Thursday, June 26, 2014

Examples of 21st C. Companies

"The 21st Century is when it all changes.  You've got to be ready."  -- Capt'n Jack Harkness

What does a 21st Century company look like?  Here's some principles, some templates, some examples.  I believe the 21st century will see a movement toward companies being good social citizens (not money focused) these movements are already starting and we are only 14 years into this century.  Movements such as Conscious Capitalism, Sustainability, Triple Bottom Line, Lean/Agile, etc.

I intend to work for one of these new breed of companies before the decade is done.

A look at the No Manager movement at Treehouse a learning company focused on learning...

No Managers: Why We Removed Bosses at Treehouse

How to communicate in a #NoManager company

Kotter's 21st C Org Model

Here's what John Kotter said about this issue of mutating a traditional company into a modern company in his 2013 video Accelerate! The Evolution of the 21st Century Organization.  "Here's the bad news:  How many organizations have succeeded in doing that?  About 0.001% - seriously."

Accelerate! The Evolution of the 21st Century Organization

Positive Business Conference - May 2015 - Univ. of Michigan
Culture is the buzz word, but what does this mean?  Stanford Business School's Charles O'Reilly explains the current understanding (studies) of the relation of culture to business values.

Tom Gardner's re:Work talk in Nov, 2014 about company culture.  Four ideas on how the Motley Fool creates their culture.  How would you do on his pop quiz - name your companies core values?

The Container Store's CEO tells his story in the new book Uncontainable.

Conscious Capitalism 

-- Principles:  Higher Purpose, Conscious Leadership, Stakeholder Orientation, Conscious Culture
Examples:  Whole Foods,  The Container Store, Zappos, Southwest Airlines,

"In 1994, Interface® Founder Ray Anderson challenged us to pursue a bold new vision "Be the first company that, by its deeds, shows the entire world what sustainability is in all its dimensions: people, process, product, place and profits - and in doing so, become restorative through the power of influence" The Interface journey toward sustainability has been a momentous shift in the way we operate our business and see the world.

Examples:  Interface Global, Apple (Environmental Responsibility Report)


Want to participate in a study - want to assess your business on it's values?  Try the B Impact Assessment.
Conscious Capitalism is teaming up with B Lab to provide our members the B Impact Assessment, a free tool to measure your company’s consciousness and compare it against thousands of other businesses!

Statistical Quality Control (SQC) techniques
Isn't it time to finish the transformation Deming started?  An article on the move toward a new mindset of management by Tripp Babbit.  Deming is responsible for the post war revival of the Japanese manufacturing industry. A move away from the Tayloristic view of management.  Yet most MBA programs still have this 19th century mindset embedded in their teachings.  One of the best books written that moves the world forward is Management 3.0 by Jurgen Appelo.  Also see his new tool chest of knowledge about managing a 21st Century company:  Management 3.0 Workout by Jurgen Appelo.

See Also: Esko Kilpi's article on Productivity Revolutions - Medium. An interesting view of Taylor the socialist and troublemaker.  And a prediction that "technological augmentation" is going be the next revolution in productivity for the knowledge worker.

Triple Bottom Line

The Triple Bottom Line incorporates the notion of sustainability into business decisions. The TBL is an accounting framework with three dimensions: social, environmental (or ecological) and financial.  Commonly referred to as People, Planet, Profit.

Menlo Innovation is a company that has invested in it's culture and people.  Read their story in Joy Inc.

Sharing Intellectual Property for the benefit of the Industry

Boston Beer shares key knowledge with competitors.
Why Samuel Adams Supports Its Competitors by Leigh Buchanan
Founder Jim Koch explains why he gives money, materials, and advice to other craft brewers.

Tesla shares their patents with anyone in the industry.


Beyond the Holacracy Hype in Aug/Sep 2016 HBR by Bernstein et al.  A fair look at modern organizational patterns and some of their strengths and differences with traditional org methods.

