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Antimatter Evo

Tom Gilb has long been known for his “Evo”(evolutionary) approach to software engineering, and more recently for his sharp criticisms of the Agile Manifesto (99% of which I agree with).

In a recent (February 2018) PPI Systems Engineering Newsletter, he authors the feature article “How Well Does the Agile Manifesto Align with Principles that Lead to Success in Product Development?”, describing in some depth his issues with the Agile Manifesto, its Four Values and Twelve Principles.

Apropos the latter, Tom comments at length on each, providing for each a “reformulation”. I repeat each of these twelve reformulations here, along with a translation to the vocabulary (and frame) of the Antimatter Principle:

1. Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.

Tom’s reformulation: Development efforts should attempt to deliver, measurably and cost-effectively, a well-defined set of prioritized stakeholder value-levels, as early as possible.

Antimatter translation: As early and frequently as possible, in the course of developing e.g. a new product or service, we (the development team) will identify, quantify, and subsequently measure, a well-defined set of the needs of all the people that matter, and deliver, as early and frequently as possible, stuff that we believe meets those needs.

Antimatter simplification: Our highest priority is to continually attend to the needs of everyone that matters.

2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.

Tom’s reformulation: Development processes must be able to discover and incorporate changes in stakeholder requirements, as soon as possible, and to understand their priority, their consequences to other stakeholders, to system architecture plans, to project plans, and contracts.

Antimatter translation: Our approach to developing new products or services enables the development team to discover and incorporate changes in the needs of anyone that matters, and the members of the community of “everyone that matters”, as soon as possible. The development team has means to quantify, share and compare priorities, and means to both understand and communicate the impact of such changes to the community of “everyone that matters”.

Antimatter simplification: Handle changing needs, and changing membership of the “everyone that matters” community, in ways that meet the needs of the people that matter.

3. Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.

Tom’s reformulation: Plan to deliver some measurable degree of improvement, to planned and prioritized stakeholder value requirements, as soon, and as frequently, as resources permit.

Antimatter translation: Plan to deliver some measurable degree of improvement to the planned and prioritised set of needs (of the people that matter) as soon, and as frequently, as needed.

Antimatter simplification: Deliver stuff as often as, and by means that, meets the needs of everyone that matters.

4. Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project

Tom’s reformulation: All parties to a development effort (stakeholders), need to have a relevant voice for their interests (requirements), and an insight into the parts of the effort that they will potentially impact, or which can impact them, on a continuous basis, including into operations and decommissioning of a system.

Antimatter translation: Have established means through which we continually solicits the needs of the people that matter, means that are well-defined and well-understood by everyone that matters. These means provide: an ear for the feelings and needs of the people that matter, and feedback on the consequences (impact) of attending to those needs.

Antimatter simplification: Share needs and solutions as often as, and by means that, meets the needs of everyone that matters.

5. Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.

Tom’s reformulation: Motivate stakeholders and developers, by agreeing on their high-level priority objectives, and give them freedom to find the most cost-effective solutions.

Antimatter translation: Motivate everyone that matters by agreeing on everyone’s needs, and give everyone, as a group, the freedom to collaborate in negotiating the trade-offs, priorities, and most cost-effective solutions.

Antimatter simplification: Motivate people to the degree that, and by means that, meets the needs of everyone that matters.

6. Enable face-to-face interactions.

Tom’s reformulation: Enable clear communication, in writing, in a common project database. Enable collection and prioritization, and continuous updates, of all considerations about requirements, designs, economics, constraints, risks, issues, dependencies, and prioritization.

Antimatter translation: Provide communications that meet the needs of everyone that matters. Manage these needs, including negotiated solutions, just as all the other needs in the endeavour.

Antimatter simplification: Facilitate sharing of information, feelings, needs, etc. to the degree that, and by means that, meets the needs of everyone that matters.

7. Working software is the primary measure of progress.

Tom’s reformulation: The primary measure of development progress is the ‘degree of actual stakeholder-delivered planned value levels’ with respect to planned resources, such as budgets and deadlines.

Antimatter translation: The primary measure of development progress is the ‘degree of actual needs met’ with respect to the planned, prioritised and quantified set of needs of everyone the matters. Note: Assuming end-users or customers are amongst the set of people that matter, this demands the product or service in question is in active service with those people, such that we can measure how well (the degree to which) their needs are actually being met. And don’t forget the needs pertaining to how the endeavour is being conducted!

Antimatter simplification: Choose a primary measure of progress that meets the needs of everyone that matters.

8. Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.

Tom’s reformulation: We believe that a wide variety of strategies, adapted to current local cultures, can be used to maintain a reasonable workload for developers, and other stakeholders; so that stress and pressures, which result in failed systems, need not occur.

Antimatter translation: Proceed at a pace that meets the needs of everyone that matters. Manage these (dynamic and potentially conflicting) needs, including negotiated solutions, just as all the other needs in the endeavour.

Antimatter simplification: Choose a pace that meets the needs of everyone that matters.

9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.

Tom’s reformulation: Technical excellence in products, services, systems and organizations, can and should be quantified, for any serious discussion or application. The suggested strategies or architectures, for reaching these ‘quantified excellence requirements’, should be estimated, using Value Decision Tables [45, 1, 2], and then measured in early small incremental delivery steps.

Antimatter translation: Aim for a level of technical excellence and good design – and any other quality-related attributes – that meet the needs of everyone that matters. Manage these (dynamic and potentially conflicting) needs, including negotiated solutions, just as all the other needs in the endeavour.

Antimatter simplification: Agree on attributes of quality, and levels of quality, with respect to the means of the endeavour, that meets the needs of everyone that matters.

10. Simplicity – the art of maximizing the amount of work not done – is essential.

Tom’s reformulation: We need to learn and apply methods, of which there are many available, to help us understand complex systems and complex relations. [1, 2, 46, 47, 48, 49] and succeed in meeting our goals in spite of them.

Antimatter translation: Aim for a level of simplicity – and any other quality-related attributes -that meet the needs of everyone that matters. Manage these (dynamic and potentially conflicting) needs, including negotiated solutions, just as all the other needs in the endeavour.

Antimatter simplification: Spend effort only where it directly attends to some need of someone that matters.

11. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.

Tom’s reformulation (A): The most useful value and quality requirements will be quantified, and will use other mechanisms, including careful corresponding stakeholder analysis [1, 51, and 52], to facilitate understanding.

Tom’s reformulation (B): The most cost-effective designs/architecture, with respect to our quantified value and resource requirements, will be estimated and progress tracked, utilizing a Value Decision Table with its evidence, sources, and uncertainty. They will be prioritized by values/resources with respect to risks [45].

Tom’s reformulation (Simplified, combined): We will use engineering quantification for all variable requirements, and for all architecture.

Antimatter translation: Choose organisational structures and methods (teams, heroes, feature teams, self-organisation, quantification, etc.) for the endeavour that meet the needs of everyone that matters. Manage these (dynamic and potentially conflicting) needs, including negotiated solutions, just as all the other needs in the endeavour.

Antimatter simplification: Agree on attributes of quality, and levels of quality, with respect to the organisation of the endeavour, that meets the needs of everyone that matters.

12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

Tom’s reformulation: A process like the Defect Prevention Process (DPP), or another more-suitable for current culture, which delegates power to analyze and cure organizational weaknesses, will be applied: using participation from small self-organized teams to define and prove more cost-effective work environments, tools, methods, and processes.

Antimatter translation: Aim to learn as much from our work as meets the needs of everyone that matters. Manage these needs, including negotiated solutions, just as all the other needs in the endeavour. 

Antimatter simplification: Pursue improvement, with respect to the means and organisation of the endeavour, that meets the needs of everyone that matters.

Summary

The key insight that emerges from this exercise in translation is this:

Once we have a more-or-less formal and established approach for identifying who matters and their needs, with respect to the endeavour at hand – and then tracking, negotiating and managing the evolving community of “everyone that matters” and their needs – much of the minutiae of the Twelve Principles, and debates thereon, evaporates.

In a nutshell: we must attend not only to the needs in the context of the particular product or service under development, but also to the needs of everyone that matters in the context of the means (conduct, organisation) of that development effort.

– Bob

Six FAQs – X or Y?

One of my most popular posts is “Six FAQs” – six questions I’m frequently asked about software and product development organisations. Let’s take a look at these six FAQs from the perspective of both Theory X and Theory Y, so as to illuminate how fundamentally different these two perspectives are on these topics.

Q1: How can we motivate our workers?

AX1: Use carrots and sticks. Incentives and punishments. Offer people money (raises and bonuses) and other financial rewards, and freebies (such as free lunches, foosball, sofas, working from home, and 20% time) for doing a good job. Bare-faced threats often undermine morale, but implicit threats, such as assignment to unattractive tasks or teams, lack of promotion, withheld raises, etc., can help keep people in line and focussed. We cannot just sit back and let idle people slack on the job.

