Last week I compared different practice areas and certifications. This talk shares more general observations.
Six Sigma (along with Lean) is fading — because it's only one part of the management and analysis puzzle.
As I've observed many times, all management fads get over-applied and then get squeezed back down to their appropriate usage. Again see Facts and Fallacies of Software Engineering.
This is probably happening with Agile right now.
Any activity that gets people talking to each other and thinking about ways to do things better is worthwhile.
People have been doing this since the beginning of time. The Tower of Babel story shows that people were aware of organizational limits.
Someone suggested that the practice of Agile was humanity's way of learning to work together. I submit that it's just a continuation of things that have been going on forever, but it's currently happening in a more conscious way across more participants. See also Rush's Hemispheres album, where the A-side is a full suite about uniting heart and mind.
All formal methodologies have criticisms.
This framework isn't only about solving the customer's problem, it's just as much about the team's process of solving the problem.
That is, it's as much about the engagement as the solution.
This has been called after-action review, lessons learned, sprint retrospective, continuous improvement, and ongoing response to feedback.
This builds alignment across teams, customers, managers, and the overall roadmap. It works across all scopes and scales.
Consider putting retrospectives into the backlog to ensure they're addressed. Don't maintain a hidden backlog.
Working through the phases (forwards) provides discipline to understand causes and not treat symptoms. Iterating between phases (esp. backwards to intended use) gives maximum opportunity to understand root causes and uses.
You can think about the phases of the framework on three simultaneous levels:
This means you should always be consciously aware of the mechanics of the engagement as well as the solution, and always be on the lookout for ways to improve them.
Humans (like all animals) have a strong need for safety and security, and tend to respond to many things as threats.
Emotional security within teams helps overcome this.
This article, describing research done at Stanford, explains different kinds of cultures (Star, Engineering, Commitment, Bureaucracy, Autocracy), and that Commitment cultures tend to perform best.
Famous swing-era band leaders often preferred mellow and reliable players over those with more talent. Why do super athletes like Terrel Owens bounce around and not stay put?
Sometimes you succeed by accident, but it's better if you do it on purpose!
The purpose of professional managers (and analysts) is to improve the chances of success, and to limit downside outcomes.
This presenter describes "win rates" of only 15% when adopting Agile methods (i.e., still using new practices effectively after one year). This means the payoff needs to be 6.66-to-1 — to break even!
Each individual "engaged" is one less resistor and one more supporter. How do we achieve engagement?
The presenter spends an entire hour on getting people to talk to each other!
My point (and the presenter's) is to spend less time worrying about formally prescribed processes (like Scrum) and just get people involved by asking, inviting, and LISTENING! Further ruminations here.
VARK learning model
Myers-Briggs personality type indicator (Type Talk at Work)
Big Five personality traits
Consider running Scrum on your marriage!
Communicate in voice, words, pictures (diagrams!) appropriate to the audience. A picture is worth a thousand words. An animation is a thousand pictures.
This obviously applies to all the cultural stuff we're arguing about in society right now, but I'm specifically thinking about people's professional and organizational experiences.
People want what they want, and they tend to picture what they want in terms of what they already know (and have experienced).
Analysts are learning and translating machines.
"Ya don't know what ya don't know 'til ya know what ya don't know, ya know?"
...the HIghest-Paid Person's Opinion.
Hey, someone has to break the ties!
Individual acceptance tests might not cover all integration cases, so those can (should!) be added explicitly.
This is why my conception of the RTM includes many-to-one and one-to-many links between phases.
Akin to Epic - Story - Task
Products, systems, and solutions can be of very different scopes and scales. (Jane Jacobs growth vs. development)
Every situation where I experienced a suboptimal outcome was because I was not managed nor engaged nor given clear goals or feedback.
When I had clear targets and continuous engagement, I killed it.
This doesn't mean I didn't do some awesome work in suboptimal situations, and it didn't mean I was always super amazing in optimal ones, but the weighting is clear and unmistakable.
