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Rightshifting

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.

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

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].

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.

 

Five Whys

Not Five Whys as in the approach to root cause(s) analysis as attributed to e.g. Toyota.

But Five Whys which illuminate the issues within the world’s typical approach to running businesses, and in particular collaborative knowledge work businesses:

  1. Why is the Software Crisis still with us?  
  2. Why is business so locked-in to centuries-old management practices?
  3. Why does the Agile community not want to move on, to progress?
  4. Why are prevailing collective assumptions and beliefs about the way work should work so ineffective and yet so hard to overturn?
  5. Why don’t people engage with these questions?

Contrary to my usual approach – providing answers – I’ll just let these questions stew for a while. I have answers. But I suggest you’re not interested in answers, nor even the questions.

– Bob

Afterword

Personally, I prefer analysing e.g. root cause(s) vie cause-effect trees such as Goldratt’s TOC tool – the Current Reality Tree (CRT). YMMV.

Quintessence Worth £Billions

Let’s do a little back-of-a-fag-packet math re: Quintessence.

There’s somewhere around 26 million software developers worldwide.

A typical software developer, including on-costs, runs out at about £30,000 per annum (UK more like £90K, BRIC countries maybe £10k).

So that’s a world-wide spend of some (26m * 30k) = £780 billion (thousand million), per annum.

Given an uplift in productivity of 5-8 times for Quintessential development approaches, that’s an annual, recurring cost reduction (saving) of £624 billion to £682.5 billion.

You may find claimed productivity increases of this magnitude (5-8 times) somewhat unbelievable (despite the evidence). So let’s be conservative and propose a modest doubling of productivity. That would mean an annual, recurring cost reduction (saving) of £390 billion. Still not to be sniffed at.

For The Individual Organisation

Let’s consider a single UK-based organisation with 100 developers. Present costs (for the developers alone) will be around £90k * 100 = £9 million annually (more or less, depending on a number of factors). Again, assuming a modest doubling of productivity*, a quintessential approach would garner an annual, recurring cost reduction (saving) of £4.5 million for this example organisation.

What do these figures tell us? That the world and individual organisations both are not at all interested in reducing software development costs (or increasing software development productivity). Or maybe they just don’t believe it’s possible to be any more productive than they are already (it is possible to be much more productive, see e.g. RIghtshifting).

*Or getting twice as much done in a given time, for the same spend. Or halving the time it takes to get something done, for the same spend.

– Bob

Further Reading

Marshall, R.W. (2021). Quintessence: An Acme for Software Development Organisations. Falling Blossoms (LeanPub).

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

Curious?

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

Local Optima – Updated

[First posted as Local Optima on July 21, 2014]

I’ve heard that a picture is worth a thousand words. And more recently, some research has shown that information presented visually has more likelihood of convincing.

So, here’s a chart. It illustrates the relative effectiveness of the different approaches to e.g. developing software products and systems. The X-axis is the relative effectiveness, increasing towards the right. This same axis also maps from a narrow, local focus on parts of a system (left-hand side) to a broad, global focus on the interactions between the parts of a system (right-hand side).

Note: This chart represents aggregates – any given development effort may show some deviation from this aggregate. And also note, we’re talking about effectiveness from the broader perspective: meeting customer needs, whilst also satisfying the developers and other technical staff, managers, executives, sales folks, suppliers, etc. – i.e. all Folks That Matter™️. I also assume the aggregates exclude LAME, Wagile and other such faux approaches where folks claim to be working in certain ways, but fail to live up to those claims.

What Is a Local Optimum?

This post is primarily about the pernicious and dysfunctional effects of using approaches predicated on local optima. By which I mean, taking a narrow view of (part of) a “system of problems” aka mess. Or, in other words, respecting the boundaries of functional silos within an organisation.

Many folks seem to believe that improving one part of the whole organisation – e.g. the software development function, or an individual team – will improve the effectiveness of the whole organisation. As Ackoff shows us, this is a fallacy of the first order: it’s the interactions between the parts of the organisation-as-a-whole that dictate the whole-system performance. In fact, improving any one part in isolation will necessarily detract from the performance of the whole.

This performance-of-the-whole is most often the kind of performance that senior executives and customers (those who who express a preference) seem to care about – very much in contrast to the cares of those tasked with, and incentivised for, improving the performance of a given part (e.g. team, group, department or function).

