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Needs

The Author

I write about what I see, and have seen. I don’t write to entertain (excepting very occasionally) or to curry favour.

I write about ways I’ve seen people approaching things, and ways to maybe approach them differently. Ways in which they might see their needs better met.

Purpose

I write to invite people to think differently. To reflect on what they see and maybe reframe their interpretations and responses differently from their defaults. Why do I do this? Because I have a need to see people having a better time at work. A better experience from the countless hours we fritter away doing other folks’ bidding.

I am your author. And I appreciate you reading my stuff.

I’d like to write about stuff that’s relevant for you, topics that matter to you, to make that kind of connection. But I’m mostly going to continue writing about stuff that matters to me. Long may you continue to find insights and inspiration in it.

– Bob

 

Hungry For Improvement

In his book The Ideal Team Player, Patrick Lencioni lists three virtues he considered indispensable for “ideal team players”:

  • Humility
  • Hunger
  • People-smarts

To elaborate:

Humility

Humility means focusing on the greater good, instead of focusing on oneself or having an inflated ego. Humble people are willing to own up to their failures or flaws, apologise for their mistakes, accept others’ apologies and can sincerely appreciate others’ strengths/skills.

In Lencioni’s words, humility is probably the most important virtue:

Great team players lack excessive ego or concerns about status. They are quick to point out the contributions of others and slow to seek praise for their own. They share credit, emphasise team over self, and define success collectively rather than individually. It is no great surprise, then, that humility is the single greatest and most indispensable attribute of being a team player.

Hunger

Being hungry means that you always seek more, e.g. to do more, learn more, or take on more responsibility. Hungry people are self-motivated to work hard, take initiative and go beyond their call of duty. Hungry people are never satisfied, and they always want more. They have a drive and a burning ambition to be more than they are. Some folks call this discretionary effort.

Hunger, writes Lencioni,

“is the least sensitive and nuanced of the three virtues. That’s the good news. The bad news is – it’s the hardest to change.”

Smarts (i.e. people-smarts)

People smarts means having common sense about people, i.e. being aware of and perceptive about other people, asking good questions, listening well and knowing how to respond effectively.

Be aware that “people smarts” doesn’t necessarily mean intellectually “brilliant”; but it does mean emotionally intelligence and a capability for skilful interpersonal interactions.

Of course, you can’t have a team if there’s no team chemistry; and folks who are people smart contribute to this chemistry.

Hungry For Improvement?

Improvement – and especially continuous improvement – doesn’t just happen. In most organisations, it rarely happens at all.

When improvement does happen, it’s because someone needs it to happen. For some reason. Personally, I’m hungry for improvement because I find joy in seeing things improve, and joy in seeing things getting better for the people involved. Simple as.

For me, improvement is not a means to some other end, such as higher profits, increased success, or some other common but similarly specious justification. For me, it’s an end in itself.

I’d go further, and suggest that improvement is rare exactly because few people find an innate joy in it.

How about you? Are you hungry for improvement? Do you need it?

– Bob

Quintessential Ways Of Working

I’m sure folks hearing about Quintessence wonder what it’s all about, and how it differs from other ways of working in the software development domain.

There’s much to absorb in my books on the subject, especially Quintessence itself.

But for those who prefer an “in a nutshell” explanation…

Foundations

Culture

Products, designs, solutions, services – these are all a consequence of our culture. 

So the quintessential organisation focuses on its culture, not on its processes, technical practices, competencies, etc.. And builds cultural awareness and shift into its business-as-usual, into its ways of working.

As Kevin Weiss so kindly says in his foreword to Quintessence:

This is the real challenge to readers of this book – to consider these ideas as a wholly different way of working, rather than an à la carte menu of possibilities. If you can do that, you may have what it takes to be a leader in your company’s transformation. 

And if you do, jump at the chance! It will likely be the most rewarding time of your career. 

~ Kevin Weiss

Interpersonal relationships

Part of the quintessential way of working centres around the relations between people. Between individual teams members. Between teams and the folks they serve. Between folks inside the organisation and those in customer and supplier organisations. Between folks on the front line, and their managers and executive. The way the work works, whomsoever owns it, is oriented towards increased opportunities for dialogue, and fellowship, relationship- and community-building. Not so much towards producing stuff, like designs, solutions, code, etc..

Continuous Reflection

Regular dialogue enables the surfacing of and reflecting upon the organisation’s collective assumptions and beliefs – another key aspect of the way the work works in aspiring quintessential organisations. Such dialogue is literally built into the ways of working of quintessential organisations.

