Stakeholder, defined

In my previous post I talk about “stakeholders”. I occurs to me that I have used this term for so long that the definition I have for it may elude some folks, and differ from some other folks’ definitions.

So here’s my definition:

A stakeholder is any person that stands to (possibly) gain or lose something from a specific proposed or actual endeavour.

Or, expressed in terms of needs:

A stakeholder is any person with needs that might be met – or jeopardised – because of a specific proposed or actual endeavour.

Aside: Often, I find it convenient to subdivide the needs of any one individual, according to the various role(s) they may play in an endeavour. For an example of this, see my post entitled “Nonviolent Project management“.

– Bob

Nonviolent Inspiration

My thanks go to Charlie Badenhop at for an article containing  the following quote:

Do you find yourself avoiding change?

”Change has a considerable psychological effect on the human mind.
To the fearful it is threatening because it means things might get worse.
To the hopeful it is encouraging because things might get better.
To the confident it is inspiring because a challenge exists to make things better.”

~ King Whitney Jr.

So, if our organisations use fear (along with obligation, guilt and shame) in attempts to meet their needs, then the “fearful” will only feel more threatened by the prospect of a bleaker future. How likely is that to bring about positive change – change for the better?

Conversely, if our organisations encourage hopefulness and confidence, then how likely is it that folks will feel encouraged and inspired by the possibilities of a brighter future?

– Bob

Further Reading

The Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear – Wikipedia
Learning to Communicate Without Fear ~ Matthew Trotter
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team ~ Patrick Lencioni


I just stumbled over the Bioteams website, and in particular their Manifesto. Although the concept seems more relevant for teams than organisations, and overlooks more organisation-wide (systemic) issues, I thought it might be useful to repeat an excerpt:

Free Will And Beliefs In Human Teams

How we will act is influenced by the beliefs we hold regarding the situation we find ourselves in when we receive the stimulus. For example, if I do not feel I am being adequately supported or appreciated by the rest of the team, I may avoid action where there is a perceived risk of my failure.

Alternatively if I felt fully supported, I might take bigger risks. In simple terms — human teams have to address the critical issue of team member motivation whereas biological teams do not.

Effective bioteaming cannot be achieved in an organisational team which is suffering from poor motivation.

This is why to be really effective a human bioteam must also take into account the team beliefs and the motivations of its highly intelligent and autonomous members.

The Impact Of Individual Team Beliefs On Overall Performance

Unfortunately there is very little research about the impact of team member beliefs on overall team performance. The only study which partly addresses this issue is the unique work on “Learned Optimism” by Professor Martin Seligman.

Dr Seligman is a clinical psychologist who for the last twenty years has studied the areas of learned optimism and learned helplessness to help individuals deal with depression and pessimism in their lives. As a sub-topic within his research Dr. Seligman has explored how optimism and pessimism in team members impact the overall team performance.

According to Dr. Seligman’s research, optimistic teams will recover more easily from setbacks than pessimistic ones; this does not vary with differing levels of team members’ skills and intelligence.

Uncovering The “Hidden Beliefs” Of High Performing Teams

From what we have been able to find there is no other research in the public domain which directly looks at the beliefs of team members in high-performance teams.

There is however excellent material on the detailed characteristics and behaviours of high-perform- ing teams — two of which are Hot Groups and Organizing Genius.

According to our own personal experience and the research we have carried out on this topic High Performing Teams (HPT) are immediately identifiable by the tacit, or hidden beliefs by which their general behaviour and attitude is determined:


Good Beliefs Make A Team Work Harder

One of the main consequences of nurturing a team to develop a deeply shared set of beliefs is a greater commitment and will by individual members to put in the necessary amount of work for the project to succeed.

If the team feels trusted, it acquires self-confidence and adopts a meaningful and responsible attitude toward realizing the mission successfully.

Bioteaming Includes Identifying Your Team’s Beliefs

In this context the first step to an ambitious virtual networked business team is to try to honestly identify the current beliefs that each individual team members holds. Next, this set of beliefs can be compared with the seven “hidden”, high-performance beliefs reviewed above to identify the most appropriate team motivational drivers.

