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Announcing the Reinventing Business Blog

9 replies on 1 page. Most recent reply: May 15, 2010 6:41 AM by asem sbeit

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Bruce Eckel

Posts: 874
Nickname: beckel
Registered: Jun, 2003

Announcing the Reinventing Business Blog (View in Weblogs)
Posted: May 8, 2010 3:12 PM
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Summary
This move has been several years in the making. My interests have been shifting during that time, away from software development and towards business. As several people have suggested, it makes sense to separate the two topics into different blogs.
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I will continue to post software-oriented articles here, although I suspect postings will be less frequent (But who knows? Being liberated from software may loosen my tongue).

I can't quite explain what caused this transition. I think I may have had a much slower version of Gerald Weinberg's discovery that bad management trivially overwhelms good technology (Weinberg wrote one or two programming books at the beginning of his career, then switched over to management). A bigger impact came from visiting businesses as part of my consulting work, and seeing how most of them created (usually with good intentions) negative environments that made people unhappy and produced counterproductive results for the business.

It's easy to dwell on what's wrong, and I think that very thing kept me away from regular jobs -- our businesses are so overwhelmingly bad that it seemed hopeless. Employees are driven to despair and madness by this crazy system we've created. And yet we somehow accept it as "business as usual."

As I said, easy to dwell on the negative. But some years ago, I started having this thought, a thought which seemed crazy and impossible and yet persisted as a little mental experiment: "what would the world be like if everyone loved their job?" There are all kinds of reasons and arguments that people can come up with for why this is impossible, but in my experience with open-spaces conferences I've learned that it's easy to come up with that reasoning, which seems airtight but turns out to be completely wrong (for other examples, see TED talks and Radiolab).

So the thought that keeps pushing aside all the nay-says is visualizing a world full of people who love their work. Yes, I don't know exactly how that structure would look (yet) and I don't know how to get there (yet), but I'm fairly certain that it would (for example) maximize profit -- I say that not to suggest that maximizing profit is what business should be about; on the contrary I think that is what has put us in our current predicament. I say it because I think it might motivate some people to consider the alternatives.

The business books I've been reading and reporting about here are in pursuit of that goal, and I'm amazed at how many of the recent books seem to be aligned with my own thinking. I started out wondering if I was alone in this endeavor, but now it feels like the first train is just leaving the station, and I'm having to crowd to get on. It's a good feeling, because the others are also in pursuit of quality of life. It's an example of enlightened self-interest.

You can read the introduction and subscribe to the new blog here. Note that the discussion forum is a Google Group, because I want to encourage positive conversations, and the newsgroup provides a barrier and allows better control.


Alessandro Ogheri

Posts: 1
Nickname: dogbert
Registered: Feb, 2010

Re: Announcing the Reinventing Business Blog Posted: May 10, 2010 3:57 AM
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Hi, I wish you all the best for your future "path".

Actually, we will miss your books of the "thinking in..." series, but your decision is something understandable.

Do you think that the reasons why most of the current projects fail is related to "management" as we usually understand it, or also to the fact that "management" is a little bit reluctant to embrace new methodologies, such as agile programming, extreme programming and more... ehm...
sociologic aspects of them, such as for example "pair programming" that, when appropriate, can really enhance the productivity of people, probably in my opinion not only because it makes people more concentrated on what they do, but also because it makes programming a more social and interactive activity ?

Kind regards, and sorry for my poor English,

Alessandro

Erik Neu

Posts: 2
Nickname: neuerik
Registered: May, 2010

Analogy of Profix-Maximizing to Happiness-Maximizing? Posted: May 10, 2010 11:50 AM
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I have often read that the people who live, and die, the "happiest" (most content, must fulfilled, most serene) are people who do no set out to pursue happiness. They are people who set out to pursue meaning, to pursue purpose, to serve others, to live a moral life. They are willing to do or endure very unpleasant things, if necessary, in pursuit of what they view as "right". Happiness comes as a by-product. Conversely, those people who chase happiness, as the end in itself, often lead tragic, dissolute lives (Paris Hilton or Michael Jackson, perhaps).

Anyway, I wonder if there is an analogy to business...do enterprises that pursue doing the right things, and ensuring that their employees are fulfilled, as a by-product reap maximum profitability? And conversely, those that speak of little besides profit, profit, profit, do less well?

Karl Arsch

Posts: 1
Nickname: voltaire
Registered: May, 2010

Re: Announcing the Reinventing Business Blog Posted: May 12, 2010 7:16 AM
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You are probably aware of Obie Fernandez? I think he succeeded in creating a desirable place to work. One interesting comment was that he gave up doing business with large corporations, because they are too political and simply less interested in the real outcome of a project than - say - a startup. The cultural mismatch prevented him from working the way he wanted to.

Politics, struggle for power and money, up to active sabotage of competiting manager's projects - this is the reality, and programmers are often oblivious of this, because they don't "think that way".

I believe this has a lot to do with sexual competition and testosterone levels in people, a topic that I believe is often ignored when people reason about the sad state of affairs in the world of software development.

