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Quintessence

We Need Your Help!

We so need your help in increasing the reach of our message about Quintessence. The more folks that get to hear, the sooner we’ll all benefit from a saner, more humane, more joyful way of delivering software. It’s way past time we all debated what’s next.

We’re not asking you to subscribe to our assumption and beliefs. Just to mention (not recommend, not talk up) Quintessence to your friends, peers, colleagues and higher-ups.

Something along the lines of:

Have you heard about Quintessence? That batshit crazy Bob Marshall (FlowChainSensei) has invented/discovered an approach to software delivery entirely different from what we all know. He says it’s five times more productive than e.g. Agile approaches. Mental!

Would you be willing to help us spread the word about Quintessence.?

Thanks!

– Bob & Ian

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 25 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 25 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 25 May 2022].

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].

An Exec’s Guide To Achieving Mission-critical Software Delivery

Nowadays, every business is a software business. Your enterprise needs to prioritise software delivery, be that deploying off-the-shelf solutions, commissioning bespoke software development, or a mixture of both.

Digital transformation: The term has been bandied about since it was coined more than a decade ago. I think we can all agree, though, that the “use of technology to radically improve performance or reach of enterprises” really gained momentum when the COVID-19 pandemic set in.

As we remember all too well, the entire world went digital within a matter of weeks, and companies raced to fulfil the soaring consumer demand for digital products and services. In fact, according to McKinsey, global businesses accelerated the adoption of digital offerings by an average rate of seven years — in a matter of just seven months. Some companies describe how they had to enable tens of thousands of home workers in just a few days!

The same McKinsey report shows that most business leaders see society’s digital shift as permanent. JPMorgan Chase’s CEO certainly thinks the increased use of digital apps and services is here to stay. He recently announced a 26% increase to Chase’s technology budget, focusing the $12 billion investment on further growing Chase’s portfolio of digital apps and services.

Providing innovative technologies is just half the job, though. There’s a lurking problem for business leaders: They can’t afford to let the delivery and integration of software into their businesses suffer delays and poor quality.

Just one schedule slippage in a key system can cause a cascade of problems. And when one of these slippages delays the deployment or upgrade of a key app or service, companies risk disrupted revenue streams, disgruntled customers, interrupted supply chains, lost productivity and frustrated staff.

Maintaining flow of software into the business is imperative to business continuity, but ensuring a steady, reliable flow is difficult. As businesses digitally transform and move their key processes to the cloud, and consumers utilise more digital innovations, their software estate grows in scale, complexity and fragility.

Consequently, maintaining the necessary software quality and delivery schedules must be a primary business objective. While leaders traditionally farmed out these responsibilities solely to their IT departments, technology has become so critical to business success that quality and delivery schedules can no longer hide in the opaque IT silo. It must – and has – become a culture and leadership issue.

Here are five steps executives can take to start embracing software quality, predictable schedules and steady flow:

Elevate Quality To Priority #1

When considering an enterprise’s numerous priorities, executives should take stock of the critical importance of quality. Does the company employ a virtual or hybrid workforce? Does the company interact or transact with customers online? Is revenue generated from online transactions? The questions can continue based on your industry, but chances are that most modern enterprises would agree they rely on a suite of software apps and software-based services for desired business outcomes.

Given the critical nature of digital apps and services — and their ability to provide a seamless experience for customers — executives should consider creating a culture of quality as a key performance indicator. Practically speaking, executives can and should treat quality numbers similarly to sales figures or other revered business metrics. One senior leader should be held accountable to the quality metrics and deemed responsible for relentlessly scrutinising and reporting on these figures alongside the business’s other KPIs.

If executives really want to underscore the importance of quality, they can walk the talk for their workforces. Business leaders can make quality a compensation-affecting business objective, like profit or sales targets. And they can tie these quality metrics back to the bottom line.

Focus On The People

In the era of “every business is a software business,” enterprises can no longer tuck away tech talent out of sight, removed from customer interaction. In fact, they should do the exact opposite, moving software folks to the front line and making them part of the business’s core value proposition. Actively marketing a company’s tech and nerd credentials will drive confidence in the brand’s digital presence. And enhance employer branding at the same time.

Naturally, redeploying the software folks goes both ways. Executives must also show genuine trust and respect for these key people. Even without extensive technical knowledge, business leaders can provide the kind of environment, and culture, that makes teams’ lives easier by reducing the cognitive load imposed by traditional management approaches. And they can give them the freedom to use modern paradigms like DevOps and CI/CD pipelines. Software teams with respect, resources and support will have a foot up on delivering innovations and protecting the quality of their deliveries.

