Effective Software Development

Everyone in the software industry (managers excepted) knows the following is true, yet nobody wants to talk about it:

Effective software development is entirely incompatible with typical (hierarchical, command-and-control) management.

After 50 years in the industry, I’d go so far as to say:

Effective software development is entirely incompatible with ANY known form of management.


Place managers in charge of software development and it can NEVER be ANYTHING but ineffective (high costs, low quality, poor due date performance, lack of innovation, etc.).

NB Applies more broadly, beyond the domain of software development, too.


The reasons for this incompatibility can be explained as follows:

1. Creativity and innovation: Software development is a highly creative and innovative process that often requires developers to think out of the box, experiment, and come up with novel solutions. A hierarchical management structure stifles creativity and inhibits the free flow of ideas, emphasising, as it does, strict adherence to rules and policies.

2. Responsiveness and flexibility: In the rapidly changing world of technology, software development teams need to be responsive and adaptable in order to respond quickly to changes in requirements, market conditions, approaches, and user feedback. A command-and-control management style, which relies on rigid plans and mandated approaches, tools, makes it difficult to impossible for teams to pivot and adapt as needed.

3. Collaboration and communication: Effective software development relies on close collaboration and communication among team members with diverse skills and expertise. Hierarchical management structures create barriers to communication, with information flowing primarily up and down the chain of command, rather than freely among team members.

4. Autonomy and motivation: Software developers tend to be highly skilled, motivated individuals who thrive on autonomy and the ability to make decisions about their work. Command-and-control management undermines their motivation by imposing external control and limiting their decision-making authority.

The broader point being made in the corollary statement is that traditional hierarchical management is never the best fit for software development, and that organisations might choose to consider alternative organisational styles and structures that are more conducive to the unique demands of software development.

This idea can indeed apply beyond the domain of software development, as many industries are increasingly recognising the need for more responsive, collaborative, and flexible management approaches to drive innovation and adapt to rapidly changing environments.

The Hidden Biases That Keep Us Hooked on Management

💡 Are you tired of relying on the idea of “management” as the default solution to organisational problems?

➡ The strong inclination towards management as a solution for organisational problems can be influenced by bias in a variety of ways. These include:

  • Cultural bias: Western cultures tend to place a high value on individual achievement and personal success, which can lead to a focus on hierarchical management structures as a means of exerting control and achieving results.
  • Confirmation bias: Organisations and individuals may be predisposed to seeing management as the solution to problems, leading them to selectively seek out and interpret information that supports this view.
  • Limited perspectives: Management can be seen as the default solution for organisational problems due to a lack of consideration or awareness of alternative approaches or perspectives.
  • Financial incentives: Financial incentives can create a bias towards management as a solution, particularly among those who stand to benefit financially from its implementation.
  • Management industry: The management industry has a vested interest in promoting management as the solution to organisational problems, which can create a bias towards this approach.

Upton Sinclair’s dictum,

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it,”

is particularly relevant in this context. Financial incentives and the influence of the management industry can create a powerful bias towards management as a solution for organisational problems, particularly when individuals stand to benefit financially from its implementation.

To address bias towards management as a solution, it is important to maintain an open mind, seek out diverse perspectives, and evaluate potential solutions based on their effectiveness rather than defaulting to a particular approach. This may involve exploring alternative management styles, such as servant leadership, or considering other approaches to addressing organisational challenges, such as self-organising teams, #Fellowship, and #NoManagement.

By remaining open to new ideas and approaches, organisations can avoid the limitations imposed by bias and better address their challenges and opportunities.

“Not Everybody Matters”: A Bold Approach to Streamlining Software Development

💡 Need to unlock your team’s full potential and supercharge your software development process? Uncover the game-changing strategy behind embracing “Not Everybody Matters”, and learn how mastering the Needsscape and understanding the Cost of Focus can catapult your project to success! 🎯💥🚀

➡ In the world of software, service and product development, catering to every stakeholder’s needs can be both challenging and resource-intensive.

Embracing the idea that “Not Everybody Matters” can lead to more effective development processes by prioritising the most critical needs and stakeholders. By focusing on the essential elements of a project, teams can allocate resources more effectively and reduce development time.

The Needsscape
The Needsscape is a concept that helps identify and dynamically prioritise the needs of various stakeholders. By carefully tracking the Needsscape, development teams can determine which needs have the most significant impact at any given moment, and align their efforts accordingly. This approach acknowledges that not all needs are equally important, and allocating resources to meet every need regardless of relative impact leads to increased costs and inefficiencies.

The Cost of Focus
The Cost of Focus is the trade-off that occurs when concentrating on one are over another. By acknowledging that “Not Everybody Matters,” development teams can make informed decisions about where to invest their time, effort, and resources. This approach might involve prioritising features that have the highest value for the majority of users or focusing on the needs of specific subsets of the audience.

The concept of “Not Everybody Matters” in software development is a bold approach that encourages teams to prioritise the most critical needs and stakeholders by leveraging the Needsscape and understanding the Cost of Focus. By doing so, they can streamline the development process, maximise the value delivered, and ultimately create more successful software products.

Cracking the Code: Tackling the UK’s Productivity Puzzle

Productivity is one of the key factors in determining the economic growth of a country, and the United Kingdom is no exception. Over the past few years, the UK’s productivity growth has been slower than other advanced economies such as the US, Germany, and France. This has raised concerns about the country’s long-term economic prospects and the standard of living for its citizens.

The UK’s productivity puzzle has been a subject of much debate and analysis. A range of factors has been identified as contributing to the country’s low productivity, including poor management practices, low investment in infrastructure, low-skilled workforce, and a lack of innovation.

The issue of poor management practices has been particularly significant in the UK, with studies showing that the country has some of the worst managers in the developed world, with a lack of leadership skills, inadequate communication, and poor people management being some of the most significant issues. This has resulted in a workforce that is less engaged, less productive, and less innovative, which ultimately impacts the overall competitiveness of UK businesses.

The practise of management, good and bad, and its root causes has long been a key focus for me and my work (Rightshifting, the Marshall Model, Organisational Psychotherapy, etc. – more details on my blog).

I’ve long felt frustrated at the seemingly intractable issues of management generally, and UK management in particular. Especially as I have evolved a solution that, if adopted, could largely remedy the situation.

The Problem

UK management is mired is what the literature calls “the Analytic Mindset”. This term refers to a certain collection of assumptions and beliefs about work, harking back to at least the late nineteenth century.

These assumptions and beliefs result, in practice, in relatively ineffective ways of relating to the workforce. Ways which inevitably lead to a workforce that is less engaged, less productive, and less innovative than what we know to be possible today.

The challenge? How to enable companies to swap out these existing, ineffective assumptions and beliefs with a relatively more effective set known as “the Synergistic Mindset”.

The Solution

And the solution? Organisational Psychotherapy.

Much like therapy for individuals, OP provides a supportive and non-judgmental space for organisations to explore their assumptions and beliefs, and their resulting policies and practices. With these beliefs surfaced and reflected-upon, fundamental changes are possible. We might call this “culture change”.

In conclusion, the UK’s productivity problem is a consequence of its organisations’ collective assumptions and beliefs about work, and how work should work.

With the right investment in shifting the collective beliefs of UK organisations, the UK can dramatically improve its productivity levels and secure its long-term economic growth.


The Power of Business Culture Change

Business culture change brings considerable benefits to any organisation looking to grow and succeed in today’s dynamic business environment. According to a study by Deloitte, more than 80% of executives believe that culture is critical for their company’s success. However, only 19% of them believe that their culture is where it needs to be.

Changing the culture of a business involves a dialogic process of changing the shared assumptions and beliefs that govern how people work together.

Research shows that the most successful culture change initiatives involve everyone in the process, with people setting the tone for the desired culture through conversations, workshops, etc.

One of many metrics for measuring the success of culture change is employee engagement. Engaged employees are more productive, innovative, and committed to their work. Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report found that only 15% of employees worldwide are engaged at work, with the remaining 85% either not engaged or actively disengaged.

However, companies that prioritise culture change can see significant improvements in employee engagement. In a study by the Corporate Leadership Council, organisations with high engagement levels outperformed those with low engagement levels by 19% in operating income and 28% in earnings growth.

In conclusion, business culture change is a crucial aspect of organisational success, and it benefits from a deliberate and systematic approach. By focusing on metrics such as employee engagement, businesses can track the effectiveness of their culture change initiatives and make data-driven decisions to continuously improve.


Enter the Zone of Productivity: Unlocking the Power of Organisational Ketosis

Organisational ketosis is a term that refers to the optimal functioning of an organisation’s internal processes. Just like in the human brain, the cells in an organisation need fuel to function effectively. In this case, the fuel is the flow of information, communication, and collaboration between different teams, departments, or individuals within an organisation. When this flow is efficient and fast, it creates a state of organisational ketosis that allows the organisation to operate at maximum productivity.

