The Quintessential Blog

Insights into the world of quintessential software delivery

Celebrate With Us And Receive A Free Copy Of Quintessence!

To celebrate the launch of The Quintessential Group, our new software delivery startup, we’re making copies of my most recent book “Quintessence” – free for just one week <- coupon link. A $35.99 value! (Although worth many more $$$ when applied).

If you’ve been curious about what’s the next big thing in the world of CKW (collaborative knowledge work) in general, and Software Delivery in particular, it’s all mapped out in detail in Quintessence

Whether you’re a developer looking for revolutionary ways of working (we choose rather to call it playing – and we’re inviting applications) or a business person looking to solve the software delivery crisis in your own organisation, there are many awesome things in the book for you.

Tell your friends, peers, teammates, co-workers and higher-ups. This is likely a one-time special offer!

– Bob

PS. I’ve just published a new version of the book (v1.5 – minor corrections and updates).

An Exec’s Guide To Achieving Mission-critical Software Delivery

Nowadays, every business is a software business. Your enterprise needs to prioritise software delivery, be that deploying off-the-shelf solutions, commissioning bespoke software development, or a mixture of both.

Digital transformation: The term has been bandied about since it was coined more than a decade ago. I think we can all agree, though, that the “use of technology to radically improve performance or reach of enterprises” really gained momentum when the COVID-19 pandemic set in.

As we remember all too well, the entire world went digital within a matter of weeks, and companies raced to fulfil the soaring consumer demand for digital products and services. In fact, according to McKinsey, global businesses accelerated the adoption of digital offerings by an average rate of seven years — in a matter of just seven months. Some companies describe how they had to enable tens of thousands of home workers in just a few days!

The same McKinsey report shows that most business leaders see society’s digital shift as permanent. JPMorgan Chase’s CEO certainly thinks the increased use of digital apps and services is here to stay. He recently announced a 26% increase to Chase’s technology budget, focusing the $12 billion investment on further growing Chase’s portfolio of digital apps and services.

Providing innovative technologies is just half the job, though. There’s a lurking problem for business leaders: They can’t afford to let the delivery and integration of software into their businesses suffer delays and poor quality.

Just one schedule slippage in a key system can cause a cascade of problems. And when one of these slippages delays the deployment or upgrade of a key app or service, companies risk disrupted revenue streams, disgruntled customers, interrupted supply chains, lost productivity and frustrated staff.

Maintaining flow of software into the business is imperative to business continuity, but ensuring a steady, reliable flow is difficult. As businesses digitally transform and move their key processes to the cloud, and consumers utilise more digital innovations, their software estate grows in scale, complexity and fragility.

Consequently, maintaining the necessary software quality and delivery schedules must be a primary business objective. While leaders traditionally farmed out these responsibilities solely to their IT departments, technology has become so critical to business success that quality and delivery schedules can no longer hide in the opaque IT silo. It must – and has – become a culture and leadership issue.

Here are five steps executives can take to start embracing software quality, predictable schedules and steady flow:

Elevate Quality To Priority #1

When considering an enterprise’s numerous priorities, executives should take stock of the critical importance of quality. Does the company employ a virtual or hybrid workforce? Does the company interact or transact with customers online? Is revenue generated from online transactions? The questions can continue based on your industry, but chances are that most modern enterprises would agree they rely on a suite of software apps and software-based services for desired business outcomes.

Given the critical nature of digital apps and services — and their ability to provide a seamless experience for customers — executives should consider creating a culture of quality as a key performance indicator. Practically speaking, executives can and should treat quality numbers similarly to sales figures or other revered business metrics. One senior leader should be held accountable to the quality metrics and deemed responsible for relentlessly scrutinising and reporting on these figures alongside the business’s other KPIs.

If executives really want to underscore the importance of quality, they can walk the talk for their workforces. Business leaders can make quality a compensation-affecting business objective, like profit or sales targets. And they can tie these quality metrics back to the bottom line.

Focus On The People

In the era of “every business is a software business,” enterprises can no longer tuck away tech talent out of sight, removed from customer interaction. In fact, they should do the exact opposite, moving software folks to the front line and making them part of the business’s core value proposition. Actively marketing a company’s tech and nerd credentials will drive confidence in the brand’s digital presence. And enhance employer branding at the same time.

