Shit or not! My notes.

This time round, I was pointed at this , by the Labour Party and its fit for the future presentation.

“Labour will work collaboratively in multidisciplinary teams, which will adopt a product-mindset using agile ceremonies, be empowered to make decisions and encouraged to focus on rapid prototyping, deployment and iteration.”

I made some notes here, over the next few days. These notes are in the order I made them and so do not really tell a story. I might re-organise the notes, but I went from the preso to scrum to agile, I need to trace back as well.

Two problems for the Labour Party is that,

  1. The principle goal of Agile is to satisfy customers and there is no agreement as to who a political parties customers are.
  2. ‘“Doing Agile” is not enough. To get the full benefits of Agile, managers must recognize that Agile is a mindset, not just a methodology. They must learn to “be Agile.”’ Denning Apr 2016

One can understand how this applies to development house, but Labour is not that.

SCRUM to me, involves running at full speed the whole time, hyper measurement and hyper management.

On Scrum

Agile ceremonies, a phrase used in Evan’s LP restructuring presentation are part of SCRUM, a software development methodology invented it would seem by those with the worst approach to workers and creativity.

Why do some developers at strong companies like Google consider Agile development to be nonsense? This confirms in my mind that this is Theory X stuff, and we know where that leads, a theory x organisation. See also Hiring Smart. Also, this, just as Erik Meijer said scrum is the most stupid shit in modern development process

Have a look for my stuff on Open Source governance, and the evolution of the do-archy.

One can understand how this applies to development house, but Labour is not that. SCRUM to me, involves running at full speed the whole time, hyper measurement and hyper management.

The Party has 100’s if not 1000’s of amazing managers and campaigners, the use of open source tools and governance models should be endemic, but managers lose control in that world.

On Agile

My feeling was that Scrum was inappropriate as a management methodology and out dated and suboptimal inn the SDM world. I did some more reading and came across its theoretical parent, Agile which claims to be a management methodology and mindset optimised and stemming from, again, the software development world.

  1. Principles behind the Agile Manifesto at the web archive, wonder if it’ll be back
  2. What Is Agile? by Steve Denning in Forbes, charts the evolution to a total management regime, there is further recommendations for reading.
  4. Agile for all is coming—but how fast? at McKQ also

From the Manifesto

The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.

At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

What is Agile? from the Forbes article

The four values

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan

On Vendor Management & the LP

  2. System updates required, Submission to the Labour Together GE2019 review:ground operations and digital technology by Common Knowledge Co-operative Ltd

Somewhere else, Evans is quoted as saying that they recognise that management aren’t taking their share of the cuts, but we know that duplication between Southside and LOTO is on of the causes of the financial shortfall. Where’s the money gone?


2 Replies

  1. On facebook, a correspondent of mine, wrote the following,

    Dave Levy is right this is from the SCRUM framework. This framework was developed in the 90’s by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland. You can read their SCRUM guides at: ⁠

    I don’t personally discount management theory and find it interesting. I studied a fair bit of it at Harvard as part of my Master’s degree, with a particular focus on public sector management. The language being used is a bit management gobbledegook and could do with being adjusted to a form of words that made more sense in the context of the pre-existing cultural context of Labour.

    At a certain level the notion of the SCRUM framework has advantages. In the context of a business, it can be effective. It is more often used in software companies but theoretically it can be applied to other businesses as well.

    The big question though is can it be applied effectively to a political party like Labour? I am very sceptical. Particularly as Evans has come out with this idea but doesn’t seem to understand the basic concepts. SCRUM is described as:

    ‘founded on empiricism and lean thinking. Empiricism asserts that knowledge comes from experience and making decisions based on what is observed.’

    Yet Evans is making staff redundant in the Data section and reducing the Data unit. Moving to a strategy based on empiricism but reducing the available data makes no sense.

    SCRUM is built around the notion of supplying a ‘product’. It is an administrative mechanism to deliver increased value in your ‘product’ software, cars, groceries etc. What exactly is the ‘product’ that Labour supplies? I am not clear on that.

    The core values of SCRUM are Commitment, Focus, Openness, Respect, and Courage. My suspicion is that the SCRUM framework will fall apart pretty quickly when it hits the reality of the administrative culture of Labour. Transparency in Labour is non-existent. It is an incredibly secretive Org e.g., the NEC don’t get full accounts, no public minutes of the NEC, Forde Report etc. No respect for ordinary volunteer members, risk averse decision making and staff.

    Labour is an org with a substantial volunteer component. Applying a model designed as a business framework for an org that is almost entirely employed may be a problem. The idea of ‘agile’ learning behaviour in Labour would suggest that you devolve decision making to the lowest level and give maximum agency to members and CLPs. ‘Rapid prototyping’ might make sense in an organisation that encouraged grass roots evolutionary innovation. That means the center giving up control. Evans ‘Hub and Spoke’ model suggests the opposite. The ‘Hub’ = HQ, it creates, and then directs and the ‘spokes’ deliver the ‘product’.

    The fundamentally ill-conceived aspect of this is that you have a ‘product’ to supply, and that ‘product’ is universal and not related to location. If we are selling a software package it is the same in Southampton, or Sheffield, or Sunderland. This can’t be said for the Labour ‘product’ (strongly recommend reading ‘Putting Voters in Their Place: Geography and Elections in Great Britain’ – by Ron Johnston, Charles Pattie, R. J. Johnston, reviewed here).

    There is a significant local aspect to how the Labour ‘product’ is sold and if local variations and cultural context are squeezed out through excessive oligarchic and hierarchical centralism by HQ that will have the opposite effect.
    Another key part of the Party being fundamentally a volunteer organisation is that members activity level and work can’t be forced. In any volunteer organisation the empirical evidence is that approx. 10-15% of members will be active. In Labour I suggest it is lower than that.

    Research by Professor Marshall Ganz of Harvard suggests that to maximise volunteer activity 3 conditions need to be met:
    1). experienced meaningfulness,
    2). autonomy,
    3). feedback.

    The behaviour of Evans and Starmer towards members is the exact opposite of this. They have a ‘Stalinist’ dictatorial approach to management which will continue to destroy volunteer engagement. This is lethal to Labour because in a GE Labour will always be outspent by the Tories. There is no prospect of Labour matching Tory spending £ for £. Volunteers and the capacity to put far more feet on the ground allows Labour to try to close that gap and leverage volunteers to provide greater electoral ‘punch’.

    The management talk is a bit ‘wank’ but far more concerning is the fact that this appears to be a really bad strategy rooted in misconceptions and a fundamental misunderstanding of the concepts involved in SCRUM and the nature of political campaigning. Another solid reason why Evans must not be ratified by Conference.

  2. I removed, “And then, there’s this, Re-engineering Work: Don’t Automate, Obliterate bit out of fashion today but this was a serious contribution to management theory and adopted in many places; wonder if it is a maturity phase solution produced too late and destroyed by ‘Eruption’ stage evolution.” This didn’t seem to belong although I was reminded as this might be one of the worst Theory X policies put forward. It was subtitled by its opponents as “Half the work force, double the fear and quadruple the profits”. I put it in at the time I considered Scrum to be creativity negating, I took it out because it no longer seemed to belong in an essay or notes of an essay on the Labour Party and SCRUM.

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