To better understand this concept, we can compare the functioning of an organisation to that of a human body. The human body requires a balance of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to function properly. When we consume unhealthy or imbalanced diets, our bodies can become sluggish, and our brains can become foggy. This can affect our ability to think, concentrate, and perform tasks effectively. In contrast, when we consume healthy, nutrient-dense diets, our bodies can become energised, and our thinking can become sharper. This can enhance our cognitive performance and overall well-being.

Similarly, an organisation needs to have an efficient flow of information and collaboration to function effectively. When communication is slow, disjointed, or siloed, it can create bottlenecks that hinder productivity and progress. In contrast, when communication is fast, streamlined, and collaborative, it creates a state of organisational ketosis that allows for maximum efficiency and productivity.

To achieve this state, organisations might choose to focus on creating a culture that prioritises communication, collaboration, and transparency.

Such organisations might choose to break down its silos, promote cross-functional collaboration, and empower its employees to share information and ideas freely.

In addition, organisations might choose to invest in their employees’ training and development to enhance their skills and knowledge. This can enable employees to think creatively, problem-solve effectively, and work collaboratively, all of which are essential for creating a state of organisational ketosis.

In conclusion, organisational ketosis is a state that allows organisations to operate at maximum productivity and effectiveness. It requires a culture that prioritises communication, collaboration, and transparency, as well as the investment in employee training and development. By achieving this state, organisations can enhance their performance, increase innovation, and gain a competitive advantage.

Culture Change: A Key Tool for Companies to Achieve More with Fewer People

Culture change can be a powerful tool for companies looking to do more with fewer people. By shifting their collective assumptions and beliefs, organisations can create a more efficient and productive workforce. However, it is important to approach this process in a way that does not whip employees into fear-driven catalepsy.

One of the key ways to accomplish this is by fostering a culture of trust and collaboration. When employees feel that they can trust their colleagues and management, they are more likely to work together and share ideas. This can lead to greater innovation and problem-solving, which in turn can help companies to do more with fewer people.

Another important aspect of culture change is the role of collective assumptions and beliefs. These assumptions and beliefs shape the way that people think and act, and have a significant impact on the overall culture of an organisation. By identifying and challenging these assumptions and beliefs, companies can create a more open and adaptable culture that is better able to adapt to change.

One way to do this is by encouraging people to question the status quo and surface and reflect n shared assumptions. By creating a culture of continuous improvement and learning, companies can inspire people to come up with new and innovative solutions to problems. This can lead to more effective approaches and a more productive workforce.

Another way to encourage culture change is by fostering a sense of shared purpose. When employees feel that they are part of something bigger and that their work is meaningful, they are more likely to be engaged and motivated. By aligning people around a shared purpose, companies can create a culture of teamwork and collaboration that can help to achieve more with fewer people.

Finally, companies can also foster culture change by creating a sense of ownership and empowerment. When people feel that they have a stake in the success of the organisation, they are more likely to take initiative and be proactive in their work. This can lead to more effective approaches and a more productive workforce.

In conclusion, culture change can be a powerful tool for companies looking to do more with fewer people. By fostering a culture of trust and collaboration, challenging collective assumptions and beliefs, aligning employees around a shared vision, and creating a sense of ownership and empowerment, companies can create a more efficient and productive workforce. However, it is important to approach this process in a way that does not whip employees into fear-driven catalepsy.

Waiting In The Wings

What’s going to the next big thing in terms of approaches to software delivery? And when might we expect the transition to that next big thing to become apparent?

“The future’s already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.”

~ William Gibson

The Days of Agile Are Numbered

We can argue about how much life the Agile approach to software delivery has left in it. What’s beyond dispute is that there will be something after Agile. And I propose it will  look much different from Agile. I find it inconceivable that Agile is so perfect that there’s no room for improvement. Even though – ironically, give the exhortations to “inspect and adapt” – many in the Agile supply chain don’t want to talk about it AT ALL. Why rock the boat and derail the gravy train?

Customers and users, however, are waking up to the inadequacies of presently lauded approaches. And current upheavals in organisations, such as remote working and the scramble for talent, are accelerating these folks’ dissatisfaction.

Holding You Back

What’s prolonging the transition towards any new approach? Basically, it’s the prospect of the serious pain that comes with the adoption of effective new approaches. SAFe’s transient popularity illustrates how many organisations prefer an ineffective approach, with the illusion of change, rather than an effective approach that actually brings benefits. Any significant uplift in software delivery and product development performance implies a much different approach to running technology organisations, including, not least, different styles of management.

Your View?

What’s your view? What promising new approach(es) do you see waiting in the wings? And if there’s nothing with a recognisable name or label, what characteristics will a new approach have to have to boost it into consideration?

