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Software development

Hardware design / development has had Muntzing since the 1940’s. How about importing the idea into software design / development?

Could this facilitate the spread of #NoSoftware?

Or are programmers too self-indulgent to cut out much of their crap?

 

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].

Second Time Around

Y’all may like to know that Ian Carroll (of Solutioneers fame) and I are launching a new venture named TheQuintessentialGroup, offering a range of services in the software delivery space. First out of the gate will be “Quintessential Teams“. You can find out more at our shiny new website: TheQuintessentialGroup.com.

TQG-Banner2

Note: We’re looking to revolutionise the world of software delivery, along quintessential lines, and we’d love for you to consider joining us.

First Time Around

Back in 1996 we* found ourselves with the opportunity to demonstrate what we had been telling clients for years – that our** approach to software delivery was way more productive than:

a) the industry norm

b) their current approaches

c) what they could ever believe possible

*myself and some colleagues at the Java Centre within Sun Microsystems UK, along with some mutual friends.

**the company we named “Familiar”.

Second Time Around

Now, we*** find ourselves in the same situation once again. Our**** approach to software delivery is again way more productive than:

a) the industry norm

b) our clients’ current approaches

c) what our clients and prospects could ever believe possible

***Ian Carroll and myself

****the company we’re naming TheQuintessentialGroup

Nothing Like Agile

The first time around, commencing circa 1996, our approach could be described as an Agile approach (Scrum-like, albeit risk-based).

The second time around our – distinctly different – approach can be described as the Quintessential approach (nothing like Agile, Scrum, etc. – albeit still very risk-oriented).

Alien Tech For Human Beings

And this second time around, we again lead the industry in breaking the mould and demonstrating the validity and sheer awesome power of the Quintessential approach.

The Quintessential approach is no secret. It’s all laid out, in detail, in my book(s). And yet we defy anyone to replicate this game-changing alien tech. At least, until they have thrown off the shackles of outmoded and crippling beliefs about work and how work should work.

And that ain’t likely to happen any time soon. Although TheQuintessentialGroup.com can help with effecting such changes, too – see my book Memeology, for starters.

If you’re at all interested in the quality, cost, timescales, and predictability of software delivery, you might like to take a look at our newly launched website: TheQuintessentialGroup.com. We have big ambitions and big plans – and we’re hiring too!

Yes there’s more than a little déjà vu here at Sensei Towers at the moment. Familiar was an outstanding success, vindication, trailblazer and golden goose back in the late 90’s. We have every expectation that TheQuintessentialGroup will surpass even that outstanding benchmark.

Putting a dent in the Universe.

– 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 22 Apr. 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 22 Apr. 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 22 Apr. 2022].

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).

Quintessential Ways Of Working

I’m sure folks hearing about Quintessence wonder what it’s all about, and how it differs from other ways of working in the software development domain.

There’s much to absorb in my books on the subject, especially Quintessence itself.

But for those who prefer an “in a nutshell” explanation…

Foundations

Culture

Products, designs, solutions, services – these are all a consequence of our culture. 

So the quintessential organisation focuses on its culture, not on its processes, technical practices, competencies, etc.. And builds cultural awareness and shift into its business-as-usual, into its ways of working.

As Kevin Weiss so kindly says in his foreword to Quintessence:

This is the real challenge to readers of this book – to consider these ideas as a wholly different way of working, rather than an à la carte menu of possibilities. If you can do that, you may have what it takes to be a leader in your company’s transformation. 

And if you do, jump at the chance! It will likely be the most rewarding time of your career. 

~ Kevin Weiss

Interpersonal relationships

Part of the quintessential way of working centres around the relations between people. Between individual teams members. Between teams and the folks they serve. Between folks inside the organisation and those in customer and supplier organisations. Between folks on the front line, and their managers and executive. The way the work works, whomsoever owns it, is oriented towards increased opportunities for dialogue, and fellowship, relationship- and community-building. Not so much towards producing stuff, like designs, solutions, code, etc..