Attending to folks’ needs (the Antimatter Principle) also serves to strengthen and deepen interpersonal relationships.

Excellence

A key principle in the quintessential way of working is excellence. The desire to do and be the best one can. No tolerance of complacency or slacking-off here. 

Working Together

Quintessential organisations feature people working together. I hesitate to say collaboration, because I have some reservations about that notion. But working together is an essential element of the quintessential organisation. Gone are the days when the heroic individual could make some lone breakthrough or discovery. Our world has become more complicated than that.

Systems Thinking

Quintessential organisations recognise themselves as complex adaptive systems, not just a collection of quasi-independent parts. Decisions are made and actions taken with this perspective fully in mind. And systems thinking permeates all aspects and all levels of the way the work works.

Risk

One aspect often overlooked in non-quintessential organisations is the formal management and control of risk. Many of the Folks That Matter within an organisation seek certainty and predictability, but rarely are the risks threatening those needs explicitly managed. See also: (DeMarco and Lister 2003).

Normative Learning

See: Toyota Kata (Rother 2010).

Social Sciences

The quintessential organisation draws on discoveries from many of the social sciences, including:

  • psychology
  • psychotherapy
  • group dynamics
  • cognitive science
  • neuroscience.

And builds the discoveries and practices from these fields into the way the work works.

Summary

The above are just the stand-out aspects of ways of working observable in quintessential organisations.

Take a look at Quintessence (the book) if you’d like to understand more and dive deeper.

– Bob

Further Reading

Rother, M. (2010). Toyota Kata: Managing People For Continuous Improvement And Superior Results. Mcgraw-Hill.

Demarco, T. and Lister, T.R. (2003). Waltzing With Bears: Managing Risk On Software Projects. Dorset House Pub.

You can’t change a behavior by trying to change a behavior.

~ Sharon Drew Morgen

(Neither one’s own behaviours nor those of others).

 

Every decision is a change management problem.

~ Sharon Drew Morgen

 

People don’t buy because they have a need. They buy because they can’t solve a problem with familiar resources. And the cost of the solution must be equal to or less than the cost of the status quo.

~ Sharon Drew Morgen

Also

People don’t change because they have an unmet need. They change because they can’t get their need met with familiar strategies. And the cost of the change must be equal to or less than the cost of the status quo.

Furrther Reading

Morgen, S.D. (2021). Morgenisms. [online] Available at: https://sharon-drew.com/morgenisms [Accessed 31 Mar. 2022].

The Tech Leader as Organisational Therapist

[Inspired by “The Physician Leader as Logotherapist“, substituting “tech” for “medicine”]

The existential cure for what ails the Tech Industries today can be summarised in four phrases:

  1. Folks’ (customers’, etc.) needs come first.
  2. Right action and right conduct.
  3. Focus on needs and not money.
  4. Discover what life expects of us.

In his recent PBS special, “Surviving the Bottom Line,” Hedrick Smith documented how industries such as manufacturing and banking are sacrificing their employees and the needs of their customers in the quest for stock price appreciation and bigger dividends. (Smith 1998).

Further Reading

Smith, H. “Surviving the Bottom Line.” Frontline, PBS. January 16. 1998.

Washburn, E.R.. (2021). The Physician Leader as Logotherapist – Physician Executive Leadership. [online] Available at: https://indexarticles.com/health-fitness/physician-executive/the-physician-leader-as-logotherapist-physician-executive-leadership/ [Accessed 7 Feb. 2022].

Customer Success

The idea of “customer success” is widely understood in the halls of business, if not widely acted upon. “Customer success” is an outcome, sought for its contribution to a business’ own success. This sought outcome carries with it the belief that if a business’ customers can be helped to greater success, greater profits, market share, margins, revenues, customer loyalty, retention, reduced churn, etc. will accrue.

Put another way, businesses focussed on “customer success” believe it’s a means, maybe even THE means, to increase their own success.

In this way, we can see that:

  • It’s a belief.
  • It’s a belief widely understood, even though not widely held or practiced.
  • It’s a means – or strategy – to an end (the end in mind being success to the business doing the helping), not an end in itself.
  • Other means a.k.a. strategies to business success may appear more compelling.
  • Given my previous post “The Fifth Absolute of Quality” which describes “customer success” as being THE purpose of quality, those businesses which reject “customer success” as the means to their own success will likely also reject quality initiatives and programmes.
  • “Customer success” is not synonymous with “customer satisfaction” (far from it).
  • What customers need for their increased success is a subset of their total needs (other needs may exist unrelated to the “success” of that customer organisation, in particular the needs of the Core Group, and other Folks That Matter™️ within those customer organisations).

