Check your assumptions

#ds307 big red and small redPick your methodology. Are you aiming for a massive change to a new state RIGHT NOW? Or do you want the new state to appear over time? Is your first step that of a child or a giant?

I've come across this idea in a couple places. Essentially, it's a way of thinking about a management methodologies: what is the underlying philosophy of the methodology? Do you have to create a Big Change to get started with the concept? Or does the concept start where you are with a goal of getting better? I suppose this is some version of a conflict between Start Big or Start Small. How about some examples to clarify?

There is a kerfuffle brewing online between the Scrum and Kanban communities, arguing which approach is "right." Beyond the specifics of the discussion, I saw a comment that was to the effect of "Scrum starts with the ideal scenario" and "Kanban starts where you are." The differences in the philosophies were boiled down to the thinking about how to get started - how much enforced change will there be? The terms "evolutionary" (Kanban) and "revolutionary" (Scrum) are used to discuss their approach to change. (I don't know enough about Scrum to say whether this comment is an accurate reflection.)

Another thread of discussions has to do with Lean and Theory of Constraints. I know enough about Lean and plenty about TOC to see where they have a lot of strong similarities and overlaps. Being underdogs, the TOC community has written a number of intelligent articles that compare the two, mostly favorably. Of course, TOC usually smells better when written by the TOC aficionados. But the connection to my observations here is that I have seen people argue that TOC is "easier" because it doesn't require the kind of transformation required by Lean. That TOC can start small and build to ever-greater success, while Lean has to start with the end-state and effect changes that take you there.

And to add some humor, I have seen people argue almost the reverse about TOC and Lean: That TOC requires a mental shift - such a radical way of thinking about the business - that it is often easier to get people started with the Lean way of thinking, as it is more familiar to how people have been trained. This was most definitely the case with the Viable Vision projects that Goldratt Consulting were selling: implement such radical approaches to operations and sales that the competition couldn't possibly get you. In either view, TOC talks about the Process of Ongoing Improvement, so it is definitely not a once-and-done mindset.

I would guess there are similar arguments in many other methodology communities. I appreciate that people are at least thinking and talking about the philosophy behind these approaches. Having just written about Cynefin, I have the thought that the slow-but-steady approaches might be working in an emergent domain, while the Change Now approaches might be working in a best practice or good practice domain. The trouble with saying this is that I am fairly sure no approach is all of one mindset vs. another.

All this is to say, think about how you are approaching your problems. Check your assumptions about the situation. Check your assumptions about your proposed fixes. Are they compatible? Is there another approach that is better in this circumstance? Warning: don't get stuck in analysis and thought experiments. I prefer to lean towards action, particularly once I have some agreement to move. Observe - Act - Check: repeat (pick your favorite improvement loop).

[Photo: "#ds307 big red and small red" by rosipaw]

2 Comment(s)

Shim Marom said:

There is a simple explenation to this reality. People's affiliation with this or that methodology is similar to people's affiliation with religion. It is quite often based on illogical considerations and you simply cannot reason with them or discuss their belief system rationally.

This is the very reason why I would advocate skepticism and rational thinking as a way of life. Consequently I am methodology agnostic and don't take anyone's word for granted before they can show me a repeatable evidence to demonstrate why their proposal is correct.

Thanks, Shim.

While I appreciate your perspective, it is awfully hard to be completely agnostic when it comes to methodologies. Even the methodology of being agnostic has some preconceived biases, doesn't it? More food for thought!

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