No One Needs Effectiveness

Let’s face it. Few indeed are the executives, managers, investors and even workers who see more effectiveness – more effective ways of working, less waste, quicker delivery, lower costs – as the answer to getting their own personal needs met. As a relevant personal strategy.

Here’s just a few of the needs I’ve seen improved effectiveness meet, on those rare occasions where it has happened:

Affection, appreciation, autonomy, belonging, cooperation, communication, closeness, community, companionship, compassion, consideration, consistency, ego, empathy, inclusion, intimacy, love, mutuality, respect/self-respect, safety, security, stability, support, to know and be known, to see and be seen, to understand and be understood, trust, movement/exercise, safety, authenticity, integrity, presence, joy, humour, beauty, ease, equality, harmony, inspiration, order, choice, freedom, independence, space, spontaneity, awareness, celebration of life, challenge, clarity, competence, consciousness, contribution, creativity, discovery, mastery, artistry, growth, hope, learning, participation, purpose, self-expression, stimulation, to matter, understanding.

Some pay lip-service to effectiveness on behalf of that faceless thing we call “the organisation”. But my own experience tells me their heart is rarely in it.

But the plain fact of the matter is: if folks chose to see increased effectiveness (a.k.a. Rightshifting) as a viable and valid strategy for getting their own and others’ needs met, many more would act to improve effectiveness.

I personally believe awesomely effective organisations are places when folks see their own and their community’s needs met much more often, and to much greater positive effect. Other folks, it seems, do not share this belief.

And this makes me sad. Both for them, for myself, and for the wider world.

(And I could say much the same for nonviolence, restorative justice, therapy, and other lesser-known strategies for better meeting folks’ needs).

Regarding the impact of improved effectiveness as a strategy for getting folks’ needs better met, would you be willing to share what you believe?

– Bob

Further Reading

Ackoff Contrasts Efficiency With Effectiveness ~ Think Different blog post

The Antimatter Proposition

“88% of Americans feel that they work for a company that does not care about them as a ‘person’.”

~ Raj Sisodia

Why does this even matter? After all, most organisations appear to operate under the assumption that people are simply fungible “resources”. Resources that need a job more than the organisation needs them.

“There is sufficient evidence to show that people can be exceptionally innovative under certain conditions. Working in a [uncaring] machine-like organization is not one of them.”

~ H Jarche

Is workplace democracy a solution? Whatever the solution, there’s an awful lot of money – and joy – being left on the table:

“When businesses successfully engaged their employees… they experienced a 240% BOOST in performance-related outcomes”

~ Gallup, State of the American Workplace Report 2013


Think Again?

Maybe recent trends and evidence tempt you to think again about the nature of the workplace you have created, and the state of mind, and morale, of the folks in that workplace?

If so, one question I’m regularly asked is:

“How on earth can we start addressing this issue? How can we even begin to turn things around and create workplaces where folks feel like they might want to become engaged?”

And my answer to this question is: the Antimatter Principle.

Are you sufficiently engaged with your organisation that you might want to explore how this helps?

– Bob

Further Reading

Leadership Yawns As Employees Check-Out ~ Bernie Nagle pp. Craig Daniels
State of the American Workplace ~ Gallup (Report)
Eleven Reasons Your Employees Are NOT Working For You ~ Jim Benson
The Antimatter Why ~ Bob Marshall

Antimatter And The Marshall Model

OK. So there’s been some pretty strange titles to some of my blog posts. This one, not least. In my head, they make sense.

“How Effective is MY Organisation?”

When I’m explaining the Marshall Model, oftentimes folks will attempt to site their own organisations along the horizontal (relative effectiveness) axis. Whether it’s down to some kind of Dunning-Kruger effect, or something else, many times folks imagine their organisations as being much more effective than I – and the model – would suggest. For example, people in Ad-hoc organisations oftentimes imagine they’re in the “Synergistic” mindset. Still, looking on the bright side – at least these folks have connected with the question. Maybe for the first time ever.

For me, this is just a specific case of the widespread phenomenon of people thinking their organisations are much more effective than they actually are (i.e. relative to the world’s knowlege-work organisations as a whole).

Aside: It was noting this phenomenon, and its pernicious effect on organisations’ motivation to improve, that encouraged me to begin writing and talking about Rightshifting in the first place.


