Tag: culture

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Without accountability there can be no solidarity

Posted by Simon Baker
Over the past two years I've been seeing teams fail because people are not holding one another accountable. People tell me they are scared of being perceived to blame and so instead they say nothing. I asked some people why they don't hold people accountable. They responded with things like: "I'm really uncomfortable doing that." Or "I'm not good at saying that kind of stuff. I'm just a developer." And I empathize. I really do. I'm uncomfortable holding people accountable too. I'm guessing everyone probably is to some degree. And by the way, I possess those developer genes. That said, I still think these responses are phooey! Being able to communicate is a basic human skill. We all do it, admittedly some better than others, but just because something is difficult doesn't mean we should stop doing it. How will we learn if we don't practice?
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Thursday, May 1, 2008

The difference between blame and accountability

Posted by Simon Baker
For a while now, there's been some trepidation in the team when holding people accountable. People seem to have difficulty knowing how to hold someone else accountable. It's a communication problem. People are so worried about being seen to blame someone for something that they'd rather avoid the conversation completely. The problem with this approach is that the things that shouldn't be happening keep happening because the people doing them don't know they shouldn't be doing them.
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Friday, May 11, 2007

Wake up and smell the complacency

Posted by Simon Baker
Via Ed Gibbs . A recent Gartner reports says: Wake up IT managers, you're mediocre at best . A sweeping generalisation? Probably. But I've definitely worked in places where mediocrity is accepted as the norm. Typically, these have been large companies with deep hierarchies, bureaucratic culture, command-and-control management and groups of people silo'ed by role. These companies are pickled . Gartner claims: This industry is in danger of becoming one of failure. We've come to accept mediocrity as the norm. It's not a lack of technology or skills. The problem comes down to a lack of vision . And I would add, ignorance - many companies simply don't see their mediocrity - while those that do are not able to change. Sadly, the order of the day seems to be: Maintain the status quo to keep your existing systems up and running at all costs. Bolt new functionality onto legacy systems, and increase the already unmanageable complexity and disproportionate maintenance burden. Complicate things for everyone by building what will quickly become even more legacy systems. Don't think about gradually replacing creaking systems with new, more innovative solutions that are extensible and easy to maintain, and are feature-rich, simpler and more compelling to users. That would be too painful. Give your money away to big vendors whose business models are inflexible and consequently struggle to compete with the open-source revolution where platforms and tools are free of charge and are borne out of innovation. Lock yourself in and survive from patch to upgrade as you pay even more money for an exorbitant maintenance contract. Let their technologies and solutions constrain your innovation. Many companies have stagnated. They are caught up in their organisational constipation and are struggling to remain competitive. They rely on captive users for revenue. Users that were caught many moons ago when the companies used to be innovative. But their numbers are declining as increasingly savvy users are jumping ship to find better products and better services for less money elsewhere. To survive in today's markets, companies need to innovate more and learn to compete on the basis of speed . Again I believe the impediment here is culture.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

You, organisational hierarchies, avast there!

Posted by Simon Baker
Via Knowledge Jolt with Jack . Sigurd Rinde says that organisational hierarchies in practice gets in the way of service . They breed inefficiency; you're left with the idea that the company (read brand) is stupid; fear of the boss fear is more important than pleasing a customer. Jack Vinson comments: Isn't it funny that the people in the hierarchy believe they are enforcing efficiency (in their sphere of influence) and they end up creating less efficiency for the organization as a whole -- particularly at the customer-facing end that this story addresses. They also degrade peoples' ability to be effective.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

It's a stragedy

Posted by Simon Baker
A strategy is a plan of action to achieve an overall goal. But when a meeting convened to devise a new organisation structure produces the same kind of hierarchy, just dressed up a little differently, it's more like a tradegy than a strategy. It's a stradegy , if you like. Strategising about organisation without considering the affect of corporate culture probably isn't going to get you the improvements you want because culture eats strategy for breakfast . When a company is pickled, it's not necessarily blind to its problems but it is often blind to the root causes of those problems. It's strategy for change is preoccupied with fixing symptoms.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Change is required to accommodate agility

Posted by Simon Baker
On Wednesday night Andrew Scotland ran a workshop at the second Agile Practitioners Forum. The event was organised by Les Oliver and Simon Voice and sponsored by Radtac and Connections Recruitment . The venue was the Gun Room aboard the HMS Belfast . The topic for exploration was bringing about the change necessary to accommodate the adoption of agile methods. At the heart of introducing agility into any large organisation is a huge amount of cultural, behavioural and organisational change. Andrew hypothesised that sometimes the need for this type of change is the primary driver for the introduction of agile methods and can be more important than the traditional drivers of improved ROI and improved engineering practice. Andrew provided a brief introduction that charted the BBC 's journey so far, where the introduction of Scrum (less focused on team behaviours and roles) proved more successful than the introduction of Extreme Programming (at that time more focused on engineering practice). The result is a prioritisation of the agile values where collaboration comes top. During the workshop, we will split into 4 groups to brainstorm factors that support change and factors that resist change. We then used a technique called force-field analysis to indicate the relative strengths of the factors.

Finding flow in culture

Posted by Simon Baker
Tags: culture, flow
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi writes:

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Posted by Simon Baker

When a company wants to make lasting change, for whatever reason, it’s usually not enough to change just the physical organization. Shuffling hierarchy, bringing in new people for existing roles, and creating new roles with new responsibilities will not, in and of itself, produce the enduring improvements being sought.


Obfuscated decision-making

Posted by Simon Baker
Who's making the decisions around here? Oh everyone in that committee over there! But they don't have the authority to make decisions. Ah I see. Actually no-one is making decisions around here. No? Ok. Let me see if I've got this right: If it's architecture decisions I need to speak with him. If it's timescale and priority decisions I need to speak with her. If it's decisions on requirements I need to speak with them over there. For this dependency I need to speak with him or her, except when it's relating to this, in which case I need to call her. And for this other dependency I need to contact this guy in India. And why are you making the decisions all the way up there (in the hierarchy)? Look how many layers of management I need to get through to ask you to make a decision. Don't you trust those working at the coalface to make the decisions? Getting decisions made in a hierarchical company organised by roles can be confusing, difficult and wasteful. I observed exactly this problem last night, in Can Gerry Robinson Fix the NHS? Obfuscated decision-making contributes to constipation .

Monday, January 8, 2007

Organisational constipation

Posted by Simon Baker
Do things happen too slowly in your organisation? If they do, your organisation is constipated. Look at how decisions are made. Is anyone making decisions? If they are, how far is the decision-maker from the point where the decision is needed? Are committees involved without the requisite authority to make decisions? Does decision-making emphasise a chain of command, control and adherence to policy or procedure? How many layers of management approval need to be obtained before anything can be done? I see this all the time in large organisations and it's frustrating and then depressing.
Comments: 4