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This article is dedicated to my friends in the Agile community who have shown interest and curiosity in understanding the academic origins of the study of culture change.  The content is derived from my chosen field in college, Cultural Anthropology.  One of my favorite things is to help build cognitive maps across domains. – E. Slomba

The group of disciplines we know today as the social sciences emerged in the wake of the Industrial Revolution.  This increasing specialization was a response to the world’s increasing complexities.   Anthropology distinguished itself from the other branches of social science in two ways: first, by attempting to retain a comprehensive view of humankind and second, by an emphasis on empirical data.

Early Attempts at Explaining Cultural Differences

19th century scholars attempted to place the development of cultures within a set of evolutionary stages to tell “the” story of humankind.

“There is a psychic unity of mankind – a basic similarity of all human minds – in every land, in every culture,” Edward Burnett Tylor.

Tylor was the first to use statistical analysis in comparing cultures.  He initiated cross-cultural studies of commonly observed themes like marriage and inheritance.

“Technological inventions and discoveries alter society in a way so that new traits become necessary for survival,” Lewis Henry Morgan.

Morgan associated stages of evolution with particular technologies, and wrote about “successive arts.”  To him we owe a debt related to the concepts of disruption and innovation tracing back through generations of scholarship to his foundational work.

Data Gathering

Scholars during the early development of Cultural Anthropology focused on methodologies for ethnography and linguistics.

“Whenever we make judgements about good and bad cultures, we do so on the basis of certain overt or covert premises,” Franz Boas.

Boas was a staunch believer in the value of first-hand information.  He tore down previous contributions of “armchair anthropologists” and attacked viewpoints of certain races as being more or less evolved.

“Culture forms recognizable and persistent patterns,” Alfred Louis Kroeber.

Kroeber found examples of patterns in philosophy, music, literature and nationalism to suggest that genius tends to develop in cultural clusters.

“Borrowing is always easier than originating,” Robert H. Lowie.

For Lowie, cultural contact is an exchange of ideas.  He was interested in the ways different cultures mix and mingle, especially at their peripheries.

“I consider as my greatest accomplishment that I am an adopted member of the Comanche tribe, was accepted as a master carver by the Marquesan natives and executed commissions for them in their own art, am a member of the Native Church of North America (Peyote) according to Quapaw rite, became a properly accredited ambiasy nkazo (medicine man) in Madagascar and was even invited to join the Rotary Club of a middle western city.” Ralph Linton

Linton stressed that cultural factors were more important than biological ones in explaining differences among tribes.  He studied status and roles in class-based societies, with a main focus on the individual creating and reacting to cultural influences.

“Institutions are the vehicle through which specific influences are brought to bear on the growing individual.” Abram Kardiner

Kardiner emphasized the adaptations people choose in order to negotiate culture. His fieldwork gathered first-person biographies.

The next post will continue with Organizations & Reciprocity.  Meanwhile, THANKS for asking, Lisette.  I hope some of these points at least are helpful, and I’m glad we’re in the same tribe!

Lisette Sutherland is an expert on remote collaboration and community-building.  For more information about Lisette and her work, see happymelly.com & follow her on Twitter @lightling

RESOURCES

High Points in Anthropology

http://www.amazon.com/High-Points-Anthropology-Paul-Bohannan/dp/0075539772/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1387076369&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=High+Ponts+in+Anthropology

Conformity and Conflict, Readings in Cultural Anthropology

http://www.amazon.com/Conformity-Conflict-Readings-Cultural-Anthropology/dp/0205234100

The Cultural Experience: Ethnography in Complex Society

https://kindle.amazon.com/work/the-cultural-experience-ethnography-complex/B000AI6HCW/1577663640

The Anthropology Network, an open LinkedIn Group

Anthropology and Design, an openLinkedIn Group

This was a Talkback I prepared for Lisette Sutherland, who could not attend Agile Bill Kreb’s 3D Webinar aired September 18, 2013.  Video at: http://www.agiledimensions.com/blog/video.  Get in touch with me if you’d like a TalkBack prepared for your online event! – ES

wave surger

Speaker Tom Wessel – Davisbase Consulting http://www.davisbase.com/

Interactive Features: Spatial Environment.  Moderator gave lots of voice inflection, made listening engaging. Brought in other senses: made the sound of hands rubbing together, at the questions coming in.  This was a nice moment!

