S = Success story or just story
I = Intelligence
M = Mission-driven
P = Passion
L = Love & Leadership
E = Energy-giving, empowerment
The letter I in the word SIMPLE represents Intelligence. It addresses if (and how) you have considered the real reason(s) behind the question of your customer, your organization, your manager or any other party that you are involved with. It also determines if the job or task is there just to provide a short-term solution or if it’s really future-proof.
Because I want to share my thoughts and take you along with me, I want to take a moment to explain some important things about intelligence and management. This also gives me the opportunity to verify if my own thoughts are useful and understandable when I put them on paper.
Also, after introducing the SIMPLE concept on my blog, I got the advice to use a different word for intelligence because the word has a too arrogant ring to it. I have asked the commenter what made this word sound arrogant, but I haven’t received further comment. That is unfortunate, but at the same time it indicates that some further explanation of the word and this concept is needed.
So, I will start to tell you what I believe is not intelligent. Followed immediately by the practical approach the “I of intelligence” implies.
What is not intelligent?
Projects, in this time and age, are still managed by traditional methods and are all too often diminished by COPAFIJTH aspects. Your contribution to your work (or the work you do with your colleagues) and your goals are reduced to SMART formulations. By the way, these acronyms were much richer in meaning when they were first invented. Today, they are reduced – for convenience – to well-meant (!) Mnemonics. Unfortunately, at the same time they are usually elevated as if they were goals. Confusing ends (goals) are neither intelligent nor are they empathic or inspiring.
You have probably seen your idea or plan for improvement disappear in the trashcan or somewhere on a shelf. This happens usually after your (project) manager has fired his micromanagement questions at you, like:
• Can you deliver twice as fast?
• Can you make a Gantt /project chart?
• Is this realistic?
• Do we have the money for this, considering cost savings?
• Is it budget neutral?
• Where is the project / release plan?
• What are the risks?
• Can this succeed?
• Nice idea, but that does not work here.
This management style focuses on how to manage a project, rather than focusing on the proposed solution and value for the customer. It also isn’t future oriented. It doesn’t look beyond the end date of the project or the project’s next milestone.
Unintelligently handling staff
In Human Resource Management (which sees you as a resource, in stead of a valuable human being) things are run at a low intelligence level as well. From Salary Tables to bonuses for the happy few, lease cars, absence of team rewards and standard ‘fuck-off’ premiums with cuts according to lay-off age or years of service. You will be hoisted into a one size fits all suite. Legal mathematically and, mind you, kind of objective too.
Even the outcome of the discussions about how you would like to enhance your competencies in view of your personal development, will be reduced to “smart” milestones. Quality, intellect and emotion are relegated into a contract deal. Actually, it’s a way to divide & conquer and is often used to forge dissent between you and your fellow worker.
What is really intelligent is getting solutions by asking curious and intelligent questions. Questions like: Can I give feedback? How can we implement this successfully? How soon might we benefit from this? Does this proposal increase efficiency only or does it actually increase effectiveness and quality of our work? What does this mean for our customers? How can I help you get support? Are you willing to team up with ….(name of colleague) to draw up a business case?
These intelligent questions are almost always posed by only a few 'servant' managers.
Again more practical
I believe that when everything is regulated (to perfection), there is no attention to the problem, the customer and … you. Moreover, where rules rule no one recognizes ongoing developments in our environment. Because attention is given to the rules and only the rules. When you look at it in an intelligent way: the fewer rules the better!
To reach an intelligent solution or approach there are a few things conditional for its success, like:
- Sharing information and knowledge, on the whole and on the parts
- Occasionally take a step back to look from a distance
- Using a iterative approach and incorporated feedback loops
- Considering failure as a learning moment
- Collaborating together in diversity
For creative and – the not so obvious- solutions you can apply a number of methods and techniques. Such as an Agile project approach. Some Agile project management methods or the combination of an Agile approach and a more traditional project approach can work well. Everyone knows that’s a bit of a hobby of mine, but I truly believe in it!
Scrum, for example, is a very easy to remember 3 x 3 x 3 framework and may work very well with a lightweight form of Prince2. For instance where management is still a little hesitant to do everything Agile immediately. XP and pair programming work very fine with scrum and DSDM. To bring insights from the LEAN practices into a project is also intelligent.
The mere fact that in an Agile project, architects, testers and sometimes even an UX designer, are part of the design & construction team, to me is very intelligent. It will give the greatest solutions because the problem we are trying to solve is looked at / investigated from many different angles. This prevents mistakes made thru myopia. I don’t need to tell you that restoring a mistake after a product is in use, takes at least 10 times as much time and money as the time and money it takes to give attention to it earlier in the development process.
In Agile (and LEAN!) it is always absolutely paramount to create customer value by working iteratively. If you do not precisely know what creates the most value in the beginning; after a few short iterations with feedback loops the real customer demand will soon be clear. You can apply change in the solution process without RFC’s & chance management tools and processes. You’ll get the solution you need. Furthermore, a small piece of a working end-to-end system provides the ultimate proof of reality and is worth far more than several 'proof of concepts" together.
I’m sorry if this last bit of text is a bit vague. I like to explain and give more information. Please call me! If I do not know how to help you I know which Agile Coach, ScrumMaster or Lean Architect can.
