Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness
Are your management practices long in the tooth?
I think I was lucky that early on, I worked in environments that shook things up and rattled the cage in pursuit of more customer impact, employee engagement, and better organizational performance.
In one of the environments, a manufacturing plant, the management team flipped the typical pyramid of the management hierarchy upside down to reflect that the management team is there to empower and support the production line.
And when I was on the Microsoft patterns & practices team, we had an interesting mix of venture capitalist type management coupled with some early grandmasters of the Agile movement. More than just Agile teams, we had an Agile management culture that encouraged a customer-connected approach to product development, complete with self-organizing, multi-disciplinary teams, empowered people, a focus on execution excellence, and a fierce focus on being a rapid learning machine.
We thrived on change.
We also had a relentless focus on innovation. Not just in our product, but in our process. If we didn’t innovate in our process, then we got pushed out of market by becoming too slow, too expensive, or by lacking the quality experience that customers have come to expect.
But not everybody knows what a great environment for helping people thrive and do great things for the world, looks like.
While a lot of people in software or in manufacturing have gotten a taste of Agile and Lean practices, there are many more businesses that don’t know what a modern learning machine of people and processes that operate at a higher-level looks like.
Many, many businesses and people are still operating and looking at the world through the lens of old world management principles.
In the book The Future of Management, Gary Hamel walks through the principles upon which modern management is based.
Hamel gives us a nice way to frame looking at the modern management principles, by looking at their application, and their intended goal.
Via The Future of Management:
Most people aren’t aware of the principles behind the management beliefs that they practice or preach. But before coming up with new ones, it helps to know what current management thinking is rooted in.
“Have you ever asked yourself, what are the deepest principles upon which your management beliefs are based? Probably not. Few executives, in my experience, have given much thought to the foundational principles that underlie their views on how to organize and manage. In that sense, they are as unaware of their management DNA as they are of their biological DNA. So before we set off in search of new management principles, we need to take a moment to understand the principles that comprise our current management genome, and how those tenets may limit organizational performance.”
It really comes down to a handful of core principles. These principles serve as the backbone for much of today’s management philosophy.
“These practices and processes of modern management have been built around a small nucleus of core principles: standardization, specialization, hierarchy, alignment, planning, and control, and the use of extrinsic rewards to shape human behavior.”
It’s not by chance that the early management thinkers came to the same conclusions. They were working on the same problems in a similar context. Of course, the challenge now is that the context has changed, and the early management principles are often like fish out of water.
“These principles were elucidated early in the 20th century by a small band of pioneering management thinkers -- individuals like Henri Fayol, Lyndall Urwick, Luther Gullick, and Max Weber. While each of these theorists had a slightly different take on the philosophical foundations of modern management, they all agreed on the principles just enumerated. This concordance is hardly surprising, since they were all focusing on the same problem: how to maximize operational efficiency and reliability in large-scale organizations. Nearly 100 years on, this is still the only problem that modern management is fully competent to address.”
If your management philosophy and guiding principles are nothing more than a set of hand me downs from previous generations, it might be time for a re-think.
Elizabeth Edersheim on Management Lessons of a Lifelong Student
How Employees Lost Empathy for their Work, for the Customer, and for the Final Product
No Slack = No Innovation
The Drag of Old Mental Models on Innovation and Change
The New Competitive Landscape
The New Realities that Call for New Organizational and Management Capabilities
Who’s Managing Your Company
“In most cases being a good boss means hiring talented people and then getting out of their way.” -- Tina Fey
The Digital Revolution marked the beginning of the Information Age.
The Information Age, or Digital Age, or New Media Age, is a shift away from the industrial revolution to an economy based on information computerization. Some would say, along with this shift, we are now in a Knowledge Economy or a Digital Economy.
This opens the door to new ways of working and a new world of work to generate new business value and customer impact.
But what did the Industrial Age do to employees and what paradigms could limit us in this new world?
In the book The Future of Management, Gary Hamel walks through how industrialization and large Enterprises have created a disconnect between employees and their customers, their final product, and the big financial picture. And in the process, he argues, this had led to disengaged employees, crippled innovation, and inflexible organizations.
If you don’t know Gary Hamel, he’s been ranked the #1 influential business thinker by the Wall Street Journal.
According to Hamel, what we traded for scale and efficiencies created gaps between workers and employees and gaps between employees and their customers, the product, the financial impact, and … a diminished sense of responsibility for quality and efficiency.
Do managers exist because employees do?
“Here's a thought. Maybe we need 'managers' because we have 'employees.' (Be patient, this is not as tautological as it sounds.) Think about the way computers are dependent on software. PCs aren't smart enough to write their own operating instructions, and they sit idle until a user sets them to work. Perhaps the same is true for employees.”
When we manufactured employees, did we manufacture a need for managers?
“Earlier, I talked about the invention of 'the employee.' What happened in this process, at the dawn of the 20th century? How did work life change as individuals left their farms and workshops to be absorbed into large-scale organizations? In manufacturing employees, did we manufacture a need for managers as well? I think so. If we understood how this came about, we will gain clues into how we might learn to manage without managers -- or, at least, with a lot fewer of them.”
As the size and scale of industrial organizations grew, so did the disconnect between employees and their final customers.
“In pre-industrial times, farmers and artisans enjoyed an intimate relationship with their customers. The feedback they received each day from their patrons was timely and unfiltered. Yet as industrial organizations grew in size and scale, millions of employees found themselves disconnected from the final customer. Robbed of direct feedback, they were compelled to rely on others who were closer to the customer to calibrate the effectiveness of their efforts and to tell them how they could better please their clients.”
Without a connection to the customer, employees lose empathy for their work, for the customer, and for the final product.
