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Marshall Model

There Are Better Ways

There are better ways to develop and deliver software. Better than the prevailing ways of approaching such things. How much better? IME – and substantiated by data from i.e. ISBSG – from twice as good through to at least five times as good.

How to access these better ways?

  1. Recognise that software development and delivery is a subset of Collaborative Knowledge Work (CKW).
  2. Understand that CKW requires a fundamentally different approach vs. the kinds of work most organisations recognise as “work”.
  3. Realign the collective assumptions and beliefs of your organisation to enable effective CKW.
  4. Recognise that 95% of improvements will necessitate changes well outside the software development/delivery “silo”.

– Bob

 

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

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

 

Curious?

Are you at all curious as to how much more productive and effective a Quintessential organisation can be compared to e.g. an Agile organisation? And what that uplift in effectiveness means for everyone involved (management, customers, employees, suppliers, society at large,…)?

(Hint: It’s something like five times more productive / effective – see Rightshifting and the Marshall Model.)

Are you at all curious how this can be possible?

I’m delighted to explain. So, if you’re at all curious, and my many posts on the subject here on this blog fall short of meeting your needs, please get in touch. Simplest might be to post your questions in the comments section of this post.

I’m also more than happy to chat on the phone, via email, or Zoom / Google Meet.

All questions answered. 🙂

– Bob

An Open Letter To All Organisations

Having been involved in software (and hardware) for some fifty years now, I thought it might be time to mark the occasion with this open letter to all organisations. Especially to those organisations engaged in CKW (Collaborative Knowledge Work), such as product development and software development.

Enormous Levels of Waste

You’re wasting 80% of your time, effort, money, and human potential on bullshit work*.

You may know this already, but are too embarrassed, fearful of the consequences, or indifferent to admit it.

Or maybe your owners have so much money that wasting 80% of your operating costs is of little or no consequence to them, and thus to you.

Or you may be unaware of the potential upside of adopting modern organisational practices, and of the downside of retaining your traditional management assumptions and beliefs**.

*Bullshit work: a.k.a. busywork – work that consumes time, effort and energy yet adds no value, and meets no needs of any of the Folks That Matter™️.

Rightshifting

The Rightshifting Chart illustrates just how much time and effort gets wasted in CKW organisations:

The Marshall Model

And the Marshall Model explains the source of such waste (it’s the consequence of the collective assumptions and beliefs a.k.a. mindset, or memeplex, of these organisations):

Over the years, various independent consultants have validated these models.

Consultation in Confidence

**If you’d like a brief, utterly confidential, and no obligation chat about how your organisation could benefit from wasting less of your time, energy and effort, please get in touch via e.g. LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bob-marshall-flowchainsensei-3a2a5b164/ – or via whatever channel you may prefer.

– Bob

Seeds of Failure

Agile has become widespread and popular mainly because it promises “improvements” without demanding that the decision-makers change. Of course, without people changing (in particular, managers changing their collective assumptions and beliefs) Agile has zero chance of delivering on its promises. It then becomes “just one more packaged method to install in the development teams” – and just one more debacle.

As the French say:

“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”.

Thus Agile carries with it the seeds of its own inevitable failure.

“But what if managers DO change?” I hear you ask.

Well, if they change themselves in ways that move them and their organisations towards the quintessential, they won’t choose Agile.

Seeds of Success

And if you’re wondering what the seeds of success might look like, you may like to take a look at my recent book “Quintessence” (Marshall 2021).

– Bob

Further Reading

Marshall, R.W. (2021). Quintessence: An Acme for Software Development Organisations. Falling Blossoms (LeanPub).

I’m Done

Memeology, Quintessence

I’m done with inviting folks to discover better ways to run collaborative knowledge work businesses and other organisations. 

The Antimatter Principle

I’m done with inviting people to build more humane, engaging organisations.

Rightshifting

I’m done with illustrating the gulf in performance and effectiveness between the average organisation or business, and the best. And how much productivity just goes begging.

The Marshall Model

I’m done with inviting people to understand the role of collective assumptions and beliefs in the effectiveness of their organisations.

Effectiveness

I’m done with even mentioning effectiveness. No one seems to need it or want it or even to understand what it is and its role in organisational success.

Emotioneering

I’m done with inviting organisations to consider the way people actually go about buying goods and service, and the role of emotions therein.