Continuous Reflection

Regular dialogue enables the surfacing of and reflecting upon the organisation’s collective assumptions and beliefs – another key aspect of the way the work works in aspiring quintessential organisations. Such dialogue is literally built into the ways of working of quintessential organisations.

Attending to folks’ needs (the Antimatter Principle) also serves to strengthen and deepen interpersonal relationships.

Excellence

A key principle in the quintessential way of working is excellence. The desire to do and be the best one can. No tolerance of complacency or slacking-off here. 

Working Together

Quintessential organisations feature people working together. I hesitate to say collaboration, because I have some reservations about that notion. But working together is an essential element of the quintessential organisation. Gone are the days when the heroic individual could make some lone breakthrough or discovery. Our world has become more complicated than that.

Systems Thinking

Quintessential organisations recognise themselves as complex adaptive systems, not just a collection of quasi-independent parts. Decisions are made and actions taken with this perspective fully in mind. And systems thinking permeates all aspects and all levels of the way the work works.

Risk

One aspect often overlooked in non-quintessential organisations is the formal management and control of risk. Many of the Folks That Matter within an organisation seek certainty and predictability, but rarely are the risks threatening those needs explicitly managed. See also: (DeMarco and Lister 2003).

Normative Learning

See: Toyota Kata (Rother 2010).

Social Sciences

The quintessential organisation draws on discoveries from many of the social sciences, including:

  • psychology
  • psychotherapy
  • group dynamics
  • cognitive science
  • neuroscience.

And builds the discoveries and practices from these fields into the way the work works.

Summary

The above are just the stand-out aspects of ways of working observable in quintessential organisations.

Take a look at Quintessence (the book) if you’d like to understand more and dive deeper.

– Bob

Further Reading

Rother, M. (2010). Toyota Kata: Managing People For Continuous Improvement And Superior Results. Mcgraw-Hill.

Demarco, T. and Lister, T.R. (2003). Waltzing With Bears: Managing Risk On Software Projects. Dorset House Pub.

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

Who’s Delusional?

When it comes to organising the development of software, someone’s delusional.

Maybe it’s me. Despite proving my philosopy and practical apprioach (Quintessence), honed over nearly 30 years of real-world experience.

Maybe it’s you. Clinging to your outdated and unproducive approaches, be they waterfall (batch and queue), or Agile.

Maybe it’s the managers and executives. Doing the same thing year in and year out, expecting different results.

Maybe it’s all of us.

How do you see it?

– Bob

Quintessence – The Long Overdue Upgrade to Agile

We’ve laboured under the Agile yoke for more than twenty years now. As well as its other failings, Agile has choked off all innovation in the way software is developed.

We’re long overdue an upgrade, and yet there seems no game-changing innovations in sight. Might we conclude that decision-makers are content that current means are good enough to meet their needs? That breakthrough capabilities are of no interest? Or that no new breakthroughs are even possible?

It sure seems like it to me. And yet I continue to propose new, tried and tested, ground-breaking ideas. For those few who are not content to luxuriate in the prevailing status quo. Ideas like Flowchain, Prod•gnosis, the Antimatter Principle, Organisational Psychotherapy, and most recently, Quintessence.

Quintessence is that long overdue upgrade to Agile. Not a downgrade like, for example, the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink abortion that is SAFe.

Nor even a next-generation Agile, which will inevitably include all the shortcomings of the existing Agile approach(es).

Radical Departure

Quintessence is the radical departure from Agile norms, based as it is on people-oriented technologies such as sociology, group dynamics, psychiatry, psychology, psychotherapy, anthropology, cognitive science and modern neuroscience. Technologies conspicuous by their absence from businesses everywhere.

If logic had anything to do with it, thousands of businesses would be working in the Quintessential way now. But of course logic gets nary a look-in. We human beings are creatures of habit, emotion and bias. Our inner chimps hold sway over the human part of our brain most all of the time.

I guess you’ll dismiss this post much like you’ve dimissed all my other posts on e.g. Quintessence. C’est la vie. That’s monkeys for you.