Recently, I’ve been tussling with how to express the stupendous differences in kind between the different mindsets of the Marshall Model. It’s these differences which in practice account for the huge variations in effectiveness between organisations of differing mindsets.

In this post I’m going to take a look at how the Antimatter Principle might help us understand the key difference between these mindsets. Firstly, to recap from the model:

  • The one thing that most marks Ad-hoc organisations, is their lack of appreciation of the value of discipline.
  • The one thing that most marks Analytic organisations is their lack of common, shared purpose.
  • And the litmus test for Chaordic organisations – vs Synergistic ones – is their focus on seeking out and exploiting new opportunities. For example, new markets or new products. This seeking, above all, is their daily “business as usual”.

Ad-hoc Antimatter

In Ad-hoc organisations, folks’ needs might get attended to as a matter of common decency. I say might, because these organisations, by definition, will have no disciplines in place to address folks’ needs. Nor any common notion that this might be a good thing. So if someone has a bereavement, for example, the boss will most likely approach the situation as a one-off. So too with other things, such as staff promotions, individual performance, holidays, sick leave, bonuses, etc..

And so too with more prosaic issues, such as customer satisfaction (service) levels, billing, marketing, and so on. And in product development, ignorance – and thus absence – of e.g. cost of delay, flow, and other such “organisational” concepts.

This translates to organisations where nobody really knows where they stand. What to expect. Excepting common decency – or something else – from the boss.

Everybody can be pretty sure of one thing though, when the shit hits the fan, it’s the top dogs’ needs that count.

In a nutshell, the Ad-hoc organisation has few to zero disciplines relating to attending to folks’ needs.

Analytic Antimatter

In the Analytic-minded organisation, there will be policies and procedures to address folks’ needs. At least, some needs of some folks. Few Analytic-minded organisations will look at things expressly through the lens of the Antimatter Principle, to be sure. But in the matter of, for example, bereavement, staff promotions, individual performance, holidays, sick leave, bonuses, etc., these organisation will have a raft of gruesomely-detailed policies stipulating where folks stand.

In a nutshell, the Analytic organisation has some coercive, extrinsic disciplines relating to attending to folks’ needs.

Synergistic Antimatter

In Synergistic-minded organisations, there will be a widespread common understanding of how folks’ needs are attended to:

  • Personal development plans and e.g. related quantified objectives may guide people in understanding their own needs and those of others, and thus to apply effort in attending to them.
  • Team and group development capability or capacity plans may serve to guide folks in understanding and attending to the collective needs of groups.
  • Project or product plans – a.k.a. requirements, use cases or user stories – may serve to identify the needs of consumers and other stakeholders in a particular project, product or product line.
  • Financial plans may serve to address the finance-related needs of individuals and groups within and without the organisation.
  • Strategic plans may serve to provide a common context (shared purpose) highlighting the needs of the organisation itself, and how folks’ individual and groups needs relate to that common purpose.

In a nutshell, the Synergistic organisation has a wide range of common, shared, non-obligaory, intrinsic disciplines relating to attending to folks’ needs. And folks’ self-discipline contributes to the continual discovery, and evolution of the understanding of folks’ needs – and the guidelines for attending to them.

Chaordic Antimatter

In a nutshell, the Chaordic organisation actively and continuously monitors folks’ needs, with a view to leveraging positive advantage (meeting more folks’ needs, more often, at less cost) as often as possible. This obviously applies to customers’ – and potential customers’ – needs. But I see no reason to stop there. The chaordic principle of positive opportunism offers benefits in regard to all stakeholders and their needs.


Has this post helped illuminate the distinctions between the various mindsets (memeplexes) of the Marshall Model? Are you now better placed to site your own organisation amongst its peers?

– Bob

A Bit About Organisational Effectiveness

In Rightshifting, we define organisational effectiveness as “the relative ability of a whole organisation to achieve it’s goals”. “Relative” meaning relative to some baseline, over time, or relative to other organisations, such as competitors. And “goals” intending to evoke the ideas of Eliyahu M Goldratt in his book “The Goal”.

I’m pretty sure that many folks see little or no connection between the effectiveness of the organisations within which they work, and their day-to-day experiences, hopes, and fears.

Human Potential

As I’m happy to regularly repeat, I’m driven – to write, to speak, to help – by the egregious waste of human potential I see in knowledge-work organisations almost everywhere. It just bugs me to see so many smart people lacking the opportunities and climates in which to express themselves. It seems that the folks in question are generally much less bothered by this than am I.