Naturally, redeploying the software folks goes both ways. Executives must also show genuine trust and respect for these key people. Even without extensive technical knowledge, business leaders can provide the kind of environment, and culture, that makes teams’ lives easier by reducing the cognitive load imposed by traditional management approaches. And they can give them the freedom to use modern paradigms like DevOps and CI/CD pipelines. Software teams with respect, resources and support will have a foot up on delivering innovations and protecting the quality of their deliveries.

Treat Unceasing Innovation As Standard

As most executives know, today’s world of digital business demands continuous innovation as a minimum requirement for keeping pace with competitors. This unceasing innovation requires executives to drop risk-averse postures and embrace reinvention and the concomitant continuous change.

Of course, amidst digital innovation, reinvention and even failure, quality remains a top priority. Executives need a business culture that allows their organisation to experiment, and sometimes falter, with the least amount of negative impact. After all, stagnation is no longer an attractive option.

Open The Chequebook and Invest!

If an enterprise relies on various digital apps and services for business performance, executives should guarantee the entire software delivery pipeline is exemplary.

While only the lucky few have an extra $12 billion on hand to invest in software delivery and the associated spend, executives should advocate for a big piece of the pie to go toward technology investment. And technology investment shouldn’t stop at commissioning delivery projects. Forward-thinking enterprises invest in next-generation delivery methods like Quintessence, alongside talent, training and time to innovate.

Make Technical Know-how A Leadership Must-Have

Executives should ask themselves a simple question: does anyone on the most senior team have “SDLC” or software delivery experience in their past or even present core competencies? While leadership teams are usually stacked with impressive qualifications — CPAs, MBAs and JDs — few include software people with practical SDLC experience. But given the importance of technology, executives should surround themselves with true technology practitioners.

A chief digital officer (CDO) can become a business leader’s quality czar. With a depth of SDLC experience, this role can help executives understand and benchmark their companies’ digital performance and balance digital transformation efforts with operations management.

Following these steps sends a clear message both internally and externally: innovating is no longer enough — changing the culture to remove the shackles of outmoded assumptions and beliefs is also necessary. If executives want to maximize their digital investments and thrive in a digital-first world, they must embrace quality and the culture that enables it.

– Bob

Quintessential Applications – Come Join Us!

What do we need to see in applications from potential Quintessential fellows? Well, we definitely don’t want to see a CV or resume. We don’t grok how what you’ve done in the past speaks to your potential in the future. We choose to see our fellows as capable of anything, given the necessary support and environment.

We would like to be surprised by the things you feel represent your best. Maybe a list of the things you’ve read and found insightful, such as blog posts, articles, books and so on. Or the times you’ve most enjoyed getting together with others to deliver great software and great experiences. Or maybe the topics in which you have the most interest, and some contributions you’ve made or intend to make in those areas. Maybe you’d be willing to share your take on Quintessence, on Organisational Psychotherapy, or some intriguing questions or practical experience you may have regarding excellence in software delivery. Opinions are way less interesting to us, compared to evidence.

It might be interesting to hear about the terms and conditions you guess you might be needing, including things like pay, hours, locations, equipment, team mates, etc..

Take a look at the list of skills we consider most useful, and tell us about your own skills and aspirations in those areas, or even in other areas you feel may be relevant. Although some “hard” tech skills such as coding and UX might be interesting, we’d love to enroll fellows with outstanding soft skills – these rank higher in our priorities. For example, the Antimatter Principle is as the heart of everything we do – so we’d love to hear about your experiences with attending to folks’ needs.

We’d also love to hear about times when you’ve taken care of something or someone. And how that felt – bot for you and for them.

Above all, we invite you to share with us why you see yourself as a good fit for our community of fellows, and the ways in which you will contribute to moving our whole community forward – improving the principles and practices of software delivery. And your take on excellence, too.

Go wild! Express yourself. If words and text ain’t your thang, maybe video, or audio, or music, or art, or Zen koans, or haikus, or however you best express yourself.

Our declared purpose is to make a dent in the universe, to make the world a better place through outstanding excellence in software delivery. To bring Alien Tech to the service of human beings. We’d love to hear what these things means to you. And how you see yourself contributing.