Treat Unceasing Innovation As Standard

As most executives know, today’s world of digital business demands continuous innovation as a minimum requirement for keeping pace with competitors. This unceasing innovation requires executives to drop risk-averse postures and embrace reinvention and the concomitant continuous change.

Of course, amidst digital innovation, reinvention and even failure, quality remains a top priority. Executives need a business culture that allows their organisation to experiment, and sometimes falter, with the least amount of negative impact. After all, stagnation is no longer an attractive option.

Open The Chequebook and Invest!

If an enterprise relies on various digital apps and services for business performance, executives should guarantee the entire software delivery pipeline is exemplary.

While only the lucky few have an extra $12 billion on hand to invest in software delivery and the associated spend, executives should advocate for a big piece of the pie to go toward technology investment. And technology investment shouldn’t stop at commissioning delivery projects. Forward-thinking enterprises invest in next-generation delivery methods like Quintessence, alongside talent, training and time to innovate.

Make Technical Know-how A Leadership Must-Have

Executives should ask themselves a simple question: does anyone on the most senior team have “SDLC” or software delivery experience in their past or even present core competencies? While leadership teams are usually stacked with impressive qualifications — CPAs, MBAs and JDs — few include software people with practical SDLC experience. But given the importance of technology, executives should surround themselves with true technology practitioners.

A chief digital officer (CDO) can become a business leader’s quality czar. With a depth of SDLC experience, this role can help executives understand and benchmark their companies’ digital performance and balance digital transformation efforts with operations management.

Following these steps sends a clear message both internally and externally: innovating is no longer enough — changing the culture to remove the shackles of outmoded assumptions and beliefs is also necessary. If executives want to maximize their digital investments and thrive in a digital-first world, they must embrace quality and the culture that enables it.

– Bob

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

Blockers

Is it really beyond the bounds of credibility to imagine that we could all be twice, three times, four times better at delivering software? The data’s there (ISBSG). The real-world results and exemplars are there (Familiar, not least). The road-map, blue-print or manual is there (Quintessence). The support required to build the necessary environment is there (Hearts over Diamonds, Memeology, Organisational Psychotherapy).

So what’s holding back our industry, our software delivery organisations? Indifference? Ignorance? Learned helplessness? Lack of incentives? Vested interests? Fear? Something else?

I’m sure I don’t know the exact nature of the blocker*.  But it’s clear that there’s blockers.

– Bob

*I have my suspicions. But it seems that no one wants to even talk about it.

 

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

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

 

Quintessential Applications – Come Join Us!

What do we need to see in applications from potential Quintessential fellows? Well, we definitely don’t want to see a CV or resume. We don’t grok how what you’ve done in the past speaks to your potential in the future. We choose to see our fellows as capable of anything, given the necessary support and environment.

We would like to be surprised by the things you feel represent your best. Maybe a list of the things you’ve read and found insightful, such as blog posts, articles, books and so on. Or the times you’ve most enjoyed getting together with others to deliver great software and great experiences. Or maybe the topics in which you have the most interest, and some contributions you’ve made or intend to make in those areas. Maybe you’d be willing to share your take on Quintessence, on Organisational Psychotherapy, or some intriguing questions or practical experience you may have regarding excellence in software delivery. Opinions are way less interesting to us, compared to evidence.

It might be interesting to hear about the terms and conditions you guess you might be needing, including things like pay, hours, locations, equipment, team mates, etc..

Take a look at the list of skills we consider most useful, and tell us about your own skills and aspirations in those areas, or even in other areas you feel may be relevant. Although some “hard” tech skills such as coding and UX might be interesting, we’d love to enroll fellows with outstanding soft skills – these rank higher in our priorities. For example, the Antimatter Principle is as the heart of everything we do – so we’d love to hear about your experiences with attending to folks’ needs.

We’d also love to hear about times when you’ve taken care of something or someone. And how that felt – bot for you and for them.

Above all, we invite you to share with us why you see yourself as a good fit for our community of fellows, and the ways in which you will contribute to moving our whole community forward – improving the principles and practices of software delivery. And your take on excellence, too.

Go wild! Express yourself. If words and text ain’t your thang, maybe video, or audio, or music, or art, or Zen koans, or haikus, or however you best express yourself.

Our declared purpose is to make a dent in the universe, to make the world a better place through outstanding excellence in software delivery. To bring Alien Tech to the service of human beings. We’d love to hear what these things means to you. And how you see yourself contributing.

We appreciate we’re asking you to dedicate some non-trivial amount of time to representing yourself. And we’ll reciprocate by dedicating our time to paying attention to your application. And we will happily help you evolve your application from e.g. small beginnings, incrementally. No need for a one-shot big- bang application. Doing things together is, of course, a hallmark of The Quintessential Group.

