Change Leadership

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Beyond Budgeting Book review by Stephen Parry

Beyond Budgeting: How Managers Can Break Free from the Annual Performance Trap

Accepted ideas are no longer competent and competent ideas are not yet acceptable.,

Beyond Budgeting: How Managers Can Break Free from the Annual Performance Trap (Hardcover)

This book and its associated Harvard Business Review articles (by Hope and Fraser) from 2003 has not attracted the attention it deserves.

When this was written it was seen as the antidote to the endless budgeting cycle based on the ‘prediction’ fallacy and the ensuing corporate gaming they create.

All of us have said at one time or another this process (budgeting negotiation etc.) is a joke, but we all continue to play our part in maintaining the joke, playing the game, fighting for survival in a world created by the madness of the corporate budgeting processes.

Hope and Fraser have clearly demonstrated that the current process is not only wasteful in terms of human effort but downright detrimental the the enterprise, employees and customers. They go further and show us all a way out of the trap.

There is an alternative, but it needs study and it needs more companies other than the ones illustrated in the book to lead the way. Only then can we change the current paradigm where ‘Accepted ideas are no longer competent and competent ideas are not yet acceptable’

A journey through irrational argument

A journey through irrational argument

In recent weeks I have a had a number of questions about ‘my-method’ when dealing with difficult meetings discussing change and the introduction of Lean into the workplace and governance systems.

‘The-Method’ is simply one of critical thinking, deep listening to the other person to get into their world to understand their perspective and see why they draw the conclusions they do? Once you understand their perspective you can then ask what evidence do they have to support their views. If there is strong evidence and good arguments for their position, I learn something and I can change my views. I often do in the light of good evidence and reasoning. This path leads to progress.

Using the scientific method means we are not believers blindly following a theory, we are critical thinkers seeking ways to sense for evidence and learn new ways to respond to reality.

People are often prepared to listen to what you have to say and look at your evidence if they feel you have taken the time to understand their position and you can demonstrate back to them that you understand…..

CAUTION ONE: understanding another’s point of view or frame of reference does not mean you AGREE with it.

– The key here is this; Be prepared to change your own mind after learning something better or new.  Not deciding based on past experience but Truly choosing to sense and respond to open new possibilities and create new experiences.

CAUTION TWO: Not everyone enters into a conversation in good faith.

On a few occasions (thankfully only a few) I have come up against people who even before hearing your arguments and evidence have pre-determined that they don’t want to listen  to you –( For many complicated reasons too many to go into here). They often appear interested in you and want you to explain things, but they are not listening to learn they are listening and selecting things to shut down the conversation. – any jerk can burn down a barn.

This is what I call acting in BAD FAITH. – People are not  prepared to even contemplate another valid point of view and want to shoot you down. In these situations you have two choices, gracefully find a reason to leave – (don’t try to teach pigs to sing – not today at least) or you call them on it.  The second tactic is one that needs a great deal of courage but taking a strong stance that shows that you are prepared to listen to reason and good arguments but are not prepared to be bullied and made to shut up in the face of bad faith and bad arguments.

What you must never do is to find a compromise to keep everybody happy based on an unreasonable position, basically you have been bullied.

If you find yourself in these situations, ask for the evidence, what do they base their opinions on?, The Key phrase to look out for which indicates that they do not have any arguments left and just want you to stop is ‘In – my experience this does not work’ –  So just think about that for a moment, some very highly paid managers working for years in their industry and the best argument they can come up with is  – In my Experience.  So, you do not let up, you ask them to share some ACTUAL examples of where their experience supports the view they have taken… usually they cannot think of much and if they do its usually weak and you can demonstrate that actually that particular experience does not illuminate the point in question.

People often use the phrase in-my experience as an appeal to their own authority hoping you will respect their position and not question it any further. – but you must. Challenging the conventional wisdom of the hierarchy is one of the main principles of Lean Change.

So in conclusion I ask you to dig out the logical fallacies list and start using it, it provides you with better listening skills to move conversations forward, it also provides you with the tools to deal with people of bad faith.

Also Listen to the following pod cast. on Skeptiod

Episode 134 Who is Closed Minded?

Warm Regards, Stephen.