AY1: You can’t. Oh, you can dream up incentive schemes, bonus packages, and so on, but there’s plenty of research – and experience – to show that such attempts at extrinsic motivation of knowledge workers only make folks’ performance on the job worse. On the other hand, intrinsic motivation is very powerful – but that comes from the workers themselves. The only thing you can do is to work on creating an environment where maybe, just maybe, some folks feel a little better about themselves, their colleagues, and the common purpose. And hope – yes hope – that some intrinsic motivation emerges, here and there. You can’t change someone else’s intrinsic motivation – only they can do that.

Q2: How can we change the organisation’s culture?

AX2: Assign a team to the task of changing the culture. Increase the chances of success by hiring change management consultants to direct that team. Task the team with designing the culture you want to see and then run a project to implement that design. Try a pilot project in one area of the business to work out the wrinkles before committing the whole organisation. Offer incentives for folks who get with the programme. Lay heavy hints (sweetened with humour) that laggards and saboteurs will be let go. Make it clear that the status quo is not an option, and that there will be personal, unpleasant consequences for those who can’t or won’t change their behaviours.

AY2: You can’t. Culture is read-only. A manifestation and a reflection of the underlying, collective assumptions and beliefs of all the folks working in the organisation. To see any cultural changes, you have to work on – by which I mean work towards a wholesale replacement of – this underlying collective memeplex. And that involves working with peoples’ heads, and in particular, collective headspaces. You can’t change other people’s assumptions and beliefs – only they can do that.

Q3: How can we change the mindset of managers?

AX3: Your managers are the shock troops for change. Impress upon them their responsibilities in leading change, and in particular the change to their own behaviours and assumptions. Tie these changes into their individual remuneration packages through targets and KPIs. Provide extensive training in the new mindset, first for the managers and then cascading down to the front line employees. By having managers lead the change, they will develop the insights and skills necessary to bring everyone else along.

AY3: You can’t. Managers – anyone, really – will only change their mindset when they see how their present mindset is ineffective at getting their needs – and the needs of others – met. Change (of mindset) is a normative process – it emerges from direct personal experiences of e.g. the way the work works now – and the problems inherent therein. You can’t change someone else’s mindset – only they can do that.

Q4: How can we get teams to take responsibility?

AX4: Lead, manage, threaten, cajole, plead and bribe folks. Appeal to both their self-interest and loyalty to the company. Whatever means you choose, it’s the outcome that’s most important. People need to take responsibility. You can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs.

AY4: You can’t. You can threaten, cajole, plead, bribe, appeal to folks’ better nature, etc. But again, research and experience both show these only serve to undermine folks’ goodwill and commitment. If you need folks to take more responsibility, maybe the best way is to just be honest about that, explain your need, and make a refusable request? What would you like the reason to be for them doing as you request? You can’t change someone else’s willingness to take responsibility – only they can do that.

Q5: How can we get managers to trust their teams?

AX5: This is a non-issue. Managers don’t need to trust their teams. Managers must issues clear instructions on what needs doing and the best way to do it. Teams that can’t be trusted to carry out those instructions must be sanctioned or restructured to weed out the weak and feckless.We must have compliance.

AY5: You can’t. Managers will only choose to trust their teams – or anyone else – if they find they have a need to do so. And that need only becomes obvious enough to spur action when managers come to understand just how trust helps them get some of their other needs met better. You can’t change someone else’s willingness to trust others – only they can do that.

Q6: How can we develop people’s competencies?

AX6: Firstly, training. Ensure people get regular training in areas of competency important to the business. Secondly, put people into stressful situations where they’ll have to step up and learn new competencies. Sink or swim. Thirdly, motivate them to become more competent (for which, see Q1).

AY6: You can’t. You can, however, create conditions where those folks who want to develop their own competencies can do so more easily. So the question then becomes, how can we get folks to want to develop their own competencies? Which is Q1 (see above). You can’t change someone else’s willingness to learn – only they can do that.

In a nutshell, the direct answer to all the above questions depends directly on the lens through which you see the world of work: the Theory X answers (AX1-6) are poles apart from the Theory-Y lens answers (AY1-6).

Which lens do you typically reach for when considering these questions?

– Bob

Further Reading

The Art And Science of Changing People Who Don’t Want to Change ~ Reut Schwartz-Hebron
Theories of Motivation – Think Different blog post

Organisational Psychotherapy and the Bottom Line

The core of the Rightshifting message is:

“The power of the holistic approach dwarfs the bottom line results of the Analytic approach”.