Zappo's move to Holacracy will it blend?  Is it a good move?  Can one mandate a cultural change such as this?  Yes, one can mandate the change, and some would say this is what you would get:
210 ZAPPOS EMPLOYEES RESPOND TO HOLACRACY ULTIMATUM: WE'RE OUT.  But do the math, that's 86% of employees that are aligned to the strategic transformation and engaged.  When have you had such strong acceptance of a strategic mission in corporate America?
Beyond the Holacracy Hype - HBR July 2016
Here's Why You Should Care About Holacracy by Adam Pisoni, co-founder and former CTO of Yammer. He is also a founder of, a new movement dedicated to helping companies become more agile, adaptive and empowering.
Another great article on Zappo's Holacracy - Making Sense of Zappos' War on Managers by HBR Gianpiero Petriglieri.
Thanks For All of Your Concern, But…An Inside Perspective on the Changes at
How a Radical Shift to "Self-Management" left Zappos Reeling - Fortune

The Self-Management Institute 

Reinventing Organizations by Frederic Laloux
"The way we manage organizations seems increasingly out of date. Survey after survey shows that a majority of employees feel disengaged from their companies. The epidemic of organizational disillusionment goes way beyond Corporate America-teachers, doctors, and nurses are leaving their professions in record numbers because the way we run schools and hospitals kills their vocation. Government agencies and nonprofits have a noble purpose, but working for these entities often feels soulless and lifeless just the same. All these organizations suffer from power games played at the top and powerlessness at lower levels, from infighting and bureaucracy, from endless meetings and a seemingly never-ending succession of change and cost-cutting programs.
We need more enlightened leaders, but we need something more: enlightened organizational structures and practices. But is there even such a thing? Can we conceive of enlightened organizations? "

See a video overview of Laloux's Culture Model by Peter Green

Morning Star - Self-Managing Organization "In this fascinating conversation, Work Revolution co-founder Josh Allan Dykstra interviews Doug Kirkpatrick from the Morning Star Self-Management Institute."

Semco Partners, a Brazilian company best known for its radical form of industrial democracy and corporate re-engineering.Ricardo Semler: How to run a company with (almost) no rules

Organization to Investigate:
  • Interface Global
  • Menlo Innovation
  • W.L. Gore
  • Morning Star
  • Whole Foods
  • Wikipedia
  • Patagonia
  • Semco Partners
  • The Container Store
  • Zappos
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
  • Alcoholics Anonymous

Excerpt on the Back Story of 21st Century Companies from - The Learning Consortium for the Creative Economy 2015 Report 
In the twentieth century, the management principles of hierarchical bureaucracy helped organizations meet the demand for mass-market products and services and generate unprecedented material prosperity for many. But then the world changed. Deregulation, globalization, and new technology, particularly the Internet, transformed everything. Power in the marketplace shifted from seller to buyer. The old ways of getting things done became less and less effective. Firms had difficulty making money and their life expectancies declined. 
Some firms responded by applying existing management principles more energetically. They tightened management control. They downsized. They reorganized. They delayered. They empowered their staff. They launched innovation initiatives. They reengineered processes. They launched sales and marketing campaigns. They acquired new companies. They shed businesses that weren’t doing well. They focused tightly on maximizing shareholder value. They gave the top executives stock-based compensation in an effort to make them more entrepreneurial. These fixes sometimes led to short-term gains, but they didn’t solve the underlying problem. Deeper change was needed. The principles of twentieth-century management itself had become obsolete. 
Another set of organizations, and parts thereof, began doing something different. They developed and implemented a different leadership mindset, with a set of goals, principles, and values that were better suited to the emerging marketplace of the twenty-first century. The resulting ways of organizing, creating, marketing, making, selling, and delivering products and services don’t look or feel much like their predecessors. The workplaces they create look and feel different. They are highly interactive. These organizations are not just tinkering with the principles that were once successful but are now increasingly irrelevant and ineffective. These organizations have been creating something fundamentally different.
The leadership mindset visible in the organizations visited by the LC reflects a recognition that the big, lumbering twentieth-century bureaucracies are too slow and clumsy for the marketplace of the twenty-first century, in which fickle but powerful customers are in charge. Now, “predictable” and “reliable” performance isn’t good enough anymore. For true success, the organization has to deliver experiences that delight customers — a much more difficult undertaking, and something that can’t be accomplished without embracing different goals, principles, and values. 
The leadership principles that were observed in these site visits are not a random collection of fixes. They fit together as a mutually reinforcing set of management patterns. Once an organization or unit embraces the leadership mindset, and pursues it consistently over a period of time, it affects everything in the organization — the way it plans, the way it manages, the way people work. Everything is different. It changes the game fundamentally. 
Audie Cornish speaks with former Vice President Al Gore about the new edition of his book, The Assault On Reason.
Well, others have noted a free press is the immune system
of representative democracy. And as I wrote 10 years ago, American democracy is in grave danger from the changes in the environment in which ideas either live and spread or wither and die. I think that the trends that I wrote about 10 years ago have continued and worsened, and the hoped-for remedies that can come from online discourse have been slow to mature. I remain optimistic that ultimately free speech and a free press where individuals have access to the dialogue will have a self-correcting quality. -- Al Gore
Excerpt from NPR interview with Al Gore by Audie Cornish March 14, 2017. Heard on  All Things Considered.

