Travel outside of your comfort zone helps to establish your beginner’s mindset.

Audio Version:  SPaMCAST 177

Why is it easier for some organizations to innovate? Why do some organizations become less flexible after a new idea is successfully implemented? I believe that the concept of the beginner’s mind holds a substantial clue about why some people and organizations either embrace or resist change.

The beginner’s mind is a concept from Zen Buddhism known as Shoshin.  It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject.  The beginner’s mind can be present even when studying at an advanced level.  Quoting the Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”  The beginner’s mind embodies the emotional qualities of enthusiasm, creativity and optimism.  These qualities are critical for tackling tough problems and for innovation.  The beginner’s mind is just one framework for understanding why some organizations and individuals seems to embrace the boundlessness of the environment around them but nevertheless it is a powerful tool for self-reflection or judging change readiness.

I would like to address the idea of change willingness through the filter of the beginner’s mind from two perspectives: The first is from the point of view of the constraints we accept or create for ourselves and our organizations, and the second would be to reflect on attributes that help us accelerate embracing change. (more…)

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The Software Process and Measurement Cast 442 features our essay on capability teams. The use of teams to deliver business value is at the core of most business models.  Capability teams are a tool to unlock the value delivery engine of teams.

Gene Hughson brings his Form Follows Function Blog to the cast this week to discuss his recent blog entry titled, Systems of Social Systems and the Software Systems They Create. We live in a complex world and just focusing on social systems or software systems misses the point!

Our third column is from the Software Sensei, Kim Pries.  The entry this week is titled, Software Quality and the Art of Skateboard Maintenance. This entry is an homage to Robert M. Pirsig the author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, who recently died.

Re-Read Saturday News

And welcome back!  For those who are interested, The Frederick Half Marathon last weekend was great.  I met my goals: I crossed the finish line, collected my medal and got to hang out with my family in Frederick.  This week, we begin Part Two of Holacracy: The New Management System for a Rapidly Changing World by Brian J. Robertson published by Henry Holt and Company in 2015.  Part Two is titled Evolution At Play: Practicing Holacracy.  In my opinion, Part Two provides readers with the nuts and bolts needed to use Holacracy.  Chapter 4, titled Governance, takes all of the building blocks from previous chapters and starts to weave them together. (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…)