The Science of Yielding Productivity: An Interview with Mike DePaoli

[interview]
Summary:
Mike DePaoli sits down with us to discuss how project leaders, not unlike farmers, benefit from turning to science to give themselves the best chances at a bountiful harvest. We discuss how agile's preference for holistic approaches provides an organic opportunity for success across the enterprise.
Noel: I’ve written a lot about workplace culture and the positive and negative effects that it can have on agile's effectiveness. I was very curious when I read that you believe that "impediments stem from the organization's leaders." Can you go into why this falls on leaders' shoulders?
 
Mike: First let me provide a more specific frame for this question. The impediments that I’m referring to in the context of leaders are those perspectives, attitudes, and beliefs held by leaders that lead to behaviors, policies, and practices that stifle quality and team performance. The framework I’m introducing at the conference covers these areas that a leader heavily influences.
 
• Servant-Leadership style vs. Command and Control
• Providing a Safe-to-Learn Environment
• Appropriate Motivation and Engagement model
• Quality Focused – modeling that quality comes first
• Competent Change Management
 
It’s like a farmer planting high-quality seeds in a field of gravel and sand. They’re not likely to do very well. The farmer needs to provide a fertile field and maintain that state over time if they want to get a high yield.
 
Noel: Your session, "Building Hyper-productive Agile Teams: Leveraging What Science Knows," mentions that you use a "holistic framework" to achieve this hyper-productivity. What framework is this, and why does it work?
 
Mike: I haven’t officially named the framework yet. Currently I call it the ‘Flower’ framework. When you see the visuals for the framework you’ll understand. I see human beings as complex, dynamic and co-evolving biological systems, add the social component and the complexity increases. I know of no way to have a framework to assess even a component of this ‘system’ unless it is holistic.
 
Asking why does it works has to be an applied question just like asking does Ken Wilber’s ‘Integral’ theory work.
 
I have found that if you take a holistic approach to establishing and maintaining an environment conducive to an individual and a team being able to repeat a “flow state” more frequently, you have a much higher probability of achieving higher performing individuals and teams. The framework attempts to ‘frame’ the key areas to focus on and then monitor in establishing and maintaining an environment where hyper-productivity can be achieved (for a period anyway, because human beings are complex systems, ever changing and evolving with the other agents in the larger social systems in which they participate.)
 
Noel: You teach how to reach "hyper-productivity," which sounds…well…very fast. Very productive. Is there any risk of increasing productivity so greatly, that quality is risked?
 
Mike: First let me say that I kind of regret using the word “hyper-productivity” but it sounded sexy. You really have to ask “hyper” compared to what. But to the main point of your questions. Quality Focus is one of the ‘pedals’ of the Flower Framework. For high performance beyond the short term really has to have quality as job one. Quality is of course a business decision and there are different levels of quality expected and needed in different solution domains. For instance, a social media site misspelling a word is a bit different than an aerospace company having bugs in avionics software.
 
That said, this is where leadership plays such a key role. If leaders demonstrate that they don’t care about quality by unbalancing a product development system by constantly putting more demand on the system than it has demonstrated capacity and or competency to produce, the system will react. You see this all the time where leaders talk quality but then

About the author

Noel Wurst's picture Noel Wurst

Noel Wurst has written for numerous blogs, websites, newspapers, and magazines, and has presented educational conference sessions for those looking to become better writers. In his spare time, Noel can be found spending time with his wife and two sons—and tending to the food on his Big Green Egg. Noel eagerly looks forward to technology's future, while refusing to let go of the relics of the past.

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