– Bob

There seems to be a vast ignorance amongst developers, other technical staff, and managers about the effect of “the system” (i.e. how the work works) on productivity. And on other dimensions of work, too (such as fun, employee engagement, quality, customer satisfaction,…).

I make this observation given the paltry attention given to how the work works in most organisations. Oh yes, many pay obsessive attention to processes – how the work should work. But never to how the work actually works, on the front line, at the gemba. It’s a bit like Argyris’ distinction between espoused theory (processes) and theory-in-action (the way the work is done).

There are folks (those in HR, Sales, Marketing, etc. stand out) that seem to never have realised that the way the work works is a thing.

Talking about the ins and out of the way the works works, let alone reifying it, marks one out as at least as wacko as those freaky systems thinkers.


You Don’t Understand Software Delivery

And the more senior you are, the less you understand. Even if you were once a developer, given that most developers don’t understand software development / software delivery, a developer background is not going to help you much.

Who does understand software delivery? Folks who have studied it as a discipline. And that’s precious few indeed. Of all the “development” folks I’ve met over the years – and that’s thousands – wayyy less than one percent actually have an effective understanding of the field.

Yes, there’s thousands upon thousands of folks who understand coding (programming). But that’s not much help at all in forming a broader and effective understanding of the wider software delivery discipline.

The upshot? The software industry is stacked to the gills with folks who have no clue what they’re doing, except in the narrowest of specialism. And worse, no ability to recognise the one percent. Result? The blind leading the blind. And the hegemony of the one-eyed man.

– Bob

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: [Accessed 25 May 2022].

A Conducive System

[Tl;Dr: What are the system conditions that encourage ethical – and productive, effective – behaviours (Cf William Kingdon Clifford) in software delivery organisations?]

In yesterday’s blog post “The System Is Unethical” I related my experiences of how businesses – and the folks that run them and work in them – remain ignorant of just how ineffective they are at software delivery. And the consequences of that ignorance on e.g. costs, quality, customer satisfaction, etc

To recap: an unethical system perpetuates behaviours such as:

  • Failing to dig into the effectiveness of the 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.

The Flip Side

Instead of the behaviours listed above, we might seek a system that encourages behaviours that include:

  • Continual attention to the effectiveness of the organisation’s software delivery capabilities.
  • Concern over the waste involved, and actions to reduce such waste.
  • Investigation into just how much more effective things could be.
  • Clarity and informed responses when questions about such matters.

Conducive System Conditions

So what might a system conducive to such behaviours look like?

That’s what my book “Quintessence” illustrates in detail. But in case you’re a busy person trapped in a non-conducive system, I’ve previously written about some of the key aspects of a conducive system, here:

Quintessence For Busy People

BTW I’m always happy to respond to your questions.

– Bob





Rightshifting Revisited

I was on a call earlier today, and the concept of Rightshifting came up, by the by.

My work with Rightshifting goes way back to 2008, and even earlier. It’s become such a part of my world-view that I rarely reflect on it explicitlty nowadays. Even to the point of not mentioning it much any more.

The call reminded that there are many people, including senior people and decision-makers, that have but a nodding acquaintance with software development, and especially:

  • How poor (ineffective) many organisations remain in their approach to software development.
  • How much productivity (and thus money) is being left on the table because of said ineffectiveness.

Here’s the Righshifting chart, illustrating the spread of effectiveness across different organisations. The spread has not changed much in nearly twenty years AFAICT.

Where does your organisation sit on the horizontal axis of this chart?

– Bob

My favourite quote this week:

What distinguishes exemplary boards is that they are robust, effective social systems … The highest performing companies have extremely contentious boards that regard dissent as an obligation and that treat no subject as undiscussable.

Perhaps the most important…is the capacity to challenge one another’s assumptions and beliefs. Respect and trust do not imply endless affability or absence of disagreement. Rather, they imply bonds among board members that are strong enough to withstand clashing viewpoints and challenging questions.

~ Jeffrey A. Sonnenfeld


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™️.


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: – or via whatever channel you may prefer.

– Bob

Wanna Be More Productive?

Not that many organisations have much of an interest in software or product development productivity. But just in case yours does, here’s a chart showing the effectiveness of various common approach to software development, set against the Rightshifting / Marshall Model context:

Note that all the common approaches don’t get you very far in the effectiveness stakes. Maybe you might like to take a look at “Quintessence” for ideas on how to move much further to the right?

Apologies for mentioning “waterfall” – not even Royce suggested anyone use that approach.

– Bob

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


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):


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