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Organisational Therapy

Getting Upstream

When we consider change, we often overlook the context for that change, and the necessity to change the context to facilitate the change(s) we have in mind.

Shifting Left

For example, in the context of improving testing, the testing community invites us to “shift left”; to shift our focus to earlier phases of software delivery – to the left, in the stream of software delivery activities – where leverage is assumed to be greater. In other words, getting upstream of where testing activities have traditionally taken place.

The Broader Context

In a broader context, that of software delivery more generally, getting upstream means considering the context in which software delivery takes place.

What is this context? For me, as an organisational psychotherapist, it’s about the collective assumptions and beliefs of the host organisation. Collective assumptions and beliefs – or culture – that constrain how the work works.

Root of Failure

I have yet to see an approach to software delivery that considers this wider context, let alone provides a means to address these broader contextual issues. I attribute most of the failures of e.g. Waterfall, Agile, etc. to this absence of consideration for context.

Put another way, approaches to software delivery that fail to cater to the (thorny) issues of adoption are about as useful as chocolate teapot in the Sahara. This idea seems alien to all the methodologists I know of.

Organisational Psychotherapy

Organisational Psychotherapy provided just such a means. It invites folks considering changes, changes to the way they approach software delivery, to consider the broader context as an integral part of the change. Through dialogue, surfacing these broader contextual issues and inviting shared reflection on them, organisations considering change can get upstream of the changes under consideration.

(You can find out more about Organisational Psychotherapy and what “Getting Upstream” of the software delivery challeng looks like in my books (Marshall 2018, Marshall 2021, Marshall 2021).

As Einstein observed:

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

~Albert Einstein

I like to think he was talking about getting upstream of the immediate problem.

– Bob

Further Reading

Marshall, R.W. (2021). Quintessence: An Acme for Software Development Organisations. [online] leanpub.com. Falling Blossoms (LeanPub). Available at: https://leanpub.com/quintessence/ [Accessed 6 Jul 2022].
Marshall, R.W. (2021). Memeology: Surfacing And Reflecting On The Organisation’s Collective Assumptions And Beliefs. [online] leanpub.com. Falling Blossoms (LeanPub). Available at: https://leanpub.com/memeology/ [Accessed 6 Jul 2022].
Marshall, R.W. (2018). Hearts over Diamonds: Serving Business and Society Through Organisational Psychotherapy. [online] leanpub.comFalling Blossoms (LeanPub). Available at: https://leanpub.com/heartsoverdiamonds/ [Accessed 6 Jul 2022].
Marshall, R.W. (2021). Organisational Psychotherapy Bundle 1. [online] Leanpub. Available at: https://leanpub.com/b/organisationalpsychotherapybundle1 [Accessed 6 Jul. 2022].

Power To Effect Change

We are all powerless to effect change, excepting together.

Deming emphasised that organisational tranformation and change must start with individuals changing their own personal assumptions and beliefs.

Yes, change starts with ourselves, but we may see little impact outside of ourselves until we get together to support one another and build a movement to action, to changing our group or community’s collective assumptions and beliefs.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

~ Margaret Mead

OTOH folks not needing to see change can carry on in isolation, ploughing their own furrrows, with no need for cooperation, community, or messy human interactions.

– Bob

Further Reading

Kahane, A. and Barnum, J. (2017). Collaborating With The Enemy: How To Work With People You Don’t Agree With Or Like Or Trust. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Almost everybody complains about the inanities and insanities of organisational life. The inanities and insanities of their organisation. And yet, nobody seems to want to do anything about it.

Where do these inanities and insanities come from? What are the causes? If we can understand the causes, perhaps we CAN do something about them?

This is an underlying premise of Organisational Psychotherapy. OP posits the cause to be the collective assumptions and beliefs of the organisation. And the remedy? Surfacing those assumptions and beliefs and providing everyone, collectively, with opportunites to reflect on them.

Are you piqued by your organisation’s inanities and insanities? How do they detract from your aims, ambitions and success? Would you be interesting in looking into a remedy?

Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part 3

Reasons to be cheerful, Pt. 3

Some of you dear readers may, entirely reasonably, assume that I mention my books in the hope of increasing sales. However, this just ain’t so.

I mention my books in a vainglorious attempt to effect some positive shift in the world of business. I’ve written many times about my motivation. Specifically, my delight in helping people have a more joyful time in the world of work (in particular, Collaborative Knowledge Work).

I truly believe that Organisational Psychotherapy is a path to saner, more joyful, more humane workplaces. And my book “Quintessence” illustrates and maps out what a saner, more joyful organisation looks like and works like, in detail.

Maybe you share my enthusiasm for change, and for seeing things improve. Maybe you’re content with – or at least resigned to – the status quo.

In any case, I’d hate for my enthusiasm to be a source of frustration or angst for you.

On the other hand, I’d be delighted if through reading one or more of my books – or even blog posts or white papers – you might find a different perspective on what ails you, and new, more effective ways to meet folks’ needs, including your own.

– Bob

cheerful_lyrics

Further Reading

Marshall, R.W. (2021). Quintessence: An Acme for Software Development Organisations. [online] leanpub.com. Falling Blossoms (LeanPub). Available at: https://leanpub.com/quintessence/ [Accessed 16 Jun 2022].
Marshall, R.W. (2021). Memeology: Surfacing And Reflecting On The Organisation’s Collective Assumptions And Beliefs. [online] leanpub.com. Falling Blossoms (LeanPub). Available at: https://leanpub.com/memeology/ [Accessed 16 Jun 2022].
Marshall, R.W. (2018). Hearts over Diamonds: Serving Business and Society Through Organisational Psychotherapy. [online] leanpub.comFalling Blossoms (LeanPub). Available at: https://leanpub.com/heartsoverdiamonds/ [Accessed 16 Jun 2022].
Marshall, R.W. (2021). Organisational Psychotherapy Bundle 1. [online] Leanpub. Available at: https://leanpub.com/b/organisationalpsychotherapybundle1 [Accessed 16 Jun. 2022].
http://www.youtube.com. (n.d.). Ian Dury and The Blockheads – Reasons To Be Cheerful, Pt. 3 (Official Lyrics Video). [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1injh4-n1jY&ab_channel=IanDury%26TheBlockheads [Accessed 16 Jun. 2022].

The Future Of Software Delivery

Are you curious about how software will get written and delivered in the future? When all the Agile malarkey has faded away?

About your career and what skills and abilities will be in demand in a few years’ time?

Take a look at my book “Quintessence“ for a detailed road map of what the future of software delivery looks like.

My book “Memeology” describes in detail how organisations can make this future theirs, starting today.

And “Hearts Over DIamonds” sets out the foundations for Organisational Psychotherapy – the core principles for our Quintessential future.

Or read the whole series, and get a deep understanding of the role of Organisational Psychotherapy in businesses of the future.

– Bob

Further Reading

Marshall, R.W. (2021). Quintessence: An Acme for Software Development Organisations. [online] leanpub.com. Falling Blossoms (LeanPub). Available at: https://leanpub.com/quintessence/ [Accessed 12 Jun 2022].
Marshall, R.W. (2021). Memeology: Surfacing And Reflecting On The Organisation’s Collective Assumptions And Beliefs. [online] leanpub.com. Falling Blossoms (LeanPub). Available at: https://leanpub.com/memeology/ [Accessed 12 Jun 2022].
Marshall, R.W. (2018). Hearts over Diamonds: Serving Business and Society Through Organisational Psychotherapy. [online] leanpub.comFalling Blossoms (LeanPub). Available at: https://leanpub.com/heartsoverdiamonds/ [Accessed 12 Jun 2022].

More On Sea Change

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

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

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

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

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

– Bob

Further Reading

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

Organisational Transformation Starts With Individual Transformation

Organisational transformation starts with the individual but as they change they can run into organisational barriers and resistance to change. Similarly if the organisation institutes changes without helping people change their own understanding and views those people resist the changes in the organisation.