A system of local optimums is not an optimum system at all; it is a very inefficient and ineffective system.

Because of interdependence and variation, the optimum performance of a system as a whole is not the same as the sum of all the local optima. If all the components of a system [e.g. silos] are performing at their maximum levels, the system as a whole will not be performing at its best (or anywhere near its best).

And that’s why we have to do everything we can to move to a holistic (a.k.a. synergistic) approach.

But what’s the main blocker to our moving in that direction? All senior executives in a company may agree in principle that a holistic approach is desirable. And yet, so infrequently do companies actually take concerted action to make this happen. Why is this?

True Consensus

Absent a “True Consensus”, action will be unlikely. What is a “True Consensus”? A “True Consensus” is when ALL top managers agree on the exact SAME action plan, with each and every top manager regarding his or her components of the joint action plan as his or her own baby.

So, how to reach such a true consensus? It can look like an impossibility. What are the real obstacles (barriers) to a True Consensus?

For the most part, the real obstacles are the behaviours of key people. Not dysfunctional behaviours, though, but the outstanding, positive behaviours that have got the company to the successful place it occupies today.

These key people include: the Dominant Impatient Visionary (a.k.a. the engine of the company),  the Smart Conservative, and others who extrapolate from past experience.

Facilitating a True Consensus.

How, then, to bring these key people closer together in such a way that they can arrive at the necessary True Consensus? And at the shared Action Plan? And keep them on course as that Plan unfolds?

Here’s where Organisational Psychotherapy can help. Organisational Psychotherapy increases the quality and effectiveness of the dialogues between a company’s key people. Dialogues without which the building of a True Consensus will most likely fail to get off the ground, stall or dissipate.

How will you go about building the necessary True Consensus to unlock the power of the holistic approach in your company. Could you use those hugely improved bottom-line results?

– Bob

Further Reading

Beyond the Goal ~ Eliyahu M. Goldratt (Audiobook only)

The Advice Process – Flaws and Fixes

“The advice process is a tool that helps decision-making via collective intelligence. Much depends on the spirit in which people approach it. When the advice process is introduced, it might be worthwhile to train colleagues not only in the mechanics but also on the mindset underlying effective use.”

We’ve been using the Advice Process for several months now. Whilst we’re still very much committed to its use, and wish to see the changes it promotes, all has not been going smoothly with its uptake.

Potential

We chose the Advice process as a means to devolving and distributing decision-making. We like its potential for quicker – and more impactful – decisions, raised levels of trust, improved communication, and higher levels of involvement and engagement. This list describes this potential, as described by its early promoter, Dennis Bakke of AES, in more detail:

  • Community: it draws people, whose advice is sought into the question at hand. They learn about the issue. The sharing of information reinforces the feeling of community. The person whose advice is sought feels honored and needed
  • Humility: asking for advice is an act of humility, which is one of the most important characteristics of a fun workplace. The act alone says, “I need you“. The decision maker and the adviser are pushed into a closer relationship. This makes it nearly impossible for the decision-maker to ignore the advice.
  • Learning: making decisions is on-the-job education. Advice comes from people who have an understanding of the situation and care about the outcome. No other form of education or training can match this real-time experience.
  • Better decisions: chances of reaching the best decision are greater than under conventional top-down approaches. The decision maker has the advantage of being closer to the issue and has to live with responsibility for the consequences of the decision. Advice provides diverse input, uncovering important issues and new perspectives.
  • Fun: the process is just plain fun for the decision-maker, because it mirrors the joy found in playing team sports. The advice process stimulates initiative and creativity, which are enhanced by the wisdom from knowledgeable people elsewhere in the organization.

Practice

In practice, we have not yet seen full realisation of this potential. Overall, we attribute this to poor implementation of the Advice Process, which we’re now intent (sic) on fixing – whilst not undermining its original intent (see above).

Flaws

Some of the implementation flaws we have experienced include:

  • Permission-seeking. Some folks have not yet overcome their established reflex of seeking permission. The Advice Process as conceived rejects permission-seeking, placing implicit responsibility for outcomes on the individual or team with the intent, not on the permission-giver. This shift (i.e. from authoritarianism to co-creation) requires a degree of courage from all parties.
  • Trust. Some advisors have found it challenging to trust the intentions or competence of those seeking advice.
  • Belief. Some with intentions have found it challenging to believe that they now have the power/authority to make key decisions.
  • Misunderstanding/clashing frames of reference. Sometimes, advice sought and then given has been received/interpreted as denial of permission.
  • Impatience. The delay between announcing intent and receiving advice has proved a source of friction, leading on occasions to proceeding without waiting to receive considered advice from advisors who may hold key pieces of the puzzle (often, these are the busiest of people).
  • Criticality. Some people have voiced concerns that key business decisions with serious negative commercial or reputational risks could proceed to action, even when some key risks go unappreciated or unaddressed (due to advice being sought from the wrong quarters, ignored, or not understood).