As is true for all beliefs, people can only be encouraged to modify them. It is next to impos- sible to mandate their change unless it is fruit of an individual conscious and voluntary deci- sion. The most powerful techniques for modifying beliefs are those that excel at illustrating the consequences of existing beliefs while showcasing the profiles and characteristics of alternative ones. Such responsibilities would generally fall under the responsibility of senior and more experienced members of the team.

A human team operating in harmony with such principles, utilized by many of nature’s most successful biological teams, would be able to operate as an ultra-high-performing team, or as we like to say as a “human bioteam”.

– Bob

Fellows of the Human Spirit

I love this recent article by Margaret Wheatley. As it was buried in a larger document (see p32-34), I thought I’d extract it and share it here.

Meg uses the term “Warriors” (explained in the piece), in a way that for me seems very much like my understanding and usage of the term “Fellowship”. Hence the title chosen by me here.

Margaret Wheatley

An invitation

For many years now, I have been inspired, motivated and comforted by a prophecy from Tibetan Buddhism of impending darkness and the summoning of the warriors. Although this word ‘warrior’ has connotations of force and aggression, it means something very different in Tibetan culture. The Tibetan word for warrior, pawo, means one who is brave, one who vows never to use aggression. I practice for this kind of warriorship in a lineage based on the prophecy of the Shambhala warriors. My vow is to refrain, as best I can, from adding to the aggression and fear of this time.

The story (and prophecy) of Shambhala and its warriors concerns an ancient kingdom of wise and conscious people, ruled by enlightened kings. Its people were unusual in that they had no anxiety. Free from fear, they were able to create an enlightened society.

The prophecy states that when all life on Earth is in danger, and the future of sentient life hangs by the frailest of threads, the kingdom of Shambhala emerges. You cannot tell who these warriors are by their appearance; they look like normal people. Their weapons are compassion and insight. Well-trained in their use, they go into the corridors of power and dismantle the beliefs and behaviours that are destroying life. When I first heard this, I was moved by the description of the warriors. Perhaps you see yourself in this description, or are curious to see what it might mean. This is my invitation to you, and all of us caught in systems of degenerate power. We are free to choose a new role for ourselves, to transform our grief, outrage, frustration and exhaustion into the skills of insight and compassion, to serve this dark time as warriors for the human spirit.

Images for this time

I’m sitting on the banks of the Virgin river in Zion National Park in Utah, my favourite place on the planet. The river has been flowing through this magnificent canyon for two million years, creating one of earth’s most sacred places. It’s a dry winter, the river is low, ambling along. I’ve been here at other times when it’s fierce and destructive. Next time it will be different again. I’ve learned a lot from rivers. They take many forms, yet never lose their way, to the ocean.

The Hopi Elders describe our time as a river flowing very fast, great and swift. They warn us not to hold on to the shore because those who do “will be torn apart and suffer greatly.” They encourage us to push off into the middle of the river and to keep our heads above water. These river images however, even the turbulent ones, no longer describe this time for me. and what I’m seeing and how I’m feeling. It is Yeats’ dark vision that speaks to me, written in 1919 in the troubled years of the first World War:

“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned …”

A confession of innocence

Many of us, certainly I’d describe myself in these terms, were anxiously engaged in “the ceremony of innocence.” We didn’t think we were innocents, but we were. We thought we could change the world. We even believed that, with sufficient will and passion, we could “create a world,” one that embodied our aspirations for justice, equality, opportunity, peace, a world where, in Paulo Freire’s terms, “it would be easier to love.” This vision, this hope, this possibility motivated me for most of my life. It still occasionally seduces me but I’m learning to resist the temptation. I no longer believe that we can save the world.