“If you want people to do a good job, give them a good job to do.”

~ Frederick Hertzberg

Maybe it would be better, for me and for my peace of mind, to let it all go, emotionally, and just help those (few) folks that actually want some help.


But until I’m evolved enough to have that happen, I’m kind of stuck. Stuck with a focus on organisational effectiveness as the means to improve the lot of knowledge-work folks everywhere. It’s my hypothesis, you see, that a hallmark of a more effective organisation is it’s one in which more people get to use more of their skills and talents, more often. And, incidentally, get to have more of their needs – for job satisfaction, a sense of achievement, feeling good about themselves and their contribution to the common purpose – met more often, too.


Put another way, the more effective the organisation, the nicer it is as a place to work. For me, that’s all part and parcel of “effectiveness”.


So, for all those folks struggling to see any connection between Rightshifting and their daily lives, I wonder if this post has succeeded at all in helping make that connection a little more visible, more tangible, more relevant?

– Bob



The Nature of the Challenge

“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”

~ Albert Einstein

We’ve had something like fifty years to solve the problem of reliable, effective software development. And not only have we not solved the problem, it looks like we’ve many more years ahead of us before we get to that elusive “solution”.

I’m not even sure there’s any kind of consensus on the nature of the problem, or even that we have a problem.

I’ve been studying and researching and exploring and thinking about the state of software development – à la Einstein – for the best part of thirty years. This post is about my take on the nature of the problem, as I see it. Maybe you see things differently. Either way, I invite you to share here with me and others how you see things.

Whatever the real challenge is, we seem to have a surfeit of possible solutions. Solutions which rarely get applied in the real world. In the myriad of organisations making software. Or attempting to.

So, as I see it, a key question is “why does so little of our research and new knowledge get adopted and applied?”.

We can point the finger in various directions, but I’m not looking to apportion blame.

It might be fair to ask “Who needs it? Who needs reliable, effective software development?”. It’s been my experience that precious few organisations, despite their protestations and pretensions, appear to need things to radically change for the better.

The Core Issue

There’s the rub. Mostly, people don’t seem to need things to get better. Executives, shareholders, managers, workers, customers – everyone whinges from time to time, but makes little concerted effort to actually do anything.

I’d call this a lack of motivation.

Awareness, Responsibility, Commitment

From my coaching days, I remember the A.R.C. mnemonic. This reminds us that commitment (to actually do something) is a product of people choosing to take responsibility to do something, and that this choice depends on awareness. Awareness that change is possible. Awareness that things can be better. Awareness that things are better, in some few places. And awareness that someone will have to do something before things will get better.

So, for me, I believe there is a problem. Maybe fifty years ago it was a different problem. Maybe back then, it was much more about lack of knowledge, lack of reliable technology, lack of tools, lack of importance (of software, to the world).

But now, we have the knowledge but aren’t applying it. We have reliable tech and tools, and these aren’t making much difference. And software is hugely more important to our products, businesses and societies that ever it was.

Yet a problem remains. and I believe the prime symptom of the problem is that people are unaware of the possibilities, unaware of how much better things could be, unaware of the advances in fields like psychology, sociology, group dynamics and neuroscience. And yes, unaware even of the real benefits of things like Agile and Lean – and how to realise them.

Awakening Awareness

But awareness is not the heart of the problem. If it was just a lack of awareness, then people could make themselves aware. After all, the knowledge is out there. If not on the intarwebs, then in books, periodical and the heads and hands of the (few) people who have done this stuff.

What makes for more awareness? Curiosity? What factors influence whether someone will sit up and wonder about their problems – and seek solutions to them?

I’d say motivation. Motivation to become curious. And then to pursue that curiosity.

Dan Pink suggests (intrinsic) motivation depends on three factors: autonomy, mastery and purpose. In this context, though, I subscribe to Marshall Rosenberg’s insight: motivation (to action) stems from people having (unmet) needs.

So here’s my bottom line: Reliable, effective software development won’t become widespread, won’t become the norm, until people need that to happen. And in most organisations today, I just don’t see that need manifest. Or even discussed. You?

- Bob

You’d Have To Be Crazy

You’d have to be crazy… to suggest to managers that management is a dysfunctional anachronism for knowledge work, and recommend other means to coordinate and direct the work.