See Also:
No, really! Agile really is the Goal by Tim Snyder
"An agile enterprise is one that has achieved a level of operational excellence that enables it to make changes at the same pace that it discovers a need for them." -- Tim Snyder
Heros of Leadership (slideshare) by Niels Pflaeging
Why we cannot learn a damn thing from Toyota or Semco by Niels Pflaeging
End of nations: Is there an alternative to countries? Nation states cause some of our biggest problems, from civil war to climate inaction. Science suggests there are better ways to run a planet.Embracing Agile - HBR - Rigby, Sutherland, Takeuchi

Learning Consortium For The Creative Economy Steve Denning - Forbes
5 Things Successful 21st Century Companies Are Doing Differently
Companies Without Managers Do Better By Every Metric by Chuck Blakeman
Why Self-Management Will Soon Replace Management by Josh Allan Dykstra
HBR: First, Let's Fire All the Managers by Gary Hamel - an article about Morning Star and self organization. (a PDF)
Forbes: The Copernican Revolution In Management by Steve Denning

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Case Studies: Software Systems Failure

Software nightmare stories are very common - but one thing I've learned by listening to these stories over the years is the technologist must be optimist at heart.  Why - because they deal constantly with tons of failure.  And out of those failures they create innovative disruptive new sectors of the world economy (sometimes, case in point the Apple Newton and then the iPod and iPhone).

Let's look at a few case studies.

Time has just published a look at the Obama Healthcare rescue team.  Code Red by Steven Brill

"What were the tech problems?  Where they beyond repair? Nothing I saw was beyond repair.  Yes, it was messed up.  Software wasn't built to talk to other software, stuff like that.  A lot of that,"  Abbott continues, "was because they had made the most basic mistake you can ever make.  The government is not used to shipping products to consumers.  You never open a service like this to everyone at once.  You open it in small concentric circles and expand" -- such as one state first, then a few more -- "so you can watch it, fix it and scale it."
What Abbott could not find, however, was leadership.  He says that to this day he cannot figure out who was supposed to have been in charge of the launch."

The Secret Startup That Saved the Worst Website in America  How a team of young people, living in a repurposed McMansion in Maryland, helped rebuild

Stock Options? Don’t Need ‘Em! I’m Coding For Uncle Sam! (Medium)
The people behind the new government agency that’s recruiting the nation’s best tech talent to reform its hideous computer systems.
"The experience shows how great the differences can be. In newly released figures, the government says that constructing the original enrollment system, known as the Federally Facilitated Marketplace operating system, cost $200 million and would have required $70 million a year to maintain. The new version of the site, revamped by USDS engineers from Google, Y Combinator startups and other commercial tech outposts, cost $4 million to produce, with annual maintenance costs also $4 million."

