Being Sane

April 20, 2018 — Posted by Al Shalloway

Luke Hohmann provided me with an insight that I should be talking more about what I am for instead of what I am against. Good advice, thanks Luke.  Here's a riff on my earlier insanity series.

Using Frameworks as tools

When people challenge an approach you espouse, seek to understand why

Recognize that the ultimate help you can give to a company is to help them achieve their own mission

Management has a key role in improving an organization

Adopt systems-thinking and respect complexity

Question Your Assumptions

Provide a support system after initial training

Embrace new thinking

Using Frameworks as tools.

Most frameworks have value but they are not universal. They have different mindsets which work well in different situations. But none ideal everywhere. Sometimes they should be combined and sometimes they should be modified. Understanding that a framework is a tool enables it to be used where and how it applies and also suggests that one should learn other tools. What you can use to drive your work should be in the form of an operating model. Operating models provide guidance on how to go from where you are to where you want to be. They provide a set of principles which you can use to guide which frameworks to use and how to best use them. They also provide a set of agreements members of your organization can make so as to work better together.

When people challenge an approach you espouse, seek to understand why.

Don’t fall into the trap of the fundamental attribution error and assume they aren’t motivated. See why they are stuck. Look to see what you can do to help them. Bad systems destroy good people every time (Deming). But seemingly contradicting this is Jerry Weinberg’s statement “No matter what it looks like at first it’s always a people problem.” And this is the dilemma. How do we help our people in bad systems? The answer, is of course, help the people improve the system. Trying to motivate people doesn’t work – they are already self-motivating. See how to improve both their knowledge and the system they are in.

Recognize that the ultimate help you can give to a company is to help them achieve their own mission.

That doing this requires helping them guide their business at the executive level. That technology, while critical, is like the engine in the car.  Helping insure the car is going in the right direction is most important. Discovering what is really dragging it down is also important, but it’s not always the engine. Portfolio management and how it relates to technology is a critical connection that must be attended to.

Management has a key role in improving an organization.

Management got to where they are because of abilities they have. Most want to see good change occur. Most are required to get change to occur. They have a role in creating a great eco-system within which people can thrive while supporting the goals of the business. Support management. Don’t denigrate them. Show them why they are needed and what their role is.

Adopt systems-thinking and respect complexity 

Systems thinking and understanding the implications of complexity have been well-established as useful thought processes. You cannot change an organization by focusing on one part of it – as each part interacts with others. Also, the dynamics of one part of the system are different from others. It is the relationships between components that define the system in many ways. A reductionist approach is tempting because there are fewer components than there are relationships between them, but that approach unfortunately doesn’t work. Consider trying to put together a car made from the best components from different cars. You wouldn’t even have something functional. Systems are complex not because any particular part is necessarily complex, but because the relationships between them are. We must also look at the whole because optimizing parts of an organization will not achieve realization of value to the business or our customers.

Question Your Assumptions

We must have assumptions because we can’t function without them. But we must always be validating them. It is hard to validate without challenging them by having open discussions with others who don’t have those assumptions. We should use a combination of inspect and adapt to improve working with our basic assumptions, but also add double-loop learning to challenge the assumptions that our daily work is based on. On a regular basis it is worth taking a day off and seeing the beliefs (they sometimes show up as reality) in your approach and asking someone (or better someone else) if they are really true.

Provide a support system after initial training.

This should include library of videos and documents that will help people or groups go to the next level on their own. Provide people with a roadmap to move from one level to the next without the need for coaching if they can’t afford it. A support system that motivated, trusted, and respected people can use, on their own, to guide them while learning is critical.  Supplement it with services that assist them, but don’t require them to need you.

Embrace new thinking

When someone says something that you consider wrong, impossible or even self-motivated, look for any truth in it before discounting it. If it regards something you are having trouble with or is addressing a problem you can but can't solve yourself, even if you don’t like their solution, you might even try it as an experiment. Worst case you will lose a little time and learn a little. But it might also teach you something new and give you insights to challenge your own assumptions.  As Mark Twain said “It ain’t what you know that gets into trouble, it’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

 

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About the author | Al Shalloway

Al Shalloway is the founder and CEO of Net Objectives. With 45 years of experience, Al is an industry thought leader in Lean, Kanban, product portfolio management, Scrum and agile design. He helps companies transition to Lean and Agile methods enterprise-wide as well teaches courses in these areas.



        

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