To sum up, “customer success” is widely understood, although less widely practiced.

The Organisational Psychotherapy Analogue

I posit that the idea of “Attending to Folks’ Needs” – the declared purpose of Organisational Psychotherapy – is analogous to the idea of “customer success”.

Businesses embracing the idea of “Attending to folks’ needs” believe that doing so is a means to increase their own success.

The difference comes from few indeed seeing the connection between attending to folks’ needs and the success of their business.

Some observations on the idea that “Attending to folks’ needs” will enhance the success of the attending business or organisation:

  • It’s a belief.
  • It’s an uncommon belief, held by only a few.
  • The mechanisms by which attending to folks’ needs deliver business success are understood by few.
  • It’s a means – or strategy – to an end (the end in mind being business success for the business attending to folks’ needs), not an end in itself.
  • Few have encountered the idea of attending to folks’ needs, fewer have considered it as a means for the success of their business, and fewer yet have adopted it.
  • Other means a.k.a. strategies for its own success may appear more compelling for the business.

To sum up, “Attending to folks’ needs” is not widely known nor understood as an idea, so not widely seen as a viable means to business success, and so not often embraced or practiced.

– Bob

Postscript

More eagle-eyed and sharp-witted readers may have noticed that this post contains two, apparently different means to business success:

  1. Focus on the success of the business’ customers.
  2. Focus on the needs of all the Folks That Matter.

Actually, I see this a a false dichotomy; as 1) is a subset of 2):

CustomerSuccessPie

Irksome

Some folks tell me they find the titles of some of my blog posts a tad irksome, to say the least.

I can sympathise. I myself am often conflicted between penning titles that might garner reads (a.k.a. clickbait) vs risking irking some readers. I guess that’s the nature of (anti)social media as we now know it.

But there’s a reason I continue to risk irking some.

The Surprising Purpose of Anger

Therapists will remark that although such titles might trigger an emotional response – such as feeling irked, or worse – from readers, the trigger is separate from the response. And the response to triggers is completely within the control of the reader.

So, yes, my titles are sometimes calculated and designed to trigger readers. Given them the opportunity to introspect on their propensity for responding, the nature of their responding, and the needs they have that are not being met (cf. Rosenberg, 2005).

You might say irking some is a public service. 🙂

– Bob

Further Reading

Rosenberg, M.B. (2005). The Surprising Purpose of Anger: Beyond Anger Management: Finding the Gift: A Q&A with Marshall B. Rosenberg. Puddle Dancer Press.

 

 

 

Needs or Wants

Don’t give folks what they want, nor what you think they need, nor even what they think they need. 

Give them what they really need. It can take time, effort and skill to discover what they really need (a.k.a. the “Mafia Offer” – Goldratt 2015), but it’s the only legal path to sustained success.

Further Reading

Goldratt, E.M. (2015). It’s Not Luck. Gower Publishing.

The Way Forward

By way of a counterpoint to my previous post “What’s Holding Us Back“, I’m interested in the way forward for the software industry, businesses, and society in general.

It’s become delightfully obvious to me that a whole raft of helpful assumptions and beliefs constitute that way forward.

In my most recent books (Memeology, Quintessence) I detail these helpful assumptions and beliefs at length, and again in keeping with my preference for short blog posts, I’ll just summarise, here…

Here’s some of the major assumptions and beliefs helpful to enabling organisations better achieve success:

  • Generalising specialists form the core of quintessential organisations (see e.g. Paint Drip People).
  • Continual small changes in assumptions and beliefs (kaizen), with occasional larger step changes (Kaikaku) are the way to effect improvements.
  • Change is desirable, best left to serendipity, and better seen in small daily increments.
  • Dialogue is at the core of improvements, in relationships and the way the work works, both.
  • Everyone’s needs matter (at least for all the Folks That Matter). See also: the Antimatter Principle.
  • Clarity and honesty on what constitutes “success” is the only way to align folks and see everyone’s real needs are being attended to.
  • Culture is the visible by-product of the invisible set of prevailing assumptions and beliefs, and is amenable to intentional change through eg Organisational Psychotherapy (be that facilitated or via self-help).
  • There are many possible organisational structures other than hierarchy. They have all be tried at one time or another. Most have proven more successful that hierarchy.
  • Change always requires revisions to existing policies and rules. See: Innovation ALWAYS Demands We Change the Rules.
  • Talent is unnecessary when we have thriving relationships, and a focus on the way the work works.
  • Interpersonal relationships are core to success.
  • Interesting work and the prospect of community, meaning, and other “soft” elements trumps high pay as a motivator and attractant, every time.
  • Productivity ensues from optimising the way the work works, which in turn requires a focus on collective assumptions and beliefs.
  • Efficiency is a distracting red herring, effectiveness is the path to productivity and success.
  • Business problems are almost never the fault of certain individuals.
  • Breaking the organisation into parts and managing these parts separately is a recipe for significant sub-optimisation and shortfalls in success.
  • In collaborative knowledge work, intrinsic motivation is much more powerful than extrinsic motivation. The latter serves as a demotivator.
  • The social dynamic and listening are the only means to effect changes in people’s behaviours.

…and so on, and so on. 

All the above assumptions have been proven time and again through decades of research. By listening, experimenting and being interested in the science and outliers, our ignorance can be assuaged and enlightened.

– Bob

Seems to me that the biggest challenge for managers in our Covid times is finding ways to help and support staff in giving a damn about work, the mission and the organisations’ shared purpose (your organisation does have one of those, hmmm?)

Maybe starting with themselves may be as good a departure point as any?

Crosby’s Four Absolutes of Quality Reframed

I recently posted a quickie repeating Phil Crosby’s Four Absolutes of Quality.

I accept that many folks find his choice of vocabulary less than clear. So, here’s a reframing of his four absolutes, reframed in the Antimatter Principle vocabulary (a reframing which you may or may not find more helpful).

  1. The definition of quality is meeting everyone’s needs, NOT “goodness”.
  2. The behaviour that causes quality to happen is paying attention to folks’ needs, NOT inspection.
  3. The performance standard for quality is “all needs met, for all the Folks that Matter™️”, NOT “that’s good enough”.
  4. The measurement of quality is the cost of focus, NOT indices.

– Bob

The Quintessential Developer

In my recent book, “Quintessence” I write, of the Quintessential organisation, that “everybody does things differently”. By which I mean, every role in a quintessential organisation looks very different from its counterpart in more conventional organisations, even though the name of the role may be similar, or the same..

This post looks at the role of the developer, and how – in quintessential organisations – this role differs markedly from the role in more conventional organisations.

Here’s a contextualising excerpt from Chapter 2 of Quintessence:

Everybody Does Things Differently

The quintessential organisation invites everyone involved to surface and reflect on their individual and collective assumptions and beliefs about work and how work should work. Progress towards the quintessential depends on progress with respect to changing these assumptions and beliefs.

This is the foundational reason why we see so few quintessential organisations, and why making the transition to a quintessential organisation is so difficult, and so rarely achieved successfully.

Here’s a brief outline of roles that look very different from the quintessential perspective:

The Manager’s role looks very different. So different, in fact, that the term “manage” ceases to be relevant. Managers in a quintessential organisation have relinquished ideas of control, and embraced a role of enablement, resourcing and support.

The Developer’s role looks very different. So different, in fact, that “software” and “technology” cease to be relevant. Developers in a quintessential organisation have downplayed a focus on “hard” technical skills, such as coding, and embraced and learned social skills, including skilful dialogue, empathy, self-organisation and compassion.

The Tester’s role looks very different. So different, in fact, that “testing” a.k.a. “inspection” ceases to be relevant. Testers in a “quintessential organisation have have relinquished a focus on inspection skills, and embraced means of preventing defects, and ensuring that attending to the need of the Folks That Matter™️ is “baked in” to how the work works.

The Customer’s role looks very different. Customers of a quintessential organisation get to have conversations about their needs, and have those needs attended to, more often and with more clarity than customers of more traditional organisations.

Even though a rational explanation of these differences serves little purpose, and will convince no one, we’ll take a more detailed look into the rationale later in this book.

Quintessence presents my experiences from over forty years of leading, working in, and advising software development shops and companies. I invite you to find inspiration, motivation and connection from my journey. Quintessence presents an ideal approach to making money (and other things) via attending to folks’ needs

Note: I say an ideal, not the ideal. There may well be other ways of achieving the same ends.

The Quintessential Developer Role

Note: This section describes the role of developers in a quintessential organisation. That is, the adjective “quintessential” applies to the organisation within which developers work, rather than the developers themselves.

