Knowing where to dig.

I occasionally come across the attitude that the work I do has no value. Managers love the workers who have been digging like crazy, but they give less credit to advice on where to dig. This photo is of a hole in a car park in Leicester where a skeleton with a curved back was found. It turns out it is the final resting place of Richard III. There is little doubt in the minds of the general masses that the heroes of the story were the archeologists who told the driver of the digger where to dig. No one is filming documentaries about the driver of the excavator who dug the hole.


Everyone has heard the urban parable of the Captain who boiler breaks and he needs to call a plumber. The plumber arrives and takes ten minutes to listen to the boiler before hitting it once with a hammer. When the bill for $1,000 arrives, the captain demands that it is broken down. “Hitting the boiler with a hammer: $1. Knowing where to hit: $999”. Its a parable about the value of experience.

Most people working in Agile Management are advocates of the Theory of Constraints. I certainly am one of those advocates, although I rephrase it to more understandable terms (which may not be pure mapping to the original):

  1. Agree on the goal.
  2. Identify the constraint.
  3. Prioritise the constraint.
  4. Optimise the constraint.
  5. Add capacity to the constraint
  6. Rinse and Repeat. ( Goto to Step 2 ).

Steps 3 to 5 are really about digging ditches. Once you have identified the constraint, it is fairly straight forward to do the rest. They just require effort and application. Step 2 is about knwoing where to dig. As a consultant, its my role to help identify the constraints and then dig the hole. As a coach, its my role to help others to learn how to identify the constraint. As a participant of the Agile Project, I contribute those tools ( like radar and X-Ray ) that can be used to identify the constraints. The two most significant tools I’ve discovered so far are:

Staff Liquidity Skills Matrix – Identify individuals whose skills are a constraint to the team.

Quarterly Capacity Planning – Identify those groups who are a constraint to the organisation.

If you want me to pick up a spade I will do, however unless we have a constraint on the number of people are willing and able to dig, I’d rather help people learn how to find the right place to dig.

About theitriskmanager

Currently an “engineering performance coach” because “transformation” and “Agile” are now toxic. In the past, “Transformation lead”, “Agile Coach”, “Programme Manager”, “Project Manager”, “Business Analyst”, and “Developer”. Did some stuff with the Agile Community. Put the “Given” into “Given-When-Then”. Discovered “Real Options” View all posts by theitriskmanager

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