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14 September 2016

Agile will never work here

TL/DR: Agile will never work in Asia, America, Argentina Australia, China, India, or anywhere, really.

Scrum does not work in Asia
Why not?

  • A hierarchy culture where people do what they are told by their boss
  • People value harmony over disruption and so disupting the way things are is frowned upon
  • There is a deeply rooted deference to authority and conformity
  • Most of the work is based in the outsourcing industry and has a cost focus. Quality, innovation and agility are not valued.

5 reasons why agile won't work in Germany
Why not?
  1. Deference to heirarchy is a very strong aspect to the national culture
  2. The whole society is structured into silos. Focus on your job and do it well, rather thank think about the broader picture
  3. Germans love planning, and so let's focus on planning.
  4. Germans love perfection. Iterating on an imperfect implementation drives us nuts.
  5. We have a conservative culture and don't want to rock the boat.
  1. Entreprenuers and managers make decicions based in short term horizons
  2. Becasue we only care about the immediate future, the cost of quality feels to high
  3. We have a service industry (like Asia) and so project cost is more important than longer term sustainability
  4. Our culture celebrates heroes, so we value individual contributions over team culture
  5. Heroes get rewarded. Also, our pride and ego put our individual identity ahead of our team
There are more. And not just regions, but industries also. I bet we can find posts on why Agile doesn't work in banks, startups, R&D projects, government, etc.

I'd love you guys to post links to the comments and help expand this list.

Is there an antidote to these problems? Maybe

6 September 2016

“Cognitive bias cheat sheet” @buster

The now famous List of Cognitive Biases on Wikipedia is now getting ugly and cluttered.

 Fortunately this guy has written a better description and organising of the biases. He frames the long list of duplicated and marginally specific biases by the problems they solve. Of course this description is subject to a framing bias, but it does seem to work as a sense making model.

Do take a look.

“Cognitive bias cheat sheet” @buster

4 September 2016

Book Review: The Heretic’s Guide to Management

The Heretic's Guide To Management: The Art of Harnessing AmbiguityThe Heretic's Guide To Management: The Art of Harnessing Ambiguity by Paul Culmsee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

TL/DR - It’s a great, entertaining book on managing people in a complex world. Buy it and read it today.

I am really happy Paul and Kailash wrote a follow up to their 2011 book The Heretic's’ Guide to Best Practices. That was a book with great storytelling weaving together 50 years of management academia.

It told the story of how work is inherently complex and you can’t just treat it like a game with a simple rule book. They showed how and why the simplistic approach to work of best practices is antithetical to actually doing good work together.

I read that Heretic’s guide enjoying the book as a bringing together and sorting of a bunch of ideas I was already familiar with. They created a great reference book showing the history of good and bad management ideas that I could point people at. It encapsulated for me years of learning that I had acquired through research, conservation and study. Now it was much easier to get people to read the book and they could catch up in hours or days.

Amusingly, at the end of the Best Practices book they broke the promise of the title in a way typical of both their larrikin senses of humour. They shared a best practice with us for dealing with complex social systems. (I won’t share it here. Read the book.)

This new book is also a good read. It’s full of humour and anecdotes, but is backed with an oblique and deep academic pedigree. Kailash and Paul know how to look beyond the business bestseller list when they research. They follow the academics and they check the academic theory against their own extensive experiences. This adds up to a well researched and entertaining story that you know you can work with.

Once again this book kicks off with a sharp and pointed criticism of best practices, this time in the guise of management models. They show how you can quickly establish your own management framework in four easy steps. This is done tongue firmly in cheek to arouse your natural skepticism about snake-oil dealers peddling certification schemes.

(As if YOU would be suckered, dear reader. You’re one of the smart ones.)

Having you in on the joke, they then proceed to take you on a tour of how our brains manipulate us when we aren’t expecting it; name-checking lists of cognitive biases, provoking us with statements designed to generate an emotional response in you to what they write, until eventually settling down and getting to the heart of this book's idea.

The big idea of this book is about how we deal with uncertainty and the middle section spends quite a bit of time addressing how you and I handle ambiguity. It's compelling stuff and it resonates.

But so what? Is this just another book about complexity? Interesting but of what practical value? Kailash and Paul are all about the pay-off. The author's solution is to recommend we managers use ambiguity to our advantage, even if we don’t always embrace it with love in our hearts.

The last part of the book then follows the precedent of it’s predecessor and ironically provides us with a management supermodel that provides tools for managing (manipulating) people at work by amplifying or diminishing ambiguity.

Once again, the book is an excellent read. It is more engaging and fun to read than many other business books. Both the authors have a perverse sense of humour. Both are deeply skeptical of the fads of the management consulting industry and both are great storytellers. As with the first book I now have a concise repository of a number of important and useful ideas that I can refer people to.

In fact, I like this book better than the first (and I liked the first a lot.) This one is shorter, more to the point, and funnier.

When I read this book I instantly wanted to get a handful of my friends and colleagues to go buy it, and I have bought a couple of copies for people. I highly recommend you go buy it and read it also.


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