FlowChain, Prod•gnosis, Flow•gnosis

I’m done with providing food for thought on how the work in collaborative knowledge work organisations can work awesomely better.

Product Aikido

I’m done with inviting folks to look more deeply into the principles of product development and what makes for more effective product development.

The Giants

I’m done with mentioning the Giants such as Ackoff, Deming, Drucker, et al.

Software

I’m done with software and helping people improve software development, reliability, quality, predictability, etc.. #NoSoftware’s the thing.

Recruiters and the Job Market

I’m done with know-nothing recruiters only focused on their next commission. And a totally broken job market focussed on mediocrity and the status quo. Oh, and CVs too. #NoCV.

The Closed-Minded

I’m done with people that are happiest sitting on their arses (metaphorically speaking) and keeping their eyes, ears, and minds closed to possibilities. Which is everybody, AFAICT.

The Unreliable

I’m done with people that promise to do things, and then, silently, do fuck all.

Agile

I’m done with Agile. Actually, as you’re probably aware, I’ve been done with Agile for a decade and more. I’m just adding it here for the sake of completeness. Oh, and I’m SO done with ignorant people who continue to promote the Agile busted flush.

I’m Done With Better Ways

I’m done with it all. Given there’s zero demand for “better”, better ways seem entirely irrelevant.

And good luck with that status quo. 

– Bob

Rightshifting and Quintessence 

Long-time readers of this blog will already be familiar with the concept of rightshifting. 

Shifting an organisation to the right (i.e. in the direction of increased organisational effectiveness, and towards the quintessential) is not for the work-shy or indolent. Yet the rewards are massive. 

Whilst the Marshall Model provides a general framework for such rightshifting, there’s not been a detailed roadmap describing the shifts necessary to acquire such improved effectiveness. 

My most recent book, “Quintessence”, provides just such a roadmap (or blueprint). It details the shifts in collective assumptions and beliefs necessary to become a highly effective knowledge-work organisation. Shifts of which significant outliers such as Zappos, WL Gore, Morning Star, Semco, and a host of others have demonstrated the benefits.

Go take a look and gaze in awe at what is possible in the way of improvements. 

– Bob

Further Reading

Marshall, R.W. (2018). Hearts over Diamonds: Serving Business and Society Through Organisational Psychotherapy. Falling Blossoms (LeanPub).

Marshall, R.W. (2021). Memeology: Surfacing and Reflecting On the Organisation’s Collective Assumptions and Beliefs. Falling Blossoms (LeanPub).

Marshall, R.W. (2021). Quintessence: An Acme for Software Development Organisations. Falling Blossoms (LeanPub). 

More Employable

Ineffectiveness is the norm (in particular in the software and collaborative knowledge work fields).

Therefore the less effective someone appears to e.g. hiring managers, the more employable they are. The ineffective fit right in, don’t challenge norms or ruffle feathers, and appear a competent “good hire” even as they join in with sustaining and compounding the organisation’s prevailing ineffectiveness.

Simple Truth

This simple truth explains why some many organisations are so poor at developing tech products, and software more generally. They unwittingly hire “good fits’ i.e. the profoundly ineffective. And never realise the productivity improvments, etc., that they’re leaving on the table.

The (modified) Marshall Model chart (below) illustrates the situation:

How might we help these organisations appreciate their dire situation? Is that even possible?

– Bob

Further Reading

Peters, T.J. and Waterman, R.H. (1982). In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-run Companies.  Profile Books.

Marshall, R.W. (2021). Quintessence: An Acme for Software Development Organisations. Falling Blossoms (LeanPub).

We Can All Be Doing So Much Better

Looking on the bright side for 2022, there’s no real blockers to us and our organisations doing so much better in 2022.

And all it takes is reflecting upon, and surfacing, our collective and individual assumptions and beliefs.

Rightshifting

The Rightshifting chart illustrates the awesome scope for “better” in our organisations:

Most organisations cluster around an effectiveness of “1”, whereas a simple shift in our assumptions and beliefs about the world of collaborative knowledge work could take us to becoming “3”, “4” or even “5” times more effective. That sounds like “better”, to me.

Quintessential Organisations

In my recent book “Quintessence“, I describe what organisations to the right of “4”, on the above chart, look like, feel like and work like.

