Productivity Ain't

Wanted to clarify what I meant by the "Organization's Throughput". Here is a presentation I give to clarify the use of the word "productivity" as used regarding Information Technology.

Click below to see a 5 minute movie I created.

PS. The book I refer to in the video is Implementing Lean Software Development: From Concept to Cash[amazon] by Tom and Mary Poppendieck. Highly Recommended.


Tweaking Corporations

I tweak companies for a living.

When I was a child (about 7) I was constantly taking things apart. Telephones, televisions, light switches (to my parent's horror), and putting them together again. I wanted to know how they worked. Then I would try putting them back together with fewer parts, and see if they would still work. Then I'd try fine-tuning them. It appealed to me.

I am a born optimizer. Constantly fascinated by systems and how to make them better - always have been.

Not surprisingly, I now optimize organizations for a living - for ThoughtWorks. It's a strange and interesting job. But simpler than you might think.

Most medium-to-large organizations today are over-complicated. They are siloed, segmented, and specialized, and there's so much cruft and waste and hand-off and arbitrariness that it obscures the big picture: how work progresses all the way from start to finish.

Thus, one of my primary tasks when I first arrive on site is to draw a map of the progress of work - the organization's throughput - and show it to the client. They are always surprised. Things are never what they believed them to be. This is a very important and powerful step in creating change - and I do it all the time, but I never thought to communicate succinctly why it's so powerful and important.

Yesterday I saw a presentation from Matthew May, a talented speaker, and he summarized it beautifully:

“A bad system is one that you can't learn from. You can't see cause and effect.”

That's it. The structures and processes are so large and complicated that no-one can track effect back to cause. That's why drawing the map is so important.

What a wonderfully elegant explanation of one of the primary bows in my quiver. Thank you, Matthew.

I highly recommend his presentation, “The Elegant Solution: Toyota's Engine of Innovation” (free online version, opens in a new window).

PS. If you need a tool for visualizing that big picture I was talking about, take a look at Value Stream Mapping [wikipedia] - it simply plots the course of the product (or design, or service) all the way from start to finish, distinguishing between work and waiting.


A Void Dance

A Tibetan llama once said to me - on a flight from San Fran to Boston - in response to my question about spiritual guidance, "We have a saying, 'When you think you have found a teacher, don't ever jump like a dog finding lumps of meat'".

More helpful than it might look at first glance.

Experience is a pain - you never get it until just after you needed it. Sometimes the lesson is an easy pill, and you'll jump like Llama Punsol's proverbial dog. Sometimes, however, it'll be a bitter pill - the prospect of repeated pain seeming lesser than swallowing it. Do we accept the universe's lesson, and learn the new steps, or dance on by? The road more or less travelled? Guidance or a void dance?

I like to believe I swallow the bitter pill with relish - part of my self image. Truth is... I don't know for sure.

Here, I will attempt to record and track my lessons - professional and personal - and check if they are repeating on me.

Too many big lumps of meat might not be very edifying, after all.