It has been hard to get my writing going, but when a friend asked me why running an organization that works with developing software as a factory, is not a particularly good idea and where he could find out more, some explanations and arguments, I thought that maybe this could be something to write about. One reader at least! I will write about SIPD and how the mindset, ideas, methods, practices etc that originates from the Industrial Age creates friction in every aspect of it and how the nature of it resist to conform to something it is not and obey our imposed ideas. I am sure everyone in this industry have felt it one way or another.. Hopefully I will provide some new perspectives to someone and inspire a potential reader to dig deeper. Like I said, I will focus on and write about SIPD, but the friction and its causes I will be writing about apply to most knowledge work.
First of all, many of you reading this probably don't realize that you are in fact working in something that is very much like a factory. Why would you? It doesn’t look like a factory when you look around. No tools, no machines, nothing but nice computers, desks, free sodas etc. But underneath what meets the eye, almost everything that we think of as “normal” in everyday business comes from the age of industrial production and the style of management often called “command and control”. Mechanisms that once was created with the mindset that someone can, will and must control everything and everyone. E.g. Top down hierarchies, Projects, Key Performance Indicators, Managers, Reports, Budgets, Estimates. I am sure you can think of several more of those kind of everyday things we do.
Today, most of the organizations that's working with SIPD are mostly unconsciously affected by a mindset that originates (but of course has developed over time) from the industrial revolution (19th century) and its thoughts about economics and management. These ideas are in turn based on Cartesian dualism and Newtonian science (17th-18th century) as well as other views of the world that dominated at that time of the scientific revolution. In short, this worldview looks upon the world and nature as a static machine, where everything in it is parts that can be defined, fragmented, understood and controlled in isolation from each other. From those parts, the whole can then be understood. The scientists that once viewed the world this way has changed their mindset and theories many times since (thermodynamics, theory of relativity, and the disruptive theory of quantum physics). Unfortunately, the world in general has not tagged along and this mindset is still, by far, the most widespread view of the world and dominates our society in many ways.
“The major problems in the world are the result of the difference between how nature works and the way people think” - Gregory Bateson
The things that we (in the western world) produce has shifted from being dominated by physical products to non-physical products and services (e.g. software) over the last 50 years or so, but we still mostly do things as if nothing has changed. Something is fundamentally wrong here. Something completely different is needed, and when I say completely I mean from the core. Nothing will be accomplished by adding more misinterpreted methods and tools to a practice and mindset that is not suitable from the start. To run a company or other type of organization that’s wants to succeed with SIPD, with a command and control Industrial Age mindset, is to be asking for trouble. I am sure you have all felt the friction. It’s like forcing anything into something it is not, the result is that it will resist. Software intensive products and the organizations developing them does not play by the same rules. Why would thoughts that are more than 100 years old magically align with something completely new that did not exist at the end of the 19th century?
“Just as the Newtonian science was the father of today´s organizatorial concepts, the Industrial Age was the mother” - Dee Hock
Most organizations do not acknowledge this and do not seem to have any alternative(s) to the Industrial Age approach. Even though many attempts to change is going on every day around the world in our organisations, the outcome from those attempts is that no real change is achieved at all. Our organizations, the humans in them and the software products we develop are not, and will never be, machines, so we need to start thinking about it in other ways first, in order to achieve some actual change.
I hope you enjoyed this short introduction and found it interesting.