Connecting the dots – workflow, agile, OKRs, dyslexia and chaos!

Connecting dots

One of my failings, or one of my strengths, is that I have lots of interests. I tend to default to systems thinking, I see wholes, I see connections, I see things tying together, I think holistically. I can’t always explain it, sometimes I dive into detail but generally thats the way my mind works. Perhaps its because I’m dyslexic.

That has its advantages – problems seldom occur in isolation – and I think its one of my assets, I think it gives me the upper hand in resolving things. More than one client has told me I “bring order out of chaos.” I’m proud of that and I think its one of my key selling points. The problem is the clients need to recognise chaos to start with which people don’t like doing.

And while everyone will agree that more “holistic” thinking is needed… holistic also has negative overtones to some people. It is, if I can say this, somewhat “hippieish”. That is to say, it is vague, unfocused, perhaps a little work-shy. In fact, I can get frustrated myself with people who always enlarge a problem and want to engage in analysis after analysis. I just want to get on with it!

Perhaps because I naturally see wholes I don’t feel the need for analysis like other people. I want to move straight to action!

My problem is: holistic doesn’t sell. In fact, what sells is specific, very specific. Every marketing textbook, every marketeer, and even me will tell you: “focus on one specific customer, one specific problem, make your offer match their need precisely.”

For example, my best selling books are Succeeding with OKRs in Agile and, before that, Little Book of User Stories, both very specific. Conversely while I regard Business Patterns and Continuous Digital as my masterpieces they don’t sell in big numbers. Business Patterns addresses almost every aspect of commercial software while Continuous Digital reframes organizations completely.

Or take this blog, it rangers far and wide. The last three entries have looked at workflow, before that there were two posts about OKRs but they were broken up by news about Books to be Written – heck, Books to be Written has been a year long diversion from just about everything else I do.

It is a marketing nightmare, what is the theme? What is the consistency? What problem am I solving? Who should be my customers? – in terms of “marketing Allan” Books to be Written is a disaster!

But you know what, there is a theme in here. In my mind it is all about bringing order and bringing about a better, more focused world.

OKRs and agile because they both help create order and routine.

OKRs fit with the #NoProjects critique because both say “Forget the proxies and focus on the goals.”

Workflow fits in because goals can’t be delivered if you can’t actually get stuff done, and things can go wrong in so many ways.

Patterns fit with all of this because they explain the world, as does Lean thinking.

Feedback, and dialogue sheets, because they allow you to correct when the world doesn’t match your thinking.

Autonomy and devolved authority fit in because there is no one size fits all, if you apply “the standard approach” to any of this you might make it worse.

Writing books fits in because it captures lessons learned and shares them.

Get the picture? – does my mind make a little more sense?

Perhaps the irony is, that it is exactly because I can be so unfocused, that my mind will wonder everywhere, that I see wholes and connections, and I think in systems that I need to bring order to my own world. My world is big, wide ranging and apparently random, but I’ve honed the skills to see through that. Just don’t ask me how to market that!

Which again is so very dyslexic. Most of you were taught at school how to learn, you found the typical learning methods and patterns used in typical schools worked for you. Congratulations!

Being dyslexic those didn’t work for me. Dyslexics need to learn to learn before anything else. We have to do triple-loop learning before we can do single-loop. Because the underlying causes of dyslexia are so wide, and the way dyslexia manifests itself so variable, it is rare to find two dyslexics the same.

I had to think wide from early on. Learning strategies that work for non-dyslexics don’t work for dyslexics. But that does not apply in reverse. Rather, learning that works for dyslexics is often better for non-dyslexics.

I’d like to say that from now on this blog, my output and my marketing will be more focused – so you know what to expect and why to hire me! – but I don’t have words to describe the subject of that focus. Call it the focus without a name.