Note1: This bogus post was inspired by Bertrand Meyer’s book: “Agile!“. Specifically, the juice is squeezed from chapter 2: “Deconstructing Agile Texts“.
Business gurus love to fabricate crises and instill fear in their deep-pocketed C-level executive clients so they can pitch their latest idea (at $2000/day plus expenses) to “reinvent management!”
Steve Denning is a big-league business management guru, ala Gary Hamel, Tom Peters, Ken Blanchard, Bob Sutton, etc. Even though Mr. Denning has no software background, he somehow got into Jeff Sutherland’s refrigerator and managed to drink a whole pitcher of “agile” koolaid with nary a burp.
In a brilliant marketing move to distance himself from his peers, Steve has jumped on the “agile” bandwagon. He’s been busy advocating the migration of Scrum out of the software development trenches; up the ladder and into the corner office we go. I can visualize it: CEO as Certified Product Owner, COO as Certified Scrum Master, and the rest of the C-suite as second-class, uncertified, “developers“. (Why is there no certification program for developers?)
In closing out this post, I’d like to share with you this brief twitter exchange between Mr. Denning and the lowly BD00 :
Here’s your miserable predicament:
Here’s what Scrum can give you:
All ya gotta do to transform your 20th century horse and buggy into a 21st century Ferrari is hire a gaggle of agile coaches, agile scalers, and agile adoption experts to facilitate the much-heralded transformation:
So, what’s in da magic box? Shhhhhhh! BD00 knows. That scoundrel signed an NDA and successfully bribed some well-known, high profile, agile transformers into disclosing their 5 process secrets. Four of them consist of the following parallel micro-transformations:
The fifth transformation process component is the most important and well-guarded secret of the lot. BD00 had to pay an extra premium before it was disclosed. It is hoodwinking the eager sponsor into believing that the transformation was an astounding success:
After all was said and done, more was said than done.
A long time friend of BD00’s, Mr. William L. Livingston IV, asked me to post the following provocative product sheet on this blog:
Breakthrough October 2014
Everyone knows breakthroughs come in various kinds and sizes. The breakthrough announced here is in social system productivity. The noteworthy dimension of this breakthrough is the huge size of its available collective impact.
The math of its extravagant benefit is simple. This breakthrough applies to the productivity of any social system producing goods or services. The typical boost in social system productivity in application experience is 20%. The 2014 productivity of all the social systems around the globe, measured by the value of goods and services produced, the World Gross National Product, is $40 Trillion. By multiplication, the economic value of the benefit of this breakthrough to the world GNP is $8 Trillion/annum.
- The cost of the program is trivial. Its ROI computes in the many hundreds.
- No changes in facilities or personnel is necessary. Nothing is required of management.
- The attained positive transformation is fast. Program success is established and obvious in a couple of days. Tangible, measurable benefits start appearing in a couple of weeks.
- The program is transparent, natural law based, incontrovertible. Nothing is hidden. It has the characteristics necessary for universal, unconditional application.
- The need for this program cannot diminish. Its market opportunity is continuously replenished by business as usual.
- While the benefits to the participants sustain indefinitely after the program ends, eventually, with turnover, productivity maintenance will be necessary.
- There are various collateral benefits beyond the base economic 20%. Transformation brings a tide that raises all boats. There are many beneficiaries.
- Applications of the breakthrough can be demonstrated in your shop in a day and/or you can visit an application in process. One day of first-hand experience will do it.
To express interest in auditing an application, contact email@example.com
Since I enjoyed reading Tom DeMarco’s “Slack: Getting Past Burnout, Busywork and the Myth of Total Efficiency” years ago, this diagram in Jamshid Gharajedaghi’s “Systems Thinking: Managing Chaos and Complexity” brought back some fond memories of that book:
The diagram shows the slow, insidious erosion in flexibility that occurs in a complex system when efficiency and optimization initiatives are relentlessly applied to the system by its uninformed stewards. As the “slack” is stretched out of the system due to increasing internal pressure, it: 1) loses its robustness to external stressors, 2) the tension between connected nodes increases, and 3) the inter-node couplings harden. At the system breaking point, one or more of the connections crack open, the nodes fly apart, and the conglomeration ceases to function as a whole – a system. I hate when that happens!
It seems that several coaches/gurus/consultants/experts use the term “the team” frequently in discussing their work. AS IF there was one, and only one, team: “let the team decide“, “meet the team’s needs“, etc. In complex orgs, there is NOT solely one team. There are many diverse teams and team types. Thus, as expected, their needs can, and do, clash.
To simplify the ensuing, one-way, BD00-to-you discussion, assume the existence of only three different team types:
Just like an individual must sometimes relinquish/suppress a personal need(s) for the greater good of the team, a particular team type must sometimes eschew one or more of its needs for the greater good of a different team type. In darker times, sometimes ALL teams must sacrifice some of their needs for the greater good of the “whole“. After all, if the “whole” goes bust, then all the teams being sustained by it go bust too. In a robust org, the converse is not true: if one team fails, the org will live on.
Is it possible to simultaneously satisfy every single need of each individual, each team, each team type, and the meta-physical “whole“? Since some idealistic people seem to think so, I suppose so – but I’m highly skeptical. The universe has always been, and always will be, gloriously messy. Because of the unavoidable human diversity residing within and across team types, a delicate give-and-take balancing act is necessary to keep the whole intact. Sometimes I gotta give to you and sometimes I gotta take from you. Sometimes you gotta give to me and sometimes you gotta take from me.
The figure below shows two types of performance evaluation systems; one that measures individual performance and the other which measures team performance.
Even though the figure implies a causal connection between type of measurement system and quality of team output, as usual, I have no idea if a causal relationship exists. I suspect they are statistically correlated though, and the correlation is indeed as shown. I think the system on the left encourages intra-team competition whereas the system on the right catalyzes intra-team cooperation. What do you think?
I really love this elegantly written paragraph by Stewart Brand:
The combination of fast and slow components makes the system resilient, along with the way the differently paced parts affect each other. Fast learns, slow remembers. Fast proposes, slow disposes. Fast is discontinuous, slow is continuous. Fast and small instructs slow and big by accrued innovation and occasional revolution. Slow and big controls small and fast by constraint and constancy. Fast gets all our attention, slow has all the power. All durable dynamic systems have this sort of structure; it is what makes them adaptable and robust. – Clock Of The Long Now – Stewart Brand
If you think about organizations, the people at the bottom of the hierarchy should be the fast components that instruct and inform the slow controlling components at the top, no? However, if those at the top allow, or turn a blind eye to bureaucratic processes and procedures that impede quickness at the bottom, they’re screwing up big time, no? Requiring the builders dwelling in the cellar to jump through multiple, multi-layer review/approval cycles to purchase a 5 dollar part, or go to a conference, or get a custom, but simple, cable built, or add some useful code to a widely used library, can be considered an impediment, no?
Ninety percent of what we call ‘management’ consists of making it difficult for people to get get things done – Peter Drucker
If those at the top of a borg solely concern themselves with “the numbers“, bonuses for themselves, and rubbing elbows with other fellow biggies while the borg’s so-called support groups and middle managers stifle the builders with ever more red tape, then fuggedaboud having any fast components in the house. And if Mr. Brand is right in that resilient, durable, adaptable, learning systems require a mix of fast and slow components, then those at the top deserve the results they get from the unresilient, undurable, unadaptable, and unlearning borg they preside over.