“As companies divided themselves into departments and functions, employees also became disconnected from the final product. As tasks became narrower and more specialized, employees lost their emotional bond with the end product. The result? A diminished sense of responsibility for producer quality and efficiency. No longer were workers product craftsmen, now they were cogs in an industrial machine over which they had little control.”
It’s hard to make changes to the system when you no longer have a system wide view.
“Size and scale also separate employees from their coworkers. Working in semi-isolated departments, they no longer had a system wide view of the production process. If that system was suboptimal, they had no way of knowing it and now way of correcting it.”
People at the top don’t hear from the people at the bottom.
“Industrialization also enlarged the gulf between workers and owners. While a 19th-century apprentice would have had the ear of the proprietor, most 20th-century employees reported to low-level supervisors. In a large enterprise a junior employee could work for decades and never have the chance to speak one-on-one with someone empowered to make important policy decisions.”
Scoreboards tell employees how they are doing their jobs, but not how the company is doing overall.
“In addition, growing operational complexity fractured the information that was available to employees. In a small proprietorship, the financial scoreboard was simple and real time; there was little mystery about how the firm was doing. In a big industrial company, employees had a scoreboard but it was contrived. It told workers how they were doing their jobs, but little about how the company was doing overall. With no more than a knothole view of the company's financial model, and only a sliver of responsibility for results, it was difficult for an employee to feel a genuine burden for the company's performance.”
Standardizing jobs and processes limits innovation in the jobs and processes. They are at odds.
“Finally, and worst of all, industrialization disconnected employees from their own creativity. In the industrial world, work methods and procedures were defined by experts and, once defined, were not easily altered. No matter how creative an employee might be, the scope for exercising that gift was severely truncated.”
With the disconnect between employees and their inputs, there was a natural need for the management class.
“To put it simply, the pursuit of scale and efficiency advantages disconnected workers from the essential inputs that had, in earlier times, allowed them to be (largely) self-managing -- and in so doing, it made the growth on an expansive managerial class inevitable.”
Employees don’t lack wisdom and experience. They just lack information and context.
“To a large extent, employees need managers for the same reason 13-year-olds need parents: they are incapable of self-regulation. Adolescents, with their hormone-addled brains and limited lie experience, lack the discernment to make consistently wise choices. Employees on the other hand, aren't short of wisdom and experience, but they do lack information and context -- since they are so often disconnected from customers, associates, end products, owners, and the big financial picture. Deprived of the ability to exercise control from within, employees must accept control from above. The result: disaffection. It turns out that employees enjoy being treated like 13-year-olds even less than 13-year-olds.”
What is the result of all this disconnect? Stifled innovation, rigid organizations, and disinterested employees.
“Disengaged employees. Hamstrung innovation. Inflexible organizations. Although we are living in a new century, we are still plagued by the side effects of a management model that invented roughly a hundred years ago. Yet history doesn't have to be destiny -- not if you are willing to go back and reassess the time-forgotten choices that so many others still take for granted. With the benefit of hindsight, you can ask: How have circumstances changed? Are new approaches possible? Must we be bound by the shackles of the past? These are essential questions for every management innovator.”
Does history have to be destiny?
We’re writing new chapters of history each and every day.
In all of my experience, where I’ve seen productivity thrive, people shine, and innovation unleashed, it’s when employees are connected with customers, they are empowered and encouraged to make changes to processes and products, and they are part of a learning organization with rapid feedback loops.
Ability to Execute
Business Value Generation is the New Bottleneck
How We Adhered to the Agile Manifesto on the Microsoft patterns & practices Team
Why So Many Ideas Die or Don’t Get Adopted
I updated my Motivational Quotes page.
I’ve got more than 100 motivational quotes on the page to help you find your inner-fire.
It’s not your ordinary motivational quotes list.
It’s deep and it draws from several masters of inspiration including Bruce Lee, Jim Rohn, and Zig Ziglar.
Here is a sampling of some of my personal favorite motivational quotes ..
“If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” – Bruce Lee
“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“Kites rise highest against the wind; not with it.” – Winston Churchill
“To hell with circumstances; I create opportunities.” – Bruce Lee
“Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.” – Confucius
“There is no such thing as failure. There are only results.” – Tony Robbins
“When it’s time to die, let us not discover that we have never lived.” -Henry David Thoreau
“People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.” – Anonymous
“Motivation alone is not enough. If you have an idiot and you motivate him, now you have a motivated idiot.” – Jim Rohn
“If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.” – Bruce Lee
For more quotes, check out my motivational quotes page.
It’s a living page and at some point I’ll do a complete revamp.
I think in the future I’ll organize it by sub-categories within motivation rather than by people.I think at the time it made sense to have words of wisdom by various folks, but now I think grouping motivational quotes by sub-categories would work much better, especially when there is such a large quantity of quotes.
"To accomplish great things we must dream as well as act." -- Anatole France
Innovation is the way to leap frog and create new ways to do things better, faster, and cheaper.
But it takes slack.
The problem is when you squeeze the goose, to get the golden egg, you lose the slack that creates the eggs in the first place.
In the book The Future of Management, Gary Hamel shares how when there is a lack of slack, there is no innovation.
Creativity unleashes productivity. And it takes time to unleash creativity. But the big bold bet is that the time you give to creativity and innovation, pays you back with new opportunities and new ways to do things better, faster, or cheaper.
“In the pursuit of efficiency, companies have wrung a lot of slack out of their operations. That's a good thing. No one can argue with the goal of cutting inventory levels, reducing working capital, and slashing over-head. The problem, though, is that if you wring all the slack out of a company, you'll wring out all of the innovation as well. Innovation takes time -- time to dream, time to reflect, time to learn, time to invent, and time to experiment. And it takes uninterrupted time -- time when you can put your feet up and stare off into space. As Pekka Himanen put it in his affectionate tribute to hackers, '... the information economy's most important source of productivity is creativity, and it is not possible to create interesting things in a constant hurry or in a regulated way from nine to five.'”