Powerful, life-destroying dynamics have been set in motion which cannot be stopped. We’re on a disastrous course with each other and with the planet. We’ve lost track of our best human qualities and forgotten the real sources of satisfaction, meaning and joy. I feel clear in saying that greed, self-interest and coercive power are destroying the very life force of this planet. I don’t know whether such destruction is intentional or not, but I observe it happening everywhere. I was hit in the face with this while in South Africa in November 2011. South Africa is the country of my heart, always teaching me about the depths of human experience – I’ve been working there since 1995, this was my fourteenth visit. In the years of Mandela, hope was palpable. Everyone seemed to be starting projects to tackle huge social problems, eager to work with others to create the New South Africa. They understood the complexity of all the issues, they knew it was ‘a long walk to freedom’ and they had great faith in their future.

But now, for many reasons, hope is hard to find and the good people who have created successful projects and built effective NGOs are exhausted & demoralized. They keep doing their work, but it’s now a constant struggle. They struggle for funds, they struggle with inept, corrupt bureaucracy, they struggle with the loss of community and the rise of self-interest, they struggle with the indifference of the newly affluent. The dream of a new nation of possibility, equality, and justice has fallen victim to the self-serving behaviours of those with power. Please do not think this is only true in South Africa. It’s happening everywhere, as you may have noticed.

Indestructible motivation

By stating that we cannot change the world, I do not intend to bury our motivation in despair. Quite the contrary. My intention is that we do our work with greater resolve and energy, with more delight and confidence, even as we understand that it won’t turn this world around. Our work is essential; we just have to hold it differently. This was beautifully described by Vaclav Havel, leader of the Velvet Revolution, the poet playwright who then became president of the new Czech Republic: “Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”

How do we find this deep confidence that, independent of results, our work is the right work for us to be doing? How do we give up needing hope to be our primary motivator? How do we replace hope of creating change with confidence that we’re doing the right work? Hope is such a dangerous source of motivation. It’s an ambush, because what lays in wait is hope’s ever-present companion, fear – the fear of failing, the despair of disappointment, the bitterness and exhaustion that can overtake us when our best, most promising efforts are rebuked, undone, ignored, destroyed. As someone commented, “Expectation is premeditated disappointment.”

My great teachers these days are people who no longer need hope in order to do their work, even though their projects and organizations began with bright, hope-filled dreams. As “the blood-dimmed tide” of greed, fear, and oppression drowns out their voices and washes away their good work, they become more committed to their work, not because it will succeed, but just because it is right for them to be doing it. I watch their inner struggles and bouts with despair, but mostly what I notice is their perseverance and confidence. They see how bad it is, they know it is getting worse, they realize their work won’t create the changes they have worked hard for all these years. Yet they continue to do their work because they know it is theirs to do. Sometimes they say, “I can’t not do this.” Other times they ask, “What else would I be doing if not this?”

These brave people are true warriors. Seeing as clearly as they can, hearts as open as they can bear, they keep doing their work. They know how systems of power work and they try to discern wise actions. Though in frequent battles with politicians, leaders and bureaucrats, they strive to keep their hearts open, to not succumb to anger and aggression. Work is filled with constant challenges, and they know there will be many more.

Perhaps you see yourself already working in this way, persevering because you feel you have no other choice. Or perhaps you still feel you can save the world by work- ing harder, faster or by connecting with others to take on big change projects. My only request is that as you do your work, you become curious about finding a more enduring source of motivation than needing your work to bear fruit, to be successful in creating positive and enduring change. Beyond hope and fear, there is clarity available, the clarity of knowing that this work is ours to do no matter what. We may succeed, we may fail – but no matter what, we will continue to persevere on behalf of other human beings.

As we do this, we learn how to be warriors for the human spirit, and we find the few others who have also claimed this role.

– Bob

Further Reading

Margaret Wheatley Archive

Developer Chops

I don’t get to do much development these days, what with all the study I’m putting into Organisational Psychotherapy and Rightshifting, keeping up meaningful connections and helping folks out where I can via e.g. Twitter, and now looking for a paying gig, or even a job.

And it’s hard to convince myself that I should consider development work, when I feel there are other areas where I can add a lot more value.

