I work as a software consultant and often in the role of a so-called “team coach” or “agile coach”. That’s basically just a hyped-up term for helping teams and departments to improve, to be more effective, and guide them on their way amongst a myriad of options. So coaching is great and many coaches I know are great, but there’s something bothering me. My opinion is that much of what I do is a kind of management – not of the people but of the work, and I’m getting more and more concerned about this. Should this really be the coach’s job?
“The times they are a-changin'”, as Bob Dylan put it and that’s more true than ever today. Software is eating the world. Every firm is a software company now, whether they understand it or not. We’re in what Steve Denning calls the creative economy, driven by customers with an infinite amount of information at their disposal.
In these times of upheaval you might guess that many companies are going through major internal reflection and restructuring. The general answer is sadly, no. Many companies are still by-and-large acting like product pushers to the ignorant masses. Almost every traditional company is still leaning on tenets of management created in the 1800s. Radical changes are far and few apart. As a result of this fundamental inability to adapt, the life expectancy of firms have dropped significantly, now less than fifteen years and declining rapidly (Fortune 500 companies).
I think it’s fair to say that many existing organisations are in desperate need for major redesign, not just structurally but dynamically, how they work to create value. Nothing happens. It seems to me that CEOs opt for a safe tactic, maintaining the system instead of fundamentally changing it. CEOs are playing not to lose instead of playing to win.
Now this made me curious. I mean, why is that? I mean, are they idiots or just incompetent? Hardly. Perhaps some other forces are at play?
When Ian told them what he’d done, they couldn’t believe their ears. He had what!? He had erased every document in the company database concerning hiring and retaining staff. Joan’s deep thoughts on “talent management” simply gone. Gone! “Hey, what about the backups?”, Helen asked. Ian just smiled, “Those too”.
I recently blogged about Adaptiv’s peer performance conversations, or PPCs. As a comment to that post, I received a great question from Bob Marshall (@flowchainsensei), which was: “Please tell me how this in any way makes sense in the context of Deming’s 95/5?”. This is my response.
For those of you who don’t have time to follow along with every twist and turn in the ongoing struggle between Kanban connoisseurs and the rest of the software development world in general I would like to take this opportunity to summarize my impressions of what has happened over the last five years. It takes the shape of a short play. It’s a summary so I have taken the liberty of slightly shortening and abstracting history. Only slightly. Enjoy!