“When a mess, which is a system of problems, is taken apart, it loses its essential properties and so does each of its parts. The behavior of a mess depends more on how the treatment of its parts interact than how they act independently of each other. A partial solution to a whole system of problems is better than whole solutions of each of its parts taken separately.”

~ Russell. L. Ackoff

Ad-hoc

Also known as code-and-fix, hacking, messing about, and so on. Coders just take a run at a problem, and see what happens. Other skills and activities, such as understanding requirements, architecture, design, UX, testing, transfer into production, etc., if they do happen, happen very informally.

Batch & Queue

Perhaps more widely known as “Waterfall”. In this approach a big batch of work – often a complete set of requirements – passes through various queues, eventually ending up as working software (hopefully), or as software integral to a broader product or service.

Scrum

One of the various flavours of agile development. Other dev-team centric approaches (xp, kanban, scrumban, FDD, etc.) have similar relative effectiveness, whether combined or “pure”.

DevOps

DevOps here refers to the integration of dev teams with ops (operations/production) teams. This joining-up of two traditionally distinct and separate mini-siloes within the larger IT silo gives us a glimpse of the (slight) advantages to effectiveness resulting from taking a slightly bigger-picture view. Bigger than just the dev team, at least.

Lean

Lean Software Development aka Lean Product Development. The (right)shift in effectiveness comes from again taking an even broader view of the work. Broader not only in terms of those involved (from the folks having the original ideas through to the folks using the resulting software /product) but also broader over time. Approaches like TPDS – including SBCE – improve flow and significantly reduce waste by accepting that work happens more or less continuously, over a long period of time, not just in short, isolated things called “projects” nor for one-off things called “products”.

FlowChain

(Including e.g. Prod•gnosis and Flow•gnosis.) My own thought-experiment at what a truly broad, system-wide perspective on software and product development could make possible in terms of improved effectiveness.

Quintessential

The best conceivable approach in the real world. I’ve included this (as an update from my 2014 post, therein named “Acme”) as a milestone for just how far we as an industry have yet to go in embracing the advantages of a broad, interaction-of-the-parts perspective, as opposed to our current, widespread obsession with narrow improvements of individual parts of our organisations. NB My recent book “Quintessence” sets out a map or blueprint of this Quintessential organisation, as well as the means to get there (i.e. Organisational Psychotherapy).

Please do let me know if you’d like me to elaborate any further on any of the above descriptions.

– Bob

Postscript

For some reason which made sense inside my head at the time, I omitted Theory of Constraints from the above chart. For the curious, I’d place it somewhere between Lean and FlowChain.

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™️.

Rightshifting

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: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bob-marshall-flowchainsensei-3a2a5b164/ – or via whatever channel you may prefer.

– Bob

Managing Differently

Long-time readers of this blog will recognise that my core value proposition is, as the title states, helping organisations to think differently. The most significant thinking that benefits from a different perspective is management thinking – not least because this typically has the most leverage and impact for the organisation.

Hence, my approach with organisations is to support them in coming around to a fundamental change in their management thinking.

Aside: It’s very clear by now that traditional management thinking and new ways of collaborative knowledge work (CKW) working are fundamentally incompatible. Zero benefits and increased dysfunction (costs, stress, effort, frustration) will be the consequences for cleaving to traditional management thinking in CKW organisations.

Aside: In the Rightshifting vernacular we might call this shifting from the Analytic mindset to the Synergistic (and, ultimately, the Chaordic) Mindset.

The Point

If thinking differently were just a matter of fashion, or taste, then there would be little point. And even less, motivation. 

But the fact of the matter is that for collaborative knowledge work (CKW), traditional management (as typified by implicit violence, command and control, Theory-X, and so on) is a train wreck and a tyre fire all in one.

I’m not the first to point out the need for a different management approach with collaborative knowledge work organisations, but with 40+ years practical experience as a manager, leader, coach and advisor in CKW organisations, I can attest to the power of managing differently.

As I write in my most recent book “Quintessence”:

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

This is not an easy message to hear, especially for managers who’ve spent their entire working lives being (marginally) successful with traditional management thinking.

Machiavelli knew this nearly five hundred years ago:

It should be borne in mind that there is nothing more difficult to arrange, more doubtful of success, and more dangerous to carry through than initiating changes. The innovator makes enemies of all those who prospered under the old order, and only lukewarm support is forthcoming from those who would prosper under the new. Their support is lukewarm … partly because men are generally incredulous, never really trusting new things unless they have tested them by experience. 

