Search Results for 'systems thinking'


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SPaMCAST 471 features our essay on the top 20 transformation killers.  Each transformation killer is a big deal, but if you combine two or more you are in big trouble. That said, forewarned is forearmed . . .hopefully?

In the second spot, this week is Jeremy Berriault and the QA Corner!  Jeremy and I discussed involving testers in requirements.  The ultimate in shifting “left.”    

In the third spot, Gene Hughson completes the cast by bringing a discussion of a recent missive, Systems Thinking Complicates Things.  Rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock and more!

Re-Read Saturday News (more…)

 

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The Software Process and Measurement Cast 436 features our essay titled, Change Fatigue, Tunnel Vision, and Watts Humphrey, in which we answer the question of whether the state and culture of the organization or team, can have a large impact on whether a Big Bang approach or an incremental approach makes sense to change.

Our second column is from Jeremy Berriault. Jeremy discusses user acceptance testing and Agile. There are lots of different ways to accomplish user acceptance testing in an Agile environment.  The only wrong way is not to do UAT in Agile.  Jeremy  blogs at https://jberria.wordpress.com/  

Jon M Quigley brings his column, The Alpha and Omega of Product Development, to the Cast. This week Jon puts all the pieces together and discusses systems thinking.  One of the places you can find Jon is at Value Transformation LLC.

Re-Read Saturday News

This week we wrap-up our re-read of Carol Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (buy your copy and read along).  In the wrap-up, we discuss overall impressions of the book and suggest a set of exercises to reinforce your growth mindset.

The next book in the series will be Holacracy (Buy a copy today) by Brian J. Robertson. After my recent interview with Jeff Dalton on Software Process and Measurement Cast 433, I realized that I had only read extracts from Holacracy, therefore we will read the whole book together. (more…)

 

The Agile movement was built on a premise that skilled, motivated individuals working on teams could self-organize and self-manage in order to deliver value and make their customers happy. Acceptance of this premise means that leaders, who are generally already successful, need to change how they make decisions on a day-to-day basis. Changing how successful leaders and managers work is hard.  Some organizations and leaders have been able to change how they worked and embraced a systems-thinking view of their organization. This change has shifted significant levels of decision making from middle management into the team. The change in the approach to thinking and decision-making Agile is based on several criteria: (more…)

The big (panoramic) picture.

The big (panoramic) picture.

In Systems Thinking: Difficulties we focused on the dark side of systems thinking.  But, systems thinking is a powerful framework for change agents. There are two primary reasons systems thinking has a tremendous impact:

  • Understanding Context
  • Value Focus

(more…)

Boundaries, like fences are one potential difficulty.

Boundaries, like fences, are one potential difficulty.

Systems thinking is a powerful concept that can generate significant for value for organizations by generating more options. Dan and Chip Heath indicate that options are a precursor to better decisions in their book Decisive. Given the power of the concept and the value it can deliver, one would expect the concept to be used more. The problem is that systems thinking is not always straightforward.  The difficulties with using systems thinking fall into three categories.

  • Boundaries
  • Complexity
  • Day-to-Day Pressures

Organizational boundaries and their impact of the flow of both work and information have been a source of discussion and academic study for years.  Boundaries are a key tool for defining teams and providing a send of belonging; however, some boundaries not very porous. As noted in our articles on cognitive biases, groups tend to develop numerous psychological tools to identify and protect their members.  Systems, in most cases, cut across those organizational boundaries. In order to effectively develop an understanding of a system and then to affect a change to that system, members of each organizational unit that touches the system need to be involved (involvement can range from simple awareness to active process changes). When changes are limited due to span of control or a failure to see the big picture, they can be focused on parts of a process that, even if perfectly optimized, will not translate to the delivery of increased business value.  In a recent interview for SPaMcast, author Michael West provided examples of a large telecommunication company that implemented a drive to six sigma quality in its handsets, only to find out that pursuing the goal made the handset too expensive to succeed in the market. In this case the silos between IT, manufacturing and marketing allowed a change initiative to succeed (sort of) while harming the overall organization. (more…)

Systems thinking helps to make sure process improvement see the big picture.

Systems thinking helps to make sure process improvement see the big picture.

Why isn’t systems thinking one of the first techniques any IT change agent reaches for?  Most change professionals have not been trained in applying systems thinking techniques because it is viewed as an engineering or academic practice. It provides a framework for the introduction of lean techniques, which have become popular to deliver the maximum business value. Lean provides tool and philosophy and systems thinking provides the breadth of scope to apply those tools.  Systems thinking provides process improvement with both a scope by defining what a system is and a business related goal for improvement, to improve the delivery of business value. (more…)

Sometimes you have to seek a little harder to understand the big picture.

Sometimes you have to seek a little harder to understand the big picture.

