“The obligation of any component is to contribute its best to the system, not to maximize its own production, profit, or sales nor any other competitive measure. Some components may operate at a loss to themselves in order to optimize the whole system, including the components that take a loss.”
~ The New Economics, page 100, Dr. Deming
Deming wasn’t alone in talking about “Local Optimisations”, you’ll hear similar things from Ackoff, Argyris and Senge as pointed out by Matt Barcomb in his brilliantly named post: Stop B*tching About Local Optimizations.
Recently, I’ve had a similar realisation as Matt because like any good “radical agilist” I kind-of believed in the “party line” about local optimisations – i.e. bad. There’s one problem though – I have spent almost my entire career doing local optimisations!
Has it all been for nothing???
I’d like to hope not
In fact I think history is littered with examples that show otherwise. Take for example, the legendary Rosa Parks: “the first lady of civil rights”, “the mother of the freedom movement”. If she was worried about “local optimisations”, then she wouldn’t of refused to give up her seat for a white person. If she was thinking like Deming and Taiichi Ohno, she would of said “Oh, this whole bus seat thing would only be a local optimisation, so it won’t really make a difference – I should try and change the system overall rather than wasting my time here”
– Thank goodness she didn’t!
In some ways, we in the “real (software) change movement” are engaged in a similar battle – it’s the one that has always been waged and is probably a fundamental principle of the universe:
Control vs Self Organisation
There will always be “forces”, some of which are immutable and others mutable, that will be implicitly working against us. Just because we’re doing something in the corner of a corner of a corner ^ 10, does that mean we should give up?
and that’s where my call for heroes goes out – “our world” needs more heroes! Not people that are going are going to give up or try their absolute best because some other people said something about local optimisation…
Rosa Parks was actually one of many – others had taken similar steps, including Irene Morgan in 1946, Sarah Louise Keys in 1955, and the members of the Browder v. Gayle lawsuit (Claudette Colvin, Aurelia Browder, Susie McDonald, and Mary Louise Smith) who were arrested in Montgomery months before Parks. Your effort at introducing or changing whatever it is may not “succeed”, you may be a Mary Smith, or you could be a Rosa Parks!
Either way, you will of been someone who participated in a revolution and you can be proud of that – I bet Irene Morgan’s family, friends and community are – if you google her you’ll see there are still people that know she helped to progress a cause also.
Skramjet is designed to be done by hereos, or hopefully to help people become one because hey, we all want to make the world a better place :-)
I’ve been meaning to write about for a while about my first serious use of “Kanban”* and what’s more, it’s a usage outside of the standard patterns we hear about, mainly programming. I was working for a high-end niche consultancy to a global corporation doing an assessment and some pattern harvesting that had an extremely tight deadline. We had a small team (me and two other people) who were all highly trained and proficient, but there was one problem – the deadline, planning and tracking of our activities. We also needed a “process” that was not a Process – enter Kanban!
It just felt intuitively right – even though I’d never “seriously” used it. I had played around with Personal Kanban and I sensed that if we used no process (ie CMM1 / Ad Hoc) then near the end we’d find out we forgot things or didn’t adequately cover some risks, some of which would manifest and it would all end in tears. None of us wanted that, so I proposed to my colleagues that we use Kanban – freely admitting that I hadn’t used it fully, but that I was a Certified Scrum Master and had “Agile” experience of over 10 years. I added that we’d be doing weekly retrospectives and that if they thought it was not an effective use of our time, then we could just stop using it. On that basis I had agreement and some buy in, but we’ll get to that later…
To start off with, we did a brainstorming session for an hour, went back to work (we had no time to waste and knew initially what to do) then spent an hour at the end of the day making a Kanban
I’ve obviously had to blank out some information for confidentiality, but hopefully this is readable enough to show our thoughts, process and the fact that this was a very high level, i.e. typical EA, piece of work. One thing to note is that at the top we had “BACKLOG” but realised that we were existing within a Project Managed environment, so we had to have some sort of plan which we of course did with sticky notes ;-) Our Project Manager (who had about 5 other streams of work going on overall) was very happy as we had not only given him a realistic plan, but if he or anyone else who was interested wanted to know what we were really doing, it was all there at any time.
Also, you can see that on the right, we have a fairly typical Kanban / Scrum board and in the left is an open area where we started to group things which we’d eventually put in to the backlog. Again, the emphasis was on spending a minimum amount of time to structure and track the things that were important initially, knowing that we’d be tidying this up within a week. You can also see a bunch of stickies in the bottom left. These were things that had come out of our brainstorm, but were not currently important and that we did not have time to properly analyse and group. If you look carefully, there is a task in stalled for me to arrange sorting these out.