We’re looking forward to hearing from you – whatever the medium, whatever the format. As Marshall McLuhan said, the medium is the message.

– Bob

I’m always happy to spend time briefing yourself and your people on the essentials of Quintessence.

I’m often available, both in person and via virtual meetings.

If you’d like to understand what you and your organisation is missing out on, and how you could be turbo-charging your software delivery efforts, do get in touch.

You may also be interested to hear that our training partner, Alcor Academy, can offer a half-day introductory workshop on the topic.

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].

We’re NOT Hiring!

At The Quintessential Group we’re NOT hiring. We have little interest in paying people for their labour or their personal services (fnarr).

We ARE inviting inquiries and applications to join our community of fellows, and participate in our software delivery teams.

Sure, we pay. And we pay top dollar (well British Pounds, mostly). But we pay our people so they can live (and fellows get to choose their own salaries and rates, amongst other things). We subscribe to Phil Crosby’s statement about the purpose of organisations:

The purpose of organizations is to help people have lives.

~ Phil Crosby

Fellowship

We’re breaking the transactional nature of the individual <-> organisation relationship in favour of something much more like fellowship.

So, we’re NOT hiring. But we ARE inviting applications to join our community of fellows. First off for our Quintessential Teams service. And then for our other services, which will be coming on stream soon.

Invitation

We cordially invite you to apply to join our community of fellows. In the first instance, we’re looking for folks with software delivery skills, who will be forming delivery teams rented by our clients (a variety of medium to large UK organisations) to deliver software at their behest. Early on, you’ll be playing and learning directly with myself and / or Ian.

Just drop Ian or myself a message expressing your curiosity or interest, and we’ll get back to you.

You may already have some questions, so please include them if you’re after some clarification or further information. There’s much already available on my Think Different blog. And a brief but growing collection of more focussed introductory and informational posts on the Quintessential Blog, too.

Benefits

What you may not have yet read is some of the other benefits of becoming a fellow of The Quintessential Group:

Having Your Needs Met

Central to our business and community is the idea of attending to folks’ needs. Each of our fellows will have his or her own needs, and The Quintessential Group will do its utmost to see those needs met. 

These may include career development, learning, autonomy to capitalise on your abilities, mastery of skills, sharing in a common purpose, playing with technology, work-life balance, choosing your own package, and so on. We’d love to hear just what your needs are. And we as a business have needs too. This mutuality offers a crucible for productive dialogue.

The Opportunity To Do Great Things

We focus on excellence, and carefully select clients with and for whom our fellows can achieve truly great things. Humdrum things bore us, and we’d not ask any of our fellows to suffer that either.

The Opportunity To Participate in Self-Managing Teams

Our Teams manage themselves, with the active support of the rest of the company. Learn and experience what participating in truly self-managing teams feels like. The true meaning of esprit de corps. The experience of excellence and real fellowship.

Other Key Benefits

Unlimited World-class Personal Mentoring

Bob and Ian each have more than twenty years’ experience in coaching and mentoring developers and delivery teams. We happily share this experience with all Quintessential Fellows, on a one to one basis (mentoring, individual coaching) and one-to-many basis (i.e. teams).

Unlimited Expert Coaching

We define mentoring as providing sage advice when asked. Coaching to us implies a more structure relationship. See e.g. “Coaching for Performance” by Sir Jon Whitmore and his G.R.O.W. model. Mentoring also implies, to us, a shared agenda. Coaching, an agenda entirely driven by the coachees.

Unlimited Awesome Career Development, Including Job Search Help & Career Advice

We try to attend to the needs of all our fellows, on a continual basis. If being a part of the Quintessential community is not meeting your needs, we’re delighted when we can help folks get their needs met, even when that means leaving us for pastures new. We’re delighted to actively support folks in this.

Free Books And Subscriptions

Continuous learning is at the core of the Quintessential Group and its community of fellows. We support these needs in any and all ways possible, including paying for all books and subscriptions of our fellows. If you have other learning needs, we’re happy to support those, too.

Paid Time Off For Conferencing (Plus Entry Fees, Expenses Paid)

We don’t believe our fellows should suffer a financial disincentive to pursue their learning and socialising needs, so we pay for time taken to attend conferences, as well as for the entry fees and associated expenses (travel, hotels, etc.).

Paid Time Off For Learning, Studying

Many folks learn for the joy of it, but we don’t see why learning has to be on the learner’s dime So we invite our fellows to invoice us or otherwise claim financial recompense for time spent learning. Effective learning benefits everyone, not least the company.

Development Hardware, Tools

Many new fellows will already have their own equipment, software tools, etc. But when they need other stuff to be quintessentially effective, we have no issue with providing such things, as the fellow(s) see fit.

