- Posted by dan on April 4, 2011
Have you ever had that moment, when you think. "This would be better if they just let us get on with it". I know that sounds egotistical, but it got me thinking,
Who are the lunatics?
The lunatics would normally be the non-senior management people, but actually when you think about it, are not the management team the lunatics. When Jack Nicholson joined the asylum to get out of prison, he was in charge of all his faculties. Much like most people are when they join a new company. But over time we seem to get into the routine of the company. In the film everythings structured around the hospital routine, something that Nicholson rebels against, he wants more autonomy. Modern management techniques advocate this, Scrum, XP etc all place a high value on teams becoming self managing.
But often that's only within amongst the team itself, the company as a whole still works on a command and control structure. Does this go far enough?
Command and Control
The military are the canonical example of command and control. Generals sit in planning rooms, pushing model planes along a room sized map, carefully planning how the war is to proceed. They're being constantly updated about what's going on from the front line. But as things become ever more time sensitive this just doesn't scale.
So there's an ever prevalent push to get enough strategic information to the frontlines so that they're able to make decisions to better achieve the objectives set by those incharge.
Scrum and agile practices are increasingly doing the same but hey often seem to leave out or not fully explain the reasoning why it's thought that we go in a particar direction. There's not necessarily a "we need to win this battle, to control the south and win the war" message along with the battle instructions.
From a training course I was on recently, it became clear that setting a vision was of absolute importance. Scrum has visions it is an important part of the methodology but I still feel that it's often overlooked, or sidelined by the more practical needs of sizing and sprint planning.
Often we get visions that are focussed on the specifics of the sprint in hand.
But is this lacking? Would it be worth getting teams more involved in deciding what features should be added and coming up with products that are needed. Middle management have a better view of the broad strategic aims.
The team have experience with day to day products and services. Teams always seem to have ideas for products that can make things better, but they lack the knowledge of the high level strategy to make their ideas relevant to the higher level strategies. Middle management are best placed to see these opportunities but can they be to focussed on making the higher level plans a reality?
We end up with tablet manufacturers that end up producing tablets that address feature omissions of their competitors. But forgetting to produce tablets which people actually need. Will the honeycomb tablets make a dent in Ipad sales? Or is it just a "me to" product. Do they need rear cameras at all? Would of it been better to build in Kinect like cameras in the front of the device and put loads of effort into software that can well represent you regardless of what angle you hold your tablet?
What's the problem
Teams it seems are quite often presented with solutions and not problems. You might have inceptions and backlogs to discuss how, you're tablets going to work and what features it should contains, but we're constantly talking about the "tablet" solution and not the underlying problem.
The evolution of a strategy
Is the problem with strategies, that they'll often go through filters. The president might ask for technologies input as to what direction they company should head in. Then the Dilbert sketch below slowly unfolds. Whereby, the president see's ultimately a bullet point of recommendation and thefore favours the cool "tablet" computer seen in a 30 second CNN report.
At this point, we have to ask ourselves, are the lunatics running the asylum?. Or is the system just letting us down. Would we be better off by, deciding on a problem to solve, and setting a vision around this and have the strategies emerge out of this?