With that, we were off and running, with a plan which “the management” was happy with and enough structure to know what to do once we had contacted the right people in the right countries, for the information we needed. We monitored this using a spreadsheet as it was a simple process, would not take long and proved useful to show which countries were responding and in scope and which were not. And as you can see above, we also had an IRA log with sticky notes :-)
* Note: I’ve said “Kanban” as in the time since, I’ve realised there was a lot of things we didn’t do, more on that in the Meta Retrospective
This post is a precursor to discussion in the Soft Power and Invitation week (which is now – you may have to join to view, but hey – it’s free!) and a follow up from a comment Mark made in his post Soft power & invitation resourceswhich included a reference to the Christian concept of Invitation. I’d broaden this out and add that it’s probably more of a Western concept as in my digging there is remarkably little, but I thought I’d share what I’ve found along with a few personal thoughts. These are based only on my (a Westerner’s) studies, so please feel free to add any other resources, thoughts or whatever in the comments.
Note: There will probably be changes to this as it was a bit rushed
Not an easy topic to google on as there’s a lot of noise. It seems there is a concept of “invitation day” in Buddhism:
Pavarana,Invitation day – which is an opportunity to settle any grievances between monks!
This is explained more formally in the Buddhist Monastic Code II, Chapter 16 – Invitation by Thanissaro Bh…. How this all fits in to our concept of invitation is a challenge left to the reader ;-)
Here, we find much more material as much Chinese philosophy is based upon the concept of “Soft Power”
I’m not sure what his “official beliefs” were, but he’s oft quoted mostly in a military perspective. There are a few quotes of his that may apply, especially from Section V – Energy:
6. Indirect tactics, efficiently applied, are inexhaustible as Heaven and Earth, unending as the flow of rivers and streams; like the sun and moon, they end but to begin anew; like the four seasons, they pass away to return once more
. . .
11. The direct and the indirect lead on to each other in turn. It is like moving in a circle—you never come to an end. Who can exhaust the possibilities of their combination?
Reputed to of written the Tao Te Ching. So many quotes, so little time… Googling will be your friend here.
Probably the best know text is the Tao Te Ching which starts out “Tao (The Way) that can be spoken of is not the Constant Tao’”. In other words, everything in this book is not really the Constant Tao, it’s just the normal one which is all most people perceive and can understand ;-) It’s still pretty deep though…
You could say that the whole book is about “Soft Power”, but below are a few gems:
A person of great virtue is like the flowing water.
Water benefits all things and contends not with them.
It puts itself in a place that no one wishes to be and thus is closest to Tao.
A virtuous person is like water which adapts itself to the perfect place.
His mind is like the deep water that is calm and peaceful.
His heart is kind like water that benefits all.
His words are sincere like the constant flow of water.
His governing is natural without desire which is like the softness of water that penetrates through hard rocks.
His work is of talent like the free flow of water.
His movement is of right timing like water that flows smoothly.
A virtuous person never forces his way and hence will not make faults.
To know the strong masculine principle, yet abide by the gentle female principle is like being the valley of the world where all rivers will flow into.
Therefore, one who follows the true nature will understand the principle of cause and effect and shall not rely upon the strength of force.
By knowing the effect, thus one will not brag.
By knowing the effect, thus one will not boast.
By knowing the effect, thus one will not become arrogant.
By knowing the effect, although one has no choice, one still abides with the principle of cause and effect and does not resolve into force.
And finally, the last line from the last Chapter 81:
The Way of a saint is to act naturally without contention.
We’ve just got back from a fantastic break in Sevilla, with a US relation who can speak fluent Spanish which makes a huge difference! It was actually on that break, while 1/2 asleep during a siesta that I worked out how to get back on to Twitter without being overwhelmed, so I’m back from my Twitter Holiday also!
As I’ve frequently admitted, I’m a bit behind on the social media curve so I’m sure many have had similar or “evolved” to this state. For the benefit of anyone who is in a similar position or feeling a bit overwhelmed though, here’s what I did:
- Set up a private Twitter List called Read which is now my “new stream”. I’ve made it private as it’s a subset of the people that I’m following on Twitter.
- Changed my preferences on Tweetbot so this is displayed by default. It didn’t take me long to find that if you click on the icon, you can choose what is displayed. I’d always wondered what that was for…
And that’s it!
I’m still going to be tweeting less though as using a blog has made me think more of approaching Twitter from a qualitative rather than quantitative perspective.
There is still the issue of effective analysis to cover the gap of “these are the people I want to read all the time” and “there are a whole bunch of other people that I’m interested in but don’t have the time to follow. That can only be covered by some Personal Analytics on my full Twitter stream which will be the subject of a subsequent post.