Or take a look at an Agile/Scrum successful rescue -- the FBI Sentinel case management system.
FBI's Sentinel Project: 5 Lessons Learned by InformationWeek's John Foley
Case Study of a Difficult Federal Government Scrum Project: FBI Sentinel by Michael James
DoD Goes Agile by Jeff Sutherland 
DOJ's Report on Sentinel Project by Inspector General - Dec. 2011
How the FBI Proves Agile Works for Gov. Agencies by CIO's Jason Bloomberg
"Wait, agile rescued a huge money-pit fiasco of a government project? You mean, iterative, skunkworks, put-the-customer-on-the-team, forget-the-plan agile? You betcha. Agile turned out to be the hero in the tights and cape, coming to save the day."

Effective Practices and Federal Challenges in Applying Agile Methods  GAO-12-681: Published: Jul 27, 2012
What can one make from failure? Well, author John Kotter of the airport best seller's shelf (Leading Change) created his 8 step model from investigating why companies consistently fail to institute the desired organizational changes that they assumed were mission critical. His conclusion, if they had just done eight things well then the organizational change would have succeeded.
So what can we learn from two of the US governments most recent software project failures?  I think it can be summarized in one phrase - the Big Bang model only works for universes (or God).  The rest of us better learn how to iterate, grow, and evolve systems.

See Also:
Before Scaling up, Consider...

Agile Succeeds 3X more than Waterfall - CHAOS Report 2011 - MountainGoat Software
ObjectMentor success stories:
    Sabre takes extreme measures - ComputerWorld

The famous SalesForce  all-in, one day transition
    Slideshare presentation   The Development Dilemma PDF

Scrum at Scale Keynote 2015 (Scrum Inc.) - has infographic from 2015 Chaos Report

A Case Study of SME Web Application Development Effectiveness via Agile Methods  by: Peter Clutterbuck, Terry Rowlands and Owen Seamons University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

Agile Delivery at British Telecom  by Ian Evans, British Telecom  (Methods and Tools)

Live from LA Success Tour: 5 Stories of Agile Success (RallyDev)

LeSS Case Studies (over a dozen, mostly European companies)

Microsoft's agile case study - would you believe it? by Steve Denning of Forbes

Whole Foods Market case study Home Grown Agile - An Agile journey with one of America’s most trusted brands.

In 2016 there is a preponderance of organizations stating they are doing Digital Transformation.  What could this term mean?  Are they changing from analog to digital systems -or- are they mutating all employee numbers from arabic to binary?

Southwest Airlines’ Digital Transformation Takes Off - FastCompany
Rolling out new software is hard in any company, but it’s even harder when your employees still send faxes.

David Anderson suggest Agile is Costing You Too Much - makes the case that there are few if any Agile Case studies and publishes 8 Kanban case studies.  I loved the Sabre story David tells of circa 2006 Sabre reboot of "agile", I lived through a 2011-2013 reboot at Sabre.  They are continually rebooting that initiative - pondering why?

See Also:

Agile Fails by Teri Christian

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Elements of a Effective Backlog

Your Wish List is not a Scrum Backlog.

I've seen lots of list that are referred to as a backlog.  List on paper, in spreadsheets, in powerpoint, on whiteboards, wrapped in a rubber band on index cards - they can take many forms - yet the form is not what makes a wish list into a backlog.  So what are the necessary and sufficient attributes of a backlog?

A list becomes a backlog when:

  • the items are sized (estimated) by the Development Team that will implement the item
  • the items are ordered (prioritized) by the Product Owner by delivery order
  • the items are visible (instantly) to the team and the stakeholders in this ordered list
  • the stories in the list are understood to the team (well enough for sizing)
  • items that reference additional information or requirements are easily obtained (wireframes/mock ups/technical specification/etc. via a well known location)
This list of elements of an effective backlog follows from the principle of transparency -- the team should be able to easily see the future work, interact with the work, and mutate the work as additional knowledge is generated.

A Backlog has: Order, Size, Visibility

Very few of the teams and organizations I work with would pass this acceptance test of a backlog.  And everyone of them have benefited from making the backlog visible and interactive.  The shared understanding of the product, how it will be implemented, and when that will be completed is achieved by this very basic exercise in sharing.

See Also:
A JIRA List Is Not A Scrum Product Backlog by Craig Larman and Tim Born
Transparency - Two Way Visibility