In a quintessential organisation, developers pay much less attention to “technical” competencies such as coding, and much more attention to identifying the Folks That Matter™️, and understanding their (evolving) needs (cf. the Needsscape).

Developers in a quintessential organisation (being self-organising, self-managing and self-directing) focus on understanding what needs to be done (and for whom), compared to developers in conventional (poorly effective) organisations.

Necessary developer skills, in order of significance (most significant first): 

  • Dialogue skills – for conversations with the Folks That Matter™️ about their needs, and identifying other folks that may also matter.
  • Empathy – for establishing and maintaining humane relationships with all the Folks That Matter™️. Assuming, of course, that the organisation permits developers to actually talk with e.g. customers. A fairly rare scenario, to be sure.
  • Self-organisation – absent middle managers, project managers, etc., organising the work and then assigning work items to individual developers (and teams), developers in quintessential organisations have the freedom to to organise the work, and their assignments, themselves. This can range in scope from a single work item of a few hours, all the way through to new product features and indeed whole new products.
  • Risk Management – cultivating awareness of risks, their likely impact, and identifying and implementing active mitigations.
  • Opportunity Management – one step further than risk management.
  • System thinking – for reflecting on how the work works, with a view to continuous improvement.
  • Quality – building quality into the way the works works (as contrasted with hand-offs to e.g. testers and other QC personnel).
  • Researching and Learning – to discover and apply new ideas and techniques, both regarding how the work works and new technical skills/tools..
  • Investigating solutions – especially #NoSoftware solutions. 
  • Technical skills – including various implementation technologies, such as human systems (solutions staffed by human beings), paper prototypes and implementations, and, in extremis, writing software (a.k.a. programming, coding).

To recap:

Working/playing for/with a quintessential organisation is a fabulous experience (both literally and metaphorically). But the developer role is awesomely different from the conventional developer role. Can you grok it?

– Bob

Further Reading

Marshall, R.W. (2012). So You Really Want to be an Agile Developer? [online] Think Different. Available at: https://flowchainsensei.wordpress.com/2012/05/22/so-you-really-want-to-be-an-agile-developer/ [Accessed 30 Dec. 2021].

Quintessence: Who Matters?

A sample chapter excerpted from my new book “Quintessence“ – book available now on Leanpub (free sample also available).

Note: Each of the eighty-odd chapters in Part II of the book takes a specific meme, and describes the collective beliefs and assumptions that quintessential organisations hold in regard to the meme. By taking all the memes in toto, we can understand the way quintessential software development organisations see the world of work – and what makes them so effective. This particular sample meme is about who matters.

Chapter 15. Who Matters

Quintessentially

Quintessential organisations regard the needs of their customers, staff, managers, investors, etc. as central to the way the work works. Collectively, these folks are sometimes called The Folks That Matter™️. These organisations invest much effort in:

  • Identifying the various constituencies and the people who belongs to these constituencies.
  • Tracking the set of constituencies, and the changing membership of these constituencies, over time. 

“Understand stakeholder symmetry: Find the appropriate balance of competing claims by various groups of stakeholders.”

~ Warren G. Bennis

The quintessential organisation exhibits the following (collective) attitudes and feelings towards the Folks That Matter™️:

  • A keen urge to understand and track the needs of all the Folks That Matter™️.
  • Inviting folks to come up with explicit policies for defining and tracking membership of the set of all Folks That Matter™️.
  • Practices to both discover and attend to these needs.
  • Defining organisational success in terms of needs met.

Quintessential organisations recognise the major costs and other risks arising from missing out key members from the set of all Folks That Matter™️. These risks receive their continuous scrutiny – both in terms of accurately identifying members and in terms of ensuring these members’ needs are attended to, and ultimately, met. All work of the organisation is geared towards meeting the needs of the Folks That Matter™️. Maximising the amount of work NOT done is achieved by cautious (risk-aware) exclusion of insignificant groups and individuals from the set of the Folks that Matter™️, whilst striving to drive towards zero the instances of omission of significant groups and individuals from the set of the Folks that Matter™️.

Stakeholders

Quintessential organisations recognise the distinction between stakeholders and The Folks That Matter™️. The needs of some stakeholders sometimes don’t much matter, and some of The Folks That Matter™️ aren’t actually seen as stakeholders (employees, for example).  Given these distinctions, choosing different terms helps communication and, more significantly perhaps, improves Cost of Focus.

Further Reading

Kleiner, A. (2003). Who Really Matters. Currency.

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