Principles from “to solve” – part 8/8 – graph, principle and wrap-up

So, from the summary in the last blog post, we finally have the relation of Resource and Flow efficiency in knowledge work, and here is how the curve* looks like.

And they cannot be divided into two different parts; resource efficiency also gives flow efficiency, so the more T-shape** we have, the more Lean queues we will have and the less waste we will have. And in the opposite way; resource inefficiency also means flow inefficiency, so the more niching we do of our employees, the more Mean queues we will get and the more waste we will have.

For a silo organisation with projects, this also clearly shows what will happen when the Line organisation’s managers start to protect their head count and to let the employees only work within the managers’ different responsibility; the projects will after elaboration with the employees need to split the activities into small chunks of specialised activities, to fit the employees’/managers’ responsibility, also frequently leading to many part times resources.
This in turn will specialise the employees, the employees’ competence are narrowed. The Project Office cannot do anything about it, since there is no way of compensating this, since specialisation is a root cause. The Project Offices have tried to cure the part time employee’s syndrome*** for decades, and are still today, so far in vain. And except the inefficiency, the Project Offices also need to employ more project managers to take care of all the part time employees in the projects, sometimes up to 20-30 employees, which maybe in worst case are only a handfull of full time equivalents.

And if it was not clear enough above, the Prefilled Problem Picture Analysis Map will show this even clearer, and especially give us the possibility to rumble any solution to an organisational problem that is trying to solve a symptom or as in this case trying to anti-solve a root cause, i.e. make it worse.

But, as stated before, we cannot remove all our Mean queues, they will still be there for some experts, Configuration Management, Integration & Verification, SMEs, etc. and there we need to have over capacity to not block the teams, or team of teams, or higher up, all the way up and including the portfolio level team.

Our principle looks like this.

Principle: We need to nourish broad competence, when needed in the end to end flow, to achieve better flexibility short-term (spanning from the needed T-shape when solving different interdependent activities in product development, to the needed multi-I-shape in production when solving different independent activities).

If we look into our evolutionary prerequisites regarding this principle, humans have always been specialists, generalists or any combination, and means that the way to mastery is not only dedicated to specialists.

Due to that we do not want too much Project Administration waste, we will update one principle from “People that interact” of our system start definition to state the importance of interactions, and add full-time on the employees as well. As Dr. Russell Ackoff [1] states:

An organization is as good as the product of its interactions.

Or Dave Snowden [2]:

Complexity theory in the main argues that interactions are more important than agents, and in my view agency is ethically engaging in those interactions rather than focusing on the needs of the agent.

Our updated principle will now look like this.

Principle****: We need full-time people working in the same boat.

Since our principle is hard to visualise, it is an add-on of some text to the part of the picture from “People that interact” and also add full-time to people. The picture will then look instead like this, as part to be added to the total picture of our set of principles.

The negated principle above gives our root cause that looks like this.

This was our last principle, so now it is time to summarise all the principles in our set of principles, and what that implies, which is tomorrow’s blog post. C u then.

Next “chapter” according to the reading proposal tree is the blog post about that the set of principles give us great opportunities. See also this blog post for a deep dive into our ability to solve problems.


*if we plan badly, we will of course have low Resource and Flow Efficiency, and as you already know, that root cause we already have specified.

**multi-I-shape in production

***One reason for the part time employee’s syndrome can be the following:
In a production process, the following are stated (among many other parameters of course); HOW, WHAT, WHEN, WHO, HOW MANY PERSONS and HOW MUCH TIME (the standard time for the process). Lean Production is focusing on achieving a flexible number of persons per process, i.e. easily change the process to achieve full-time persons to fit in the process, irrespective takt time. This means that HOW MANY PERSONS and HOW MUCH TIME within a process are strongly correlated, and almost synonymous, since the takt time will give the number of persons needed.

If we go to product development with projects in the traditional waterfall way of working, described in earlier blog posts we have; Project Processes, that consist of Product-oriented processes and Project management processes.

In the Product-oriented processes we can find HOW to take care of an activity that is needed for do a Product, but it is not stated HOW MANY PERSONS that is appropriate for taking care of the activity.

In the Project management process for making the time plan, we have only the HOW, and the time plan generated consists of the WHAT, the WHEN, the WHO and HOW MUCH TIME.  Not here either, is it specified HOW MANY PERSONS that is appropriate to take care of an activity.

When too many people working on the same task, even though fewer people would do it more efficiently, can be referred to as clogging. And believe it or not, ants do not accept clogging in any form, and their solutions are brilliant. So, with ants as our guides, the solution to the clogging phenomena can be found in this series of blog posts about Organisational Clogging.

****see this blog post about human science, for an elaboration of our evolutionary prerequisites regarding the finalisation of this principle.


[1] Bertsch, Boudewijn. Blog post at Cognitive Edge. Link copied 2019-01-13.

[2] Snowden, Dave. Blog post. Link copied 2019-01-01.

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