity illustrates how many organisations prefer an ineffective approach, with the illusion of change, rather than an effective approach that actually brings benefits. Any significant uplift in software delivery and product development performance implies a much different approach to running technology organisations, including, not least, different styles of management.

Your View?

What’s your view? What promising new approach(es) do you see waiting in the wings? And if there’s nothing with a recognisable name or label, what characteristics will a new approach have to have to boost it into consideration?

– Bob

More On Sea Change

Do you need to see a Sea Change in the software industry, or does the status quo suit you and your needs just fine and dandy, thank you very much?

As the inventor of Agile software development circa 1994, I feel uniquely placed to suggest the need for such a sea change,and what that sea change might look like.

It’s all laid out in my most excellent book “Quintessence“, along with its companion volumes “Hearts Over Diamonds” and “Memeology“.

How often have you discussed the subject with your peers, friends, colleagues, higher-ups, etc.?

Without your active support and involvement, a sea change ain’t never likely to happen. Until then, status quo FTW.

– Bob

Further Reading

Marshall, R.W. (2021). Quintessence: An Acme for Software Development Organisations. [online] Falling Blossoms (LeanPub). Available at:[Accessed 08 Jun 2022].
Marshall, R.W. (2021). Memeology: Surfacing And Reflecting On The Organisation’s Collective Assumptions And Beliefs. [online] Falling Blossoms (LeanPub). Available at: [Accessed 08 Jun 2022].
Marshall, R.W. (2018). Hearts over Diamonds: Serving Business and Society Through Organisational Psychotherapy. [online] leanpub.comFalling Blossoms (LeanPub). Available at: [Accessed08 Jun 2022].

The #NoSoftware Option

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

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

As Steve Jobs famously said:

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

~ Steve Jobs

The Benefits of #NoSoftware

  • Less maintenance overhead

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

  • More flexibility

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

  • Savings on up-front costs

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

  • Minimal automation

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

  • Try before you buy

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

Attending To Folks’ Needs

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

Chat More?

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

– Bob

Further Reading

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


Is it really beyond the bounds of credibility to imagine that we could all be twice, three times, four times better at delivering software? The data’s there (ISBSG). The real-world results and exemplars are there (Familiar, not least). The road-map, blue-print or manual is there (Quintessence). The support required to build the necessary environment is there (Hearts over Diamonds, Memeology, Organisational Psychotherapy).

So what’s holding back our industry, our software delivery organisations? Indifference? Ignorance? Learned helplessness? Lack of incentives? Vested interests? Fear? Something else?

I’m sure I don’t know the exact nature of the blocker*.  But it’s clear that there’s blockers.

– Bob

*I have my suspicions. But it seems that no one wants to even talk about it.


How To Run A Collaborative Knowledge Work Business

Collaborative knowledge work (CKW) is not like other kinds of work. And few realise this. Even fewer realise that CKW necessitates a kind of “management” entirely different from traditional management. So different as to be unrecognisable as “management”. 

As the world transitions to CKW as its predominant style of work, this realisation is spreading. And the ensuing confusion and distress spreads also. We see this already.

The Priorities for CKW

  1. Avoiding Cognitive Impairment

CKW involves, primarily, the use of folks’ brains. A.k.a. Cognition or cognitive function. Organisations that cultivate an environment conducive to CKW and “brain-work” are, however, few and far between. Much more often, environment-induced cognitive impairment is the order of the day, every day.

  1. Interpersonal Relationships

The second key aspect of CKW is the collaborative nature of the work. CKW involves folks working together to achieve shared goals.Thus, interpersonal relationships become paramount.

  1. Play

So, how to cultivate an environment conducive to cognitive function and relationship-building? I have found that play best enables and supported these things. Whereas in the above paragraphs I have used the word “work”, we’re better off when we substitute the idea of “play”. Can you see the connection between improved cognitive function and relationship-building, and play?

Aside: We can take some of the sharp edges off the unconscionable idea of encouraging “workers” to play on the company dime by using the term “serious play”. By justifying it as a key to innovation. And by further obfuscating the idea of free play by calling it “simulation” or “gamification”. But that’s only candy-coating.

At The Quintessential Group we’re putting this all into practice, as we did with great success decades ago at Familiar. We’d be delighted to share our insights, approaches, learnings and experiences with you, should you be interested.

– Bob

Further Reading

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

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