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.
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
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/
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.
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
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.
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
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.
Walking the Gemba with Jim Womack
from the Lean Enterprise Institute’s website at lean.org
“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.
- 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.
Seth Godin is the 21st century marketer. In his previous book Purple Cow Seth declared: “Everyone’s a Marketer Now!” In All Marketers Are Liars, he tells us that “Everyone’s a Storyteller Now!” And finally in Tribes; he aserts that, “Everyone’s a Leader Now!”.
In Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? , he makes us look inside ourselves. He defines a linchpin as somebody in an organization who is indispensable, who cannot be replaced—whose role is too unique and valuable. (No surprises so far.) Then he goes on to say that you need to be one of these people, you really do. To not be one is economic and career suicide. (Here again, this is not a surprise.)
Then he drops the bombshell… he says that to be a linchpin, you have to be an artist at work. An artist? That really took me back. He’s not talking about wearing a beret and moving to Paris, he’s talking about having a passion for your work, caring about your craft and delivering work that matters. (He emphasizes ‘delivering’ citing a Steve Job quote targeted at a software engineer that could never deliver his code. )
Enough of the rambling book review. I highly recommend this book. (So much so, that I may actually BUY it.) I know… crazy huh!
Outliers (book)As a Six Sigma Black Belt and a Lean practitioner, it is my job to use data, charts, maps, and any other method needed to persuade people. My colleagues and I use statistics daily, and we use these numbers to make our case for change. Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, is about statistics. But Gladwell uses stats to challenge our world view. We tend to think that Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and The Beatles succeeded because they were somehow specially gifted and lucky. Outliers uses data to demonstrate that it takes at least 10,000 hours of practice to become superior at a task. We must be ‘smart enough’ to do the work of a astrophysicist, but if you are smart enough to do that, the next most important success criteria is how hard you work… and I think that’s pretty cool. Bob H
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Outliers: The Story of Success is a non-fiction book written by Malcolm Gladwell and published by Little, Brown and Company on November 18, 2008. In Outliers, Gladwell examines the factors that contribute to high levels of success. To support his thesis, he examines the causes of why the majority of Canadian ice hockey players are born in the first few months of the calendar year, how Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates achieved his extreme wealth, and how two people with exceptional intelligence, Christopher Langan and J. Robert Oppenheimer, end up with such vastly different fortunes. Throughout the publication, Gladwell repeatedly mentions the “10,000-Hour Rule”, claiming that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.
The publication debuted at number one on the bestseller lists for The New York Times and The Globe and Mail, holding the position on the former for eleven consecutive weeks. Generally well received by critics, Outliers was considered more personal than Gladwell’s other works, and some reviews commented on how much Outliers felt like an autobiography. Reviews praised the connection that Gladwell draws between his own background and the rest of the publication to conclude the book. Reviewers also appreciated the questions posed by Outliers, finding it important to determine how much individual potential is ignored by society. However, the lessons learned were considered anticlimactic and dispiriting. The writing style, deemed easy to understand, was criticized for oversimplifying complex sociological phenomena.
Outliers has two parts: “Part One: Opportunity” contains five chapters, and “Part Two: Legacy” has four. The book also contains an Introduction and Epilogue. Focusing on outliers, defined by Gladwell as people who do not fit into our normal understanding of achievement, Outliers deals with exceptional people, especially those who are smart, rich, and successful, and those who operate at the extreme outer edge of what is statistically possible. The book offers examples that include the musical ensemble The Beatles, Microsoft’s co-founder Bill Gates, and the theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer. In the introduction, Gladwell lays out the purpose of Outliers: “It’s not enough to ask what successful people are like. […] It is only by asking where they are from that we can unravel the logic behind who succeeds and who doesn’t.” Throughout the publication, he discusses how family, culture, and friendship each play a role in an individual’s success, and he constantly asks whether successful people deserve the praise that we give them.
The book begins with Gladwell’s research on why a disproportionate number of elite Canadian hockey players are born in the first few months of the calendar year. The answer, he points out, is that since youth hockey leagues determine eligibility by calendar year, children born on January 1 play in the same league as those born on December 31 in the same year. Because children born earlier in the year are bigger and maturer than their younger competitors, they are often identified as better athletes, leading to extra coaching and a higher likelihood of being selected for elite hockey leagues. This phenomenon in which “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer” is dubbed “accumulative advantage” by Gladwell, while sociologist Robert K. Merton calls it “the Matthew Effect“, named after a biblical verse in the Gospel of Matthew: “For unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance. But from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.” Outliers asserts that success depends on the idiosyncrasies of the selection process used to identify talent just as much as it does on the athletes’ natural abilities.