We appreciate we’re asking you to dedicate some non-trivial amount of time to representing yourself. And we’ll reciprocate by dedicating our time to paying attention to your application. And we will happily help you evolve your application from e.g. small beginnings, incrementally. No need for a one-shot big- bang application. Doing things together is, of course, a hallmark of The Quintessential Group.

We’re looking forward to hearing from you – whatever the medium, whatever the format. As Marshall McLuhan said, the medium is the message.

– Bob

Alien Tech: What Is It?

powertech

Alien tech power at one’s fingertips

At The Quintessential Group, our motto is “Alien Tech for Human Beings”.

What do we mean by “Alien Tech”?

Dictionary Definitions

Let’s take a look at the dictionary:

Technology noun
\ tech·​nol·​o·​gy | \ tek-ˈnä-lə-jē \

Definition of technology

  1. a: The practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area
    // medical technology
    b: A capability given by the practical application of knowledge
    // a car’s fuel-saving technology
  2. A manner of accomplishing a task especially using technical processes, methods, or knowledge
    // new technologies for information storage
  3. The specialised aspects of a particular field of endeavour
    // educational technology

Alien adjective
\ ˈā-lē-ən, ˈāl-yən \

Definition of alien

  1. a: Belonging or relating to another person, place, or thing: Strange
    // an alien environment
    b:Relating, belonging, or owing allegiance to another country or government: Foreign
    // alien residents
    c:[Exotic sense]
    // alien plants
    d:Coming from another world: Extraterrestrial
    // alien beings
    // an alien spaceship
    // When it comes to knowing what alien life forms might be like, we don’t have any idea
    ~ Kate Shuster
  2. Differing in nature or character typically to the point of incompatibility
    // ideas alien to democracy

Our Definitions

So, by the above dictionary definitions, we can define “Alien Tech” (Alien Technology) as:

capability given by the practical application of knowledge, where that knowledge is strange, or seeming as if coming from another world.

Put another way, and closer to our quintessential usage:

An approach to running collaborative knowledge work businesses that differs in nature or character from the norm, typically to the point of incompatibility.

When it comes to relating to alien ideas, most folks just don’t know where to start.

~ FlowChainSensei

In Practice

What does “Alien Tech” mean in practice?

It means running a business, in our caseThe Quintessential Group, based on assumptions and beliefs incompatible with typical businesses. Assumptions and beliefs which lead to levels of software delivery excellence unobtainable by other means. We attend to folks’s needs in ways totally alien to those immersed in traditonal management mythos. For those clients that judge by results, this is little more than a curiousity, until the question of “how do they do that?” comes up.

– Bob

Further Reading

Marshall, R. W. (2015). Aliens. [online] Think Different. Available at: https://flowchainsensei.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/aliens/ [Accessed 8 May 2022].
Marshall, R. W. (2018). Alien Tech Alien Tropes. [online] Think Different. Available at: https://flowchainsensei.wordpress.com/2018/08/28/alien-tech-alien-tropes/ [Accessed 8 May 2022].
Marshall, R. W. (2018). Some Alien Tropes. [online] Think Different. Available at: https://flowchainsensei.wordpress.com/2018/09/04/some-alien-tropes/ [Accessed 8 May 2022].

We’re NOT Hiring!

At The Quintessential Group we’re NOT hiring. We have little interest in paying people for their labour or their personal services (fnarr).

We ARE inviting inquiries and applications to join our community of fellows, and participate in our software delivery teams.

Sure, we pay. And we pay top dollar (well British Pounds, mostly). But we pay our people so they can live (and fellows get to choose their own salaries and rates, amongst other things). We subscribe to Phil Crosby’s statement about the purpose of organisations:

The purpose of organizations is to help people have lives.

~ Phil Crosby

Fellowship

We’re breaking the transactional nature of the individual <-> organisation relationship in favour of something much more like fellowship.

So, we’re NOT hiring. But we ARE inviting applications to join our community of fellows. First off for our Quintessential Teams service. And then for our other services, which will be coming on stream soon.

Invitation

We cordially invite you to apply to join our community of fellows. In the first instance, we’re looking for folks with software delivery skills, who will be forming delivery teams rented by our clients (a variety of medium to large UK organisations) to deliver software at their behest. Early on, you’ll be playing and learning directly with myself and / or Ian.

