Posted by: Timm J. Esque | Posted on: October 1st, 2013 | 0 Comments
Ensemble Managing Partner, Timm Esque, was interviewed recently by Andreas Larsson, Associate Professor on the Faculty of Engineering at Lund University in Sweden (pictured below). To oversimplify a bit, Professor Larsson is studying the co-evolution of consumer products and methods for managing the efforts to design them – particularly Agile methods. His recent paper begins…
“Many of today’s consumer products are in essence product-service systems (PSS) (Baines et.al., 2007), including a combination of hardware, software and services. This increases the complexity during both development and use. At the same time, the users’ total experience of the ‘product in use’ is central, meaning that developers must understand the product in terms of its social use context, and the needs that it is helping to fulfill, rather than merely understanding the technical context and worrying about whether or not the requirement specification has been met….”
This excerpt is from Larsson’s “Agile User Experience Design for Product-Service Systems” which is available in its entirety at here on the Ensemble website. He is obviously focusing on product design here, but I would suggest that the observations he is making apply a great deal to all development environments. Here are a few excerpts from our interview edited for continuity (words in italics have been added).
Edited Excerpt from the Interview
Andreas Larson: I understand that you have quite some history in this field. You have been working at Intel before and then as a consultant?
Timm Esque: Correct. I spent 15 years at Intel and left in 1998 and started my consulting business. My interest throughout my career there was in performance improvement. I have been heavily influenced by a little known guy named Thomas Gilbert. So I was always looking for opportunities to implement his approach to performance. I actually brought him into Intel on one occasion to help on something.
AL: I saw some paper that you had written about Tom Gilbert I think. You wrote something about that, right?
TE: Yeah, for several years I was writing a column for the Performance Improvement Journal (monthly publication of the International Society of Performance Improvement). I had been heavily influenced by Thomas Gilbert who was considered the father of that professional society. So I referenced his stuff frequently throughout that period. I still see it as sort of the foundation of what we started from (to create CBPM) and then a lot of stuff has been added to it. So by the time that I had been at Intel for 15 years, the last two or three years I was essentially an internal consultant and I was focusing on product development – what Intel called “Time to Money”… was the goal. And that is how a lot of these methods that I am still using today developed.
AL: Are you mainly focused on CBPM right now, or are there other strands of those kinds of Agile approaches that you’ve found useful?
TE: Yeah. So I would not try to talk somebody out of doing Scrum and do CBPM instead. I have a lot of respect for Scrum. If they were in an environment where there is openness to it and they use that, I think it is great. We have found that one of the limitations (of Scrum) is that while it is great for the software team, that software is generally part of a larger ultimate goal of the project – there are often a lot of groups that are not software oriented that are involved in the launch of this new product, whatever it is. So we can use CBPM to structure the larger program even though the software team is following Scrum. So we are not saying that CBPM is superior to all these other things and you should only use CBPM. I am also familiar with the Goldratt’s work (E.g. the Critical Chain book). The strategy there is taken from production control and it is managing buffers so that you do not have this irrational buffering going on at every level of organization in terms of schedule. I am familiar with those things, I have a bias against them which is that I do not think that they break out of (what Tom Gilbert, and Goerge Odiorne before him, called) the activity trap. They are still focused on somebody managing other peoples’ time. You know, how long is it going to take, how much time are you spending on it now? How much more time are you going to need? I honestly think that that became unmanageable 25 years ago. You cannot manage 50, 60, 70 or even 12 or 15 other peoples’ time and I am guessing that if you are managing one group of 12 you have been asked to manage eight groups of 12 at the same time. Cannot be done. So we have got to shift to these practices that are about micro-management to self management and self-control. It does not mean no bosses. You still need the coordination of roles and multiple levels of organization.
But they should not be managing what people do and how they spend their time. They should be making sure that the right conditions are in place, that everyone is managing themselves really well and that the issues are coming up so that decisions get made. And people honor the decisions and commit to them and move forward.
AL: So more again about what am I going to… or what are we going to accomplish? Rather than, we are going to read this or we are going to do this. And it is kind of interesting that it is kind of an old theory. But that it has come up again, I guess.
TE: I believe that focus on activities evolved out of Taylorism, you know the science of management where we have analyzed everything and figured out exactly the best way to do it. And that tradition was carried on in engineering and business schools as optimization. But that mindset of finding the best way and getting everybody to do it is still deep in our DNA as sophisticated organizations. And that is the thing that needs to change.
Everything that I have been doing for 30 years has been about that distinction. And how do we get better and helping people get beyond that. And of course what has happened is that the world has evolved in the direction where it is not even possible to manage in that way but organizations have not figured that out yet. So we are using process management to replace task management. The boss standing over and watching everyone work, so we have replaced that with processes which get carefully documented and nobody is allowed to deviate from them. Which of course… that works about as well as trying to watch every move that everybody makes. virtual blackjack online
AL: So you said that basically it was going from task management to process management to practice management or was that the chain that you have been seeing?