But I do keep my hand in, especially with Python, Javascript (mainly server side) and e.g. CouchDB, just for my own amusement, and to keep abreast of some of the current trends.

Aside: I was quite busy with the building of a prototype for Newsmice + Dyphoon, earlier in the year.

All that notwithstanding, I have in the past often had to consider folks for developer positions, and would have benefited in that task from some kind of Developer Competency Matrix – as a starting point for some conversations about development topics. CVs just don’t work well in that regard. (Another reason for my NoCV campaign).

So both as an example and as a starting point for conversations, I’ve just added a page to this blog with my own Developer Competency Matrix – something that’s been lying around on my hard drive for a couple of years now.

I wonder how other folks present their development skills and experience? And how, when you’re hiring developers, you like to start a conversation about the art?

– Bob

Why Milk is Thicker than Water

I don’t know about you, but for all the years I’ve been thinking, doing and being Lean, I’ve always thought of flow in terms of water.

Until today.

We’ve known for a long time that inventory (here I’m talking about WIP, work-in-process inventory) costs money just through its very existence. We call that the carrying cost of inventory. Finished-goods inventory has a carrying-cost. As does WIP inventory.

Aside: Limiting WIP is not so much about reducing carrying cost as it is about reducing delays and increasing total throughput.

The idea of carrying costs comes of course from manufacturing. With large, stuffed warehouses, and piles of components on the factory floor, at least some of the carrying costs of manufacturing inventory are very visible.

In knowledge-work, where the flow consists of e.g. user stories (and learning), inventory is much less visible. And the perishability of that inventory can be a significant, although generally overlooked, issue.

Knowledge-work inventory has high perishability, due to a number of compounding factors, such as changing technology, changing market demands, changing regulatory environments, changes in staff, and so on.

Water’s not much like that. Water has low perishability. Folks rarely worry about the freshness of their water.

With milk processing, on the other hand, perishability is paramount.

So from now on when I’m thinking about flow, I’ll be thinking about milk. Lovely cool, fresh milk.

– Bob


The water analogy is much reinforced by the term “waterfall”. Apart from the issue of whether it’s better to use the term “Batch and Queue”, the “water” in waterfall has long served to further obscure the question of perishability.

Further Reading

The Principles of Product Development Flow ~ Don Reinertsen

Business Technology Blog with the Telegraph

I’m now writing a blog (gratis, in case you’re wondering) for the Business Technology supplement distributed with the Telegraph (UK national newspaper). I expect my posts will appear fortnightly.

Unlike this Think Different blog, my Business Technology blog aims aiming to serve entirely non-technical (non-software savvy) managers and executives, in an attempt to bridge the gap between the worlds (and world-views) of business and technology.

The first post sets the scene for e.g. future Rightshifting pieces, by drawing folks’ attention to the major advances we have seen – and made happen – in the software development field over the past decade or so, since the Agile Manifesto. Key themes in the post include:

“It’s All About The People”

“Software Development is Just Part of a Bigger System”

“The Key Problems Are Often Outside of Software Development”

“Focus on Flow”

List of posts

For ease of reference, I’ll keep a running list of posts here:

  1. Lessons From the Software Senseis
    (19 October 2012)
    What software development practitioners have learned over the past decade.
  2. The World is Round
    (2 November 2012)
    How our view of the world of work dictates the effectiveness of our organisations.
  3. The Change Paradox
    (15 November 2012)
    The paradox of trying to change people’s behaviour. “Push” doesn’t work.
  4. The Value in Emotion
    (29 November 2012)
    How does the idea of emotion having value make you feel?
  5. Incidental Autonomy
    (18 December 2012)
    How organisations seem to take on a mind of their own.

– Bob

Quantification vs Measurement

“If you think you know something about a subject, try to put a number on it. If you can, then maybe you know something about the subject. If you cannot then perhaps you should admit to yourself that your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind.”

~ Lord Kelvin, 1893

Some folks seem to mix up the idea of quantification with the idea of measurement.