Just drop Ian or myself a message expressing your curiosity or interest, and we’ll get back to you.

You may already have some questions, so please include them if you’re after some clarification or further information. There’s much already available on my Think Different blog. And a brief but growing collection of more focussed introductory and informational posts on the Quintessential Blog, too.

Benefits

What you may not have yet read is some of the other benefits of becoming a fellow of The Quintessential Group:

Having Your Needs Met

Central to our business and community is the idea of attending to folks’ needs. Each of our fellows will have his or her own needs, and The Quintessential Group will do its utmost to see those needs met. 

These may include career development, learning, autonomy to capitalise on your abilities, mastery of skills, sharing in a common purpose, playing with technology, work-life balance, choosing your own package, and so on. We’d love to hear just what your needs are. And we as a business have needs too. This mutuality offers a crucible for productive dialogue.

The Opportunity To Do Great Things

We focus on excellence, and carefully select clients with and for whom our fellows can achieve truly great things. Humdrum things bore us, and we’d not ask any of our fellows to suffer that either.

The Opportunity To Participate in Self-Managing Teams

Our Teams manage themselves, with the active support of the rest of the company. Learn and experience what participating in truly self-managing teams feels like. The true meaning of esprit de corps. The experience of excellence and real fellowship.

Other Key Benefits

Unlimited World-class Personal Mentoring

Bob and Ian each have more than twenty years’ experience in coaching and mentoring developers and delivery teams. We happily share this experience with all Quintessential Fellows, on a one to one basis (mentoring, individual coaching) and one-to-many basis (i.e. teams).

Unlimited Expert Coaching

We define mentoring as providing sage advice when asked. Coaching to us implies a more structure relationship. See e.g. “Coaching for Performance” by Sir Jon Whitmore and his G.R.O.W. model. Mentoring also implies, to us, a shared agenda. Coaching, an agenda entirely driven by the coachees.

Unlimited Awesome Career Development, Including Job Search Help & Career Advice

We try to attend to the needs of all our fellows, on a continual basis. If being a part of the Quintessential community is not meeting your needs, we’re delighted when we can help folks get their needs met, even when that means leaving us for pastures new. We’re delighted to actively support folks in this.

Free Books And Subscriptions

Continuous learning is at the core of the Quintessential Group and its community of fellows. We support these needs in any and all ways possible, including paying for all books and subscriptions of our fellows. If you have other learning needs, we’re happy to support those, too.

Paid Time Off For Conferencing (Plus Entry Fees, Expenses Paid)

We don’t believe our fellows should suffer a financial disincentive to pursue their learning and socialising needs, so we pay for time taken to attend conferences, as well as for the entry fees and associated expenses (travel, hotels, etc.).

Paid Time Off For Learning, Studying

Many folks learn for the joy of it, but we don’t see why learning has to be on the learner’s dime So we invite our fellows to invoice us or otherwise claim financial recompense for time spent learning. Effective learning benefits everyone, not least the company.

Development Hardware, Tools

Many new fellows will already have their own equipment, software tools, etc. But when they need other stuff to be quintessentially effective, we have no issue with providing such things, as the fellow(s) see fit.

Note: A Quintessential fellow is anyone (irrespective of gender) who has complete the one-week orientation and chosen to join the Quintessential community.

Note: When we say “paid for” we mean The Quintessential Group will reimburse fellows in the course of invoicing in respect of client gigs. In other words, and using the one week’s paid-for orientation as an example, we will pay fellows for attending the orientation week, over the course of several weeks’ payments for participating in services to a client.

Accepting Inquiries and Applications

We are now accepting inquiries and applications for the first “orientation” cohort of Quintessential Teams

Orientation

Simply put, we pay our candidate fellows to join together for a week (five days) of orientation. This week prepares fellows for Quintessential Team client engagements, in particular is afford the opportunity to get to know each other, build relationships, and thrash out a shared way of playing together.

Would you like to know more?

– Bob

Quintessential Fellows’ Skills

Quintessential Fellows’ Skills

In case you’re intrigued about the possibility of joining The Quintessential Group community of fellows, or building a similar organisation yourself (we’d love to help), here’s a description of the set of skills we consider useful in Quintessential fellows.