TE: The third one I would call commitment management or promise management. And by the way, have you ran into Donald Sull’s stuff from London Business school? He wrote co-wrote a paper called Promise-based Management, Harvard Business Review 2008 or 9.
AL: Yes, I think I actually down loaded that one. I think I did, yes.
TE: And he has made some little nice marketing videos. And so I actually took that progression from him. You know, we started out… Human being started out getting things done through others with their power, their position power and then we have moved to processes and now we need to move to promises. Which we happen to call commitments and that piece of it is influenced by the Fernando Flores work on speech act theory.
AL: I have come in contact with that a bit actually because I was studying basic interaction design (38.53) design when I was a student and we came in contact with Terry Winograd and Fernando Flores and then I also met Terry at some point at Stanford when I was working there a bit and so it is really fun to see those kind of things reconnecting to something I learned quite many years ago that is now coming up again. So I was happy to see that link.
TE: Yeah. And I think that it is a really interesting one. And Flores… every description that I have heard about the way he engaged with organizations I could never do that. You know, he was working at the top level and basically breaking these people down and building them back up. I do not think… One of my big, I guess needs in life is, let us not make it so hard that people have to make this huge transformation to get better. So commitment management is the small steps that people can take to build commitment muscle. Which is one of the concepts that also came out of that movement. uk gambling sites
AL: Commitment muscle?
TE: Yes. So you start off creating a discipline around smaller scale commitments. Nothing extraordinary just, what am I going to get done this week? And if you create a discipline around that… What happens is that you start to believe that when I say that I will get something done, I will get it done. Because commitments do not limit us to how we get them done, creativity comes into play.
Part of it is creating new possibilities so once you commit to something and you really are committed to it, regardless of what is going on in the environment. It starts to make sense to make requests of other people that you would not have made before. And then the creativity plays in to that. The other thing we already touched on was, you mentioned New Year’s resolutions… You know the other thing that is missing there usually is the public part. So helping… working with a team of people, having them making commitments to each other and monitoring whether they are meeting them in very short cycles, creates relationships. It creates trust. And it also greatly increases the chance that these things will be done because they have been spoken publicly and they are in the context of, we are all here to get things done. I need to do this in order for it to get done. So that makes it very difficult for me to just sort of back out. If I have spoken it publicly. And I know that we are going to meet next week and talk about whether I did it or not.
AL: So maybe if you could say something about CBPM. Like summarize kind of the main benefits in regards to covering the traditional management practices or innovation practices. What are the main benefits and do you see any main drawbacks or something that you have not really cracked yet?
TE: OK, so one of the challenges that we have been working to overcome is… historically we have started our implementations, our interventions with a technique called Map Day. Get the whole team to the room, take them to a structured process to create a high level plan. That is not where the commitments are made, but it sets them up to operate from commitments. And it is getting harder and harder to do that because people are spread around the world.
They need to collaborate with each other. So one of the things that is developing is software to help people collaborate across space. And we have got a very project specific, CBPM tool. Essentially we took our concept of Map Day and created an internet-based virtual Map Day application. One of the things that is going to need to happen, and I think it is starting to happen on the leading edge, is… you know these enterprise software systems that have always had people management components, they are starting to evolve to more than just time management. So they are evolving from time management to commitment management. A few of them are calling that out explicitly. Some of them are just sort of… have elements of it. And that is being sorted out right now and there is no clear winner in that space.
A small shift in the structure of your regular project meetings is one of the simplest things you can do to improve project performance and your reputation as a meeting leader. The essence of this shift is to focus the progress part of your meetings on deliverables rather than tasks. All tasks (activities) have an intended output (accomplishment) or there would be no reason to do them. At any level of analysis and coordination you can choose to focus on these outputs rather than activities. We say it should be “deliverables all the way down.”
Deliverables don’t have durations, they have endpoints. At any point in time deliverables are either done or not done. CBPM suggests that what we want to know about progress is: what did we say would be done by now, and what is done. This creates a much more reliable picture of where things stand than task % complete and stoplight color coding. This is probably not the first time you’ve heard this. If you’ve actually tried it, you’ve seen how it immediately makes your meetings more efficient and effective. If you haven’t tried it, what are you waiting for? slot casino us players
Most of your time should not be spent on status and explaining why things are slipping, it should be spent affirming what the team will do in the next couple weeks and if anyone has concerns or needs help to make sure nothing slips in the first place. It’s amazing how an open and honest conversation about concerns can help the team overcome them and stay on track. Occasionally, something comes up that the team can’t mitigate, and it should be elevated immediately.
CBPM recommends much more than this simple shift in your meetings, but it is a great place to start. In fact we are in the process of producing some online CBPM modules and the first one will highlight making this shift in your meetings. We hope to illustrate that progress meetings do not have to be annoying, they can be quite satisfying.
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