Another way of finding an intelligent solution is brainstorming. Together you tackle a problem, by telling what you think of it, how you can look at it in another way, what it is and what it is not. You may state anything. There is no assessment of data. Later on, solutions and comments are ranked, prioritized and some will be valuable enough to be developed further.
There is a risk to brainstorming, though. You can lose a feasible idea by ranking to soon. I have seen this happen sometimes. Instead of parking and prioritizing ideas it gets to be chopping and sawing of ideas. Mind that!
What helps to loosen your mind and generate ideas, is to pick a word from a dictionary that has absolutely nothing to do with the reason for the brainstorm. And then work on it all together. That's really out of the box thinking.
Some more 'out of the box'
Here is an exercise that’s called 'out of the box thinking. Three rows of word processing trios:
• Cloth - world – a blade of grass
• Man - branch - laughter
• Table - goat - flowers
The word pairs are a reason to venture and to make a business case. Participants each choose a word from the trio’s. The ones who chose the same word trio form a group together. This really gives a vibe. After this exercise you are ready to look at the real problem or request.
Another way to look at the problem is to think about and describe the dream state (Lean dream state). We could ask ourselves: “What do we do to ensure that all people in our company suffer from a burn-out. How can we achieve this?" This can really be humorous but is, at the same time, very serious. Because we then focus on ways to turn this around 180 degrees and simply invent a solution so no one will suffer from a burnout. For more information about dream state call me !
An Open Space meeting is a way of conferencing that is suitable for small (approx. 30) to very large groups (up to 1000 people, I'm told). An Open Space actually tries to capture those conversations – after another boring and usually frustrating meeting – that are held in the corridors, in front of the coffee machine or near the candy jar at the office managers office.
I wrote a blog about that: http://iloapp.abc-thinkbig.com/blog/weblog?Home&post=70. You can find a more detailed Wikipedia explanation here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Space_Technology
What I like to claim is that in an open space you can invest on any subject. It can be about a problem with the customer, a technical problem, even on your mission and vision and strategy. The self-organizing ability and thus the intrinsic motivation and inspiration that an open space gives to solve a problem, is enormous.
Types of intelligence, the bridge
In the 19th century, they measured the size of your brain to say something about your level of intelligence. The Frenchman Binet invented the intelligence quotient test some 100 years ago. This test measures the practical, mental (or "cognitive") and creative abilities.
More recent research suggests that, besides linguistic, logical - mathematical and spatial aspects of intelligence - which correspond to the three Binet measures- there are more aspects of intelligence. These aspects are: musical, physical, interpersonal (what’s about another person and your relationship with others) and intrapersonal (what you know about yourself and your relationship with yourself).
I like to think that intelligence is, along with (professional) knowledge, brainpower, education and (life) experience is also about emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is empathy for the necessary changes and emotional involvement for solving problems, plus the ability to handle clients, colleagues and managers. Emotional intelligence cannot be seen separately from the other aspects of intelligence. One works with the other, one reinforces (or decreases) the other. Like, as you can see in systems thinking (More about systems thinking in the letter M for Mission Driven / mission driven)
What is remarkable, is that around the time that Binet invented intelligence quotients measurements, Francis Taylor invented Scientific Management. Taylor wrote his book 100 years ago also, in 1911 to be precise.
Scientific management claims, in short, that you can cut up pieces of a complex reality and thus be able to reduce them into manageable chunks. This led to an extensive division of labor because it was easier to manage, and hierarchy. So, divide and conquer again. Moreover, Taylor and his associates didn’t think highly of the intelligence of the people in the workplace. Investigations reported that the workforce scored around 70 IQ points at that time, while a manager did around 100. So you could better let a manager give small tasks to the workers. The manager had enough IQ to understand a part of the workplace while the big boss was obviously so smart to keep an overview and to formulate the mission and vision.
Smart thinking of Taylor. And sad as well, because in many organizations this paradigm was supplemented with management and organizational theories with additional short-term thinking, complexity reduction that doesn’t make sense, hierarchical models - Weber -, standard kinda straitjacket-control-philosophy, HR practices and so much more. I have already referred about this in my blog: http://weblog.abc-thinkbig.com/ # post39
Unfortunately, even today many companies and government organizations are managed on the basis of these corny management theories. I find it anything but surprising that Dutch managers work like this, according to Jaap Peters called, 'Anglo-Saxon "management method. These theories were common in training and they where taught at an early age. In projects and processes in HR, many of which are Anglo-Saxon relics (= something that no longer does what it promises) that are still used.
IQ in a diffferent perspective
Experts have found that the average intelligence in 1982 was 10% higher than in 1952. So 10% higher in 30 years time. That's quite a difference (thus significant). It is thought, that this has to do with prosperity and good food. Todays IQ scores, of people found in higher intellectual and higher administrative jobs is between 120 to 153. In lower intellectual occupations, technical and managerial work it is between 115 and 135. In more skilled labor and lower administrative occupations scores are between 110 and 117. And in low skilled labor it is between 105 and 109. An IQ of 70 (as at the time of Taylor's book) is now considered to be at the level of the mentally retarded / mentally handicapped. Scores that are between 85 and 100 are seen as average. That puts assumptions about the work floor, in Taylor's book, in a totally different perspective. It is not of this time anymore!
Here is a link to a TEDexTEDex speech that says a lot of intelligence now and in the future http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html