Without think time, creativity lives in a cave.
“While the folks in R&D and new product development are given time to innovate, most employees don't enjoy this luxury. Every day brings a barrage of e-mails, voice mails, and back-to-back meetings. In this world, where the need to be 'responsive' fragments human attention into a thousand tiny shards, there is no 'thinking time.' And therein lies the problem. However creative your colleagues may be, if they don't have the right to occasionally abandon their posts and work on something that's not mission critical, most of their creativity will remain dormant.”
If you want more innovation, make space for it.
“OK, you already know that -- but how is that knowledge reflected in your company's management processes? How hard is it for a frontline employee to get permission to spend 20 percent of her time working on a project that has nothing to do with her day job, nor your company's 'core businesses'? And how often does this happen? Does your company track the number of hours employees spend working on ideas that are incidental to their core responsibilities? Is 'slack' institutionalized in the same way that cost efficiency is? Probably not. There are plenty of incentives in your company for people to stay busy. ('Maybe if I look like I'm working flat out, they won't send my job offshore.') But where are the incentives that encourage people to spend time quietly dreaming up the future?”
Are you slacking your way to a better future?
If you want to change your game, you need to know what the key challenges are.
Innovation is a game that you can play much better, if you know where and how to debottleneck it.
In the book The Future of Management, Gary Hamel shares 3 challenges that he believes can help you unleash your organization’s capacity for innovation.
According to Hamel, "Make progress on these challenges and your company will set new benchmarks in innovation."
If I think back through the various teams I’ve been on at Microsoft, one team that I was on was especially good at helping innovation flourish, and we were constantly pushing the envelope to “be what’s next.” Our innovation flourished the most when we directly addressed the challenges above. People were challenged to share and test their ideas more freely and innovation was baked into how we planned our portfolio, programs, and projects.
Innovation was a first-class citizen – by design.
High-Leverage Strategies for Innovation
Innovation Life Cycle
Lessons Learned from the Most Successful Innovators
“Do one thing every day that scares you.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt
I did a deep dive book review.
This time, I reviewed Fearless Speaking.
The book is more than meets the eye.
It’s actually a wealth of personal development skills at your fingertips and it’s a powerful way to grow your personal leadership skills.
In fact, there are almost fifty exercises throughout the book.
Here’s an example of one of the techniques …
When you’re overly nervous and anxious as a public speaker, you place yourself in a ‘third degree’ spotlight. That’s the name for the harsh bright light police detectives use in days gone by to ‘sweat’ a suspect and elicit a confession. An interrogation room was always otherwise dimly lit, so the source of light trained on the person (who was usually forced to sit in a hard straight backed chair) was unrelenting.
This spotlight is always harsh, hot, and uncomfortable – and the truth is, you voluntarily train it on yourself by believing your audience is unforgiving. The larger the audience, the more likely you believe that to be true.
So here’s a technique to get out from under this hot spotlight that you’re imagining so vividly turn it around! Visualize swiveling the spotlight so it’s aimed at your audience instead of you. After all, aren’t you supposed to illuminate your listeners? You don’t want to leave them in the dark, do you?
There’s no doubt that it’s cooler and much more comfortable when you’re out under that harsh light. The added benefit is that now the light is shining on your listeners – without question the most important people in the room or auditorium!
I like that there are so many exercises and techniques to choose from. Many of them don’t fit my style, but there were several that exposed me to new ways of thinking and new ideas to try.
And what’s especially great is knowing that these exercise come from professional actors and speakers – it’s like an insider’s guide at your fingertips.
My book review on Fearless Speaking includes a list of all the exercises, the chapters at a glance, key features from the book, and a few of my favorite highlights from the book (sort of like a movie trailer for the book.)
7 Habits of Highly Effective People at a Glance
347 Personal Effectiveness Articles to Help You Change Your Game
Effectiveness Blog Post Roundup
“Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.” — Howard Aiken
It's not a lack of risk taking that holds innovation and change back.
Even big companies take big risks all the time.
The real barrier to innovation and change is the drag of old mental models.
People end up emotionally invested in their ideas, or they are limited by their beliefs or their world views. They can't see what's possible with the lens they look through, or fear and doubt hold them back. In some cases, it's even learned helplessness.
In the book The Future of Management, Gary Hamel shares some great insight into what holds people and companies back from innovation and change.
Yesterday's ideas that were profoundly at odds with what is generally accepted, eventually become the norm, and then eventually become a belief system that is tough to change.
“Innovators are, by nature, contrarians. Trouble is, yesterday's heresies often become tomorrow's dogmas, and when they do, innovation stalls and the growth curve flattens out.”
Success turns beliefs into barriers by cementing ideas that become inflexible to change.
“... the real barrier to strategic innovation is more than denial -- it's a matrix of deeply held beliefs about the inherent superiority of a business model, beliefs that have been validated by millions of customers; beliefs that have been enshrined in physical infrastructure and operating handbooks; beliefs that have hardened into religious convictions; beliefs that are held so strongly, that nonconforming ideas seldom get considered, and when they do, rarely get more than grudging support.”
Big companies take big risks every day. But the risks are scoped and constrained by old beliefs and the way things have always been done.
“Contrary to popular mythology, the thing that most impedes innovation in large companies is not a lack of risk taking. Big companies take big, and often imprudent, risks every day. The real brake on innovation is the drag of old mental models. Long-serving executives often have a big chunk of their emotional capital invested in the existing strategy. This is particularly true for company founders. While many start out as contrarians, success often turns them into cardinals who feel compelled to defend the one true faith. It's hard for founders to credit ideas that threaten the foundations of the business models they invented. Understanding this, employees lower down self-edit their ideas, knowing that anything too far adrift from conventional thinking won't win support from the top. As a result, the scope of innovation narrows, the risk of getting blindsided goes up, and the company's young contrarians start looking for opportunities elsewhere.”