~ Barbara Lawton

Deming emphasised that organisational tranformation and change must start with individuals changing their own personal assumptions and beliefs. And in doing so, these individuals will likely fall foul of the organisation’s collective assumptions and beliefs (the collective psyche).

What better argument could there be for the benefits of Organisational Psychotherapy?

And what better explanation for why it’s soooo hard?

– Bob

Further Reading

Marshall, R.W. (2018). Hearts over Diamonds: Serving Business and Society Through Organisational Psychotherapy. [online] leanpub.comFalling Blossoms (LeanPub). Available at: https://leanpub.com/heartsoverdiamonds/ [Accessed 08 Jun 2022].

Lawton, B. http://www.youtube.com. (n.d.). 1993-03 Leading The Transformation Process. [online] Available at: https://youtu.be/MKq_SA8QnYI [Accessed 8 Jun. 2022].

Curious About Organisational Psychotherapy?

Organisational Psychotherapy. That’s a strange term. One you’ve probably not come across before. And one you almost certainly don’t understand in any depth.

Why bother looking into it? Seems like a poor use of your time and attention?

You could be right.

UNLESS, you have some interest in or need for changing the culture of a team, group or organisation.

In this particular post I’m not going to dwell on culture change. You’ll know if its something relevant to you, and how well your current culture is serving your business objectives.

Organisational Psychoptherapy does seem relevant to a whole passel of organisations attempting:

  • Digital Transformations
  • Agile Adoptions
  • Lean initiatives
  • More humane workplaces
  • And the like

but who am I to say?

And if some kind of culture change does seem in some way relevant to you, then might Organisational Psychotherapy serve as a means to effect such change?

You can find some clues in my foundational book on Organisational Psychotherapy: “Hearts Over Diamonds“.

What other means are open to you to in your efforts to change culture?

– Bob

Further Reading

Marshall, R.W. (2018). Hearts over Diamonds: Serving Business and Society Through Organisational Psychotherapy. [online] leanpub.comFalling Blossoms (LeanPub). Available at: https://leanpub.com/heartsoverdiamonds/ [Accessed 25 May 2022].

The System Is Unethical

Or at least, it’s “the system” that sits at the root of the unethical behaviours costing software delivery organisations £££millions annually. And it’s the culture of an organisation that defines that system.

Many years ago I wrote a White Paper titled “All Executives Are Unethical”. This paper riffed on a theme from Seth Godin – “All Marketers are Liars”. And channeled the ethical arguments of William Kingdon Clifford:

…whatever someone chooses to believe cannot be exempt from the ethical judgement of others.

In the aforementioned White Paper, I spoke of the ethics of executives, and in particular the folks that make the decisions about committing to improvements (or maintaining the status quo) in software delivery.

It’s been my experience over the course of thirty-plus years, that said executives act as if they believe their software delivery capability has little need, or scope, for improvement. Acting as if investing in improving said capability has little to no payback, and little to no impact on the organisation’ top line or bottom line.

It’s The System

Bill Deming famously wrote:

The fact is that the system that people work in and the interaction with people may account for 90 or 95 percent of performance.

~ W.E. Deming quoted in Scholtes, PR 1998 ‘The leader’s handbook: making things happen, getting things done’ McGraw-Hill, London p 296

Some readers of my aforementioned White Paper may have inferred I was criticising individual executives for their shortfall in ethics. Not at all. These folks work in “systems” as much as everyone else. It’s the system that drives their behaviours. Behaviours such as:

  • Failing to dig into the effectiveness of their organisation’s software delivery capabilities.
  • Indifference to the waste involved (wasted time, money, opportunities, human potential,…).
  • Ignorance of just how much more effective things could be, with e.g. a change in perspective.
  • Bravado and denial when questioned about such matters.

And it’s not limited to executives. Most advisors and practitioners (coaches, developers, middle managers, etc.) are equally ignorant, indifferent, flippant and slow to inquire.

Organisational Psychotherapy – and in particular, Memeology – offers a means to being addressing the shortcomings of the system, and thus bring about changes in folks’ behaviours.