– Bob

The software crisis will NEVER be over unless and until senior management comes to understand software development, and what makes it highly effective (in those extremely rare cases where it IS highly effective).

What will enable that understanding? Not the promotion into senior positions of folks with front-line experience (most have no experience of effective practices).

Coaching/education might do it – when the senior folks seek it out and engage with it themselves.

I believe exemplars can help (which is one of the reasons I wrote Quintessence).

The most promising way forward is normative learning, especially when guided by capable facilitators. How many senior folks are ever likely to go to the gemba and see what’s REALLY effective?

Alternative: Dispense with management entirely. Also highly unlikely, but beginning to gain some traction as an idea. Cf Reinvention Organizations (Laloux 2014), etc.. This approach doesn’t actually address the issue of folks understanding what effective software development looks like, though.

Further Reading

Laloux, F. (2014). Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness. Nelson Parker.

Visual Walkthrough Explaining Rightshifting And The Marshall Model

For those who prefer looking to reading, here’s a visual explanation (with some annotations) briefly explaining Rightshifting and the Marshall Model.

1. Context: Organisational Transformation

Rightshifting illuminates the tremendous scope for improvement in most collaborative knowledge work organisations. And the Marshall Model provides a framework for understanding e.g. Digital Transformations. Don’t be too surprised if folks come to regard you as an alien for adopting these ideas.

2. Imagined Distribution of Effectiveness

How most people imagine effectiveness to be distributed across the world’s organisations (a simple bell curve distribution).

3. Contrasting Effectiveness with Efficiency

Many organisations seek efficiency, to the detriment of effectiveness.

4. If Effectiveness Were Distributed Normally

5. The Distribution of Effectiveness in Reality

The distribution of organisations is severely skewed towards the ineffective.

6. Some Corroborating Data from ISBSG (1)

7. Some Corroborating Data from ISBSG (2 – Productivity)

8. Some Corroborating Data from ISBSG (3 – Velocity)

9. Rightshifting: Recap

10. Plotting Levels of Waste vs Effectiveness

Showing how increasing effectiveness (Rightshifting) drives down waste.

11. Plotting Levels of Productivity vs Effectiveness

Showing how increasing effectiveness (Rightshifting) drives up productivity.

NB This the the canonical “Rightshifting Chart”.

12. From Rightshifting to the Marshall Model

Starting out with the Rightshifting distribution.

13. The Adhoc Mindset

Collective assumptions and beliefs (organisational mindset).

Ad-hoc organisations are characterised by a belief that there is little practical value in paying attention to the way things get done, and therefore few attempts are made to define how the work works, or to give any attention to improving the way regular tasks are done, over time. The Ad-hoc mindset says that if there’s work to be done, just get on and do it – don’t think about how it’s to be done, or how it may have been done last time.”

14. The Analytic Mindset

Analytic organisations exemplify, to a large extent, the principles of Scientific Management a.k.a. Taylorism – as described by Frederick Winslow Taylor in the early twentieth century. Typical characteristics of Analytical organisation include a Theory-X posture toward staff, a mechanistic view of organisational structure, for example, functional silos, local optimisation and a management focus on e.g. costs and ‘efficiencies’. Middle-managers are seen as owners of the way the work works, channelling executive intent, allocating work and reporting on progress, within a command-and-control style regime. The Analytic mindset recognises that the way work is done has some bearing on costs and the quality of the results.”

15. The Synergistic Mindset

Synergistic organisations exemplify, to some extent, the principles of the Lean movement. Typical characteristics include a Theory-Y orientation (respect for people), an organic, emergent, complex-adaptive-system view of organisational structure, and an organisation-wide focus on learning, flow of value, and effectiveness. Middle-managers are respected for their experience and domain knowledge, coaching the workforce in e.g. building self-organising teams, and systemic improvement efforts.

16. The Chaordic Mindset

The Chaordic mindset believes that being too organised, structured, ordered and regimented often means being too slow to respond effectively to new opportunities and threats. Like a modern Jet fighter, too unstable aerodynamically to fly without the aid of its on-board computers, or sailing a yacht, where maximum speed is to be found in sailing as close to the wind as possible without collapsing the sails, a chaordic organisation will attempt to operate balanced at the knife-edge of maximum effectiveness, on the optimal cusp between orderly working and chaotic collapse.”

