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

Organisational Psychotherapy and Mobbing

It struck me the other day that the idea of mobbing (a.k.a. ensemble programming) serves as an excellent vehicle for exploring how an organisation’s collective assumptions and beliefs influence its adoption of new ideas, such as mobbing.

Many of the memes appearing in my book “Memeology” have a bearing on the adoption – or rejection – of i.e. mobbing, or even pairing, (pair programming) within and across a given organisation. Which is to say, many of the collective assumptions and beliefs of an organisation have a bearing on its adopting or rejecting new ideas, such as mobbing.

A Normative Experience

I suggest you might like to work you way through the memes listed in the book, chapter by chapter, and consider how each meme – and your organisation’s collective assumptions and beliefs in that area – influences the adoption or rejection of the mobbing idea. You might even consider it as an opportunity to do so in the company of others in your workplace, i.e. work though some chapters together.


Before you embark on that marathon, though, how about we walk through a few of the memes in the sample version of the book, and see how they might influence the uptake of the mobbing idea:

Chapter 10 – Change

It’s probable that adoption of mobbing is a change to the status quo in your organisation. How much of a change depends on the organisation, of course.

Here’s the opening question from the chapter on change:

How do we*, collectively, feel about the general idea of change? Are we fearful of it, excited by it, both, neither, or something else?

*We = potentially, everyone in the organisation, from the most senior executives to the workers on the front line.

What does the prevailing collective attitude to change mean for an initiative aimed at introducing mobbing to the organisation? Might we anticipate blockers and hurdles, a smooth journey fully supported by the organisation, or something in between?

Here are the chapter’s suggested follow-on questions:

  • What do we seek from change – how does it serve us and our goals? Put another way, what are the reasons for opening ourselves up to change?
  • What things do we see as needing to change?
  • For those things, what do we need to change to?
  • What do we need to do to effect those changes?
  • What things best serve us and our goals, to tackle first?
  • How realistic and achievable are our aspirations for change?
  • What resources do we have available to help us pursue those aspirations?
  • How might we best approach change? Directed and led from the top? Through empowering people across the organisation? Or by some other approach?
  • How might we best approach change? An all-at-once major change initiative? Incremental changes in small steps? Or by some other approach?

Working through these questions, with the introduction of mobbing being the change in mind, what are your thoughts? For example:

What do we seek from change – how does it serve us and our goals? Put another way, what are the reasons for opening ourselves up to change?

What do you and the organisation seek from a transition from e.g. developers coding individually, to mobbing? (Not that mobbing is limited to developers and coding).

What things do we see as needing to change?

Does the organisation see the way developers work on coding as one of the things needing to change? If the need isn’t apparent, then some up-front work to illuminate the need might be advisable.

I guess you might be getting the idea of how this meme plays into the adoption of mobbing, by now?

Let’s move on to the next chapter, the next meme:

Chapter 11. Discussion

It’s probable that adoption of mobbing will spur some discussion amongst folks within the organisation. How much discussion depends on the organisation and the folks involved, of course.

Here’s the opening question from the chapter on discussion:

How do we feel about surfacing our collective assumptions and beliefs during discussions with our peers and colleagues?

What are the “collective assumptions and beliefs” of the organisation that might come up in discussions of mobbing?

Here’s a brief and not at all exhaustive list:

  • Productivity. Do folks have issues or reservations about i.e. the cost of having 5,6,7 people all working at the same time on a piece of code (or, in the general case, other artefacts)?
  • Who owns the way the work works. Do folks assume that a project manager (or some other manager) will own the way developers go about mobbing.
  • Process. Will there be a defined, handed-down process for mobbing, or might developers be trusted to own how it works, and work things out for themselves?
  • Learning. Are there advantages in having developers instructed in how to mob? Will this instruction be a pump-priming exercise, or an ongoing set of courses?

Here are the chapter’s suggested follow-on questions:

  • How might we choose which meme(s) from this book we will discuss, and in which order?
  • Do we need to come to a consensus on how to use this book? How to follow up from a discussion session?
  • Do we anticipate that attempting to surface our collective assumptions and beliefs during our daily business-as-usual discussions will disrupt and divert those discussions, or strengthen and support them?
  • Working through these questions, with the introduction of mobbing being the topic for dialogue in mind, what are your thoughts? For example:
  • How might we choose which meme(s) from this book we will discuss when planning the introduction of mobbing, and in which order?
  • Do we need to come to a consensus on how to use this book to facilitate the instruction of mobbing? How to follow up from a discussion session?

Hopefully you’re getting a basic idea now of how the memes from Memeology play into the potential adoption (or rejection) of new ideas.

There are many more memes in the book, most or all of which have some relevance to things happening in the organisation. The sample book contains a few, the full version some 70+.

I’d be delighted to hear about your experience in working through the above examples. And for those who proceed to a more in-depth investigation, considering more memes, your experiences with that, too.

– Bob

“A focus on efficiency drives costs UP.”