When you want to change the world, sometimes it takes a new view, and existing world views get in the way.
“When it comes to innovation, a company's legacy beliefs are a much bigger liability than its legacy costs. Yet in my experience, few companies have a systematic process for challenging deeply held strategic assumptions. Few have taken bold steps to open up their strategy process to contrarian points of view. Few explicitly encourage disruptive innovation. Worse, it's usually senior executives, with their doctrinaire views, who get to decide which ideas go forward and which get spiked. This must change.”
What you see, or can’t see, changes everything.
“The only people who can change the world are people who want to. And not everybody does.” -- Hugh MacLeod
Is it just me or is the world changing faster than ever?
I hear from everybody around me (inside and outside of Microsoft) how radically their worlds are changing under their feet, business models are flipped on their heads, and the game of generating new business value for customers is at an all-time competitive high.
Challenge is where growth and greatness come from. It’s always a chance to test what we’re capable of and respond to whatever gets thrown our way. But first, it helps to put a finger on what exactly these changes are that are disrupting our world, and what to focus on to survive and thrive.
In the book The Future of Management, Gary Hamel shares some great insight into the key challenges that companies are facing that create even more demand for management innovation.
I think Hamel describes our new world pretty well …
So how do you respond to the challenges. Hamel says it takes becoming strategically adaptable and operationally efficient. What a powerful combo.
“These new realities call for new organizational and managerial capabilities. To thrive in an increasingly disruptive world, companies must become as strategically adaptable as they are operationally efficient. To safeguard their margins, they must become gushers of rule-breaking innovation. And if they're going to out-invent and outthink a growing mob of upstarts, they must learn how to inspire their employees to give the very best of themselves every day. These are the challenges that must be addressed by 21st-century management innovations.”
There are plenty of challenges. It’s time to get your greatness on.
If there ever was a chance to put to the test what you’re capable of, now is the time.
No matter what, as long as you live and learn, you’ll grow from the process.
Simplicity is the Ultimate Enabler
One of the best books I’m reading lately is The Future of Management, by Gary Hamel.
It’s all about how management innovation is the best competitive advantage, whether you look through the history of great businesses or the history of great militaries. Hamel makes a great case that strategic innovation, product or service innovation, and operational innovation are fleeting advantages, but management innovation leads to competitive advantage for the long haul.
In The Future of Management, Hamel poses a powerful question …
“Who is managing your company?”
“Who's managing your company? You might be tempted to answer, 'the CEO,' or 'the executive team,' or 'all of us in middle management.' And you'd be right, but that wouldn't be the whole truth. To a large extent, your company is being managed right now by a small coterie of long-departed theorists and practitioners who invented the rules and conventions of 'modern' management back in the early years of the 20th century. They are the poltergeists who inhabit the musty machinery of management. It is their edicts, echoing across the decades, that invisibly shape the way your company allocates resources, sets budgets, distributes power, rewards people, and makes decisions.”
That’s why it’s easy for CEOs to hop around companies …
“So pervasive is the influence of these patriarchs that the technology of management varies only slightly from firm to firm. Most companies have a roughly similar management hierarchy (a cascade of EVPs, SVPs, and VPs). They have analogous control systems, HR practices, and planning rituals, and rely on comparable reporting structures and review systems. That's why it's so easy for a CEO to jump from one company to another -- the levers and dials of management are more or less the same in every corporate cockpit.”
What really struck me here is how much management approach has been handed down through the ages, and accepted as status quo.
It’s some great good for thought, especially given that management innovation is THE most powerful form of competitive advantage from an innovation standpoint (which Hamel really builds a strong case here throughout the entirety of the book.)
Principles and Values Define a Culture
The Enterprise of the Future
Cognizant on The Next Generation Enterprise
Satya Nadella on the Future is Software
Actually, it's more than 100 articles for your mind. I've tagged my articles with "mind" on Sources of Insight that focus on increasing your "intellectual horsepower":
Articles on Mind Power and the Power of Thoughts
Here are a few of the top mind articles that you can quickly get results with:
Note that if reading faster is important to you, then I recommend also reading How To Read 10,000 Words a Minute (it’s my ultimate edge) and The Truth About Speed Reading.
If there’s one little trick I use with reading (whether it’s a book, an email, or whatever), I ask myself “what’s the insight?” or “what’s the action?” or “how can I use this?" You’d be surprised but just asking yourself those little focusing questions can help you parse down cluttered content fast and find the needles in the haystack.
“Quality begins on the inside... then works its way out.” -- Bob Moawad
Quality is value to someone.
Quality is relative.
Quality does not exist in a non-human vacuum.
Who is the person behind a statement about quality?
Who’s requirements count the most?
What are people willing to pay or do to have their requirements met?
Quality can be elusive if you don’t know how to find it, or you don’t know where to look. Worse, even when you know where to look, you need to know how to manage the diversity of conflicting views.
On a good note, Agile practices and an Agile approach can help you surface and tackle quality in a tractable and pragmatic way.
In the book Agile Impressions, by “the grandfather of Agile Programming”, Jerry Weinberg shares insights and lessons learned around the relativity of quality and how to make decisions about quality more explicit and transparent.
Here are some conflicting ideas about what constitutes software quality, according to Weinberg:
“Zero defects is high quality.” “Lots of features is high quality.” Elegant coding is high quality.” “High performance is high quality.” ”Low development cost is high quality.” “Rapid development is high quality.” “User-friendliness is high quality.”