Note: A Quintessential fellow is anyone (irrespective of gender) who has complete the one-week orientation and chosen to join the Quintessential community.

Note: When we say “paid for” we mean The Quintessential Group will reimburse fellows in the course of invoicing in respect of client gigs. In other words, and using the one week’s paid-for orientation as an example, we will pay fellows for attending the orientation week, over the course of several weeks’ payments for participating in services to a client.

Accepting Inquiries and Applications

We are now accepting inquiries and applications for the first “orientation” cohort of Quintessential Teams

Orientation

Simply put, we pay our candidate fellows to join together for a week (five days) of orientation. This week prepares fellows for Quintessential Team client engagements, in particular is afford the opportunity to get to know each other, build relationships, and thrash out a shared way of playing together.

Would you like to know more?

– 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

 

Alien Tech: What Is It?

powertech

Alien tech power at one’s fingertips

At The Quintessential Group, our motto is “Alien Tech for Human Beings”.

What do we mean by “Alien Tech”?

Dictionary Definitions

Let’s take a look at the dictionary:

Technology noun
\ tech·​nol·​o·​gy | \ tek-ˈnä-lə-jē \

Definition of technology

  1. a: The practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area
    // medical technology
    b: A capability given by the practical application of knowledge
    // a car’s fuel-saving technology
  2. A manner of accomplishing a task especially using technical processes, methods, or knowledge
    // new technologies for information storage
  3. The specialised aspects of a particular field of endeavour
    // educational technology

Alien adjective
\ ˈā-lē-ən, ˈāl-yən \

Definition of alien

  1. a: Belonging or relating to another person, place, or thing: Strange
    // an alien environment
    b:Relating, belonging, or owing allegiance to another country or government: Foreign
    // alien residents
    c: [Exotic sense]
    // alien plants
    d: Coming from another world: Extraterrestrial
    // alien beings
    // an alien spaceship
    // When it comes to knowing what alien life forms might be like, we don’t have any idea
    ~ Kate Shuster
  2. Differing in nature or character typically to the point of incompatibility
    // ideas alien to democracy

Our Definitions

So, by the above dictionary definitions, we can define “Alien Tech” (Alien Technology) as:

capability given by the practical application of knowledge, where that knowledge is strange, or seeming as if coming from another world.

Put another way, and closer to our quintessential usage:

An approach to running collaborative knowledge work businesses that differs in nature or character from the norm, typically to the point of incompatibility.

When it comes to relating to alien ideas, most folks just don’t know where to start.

~ FlowChainSensei

In Practice

What does “Alien Tech” mean in practice?

It means running a business, in our caseThe Quintessential Group, based on assumptions and beliefs incompatible with typical businesses. Assumptions and beliefs which lead to levels of software delivery excellence unobtainable by other means. We attend to folks’s needs in ways totally alien to those immersed in traditonal management mythos. For those clients that judge by results, this is little more than a curiousity, until the question of “how do they do that?” comes up.

– Bob

Further Reading

Marshall, R. W. (2015). Aliens. [online] Think Different. Available at: https://flowchainsensei.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/aliens/ [Accessed 8 May 2022].
Marshall, R. W. (2018). Alien Tech Alien Tropes. [online] Think Different. Available at: https://flowchainsensei.wordpress.com/2018/08/28/alien-tech-alien-tropes/ [Accessed 8 May 2022].
Marshall, R. W. (2018). Some Alien Tropes. [online] Think Different. Available at: https://flowchainsensei.wordpress.com/2018/09/04/some-alien-tropes/ [Accessed 8 May 2022].

The Way The Play Plays

Play is for adults, too

John Seddon regularly uses the phrase “the way the work works” in referring to the “system” or “processes” that actually get followed within organisations. In contrast to the way “processes” or “the system” describe how the work should work (but rarely bears any relation).

For organisations such as The Quintessential Group, where play’s the thing, “work” has become a term, and an idea, that no longer has much relevance. The phrase “the way the work works” serves as one more reinforcement of that outmoded idea.

So we’ve chosen to replace the phrase “the way the work works” with the phrase “the way the play plays”. Which, although poorer grammar, helps us train ourselves to expunge the word – and idea – of “work” from our consciousness.

See also: POSIWID.

– Bob

Further Reading

Schrage, M. (2008). Serious Play: How The World’s Best Companies Simulate To Innovate.  Harvard Business School Press.

There are many people who, whilst being highly competent and able as individuals, will undermine and negate all attempts to build an effective team / unit / capability.

But you don’t have to hire them. And if you inherit one, you can fire or redeploy him or her – always assuming the higher-ups choose to value the relative importance of community, esprit de corps and the social dynamic over individual skills.

What do you and your culture value more – going far together or going fast alone?

 

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