Further Reading

Peters, S. (2016). The Chimp Paradox. Vermilion, An Imprint Of Ebury Publishing.

Marshall, R.W. (2021). Quintessence: An Acme for Software Development Organisations. Falling Blossoms (LeanPub).Available at: https://leanpub.com/quintessence [Accessed 11 Mar. 2022].

If Putin Ran A Software Development Business

Or a tech business in which software development was a core capability – much like military forces are a core capability for any nation, including Russia.

If Putin ran a business where software development was a core capability, he’d:

  • Ask for estimates and rail against his project managers and middle-managers when those estimates proved unreliable.
  • Wonder why new features were stuck in a long queue of undelivered features.
  • Not notice that developers were so demoralised that they were just going through the motions, not caring a hoot about requirements or deliverables or even customers’ need.
  • Ask regularly and bitterly “why can’t they (developers) just do as they’re told?”.
  • Have little clue about the state of his tools and hardware, the skills – or lack of them – of his developers.
  • Apply huge resources to bludgeon through problems and delays, only to find that doesn’t work.
  • Discount the importance of morale and motivation in his employees.
  • Be secretly embarrassed about the quality and accuracy of his employees’ work.
  • Not understand the importance of learning, skills development, training and senior staff.
  • Underestimate the difficulties inherent in all software development endeavours.
  • Blame competitors and market conditions for his people’s failures.
  • Belatedly hire external contractors in the naïve and forlorn hope that they might accelerate progress.

Maybe you know of some other CEOs that make the same choices?

Yayy for Ukraine! Ukraine-Flag-PNG-File

– Bob

Further Reading

Marshall, R. W. (2013). Product Aikido. [online] Available at: https://flowchainsensei.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/productaikido041016.pdf

28 Years Ago

Twenty eight years ago (i.e. 1994) almost no one was interested in doing software development differently. Waterfall and the V Model ruled the roost. And structured methods (SSADM, Dataflow diagrams, etc.) were de rigeur. I was fortunate in finding the ear of the Finance Director of Barclays Bank, who had two urgent projects he needed to see completed in double-quick time, and with no wiggle room for missing the delivery dates. He felt he could no afford to go down the traditional (slow) route.

Of course, in 1994 the term “agile” had not then been applied to software development (at least, in the way the Snowbird folks appropriated the term circa 2001),

After successfully delivering Barclay’s projects, I moved on to Sun Microsystems’ UK Java Center and brought my “new” approach (then being called “Jerid”) with me.

Having transferred my approach and ideas into several of Sun’s corporate client base (mainly banks and other financial institutions in the City), I moved on to found “Familiar” circa 1996. (Being then the first 100% Agile software house in Europe). Jerid served us well, and continues to do so – now named Javelin – up to the present day.

28 Years On

Twenty eight years on and history repeats itself. Almost no one is interested in doing software development differently. This time around, I find myself the guardian and steward of the Quintessential approach. Another step forward at least as great as Jerid was in 1994.

Sigh. And deja vue.

– Bob

The New, Radical, Superior Alternative

We all know that Agile has failed. And although not quite dead, it’s a zombie walking. Lots of vested folks are loathe to admit it, though.

Actually, it never really had a chance. Being founded on multiple false assumptions and all.

So, for those brave and independent thinking souls that accept its demise, is there some new, perhaps radical alternative?

I offer: Quintessence. 

New? If its origins some 15 years ago mark it as new. 

Radical? Certainly,. If being human and humane is radical. If being five times more productive is radical. If putting the joy – and play – back into “work” is radical. Did I mention “ground-breaking”?

Alternative? Not so much an alternative as a fresh departure, leaving the mistakes of the past behind.

Interested? Curious?

Maybe you’d like to tell your friends? Thank you.

– 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

It’s About Time

It’s about time we moved beyond Agile. It’s only sensible to abandon what twenty years of failure has proved almost entirely useless. 