There are always trade-offs. It can be a game of robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Via Agile Impressions:
“Recognizing the relativity of quality often resolves the semantic dilemma. This is a monumental contribution, but it still does not resolve the political dilemma: More quality for one person may mean less quality for another.”
“The reason for my dilemma lies in the relativity of quality. As the MiniCozy story crisply illustrates, what is adequate quality to one person may be inadequate quality to another.”
“If you examine various definitions of quality, you will always find this relativity. You may have to examine with care, though, for the relativity is often hidden, or at best, implicit.
In short, quality does not exist in a non-human vacuum, but every statement about quality is a statement about some person(s). That statement may be explicit or implicit. Most often, the “who” is implicit, and statements about quality sound like something Moses brought down from Mount Sinai on a stone tablet. That’s why so many discussions of software quality are unproductive: It’s my stone tablet versus your Golden Calf.”
The way to have more productive conversations about quality is to find out who is the person behind a specific statement about quality.
“When we encompass the relativity of quality, we have a tool to make those discussions more fruitful. Each time somebody asserts a definition of software quality, we simply ask, “Who is the person behind that statement about quality.”
Whose requirements count the most?
“The political/emotional dimension of quality is made evident by a somewhat different definition of quality. The idea of ‘requirements’ is a bit too innocent to be useful in this early stage, because it says nothing about whose requirements count the most. A more workable definition would be this:
‘Quality is value to some person.’
By ‘value,’ I mean, ‘What are people willing to pay (do) to have their requirements met.’ Suppose, for instance, that Terra were not my niece, but the niece of the president of the MiniCozy Software Company. Knowing MiniCozy’s president’s reputation for impulsive emotional action, the project manager might have defined “quality” of the word processor differently. In that case, Terra’s opinion would have been given high weight in the decision about which faults to repair.”
Quality is a human thing.
“In short, the definition of ‘quality’ is always political and emotional, because it always involves a series of decisions about whose opinions count, and how much they count relative to one another. Of course, much of the time these political/emotional decisions– like all important political/emotional decisions–are hidden from public view. Most of us software people like to appear rational. That’s why very few people appreciate the impact of this definition of quality on the Agile approaches.”
Open processes and transparency can help arrive at a better quality bar.
“What makes our task even more difficult is that most of the time these decisions are hidden even from the conscious minds of the persons who make them. That’s why one of the most important actions of an Agile team is bringing such decisions into consciousness, if not always into public awareness. And that’s why development teams working with an open process (like Agile) are more likely to arrive at a more sensible definition of quality than one developer working alone. To me, I don’t consider Agile any team with even one secret component.”
The quality of your product will be gated by the quality of your representation.
“Customer support is another emphasis in Agile processes, and this definition of quality guides the selection of the ‘customers.’ To put it succinctly, the ‘ customer’ must actively represent all of the significant definitions of ‘quality.’ Any missing component of quality may very likely lead to a product that’s deficient in that aspect of quality.”
It’s faster and far more efficient to ignore people and get your software done. But it’s far less effective. Your amplify your effectiveness for addressing quality by involving the right people, in the right way, at the right time. That’s how you change your quality game.
“As a consultant to supposedly Agile teams, I always examine whether or not they have active participation of a suitable representation of diverse views of their product’s quality. If they tell me, “We can be more agile if we don’t have to bother satisfying so many people, then they may indeed by agile, but they’re definitely not Agile.”
I’ve learned a lot about quality over the years. Many of Jerry Weinberg’s observations and insights match what I’ve experienced across various projects, products, and efforts. The most important thing I’ve learned is how much value is in the eye of the beholder and the stakeholder and that quality is something that you directly impact by having the right views involved throughout the process.
Quality is not something you can bolt on or something that you can patch.
While you can certainly improve things, so much of quality starts up front with vision and views of the end in mind.
You might even say that quality is a learning process of realizing the end in mind.
For me, quality is a process of vision + rapid learning loops to iterate my way through the jungle of conflicting and competing views and viewpoints, while brining people along the journey.
I heard a colleague make a great comment today …
“Data science is the art of asking better questions.
It’s not the art of finding a solution … the data keeps evolving.”
"All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved." -- Sun Tzu
If it feels like strategy cycles are shrinking, they are.
If it feels like competition is even more intense, it is.
If it feels like you are balancing between competing in the world and collaborating with the world, you are.
In the book, The Future of Management, Gary Hamel and Bill Breen share a great depiction of this new world of competition and the emerging business landscape.
Strategy cycles are shrinking and innovation is the only effective response.
“In a world where strategy life cycles are shrinking, innovation is the only way a company can renew its lease on success. It's also the only way it can survive in a world of bare-knuckle competition.”
What previously kept people out of the game, no longer works.
“In decades past, many companies were insulated from the fierce winds of Schumpeterian competition. Regulatory barriers, patent protection, distribution monopolies, disempowered customers, proprietary standards, scale advantages, import protection, and capital hurdles were bulwarks that protected industry incumbents from the margin-crushing impact of Darwinian competition. Today, many of the fortifications are collapsing.”
Any startup can reach the world, without having to build their own massive data center to do so.
“Deregulation and trade liberalization are reducing the barriers to entry in industries as diverse as banking, air transport, and telecommunications. The power of the Web means upstarts no longer have to build a global infrastructure to reach a worldwide market. This has allowed companies like Google, eBay, and My Space to scale their businesses freakishly fast.”
There are global resource pools of top talent available to startups.
“The disintegration of large companies, via deverticalization and outsourcing has also helped new entrants. In turning out more and more of their activities to third-party contractors, incumbents have created thousands of 'arms suppliers' that are willing to sell their services to anyone. By tapping into this global supplier base of designers, brand consultants, and contract manufacturers, new entrants can emerge from the womb nearly full-grown.”