~ Niccolo Machiavelli

And what chance to experience thinking differently, when the manager’s in-group is so intolerant of revisionism?

Organisational Psychotherapy helps with freeing these in-group shackles, and liberating managers to step up to a very different way of managing.

– Bob

Further Reading

Harter, J., Buckingham, M. & Gallup Organization (2016). First, Break All The Rules: What The World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently. Gallup Press.

Marshall, R.W. (2021). Quintessence: An Acme for Software Development Organisations. Falling Blossoms (LeanPub).

Marshall, R.W. (2018). Hearts over Diamonds: Serving Business and Society Through Organisational Psychotherapy. Falling Blossoms (LeanPub).

http://www.managementexchange.com. (2022). Management Innovation eXchange |. [online] Available at: https://www.managementexchange.com.

The Organisational Psychotherapy Solution for Easier Hiring

I’ve hired many people in my time, and every day it seems to be more difficult finding the right people. 

Most organisation still have the mentality that says they’re doing people a favour by considering them for an open position. Not that hiring for open positions is too smart, in any case.

The Bus

The old adage goes, “get the right people on the bus, and only then sort out where they might sit”. In other words, don’t hire into open positions, hire into the organisation at large, and then find the best fitting role for each new hire. There may not even be an existing position for the best candidates, in which case new positions must be created. 

Employer Branding

Gone are the days when a simple ad or commission for a recruiter would attract suitable candidates. These days, unless your organisation is well known and highly regardsed in the jobs market, you’re highly unlikely to attract the candidates you seek. 

Deming’s 95:5

Deming’s 95:5 implies that there is no such thing as “best candidates”. It’s the system (the way the work works) that dictates 95% of the productivity/performance of each new hire.

Collaborative Knowledge Work

The future of work is collaborative knowledge work (CKW). Potential new hires know this instinctively, and studiously avoid organisations that seem unaware or ill-adapted to this new reality.

The Organisational Psychotherapy Assist

Organisational Psychotherapy can assist in making hiring easier in a number of ways:

  • By helping the organisation build a culture that actively attracts candidates (much better to having candidates queuing round the block for positions, rather than having them ridicule your organisation as a cultural dinosaur). See also: Rightshifting and the Marshall Model.
  • By surfacing your organisation’s existing collective assumptions and beliefs – assumptions and beliefs which most typically lead to hiring the wrong people, and missing out on the candidates you really need.
  • By identifying the cognitive biases which lead to exclusion of much of the available talent pool.
  • By convincing potential candidates that your organisation takes them and their needs seriously, and that you are determined to build an environment in which they can do their best work (see also: Harter & Buckingham, 2016). 
  • By adopting well-established management practices, best suited to CKW.
  • By awareness of Management Monstrosities and how to avoid them (potential new hires can spot these monstrosities from a mile aways, even if the hiring organisation in blind to them).

Further Reading

Harter, J., Buckingham, M. & Gallup Organization (2016). First, Break All The Rules: What The World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently. Gallup Press.

 

Rightshifting and Quintessence 

Long-time readers of this blog will already be familiar with the concept of rightshifting. 

Shifting an organisation to the right (i.e. in the direction of increased organisational effectiveness, and towards the quintessential) is not for the work-shy or indolent. Yet the rewards are massive. 

Whilst the Marshall Model provides a general framework for such rightshifting, there’s not been a detailed roadmap describing the shifts necessary to acquire such improved effectiveness. 

My most recent book, “Quintessence”, provides just such a roadmap (or blueprint). It details the shifts in collective assumptions and beliefs necessary to become a highly effective knowledge-work organisation. Shifts of which significant outliers such as Zappos, WL Gore, Morning Star, Semco, and a host of others have demonstrated the benefits.

Go take a look and gaze in awe at what is possible in the way of improvements. 

– Bob

Further Reading

Marshall, R.W. (2018). Hearts over Diamonds: Serving Business and Society Through Organisational Psychotherapy. Falling Blossoms (LeanPub).

Marshall, R.W. (2021). Memeology: Surfacing and Reflecting On the Organisation’s Collective Assumptions and Beliefs. Falling Blossoms (LeanPub).

