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RE: [scrumdevelopment] Culture clash

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  • Hal Macomber
    Mary s note reminds me of a study done about 11 years ago on the state of uncertainty in projects. The results were published in a paper by Glenn Ballard and
    Message 1 of 2 , Apr 29, 2003

      Mary's note reminds me of a study done about 11 years ago on the state of uncertainty in projects.  The results were published in a paper by Glenn Ballard and Greg Howell titled, Lean Production Theory: Moving Beyond "Can-Do".  You can find the paper at www.leanconstruction.org/pdf/beyond-can-do.pdf 

      I've reprinted their conclusions about the prevailing "mental model" of construction:


      "Can do" the slogan of the SeaBees of the US Navy summarizes the underlying mental model of most constructors. Ambiguous as it may be, Can Do is an answer to an assignment.  It means, "No matter what the problem or situation, you can count on me to get the job done." (No wonder they chose "Can do".)

      A new answer, "Won�t Do" is possible under LPT because it makes explicit the criteria for decision making. As we develop our understanding of LPT in construction we will confront the underlying thinking of an industry built on "Can Do". Real information on the performance of planning and resource systems can only be available when those charged with planning and doing the work can say "Won�t Do." Having the right to say "no" makes real commitment possible.  I am not saying people are allowed to say no on a whim, rather that they are

      required to say no when asked to act beyond the limits of established criteria. This sounds a lot like Ohno�s radical decision to allow workers to stop the production lines.

      Current management planning and controls systems rely on two unspoken assumptions; 1) The last planner (who you will meet shortly) will always select work in the "correct" order to achieve project objectives, and 2) Last planners lack the intelligence to manipulate the cost/schedule system for their own short term ends. In effect we believe they do not know how to protect themselves by selecting the easy work when pressed to increase productivity or production or loose their job.

      In short, current management approaches are built on and entice dishonesty. We cannot improve performance unless new thinking exposes the contradictions and weaknesses in our underlying mental models and injects certainty and honesty into the management of projects. It is simple in concept and not hard in execution once we take the challenge of no longer accepting

      "Can Do" when "Won�t Do" is appropriate. Only then will we have the consistent feedback needed for rapid learning.

       Mary Poppendieck <mary@...> wrote:

      I recently ran into yet another reason why people do not raise a red flag when things are not going well.  I was at a site where extremely time-critical programs are government funded, and frequently under-funded.  I was extolling the key virtue of SCRUM � that you will know very early if the project is �doable�.  The most senior person in the room responded:  �But we don�t WANT to know if a project can be done.  Around here there is only one attitude that is appropriate � the �can do� attitude.  Then later on, there is a very small window of time when you must switch from being optimistic to warning that the project might not make it.  If you miss that window, you are in trouble � you can�t doubt success either before or after the window.  Even if you know that the program is in trouble, you are not allowed to say so until the time is right.� 

      I was amazed.  I looked around the room and EVERY SINGLE person (about a dozen) shook their head in agreement.  That was indeed the culture of the place, driven, no doubt, by the political funding cycle.  Here was an organization that simply did not want to know that a project was impossible.  Since this was clearly a culturally induced attitude, I guessed that any attempt to change it would probably fail.  

      So consider the culture which does not allow failure to be entertained, period.  People from such a culture will find it almost impossible to ask for help.  Instead they engage in wishful thinking, one of the biggest problems I have observed in projects as they go sour.

      Jim Collins in the book �Good to Great� discussed a balance where people �confront the brutal facts� but never give up hope in the end game.  I think it is very difficult to strike a balance between wishful thinking (bad) and determination to succeed (good).  In any team, I�ll bet that various members have learned different coping mechanisms for dealing with this balance.   

      Mary Poppendieck


      Author of Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit

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