Monday, January 09, 2012

#stoos and boat building

I was discussing the various blog posts and feedback from #stoos with my friend and colleague @bjoernlinder and I realized that they seem to be pursuing a different strategy than I would have used. To describe this I would like to use the metaphor of boat building:

Let's say we have come up with a much better way to build boats. We see everyone else sailing around in what we think are really crappy boats and we have an idea about how to build boats better. So what do we do? Do we try to evangelize about our fantastic boat idea and try to get everyone else to build our fantastic new boat design instead of their own? No, we don't. We do not do this because it will have little chance of success. What we decide to do is to find a sympathetic boat builder that we can convince to do an experiment; to build one of our fantastic boats for us. Once our fantastic boat is built and sailing and everyone can see that it out-performs all the other boats then the boat builders will naturally want to use our design and convincing them will no longer be a problem!

So how does this relate to our problem and #stoos?
I have been eagerly reading the various feedback and blog posts from #stoos and am struck by the seemingly theoretical nature of the output. For example, we have now a list of stakeholders. We already know the stakeholders, any one of us could have sat down in a room and written that! We might not agree 100% on the order of importance but who cares? These details are not important. We are discussing evangelizing about our ideas when what we need are examples, activities, best practices, and above all PROOF.

What I believe we should do is find some companies where we have influence that we can convince to do some experiments. Once we have a bunch of successful companies using the values and principles which we are wanting to promote, and which perform better than traditional companies and once we have some data and facts about this improvement, THEN it will be much easier to convince other companies to follow suit.

What we need are some experiments and some data and then we need to write a book documenting this and then we can change the world. Or, at least, this is what I would do.


  1. What is preventing you from doing so?

  2. Hi Hass,

    I am not so sure on the kind of "proof" and "best practice" we might look out for. I think what we actually need is a momentum of - as you said at least - one larger organization that succeeds with Agile software development.

    The point in #stoos is probably that we already have many larger organizations who are doing their taste of Agile software development. But these still don't seem convincing enough for other larger corporations to change their mind as well.

    Indeed, identifying stakeholders is something every consultant knows how to do. And there might be more to come. I am still curious, but also don't count on too many results from a first meeting. The discussion has started, and we might actually find out what successful Agile enterprise means. Or we might fail fast trying to find that out.

  3. I just wrote a book called "The Heretic's Guide to Best Practices: The Reality of Managing Complex Problems in Organssiations". I have been holding back on mentioning it as it might come across the wrong way, so like you, I've been watching the #stoos discussions and examining the artifacts from the event.

    Your last sentence was too much for me to resist though. I think we have partially written that book that you speak of:

  4. I disagree. The great examples are already out there (Semco, Toyota, Whole Foods, South West Airlines, Gore, etc.). But organizations refuse to recognize their better performance. Or they mimic them in a halfhearted manner.

    Apparently your suggested approach is not enough.

    So we need to do more. That's what we've been trying to discuss.

    BTW, one of the topics discussed was indeed identifying examples of lesser known companies with great management. But there was agreement that we needed to ask permission to publish names and their practices. Don't know if that's going to happen...

    p.s. There have been many hundreds of books already. Apparently, they're not making much of an impact. :(

  5. Whilst I agree that there are many good examples I am not sure how well-known they are outside of our small community.

    And although there are plenty of books written on these subjects most are not built on case studies and many fail to summarise the whole subject but focus on one or two areas. Certainly there is no collaborative community-led book that I am aware of that the community could rally around to focus attention.

    Basically we haven't yet reached the 10% tipping threshold required to spread these ideas.