– Bob

Further Reading

Marshall, R.W. (2021). All Agilists Are Unethical. [online] Think Different. Available at: https://flowchainsensei.wordpress.com/2021/12/23/all-agilists-are-unethical/ [Accessed 30 May 2022].
Seddon, J. (2015). 95% of Performance Is Governed By The System. [online] Vanguard Consulting Ltd. Available at: https://beyondcommandandcontrol.com/library/dr-demings-aphorisms/95-of-performance-is-governed-by-the-system/ [Accessed 30 May 2022].

There is helpful and useful content out there. But finding it amongst all the dross is a massive challenge.

I despair of the boatloads of naive advice, misinformation, and just pure tosh that so-called “Agile” people spout on a daily basis. (Not limited to just “Agile” people, of course.)

Caveat lector!

And just in case you’d like a sanity check on anything suspect or dubious, I’m always happy to support your natural scepticism. Just get in touch for non-partisan help.

Celebrate With Us And Receive A Free Copy Of Quintessence!

QuintessenceCover

To celebrate the launch of The Quintessential Group, our new software delivery startup, we’re making copies of my most recent book “Quintessence” – free for just one week <- coupon link. A $35.99 value! (And worth many more $$$ when applied).

If you’ve been curious about what’s the next big thing in the world of CKW (collaborative knowledge work) in general, and Software Delivery in particular, it’s all mapped out in detail in Quintessence. 

Whether you’re a developer looking for revolutionary ways of working (we choose rather to call it playing – and we’re inviting applications) or a business person looking to solve the software delivery crisis in your own organisation, there are many awesome things in the book for you.

Tell your friends, peers, teammates, co-workers and higher-ups. This is likely a one-time special offer!

– Bob

PS. I’ve just published a new version of the book (v1.5 – minor corrections and updates).

Want to get ahead of your competetion? Want to get in on the ground floor of the predominant approach to software delivery in the next twenty years (and more)? Simply read my latest book “Quintessence“. Those who’ve already read it say they love it to bits. 🙂

Or read the whole series, and get a deep understanding of the role of Organisational Psychotherapy in businesses of the future.

Further Reading

Marshall, R.W. (2021). Quintessence: An Acme for Software Development Organisations. [online] leanpub.com. Falling Blossoms (LeanPub). Available at: https://leanpub.com/quintessence/ [Accessed 20 May 2022].
Marshall, R.W. (2021). Memeology: Surfacing And Reflecting On The Organisation’s Collective Assumptions And Beliefs. [online] leanpub.com. Falling Blossoms (LeanPub). Available at: https://leanpub.com/memeology/ [Accessed 20 May 2022].
Marshall, R.W. (2018). Hearts over Diamonds: Serving Business and Society Through Organisational Psychotherapy. [online] leanpub.comFalling Blossoms (LeanPub). Available at: https://leanpub.com/heartsovediamonds/ [Accessed 20 May 2022].

What Is Quintessence?

Let’s start with what it’s NOT. Quintessence (I’m talking here about the approach, not the book) is not:

  • A framework
  • A method
  • A methodology

If it’s any ONE thing, It’s most like a detailed model or map of a well-functioning, or sane, CKW (collaborative knowledge woirk) organisation. A bit like an anti-DSM, or Prof Martin Seligman’s positive psychology P.E.R.M.A. model.

Quintessence’s roots lie in psychotherapy. Often referred to as Talk Therapy. And more specifically, in therapy as applied to groups, communities, and organisations (rather than individuals).

Quintessence (the approach) is aimed at helping organisations surface and reflect on their collective assumptions and beliefs, with a view to shifting their culture into closer alignment with their business goals.

I’d be delighted to explain further, if you’re interested.

– Bob

First Step Towards Quintessence

Taking a look at the idea of Quintessence can seem overwhelmingly daunting. Changing the culture of a whole organisation? Shifting assumptions and beliefs of an entire workforce, managers and executives included? Wow. Some herculean task?

Formidable Challenge

The challenge can seem truly formidable. Yet the benefits look appealing. 

How to take that first step? What is the most useful and reassuring first step?