Bruce Eckel

Posts: 874
Nickname: beckel
Registered: Jun, 2003

Re: Announcing the Reinventing Business Blog Posted: May 12, 2010 2:36 PM
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> Do you think that the reasons why most of the current
> projects fail is related to "management" as we usually
> understand it, or also to the fact that "management" is a
> little bit reluctant to embrace new methodologies, such as
> agile programming, extreme programming and more... ehm...
> sociologic aspects of them, such as for example "pair
> programming" that, when appropriate, can really enhance
> the productivity of people, probably in my opinion not
> only because it makes people more concentrated on what
> they do, but also because it makes programming a more
> social and interactive activity ?

Well, I have to be somewhat compassionate here, since I've seen so many fads come and go. I do think that the agile methods are panning out, but there have been so many other methods which have been pure snake oil. And there have also been lots of management fads. So I'm sympathetic with managers who are reluctant to jump on the next fad, because the snake-oil salesmen have figured out how to generate the buzz whether there's substance or not. Because people are willing to lie for short term profit, it poisons the well.

The only approach that most people know is "wait and see." It doesn't (seem to) cost anything to do nothing, and you can let other people figure out whether it's a new scam.

One way that people have introduced new techniques is through small experiments, doing a project with a small team using (for example) agile methods. If that produces positive results, then the method becomes less scary.

Bruce Eckel

Posts: 874
Nickname: beckel
Registered: Jun, 2003

Re: Analogy of Profix-Maximizing to Happiness-Maximizing? Posted: May 12, 2010 2:45 PM
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> I have often read that the people who live, and die, the
> "happiest" (most content, must fulfilled, most serene) are
> people who do no set out to pursue happiness. They are
> people who set out to pursue meaning, to pursue purpose,
> to serve others, to live a moral life. They are willing to
> do or endure very unpleasant things, if necessary, in
> pursuit of what they view as "right". Happiness comes as a
> by-product. Conversely, those people who chase happiness,
> as the end in itself, often lead tragic, dissolute lives
> (Paris Hilton or Michael Jackson, perhaps).
>
> Anyway, I wonder if there is an analogy to business...do
> enterprises that pursue doing the right things, and
> ensuring that their employees are fulfilled, as a
> by-product reap maximum profitability? And conversely,
> those that speak of little besides profit, profit, profit,
> do less well?

I think so, but it's a longer-term proposition which can be undone by short-term thinking. If happiness comes from the extrinsic motivator of management bonuses based on good quarterly profits, then you'll tweak whatever you can to get those quarterly profits. This can destroy most positive designs -- a classic is the "furniture police" from the book PeopleWare where someone tasked with saving money on rent can destroy the culture of a company and make valuable people leave, while getting rewarded for saving a few dollars on rent.

If it was easy and obvious, we'd already be doing it. But it's difficult and very often counterintuitive, so we just take the simplest path, which is to keep doing what we've done before, with the belief that "it works."

Bruce Eckel

Posts: 874
Nickname: beckel
Registered: Jun, 2003

Re: Announcing the Reinventing Business Blog Posted: May 12, 2010 3:00 PM
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> You are probably aware of Obie Fernandez? I think he
> succeeded in creating a desirable place to work. One
> interesting comment was that he gave up doing business
> with large corporations, because they are too political
> and simply less interested in the real outcome of a
> project than - say - a startup. The cultural mismatch
> prevented him from working the way he wanted to.

I admire someone who makes a choice in order to improve their life experience. You really need to design the company around that choice, however, or else it falls by the wayside as soon as things get difficult.

I'm interested in exploring such choices. One subject that has come up in the Reinventing Business discussion is the loosely-coupled project-based company which is primarily comprised of contractors. I think it will be helpful to see what works -- however, I also want to see if there's a way that we can work together in larger groups, because there's also a lot of power there.

Fred Finkelstein

Posts: 48
Nickname: marsilya
Registered: Jun, 2008

Re: Announcing the Reinventing Business Blog Posted: May 14, 2010 3:06 AM
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I hate it to quote a man from military but this quote is from General Patton:

Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.

This, I think, is the most important principle in leadership (besides it's also an important aspect in programming, think of declarative vs. imperative programming).

Channing Walton

Posts: 32
Nickname: channing
Registered: May, 2003

Re: Announcing the Reinventing Business Blog Posted: May 14, 2010 7:44 AM
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You might be interested in the work of John Seddon and his Systems Thinking. He has made significant improvements to businesses and how the happiness and motivation of employees.

More here: http://www.systemsthinking.co.uk/

asem sbeit

Posts: 1
Nickname: asem2k
Registered: May, 2010

Re: Announcing the Reinventing Business Blog Posted: May 15, 2010 6:41 AM
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If programming is the science of applying logic and structure to real-world problems ,then management is the art of doing so, and arts are more liberated than sciences.

I think , at least at an effective level , there is generally a lack of understanding of what the other side's goals and take on "delivering" really is. Employees don't understand the source of managers' NOs , and managers don't understand employees achievements.

"Regulating" software production by business roles is all about compromise and compensation ,and not a straight forward integration of efforts.

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