Call for an Ethical Management Framework for Software Development and IT Companies

Listen to Stephen Parry deliver the first Grant Rule Memorial Lecture to an audience at the UK Software Measurement Association (UKSMA) Conference: ’21st Century Metrics’

Title of the talk: An Ethical Management Framework call to action. Grant Rule: A champion for human potential.

Grant Rule was the founding Director of SMS,and was a recognised software metrics “guru” and a pioneer of Lean Systems Thinking.

In this the first in a series of talks commemorating Grants’s contribution to the world of software systems, Stephen Parry picks up the challenge that was closest to Grant’s heart  – how can we realise our human potential to create possibilities for a better life?

In this recording, Stephen asks us all to consider how  we can respond to this challenge. When software is at the heart of most of the modern world, how can software professionals influence companies who are simply concerned with shareholder capital without respect for human capital, or knowledge capital?


Message from Stephen Parry: If you would like to be involved with the development of an Ethical Management Framework for Software Development and IT companies then just leave a message on our message board. Thank You.




Be attached to Purpose not the means

Be attached to Purpose not the means

Its natural, when there is no clear way forward, when expectations are thwarted we automatically think there is something wrong and we could have done better.

That is why purpose is so important, what we get attached to are the means by which we achieve our purpose and think the purpose is under threat, which is not the case at all, it just means another possibility is required and it will probably be a better way, why? Because we think first of the easier ways which are simply re-cycled solutions from your past, when you find they don’t work we often feel angry or lost or blame ourselves for not being good enough.  Now is the opportunity to be far more creative…..and find new possibilities.

That’s why in Lean, we have more than one countermeasure when we are looking for solutions, we force ourselves to look for solutions beyond the obvious. We must not be attached to any countermeasure, if one does not work you already have a plan b, but remember the purpose remains constant even if your means of achieving it have to change.

Human-Side-Enterprise-Annotated Version: Douglas McGregor review by Stephen Parry

Human-Side-Enterprise-Annotated Version: Douglas McGregor review by Stephen Parry

Human-Side-Enterprise-Annotated Version By Douglas McGregor

‘The greatest waste in organisations today is the waste in human potential’

This book has been wonderfully brought back into the sunshine and placed in the modern setting by Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld, Senior Research Scientist in MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

Book Review by Stephen Parry.

Let me start by stating for transparency that my own book Sense and Respond: The Journey to Customer Purpose has been cited in this updated classic book as providing modern evidence of the Theory Y organisation in action.  Now onto the review.

The Human side of enterprise is a forgotten landmark in the history of management-research and thinking, which is very surprising considering it clearly provides an explanation for the pitiful state we find within many organisations today. Maybe it’s been ignored because it shines a clear light on the fallacious assumptions many organisational designers and developers have about human beings? Maybe it has been ignored because people in influential positions feel threatened by the perceived loss of power and control any change of assumption might bring?

Whatever the reason we are left feeling that the greatest waste in organisations today is the waste in human potential, and this, McGregor points out, is a result of the wrong-headed and unscientific assumptions management have about encouraging the best from people.

McGregor’s system and research demonstrates clearly that systems designed to control people certainly provide control but we must ask, what type of control and at what cost? – the cost to productivity, innovation, enterprise, society and human fulfilment?

It is no mistake the book is called `The Human side of enterprise’ and not – The Human side of THE enterprise. We are talking here about the enterprise of humans as a natural instinct, not the organisational enterprise which is an unnatural construct.

Traditional management systems are an invention to maintain control over power and resources in an effort to maintain compliance. This creates organisations where everything is forbidden unless permitted and limits the enterprise and potential of human beings.

Traditional organisations trying maintain control narrows focus and closes down possibilities hence the need for extrinsic rewards and punishments to make people do what they would not otherwise do. However, enabling the human side of enterprise opens possibilities by designing organisations around assumptions that people will respond to purpose, autonomy and intrinsic rewards because the ends and means are rewards in themselves.

Creating an enterprise where everything is permitted unless forbidden encourages human enterprise and creates healthier societies.

To do or not to do, is it your choice to work on the system?

To do or not to do, is it your choice to work on the system?

