I have heard this comment several times in many of the companies that I have worked for because he is often dead on. The humor in lot of the Dilberts comes from the different mental models we all have of a situation at work. In particular, he harps on the differences in the mental models between management and the people doing the actual work.
Craig Larman in his book on Thinking and Organizational Tools for Large-Scale Scrum talks about the Weinberg-Brooks’ Law which states that more software projects have gone awry from teams taking action based on incorrect system models than for all other causes combined. Because of the shorter iterations and transparency, Agile tends to expose these differences early and often.
As we all know, Software Product Development has complex positive and negative feedback loops and nonlinear behavior. The behavior of these systems defies gut instinct. Hence if we apply incorrect “common sense” and quick-fix solutions without understanding the big picture, it may not yield results.
Larman talks about a technique called “Systems Thinking” that helps teams develop a common mental model that more realistically represents the complex system that they work in and continuously improvise it as you learn more about the root causes and their effects.
There is also a new form of coaching called “systems coaching” starting to emerge that coaches teams not only to come up with a common mental model but also to ensure that everyone is aligned with the new model and that it produces results.
Once Agile teams achieve mastery within their teams, the impediments start to come from the larger system in which they operate. In large companies, teams have to work with lot of corporate bureaucracy and this can become an impediment in their continuous improvement journey. Systems thinking can help you analyze the system issues and continue the journey to realize full potential. I was talking to a friend who recently started to work for a startup after spending several years at a large corporation. He was experiencing an order of magnitude productivity increase and he attributed more than half of it to the non-existence of the internal systems at the startup.
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