17. Transition Zones

As organisations progress towards increasing effectiveness, they encounter discontinuities which the Marshall Model labels as Transition Zones (orange hurdles). In these transitions, one prevailing mindset must be replace wholesale with another (for example, Analytic to Synergistic, where, amongst a host of shifts in assumptions and beliefs, attitudes towards staff transition from Theory-X to Theory-Y). Cf. Punctuated Equilibria.

18. What Each Transition Teaches

A successful Adhoc -> Analytic transition teaches the value of discipline (extrinsic, and later, replaced with intrinsic).

A successful Analytic -> Synergistic transition teaches the value of a shared common purpose.

A successful Synergistic -> Chaordic transition teaches the value of “Positive Opportunism”.

19. The Return-on-Investment Sawtooth

Incremental (e.g. Kaizen) improvements with any one given mindset show ever-decreasing returns on investment as the organisation exhausts its low-hanging fruit and must pursue ever more expensive improvements.

Each successful transition “resets” the opportunities for progress, offering a new cluster of low-hanging fruit.

20. Conversation

What has this walkthrough shown you? I’d love the opportunity for conversation.

– Bob

Here’s a video in which the great Russel L. Ackoff explains the difference between knowledge and understanding, and thereby the difference between analytic and synergistic thinking (Cf. Rightshifting and the Marshall Model).

Ackoff on Systems Thinking and Management

 

Gimme A Break, Here

Here I am, trying to change the world, and most days I feel like I’m being punished for the views I hold and share, and the aspirations I have. Not that it shakes my convictions, nor my resolve.

Decades

For more than two decades I’ve been trying to help everyone in the software industry get past the Software Crisis and discover new, more effective ways of doing things. And there are much more effective ways of doing things that the ways in common usage presently (see e.g. Rightshifting, and the Marshall Model).

I’ve not been having much success, I’ll admit.  But I keep plugging away. I might catch a break sooner or later, surely.

The Message

My message is not “I know this stuff, do it MY way.” I’m not flogging a new method. I’m not selling anything.

My message is “The way we’ve been looking at software development for the past fifty years isn’t working. How about we find other ways to look at it? Here’s a few clues I’ve noticed…”

The Old Frame

The old frame for software development – processes and tools, the very idea of “working software” as the touchstone – holds us back and prevents us from seeing new ways of working and doing.

All our focus on technical skills, coding, design, architecture, testing, CI/CD, technical practices, canned and packaged methods, generic solutions, and etc. has had us barking up the wrong tree for more than half a century.

And the almost ubiquitous centuries-old management factory hasn’t helped us make the transition.

The New Frame

I’ve written before about the new frame, but to recap:

The new frame that my long career has led me to favour is a frame placing people, not practices, centre-stage. A frame focused on people – and their emergent individual and collective needs. A frame more aligned to increased predictability, lower costs, less frustration, and more joy in work for all concerned.

A frame comprising:

Software development, as a form of collaborative knowledge work, is a predominantly social phenomenon. And as a predominantly social phenomenon we will have more success in software development when we focus on the people involved, our relationships with each other, our collective assumptions and beliefs, and everyone’s fundamental needs.

I call this the organisation’s “social dynamic”. Improve the social dynamic in a team or workplace and all the good things we’d like come for free. Like Crosby’s take on quality, we might say “success is free”.

I Invite Your Participation and Support, or At Least, Empathy

Changing the world is not for the faint hearted or indifferent. But if you give a damn, I could really use your support. And a break.

– Bob

Further Reading

Rico, D. (n.d.). Short History of Software Methods.. [online] Available at: http://davidfrico.com/rico04e.pdf [Accessed 26 Sep. 2021].

Simon Sinek (2011) If You Don’t Understand People, You Don’t Understand Business. YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8grVwcPZnuw [Accessed 29 Feb. 2020].

What’s the biggest constraint in every organisation?

Always, always, ALWAYS, it’s management thinking*. Specifically, it’s the collective assumptions and beliefs held in common across the organisation a whole. How will you exploit this constraint?

If your approach to running your business fails to recognise this, you will fail at least 90% of the time. And the other 10% will be pure luck.

*Irrespective of whether the organisation actually has “management” or not.

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