With smarter consumers and ultra-low-cost competition, it’s tough to compete.
“Incumbents must also contend with a growing horde of ultra-low-cost competitors - companies like Huawei, the Chinese telecom equipment maker that pays its engineers a starting salary of just $8,500 per year. Not all cut-price competition comes from China and India. Ikea, Zara, Ryanair, and AirAsia are just a few of the companies that have radically reinvented industry cost structures. Web-empowered customers are also hammering down margins. Before the Internet, most consumers couldn't be sure whether they were getting the best deal on their home mortgage, credit card debt, or auto laon. This lack of enlightenment buttressed margins. But consumers are becoming less ignorant by the day. One U.K. Web site encourages customers to enter the details of their most-used credit cards, including current balances, and then shows them exactly how much they will save by switching to a card with better payment terms. In addition, the Internet is zeroing-out transaction costs. The commissions earned by market makers of all kinds -- dealers, brokers, and agents -- are falling off a cliff, or soon will be.”
You can build your own fan base and reach the world.
“Distribution monopolies -- another source of friction -- are under attack. Unlike the publishers of newspapers and magazines, bloggers don't need a physical distribution network to reach their readers. Similarly, new bands don't have to kiss up to record company reps when they can build a fan base via social networking sites like MySpace.”
Customers have a lot more choice and power now.
“Collapsing entry barriers, hyper efficient competitors, customer power -- these forces will be squeezing margins for years to come. In this harsh new world, every company will be faced with a stark choice: either set the fires of innovation ablaze, or be ready to scrape out a mean existence in a world where seabed labor costs are the only difference between making money and going bust.”
What’s the solution?
Innovation is the way to play, and it’s the way to stay in the game.
Innovation is how you reinvent your success, reimagine a new future, and change what your capable of, to compete more effectively in today’s ever-changing world.
4 Stages of Market Maturity
Brand is the Ultimate Differentiator
If You Can Differentiate, You Have a Competitive Monopoly
Time really is the great equalizer.
I was reading an article by Dr. Donald E. Wemore, a time management specialist, and here’s what he had to say:
"Time is the great equalizer for all of us. We all have 24 hours in a day, 7 days a week, yielding 168 hours per week. Take out 56 hours for sleep (we do spend about a third of our week dead) and we are down to 112 hours to achieve all the results we desire. We cannot save time (ever have any time left over on a Sunday night that you could lop over to the next week?); it can only be spent. And there are only two ways to spend our time: we can spend it wisely, or, not so wisely."
And what’s his recommendation to manage time better?
Work smarter, not harder.
In my experience, that’s the only approach that works.
If you find yourself struggling too much, there’s a good chance your time management strategies are off.
Don’t keep throwing time and energy at things if it’s not working.
Change your approach.
The fastest thing you can change in any situation is you.
7 Days of Agile Results: A Time Management Boot Camp for Productivity on Fire
10 Big Ideas from Getting Results the Agile Way
Productivity on Fire
Well, she wasn’t my grandmother, but you get the idea.
I was trying to explain to somebody that’s in a very different job, what my job is all about.
Here’s what I said …
As far as my day job, I do complex, complicated things.
I'm in the business of business transformation.
I help large Enterprises get ahead in the world through technology and innovation.
I help Enterprises change their capabilities -- their business capabilities, technology capabilities, and people capabilities.
It’s all about capabilities.
This involves figuring out their current state, their desired future state, the gaps between, the ROI of addressing the gaps, and then a Roadmap for making it happen.
The interesting thing I've learned though is how much business transformation applies to personal transformation.
It's all about figuring out your unique service and contribution to the world -- your unique value -- and then optimizing your strengths to realize your potential and do what you do best in a way that's valued -- where you can both generate value, as well as capture the value -- and lift the world to a better place.
Interestingly, she said she got it, it made sense, and it sounds inspiring.
What a relief.
I gave an Introduction to Agile talk recently:
Introduction to Agile Presentation (Slideshow)
I kept it focused on three simple things:
The big take away that I wanted the audience to have was that it’s a journey, but a very powerful one.
It’s a very healthy way to create an organization that embraces agility, empowers people, and ship stuff that customers care about.
In fact, the most powerful aspect of going Agile is that you create a learning organization.
The system and ecosystem you are in can quickly improve if you simply embrace change and focus on learning as a way of driving both continues improvement as well as growing capability.
So many things get a lot better over time, if they get a little better every day.
This was actually my first real talk on Agile and Agile development. I’ve done lots of talks on Getting Results the Agile Way, and lots of other topics from security to performance to application architecture to team development and the Cloud. But this was the first time a group asked me to share what I learned from Agile development in patterns & practices.
It was actually fun.
As part of the talk, I shared some of my favorite take aways and insights from the Agile World.
I’ll be sure to share some of these insights in future posts.
For now, if there is one thing to take away, it’s a reminder from David Anderson (Agile Management):
“Don’t do Agile. Embrace agility.”
Way to be.
I shared my slides on SlideShare at Introduction to Agile Presentation (Slides) to help you learn the language, draw the visuals, and spread the word.
I’ll try to share more of my slides in the future, now that SlideShare seems to be a bit more robust.
Don’t Push Agile, Pull It
Extreme Programing at a Glance (Visual)
Scrum at a Glance (Visual)
Waterfall to Agile
What is Agile?
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” – Albert Einstein
Simplicity is among the ultimate of pursuits. It’s one of your most efficient and effective tools in your toolbox. I used simplicity as the basis for my personal results system, Agile Results, and it’s served me well for more than a decade.
And yet, simplicity still isn’t treated as a first-class citizen.
It’s almost always considered as an afterthought. And, by then, it’s too little, too late.