Organisational Psychotherapy on Slack

For those folks who prefer their interactions via Slack, there’s a new Slack workspace for Organisational Psychotherapy. Check it out and join up now. 🙂

– Bob

PS. Please let me know it there are any other aspects of my work for which you’d like to see a dedicated Slack workspace. 


Memeology: Update

I had hoped to have finished my book “Memeology” this week. But I’ve been a bit hung up on chapters 8 and 9 (stories from the real world) so I’ve released an interim version (v1.10) which is the now-complete book, excepting those two chapters (so, 99% complete now).

Go take a look! (there’s an extensive free sample – click on the “Read Free Sample” button on the Memeology Leanpub book page)

– Bob

How to Save the Industry and Get the Buzz Back!

[I’m grateful to Antony Denyer for his email suggesting the topic for this post.]

How depressed are you about Agile today, and having to conform to a bunch of prescribed methods (be that Scrum, Kanban or what have you) that you know just plain don’t work?

How even more depressed are you having to pretend to be doing Agile when factors outside your control (for example management monstrosities and obduracy) prevent you from experiencing even the smallest joy of doing Agile as it was conceived and intended, i.e. with no need for pretence?

How depressed are you that nothing new happens in the software development industry any more? Excepting perhaps yet more idiocy and exploitation of the gullible (SAFe, I’m looking at you). PS. Caveat Emptor.

How depressed are you that a wide range of promising ideas are not only ignored by “thought leaders” and management, but often actively denigrated, ridiculed and suppressed?

Enough with the depressing stuff.

Saving the Industry

Much like the idea of saving the planet from climate change (the planet will be just fine, thanks, it’s the species that needs saving, maybe), I don’t particularly believe the industry needs saving. Certainly, customers commissioning software development don’t seem to need any saving. If they did so need, then there might be some demand for same. 

I do see a need for “saving” the people who labour in the software industry. God knows the amount of human potential wasted every day through poor management, poor advice, and the antiquated assumptions and beliefs pertaining in most organisations. Actually though, the only folks that will be doing any “saving” will be the folks themselves. No one has your back. No one in a position to do anything about your problems and frustrations gives a damn about them, or you. Might I suggest y’all organise?

Getting the Buzz Back

As you may know, I propose that Organisational Psychotherapy is the way forward. Personally I get a huge buzz every day through constantly learning about people, groups, communities and what make us tick. I suspect this new direction for the industry is a scary sea-change for most people in the software domain, for whom technology (cool flashing lights and all) has long been the main driver. But who knows? There could be many more (suppressed) “people” people out there than I know of.

– Bob

Adherence, Self-Efficacy and the Person of the Therapist

Quite the snappy title, huh? ;-}

Organisational Psychotherapy is still in its infancy but we can accelerate its development by borrowing from decades of science and research into individuals’ therapy and related fields.

Some concepts in the “borrow” bag toady are: Adherence, Concordance, Self-efficacy and the person of the therapist.


In medicine – including therapy –  patient compliance (also called adherence or capacitance) describes the degree to which a patient correctly follows medical advice. Most commonly, it refers to medication or drug compliance, but it can also apply to medical device use, self care, self-directed exercises, or therapy sessions.

Patient adherence, or rather its flip-side, non-adherence, costs the US alone around $300 Billion per annum.

In treatment of individuals, an estimated half of those for whom treatment regimens are prescribed do not follow them as directed.

In Organisational Psychotherapy I propose we use the term adherence only slightly differently:

Client adherence describes the degree to which a client organisation follows (implements) its own resolutions.

The term encapsulates the behaviours we see in almost ever organisation – where the organisation, having made some kind of resolution about behaving differently, rows-back on that resolution.

Barriers to Adherence

The World Health Organization (WHO) groups barriers to medication adherence into five categories:

  • Health care team and system-related factors
  • Social and economic factors
  • Condition-related factors
  • Therapy-related factors
  • Patient-related factors

Common barriers include:

Barrier Category
Poor Patient-provider Relationship Health Care Team and System
Inadequate Access to Health Services Health Care Team and System
High Medication Cost Social and Economic
Cultural Beliefs Social and Economic
Level of Symptom Severity Condition
Availability of Effective Treatments Condition
Immediacy of Beneficial Effects Therapy
Side Effects Therapy
Stigma Surrounding Disease Patient
Inadequate Knowledge of Treatment Patient

Barriers to Organisational Psychotherapy Adherence

As far as Organisational Psychotherapy goes, we might similarly categorise and group barriers to adherence.


The related term concordance has been used to refer to situations where the patient is involved in the treatment process, often to help improve adherence. In this context, the patient is informed about their condition and treatment options, involved in the decision as to which course of action to take, and takes partial responsibility for monitoring and reporting their condition, adherence, etc., back to the team.

Concordance has been used to refer specifically to patient adherence to a treatment regimen which the physician sets up collaboratively with the patient, to differentiate from adherence to a physician-only prescribed treatment regimen


Self-efficacy refers to an individual’s belief in their capacity to execute behaviours necessary to produce specific performance attainments. In other words, their belief in their ability to “do the necessary”.