Not that skills are the only criteria. Yet, we hope this post will help you consider whether a further conversation with The Quintessential Group and our community might be worthwhile.

Oh, and in case I didn’t mention it already, we’re enrolling our first cohort of fellows soon! Limited places remaining. 

What Skills Does It Take To Be or Become A Quintessential Fellow?

In February, ITPro ranked the humble Software Delivery specialist as the Number One most in-demand tech job, not just of the here and now, but of the future too. And that means competition for the best jobs on the market is exceptionally high. So, how do you set yourself apart from this growing crowd of talented Software Delivery specialists? And how do companies set themselves apart from the mass of lame places also hiring people?

When thinking of technical roles such as software delivery, we often jump to considering skills and qualifications within the realm  of coding, development, DevOps, Cloud security, etc.. While these skills are essential to the role of a Software Delivery specialist, there are a number of other attributes that are just as crucial. Maybe even more so.

With the right soft skills, Software Delivery specialists are better equipped to use their hard skills to the full extent. And customers have their software delivery needs better attended to, too. 

Quintessential Software Delivery Skills

At The Quintessential Group we look for and encourage the following skills and abilities in our fellows:

Top Skills

Dialogue

Skilled dialogue and the ability to hold effective adult-to-adult conversations with clients, peers and others is rare. And dialogue entails listening. Something we find a necessary part of both skilled dialogue and the broader Thinking Environment.

Further Reading

Stone, D., Patton, B. and Heen, S. (2010). Difficult Conversations: How To Discuss What Matters Most. Portfolio Penguin.
Patterson, K., Grenny, J., McMillan, R. and Switzler, A. (2012). Crucial conversations: Tools For Talking When Stakes Are High. Mcgraw-Hill Education.
Kline, N. (2021). Time To Think: listening to ignite the human mind. Cassell.
Isaacs, W. (1999). Dialogue And The Art Of Thinking Together: A Pioneering Approach To Communicating In Business And In Life. Currency.

Listening

Listening, especial NVC (Nonviolence Communication) style listening can contribute significantly to effective dialogue

Further Reading

The 10 components of a thinking environment -Nancy Kline. (n.d.). [online] Available at: https://www.resultcic.com/Downloads/resources/Kline_10_Components_of_a_Thinking_Environment.pdf [Accessed 29 Apr. 2022].

Nonviolence

You may not realise that nonviolence is a skill – until you try to produce it on demand. 

Further Reading

Rosenberg, M.B. (2015). Nonviolent Communication : A Language Of Life. Puddledancer Press.

Emotional Intelligence

Also known as EQ. Emotional intelligence is the ability to learn about yourself and apply that wisdom to the world around you.

Further Reading

Psych Central (2016). What is Emotional Intelligence (EQ)? [online] Psych Central. Available at: https://psychcentral.com/lib/what-is-emotional-intelligence-eq.

Thinking Different

Using one’s System Two in preference to one’s System One thinking. 

Further Reading

Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, Fast and Slow. Farrar, Straus And Giroux.
Marshall, R.W. (n.d.). Think Different (blog). [online] Think Different. Available at: http://flowchainsensei.wordpress.com[Accessed 29 Apr. 2022].

Solicitation And Elaboration Of Folks’ Needs

A more practical skill, this, often found to a greater or lesser degree in the field of “requirements analysis” – which we prefer to call e.g. “needs analysis”. And drawing on a range of skills previously listed above.

Further Reading

Gause, D.C. and Weinberg, G.M. (2007). Exploring Requirements: Quality Before Design. Dorset House Publ.
Gilb, T. and Brodie, L. (2006). Competitive Engineering: A Handbook For Systems Engineering, Requirements Engineering And Software Engineering Using Planguage. Elsevier Butterworth Heinemann.

Ideal Team Player

Described by Patrick Lencioni as consisting of: Humility, hunger and people-smarts.

Further Reading

Lencioni, P. (2016). The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate The Three Essential Virtues: A Leadership Fable. Jossey-Bass.

Digital Transformation

See: Rightshifting and the Marshall Model. An in-house asset.

Further Reading

Marshall, R.W. (2013). Rightshifting And The Marshall Model – Class 101. [online] Think Different. Available at: https://flowchainsensei.wordpress.com/2013/09/15/rightshifting-and-the-marshall-model-class-101/

Value Streams

The Quintessential Group is presently structured along value stream lines, rather than the typical functional silos model. Some familiarity with value streams and, ideally, Prod•gnosis, will be useful.