We’ll start with a legend, Ray Kurzweil talking at the most recent Demo Conference
I know there’s a lot of debate around Kurzweil and the whole Singularity Concept, but you have to give him credit for actually working towards this, as will be outlined in his upcoming book (which he mentions) How the Mind Works and How to Build One. I’ll certainly be buying a copy when it comes out!
Speaking of self-organising systems, I just watched a fantastic TED talk on The self-organizing computer course
Which touches on something I’ve always believed, which is that in order to really understand computing, people need some deep knowledge. I was lucky in that I have a double degree in Computer Science and Instrumental Science (which is basically a stripped down engineering course) and grew up in an era when you had to build your own computer! Ever heard of the Sinclair Mk 14, Mini-Scamp or EDUC-8? Amazingly, Simon Shocken gets students to build a whole computer in one semester!!! You can find out more at http://www.nand2tetris.org/
Another great TED video on The currency of the new economy is trust
that mentions AirBnB and a very interesting service called TaskRabbit. Also related is a great report Social Currency 2012 Report, that was highlighted by @JenniferSertl which shows that there is real momentum building behind companies doing real social media engagement. And no, having a Twitter and Facebook account isn’t sufficient!
Finally, if you’re in to Clojure, then you should probably check out the video by Arthur Edelstein about Clooj, a great little IDE written in Clojure
It’s amazing to think this guy does all this in his spare time! Personally, I’m not an “emacs guy”, just because I never got in to it, and therefore use Clooj. The second half has a great demo of a new feature that enables you to find and integrate shared code in to Clooj – think of them as micro-libraries.
I’ve just been watching The Shock of the New, by Robert Hughes on BBC. The amazing thing that struck me is that although this series was made in 1980, it still applies to whatever buzzword you’re interested in, be it Social Media, Web X.0, Management X.0, Change, Agile, whatever…
This is a timeless series and if you’re at all interested in change and how it impacts society and the people within it then I highly recommend you watch it. Luckily, it’s all on YouTube, so knock yourselves out!
As I tweeted last night, I’m currently staying at the Travelodge for some business. I must admit that I have fond memories of it as a child. Well, there’s another childhood perception blown away! Or not, as it was 40 years ago and I’d like to think they really were better then.
Anyway, to now when I checked in. The first thing that hit me was the smell! It was kind of like mouldy carpet mixed with cheap perfume… I went to the front desk and asked for them to check the room and was told it was the “Travelodge Smell” and perfectly normal, so stayed there. The funny thing was that I managed to get another room today and met the cleaner. I asked her not to “Travelodge Smell” my room (which now doesn’t smell i.e. is quite normal :) – she said no problems and remarked that it smelt like “Old People’s Home” to her anyway. How did they get it so wrong?
So, to the main subject, which is software and process. When I woke in the morning I was thinking how they must of worked out the absolute minimum that people would tolerate: soap that was mostly not soap, toilet paper that was cheaper than cheap, minimum cheap furniture and shelves made from MDF with the tackiest faux wood grain pattern plastic veneer…
THEN IT HIT ME! This was an Lean / Agile hotel room! The customer was not me, it was a corporation that wanted to maximise profit. The only thing they cared about was that I didn’t walk out, but couldn’t give a crap if I enjoyed my stay. How could you in a room like this? Talking with a colleague who was a local about this, he remarked the this place had just had a fit-out, which would explain the amazing space in the rooms. They were built for a previous era, but that had all been rationalised in to a cheap, sterile “sleeping place”. Unfortunately for them, I’ll never book Travelodge again – I normally stay at B&B’s, but fell for a brand that probably decayed a decade or more ago.
So this is mostly what I see in my work – things going to the lowest bidder, supposedly expending the minimal possible effort (but that’s a false economy) to achieve the minimal necessary solution (that’s usually less than adequate) in the minimal time (but that either slips or crucial features are thrown out) with the maximum quality (yeah, right!). But it’s not bad enough for most people to leave whoever it is. They tolerate it because the “competitors” probably have similar crap anyway.
After this rather extensive but passionate rant, I ask the question : “Where are the Quality Hotels in Software ?” What are the Mandarin’s, Four Seasons, Andaz, Armani, Bulgari and Park Hyatt? Whereas you can easily find quality hotels the world over, can we do the same for Software? Apart from Apple, who else comes to mind for quality software? Yes, there are other places like the good ‘ol Aussie Atlassian, but it’s a struggle… Most software for brands is average and probably heading towards Travelodge – is that what we really want?
PS I’m well aware of Agile / Lean practices in theory, but I’m commenting on the reality. Your experience may differ and more power to you if it does! ;-)