Monthly Archives: March 2018

I was wrong about Culture – “Pasted Values”

I’d rather be wrong than right. For some time it appears that my thinking about culture has been wrong. It probably explains why I have had little success trying to change it. I still think that seeing culture is an important first step. However, the model about the underlying principles that drive culture is obviously wrong. (The model is presented here and here).

The model is based on the work of Edgar Schein (My mentor Marc Burgauer introduced me to his work). Edgar Schein’s model talks about espoused values and assumptions. I had interpreted this to mean that behaviour in an organisation (in a Karl Weick sense) is driven by the underlying value function of the organisation. To represent the value function, I use the financial definition as it is the most useful and general model that I’m aware of and can be used to model learning. The hypothesis was that if we can change an organisation’s values, the behaviour would change.


Today whilst listening to Charles Duhig’s “The Power of Habit” I realised that my hypothesis was wrong and I had been ignoring the obvious. Culture is not just an expression of an organisation’s values, it is also based on a set of organisational habits.

Imagine an excel spreadsheet where we write some function:

=if(X = Y,”do A”, “do B”).

If X = 10 and Y = 10, we would get the result “do A”. If X = 10 and Y = 11, we would get the result “do B”. Currently X = 10 and Y = 10 which means the function returns “do A”.

Now if we change the excel function to be:

=if(X = 2Y,”do A”, “do B”).

If X = 9 and Y = 9, we would now get the result “do B”.

That was my naive interpretation of culture. All I needed to do was help people see a new way of looking at the world (the phenomenology), a new value function and the behaviour would change.

What I had failed to understand was that most people do not re-evaluate their value function every time they do something. Instead, its as if they copy the Excel Cell and “Paste Value” so that the sell always contains the value “do A”. Either that, or they have turned off automatic calculations and need to press <F9> to update the value in the cell to “do B”.

In “Thinking Fast & Slow”, Daniel Kahneman talks about System One and System Two. System One is automatic whereas System Two is the one that does critical thinking and evaluation. We need system one which is fast and unthinking because system two is slow and takes more effort. In effect, when we encounter a culture, most of it operates in System One and my solution was to engage System Two.

So I’ve broken my model of understanding for culture. I was wrong. My prize is that to understand culture change, I need to know about “habit change”, addiction, CBT, and a bunch of other stuff . If you know of any good resources or other things I need to know, please leave them in a comment.

Today I realised I was wrong. Now I have better chance of a better tomorrow.

BDD Done Easy – The three types of data

There are three types of data that can appear on the output of a system. The three types of data are determined by the mechanism that is used to provide the data item.

The three types of data are:

  1. Data entered into the system from outside the system
  2. Data calculated in the system with data in the system
  3. Data created by processes in the system


To describe the three different data types, consider the following example report. Students are allowed to withdraw money from an account. A limit is applied to how much a student can withdraw each month. A student can choose to override the limit but any override needs to be approved by a responsible adult. This report shows those transactions that override the limit.

  • In order to identify whether appropriate limit breaches are being approved
  • As a Parent
  • I want to see transactions that breach the limit, along with the reason and the approver.

Screen Shot 2018-03-25 at 18.39.27

Data entered into the system from outside the system

Screen Shot 2018-03-25 at 18.39.51

In this example, the Student Name, Monthly Limit, Withdrawal Amount and reason to override the limit. All of these data items need to be enter either via a user interface or a system interface.

Values are either entered free format, or selected from a list of permitted values (The items in the list of permitted values are originally entered free format.

Data calculated in the system with data in the system

Screen Shot 2018-03-25 at 18.40.06

These are the values that are calculated within the system. In this example the balance and the % above limit. To indicate that these are calculated value, I prefix the name with “get”. Account.getBalance and Transaction.get%AboveLimit.

Account.getBalance(QueryDate) = Sum(Transaction.Amount) where before QueryDate and after 1st Day of monthMonth

Transaction.Transaction.get%AboveLimit = ( Account.getBalance(Transaction.Date) – Account.Limit ) / Account.Limit )

Data created by processes in the system

Screen Shot 2018-03-25 at 18.40.23

These values are created by processes in the system. In this example, Date, Approved by and Approval Date. These values are all populated in a THEN in a GIVEN-WHEN-THEN statement. We start at the last step in the process which in this case is the approval.

  • THEN Approved by is set to the logged in user.
  • AND the Approval Date is set to the current Date & Time.
  • WHEN the withdrawal is approved
  • GIVEN the approval screen is displayed
  • AND a withdrawal above the limit is on the screen
  • AND the user is logged on
  • AND the user is an approver for the Account

Similarly (and ignoring the approval e:mail steps in between)

  • THEN the Date is set to the current Date & Time
  • AND an approval is sent to list of users who are approvers for the account.
  • WHEN the student overrides the limit
  • GIVEN the student is on the limit override screen

Understanding the three types of data means you ensure the correct approach for populating them is adopted.

This blog post was inpired by a conversation with Rekha Kusumanchi about the Cotswold Way. My thanks to Rekha.

BDD done easy – The Cotswold Way

The Cotswold Way is an Agile approach to business analysis, developed by Kent McDonald and myself.


Before you start, you need to identify whether you should be doing Business Analysis, Product Management or JFDI. Cynefin is a particularly useful tool to determine which approach.

The problem with BAs and Story writing in general is that most people think of it as an art form or a brainstorming activity. In fact there is a very simple directed process that Jenny Martin elegantly summarise as OOPSI (Outcome, Output, Process, Scenario, Input), and if you do it backwards, it ISPOO…

The process that I now refer to as the Cotswold Way is a further elaboration of the approach that Kent and I created called Feature Injection.

There are seven simple steps in the Cotswold Way:

  1. Hunt the value. Start where ever people describe the problem/solution. Then work to the output and get them to sketch the reports that they need. They should be able to explain how and why they need the  output (report). This is the customer value which is not the same as the business value. (Hunt the value video)
  2. Once you have the output, work backwards using the information smells process to identify the data and calculations you need to produce the report. This makes creating examples super easy. (For those who prefer videos to articles).
  3. Now build the output in a spreadsheet using the model developed in step 2.
  4. You can then work backwards to describe the behaviour of the system using the Given-When-Then format to define the process that populates the required data. (See here and then here )
  5. Depending on the size and complexity of your organisation, you need to meet with either some lead developers/QAs or Architects/Lead Devs/Lead QAs to agree the architecture for the solution. Once you have done that, you can break down the solution into Epics and assign stories to the various components etc.
  6. To break the solution into Epics, you now work backwards for each system to define the Given-When-Then. (Obviously if you are doing everything in a single component, you can ignore steps 5 & 6.)
  7. Once you have your examples and Given-When-Then at the system levels, its a simple matter to slice them up into stories. David Evan’s article, and book are great for those who want to improve the stories they write.

This process takes HOURS rather than days.

Want to get started? Its simple, ask your user or business stakeholder to sketch the output they want rather than describe what they want to you.

Blog posts providing detailed examples of the steps above to follow.