I, Pencil

Sometimes, we all just need some context.


I, Pencil, How Smart are We really?

 “I, Pencil: My Family Tree as Told to Leonard E. Read” originated as an essay by Leonard Read. First published in the December 1958 issue of The Freeman, it was reprinted in May 1996 and as a pamphlet entitled “I… Pencil” in May 1998. It can help us understand that we may not know as much as we think we know about anything, even the lowly pencil.

bh 2018-02-28


If Russ Ackoff had given a TED Talk

Understanding Dr. Ackoff’s 1994 thoughts on systems thinking are essential in 2017 and beyond

It seems we haven’t learned much from intellectual giants like Russ Ackoff and W. Edwards Deming. In this short video, Dr. Ackoff destroys our current understanding of how we manage companies and how we proport to educate students. His comments are pointed and topical even more than 20 years after they were made.

bh 11/30/2017

Key Insights from SAFe 4.0

I’m a big fan of Dean Leffingwell and his work on the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). He’s been bringing lean thinking to software development for some time now. I work in a massive IT organization that has identified SAFe as how we’d like to develop software going forward.

Listen for these key concepts in the video below.

  • The Customer and the Value Stream are key to the framework
  • Value streams are the central organizing construct for SAFe.
  • SAFe as a model, organizes around value, and this helps speed delivery
  • Funding value streams vs. funding Agile Release Trains (ARTs)
  • When Requirements are needed vs. the concept of Solution Intent
  • General purpose solutions vs. ‘bespoke’ solutions

Over the past few years, I have heard many software development professionals say things like, “It’s a pretty good concept, but it doesn’t work in the real world.” or “SAFe doesn’t account for Architecture or other enablers.” 

If you are in IT, you owe it to yourself to get up to speed not just on SAFe, but on the underlying lean thinking concepts that are driving it. If you don’t, you risk getting left behind both organizationally, and in your IT career.

Bob H – April 28, 2017

Key Links

Scaled Agile Framework home: http://www.scaledagileframework.com/

Lean-Agile Mindset Abstract: http://www.scaledagileframework.com/lean-agile-mindset/

Value Streams Abstract: http://www.scaledagileframework.com/value-streams/

Team Kanban Abstract: http://www.scaledagileframework.com/team-kanban/


Can Change Be Easy?

Chip and Dan Heath get it. They understand how people are in real life. They debunk our attitudes about how we’d like them to be, or how they are on paper or in hypothetical situations, but how they really are. By that I mean they understand how people find, remember, and assimilate information, (see Made to Stick). And they understand how people change.Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

Read this book if:

  • You think complex problems require expensive and complex solutions.
  • You think people act rationally in their own self interest.
  • You think that you know why people appear to hate change.

I strongly recommend this book. (I checked the audio book out from my local library.) It is a quick read and full of great insights that will help you if you are in the business of making things different today than they were yesterday.

Bob Hubbard, April 2013

Switch, How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

About Switch

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard is the latest book by Chip and Dan Heath, authors of Made to Stick, the critically acclaimed bestseller. Switch debuted at #1 on both the Wall Street Journal and New York Times bestseller lists.

Switch asks the following question: Why is it so hard to make lasting changes in our companies, in our communities, and in our own lives? The primary obstacle, say the Heaths, is a conflict that’s built into our brains. Psychologists have discovered that our minds are ruled by two different systems—the rational mind and the emotional mind—that compete for control. The rational mind wants a great beach body; the emotional mind wants that Oreo cookie. The rational mind wants to change something at work; the emotional mind loves the comfort of the existing routine. This tension can doom a change effort—but if it is overcome, change can come quickly.

In Switch, the Heaths show how everyday people—employees and managers, parents and nurses—have united both minds and, as a result, achieved dramatic results:

  • The lowly medical interns who managed to defeat an entrenched, decades-old medical practice that was endangering patients.
  • The home-organizing guru who developed a simple technique for overcoming the dread of housekeeping.
  • The manager who transformed a lackadaisical customer-support team into service zealots by removing a standard tool of customer service.

In a compelling, story-driven narrative, the Heaths bring together decades of counterintuitive research in psychology, sociology, and other fields to shed new light on how we can effect transformative change. Switch shows that successful changes follow a pattern, a pattern you can use to make the changes that matter to you, whether your interest is in changing the world or changing your waistline.

Read the First Chapter


Bob Hubbard

Everybody Needs Lean Thinking, Even NFL Coaches

Mark Graban is a great lean thinker. His Lean Blog is one of my “must reads” and I never fail to pick up something cool. This post shows how the Houston Texans’ Coach Gary Kubiak did not inadvertently incur a penalty.

Bob H. 2013-01-16

Error Proofing an NFL Coach

by MARK GRABAN on JANUARY 15, 2013 

Mike Smith of the Atlanta Falcons was also hit with this penalty… and it should be changed, and soon.


Gemba Walks, by Jim Womack

Walking the Gemba with Jim Womack

from the Lean Enterprise Institute’s website at lean.org

Gemba Walks is Jim Womack’s newest book, a collection of letters and essays. It is also available as an e-book from Apple, Amazon or Amazon.co.uk, Barnes & Noble, and Google.

“The life of lean is experiments. All authority for any sensei flows from experiments on the gemba [the place where work takes place], not from dogmatic interpretations of sacred texts or the few degrees of separation from the founders of the movement. In short, lean is not a religion but a daily practice of conducting experiments and accumulating knowledge.”

So writes Jim Womack, who over the past 30 years has developed a method of going to visit the gemba at countless companies and keenly observing how people work together to create value. Over the past decade, he has shared his thoughts and discoveries from these visits with the Lean Community through a monthly letter. With Gemba Walks, Womack has selected and re-organized his key letters, as well as written new material providing additional context.

Gemba Walks shares his insights on topics ranging from the application of specific tools, to the role of management in sustaining lean, as well as the long-term prospects for this fundamental new way of creating value. Reading this book will reveal to readers a range of lean principles, as well as the basis for the critical lean practice of: go see, ask why, and show respect.

Womack explains:

  • why companies need fewer heroes and more farmers (who work daily to improve the processes and systems needed for perfect work and who take the time and effort to produce long-term improvement)
  • how “good” people who work in “bad” processes become as “bad” as the process itself
  • how the real practice of showing respect comes down to helping workers frame and solve their own problems
  • how the short-term gains from lean tools can be translated to enduring change from lean management.
  • how the lean manager has a “restless desire to continually rethink the organization’s problems, probe their root causes, and lead experiments to test the best currently known countermeasures”

By sharing his personal path of discovery, Womack sheds new light on the continued adoption and development of the most important new business system of the past fifty years. His journey will provide courage and inspiration for every lean practitioner today.