“Why does it matter?” I suspect you might ask. I’ll leave you to be the arbiter of that.

I just wanted to flag that in my view (and in the dictionary), there’s a difference:


“A fundamental, generic term used when referring to the measurement (count, amount) of a scalar, vector, number of items or to some other way of denominating the value of a collection or group of items.”


“The act of assigning a quantity to (something).”

Tom Gilb defines quantification thusly:

“Quantification, even without subsequent measurement, is a useful aid to clear thinking (what is this about?) and good communication (this is the goal, gang).”

~ Tom Gilb


“To ascertain the quantity of a unit of material via calculated comparison with respect to a standard.”

In A Nutshell

In a nutshell, the two terms differ in that:

  • Quantification is about a way to have more meaningful discussions, less obscured by subjective language, whilst
  • Measurement is about seeing more objectively what’s happening in your world.

In general we can fairly quantify anything; measuring things is often more problematic.

If you have your own definitions which you prefer more, or any other feedback, I’d love to hear from you.

– Bob

Further Reading

Principles of Software Engineering Management ~ Tom Gilb
Competitive Engineering ~ Tom Gilb
Software Metrics ~ Norman E. Fenton
Quantifying Stakeholder Values ~ Tom Gilb (pdf)
Making Metrics More Practical in Systems Engineering ~ Tom Gilb (pdf)

Evidence, Vested Interests and Wishful Thinking

“If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.”

~ C. S. Lewis

This recent TED Med video featuring Ben Goldacre speaks about the systemic problem of under-reporting of negative results in medicine (medical trials, drug trials and the like). The medical profession calls it Publication Bias. Interestingly I didn’t hear any mention of “vested interests” or “commercial pressures”.

How much more of an issue is the under-reporting, wilful ignoring or downright suppression of negative results in attempted Agile adoptions and transformations? (I say more of an issue because of its scope, not that it’s necessarily killing people – compared with the estimated 100,000 unnecessary US deaths due to ill-informed anti-Arrhythmia drug prescriptions).

“Human beings (including myself) sometimes use their beliefs for wish-fulfillment. Too often we believe what we want to be true.”

~ David L. Wolfe, Epistemology: The Justification Of Belief

What trail of wreckage, in terms of hopes dashed and babies-thrown-out-with-bathwaters, ensues? How many people are suffering? How many are actually dying?

What part have we each of us played in this theatre of pain?

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

I’m feeling at least as mad (angry, frustrated, outraged) as Ben Goldacre seems to be. How about you? How does it make you feel?

– Bob

Further Reading

What Doctors Don’t Know About the Drugs they Prescribe ~ Ben Goldacre (TED video)
Lean Product and Process Development ~ Dr Allen Ward

There is no Organization, but…

Ari-Pekka Skarp makes an interesting and relevant observation in his recent blog post  “There is no Organisation…“.

Actually, the title seems a tad misleading, as I take the body of the article to say that the idea of an “organisation” is a product of an implicit, collective agreement (or delusion) between those for whom the idea of that thing-perceived-as-an-organisation has some shared relevance.

From the Solipsist perspective (at the root of The Matrix trilogy), there is no anything, excepting that which is a product of our minds. So in that context to say that “there is no organisation” seems a bit of a non-statement, and somewhat like saying “there is no Bandersnatch”.

Anyhow, from my perspective as an Organisational Therapist, I can agree that there is no physical “organisation”, (except maybe in a legal-entity sense). But I also observe that there is a collective something, which I choose to call “the organisational psyche”, which in a sense exists outside of all the individuals participating in the delusion.

Put another way, the thing that I refer to as the collective (organisational) psyche is a legacy of – and product of – the perceptions acquired by the various individuals during their participation in the shared delusion – including perceptions acquired from other folks who have also participated in the same delusion.

Fundamentally, we approach a discussion about the nature of reality – which I’ll leave for another day.

– Bob

Further Reading

The Monkeys and the Banana – Explanation on

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