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…
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
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..
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
See: Toyota Kata (Rother 2010).
The quintessential organisation draws on discoveries from many of the social sciences, including:
- group dynamics
- cognitive science
And builds the discoveries and practices from these fields into the way the work works.
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.
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.