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December 9, 2020

Understanding Why Organizations Behave the Way They Do: Top Lessons Learned from The Idealcast

By IT Revolution

In Gene Kim’s continued quest to understand why organizations behave the way they do, he embarked on a journey of learning this last year, and he invited us all along with him. The Idealcast’s first season saw some of the more influential leaders in tech talking about everything from the MIT beer game to feedback loops and how to structure architecture. 

As Season 1 comes to a close, we look back on the top lessons learned over 14 episodes.

Digital Disruption and the Five Ideals

  • DevOps and digital disruption will bring in the Age of Software and Data.
  • How to organize your technology portfolio to free its future from the pull of the past.
  • The “lunch factor,” and what is required to unleash developer productivity.
  • Flow and the conditions that allow developers to be orders of magnitude more productive than the competition.
  • Core vs. context, and ensuring that context doesn’t starve core. 

Listen to Episode 1 with Mik Kersten and Peter Moore.

Achieving Better Outcomes Through Structure

  • How to build software in a more efficient way.
  • Mental models of balance, structure, and flow.
  • Feedback loops and why feedback and opinion are different things.
  • Fighting feedback entropy takes enormous energy.
  • Meetings are easy; getting real work done is hard.
  • Tools and test frameworks are foundational: the devs who build them have to be better than average.
  • Becoming a learning organization.

Listen to Episode 3 and Episode 4 with Elisabeth Hendrickson.

The Pursuit of Perfection: Dominant Architectures and Dynamics

  • How a mental model of dominate architectures, structure, and dynamics can explain why organizations behave the way they do.
  • The conditions for organizational-wide learning that allows the achievement of amazing goals and for organizations to dominate in the marketplace.
  • How fast feedback creates opportunities to self correct and improve in real time.
  • The characteristics of a dynamic learning organization.

Listen to Episode 5, Part 1 of Steven Spear’s interview.

The Topography of Problems and the Importance of Distributed Problem Solving

  • Distributed decision-making.
  • Developing group leader core.
  • Safety culture at ALCOA.
  • The need for specialization in an increasingly complex world.
  • Feedback builds trust.

Listen to Episode 7, Part 2 of Steven Spear’s interview.

Architecture as the Organizing Logic for Components and the Means for their Construction

  • How to build great architecture for large teams.
  • The real implications of Conway’s Law.
  • Architecture as an organizing logic and means of software construction.
  • Real-life stories of technology leaders’ transformation journeys.
  • Decentralized economic decision making.
  • The fear cycle and predictability.
  • The after effects of the Yegge memo.
  • A great definition of what great architecture is. 
  • Leadership and the relationship between the business’ architecture and the technology architecture of the business.

Listen to Episode 8, Part 1 of Michael Nygard’s interview.

The Surprising Implications of Architecting for Generality

  • Building great architecture for generality.
  • Admiral Rickover’s work with the Naval Nuclear Reactor Core.
  • Architecture as an organizing logic and means of software construction.
  • Toyota Production System’s ability to drive down the cost of change through architecture.
  • Clojure programming language.

Listen to Episode 10, Part 2 of Michael Nygard’s interview.

The Principles and Practices behind Team of Teams

  • The philosophy and thinking behind the book, Team of Teams.
  • The organization and management required to support the large group of personnel involved in the mission described in the book.
  • The dramatic changes in the transformations mentioned in the book and how and why it worked.
  • The structure and dynamics before and after the transformation.
  • What leadership characteristics are needed in this new way of working.
  • What was required to increase the temp of operations.
  • How internal marketplaces are structures that can connect mid level leaders to each other and allocate scarce resources to where they are needed most.
  • Concept and terms found within the agile and special operations communities.
  • What happens when the cost of change is intolerably high.
  • New skills that midlevel need to survive and thrive to help organizations win.

Listen to Episode 11 and Episode 13 with David Silverman (coauthor of Team of Teams) and Jessica Reif.

The Rise of Knowledge Work, and its Structure and Dynamics

  • The nature of knowledge work and how it requires more conversation and joint cognitive work and the challenges it presents.
  • The body of knowledge required in decision making and value creation for the organization.
  • Concepts of integration and why it’s important now.
  • What the questions, “Are you happy?” and “Are you proud of your work?,” reveal about people and their work.
  • How Dr. Thomas Kuhns’s work pertains to management model.

Listen to Episode 14 with Jeffrey Fredrick.

- About The Authors
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IT Revolution

Trusted by technology leaders worldwide. Since publishing The Phoenix Project in 2013, and launching DevOps Enterprise Summit in 2014, we’ve been assembling guidance from industry experts and top practitioners.

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