In the book, Simple Architectures for Complex Enterprises (Developer Best Practices), Roger Sessions shares his insights on how simplicity is the ultimate enabler to solving the myriad of problems that complexity creates.
Simplicity is the only thing that actually works.
Via Simple Architectures for Complex Enterprises (Developer Best Practices):
“So yes, the problems are complex. But complex problems do not ipso facto require complex solutions. Au contraire! The basic premise of this book is that simple solutions are the only solutions to complex problems that work. The complex solutions are simply too complex.”
It sounds obvious but it’s true. You can’t solve a problem with the same complexity that got you there in the first place.
“The antidote to complexity is simplicity. Replace complexity with simplicity and the battle is three-quarters over. Of course, replacing complexity with simplicity is not necessarily simple.”
If you want to achieve simplicity, you first have to explicitly focus on it as a core value.
“The first thing you need to do to achieve simplicity is focus on simplicity as a core value. We all discuss the importance of agility, security, performance, and reliability of IT systems as if they are the most important of all requirements. We need to hold simplicity to as high a standard as we hold these other features. We need to understand what makes architectures simple with as much critical reasoning as we use to understand what makes architectures secure, fast, or reliable. In fact, I argue that simplicity is not merely the equal of these other characteristics; it is superior to all of them. It is, in many ways, the ultimate enabler.”
Complex systems work against security.
“Take security for example. Simple systems that lack security can be made secure. Complex systems that appear to be secure usually aren't. And complex systems that aren't secure are virtually impossible to make either simple or secure.”
Complexity works against agility, and agility is the key to lasting solutions.
“Consider agility. Simple systems, with their well-defined and minimal interactions, can be put together in new ways that were never considered when these systems were first created. Complex systems can never used in an agile way. They are simply too complex. And, of course, retrospectively making them simple is almost impossible.”
And that’s the problem.
“Yet, despite the importance of simplicity as a core system requirement, simplicity is almost never considered in architectural planning, development, or reviews. I recently finished a number of speaking engagements. I spoke to more than 100 enterprise architects, CIOs, and CTOs spanning many organizations and countries. In each presentation, I asked if anybody in the audience had ever considered simplicity as a critical architectural feature for any projects on which they had participated. Not one person had. Ever.”
Simplicity is a quest. And the quest is never over. Simplicity is a ongoing pursuit and it’s a dynamic one. It’s not a one time event, and it’s not static.
“The quest for simplicity is never over. Even systems that are designed from the beginning with simplicity in mind (rare systems, indeed!) will find themselves under a never-ending attack. A quick tweak for performance here, a quick tweak for interoperability there, and before you know it, a system that was beautifully simple two years ago has deteriorated into a mass of incomprehensibility.”
Simplicity is your ultimate sword for hacking your way through complexity … in work … in life … in systems … and ecosystems.
Wield it wisely.
10 Ways to Make Information More Useful
Reduce Complexity, Cost, and Time
Simple Enterprise Strategy
“Chance favors the prepared mind.” - Louis Pasteur
Are you feeling lucky?
If you’re an engineer or a developer, you’ll appreciate the idea that you can design for luck, or stack the deck in your favor.
How do you do this?
As Harry Golden said, "The only thing that overcomes hard luck is hard work."
While I believe in hard work, I also believe in working smarter.
Luck is the same game.
It’s a game of skill.
And, success is a numbers game.
You have to stay in long enough to get “lucky” over time. That means finding a sustainable approach and using a sustainable system. It means avoiding going all in without testing your assumptions and reducing the risk out of it. It means taking emotion out of the equation, taking calculated risks, minimizing your exposure, and focusing on skills.
That’s why Agile methods and Lean approaches can help you outpace your failures.
Because they are test-driven and focus on continuous learning.
And because they focus on capacity and capability versus burnout or blowup.
So if you aren’t feeling the type of luck you’d like to see more of in your life, go back to the basics, and design for it.
They funny thing about luck is that the less you depend on it, the more of it you get.
BTW – Agile Results and Getting Results the Agile Way continue to help people “get lucky.” Recently, I heard a story where a social worker shared Getting Results the Agile Way with two girls living off the streets. They are off drugs now, have jobs, and are buying homes. I’m not doing the story justice, but it’s great to hear about people turning their lives around and these kinds of life changing things that a simple system for meaningful results can help achieve.
It’s not luck.
It’s desire, determination, and effective strategies applied in a sustainable way.
The Agile way.
“Each of the practices still has the same weaknesses as before, but what if those weaknesses were now made up for by the strengths of other practices? We might be able to get away with doing things simply." – Kent Beck
Extreme Programming (XP) has been around a while, but not everybody knows “what it looks like.”
What does it look like when you step back and take the balcony view and observe the flow of things?
It might look a bit like this …
I put this view together to help some folks get an idea of what the “system” sort of looks like. It didn’t need to be perfect, but they needed at least a baseline idea or skeleton so they could better understand how the various practices fit together.
The beauty is that once you put a simple picture up on the whiteboard, then you can have real discussions with the team about where things can be improved. Once again, a picture is worth 1,000 words.
For reference, here are the 12 Practices of Extreme Programming
The main idea here is to get simple visuals in your mind that you can easily draw on a whiteboard, and know the names of the various activities and artifacts.
If you nail this down, it helps you build a simple vocabulary.
This vocabulary will help you get others on board faster, and it will help you expand your own toolbox at a rapid rate, and you’ll soon find yourself composing new methods and creating interesting innovations in your process that will help you do things better, faster, and cheaper … on Cloud time.
4 Circles of XP (Extreme Programming)
Extreme Programming at a Glance
Roles on Agile Teams
“Becoming limitless involves mental agility; the ability to quickly grasp and incorporate new ideas and concepts with confidence.” -- Lorii Myers
I was asked to give an Intro to Agile talk to a group in Microsoft, in addition to a talk on Getting Results the Agile Way.