Fixes

We’re intending to experiment with addressing the above concerns through a couple of refinements:

  • Shared responsibility. The onus of communication will rest equally with those communicating intent and those from whom for advice is sought. Those announcing an intent are requested to actively pursue advisors to confirm their intent has been heard and understood by all the necessary parties; those from whom advice is sought are requested to respond promptly and with due consideration of the significance of their role and advice.
  • Time-outs. In those cases where someone believes there is a problem – maybe they feel the Advice Process has not been followed correctly or not used when it should have been – that someone may call a Time-out. The intention or action in question – which may already be in train – will then be suspended, pending a go-around (i.e. another taking of soundings, general proposal of intent, seeking of advice, confirmation that the intent has been understood, and consideration of advice received). Note: This does not imply that the intention itself has been denied or overruled. Rather, some party to a particular instance of the Advice Process believes the Advice Process has not been followed or used appropriately, and that the risks implicit in the intention or action are likely not being duly considered or attended-to.
  • Arbitration. We’ll see if we need to introduce some arbitration or conflict-resolution mechanism to handle repeated time-outs being called against a given intention or action, or to handle occasions where parties disagree on whether the Advice Process has indeed been followed correctly or not.

I’ll keep you posted on how our experiment is going.

– Bob

Further Reading

Decision Making ~ ReinventingOrganisations Wiki

The Advice Process – Definition and Usage Tips ~ Daniel Tenner

Advice Process for Effective Organizational Decision-Making ~ Agilitrix

The Healthful Alternative To Management

“Everything is a fiction.The only thing that really matters is which particular fictions we choose to believe.”

Most businesses choose to believe in the fiction labelled “management”. They choose to believe that there is value in having people, most often called “managers”, “in charge” of other people, most often called “workers”.

Some businesses, though, are reexamining that belief. Especially in the light of the demands of collaborative knowledge work, and the need to operate under volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) conditions.

Purpose

Reexamination suggests we take a fresh look at the purpose of management. Definitions abound. Most look like shopping lists of all the things managers do on a daily basis. I’m going to go with a definition I feel particularly suited to the management of collaborative knowledge work:

Management exists to create and sustain the conditions under which effective work can happen.

Or, as Peter Drucker observed: “effective management consists in making it easer for people to do good work, to be productive”.

Alternatives

So, any viable alternative to the traditional management + workers setup needs to serve the same basic purpose: To create and sustain the conditions under which effective work can happen.

Various alternatives have been and continue to be explored: Holacracy, sociocracy, lattices, network organisations, wirearchies, industrial democracy, self-organisation, … the list grows longer every day.

All of these alternative have one thing in common: A recognition that work is, in essence, a social phenomenon. A phenomenon involving people, and their human relationships. Few of these alternatives, however, do anything explicit about the health of the societies they claim to value.

Organisational Psychotherapy

Can we conceive of alternatives to the traditional management + workers setup? Alternatives which do explicitly serve the health of our workplaces, of our societies-of-work, of our organisations?

Organisational psychotherapy is one such alternative. Its primary and explicit focus is the health of the organisation. Healthy and flourishing organisations create and sustain the conditions necessary for effective work. When an organisation has the means to provide therapy to itself, any need for the traditional management + workers setup diminishes and disappears. Contrived alternatives such as holacracy or lattices become moot.

How Do We Get There?

Can we expect today’s organisations to transform themselves? To acquire from their own resources the necessary capabilities for self-therapy? Some very few, very determined ones may be able to achieve that. For all the rest, some help may be useful. That’s the role of the external Organisational Therapist. To help organisations begin their journeys. To walk with them as they take their first fearful, stumbling steps towards improved health and joy.

– Bob

 

 

Antimatter And Deming’s 95/5

RedBeads

I note a distinct schism in business, with one camp which utterly rejects Deming’s 95/5, and another camp which wholly embraces the idea. Few sit on the fence, and pretty much never the twain shall meet.

Agnostic

The Antimatter Principle is agnostic on the subject of Deming’s 95/5, but, depending on your camp, its relevance may be different for you.