In the Organisational Psychotherapy context, by determining the beliefs a client organisation holds regarding their power to affect their situation, self-efficacy strongly influences both the power an organisation actually has to face challenges competently, and the choices the organisation is most likely to make.

A strong sense of self-efficacy promotes accomplishment and the well-being of the organisation. An organisation with high self-efficacy views challenges as things to be mastered rather than threats to avoid. These organisations are able to recover from failure faster and are more likely to attribute failure to a lack of motivation. They approach threatening situations with the belief that they can overcome them. These views have been linked to lower levels of stress and a lower vulnerability to depression.

In contrast, organisations with a low sense of self-efficacy view difficulties as threats and shy away from them. Difficulties lead such organisations to look at the skills they lack rather than the ones they have. It is easier for them to lose faith in their own abilities after a failure. Low self-efficacy can be linked to higher levels of stress and depression.

The Person of the Therapist

Much research has shown that the person of the therapist is the single most influential factor in the success of therapy for individuals. I hold the same is likely true in the context of organisational psychotherapy.

– Bob

Further Reading

Smith, E.W.L. (2003). The Person of the Therapist. Mcfarland & Co.

Amongst many gems, my new “real page-turner” of a book, “Memeology”, defines an approach to measuring the progress of your organisation at culture change (page 44 in the current print/pdf version – or search for “sparklines”).

Are you interested in tracking your efforts at changing the culture of your organisation – and hence its effectiveness?

P.S. I’m available to help you implement this scheme.

Memeology Early Feedback

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

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

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

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

~ Ian Carroll

“A Priceless Tome”

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

~ Marco Consolaro

I would be delighted to receive your feedback, too.

– Bob

The software industry is not the only domain in which dogma and conservatism combine to defeat effectiveness. Here’s an article on how the US Army (and USMC) are using Mission-type Tactics (Auftragstaktik) in name only (MTTINO).

Losing Small Wars:  Why US Military Culture Leads to Defeat

and a backgrounder on auftragstaktik:

How the Germans Defined Auftragstaktik: What Mission Command is – AND – is Not

And see also: Product Aikido for insight into (real) mission-type tactics for product development.

Telling hundreds or thousands of people [something, anything] is never going to result in anything other than bitterness and conflict. And showing them will have about the same (lack of) impact.

Would you be willing to arrange things such that they might invite themselves to find out for themselves?

How Undiscussable are your Undiscussables?

[This post is excerpted from my new book, “Memeology“]

Suggested Preamble

Most organisations have things that nobody talks about, because broaching these topics can make people feel nervous, uncomfortable, or threatened. It’s common to refer to topics that people avoid discussing as “The Elephant in the Room”, or more prosaically as “undiscussables”. 

Suggested Opening Question

How many memes (topics) do we collectively baulk at discussing?

Note: In group settings, especially early on in the surfacing of and reflecting on collective assumptions and beliefs, it may be a challenge to start talking about specific undiscussables. Even simply naming these topics may prove a step too far, at the outset. This opening question does not intend to drive the identification of undiscussable topics, but to afford an opportunity to explore the more general subject of undiscussability, and the prevalence of undiscussability across the organisation.

Suggested Follow-on Questions

Might it help open up this meme (topic) if we categorise our different kinds of undiscussables?

What categories might we choose?

What impact – if any – do our undiscussables have on our organisation?

What are some specific undiscussables here in our own organisation?

How discussable is undiscussability itself for us?

How tolerant are we of undiscussability? 

Suggested Wrapping Up

What have we learned or come to realise, maybe for the first time, in our conversation here today on undiscussability?

How far apart or together are we now on the subject of undiscussability? Has airing the subject eased our concerns?

Is it time for action on undiscussability? And if so, how might we go about setting some action(s) in train?

Further Reading

Schachter, H. (2019, November 9). It’s Finally Time to Discuss the Undiscussables of the Workplace. Controllers On Call. Retrieved June 1, 2021, from

Noonan, W.R. (2007). Discussing the Undiscussable: A Guide to Overcoming Defensive Routines in the Workplace. Jossey-Bass.


In Organisational Psychotherapy, the key reason I use the word “memeplex” to refer to a collection of related memes is to highlight the phenomenon of interlock. Which is to say, the various memes of a memeplex interacting to reinforce one other. In practice, this means that considering one meme in isolation is unlikely to effect much of a change of thinking on that topic, as various other memes of the memeplex will act to oppose any such change of thinking.

Interlock suggests that considering memes in isolation, one at a time, makes changing thinking much more difficult, if not impossible.


In my latest book, “Memeology“, I invite readers to reflect upon the idea of interlock, and the role it plays in shaping which memes a group or organisation might together choose to discuss, and when.

If you’re looking for some advice here, I’d suggest proceeding on a broad front, at the outset touching lightly on a range of memes (for example, some of those appearing in the book). In this way, participants may begin to get a feel for how the various memes of their memeplex interact and interconnect.

As discussions deepen and focus in on specific memes, surfacing and reflecting together as you go, you may find yourselves moving forward towards a revision of the collective assumptions and beliefs related to these memes.

– Bob

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