Marshall, R.W. (2021). Quintessence: An Acme for Software Development Organisations. Falling Blossoms (LeanPub). 

Dynamic Work Design from MIT

Nelson Repenning at MIT has come up with a general approach to knowledge-based employees finding and fixing issues, and make improvements, in real time (video).

Four Core Principles of Dynamic Work Design

  • Reconcile activity and intent.
  • Connect the human chain through triggers and checks (i.e .Escalation: when and how.
  • Structure problem solving and creativity.
  • Manage “optimal challenge” – problems are useful as signals, and create useful “tension”.

Further Reading

Baskin, K. (2018). The 4 principles of dynamic work design. [online] MIT Sloan. Available at: https://mitsloan.mit.edu/ideas-made-to-matter/4-principles-dynamic-work-design [Accessed 21 Jan. 2022].

http://www.youtube.com. (n.d.). Discover Dynamic Work Design with MIT’s Nelson Repenning. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJwU-MZckTk [Accessed 21 Jan. 2022].

Am I the only person in the world interested in improving the effectiveness of organisations? In making organisations better places to work, better places to play, better places to learn? Is it just me? Most days it seems like it is.

The Roots of Rightshifting

When I coined the term “Rightshifting” circa 2005 I had already been studying and practicing software development management for at least fifteen years. In that span I had seen time and again dozens of organisations that had literally no clue as to how ineffective they were at the game.

Indeed, I came across zero organisations, both in person and in the literature, who realised how much time, effort, money and lives they were wasting through their ineffectiveness.

Circa 2005 I resolved to make it my business to help the industry, and the organisations in it, appreciate how much better things could be. In 2008 I began presenting “Perspectives on Rightshifting” at conferences and online, incorporating the asymmetric bell curve from Steve McConnell (McConnell . In 2010 I augmented that with the Marshall Model, explaining how collective assumptions and beliefs govern effectiveness.

Here we are at 2022 and the message has not landed. Most organisations are so insular, inward-looking and lacking in curiosity that their relative effectiveness never reaches the level of consciousness thought, let alone action.

Most organisations still have no clue as to how much time, effort, money and lives they are wasting through their ineffectiveness.

I see at least three root conditions that contribute to this continuing waste:

  • Software organisations generally have enough money that they can afford to waste circa 80% of it on ineffective practices.
  • The folks in charge are pursuing priorities other than effectiveness.
  • Almost no one in the industry has ever seen what “effective” looks like, let alone the benefits and how to get there.

Still, I continue carrying the flag for Rightshifting, even though the levels of interest have declined, rather that risen.

If you’re interested, I’m always happy to talk it over.

– Bob

Further Reading

Think Different. (2011). The Origins of the Marshall Model. [online] Available at: https://flowchainsensei.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/the-origins-of-the-marshall-model/.

McConnell, S. (1999). After the Gold Rush: Creating a True Profession of Software Engineering. Microsoft Press.

http://www.youtube.com. (2013). The Business Case for Better Software Practices | Steve McConnell. [online] Available at: https://youtu.be/kczygFYJzDo [Accessed 17 Jan. 2022].

McConnell, S. (2004). Professional Software Development: Shorter Schedules, Higher Quality Products, More Successful Projects, Enhanced Careers. Addison-Wesley.

The V8 Question

There are multiple ways to open a conversation with a new client (organisation). Here’s a few I use from time to time:

The Miracle Question

Derived from Solution Focus Brief Therapy (SFBT).

Example:

This may seem like a strange question to ask, but please bear with me. Imagine going about your life as normal and heading off to sleep at the usual time.

Unknown to you, during the night, something happens – a miracle. When you wake up the following day, something exciting has happened.

The very problem that brought you to see me today is no longer there.

What would be the very first difference you would notice in your life?

See also: How to Use the Miracle Question in Therapy: 3 Examples

The Clean Language Opening Question

Example:

“What would you like to have happen?” or

“What would you like to have happen in [context]?”

And my take on the clean opening question, the Antimatter Opening Question:

The Antimatter Opening Question

The V8 Question

For a different perspective and dynamic, and for all the petrol heads out there.

A V8 engine with twin turbos

Example:

If your organisation was a V8, how many cylinders would it be firing on, at the moment?

And to appreciate a V8 firing on all cylinders: https://youtu.be/3DVPfJxr4Wo

– Bob

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