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

~ Lao Tzu

Surfacing And Reflecting

The clue is on the cover of my second book, “Memeology“. The subtitle reads

Surfacing and reflecting on the organisation’s collective assumptions and beliefs.

I find a useful first step is talking with peers. And listening to what they have to say. Discovering if there’s an appetite for such surfacing and reflecting. Uncovering their challenges of the moment, and sounding out potential allies. Persuasion comes later, if at all.

The status quo has a powerful grip on busy people. It’s easy to dismiss calls for change in the midst of daily stressors such as fire-fighting and chasing targets.

Timbre

What’s the timbre of dialogue in your organisation? Progressive or regressive? Inviting or dismissive? What timbre might best suit the kinds of dialogue implied by Quintessence? How might y’all affect that timbre? And could you use some help with that?

Chatting Is The First Step

To recap – simple chatting with friends, neighbours, peers and colleagues can be the vital first step. And “Alien Tech” can sometimes serve as an icebreaker, if you feel you need one.

– Bob

 

The Limits Of Quintessence

My dear friend Alessandro Di Gioia recently invited me to write a post on the limits of Quintessence. So here it is.

Introduction

Maybe “limits” is not the most helpful frame. Perhaps “constraints” might better suit. As far as I’m concerned, Quintessence has no limits in terms of what can be achieved (hence the name), but it sure is subject to a host of constraints holding it back from delivering on it’s potential.

There are no speed limits on the road to excellence [nor on the road to Quintessence – Ed.].

~ David W. Johnson

Elaboration

Alex subsequently elaborated on his question at my invitation:

  • When does Quintessence not apply?
  • What are the most common misinterpretations of Quintessence?
  • Quintessence is not a silver bullet because…?

When Does Quintessence Not Apply?

I propose it always applies, at least in collaborative knowledge (grey muscle) work (CKW). Generally, it applies when results are contingent on the relationships between people, and on effective cognitive function. Quintessence describes an environment, and the beliefs necessary to creating such and environment, for improved interpersonal relationships and cognitive function.

So if those things are not relevant in your context, I guess we can say that Quintessence may not apply there.

What Are The Most Common Misinterpretations?

I hesitate to answer this question, as my answer will only be a guess. Yet I guess some folks may misinterpret Quintessence in the following ways:

  • It’s a method, or framework – like Scrum, Kanban, Waterfall, etc.
    It’s neither. It’s most like a blueprint or map of the landscape of beliefs (a.k.a. memeplex) within highly effective CKW organisations.
  • It’s about software development
    It’s not. It’s about folks working together, collaboratively with their brains. i.e. All CKW environments.
  • It can be handed down as an objective for the minions to implement
    It can’t. Shifting the collective assumptions and beliefs of a whole organisation (the basic premise) requires everyone to be involved, everyone to engage with surfacing and reflecting on the collective assumptions and beliefs of the organisation. In particular, those folks to whom the workforce look for cues.
  • It comes in a box
    It doesn’t. It comes in a book (two books, actually – Memeology and Quintessence). But there are no ceremonies defined, no practices required, no rules stipulated, no dogma. Just an invitation to ongoing dialogue.

Silver Bullet?

Quintessence is not a silver bullet because, although both magical (alien tech) and a solution to a long-standing problem, it’s in no way an instant solution. Becoming a Quintessential organisation is a long journey of self-discovery. Both for individuals, especially managers, and for the organisation as a whole. 

The long-standing problem it addresses is the myopia of organisations in respect of their real issues and challenges.

Closing

I hope this post has addressed the questions posed, and invites some further curiosity from y’all dear readers. AQA (All questions answered).

– Bob

Further Reading

Marshall, R.W. (2021). Quintessence: An Acme for Software Development Organisations. [online] leanpub.com. Falling Blossoms (LeanPub). Available at: https://leanpub.com/quintessence/ [Accessed 4 May 2022].

Marshall, R.W. (2021). Memeology: Surfacing And Reflecting On The Organisation’s Collective Assumptions And Beliefs. [online] leanpub.com. Falling Blossoms (LeanPub). Available at: https://leanpub.com/memeology/ [Accessed 4 May 2022].

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