Lean Transformation Diary Entry from Andreas Heinz, October 22, 2010

Some readers in Germany might have come across a book called ‘Momo’. It was a great success in the 90ties telling the story of mysterious men in black suits who steal time from people. A little girl – Momo – get’s into the adventure by trying to find out what these men do and how they steal time.

In the story, I remember, she reveals they don’t do it by influencing ‘the time’ itself but by driving people to do more activities throughout their day. These men are the cause of additional activities that finally leave people with the impression that their time has been stolen.

I am reminded of that story when I hear time and time again statements from various corners in our organization: “We don’t have time to work on change”. This is often the answer we hear from others and very often we say the same thing particularly when we are asked about the progress of our own plans.

If we are honest the statement does not only apply to the workplace but also to our private lives “I don’t have time”  is a welcome and easy label putting a dense fog in front of our real problems and saving us from serious reflection or revelations about our personal priorities or weaknesses.  Maybe a better way to expresses this ‘time-problem’ while avoiding the dark depths of those personal weaknesses, is like this  “I don’t spend my time on this, but on other things.”

Clearly – very clearly – we all have too many things to do within any busy organisation but we all have the same amount of time, that’s the law of ‘physics’. However, how about changing our use of language again by saying: “I don’t spend my time on this, but on other things.” and: “I have more tasks to do than I can do”. This changes the focus of our attention.

Simply saying “I have no time” distracts us towards an imagined scarcity of time – as if somebody had stolen the time like the men in black from the ‘Momo’book.- It does not have to be like that.

In contrast, saying “I spend my time on other things” leaves us at the end of the sentence with –  “other things”. Which is a perfect starting place to think about what these other things are and where these other things are coming from. Questions can then be asked such as: “What causes these activities? What is the real need for it? What is their purpose? Finally, we might ask: How can I reduce the number of these things that hinder me to do those things where purpose, need and value are clear to me?

In a situation of  ‘too much to do’ we are the ones, who are making the choice of which activities we do and don’t do. Nobody,  in normal organisations, puts us in chains or gives us drugs or stands with a loaded revolver behind us to force us to do certain activities. If there is a list of more things to do than we can do, we are obviously making a choice but what is informing that choice?  How do you choose what to do or not to do?

Our time is not stolen we give it away without realising because we let others choose for us, we blame others not ourselves for being overburdened. We choose to say, it’s not us, but our managers or our customers that are removing choice: We should keep in mind that as long as they ask from us more than we can do, it is not their choice, but ours in the end, simply because, again, it is impossible to do all within the time we have.  So, from that angle, it looks like if we have some freedom of what we do as human beings in a normal office environment. We are not slaves or robots, and we are not Human doings but human beings.

However, I realise it does not feel like that. Yes, it is hard to deal with pressure and to keep control, feeling you have no chance to become proactive and sometimes no chance to even be reactive. Because something is working on us from outside. Something not someone is stealing your time. You could call this stealthy time stealer ‘the system’.

The ‘business and working system’ pushes and pulls us in so many directions that at the end of the day we say ‘I had no choice’. And indeed, as long as we only think and react within the logic of that system, we feel as if we do not make choices. However, thinking and staying in that system is a choice we make. We could also choose to think and act and work on the system, instead of thinking and working in the system.

So How to get out of this trap? A very simple start is to delete “I don’t have time” from our vocabulary and to replace it with: “I don’t spend my time on this, but I spend my time on other things.” Then, ask: “What are these things?”, “Where do these things come from?” is already thinking about the system, instead of just reacting in the system. Asking: “What activities on my list are those who can remove causes of other activities on the list?” – is thinking about where I can start to influence the system, thinking about where I can choose those activities on my list where I work on the system, where I change the system.

Do we ask what is creating value for our customers? What is value for our management? Can we change the system to produce less waste?  Can we create a space for new possibilities and different ways of working that give back time instead of stealing it.

I still wonder why we choose to do the important things last or not at all, the things that will secure our future by changing the system and that can open a way out of the waste that fills our task lists. Wouldn’t it make sense to choose those activities first, that can help to remove the need for other waste activities on our list?

So, give it a try. Stop saying “I don’t have time.”  And go with “I don’t spend my time on this, I spend my time on other things.” And listen to the echo to follow and track down from which corner in the system they come from, those ‘…other things…other things …other things…’