Tom Wessell is founder of Southern Fried Agile Conference…http://southernfriedagile.com/ Regional flavors of Agile can complement and strengthen each other.   Enjoy the chicken, celebrate our thought leaders.  Attendance has gone from 75 to north of 300.  Five different tracks total 20 sessions.  5 PDUs  are like PMP crack!  We do it on a Friday – this year it’s October 18, 2013.  Take the day off and hang out with geeks and freaks and have a good time.

Virtual world graphics used to express metaphors for Agile:

Surfing

It’s a pure sport – a simplistic framework in which you have just a few elements to work with and you must navigate a very complex system.  Execute on the wave, you have to adapt to the motions of that wave.  That’s Agile, applying simple tools to an ever-changing environment.  Otherwise, you end up in the drink!

Pile of Stones

The stones relate to release planning.  There’s a sequential flow of fulfilling requirements that have to be met by a specific date.  Iterations are fixed bucket sizes, requirements are different sized stones.  We arrange them into buckets based on needs of organizations.  Sustainable pace – small pebbles fill in the empty space around big rocks to even the flow.  Takes negotiation between teams and product owner.  There is a logical order to what takes place.

Fossil of Dinosaur Bones

Agile is more than software development and teams.  We as an organization need to evolve and adapt.  Challenges rise as you move up the food chain, it takes more energy to break down the silos and move toward an agile enterprise.  If you do not evolve to be competitive, you will end up extinct.  We are knowledge workers so learning is the bulk of what we do.  If you’re not upgrading skills every two years or so you’re probably falling behind.

Seed

Seeds sprouting in different stages relate to a paradigm shift we are experiencing from command and control structures to allowing for emergent design based on intrinsic strengths.  Project managers have many chances to grow in their development and understanding.  Agile is not a fad.  This is something that has value.  It is growing strong.

Watchmaking versus the Weather

Complicated system versus a complex system.  In the systems we work in, there is too much variability to mindlessly follow a fixed set of plans.  We must inspect and adapt and use whatever we’re learning.  Incorporate a replanning perspective.

Trends are Emerging Patterns.  Here are some:

Pairing a PM with an SM – team focused paired with externally focused.  Scrum Master job is full time, external requirements like compliance takes research and time that a partner can support, esp in a regulated environment.  PM will help navigate that.  Plus this helps agile transitions at enterprise scale by giving a legitimate role for the PM.  SM takes certain skills, empathetic/nanny/psychologist/motivator…not all PMs can make that transition.

SAFe structure -you’re addressing the things that we want to spend money on that fit into a business strategy – end to end system, whole organism – structure will help us evolve

Soft is the new hard.  People skills matter incredibly much.  We are imperfect creatures and hard to work with.  Servant leaders ask: how do I take this group of talented individuals and get them moving in a common direction and becoming high performing?  Then how do we take that to the next level, to the whole organization?

Focus on communication/negotiation/mutual respect – different parts of the organism flexibly say “sure – we’ll reconsider what we were going to do in light of what we are learning about how to make happy customers”  This can be internal or external…making the product owners happy is great.  Barbara Fredrickson’s books tell us that three to one positive to stressful events keep your brain operating at peak efficiency.  http://www.amazon.com/Love-2-0-Supreme-Emotion-Everything/dp/1594630992/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1379555688&sr=8-1&keywords=Barbara+Fredrickson

Chief product owner with sub product owners   Complex systems have multiple subsystems.  The voice of the customer includes competing needs and priorities.

Managing your personal WIP so you’re more productive and less stressed.  Our work in progress as thought workers isn’t visible, then at the end of the day we wonder why we’re so tired…what are all the things that are work in progress – make them visible so you can visualize them and understand why you’re so tired. Limit our WIP because we think we want as much work going on at once as possible, but we as humans are not as good at multitasking as we think. Chunking and conquering can be applied to anything in life, that’s what’s great about Agile principles, not just software

Goldilocks Approach to Process: focus on “what is the right level of process to support the flow through the system?”  Not too much, not too little, has to be just right to avoid disconnect without overcommunicating.  This is sophisticated stuff – Agile is evolving, and so are organizations.

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