A Latte with Deming: How I learned to stop blaming employees

There is a coffee shop in southern Stockholm where I have taken the habit of procuring my morning shot of coffee. There’s nothing special about the place, devoid of charm and located at the busy entrance of a metro station, but the coffee’s pretty good. I always order a double latte with an additional carrot-and-orange juice. One nice touch is that they put cardboard holders around hot paper cups, making them less uncomfortable to hold.

The coffee shop is managed by a middle-aged man, often working in the back room. The best thing about the place is probably not the coffee, but the young, female shop-assistant, who’s very service-minded and efficient.

This morning routine of mine hummed along nicely until one day a couple of weeks ago when, to my concern, I was met by two girls behind the counter. The new girl looked very confused. During the following weeks, the training period I assume, the new and old assistant worked side by side, but after that, the one I was used to was gone.

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Promises, Promises (2014)

The Pledge of the Sheriff

A worried sheriff's face (Jack Nicholson, The Pledge)

In the movie The Pledge (2001), directed by Sean Penn, a weary police chief, played by Jack Nicholson, investigates the murder of a young child. In the pivotal scene, on the day of his retirement, he promises the mother of the murdered girl to find the killer.

The sheriff gradually goes to extremes to fulfil his promise. He dedicates all his time to the case. He moves to a small town in the mountains, where he suspects the murderer could be found. The pledge he made propels him to forsake everything else. His mental health starts to decay. The guilt and shame of the unfulfilled promise lie heavily on his shoulders.

This movie reveals how incredibly powerful a promise can be, even today. Human beings can become very preoccupied in their quest to fulfil a promise.

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One Day a Week Together

My company, Adaptiv, is what you might call a life style company. We, the four owners and partners, think of it more as a way of life than some big entrepreneurial ambition. In other words, we’re not trying to conquer the world. It seems to me that many companies seek world domination just because they think that’s what a business should be about. Well, it turns out that’s a pretty modern idea, dating back to the time when armies also started to conquer the world.

It doesn’t have to be like that. You see, there are numerous downsides and sacrifices you need to do in such an enterprise. For some, it might be worth it. For us, well, no. We’re committed to Adaptiv because we feel our lives would be a bit grayer any other way.

In this post and hopefully a few others I want to share some ideas that I think may be a bit original about Adaptiv. If you are starting your own company or if you are in a position to affect the basic thinking in your company, I hope these ideas can provide some inspiration.

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Learnings at Work in 2011

2011 was a good year for me as a software development consultant in Stockholm. I terminated my long-running contract at a major nordic bank before the summer holidays. This turned out to be very timely, since just after that, work in the project was severely cut back.

Around that time I got a new contract with one of Sweden’s biggest travel companies as a “BDD coach”, which basically turned out to mean XP coaching and Scrum mastering together. It has been great fun and will continue into 2012. This assignment does not entail much programming but still lots of challenges. I am quite thankful for the switch and especially the timing.

This post is a summary of some of the things that I have observed and learned during this last year. Some of the things I knew before, but have been confirmed again. Other insights were new to me. Most of the things I mention are not technical in nature, because I think that would be less entertaining to read about.

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Den perfekta, agila chefen

På konferensen Agila Sverige 2010 nyligen faciliterade jag en session på Öppet Forum som jag hade kallat “Vem är den perfekta, agila chefen?“. Hur ser han eller hon ut? Vad gör denne? En samling fantastiska och erfarna personer samlades och diskuterade. Jag tog lite anteckningar och det skriftliga resultatet är det som ni ser nedan.

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