Larger organisations can lead to a fear of not being seen

When organisations are small, you know everyone and what everyone is doing. It’s less likely that anyone is worried about not being seen or recognised.

When organisations get larger, you don’t know everyone nor what everyone is doing. …

Human working memory is limited.

There are two main ways to deal with limited working memory:

  1. Chunk. Group concepts together to reduce the number of things to remember;
  2. Externalise. Record it, write it down, etc.

Of the two, externalising is more scalable.


Experts don’t solve problems using “if A then B”.

Experts solve problems by balancing competing forces. Experts differ from novices because they have better awareness of and/or are better at balancing these competing forces. We call the recurring solutions that experts apply to recurring problems, “patterns”.

When the context changes, the competing forces change, therefore one would expect the pattern that should be applied would change.

Patterns don’t make any sense outside of the idea of balancing contextual forces.

Studying patterns is both about understanding contextual forces as well as understanding responses to those forces.

Progress in patterns is about discovering better answers for balancing competing forces.

The Fundamental Attribution Error refers to the tendency for people to overemphasise dispositional and personality explanations for behaviour and underemphasise situational explanations.

To address this, I like using the Six Sources of Influence model from VitalSmarts.

  • Personal Motivation: what the individual wants
  • Personal Ability: what the individual knows how to…

Because org structure change can get messy, there’s a tendency to have structure drive strategy

Changing org structure can be messy

There are several reasons why org structure changes can get messy:

  • Changing org structure can mean changing managers. Given “people leave managers, not companies”, the org structure change can trigger problems including departures;
  • Changing org structure typically means responsibilities are re-allocated. People are no longer responsible for work they used…

Let’s pretend a miracle happened and all our problems are solved. Everything is perfect. Don’t worry about how it happened, it was a miracle. How could you tell? What’s different now after the miracle?

The Miracle Question comes from Solution-Focused Brief Therapy. There are similar techniques from other sources: Remember the Future, Idealized Design, The Spice Girls Question.

The basic ideas are the same:

  • Create clarity about what you really want over clarity about what you don’t want;
  • Don’t limit want you want based on what is currently happening or whether you know how to get it;
  • Anchor off of perfect, not off of “good enough”.

I’ve found the Miracle Question encourages hope, progress, and creativity.

I typically use the Miracle Question when the answer to “How are things going? How might things be better?” is something like “It’s fine”.

Jason Yip

Senior Agile Coach at Spotify, ex-ThoughtWorks, ex-CruiseControl

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