The Rejectors

If you reject Deming’s assertion, then you most likely believe that an organisation need not change its systems (i.e. its processes, technology, work design, regulations, workspaces, “social dynamic”, etc.) to see improved productivity from its workforce. Individual talent and effort is what counts, and individuals can, just as a consequence of their own grit, choose to be productive, or not.

For this camp, the Antimatter Principle is something than anyone can choose to adopt. Each person can choose to begin attending to the needs of the folks around them, of the folks for whom they’re doing things, and of themselves. Training can help. As can leadership. Leaders visibly attending to folks’ needs can spread the behaviour across the organisation. As more people adopt and model the behaviour, discovering and sharing the joy which it brings, others will, through e.g. social contagion, begin to adopt the behaviour too. Over time, the social dynamic of the organisation will change to one where people are more inclined to care about what they’re doing, where they find more intrinsic motivation, and where they may want to become more engaged in their work.

The Embracers

If you embrace Deming’s assertion, then you most likely believe that an organisation must change its systems (i.e. its processes, technology, work design, regulations, workspaces, “social dynamic”, etc.) to see improved productivity from its workforce. Individual talent and effort counts for very little, and individuals, despite their willingness to be productive, will not be able to accomplish much if the prevailing system prevents or discourages them from doing so.

For this camp, the Antimatter Principle is something that can be built into the system. Working practices, tools, processes, methods, regulations, policies, workspaces, and the way the work works can all incorporate the twin ideas of identifying who matters, and then attending to their needs. As more aspects of the system incorporate the principle, more and more people will discover and share the joy which it brings. Others will, through e.g. social contagion, also begin to adopt the principle and incorporate it in the way their work works. Over time, the social dynamic of the organisation will change to one where people are more inclined to care about what they’re doing, where they find more intrinsic motivation, and where they may want to become more engaged in their work.

– Bob

Further Reading

Deming Institute Red Beads ~ The Deming Institute
The Red Bead Experiment With Dr. W. Edwards Deming  ~ The Deming Institute

What If #1 – No Management

What if an organisation had the insight, the courage, the sheer chutzpah to move away from the traditional management hierarchy to some other form of organisational structure – e.g. without hierarchy, and without managers? What might we reasonably expect to happen?

“If a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory. If a revolution destroys a systematic government, but the systematic patterns of thought that produced that government are left intact, then those patterns will repeat themselves in the succeeding government. There’s so much talk about the system. And so little understanding.”

~ Robert Pirsig

If an organisation decided to get rid of its managers, all other things remaining the same, we might reasonably expect little to change. As Pirsig observes, the systematic patterns of thought that drove the organisation in its previous form will repeat themselves in the new  form. Most likely producing the same behaviours, and the same results, as before.

So it’s not that hierarchical management is the root cause of the relatively ineffective performance of the organistion. Rather, it’s the “systematic patterns of thinking” which are the root cause of that ineffective performance. Hierarchy, siloism, command and control, and all those other memes of the Analytic memeplex are but symptoms – visible manifestations – of Pirsig’s underlying “systematic patterns of thinking”.

Management Thinking

Many people (not least, John Seddon) have for some time expounded the view that for organisations to become significantly more effective, it’s management thinking that has to change. For which I read, the thinking, and thereby the behaviours, of individual managers and executives.

But, as Pirsig observes, it’s not the individuals involved, not their individual sets of assumptions and patterns of thinking, but the systematic patterns of thought. And where do these reside? In society at large, and more close to home, in the collective psyche of the organisation itself.

In our thought experiment here, even if we shot all the managers and executives, the collective psyche of the organisation would remain. And as with the torn-down factory, the external factors impinging upon and shaping the situation – that collective psyche – would also remain. And so, even without those managers and executives, the old systematic pattens of thought would remain. Homeostasis indeed.

Community

Moreover, how fair is it to ask just the managers and executives to change their thinking – even it they could? Where’s the “we’re all in together” spirit? I guess that sense of community is part of the future organisation we’d like to see? What chance we can build a community, a fellowship, of solidarity and mutualism through singling out one constituency for special pain?

– Bob

Further Reading

Reinventing Organisations ~ Frederic Laloux

Other Posts In This Occasional Series

What If #2 – No Process
What If #3 – No Telling
What If #4 – No Answers
What If #5 – Continuous Improvement Is Useless
What If #6 ~ Agile Nirvana
What If #7 – No Work
What If #8 – Agile Never Happened

 

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