This is a pretty standard tool, but it is featured for sure in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
You obviously want to maximize the Is and and minimize the IVs. Eliminate or automate where possible.
Stay as educated and flexible as possible to keep doing the kind of creative, analytical work that can't be automated.
However you break down costs: capital, fixed, and variable; for time, scope, and quality; or for tradespace items like speed, resource use, maintainability, modularity, flexibility, ease of development, and staff; the point is that organizations ultimately optimize on money.
Costs can easily be calculated, as can revenues. Analyzing effects over time requires Time Value of Money calculations. (My college textbook is a good reference. I actually have the revised edition hardback from 1980 for the course I took in the spring of 1981.)
ROI = PV of net income / PV of investment. People tend to use ROI to justify projects, but seldom revisit or verify it (depending on context).
Management controls are often quite loose within large organizations. (Steel mill vs. grocery store examples)
The quality of management doesn't tend to matter so much when situations are very good or very bad. It's more important in middling situations.
Entrepreneurship isn't about straightforward profit and loss calculations, it's about taking risks under conditions of uncertainty (though guesses can be more or less educated).
Shumpeterian creative destruction is accelerating. Products, and even Fortune 500 companies, are remaining viable for shorter durations. Was 75 years, now 16 and decreasing 0.75 yrs/yr.
Individuals and organizations need to move faster and continually learn and adapt.
We often accomplished the most work in a dance class in the last third of the time, because we'd gotten into a flow.
As an analyst I call this wallowing in the material.
I once wrote a fifty-thousand-line system by myself in three months because I was totally in the flow (and also because I worked 80+ hours/week and couldn't go home until I finished...).
An expert is someone who knows enough about what's going on to be worried.
An expert is also someone who can look at the same thing for the ten thousandth time and go, "That's odd..."
If you're an in-the-flow expert, and if you're creative and make lots of associations, you'll generate a lot of insights and a-ha! moments.
Talk to them! Invite them! LISTEN to them!
Share information with them. (Sprout-Bauer weekly bundles)
Use Slack and other internal social tools to expose people to information and industry developments.
Fund magazine and website subscriptions.
Pay for write-ups on new technologies.
Get them to actually take relevant courses that you probably budget for.
Support internal and external communities of practice.
Help your people become flexible, adaptable, creative experts!
Some organizations are about creating a fixed process and running it as hard and efficiently as possible. Examples include manufacturing, logistics/delivery (Amazon), and standard business processes (insurance underwriting, credit card processing).
Sometimes this is unavoidable. Think manufacturing with high fixed costs and repetitive operations. Turnover was so high on Henry Ford's assembly lines that he had to continually raise wages. Turnover finally stopped at about double the prevailing wage.
Other organizations are about creative responses to novel situations. Examples include software design and architecture, business analysis, organizational design, advertising, and the arts.
These are theoretically ideal, but not always achievable.
Some organizations involve a mix of throughput and localized creativity. Examples may include medicine (potentially role-dependent), personal care, retail, and service and repair.
The key is to identify ways to keep people engaged, incentivized, supported, respected, consulted, and contributing in ways appropriate to the kind of environment they're in.
The spirit and purpose of an organization should be more important than the details of its structure though both are important.
Link to presentation.
I would add the observation that organizations must necessarily be transactional, and so should not ask for too much loyalty. They should, however, inspire it where and as they can.
I really enjoy the thoughts on this guy's posters.
Expert -> Achiever -> Catalyst
Do -> Lead -> Coach
The magic ratio of positive to negative interactions in a relationship is about five to one.
Too much positive and the environment isn't challenging enough and there isn't enough feedback and growth.
Too much negative and the environment is too challenging and stunts growth and motivation.
This applies when raising children, motivating and growing employees, and relating to significant others.
People should be given tasks that are just beyond their current capabilities so they can succeed if they apply proper effort and study.
COIN acronym -> Context, Observation, Impact, Next steps
This presentation and other information can be found at my website: