Lion van Koppenhagen

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About this site
This blog — sometimes known as my "Braindump" — is my platform for experimentation and community interaction. It is a way of offloading thoughts.

Isn’t it time to move from hindsight to insights?

In the era of the smartwatch we find it normal to know about ourselves with literally a flick of the wrist, we call it quantified self. Isn’t it time to really move towards the quantified organization, to Fitbit your organization?

Buzzwords

We read about big data, data driven decision making and business intelligence everywhere, buzzwords enough, but when it comes to reality we only use it in hindsight.

These days, if I walk into an office, I get an immediate answer when I ask a manager about sleeping patterns or heart rate. However, if I ask about the performance of the main value streams or delays in those value streams, I’m usually directed to the BI-team. If I ask an SMB owner about cash flow, I’m directed to his accountant. Maybe you feel comfortable driving your car without a realtime dashboard but you shouldn’t and the same goes for managing your organization big or small.

Insights, the path to success

When driving you usually at least watch the speedometer on your dashboard, you don’t go to the garage to ask at what speed you have been driving. Why should managing an organization be any different?

While sometimes it’s okay to follow your instincts, the vast majority of your business-based decisions should be backed by metrics, facts, or figures related to your goals.
By leveraging the wealth of data available into insights, it’s possible to make more informed decisions that will lead to commercial growth, evolution, and an increased bottom line. Those insights should be available in now, not later. What’s holding us back?

Scattered data, high complexity

We have so much data but it’s scattered in silos, or using it is to complex, or our IT organization expects us to use BI-Tools when all we want is insights.

About 10 years ago I was asked to come and drink a cup of coffee at a multi-national sales organization. The sales people where send on a Microsoft training SQL Server Reporting Services so they could create the insights they needed themselves. Imagine the panic. I was asked if we could design a simple solution, we could and we did and it became the most used unofficial application in the company.

So how did we do it and how can you do it?

Land and expand

We followed a simple agile path. Think Big start Small. Always keep the big picture in mind but build for immediate use. We didn’t start off building a complete solution. We build simple blocks named in the language of the users that allowed them to correlate data from various sources into reports, without the need to know the source or how to get there. The salesforce decided which next block would add the most value. All reports were based on data in near real time.

You can do the same for/with your organization. By implementing the right reporting tools block by block, you will be able to make the kind of data driven decisions that will drive your organization forward. It isn’t hard and it should not be costly. Just do it!

This article is an introduction to a series of articles themed telemetry by design. I will post more on my site lion.nu, follow me on linkedin or facebook if you like to read more.

“Software development is a serious business, but it is also seriously fun. To put it stronger: If it does not remind you of playing with LEGO when you were still a kid, you are doing it wrong.”

Maurits van der Schee

I have been involved in software development and organizational processes since I was 15 years old. Common sense and laziness have always been the most important guideline for me. Just think about what you want to achieve and do it so that you don’t have to do it again.

In my career, LEGO has always been a source of inspiration in solving issues. Probably because I played with it for hours as a child and learned to solve every challenge by doing it brick by brick.

As a fan of Lego, with a keen interest in science, the feature image is a creation from designer Andrew Carol Senior Engineer at Apple. In case you don’t recognise it, it is a rebuild of what is claimed to be the world’s oldest known computer.  The mechanism is known as the Antikythera Mechanism, part of an astronomical computer built around 150 BC to calculate the movements of celestial bodies.

The image and the quote seemed a good introduction to my article series legolizing software development.

“We had started to make fire trucks that look like spaceships, building systems that no customer could truly appreciate. We had to clean that up.”

Mads Nipper

For some reason I always look at Lego for inspiration when I need to give structure to what goes on in my mind. For me this quote summarises the perpetual tendency to deform simple, elegant solutions into useless monstrosities, spending millions along the way.

I started developing software on a ZX Spectrum and no matter the years of management and consulting, that mindset of a developer is how I look at the world. The list of frameworks I have endured over the years is endless and what they all have in common, is the hours spent by organizations and teams not delivering value. Even worse, the frameworks have become resource hogs, draining organizations of time and money in the attempt to improve. So what’s the problem?

Frameworks, the imposed approach

Regardless whether the framework is called SDM, Prince2 or one of the current frameworks such as SAFe or DAD, they are pitched to the organization and imposed on the teams. Leadership has had little training and consultants are brought in to achieve a lightning change into product and software development. And then there is the failure to achieve the goals of the change. Why?

The framework became the goal

In the rush to improve organizations to achieve their goals more efficiently, the frameworks tend to become the holy grail. Process and procedures are forced upon teams and control mechanisms are put in place to provide management with progress overviews. Failure to meet targets leads to changing the consultants, changing the framework or both and to no avail. Why?

Failure to address culture

Culture, the hardest component of an organization to change. It is not the framework or methodology that makes a team successful. It is the culture and mindset in the organization that leads to success. Change needs to come from culture and a mindset, not a framework. So where do frameworks fit?

The use(fulness) of frameworks

Changing culture and mindset takes time, it also needs tangible tools to help you on the way. Following the ShuHaRi concept, frameworks can be useful as a tool in the journey of change. The most valuable element in change, being lessons learned or retrospectives, can be found in any modern framework. Use frameworks wisely, use them to support the change you wish to achieve but beware, don’t let using the framework become the goal.

If you would like to know more or need help, feel free to reach out.

Read More

For those interested in flow, another oriental way of thinking might also be good to read up on.

Shu-Ha-Ri.

Shu – In this beginning stage the student follows the teachings of one master precisely. He concentrates on how to do the task, without worrying too much about the underlying theory. If there are multiple variations on how to do the task, he concentrates on just the one way his master teaches him.

Ha – At this point the student begins to branch out. With the basic practices working he now starts to learn the underlying principles and theory behind the technique. He also starts learning from other masters and integrates that learning into his practice.

Ri – Now the student isn’t learning from other people, but from his own practice. He creates his own approaches and adapts what he’s learned to his own particular circumstances.

Applied to yourself it helps you recognise how Agile you are, applied to others, It helps you coach them in their maturity drive at the right level.

Freight transport and logistics are recognized to be large contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and to contribute to a set of specific problems (congestion, air and noise pollution), directly affecting climate change and pollution. Zero emission logistics is dedicated to address these problems, supporting both optimisation of the logistics movements as well as looking into the introduction of new technologies into the traditional logistics processes.

In 2007-2009, when I was working at TNT as part of the TNT Planet Me project, I developed a passion for this subject. More recently, in 2017-2020, I got the chance to dive deep into dynamic routing, optimisation of the logistics movements, at Bpost.

A pragmatic approach to zero emission logistics is required

Getting to zero emissions in logistics is an enormous challenge. In a cost-driven industry, a high-cost, high-risk focus on zero-emissions technology may position many players as part of the dirty past – not the clean future. We need a pragmatic approach that balances high-tech practices with practical ones that offer a role for everyone. We can reduce avoidable emissions through more efficient supply chains, but we need to shift mindsets. Reducing avoidable emissions alone won’t get us to zero. But this approach is open to everyone everywhere, starting now, and it can save fossil fuels in the present, and open the door to zero-carbon fuels in the future.

In 2007 I was hired as an external consultant in the role of project manager/solution architect, by Peter van Minderhout, Group Director Communications and Social Responsibility, to be part of the TNT Planet Me movement.

In my role I had the responsibility to bring all the elements together in a web platform.

The TNT Planet Me scope

Fighting climate change: Planet Me

It is our ambition to become the first zero emission transport company.

  • We will measure and manage our CO2 footprint in a transparent manner through our Count Carbon initiative
  • We will continuously increase the CO2 efficiency of our operations through our Code Orange initiative
    (aviation, buildings, lease fleet, customer collaboration, company cars, purchasing, investments)
  • Choose Orange will engage our employees to participate at work and at home with their families
    ( One of these initiatives is a global contest to reduce fuel consumption: the Drive Me challenge)

My Role within the scope

This is just a simple listing of the key tasks within my role.

  • Design the web architecture for the tnt planet me platform
  • Lead the development team building the platform
  • Align with the design agency on the UX
  • Align with the carbon accounting team on the way to display their reports on the platform
  • Align with all daughter companies on their contribution to the platform
  • Design the choose orange community platform
  • Lead the development team building the community platform
  • Coordinate the roll-out of the video conferencing solution
  • Stakeholder management of all parties required to fulfill the tasks above

My Takeaways

When I left the project in 2009, I left with two takeaways on top of my mind:

  • Working for Peter van Minderhout really made me grow fast. For me it was a person who gave you absolute trust. Allowing you to make the choices to “make things happen”.
    TNT Planet Me was my fast track to global stakeholder management.
    I still remember my first conference call where I had to explain the benefits of the beautiful new video conferencing solution to the CEOs of the 38 daughter companies across the globe (who did not really see a benefit in making less trips around the world) and get them to start using it. You learn to deal with hostility quickly. His advice was simple whether it was internal or external, keep haunting them until they give you what you want, sometimes you need to be a respectful “pain in the ass”.
  • It is here that I got infected with the passion Peter Baker has for sustainable development. It is the main reason that one of my pet subjects is Zero Emission Logistics.

This blog — sometimes known as my “Braindump” — is my platform for experimentation and community interaction. It is a way of offloading thoughts.

With each post, I try to delve deeper into the ever-expanding universe knowledge on any subject that interests me.
I understand that growing my skills not only takes time and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, it also takes the support of others.
That’s why my blog tries to be just as much Question as it is Answer. I find that the feedback provided by my readers is just as helpful, if not more so, than the content itself. As such, I do my best to promote high-quality conversations from which everyone in the community can learn.

At the moment I closed the commenting options. I first need to research the privacy protection on this platform.

From 1993 until April 1995 Centric detached me as a Solution Designer, Analyst, Projectmanager to the Volvo Truck Corporation. In that role I was responsible for the redesign of the Volvo Dealer Systems platform.

In 1993 I Centric detached me to ABN-AMRO as a project-manager analyst to finalize the merger of the treasury desks of the two banks.

Working in the development industry and experiencing changes in the way of working first hand, led me to writing this article. Regardless of paradigms, the goal is to develop working solutions for internal/external customers in a timely cost efficient manner. This perspective is especially important for scrum masters to understand their role. 

In many teachings the focus of the role of a scrum master is primarily defined as guiding the team(s) through the rituals of the chosen framework in a rigid process focused manner. This narrow focus is more often than not becoming its own impediment.

Being adaptive and agile means being able to change decisions all through the pipeline by iterating back and forth between the people who have responsibility for delivery and those who are responsible for understanding the marketplace. If we want business agility we need innovations of every size to flow through the organisation’s delivery pipeline without being blocked by gates, bad interaction or poor project management techniques. The paradigms and frameworks are there to serve organisations achieving the mindset and having a blueprint to deliver value.

From this we can derive the real role of the scrum master. The scrum master is the facilitator, responsible for managing the flow. The scrum master should focus on culture and interaction as well as a few guidelines. The scrum master uses the framework and tools to power an intense level of social interaction and a decisions flow from good interaction at work. 

The scrum master is the flow master. The scrum master evaluates where he can be of service to make sure we have a predictable continuous flow in the delivery of working solutions. This adheres completely to the principles of original agile manifesto:

  • Individuals and Interactions over processes and tools
  • Working Software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer Collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to Change over following a plan

Organisations need to recognise this in order for any agile transformation to succeed.

If you would like to know more about flow or need help in exercises to improve flow, feel free to reach out.