You’d have to be insane… to disband the functional silos in your organisation and move to another organising principle, such as value streams.

You’d have to be mad to stop using projects as the container for development work, and adopt e.g. some kind of flow-based approach.

You’d have to be a lunatic… to embed organisational change in the processes of daily operations and business-as-usual.

You’d have to be cracked… to want to see a wildly successful business, with all the extra work, risk and upheaval that would entail.

You’d have to be a sandwich short of a picnic… to stop directing people and instead give them the support they need to direct and organise themselves.

You’d have to be psycho… to hire a psychotherapist to help improve the health of your organisation.

You’d have to be cuckoo… to trust your people to find their own, effective ways of making software and products.

You’d have to be barmy… to believe the science about people, collaboration and motivation, and implement policies based on that.

You’d have to be deranged… to want to know what’s really going on, to think about stuff and to use your brain.

You’d have to be unhinged… to run against the grain of the opinions and expectations of your peers and do things differently to the accepted norms.

In short, you’d have to be wacko to step out of line. And there’s the rub. So many pressures opposing positive change. So much danger for the reformer. So much safer to conform, keep quiet, and not rock the boat.

“And let it be noted that there is no more delicate matter to take in hand, nor more dangerous to conduct, nor more doubtful in its success, than to set up as a leader in the introduction of changes. For he who innovates will have for his enemies all those who are well off under the existing order of things, and only the lukewarm supporters in those who might be better off under the new.”

~ Niccolo Machiavelli

So, until the deranged win out, we continue to live and work in a world, and in organisations, already entirely bonkers.

- Bob

The Specialism Meme

Do you feel you have much more to offer than the bounds of your current job afford you?

At the recent Agile Testing Days conference in Potsdam, one of the most common themes I heard from individuals was just this. That they could be doing so much more for themselves, their teams and their organisations than their given role, remit and management expectations allowed. And that they could be having much more fun in work, too, if only they didn’t feel so pigeon-holed and constrained by their nominal specialism.


We’re rarely aware of our prevailing memes and memeplexes which, nevertheless, profoundly influence the way we live and work. My recent post on Theories of Motivation and the Theory X and Theory Y memes is but one case in point.

Another of the many memes which pass uncommented and unexamined in most organisations is the idea of specialisation. In the Analytic memeplex, narrow specialism is deemed a helpful and beneficial strategy for making individuals more efficient and productive. This stems back to at least the days of Adam Smith and his 1776 book “The Wealth of Nations” wherein he described the principles of specialisation and division of labour.

Subdivide a job – such as making pins – into its constituent operations, and have different workers become expert in each of these different, repetitive operations. This allows for rapid training of non-skilled labour, and “an enormous increase in the productive powers of labour”.

T-Shaped People

In e.g. Lean Manufacturing, companies try to develop workers with multiple skills, multiple specialisms. This aids flow of work through the factory, by allowing workers to redeploy to different jobs and stations when bottlenecks and other impediments to flow arise. The production line can more easily adapt to the ebb and flow of demand.

In knowledge work too, we see organisations looking for T-shaped people – people with deep skills in maybe one or two areas, but with useful skills in perhaps a dozen other areas, too. And not only do they look for these T-shaped people, but organise the work such that people can become more T-shaped over time, and get to regularly use their whole range of skills “on the job”.


Yet, the egregious waste of human potential continues in most Analytic organisations, where people are locked into a narrow specialism, and expected to work inside that box, neither deviating nor wandering outside of it. This hardly endears the employer to the workers it so confines. In fact, there’s a whole bunch of dysfunctions that stem from the Specialism Meme in knowledge work:

  • Impediments to flow
  • Specialists as bottlenecks
  • Boredom
  • Waste of human potential

Why this tie to the Specialism meme? Because it’s bound to the other memes of the Analytic memeplex. Try to overthrow or replace this meme, and the other memes in the Analytic memeplex act to oppose the attempt.

It seems to me fruitless to address the dysfunctions inherent in the idea of specialisation, without addressing the other, interlocking and reinforcing memes in the Analytic memeplex too. And then we’re into the territory of Organisational Transition and the wholesale, organisation-wide replacement of one memeplex (i.e. Analytic) with another (i.e. Synergistic).

How would you explain the continuing hegemony of the Specialism meme in knowledge work organisations everywhere? And what would you suggest by way of means for replacing it?

– Bob


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