Cul-De-Sec

Ironically, moving beyond Agile means retracing our steps, the steps that have led us into the Agile cul-de-sac. We cannot move beyond Agile by building on Agile. Its multiple flaws disqualify it as the basis for moving forward. We must not only seek a new path, a new game, and learn new things, but unlearn a whole passel of Agile-related ideas that just tie us to the dysfunctional past.

Needs

It’s about time we recognise that any approach that addresses the needs of only one constituency – i.e. the software developers – disqualifies that approach from serious consideration. 

It’s about time we considered approaches that embrace the needs of all constituencies – of all the Folks That Matter™️. Approaches that design-in means to “prepare the soil” – means to effect the socio-technical environment necessary for effective development and learning to take place.

Quintessence

I offer Quintessence as one such approach.

It’s about time we started talking about the Quintessential organisation. And building it. Again.

– Bob

The New Game In Town

For decades now, decision-makers have been faced with two quandaries in connection with software development for their organisations.

Quandary One

On the one hand, software – and software development – remains slow, costly, unpredictable and of poor quality. On the other hand, the need for software to support business initiatives, new products, and customer demands grow every day.

See: Software is Eating the World.

Quandary Two

Traditional approaches to software development have clearly had their day in the sun. No company today would consider a transition into e.g. Waterfall or the V model to be a viable way forward. Even though many, through inter, are still stuck in those relatively unproductive approaches. On the other hand, Agile – the natural way forward for many – has proven itself a busted flush.

Until now, these two options (remain with the untrendy and unproductive Old School, or adopt the faddish and unproductive new school) have been the only options available to companies concerned with reducing the costs, and increasing the speed and quality, of software development.

Until Now

I say until now, because there’s now a new game in town. Proven in over twenty years of diligent, practical, real-work application. Aligned to progress in e.g. psychology, sociology, neuroscience and group dynamics. Expressly designed for collaborative knowledge work (i.e. software and tech product development).

I invented this new approach, and I call it Quintessence. You can find it laid out in meaningful detail in my recent book of the same name.

There’s also a self-help book titled “Memeology” for organisation wishing to pursue Quintessence on their own terms.

And an earlier, foundational book titled “Hearts Over Diamonds” which puts everything into context.

So now, organisations of every stripe have a viable, and much more effective option for improving their software development efforts. A means to building quintessentially effective organisations. No longer is Agile the only game in town.

Chat in Confidence

If you’d like a brief, confidential and no obligation chat about how your organisation could benefit from wasting less time, money, energy and effort, please get in touch via e.g. LinkedIn:  – or via whichever channel you may prefer.

– Bob

An Open Letter To All Organisations

Having been involved in software (and hardware) for some fifty years now, I thought it might be time to mark the occasion with this open letter to all organisations. Especially to those organisations engaged in CKW (Collaborative Knowledge Work), such as product development and software development.

Enormous Levels of Waste

You’re wasting 80% of your time, effort, money, and human potential on bullshit work*.

You may know this already, but are too embarrassed, fearful of the consequences, or indifferent to admit it.

Or maybe your owners have so much money that wasting 80% of your operating costs is of little or no consequence to them, and thus to you.

Or you may be unaware of the potential upside of adopting modern organisational practices, and of the downside of retaining your traditional management assumptions and beliefs**.

*Bullshit work: a.k.a. busywork – work that consumes time, effort and energy yet adds no value, and meets no needs of any of the Folks That Matter™️.

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

Seeds of Failure

Agile has become widespread and popular mainly because it promises “improvements” without demanding that the decision-makers change. Of course, without people changing (in particular, managers changing their collective assumptions and beliefs) Agile has zero chance of delivering on its promises. It then becomes “just one more packaged method to install in the development teams” – and just one more debacle.

As the French say:

“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”.

Thus Agile carries with it the seeds of its own inevitable failure.

“But what if managers DO change?” I hear you ask.

Well, if they change themselves in ways that move them and their organisations towards the quintessential, they won’t chose Agile.

Seeds of Success

And if you’re wondering what the seeds of success might look like, you may like to take a look at my recent book “Quintessence” (Marshall 2021).

– Bob

Further Reading

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

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