Further Reading

Rother, M. and Shook, J. (1999). Learning To See: Value Stream Mapping To Create Value And Eliminate Muda. – Version 1.2. The Learning Enterprise Institute.
Ward, A.C. (2007). Lean Product And Process Development. The Lean Enterprise Institute.
Marshall, R.W. (2012). Prod•gnosis in a Nutshell. [online] Think Different. Available at: https://flowchainsensei.wordpress.com/2012/08/04/prod [Accessed 29 Apr. 2022].

Risk Management

The ability to identify risks which may impact a particular software delivery effort, and manage those risks, on behalf of all the Folks That Matter™.

Further Reading

Demarco, T. and Lister, T.R. (2003). Waltzing With Bears: Managing Risk On Software Projects. Dorset House Pub.
Jones, C.(1994). Assessment And Control Of Software Risks. Yourdon Press.

Other Desirable Skills

  • Defect prevention 
  • Toyota Kata
  • Interaction design
  • User experience
  • Emotioneering
  • Solution architectures
  • Team player 
  • Artist
  • Writer
  • PR
  • Cybrarian
  • Amanuensis
  • Content Maven
  • CI/CD toolchains
  • Methods and practices maven
  • Metricant
  • Toolsmith
  • Risk maven
  • Database designer
  • Issues maven
  • Style maven
  • Accessibility maven
  • Subcontracts maven
  • Scrounger
  • Development approaches maven
  • Facilitator

See Also

Marshall, R.W. (2015). Skills Chart. [online] Think Different. Available at: https://flowchainsensei.wordpress.com/about/skills-chart/ [Accessed 29 Apr. 2022].

Marshall, R. (2012). Developer Competency Matrix. [online] Think Different. Available at: https://flowchainsensei.wordpress.com/about/developer-competency-matrix/ [Accessed 29 Apr. 2022].

Marshall, R. (2011). The Many Roles in Software Projects. [online] Think Different. Available at: https://flowchainsensei.wordpress.com/2011/02/25/the-many-roles-in-software-projects/ [Accessed 29 Apr. 2022].

Enrolling Now

In case I didn’t mention it already, we’re enrolling our first cohort of fellows for orientation soon! Limited places remaining.

– Bob

Why Quintessential?

The Quintessential Organisation is a concept twenty five years and more in the making. Now exemplified and championed IRL (in real life) in the form of TheQuintessentialGroup.

But why? Why does the world need yet another take on how to organise effectively?

We at TheQuintessentialGroup believe it’s time for a new approach to organisations for the technology age. An approach founded in the latest research in sociology, neuroscience, group dynamics, etc. And yet at the same time an approach rooted in ten thousand years and more of human history, community and evolution.

Yet, this doesn’t really hit the “Why?” Nail on the head, does it?

So here’s why:

The world of work, and especially the world of collaborative knowledge work hasn’t changed much from the way slave plantations were organised and run in the 18th and 19th centuries. We have all been wage-slaves for so long that we’ve lost sight of our bondage and servitude. We at TheQuintessentialGroup believe that work can be joyous, emotionally rewarding and a means to grow compassionate, supportive communities. Communities where folks go out of their way to help and support each other, for the sheer joy of it. Communities where human connections, community and joy replace wage-slavery, bondage and servitude. And thereby convert a world of “work” into a world of play.

Put another way, the Quintessential organisation is one which makes the most money, and produces the best quality. NOT because it focusses on these goals, but because it focusses on the well-being of the people, communities and societies whose lives it touches. These conventional goals and measures of success are inevitable consequences of the quintessential.

Come join us in our mission to overthrow the world of work. Come play with us, on behalf of our clients, or as clients. Place your business with us and see how we focus on attending to your personal and company needs.

– Ian and Bob

Further Reading
Rosenthal, C. (2013). Plantations Practiced Modern Management. [online] Harvard Business Review. Available at: https://hbr.org/2013/09/plantations-practiced-modern-management.
Kay, J.A. (2012). Obliquity: Why Our Goals Are Best Achieved Indirectly. Penguin.

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