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Hameltonian Gems


Hameltonian == Hamiltonian, get it? I know, I know – that’s the worst free-association joke you’ve ever heard.

When it comes to eloquently cracking good jokes while talking about serious matters, Gary Hamel is right up there with fellow heretical management genius Russell Ackoff. Check out these gems from Mr. Hamel’s latest book, “What Matters Now“:

  • Unfortunately, the groundwater of business is now heavily contaminated with the runoff from morally blinkered egomania.
  • It was a perfect storm of human delinquency. Deceit, hubris, myopia, greed, and denial were all luridly displayed.
  • “ninja” loans (no income, no job, no assets).
  • Among the powerful, blame deflection is a core competence.
  • As ethical truants, big business seems to rank alongside Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan.
  • If life had adhered to Six Sigma rules, we’d still be slime.
  • …they seem to have come from another solar system—one where CFOs are servants rather than gods.
  • …you’d have an easier time getting a date with a supermodel or George Clooney than turning your company into an innovation hottie.
  • Unlike Apple, most companies are long on accountants and short on artists. They are run by executives who know everything about cost and next to nothing about value.

Process, Passion, And Quality


Naive managers (usually those who get drunk on large quantities of 6-sigma, CMMI, ISO-90XX, EVM, and/or PMP kool aid) tend to think of the correlation between process and quality like this:

This cause-effect diagram can be read as “more process imposition leads to more quality; less quality leads to more process imposition“. What’s missing in this simplistic diagram? Could it be something that represents the human element?

In the blarticle, “Process kills developer passion, James Turner writes about the human element of “passion“:

…passionate programmers write great code, but process kills passion. Disaffected programmers write poor code, and poor code makes management add more process in an attempt to “make” their programmers write good code. That just makes morale worse, and so on.

If you believe Mr. Turner, then the cause-effect diagram for process and passion is a self-reinforcing loop that may snuff out passion over time:

So, what about the relationship between passion and quality? I think that many would agree that it is thus:

When we integrate the two models above, we get….

Moving from left to right, and then from right to left we read that:

an increase in process triggers a decrease in passion, which triggers a decrease in quality, which triggers a further decrease in passion, which triggers an increase in process imposition. Round and round we go.

If we assume that “passion” is an integral player in the system, but hide it in the above diagram to simulate a common managerial blindspot, the end to end process-quality cause-effect diagram emerges as:

If we compare this derived result to the first naive manager mental model which doesn’t include the messy “passion” element, what’s the difference?

The New Software Development Certification Fad

September 21, 2010 Leave a comment

I like Alistair Cockburn‘s work, but I’m bummed. He, like fellow agilist Ken Schwaber, is on a certification kick. You know, like the phony belt colors in six sigma and the levels of “assessment” (<– psuedo-certification) in the CMMI and the “highly coveted” ISO-900X certification cartel.

InfoQ: Interview with Alistair Cockburn.

How well do you think certification/assessment systems have really worked to establish high quality products and services coming out of highly credentialed orgs and individuals? All it is to me is another way to extract snake oil money out of struggling orgs. You see, those few orgs that know how to develop high quality, value-added software products don’t need no stinkin’ certs. Those orgs that repeatedly screw up cuz of CCH mismanagement and misalignment need certs to give themselves a false sense of pride and to temporarily cloak their poor performance. However, when the money’s gone, the time’s gone, and the damn thang don’t work, the truth is revealed.

Development And Production

December 4, 2009 1 comment

I think that most people would agree that the development of a product and the production of a product are two different, but complementary processes.  In a production environment, you want to minimize variation. Hence, checklists, step-by-step work instructions, templates, and quantitative statistical control techniques (e.g. six sigma) are the tools of choice for successfully ferreting out and correcting evil sources of variation. In a development environment, you want to be flexible and explore variations so that your products will stand out from your competitor’s. Thus, trying to jam fit successful production environment tools and methods into a development environment is always counterproductive. Yet, in their irrational and continuous quest for certainty, managements everywhere do just that. Handcuffs for everyone – no exceptions allowed.

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