It worked out well.
The idea was to do a level set and get everybody on the same page in terms of what Agile is.
I thought it was a great chance to build a shared vocabulary and establish some shared mental models. I believe that when people have a shared vocabulary and common mental models, they can take a look from the balcony. And, it makes it a lot easier to move up the chain and take things further, faster.
Anyway, here is how I summarized what Agile is:
That said, I need to find something a bit more pithy and precise, yet insightful.
If I had to put it in a simple sentence, I’d say Agile is empowerment through flexibility.
One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that some people struggle when they try to go Agile.
They struggle because they can’t seem to “flip a switch.” And if they don’t flip the switch, they don’t change their mindset.
And, if they don’t change their mindset, Agile remains just beyond their grasp.
Agile is like happiness, grow it right under your feet.
40 Hour Work Week at Microsoft
I thought I had written about “Why Agile” before, but I don’t see anything crisp enough.
Anyway, here’s my latest rundown on Why Agile?
Remember that nature favors the flexible and agility is the key to success.
Agile vs. Waterfall
Agile Life-Cycle Frame
Methodologies at a Glance
The Art of the Agile Retrospective
“Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.” -- William Pollard
The Internet of Things is hot. But it’s more than a trend. It’s a new way of life (and business.)
It’s transformational in every sense of the word (and world.)
A colleague shared some of their most interesting finds with me, and one of them is:
Capitalizing on the Internet of Things: How To Succeed in a Connected World
Here are my key take aways:
It’s a fast read, with nice and tight insight … my kind of style.
E-Shaped People, Not T-Shaped
Trends for 2014
I’ve shared a Scrum Flow at a Glance before, but it was not visual.
I think it’s helpful to know how to whiteboard a simple view of an approach so that everybody can quickly get on the same page.
Here is a simple visual of Scrum:
There are a lot of interesting tools and concepts in scrum. The definitive guide on the roles, events, artifacts, and rules is The Scrum Guide, by Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber.
I like to think of Scrum as an effective Agile project management framework for shipping incremental value. It works by splitting big teams into smaller teams, big work into smaller work, and big time blocks into smaller time blocks.
I try to keep whiteboard visuals pretty simple so that they are easy to do on the fly, and so they are easy to modify or adjust as appropriate.
I find the visual above is pretty helpful for getting people on the same page pretty fast, to the point where they can go deeper and ask more detailed questions about Scrum, now that they have the map in mind.
Scrum Flow at a Glance
As I help more people go Agile, I try to simplify the most important concepts.
For me, one of the most important changes in Agile is what it means to the product development cycle.
I think a picture is worth a 1,000 words. I’ve put together a couple of simple visuals to show what it means to go from a Waterfall development approach to an Agile development approach.
Contrast the Waterfall Model with the Agile Model:
With these visuals, I attempted to show a couple of key ideas:
If you need to keep up with the pace of change, deal with changing requirements, keep up with user demands, while shipping value faster, Agile might be what you’re looking for.
At Microsoft, it’s a high-performance culture. There are high-expectations as well as regular one-on-ones, ongoing feedback, training and development opportunities, mentoring, performance reviews, and more.
To keep up with the game, you need a combination of learning proven practices for personal effectiveness, as well as high-performance team techniques.
The reality is. the more self-awareness you have, the more you can contribute to creating a high-performance team. For example, if you know your strengths, and you can figure out how to help the team see how they can leverage your unique strengths, you become a force multiplier.
When it comes to being your own force multiplier, sometimes the most important thing to do, is to first get out of your own way. It’s very easy to water down your results by going against your own grain, and not taking advantage of your unique experience, skills, and abilities.
That’s where personal high-performance patterns come in.
Imagine if you already have a recipe for getting great results, but it’s buried among all the ways you’ve twisted how you get results to try to adapt and fit in with what everybody else does? And imagine if that pattern is not just effective, but it’s incredibly effective at unleashing your potential you’ve already got, and it instantly amplifies your ability to get great results?
I’ve been reading the book, Patterns of High Performance: Discovering the Ways People Work Best. In it, Jerry L. Fletcher shares a process for finding your high-performance pattern. He also shares the high-performance patterns of others. He also shares deep insight into the great results he and his team have been able to unleash for individuals and teams. It’s a repeatable approach for getting high-performance results, whether it’s personal high-performance or team high-performance (which is heavily influenced by individuals all working in their high-performance patterns.)
As I was reading through the book, I was recalling several times where I got better than expected results. One story that came to mind is when I was building my first Security Guide in Microsoft patterns & practices to address application security in a deep way.
I did a lot of unusual things, in terms of sheer volume of experts I consulted with both inside and outside the company, the books that I combed looking for recurring patterns, the tests I ran in labs to reproduce problems and solutions. But together, these all these activities led to a unique combination of information that served as the backbone for the book.
The book was more than a book.
It was actually a deep knowledge platform filled with principles, patterns, and practices that others could build on and extend, and it helped create a language for application security that people regularly used in the halls. It also led to some interesting patents, as well as future work that helped change the application security game for line-of-business applications. And it was the first book to be downloaded 800,000 times within six months.
The results were extraordinary.
And the key to it wasn’t that I followed a formula from somebody else. It was that I was using my personal high-performance pattern.
Therein lies the key.
But how do you find your personal performance pattern?
Jerry Fletcher has a technique for that. I’ve tried to distill the steps into a simple to follow recipe:
High-Performance Unleashed: Find Your Personal High-Performance Pattern
The beauty of finding your personal high-performance pattern is that it’s all you, and you take it with you wherever you go.
It can be your edge for getting better than expected results in any situation, and it can be the key to producing outstanding results in a sustainable way.