A common theme that appears throughout Outliers is the “10,000-Hour Rule”, based on a study by Anders Ericsson. Gladwell claims that greatness requires enormous time, using the source of The Beatles’ musical talents and Gates’ computer savvy as examples. The Beatles performed live in Hamburg, Germany over 1,200 times from 1960 to 1964, amassing more than 10,000 hours of playing time, therefore meeting the 10,000-Hour Rule. Gladwell asserts that all of the time The Beatles spent performing shaped their talent, “so by the time they returned to England from Hamburg, Germany, ‘they sounded like no one else. It was the making of them.'” Gates met the 10,000-Hour Rule when he gained access to a high school computer in 1968 at the age of 13, and spent 10,000 hours programming on it.
In Outliers, Gladwell interviews Gates, who says that unique access to a computer at a time when they were not commonplace helped him succeed. Without that access, Gladwell states that Gates would still be “a highly intelligent, driven, charming person and a successful professional”, but that he might not be worth US$50 billion. Gladwell explains that reaching the 10,000-Hour Rule, which he considers the key to success in any field, is simply a matter of practicing a specific task that can be accomplished with 20 hours of work a week for 10 years. He also notes that he himself took exactly 10 years to meet the 10,000-Hour Rule, during his brief tenure at The American Spectator and his more recent job at The Washington Post.
Reemphasizing his theme, Gladwell continuously reminds the reader that genius is not the only or even the most important thing when determining a person’s success. Using an anecdote to illustrate his claim, he discusses the story of Christopher Langan, a man who ended up working on a horse farm in rural Missouri despite having an IQ of 195 (Einstein’s was 150). Gladwell points out that Langan has not reached a high level of success because of the environment he grew up in. With no one in Langan’s life and nothing in his background to help him take advantage of his exceptional gifts, he had to find success by himself. “No one—not rock stars, not professional athletes, not software billionaires, and not even geniuses—ever makes it alone,” writes Gladwell.
Later, Gladwell compares Langan with Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb. Noting that they typify innate natural abilities that should have helped them both succeed in life, Gladwell argues that Oppenheimer’s upbringing made a pivotal difference in his life. Oppenheimer grew up in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Manhattan, was the son of a successful businessman and painter, attended the Ethical Culture Fieldston School on Central Park West, and was afforded a childhood of concerted cultivation. Outliers argues that these opportunities gave Oppenheimer the chance to develop the practical intelligence necessary for success. Gladwell then provides an anecdote: When Oppenheimer was a student at University of Cambridge, he made an unsuccessful attempt to poison one of his tutors. When he was about to be expelled from the school, he was able to compromise with the school’s administrators to allow him to continue his studies at the university, using skills that he gained during his cultivated upbringing.
Before the book concludes, Gladwell writes about the unique roots of his Jamaican mother, Joyce, a descendant of African slaves. Joyce attended University College in London, where she met and fell in love with Graham Gladwell, a young mathematician. After moving together to Canada, Graham became a math professor and Joyce a writer and therapist. While Gladwell acknowledges his mother’s ambition and intelligence, he also points out opportunities offered to his parents that helped them live a life better than those of other slave descendants in the West Indies. Gladwell also explains that, in the 18th century, a white plantation owner in Jamaica bought a female slave and made her his mistress. This act inadvertently saved the slave and her offspring from a life of brutal servitude. As one of the slave’s descendants, this turn of luck led to Gladwell’s relatively successful position in life. Summarizing the publication, Gladwell notes that success “is not exceptional or mysterious. It is grounded in a web of advantages and inheritances, some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky,” and at the end of the book, he remarks, “Outliers wasn’t intended as autobiography. But you could read it as an extended apology for my success.”
|Cover artist||Allison J. Warner|
|Publisher||Little, Brown and Company|
|Publication date||November 18, 2008|
|Media type||Hardback, audiobook|
|Dewey Decimal||302 22|
|LC Classification||BF637.S8 G533 2008|