We should be guided by theory, not by numbers. – W.E. Deming

Many process improvement programs falter when, despite our best efforts, they don’t improve the overall performance of IT. The impact of fixing individual processes can easily get lost in the weeds; the impact overtaken by the inertia of the overall systems. Systems thinking is a way to view the world, including organizations, from a broad perspective that includes structures, patterns, and events.  Systems thinking is all about the big picture. Grasping the big picture is important when approaching any change program.  It becomes even more critical when the environment you are changing is complex and previous attempts at change have been less than successful. The world that professional developers operate within is complex, even though the goal of satisfying the projects stakeholders, on the surface, seems so simple. Every element of our work is part of a larger system that visibly and invisibly shapes our individual and organizational opportunities and risks.  The combination of complexity and the nagging issues that have dogged software-centric product development and maintenance suggest that real innovation will only come through systems thinking. (more…)

 

Credit card billing systems are a useful way to explore systems thinking.

Credit card billing systems are a useful way to explore systems thinking.

The world made up of interlocking systems. At more finite level, such as a company or product, understanding systems is crucial for being effective and efficient.  For example, have you ever observed a team spend time researching, prototyping, piloting and then implementing a change to improve a product’s delivery rate, only to find that the process change yields little to no big picture impact? The second or third time you make this observation it drives the point home that optimizing steps within a system doesn’t always translate into better overall performance.  We need to think of the system as a whole.  Systems thinking pushes us to take a more holistic path.

A system is a group of interacting, interrelated, and interdependent components that form a complex and unified whole.  Russell Ackoff, the management guru, defined a system as “an entity which is composed of at least two elements and a relation that holds between each of its elements and at least one other element in the set. Each of a system’s elements is connected to every other element, directly or indirectly. Furthermore, no subset of elements is unrelated to any other subset.”  A critical core to these definitions is that a system is a number of related components that interact.  I add that the core of most (if not all) systems operate within a larger systems ecology that they interact with and which provide feedback and guidance. (more…)

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The Software Process and Measurement Cast 411 includes four columns!  The first is our thoughts on servant leadership. A servant leader facilitates collaboration not only by creating a learning environment but also by helping the team to establish a vision and goals.  Servant leadership is a powerful tool to unlock the ability of teams or groups to deliver value. Many of the links between servant leadership and Agile are because servant leadership enables several of the principles in the Agile Manifesto, but servant leadership doesn’t work in every scenario. This essay will explore the origins of servant leadership, its ties with Agile and when to apply a servant leadership approach.

Jon Quigley anchors the cast with the second installment in a three-part arc on requirements in his  “The Alpha-Omega of Product Development” column. This week Jon discusses managing requirements.

Gene Hughson brings his Form Follows Function blog to the Software Process and Measurement Cast.  In this visit, Gene discusses his recent blog entry titled, “Organizations as Systems – “Uneasy Lies the Head that Wears the Crown”.  Gene points out that software development organizations live in a complex world where single factor explanations are dangerous.

Kim Pries, the Software Sensi, brings a great discussion of the concept of craftsmanship in software development to the Cast.  Craftsmanship and quality are related, but craftsmanship is a more intimate and personal attribute. (more…)

Its all about finding the balance!

Its all about finding the balance!

During the heart of winter, when the polar vortex swoops down with temperatures that even my dog finds uncomfortable, my wife and I assemble puzzles.  The act of assembling a puzzle is a simple example of the need to balance a system view with a more detailed perspective.  Getting work done efficiently and effectively requires both perspectives in some sort of balance.

The process we use for assembling a puzzle begins with opening the box, spilling the contents on a handy table and then propping up the lid so we can reference the big picture.  I once had a conversation in a hotel bar with a person who told me that he thought using the picture as a reference was cheating.  A little probing suggested that starting puzzles might have been more his actual goal than completing them, due to the time it took to discover the picture.  In our process, by contrast, I use completion of the puzzle as the goal and the picture on the cover of the box acts as the high-level requirements. However, as anyone that has ever assembled a puzzle will tell you, to achieve your goal you still need to fit all of those little pieces together.  Whether the puzzle you are working on has 100, 500 or 1000 pieces you will have to shift from focusing on the big picture to focusing on the details to find the right fit. The information from both perspectives is essential to fully understand what is required to get from the start of the system to the end of the system in an effective and efficient manner.

Reflecting back to my conversation about puzzles in the hotel bar, by eschewing the big picture, the systems thinking view, my neighbor might have been able to complete the puzzle, but not in the most efficient manner.  Meanwhile, a single-minded focus on the big picture, as pointed out in Gene Hughson’s comments to Systems Thinking: Difficulties can cause the equality serious problem of analysis paralysis. Spinning down into greater or greater levels of detailed analysis means a team is delaying its ability to deliver business value.  Gene was interviewed for the Software Process and Measurement Cast 268 providing great insights into Agile architecture, software development and management.

In the end, both perspectives are needed to get the job done. Finding the balance between the macro- (systems thinking) and micro-focus is a process in its own right.  The balance changes over the life of any project or even iteration. As a team shifts from conceptualizing to developing what is to be done they naturally shift from the big picture to the detailed view.  Product owners face a similar journey between the big picture and the detail, however they need to own the goal and the picture on the puzzle’s lid.  As a coach, the scrum master needs to make sure the whole team remembers the overall goal and big picture. Systems thinking helps us to understand that nothing happens in a vacuum.  Developing an understanding of how we transform inputs into value is critical. However in order to deliver that value, just having the big picture understanding is not sufficient. In order to actually execute, we need to have a handle on the detail also.